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The Freedom of Discipline

The other day as I was sitting in meditation, I got profoundly bored. It didn’t last long, but I did notice that I was bored. So I labeled the feeling “boredom” and sat with it. The texture of boredom is quite interesting. It is flat with an underlying feeling of subtle disquietude that seeks something exciting, something diverting, to move the focus from discomfort.

A friend of mine and I joke about times when we hop from task to task. It’s the “shiny new object” syndrome as in “ah another shiny new object, I need to check that out.” Of course if I keep following the shiny new objects they just lead me astray, over and over again.

The truth is that it takes will and determination to stay on your path. It takes work to follow through on a daily practice of meditation. It takes commitment to get up and exercise in the early morning hours when it’s still cold outside. It takes diligence to sit down and write, even when you don’t necessarily want to do so, even when you may in fact be bored and have nothing of interest to say—at least not until you start writing.

There is a paradox that I have pondered for years: true freedom comes from discipline. If I let my mind wander freely wherever it wants to go, it will take me all over the place. If instead, I choose to focus my mind on my breath and come back over and over to the present, I gain the freedom of my true presence, right here, right now. I free myself from the shackles of random, unrelenting thoughts. In the practice of meditation, I am in fact practicing being free.

So the next time you notice the desire to run after another shiny new object, I invite you to just be with that desire. Get very curious about the urge to run away from discomfort. For it is in the discipline of being with ourselves as we are that we find true freedom.


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