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Self-control is the overarching practice I teach. It is the core focus of my instruction. It is quite simple for me to know what a person needs to eat, what exercise they need etc. The art is empowering them to actually be able to do it. This is the work I love. I get to know my clients intimately and to join them in learning to know and accept themselves, to genuinely love themselves, and to free themselves of behaviors that create endless misery for them. This work is anything but being forceful, demanding, pushy. It has little to do with will-power and discipline. Learning Self-control is learning to be truly free, free to do what is of real benefit.
Self-control is the ability to govern one’s behavior in ways that do not produce suffering and regret; to act in ways that produce Health and happiness rather than illness and anxiety. Self-control is born of Self-understanding and Self-compassion. Understanding is power. If you understand how to sail, hunt, play music or cook, you have power in that area. Self-understanding, obviously, gives us power with our own selves. We seek to understand the motives of our actions and their consequences. Then we naturally move away from those that are not in our best interest.
Self-compassion is our love for ourselves. It is our caring about our own suffering. It leads us to ask, “What is troubling you, my dear friend?”
Self-compassion is also pure, raw power, the power of love. It is the passion to truly care for ourselves in the most practical of ways. The more we are clear about what we really want the more we follow those desires. Effort is a signal that we are holding conflicting desires.
When we are able to control our actions we naturally cease to do what harms us. If we actually possess this power we wield it. If we do not exercise Self-control it is because we do not possess it. We lack the personal power to do what we know to be good and right for ourselves. We are bound by habit. With personal power we are truly free, we CAN choose to eat the chocolate, or smoke the cigarette, but we are not compelled to do so. We can and we choose to not. A weaker person is compelled to injure themselves against their own better judgment and desires.
If a person is engaged in Self-harming activities it is due to a combination of ignorance (lack of understanding) and indifference (lack of love). Therefore the practice that produces Self-control is NOT one of “will power” or “effort” or “deprivation.” The practice is calmly and caringly practicing being genuinely interested in ourselves by seeking to understand why we do what we do and what happens to us as a result of doing this.
The other practice is exercising our Love by expressing it in every way imaginable, especially in our eating, moving, thinking and relationships. I teach my students to study their ways of living and ask themselves if their ways are genuine expressions of their love. Would you teach your child to behave as you do? I teach them to practice really loving themselves. At first this may be through writing or meditations however always my work comes down to where the rubber meets the road. Are you loving yourself in the ways you feed yourself, in the quality of relationships that you have? If not, admit that you want (you love) what is better and practice wanting that passionately.
Deliberately practice strengthening your noble desires. Practice the skill of wanting what is truly beneficial, what never brings regret.
The marriage of clear Self-understanding and passionate love for what is good for you gives birth to the child of Self-control. And Self-control is the very foundation of Health. It is your power to embody the goodness you long to embody.