Karma Yoga - Self-Discipline

By Laura Hansen.

Our yoga requires considerable self-discipline. Beginning with the yamas and niyamas we start to practice restraint, moving to asana practice we find that considerable self-discipline is required and as we move towards Samadhi (the 8th limb of yoga) even more self-discipline is required. We eventually realize that our entire reality is between our ears. Most people think that reality is the field of phenomenon we encounter with our senses, but as we practice yoga we discover that what we thought was reality is just an illusion and our real world exists in our mind. While we have no control over the world of the senses, we can exert great control over our own minds.

self discipline yoga

Watch a child playing with action figures. The child is not experiencing the world of the senses but the world of imagination. Get lost in a good book and you may forget where you are. If you close your eyes and cultivate a sense of contentment then your reality will be contentment even if the world around you is turbulent. The rub is that controlling the mind, while possible, is difficult. The world of the senses is a pervasive illusion.

Without good thoughts there is no peace, and without peace, there is no happiness.

Gandhi (2012)

In order to think positive thoughts, we have to generate positive thoughts. The goal is thoughts which are neither self-seeking nor self-punishing. A good meditation might be to close your eyes and listen to your thoughts. Consider yourself the silent observer and simply watch the monkey mind go to work. If your mind is like mine, you may hear things like:

I’m going to be late,

Why can’t they pick up the phone,

Knowing your own thoughts is the first step to changing them. Now try to dispel unpleasant thoughts and instill pleasant thoughts. This process takes a lot of self-discipline. We may get frustrated as the mind continually returns to its restless ways.

Whether you call it Buddhism, or another religion, self-discipline, that’s important. Self-discipline with awareness of consequences.

The Dalai Lama

The same idea has been expressed differently by many leading philosophers but the idea is the same, we must gain some control over ourselves. I would also add that we should give up the idea of trying to control other people. One of the practices Gandhi used to develop self-disciple was silence. Talking can be a way of distracting ourselves from working with the mind. Instead of paying attention to what is going on in the monkey mind we distract ourselves by paying attention to other people.

All this talking can hardly be said to be any benefit to the world. It is so much a waste of time.

Gandhi, 2012

A good exercise, and one mentioned specifically by Gandhi in his Karma yoga practice is to spend a day in silence – don’t speak, listen to music, watch television, or howl at the moon. During this day pay attention to what is going on between your ears. Avoid distracting yourself with books and magazines, Instagram or text messages. If you do take this challenge I would love to hear from you and find out what you experienced. My email is Laurahansen1@yahoo.com.


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