We once heard a man who had been a monk and then left that path for married life and fatherhood. He commented that his child was a better disciplinarian than his guru. As his guru had commanded, he awoke early every morning to meditate, but every once in a while, if he felt particularly ill or had not slept well, he might skip a session. With fatherhood, he noted that, if his child cried out in the night, he would get up and attend to the child, no matter what hour it was or how he felt.
In adopting practices that support your spiritual work, maintaining your focus and effort requires tremendous discipline. The fact is, the power of will is inferior to your sense of duty to your loved ones. Will power can be effective up to a point, but as countless failed New Year’s resolutions illustrate, over time it wears out. Will and reason are no match for your emotions, habits, and yearnings. Even if your will power is iron clad, stress will take its toll on your health and sense of well-being.
You can use your marriage to support your discipline constructively. You and your spouse can make agreements with one another, to uphold practices and schedules. This is not like a task master or police, but more as teammates with a common goal. Yes, you can gently hold one another accountable, but more so, you start to draw upon the power that dwells in serving and honoring others. If you agree to take a walk together or to practice Hatha Yoga every day, you can do it as a gesture of support for the other. If your partner is unable to meditate some mornings, think of yourself as meditating for both of you. You do it for them; it is more powerful than just doing it for yourself, and it is more durable than your own singularly-applied will power. Happiness, when shared, is magnified. The reward you get for using your discipline to benefit your beloved is a brighter, shared delight.
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