Last night a monthly salon met for the first time. The purpose is to have a gathering where people take part in a deep conversation on a regular basis, pertaining to a theme that will change from meeting to meeting. The originator of this event wrote: As long as this fosters thought on a topic, and sharing of perspective, the purpose of the salon will be realized.
This month’s topic was self discipline. It is difficult to encompass the flow of conversation but I wanted to share some of the themes we touched on. ‘Tis merely my memory and interpretation of what was said, but may this spark ignite something within you: or not:
The Observer vs the Observed – There is the person who we are throughout the day (the observed) – and then there is that voice/conscience that you hear every now and then (the observer). Tension comes from not hearing the observer, or not listening to it.
Übermensch – Nietzsche’s idea that there is an Ubermensch or “Superman” that we are constantly striving towards. Life is a constant process of becoming. Self-discovery, self-improvement.
Commitment devices – personal vs private. When one decides to do something, there are many different ways to help stick to the decision i.e. telling friends, promises, payment if not following new goal. But though this can help, self-discipline is completely self-involved. It is self-induced, and each person must find the drive within themselves. And this can be very lonely. Because people may be able to relate to each other from a theoretical point of also practicing self-discipline, but each person has their own goals and challenges.
Rewards – self-induced vs external rewards along the path of self-discipline. Needing compliments and affirmation from others vs finding that internally.
The initial decision to do something: how do you start something? you start it.
Catalyst to Change – Joseph Campbell – the importance of rituals. The value in doing something over and over again: repetition. Process.
The element of Time – Strong feelings that ignite change fade over time – the voice of the observer can soften depending on time.
An acorn is an acorn tree – Aristotle?
Duality – In Western culture many things are polarized. Either you are A or B, with no in between. Rather, there can be a spectrum.
The meaning of discipline:
Positive vs negative interpretations
– Discipline can refer to punishment i.e. to discipline a child, but it can also refer to a field of education i.e. the discipline of sculpture and art
Discipline often thought of restraint, but it also leads to creation.
Illusion – When the illusion is revealed it becomes obvious, but it is still difficult to know it isn’t an illusion. Recognizing what is an illusion in one’s life – what is rationalized. Pull back the curtain.
Fettucini Syndrome/TreeFace – Conscience? The observer? **I spaced for a second, but this did lighten the mood**
Identity and action: One’s actions define who a person is. Often one’s identity is formed through other people’s associations of that person and their set of behaviors. To change these behaviors/habits, is to change one’s own identity and the way the world understands the person.
Habitual vs ritual: Habit is a routine set of actions that one does because one has done so before – can be good or bad. Ritual includes intention in action.
Intention in action
Progress and subjectivity vs objectivity – is there one ideal of the perfect way to be?
– Senegal and modernization: Happy with the way of life.
– Imposing beliefs/ways of life
Language barriers to communication and exclusion in discussion – open this discussion to all.
Final exercise – write something down you are trying to be more disciplined about.
As a final note, I guess I’ll talk a bit about what I’ve been trying to be disciplined about… during our salon most of the discussion stayed very abstract and theoretical, with few personal stories or reflection.
Being in a new city with all this new stimulation is awesome – I feel like I am thriving. Except there some things that I love to do that I have not incorporated into my lifestyle yet… for example, a regular running regimen, and cooking at home/eating healthy organic fresh food. While I don’t want to downplay the importance of these things, they are surface level and I know I will get my routine/ritual down. But something that I have been working on endlessly that I really struggle with is being caring and loving and compassionate on other people’s terms. I have a tendency to just turn off if I’m feeling pressured or as if there are expectations – even if if I actually care about the person. I tend to show my appreciation and love on my own terms. So I would really like to focus on dropping my ego, recognizing when or if someone is looking for support, and then giving.
A friend’s notes: