Sunday, December 4, 2011

December 4 - Guru (Teacher)

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What was the most important lesson you learned about yourself in 2011? Was it a sudden epiphany or a gradual realization?

My inner guru had many lessons for me in 2011. The one that was most important was not new material. The teacher in my head has been saying it over and over for years. Which goes to show that even when the message starts inside my thick skull it still takes time to sink in.

Clarity came while I was standing at the kitchen sink, washing the paddle from my electric mixer while gluten-free Black-Bottom Banana Bars baked in the oven. What came was not a recipe alteration or a better way to wash, but a realization that the reason I had time to bake banana bars on a Sunday afternoon between yoga classes and a get-together with girlfriends was something I had resisted my entire life - discipline.

I could say my lack of discipline is a reaction to a twenty year stint in regimented corporate jobs, but when I'm honest with myself I know it goes further back than that. Making commitments and sticking to them was never a strong point. I blamed my inability to learn to play an instrument on lack of talent instead of admitting that I never made time to practice. It was the same with sports. I focused my attention on the things that came easily and never pushed for those that didn't.

You should have been there earlier this year for the conversation with the dentist that finally got me flossing my teeth regularly.

I learned quite a bit about discipline during yoga teacher training, since I wrote a paper on it. I struggled then with applying it to my life. I still struggle.

When I decided to train for my first triathlon, I had to make a loose alliance with discipline. When I started I hadn't run in over ten years, I hadn't swam laps since high school and my bike saw the light of day just a few times each summer. (I'm still not sure why a brief mention of triathlons made me think they were something I should be doing.) Without a commitment to a training plan, I was going to embarrass myself.

I didn't stay committed before my second race. I embarrassed myself, although I managed not to take last place.

Now, with a few years of racing under my belt, I know how important sticking to my training plan is. I've become more disciplined about training. And discipline is starting to spill into the rest of my life.

By creating small routines for housework and sticking with them, my house stays clean. By scheduling time for regular blogging, podcasting, doing volunteer work and studio bookkeeping, I can get them all done.

But the real blessing of discipline is that by getting all of those things done when I committed to doing them, my free time is truly free. I don't have to frantically clean the house on a Sunday afternoon between yoga classes and a get-together with girlfriends. Instead I can relax, my way, in my kitchen with a mixer and mashed bananas.

In that moment of clarity at the kitchen sink, I learned that I can be disciplined. And free.
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