Yogi Assignment: Discipline

I used to be a perfectionist. Or rather I used to think I had a true chance at being perfect or getting all the things right all the time. Somehow I had a naive notion that if I just visualized hard enough and trained my vibration to be high enough that I’d never experience any lows ever again. I’d live in some bubble of peace, love and happiness. Life had something else in store for me.

This last year alone I’ve stumbled and fallen so many times and made so many bad decisions that I can hardly begin to account for them all. Failure, or the recognition that I did something wrong or that something I did was not good enough to meet the cut or that I simply did not achieve my goals, is something that has been a hard and sometimes bitter pill for me to swallow. Perhaps you, like me, were raised with the narrative that you can do anything you want if only you set your sights on it. Just think good vibes and be positive all the time and everything you want will magically come into being. I was told that I would simply “manifest” my reality. Well, while I have certainly accomplished a lot there is so much more that I’ve tried and failed at and so much more that I experienced that did not go according to my vision. I’ve spent a good deal of time wondering how to reconcile the desire to stay in a continuous state of peace and harmony with the reality of continually falling out of that sweet spot.

Lately I’ve come to see the moments of failure as loving discipline rather than harsh punishment. While it would be nice if we could always get it right, the reality is that we don’t. When we aren’t able to stay on the path and make every decision according to the highest truth then it’s important that we remain open to being rebuked, disciplined, educated and enlightened, both by the universe, by God and also by other people within out community. It’s a necessary correction along the journey of life. Yet the spiritual community seems to have a bit of paradox. Reading through the average list of spiritual quotes found online, it’s evident that there is ample discussion on how to keep your aura clean, how to think only good vibes and how to remove toxic people or situations. But what’s often missing is how to process, heal, evolve and grow from the moments when feeling good vibes is simply not an option.  I have to admit that I get triggered sometimes when I people respond to negative feedback by blocking the “haters” and surrounding themselves with “good vibes only”.

I guess one of the reasons I get triggered is because I know that no matter how hard I try I just can’t live in the bubble of “good vibes only”.  While I am overall a general positive and peaceful person who loves to laugh, I also get angry, sad, depressed, anxious. I get things wrong, like often and all the time. And when I do, I’m often sensitive to criticism, almost like something inside of me feels like I should have done better at keeping the bubble of positivity defense at work. That’s not an environment for growth though. To assume that you will get it right 100% of the time and have no need for discipline is to assume that you already are perfect, and that you have no need for any further guidance. It sure sounds like hubris to me. It takes a very high degree of self-confidence and spiritual strength to process negative feedback and grow from it.

If you are a well-intended spiritual person living a life committed to peace and love, it can feel truly unsettling if someone calls you out on not living up to your integrity. It feels wrong to get called out of your protected bubble, where you may have inadvertently surround yourself with an echo chamber that reinforces your beliefs about yourself. When those beliefs are questioned or challenged it can feel a direct and personal assault. You may want to lash out, get defensive or even zone out. You may not want to put in the emotional labor required to work through all your stuff. But if you choose to dig your head in the sand, you would be depriving yourself of an opportunity to grow from the experience, much like a child who avoids discipline cannot grow from the experience. While discipline is not always optional, growth is, of course, optional. You can choose to disregard the voices of people who call you out as “haters”. You can bolster your case of good personhood. Or you could pause, reflect, research and study the issue. You could also sit with your own feelings of discomfort until you come to clarity and compassion.

It has been said that “the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off” by feminist Gloria Steinem among others.  When you face truth and feel angry, lean into your rage, especially when it’s reactionary. Don’t project or act out your anger until you have fully processed it. Discipline, or negative feedback, is so vital to growth. Imagine if you were working a ta new job and the boss was unhappy with your performance. Instead of telling you that your work wasn’t up to the level required, your boss just told you that you were awesome and perfect. But then, one day that same boss fired you. You’d be left feeling truly confused. If, however, your boss gave you the negative feedback that your work wasn’t up to standard and listed ways that you might improve, it would be up to you to respond in a way that would either ensure your evolution or demonstrate your ineptitude for the position. Either way, you actually need the negative feedback to grow.

Life isn’t interested in whether or not your feelings get hurt. Life is interested in helping your grow. If you put all your heart into something only to have it fail or even worse blow up in your face, it’s like getting disciplined from the word. It’s not meant to be punitive or harsh. Instead, it’s simply meant to be feedback giving you the opportunity to grow and learn and eventually rise up to meet the challenge that life is presenting to you. I kind of feel like all our life lessons return and repeat until we get them. Its’ like the universe is infinitely patient with us while we try over and over again to get the same lesson right. If we don’t immediately get it, we have years to repeat and learn them all over again.

This week’s Yogi Assignment is Discipline.

Change the way you view negative feedback. Instead of taking it personally, recalibrate the story you tell about it. Think about negative feedback as an opportunity to reflect on your path and think about failure as the discipline of a loving force in the universe. Perhaps it shines light on a turn that you took in a wrong direction. Or perhaps it makes you more sure about the direction that you are going. Either way, remain open to experience of discipline that comes in the form of life lessons.

Reflect on any recent negative feedback that you may have received or any recent failures. What can you learn from each of these experiences? Search for the life lesson contained within the discipline and seek to grow from it.

Practice giving negative feedback to someone else. See if you can phrase your words with as much love as possible and be sure that you truly do not come from hate. Yet, if you notice that something is out of alignment whether in a person or organization and you choose to remain silent you may be depriving the person from an opportunity to grow and evolve.

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