The True Meaning Of Discipline

Ways We Can Bring Discipline Into Every Moment And Transform Our Lives

Photo by Victor Freitas on

by James Eke

From Warrior’s Way Podcast episode #120

Discipline can mean different things to different people.

Some people think that everyone needs to be like they were trained in the military, up before most people would ever want to be awake, workout, have a fierce look on their face, and treat everything like you are going into battle.

Others look at discipline as being a detached stoic, treating everything in a hands off way.

Some think of disciple as best dealt with through almost obsessive control, monitoring every small detail so that everything fits nicely, monitored and recorded.

None of this is necessarily wrong. Life though, doesn’t always fit into our framework, follow our plans, or listen to us when we tell it how it should be.

Life is messy sometimes.

Discipline for someone who trains the mind, who trains the body and who strives to put the two together in understanding and living within what is ultimate reality means that we stick to training in a way that understands that attachment to our own delusion and BS and attachment to beliefs, ignorance and aversion is the opposite of what we need to do.

Discipline is all about cutting through all delusion. It is about being the calm in the storm. It is about understanding what we are told by society, by selfish desires, by things we cling to lead us down a road that takes us away from what is true.

So what is true then and what is discipline?

Well, there are a ton of people who are going to lead you down a road of their own explanation of discipline that is actually about ego, things that are fueled by selfishness, by want. They will make you buy into this idea that we have to be hard with ourselves so that we can get stuff done. The truth is that this is, from a training perspective and especially from a Zen sort of viewpoint to be just a delusional view of reality that so many of us are constantly told we need to buy into. It is as if the only way you can live a real life is by doing things, by getting after it, by accumulating.

Look at the world around us and ask yourself what kind of damage has been done by this societal view of needing, of wanting, of taking. It is a me, me, me perspective. It isn’t discipline. It is delusion and has consequences not just with ourselves but with the world around us.

What we and the world needs most is for us to all be less delusional. To see what life actually is. You aren’t going to get there by running yourself ragged, by getting no sleep, by trying to control everything and everyone. That isn’t freedom, that isn’t peace and is nothing more than a tyrannical capitalist view that you are trying to enforce on yourself.

That doesn’t mean that you should do things or have some level of control in your life. You definitely should but discipline doesn’t mean to become an obsessed person fostering ulcers because you are trying to live like some young kid learning to be a soldier in basic training.

I don’t love the term mindfulness these days. It has become just as clichéd as some have twisted what Zen means to fit a whole host of ideas that don’t really mean what it actually means. However, mindfulness in its true sense is the most important aspect of what discipline needs to mean. In other words, we need to learn to think with a big, huge, open mind that is also able to discriminate between what is real and what is fake, what is important and what is not, what is life and what is delusion.

I remember when I was in basic training myself and a Sgt who was putting us through the game that was the training told me that the reason they do room and uniform inspections that you can never really pass is that they are trying to get people who let their minds do whatever they want to do, to instead retrain them to focus, to concentrate on small things like making a bed or polishing boots and doing these things to a high degree and an even higher standard. He said that when you can force the mind to concentrate and gain discipline it changes everything about that person.

I remember thinking that this was like the kind of thing my first Sensei taught us when we were kids and what my first Zen master taught me when we would do working meditation or eat in meditative silence in the Zendo.

Discipline. True discipline has to start with the mind. It has to start with the way we view ourselves and what reality actually may be. True discipline means cultivation of true stillness and what that not only means but what we begin to see when we knock on that door.

Unfortunately this understanding is something that is lacking these days when it comes to training and people look at discipline as more of a physical thing, something that we have to push ourselves to do. It is true we need to be disciplined as in our stick-to-it-ness but derived from compassion and our understanding of impermanence and our desire to be free of delusion. In this way discipline also means being understanding of our failings, it means being compassionate to ourselves and others, it means being in a state of constant questioning of what it is that we are being motivated by and through training to mind to focus, to concentrate and to try our best not to be controlled by a mind that is like a crazed monkey jumping and leaping from tree to tree throwing fruit at everything around it.

Think of discipline as stability. When we are able to live a life without our mind being like that monkey, without the mind leaping around, fixating, dealing out whatever its impulses want then we are able to begin to see the truth with a capital T. We are able to focus. We are able to live a life far more free from the suffering that a crazed monkey mind creates and dishes out.

When we do this a whole new world opens up for us.

The best thing is that you can start right now. Take a look what is going on between those two ears of yours.

Is there are monkey there?

Listen to the full podcast episode at Warrior’s Way Podcast

In this episode we discuss the book In The Footsteps of Bodhisattvas: Buddhist Teachings On The Essence Of Meditation, by Phakchok Rinpoche, pick up a copy of the book here.


The ambiguity of being human

By James Eke

From Warrior’s Way Podcast episode #107

I wish someone, decades ago, had warned me about Shenpa and that resistance to the fundamental uncertainty of our situation, our fighting against anything and everything that we cling to and the uncertainty that life itself can bring.

I don’t know if I even realized in the past just how hooked I was to my delusions of who I was. Hooked on the drama of my past. Hooked on the uncertainty of the future. Hooked on believing my own bs.

Let’s face it – society really tries to shove down our throats just how unique and special and individual we all are. This is utter nonsense. You aren’t even who or what you think you are so how are you some kind of shining centre of the universe? None of us are.

Maybe we should have a new curriculm in our schools that teach kids that their uniqueness lies in their connection with everything and everyone around them. That what is more important than you believing you are more important than anyone else is that we cultivate compassion, kindness and understanding – putting others first and our selfishness out the window.

I don’t know about you but in my life I’ve learned the hard way that selfishness only breeds stupidity and suffering. COVID has shown us this as well – people don’t think about others first, or at all, and surprise, we have a pandemic.

We all get caught up in the hamster wheel of life. We somehow think that what we do doesn’t matter, won’t impact others, as long as we are happy or trying to be happy that nothing else matters.

Striving for happiness though is the hamster wheel itself – it won’t get you anywhere. You fill your life with surrounding yourself with things, trips, desires and you still feel empty and think that maybe that next thing will fill the void.

Before you know it you have drunk away a chunk of your life, deluded yourself in any multitude of ways another chunk and simply threw away more of it on other ridiculous attempts to avoid seeing what life is really about.

So how do we get there? Well, from 52 years of making lots of mistakes what I have come to really realize over the past few years is that that you need to let go. You need to see life as it really is – or at least try. You need to stop judging. You need to stop grasping. You need to throw away every negative and destructive part of yourself. You need to stop being mean. You need to stop blaming others. You need to have compassion, kindness, understanding and mindfulness in every moment of your life.

Imagine what the world would be like if everyone thought of others first.

If we showed compassion – no, not showed compassion but glowed with it and spread it into every corner of life.

If instead of being mean, petty, judgy we instead tried to support and understand, to help?

This is the true path. This is the way.

It is also a lot harder than the alternative which is why so few people will ever really get it, why so few people will actually do it.

Someone makes you feel this way or that and instead you judge, you look for vengeance, you spread cruelty. Think about it. Look back on the last time someone supposedly did something to you – how did you respond? Were you kind? Were you compassionate?

We cling to these ridiculous views of ourselves and our own self-importance.

Instead, relax. Stay in the moment. See what is actually happening. Don’t cling to any of it.

Help people. Let go of who you demand yourself to be, who you need others to be. Let go of it all and just, as I keep saying, be a good friend.

There you go.

Clinging to things as we want them or demand them to be won’t help us. It won’t help anyone or anything.

Let’s be better. Let go. Open your heart. Be kind.