Maxim Monday: Cling to discipline

It’s been a while since I’ve tackled the Delphic Maxims.

I definitely have no ancient context for the Maxims. I’m not doing any research into what the original Greek meant and for what context this phrase might have been intended. I think that would be very worthwhile! But I’m not doing that. I just ponder what this phrase means to me in the here and now. Let’s jump right back in with ‘clinging to discipline.’

This particular Maxim is extremely apropos. My son is four and half, and boy, has four been a struggle. You want to see clinging to discipline? Come over some evening at bedtime!

I think discipline, particularly in lefty/liberal circles in the United States, has a negative connotation. Discipline usually brings to mind punishment, harsh methods suffered through for some ‘greater good,’ austerity. And yet, discipline is one of the things that leads to self-control, completion of set goals, and many things I consider positive. As a parent I definitely think discipline is important. Yet like so many things in life, it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.

I like rhythm and routine. It’s helpful for me in my spiritual practice, in any practice (singing, yoga, learning a new skill, etc). Routine helps me parent. Discipline, whether that means telling my kids no, or doling out the consequences for hitting his sister AGAIN, or doing things I might not like for an outcome I do, is a regular part of my day. But clinging to discipline?

I disagree. I don’t cling to it. It serves me, not the other way around. And right now, in the last two months or so, all of the methods my family uses to discipline our boy are not working. So we’re actively NOT clinging to discipline. We’re tossing them out and trying new tools. I think this is a useful approach in almost any process. I can always come back to the tools I was using before. But what if I try something new?

Sometimes when life feels crazy and out of control clinging to discipline can be a good way to keep things in order, to feel I have a few areas that are safe and secure. But right now, with life in general and with my son particularly, I feel the need to soften and let up on the discipline.

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About Niki Whiting
  • Niklas Gander

    I think discipline is something that can eventually be transcended – that once something has been internalized, the skill that has been developed by a disciplined approach to learning yields the potential for creativity. But if you dispense with discipline in the beginning, and go right into intuitive approaches, you never get to that level of sufficient mastery that makes new creations, new art, possible. I’m not sure this fits with the “austerity” definition that you mentioned. But when learning something new, it helps to develop some level of mastery before deciding the merits of any given approach, and deciding when to move beyond the requirements of the discipline to create something from it. Imagine Johann Sebastian Bach trying to write the Prelude and Fugue in d minor without first having mastered the tonality of his day, scales, the ability to play the organ, practice, practice, practice. Without the investment of energy into the discipline of music, he’d never have achieved genius.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram myownashram

      Absolutely! I agree completely. You can’t ‘break the rules’ unless you know what they are. It’s also the idea behind ‘digging one deep well’ – or, gaining all you can vertically (from one tradition) first, before moving laterally (and syncretizinf/synthesizing more than one tradition).


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