That stick called “discipline”

These lines from Tao Te Ching #38 always intrigue me.

Therefore when Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is kindness.
When kindness is lost, there is justice.
When justice is lost, there is ritual.
Now ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty, the beginning of confusion.
Knowledge of the future is only a flowery trapping of Tao.
It is the beginning of folly.

Today I was reminded of these words again, as I posed a question to Pak Hudoyo Hupudio on what discipline implies. He said discipline, moral virtues, etc indicates internal conflict, be it subtle or not. If a person can be aware of the movement of their thoughts and ego, then they do not need any discipline or morality whatsoever. It does not mean that they will do whatever they want (recklessly and irresponsibly). Awareness is the highest discipline and morality.

I must say, I like it.

This brings me back to some years ago, during a winter in Scotland. There was a winding pathway at the back of the house. Flower bulbs had been planted at its side, for them to bloom the next spring. As the snow was thick at that time, the pathway was covered by the snow. But I can say that all of us knew there was a pathway–we remember the path by heart–and we knew that there were flower bulbs being planted.

Yet some of us decide to take a short cut and went straight, instead of following the winding path. Some flower bulbs were stepped on. A friend felt sorry for the flower bulbs and put branches along side the path, to encourage people to follow the path.

We were asked to take the branches off. “We are aware of the winding path and the flower bulbs alongside it. That should be enough for us not to take the shortcut and hence step on the flower bulbs. Do we need those branches to remind us? I hope not.”

The three anecdotes above to me say the same thing.

It is interesting how we (read: I) keep on putting or adding those signposts or borders to keep us on track. We establish rules and regulations, dos and donts, and even virtues, collectively determine values of what’s good or bad, what’s right or wrong, in the society, and impose discipline to our (read: my) self – a regiment that we oblige ourselves to follow.

So much so that I don’t realize how it has become quite strict, rigid, and somewhat limiting. I forget that my condition changes and hence the ‘rules’ need to be adjusted from time to time (often). I get so bogged down with these complicated hows that I forget the root reason why I am doing this at all — present tense of “forget”, as I don’t think I really remember even now.

The anecdotes above, however, give me a glimpse of that very reason and a suggestion to doing it differently.

They say to me: Let’s simplify and be kinder to ourselves. Instead of building up more and more rules and disciplines, let’s listen. Be honest. Listen to what’s whispered from within. Cultivate Awareness. That’s the only Guidance that we really need, from the One who resides at the heart of the believers. And allow what is, to be. Lightly and kindly.

.with a smile.

Playing on the background: Sting’s Let your soul be your pilot. How appropriate. Cool.

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