Lent words - Day 9 ~ Self Discipline

One of my favourite movies of all time is The Last Samurai

...with Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe. I think that there is something very spiritual about this movie and the retelling of one man's journey.

A journey from a person completely lost and in alcoholic oblivion not really caring whether they were alive or dead through to someone who has found himself, his purpose, and then charts a course of delivering on that.

Of course... we all face challenges, we would not be alive if we didn't. Life is not an inert flat line experience where everything is cozy and comfortable... that is death, maybe worse.... to be alive and not feel anything neither good nor bad to me is a fate worse than death.

Although not the main thrust of this Lent post... vast hordes of people are now being labelled as having 'identified' mental disorders, and in our desire to feel like we are not alone and that others suffer as we do... we seek the declaration that we have a known condition, I knew it! ... we readily accept the diagnosis the quick fix remedy (prescribed) and we step on to the slippery slope... It's obvious why I feel like this... it's a known 'recognised' condition (read... excuse to not attempt the hard work to deal with the underlying cause) ... I just need to accept it... use this pill and all will be ok... we are given a crutch... it might take the pain away, but it also takes our 'aliveness' away at the same time...

Sorry to digress... back to the story... So Tom Cruise ends up in a Japanese village, and is holed up there for the winter as the mountain pass is blocked by the snow and weather. During his stay he bears witness to life in the village. If you haven't seen this movie I do encourage you to watch it. As for me, his study of the people of the village, narrated in the film is life changing.

Let me tell you about the village... 

Each village member (each an integral part of the community) is dedicated to what they have chosen to do. They are not told what to do. They gravitate to whatever it is that gets them out of bed in the morning. They dedicate their life to becoming the very best they can be at whatever it is they have selected. Warrior, instructing the children, cooking, growing food, rice, distilling sake, making weapons, repairing buildings, looking after the sick, taking care of the home... washing... every aspect of community life catered for with people dedicated to perfecting themselves and being the best they can possibly be.

What there isn't in this village. No money, no prisons, no managers, no bosses... what there is, are people who understand that in return for the security of their village, their way of life, they make a contribution. They dedicate their life to serving their community with everything they possess in their chosen field. The leader of the village is not there because he is the strongest... he is there because he has been selected as the one who is capable of making the wisest choices for the continuation of their community.

I suspect although it was highlighted or exposed in the movie that innovation and creativity... ideas to improve community life, save time, produce more for less, would have been encouraged and adopted if proven to work better. The synergy and collaboration towards improving things for all, right at the centre.

In order for us to achieve anything in life we have to be disciplined. It is easy to be sloppy. It is easy to take the comfortable road. In today's society we are not controlled by external factors. In the village described above, life was tough. There weren't a large number of choices or options. In modern society all our basic needs (levels 1 & 2) according to Maslow are already catered for... Food, Water, Clothing, Shelter, Community and Security. All there... it matters little or not whether we are self disciplined.... these needs are still taken care of in our modern world.

And therein is our biggest challenge. In a world where we don't have to be self disciplined, where it would appear we are not rewarded more or less for doing so, why would we bother? ... and how much more difficult because it is not enforced on us by external factors like in the village above.

To be self disciplined you need to have purpose. 

To have purpose is to have become self aware. What do I want to do with my life? ... It is to become aware that our own destiny is determined not by what happens outside of us, but what happens inside of us... it demands we study ourselves... how we think, why we do things... observe our own behaviour and try and understand why we think the way we do, why we do what we do... Maybe we behave the way we do in response to external factors... so why do we change or behave differently under some conditions or with some people? what do we seek, get or want that is missing from ourselves?

To go into all of this is a book (or many books) and there are countless people more qualified than I to share about this. But we can spend years studying ourselves, improving ourselves, working out how we think and how that translates into actions. We can change these too. If I was hugely overweight, drinking and smoking... how much respect am I giving to myself? ... If I became aware, I would know that I was poisoning myself on many levels. Damaging myself voluntarily, wantonly, I have almost abandoned ship on myself. As I become more self aware I almost certainly would not choose to continue on this path, and then starts the process of self discipline... to ultimately work on ourselves.

Take an athlete, someone who has decided to be the best in their field. Whether they ultimately achieve that or not matters little... but as part of the process self discipline is required... get enough food, good quality nourishment, drink plenty of clean water, get enough sleep... train hard... 2 or 3 times per day. This is what the people in the village did... some were archers... some were swordsman... equally dedicated to being the best they could be with the gifts they had been bestowed with. There was never a question... I will not do this today... I do not feel like it... I want a 'me day' instead. Time for me days later on... dedication is what is required... but for that you must have purpose... and desire.

Now what gifts do you have? 

... what do you want to do? ... what is the plan? ... dedicate yourself... success doesn't happen overnight... it is the result of 10 years of honing yourself... that requires self-discipline.


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