“Discipline is not the enemy of enthusiasm.”–Joe Clark
There they were. Athletically built and full of swagger, I listened to their coach who asked them to circle up around me in the dewy grass. The fog was rising, but the sunlight remained hidden on this humid August Saturday morning. They were quiet and rather fatigued-looking after a week of two-a-day practices; nonetheless, they were respectful as I began to talk to each of them, my eyes moving from athlete to athlete.
The task before me was to provide a recovery yoga practice for the St. Joseph Central Catholic High School boy’s soccer team, the sibling school to the middle (and elementary) school for which I am a 6-8 educator. I began our morning practice by setting an intention. Mid-way through my opening statements, the thought occurred to me that I might also be talking to myself.
I began the practice with the following quote by Julia Cameron, “Over an extended period of time, being an artist requires enthusiasm more than discipline.” However, I replaced “artist” with “athlete.” Enthusiasm comes from the Greek word, enthousiasmos, enthous, or entheos–which essentially means to be possessed or inspired by God. Other translations include: filled by God’s essence; or, inspiration or possession of God. When looking at synonyms for enthusiasm–passion, ardor, zeal, fervor–one begins to truly feel the emotional strength and power of the word.
The purpose of selecting this intention for the team’s yoga practice was two-fold. First, I wanted them to walk away from practice with the thought that in order to have a successful soccer season, it would not only require disciplined practices, thinking, actions, and reactions, but also their discipline must be infused with enthusiasm–for one another and for the game. Additionally, I hoped they would sense the Creator’s guiding presence in their life, the One who divinely and individually created each one, as they moved into and through their coming season and school year.
Discipline and enthusiasm, I believe, go hand-in-hand, especially when reflecting upon this past year and half of living with COVID. Like many, I had maintained the discipline of preventative COVID measures throughout the summer, fall and winter of last year, but by the end of February of 2021, I was beginning to lose my enthusiasm. I was ready, more than ready, to give up. In fact, I was ready to run away from life. It seemed to me that there had been far too many deaths, distractions, changes, illnesses, storms, flooding, and other torments of life. Like so many around me, I felt I was, like the old southern, metaphorical expression made popular by the band, REM, “losing my religion,” and barely holding on.
Thankfully, I did not give up. Instead, I kept showing up, moving, one foot in front of the other, one day–sometimes even one moment–at a time. By the time summer arrived, I decided to create a disciplined morning practice devoted to inner, spiritual work in an attempt to find that lost enthusiasm. And guess what I discovered? The Divine Creator was still there, and at a snail’s pace, I began to once more feel the True Source of inspiration. I began to find enthusiasm once more.
“Write this down: My life is full of unlimited possibilities.”–Pablo
I woke early every morning and committed myself to the practice of writing–not for publication, but for me. Each morning, before the sun had risen, I sat and wrote for nearly an hour following a formatted plan. It didn’t matter how much my inner-self tantrumed about the early hour, time commitment, or the work, I kept up the practice and believed in the process. I filled pages of journals–words that I ultimately shredded!
In fact, hours of work were ultimately sent through a shredder because, in the end, the words I wrote did not need to be saved. They had served their purpose by allowing my mind to process and recover. It took weeks, but my mindset gradually shifted. Instead of thinking, “Oh, I have to get up and write,” I actually began to look forward to my writing practice. I was finding my joy.
As I worked with those high school boys, they found their muscles tight from the pounding and compacting of twice daily running and drills. Their bodies were not easily given over to poses (stretching positions) through which I guided them. It was as if their bodies were saying, “No! I won’t!” I encouraged the young men to breathe through the resistance, release the tension, and relax. The more they took deep breaths, the more they were able to relax those tight muscles. The more they relaxed, the more their bodies allowed them to stretch.
At the end of nearly an hour, they entered their final pose, “savasana,” final relaxation pose. Savasana is also known as corpse pose–as there is a dying away of the body and mind to all of its busyness. Savasana is similar to powering down your computer or phone–it gives the body a chance to assimilate all that has happened within that hour of practice, reboot, and return to homeostasis.
Likewise, my summer practice of writing served a similar function. I had to learn how to loosen my rigid and restricted way of thinking. Instead of remaining in my isolated, ego-driven “No-brain,” I had relearn how to tap into my “Yes-brain.” Through my disciplined morning practice of writing, prayer, and affirmations, it was as if my brain was metaphorically breathing deeply, learning to relax, and eventually relearned to say, “Yes,” even to things for which I cannot control. My brain had to die away from the busyness of my ego–the poor, pitiful me side, and tap into the True Source
Making my way around the circle of kids relaxed in savasana, I sprayed each of their feet and ankles with peppermint spray as an act of soothing refreshment. I could not help but notice all of their blisters, calluses, and chafed skin. It reminded me of how many of us feel as we deal with this new variant(s) of COVID.
“Always remember to take your Vitamins: Take your Vitamin A for ACTION, Vitamin B for Belief, Vitamin C for Confidence, Vitamin D for Discipline, Vitamin E for Enthusiasm!!”–Pablo
Many may feel chafed, not only by the notion of wearing masks again, but also by the fact that we still can’t return to a so-called, “normal,” or the sense of homeostasis. We are asked to remain vigilant and disciplined regarding not only our health, but the well-being of others, and yet our souls are begging for soothing like the peppermint oil sprayed on the soccer player’s bedraggled feet. It is worth remembering how far we have come, and if we made it through last year, we can make it again.
I will argue that Cameron’s words can be applied to this extended period of time as we continue to live with COVID. We need a large dose of enthusiasm, more than discipline, in order to continue to embrace life as it is and keep going. Enthusiasm is our God-given, on-going source of inspiration and energy. When enthusiasm is combined with taking action and believing in our Higher Power, we can continue with confidence to remain disciplined and still experience joy. Life may not be like it was, and frankly, it may never return to what we once knew, but life in the present moment–no matter the status–is continuing; and that, my friend, is worth a mask-covered smile.