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.


Buddha was wrong?!?

By James Eke

From Warrior’s Way Podcast #110

I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that they can’t meditate because they get distracted or that they can’t meditate because they think too much. I have wanted to respond with a duh of course dummy you’re human. Of course I don’t but I would like to.

Here is a big secret. We all think too much. Sometimes we think the wrong things too much, sometimes we think the right things too little and most of the time we simply don’t realize we are thinking at all.

Meditation makes us see what is there. It is like holding up a mirror. Sometimes when we really look at ourselves we get judgy and don’t like what we see.

Mindfulness or meditation isn’t about being blissed-out and levitating or always feeling happy and at peace. The training is about really truly seeing and feeling what is going on – it is about getting to the heart of the matter and finding truth with a capital T.

I loved the article because it is talking about this capital T truth. I had my first shot of Moderna a little over a week ago and I can tell you that the only side effect with that first shot was relief and happiness. My brick and mortar martial arts school has been closed for seven months now due to COVID restrictions – tons of students have bailed, some students made of gold and everything good have stuck with me – it has been a real emotional and financial rollercoaster that nothing in this life has prepared me for. Well nothing except for my Zen training. Even with it though I have to tell you I have had days where I couldn’t see the light on the other side even if it was shining in my face.

Through this insane time it has been hard not to feel like you are stretched, rolled and wandering around blindly not knowing which way is up.

Just like our meditation though, we have to accept that sometimes when we sit we walk away thinking how great of a session that was, you were chilled out and feel happy – other times we find ourselves battling our own thoughts and emotions and doing everything we can to breathe and let them go.

I think COVID has been a great lesson for us all. One we will be learning for some time still I think, unless we live in our little bubble oblivious to the world of suffering around us.

COVID has taught us all that nothing is certain in this life.

It has taught us that mortality is what we have and it is fragile for everyone around us and for ourselves.

It has taught us that all the things that we cling to can be taken from us.

It has taught us that we must, truly must think about others first. We can’t act like we are somehow special snowflakes that matter most – do that and just like COVID, our actions, our stupidity can spread and harm others.

When life gives us a lesson about compassion, that everything is changing and always changes, about our connection with others – I would just hope that we all learn the lessons we have been given.

Life can be hard. We have all seen that. What makes our training so important is that when we train properly with all the important aspects embraced we can great events in life, challenges, or our own thoughts and emotions with compassion, with acceptance and with kindness. If we can do this for ourselves we can do it for others and the world around us.

When we embrace this path – this Way, real change happens. And when positive change happens within us it can ripple around us spreading outward – and when enough of us do this just imagine the ripples we can all make together changing this world and ourselves for better.

It all starts here though. With calmly watching the mind, watching the breath, letting go and spreading to yourself and all other living beings compassion, kindness and understanding.

This is what training means. This is what life is about.

It isn’t always going to be easy. But we are strong and we know Buddha was right – there is a path through all of this and walking that path is the most important thing.