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Discipline vs. Devotion

The other day, one of my favorite people, Sahara Rose, shared the following original quote:

“Allow your energy to come from a place of devotion as opposed to discipline.”

Sit with this for a moment. Maybe even read it again. What comes up for you?

Quite honestly, there was a lot that came up for me. I ended up realizing that until recently, most of my energy was coming from discipline and not devotion. For years I have allowed myself to show up in all the ways that I was “expected” to show up, and they weren’t always the ways I wanted to.

So then, I went even deeper- Where did all of this discipline come from?

Immediately, my mind went to schooling and our school systems. From a young age, like so many of us, I was taught to sit a certain way, speak a certain way, learn only the information that was provided, and strive to achieve goals that were so carefully laid out for me by my teachers. Not once in my life did I think it possible to open a business, freelance, or do anything that wasn’t “stable”. I was taught to work hard, get good grades, and seek a career that would be secure and that would financially support me.

For a long time, I did exactly that. And not only did I do it, I became a part of the system that perpetuated this cycle of thinking.

There was definitely a mixture of discipline and devotion when I began my career as a teacher. I wanted to help so many students achieve success, both in mathematics and in their lives. I worked extra hours, developed yoga programs for students, and was seen by many students as a reliable adult who would listen to their needs and support them through their academic and personal difficulties.

However, as the years went on, I realized there were deeper, systemic issues at play. When I proposed new plans or tried to break the structures that no longer served students, I was scoffed at and called “hippy dippy”. When I left those schools to help design a school with updated structures that would provide students the opportunity to learn in new ways, higher administration required things that made our model absolutely impossible. No matter where I went, I had to perform in a way that was expected of me and not how I wanted to. I noticed the same thing was happening to me as a student in a doctoral program.

After a while, this can really break a person down. In my own experience, it made me extremely frustrated and angry that students’ best interests (including my own) were not the administration's first priority. I ended up constantly settling and compromising my integrity and beliefs. Take it from me, this can really remove any chance of acting from a place of devotion.

Once I researched the definition of discipline, it was perfectly clear as to why.

Discipline is legitimately defined as the practice of training people to obey rules- using punishment to correct disobedience. When I saw this, my jaw was on the floor. Look at those similar words!! Control, regulation, order, and authority. If we are disciplined, trained on how to act, speak, follow our dreams, and even love, how can we possibly come from a place of devotion??

Now, I am not suggesting that life be a gigantic free for all (or maybe I am?). I do believe in certain codes of conduct and certain forms of order. Yet when I saw this definition, I could not help but to connect discipline to some of the oppressive structures that exist within our society today.

Seeing that my own energy had been coming from discipline, I started to think- well, discipline isn’t always a bad thing, right? It is the energy that keeps me on track, doing the things I need to be doing.

But then I looked at this thought even closer, and asked myself: Do my actions, thoughts, and words really require discipline?

From this reflection, I realized three things:

  1. Discipline is not the same thing as dedication

  2. In some cases, it is possible to shift our perspective to shift our energy from discipline to devotion

  3. If a perspective shift is not possible, then what we are doing is not aligned with our being

To my point earlier, the energy that can keep me on track, doing the things I want to do, does not have to be discipline- it can be dedication. Dedication is defined as the quality of being committed to a task or purpose. Dedication doesn't come from this place of conditioning- it comes from a space of devotion.

Devotion is the love, loyalty or enthusiasm for a person, activity or cause. So I asked myself- What am I devoted to?

As I write this, I can tell you that I am devoted to love, to life, to happiness, to this beautiful Earth, and to my incredible mind, body, and spirit. I am devoted to co-creating the life of my dreams through sovereignty and love, and to serve as a guide to help others do the exact same thing.

Over the weekend, I had a chat with one of my dearest friends about this quote that helped to solidify my second realization: perspective shift. In her own reflection of discipline and devotion, she shared that she so often treated moving her body and eating the right foods as a chore- as something she had to do. But when she shifted her perspective to viewing these actions as acts of devotion to herself and her body, there was an immediate energy shift. There was an instant willingness and spark of inspiration to treat her body in this way as an act of love. Sometimes all it takes is shifting the “I have to’s” to the “I get to’s”.

However, I also considered instances when perspective shift is just not enough to change how we feel about a situation. I thought about my aforementioned relationship with school and work. No matter how many times I came from a place of devotion, the outcome was always the same. I was deeply unhappy and deeply stressed- and it was truly my body giving me a sign. A sign that this path was not for me at this current moment in time, that space was needed in order to figure out what it was that I was devoted to, and an invitation to find the ways in which I could express this devotion.

To help you think about the roles discipline and devotion play in your own life, I pose the following 5 questions. I invite you to journal about them, or maybe even take a long walk in nature and ponder them. See if they allow any clarity as to where your energy comes from in different parts of your life.

  1. What are you devoted to?

  2. In what instances do you find yourself coming from discipline? Why do you think this is?

  3. In reflection of the last year or so, where do you find most of your energy coming from: discipline or devotion?

  4. Which instances can you shift your energy of discipline to the energy of devotion?

  5. Which instances are you finding it difficult to shift discipline to devotion? Why do you think that is?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the energies of discipline and devotion, and how this post and these questions landed for you! This was by far one of my favorite thoughts and conversations this weekend, and I couldn't wait to share it with you!!

With all the love and light in my heart,


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