A few days ago, I emailed you an article with my reflection of freedom and discipline in regards to food. This question even though it may seem just philosophical, touches our lives on a daily basis. Do you discipline yourself in regards to food or not? Do you create boundaries for yourself with alcohol, work, time spent online or can you trust yourself to live without forced boundaries. What about disciplining your children, people who work for you, and even your pets? What is better?
I also shared wise words of Krishnamurti on discipline and freedom. Looking from that perspective freedom and discipline can’t coexist. To avoid relying on rules, regulations, and dogmas, we need to aim for integrated action vs acting from the state of internal conflict. You can read more about it here.
Today, I want to share another view on discipline and freedom. It is almost opposite, yet also true.
It is inspired by Mark Rowland’s book The Philosopher and the Wolf. The Philosopher and the Wolf is Rowlands’ memoir of living with Brenin, an Alaskan wolf, for over a decade.
Mark says: The relationship between discipline and freedom is a deep and important one: far from being opposed to freedom, discipline is what makes the most worthwhile forms of freedom possible. Without discipline there is no real freedom; there is only license.
Mark is a real-life philosophy teacher who got a wolf and took him to every single class he taught. So without discipling the wolf there would be no freedom for either the philosopher himself, nor for the wolf to be in class filled with students, to walk around the campus, or to travel. Mark later gives an example of how disciplining his wolf when he was young allowed the wolf freedom to walk everywhere without a leash. Discipline at one stage allowed for freedom at another.
You probably experienced it in your life, too. You discipline yourself by limiting your intake of sugar, gluten or dairy and that creates a new level of freedom from low energy, acne, bloating, and extra weight.
Or you discipline yourself to work extra hours on the project and on the weekend you have the freedom of going to the beach.
So what is better: discipline that leads to freedom or learning to trust yourself on such a deep level that there is no need to discipline and every action is fully integrated?
Based on the first blog I wrote about freedom and discipline and this one, what would you choose to rely on in your daily life to make decisions regarding food, exercise, work schedule and many other things?
Here is what I think: I think discipline is necessary at the beginning stages before we can develop full trust with ourselves.
For example, for someone who eats a lot of sugar and one day decides to change that, discipline is going to be required in the first stages before her taste buds and the body re-adapt and stop craving sugar as much. Once the body is more sensitive to the effect of sugar, once the taste buds are satisfied with much milder flavors, and the body is cleansed enough, we start developing a deeper level of clarity on the true needs of our body and can start trusting the body with cravings more.
Similar thing is going to happen with exercise: discipline in the beginning and later the body starts craving in and you can trust it.
Since most of us are not trained from childhood to listen to and trust the wisdom of our bodies, it takes time to learn how to do it. Also often times out body is not in its innate pure state so our cravings and perception (the way we hear and interpret our bodies wisdom) maybe be a bit off. It takes time to learn the language of the body and bring the body into a state where cravings are true.
Relying on trust at the early stages of change is rarely reliable. I wrote about why trusting the body that is not healthy, rested, clean enough is not a good idea here. At the same time relying on willpower and discipline long-term is not sustainable. Trusting the body has to developed sooner or later so you can access a deeper level of freedom.
Reflect on this today and early next week I will share my final thoughts on making daily food choices, integrity, and finding your true motivation. Conversation about willpower and sticking to what you know is best for you is not over.