The other day I was with my family at the gurdwara. It’s the Sikh place of worship. I was reflecting while there on mindfulness. While sitting there, the Guru Granth Sahib ji (holy book and seen by Sikhs as their Guru) was being read as is normal. People were coming and going, some were sitting listening, and my kids would come and go to me and my wife.
You see, there is a discipline while in a gurdwara. Men and women are not meant to sit together, so they sit on either side of the room. There’s no physical division, just an acknowledgement that there is one side and another. When entering the gurdwara, you are meant to offer something (e.g. food, money, sweets, flowers) before bowing your head to the Guru Granth Sahib ji. Your head should be covered as a sign of respect in reference to the Five Ks worn by practising Sikhs.
In different gurdwaras the volunteers enforce these rules with varying levels of dogma.
Which got me thinking about how one can practise mindfulness when discipline is also important. It also got me considering, what’s the importance of discipline? Who does it benefit? What does it support?
If mindfulness is the act of creating focus, how can this happen when there are distractions abound?
In the army, discipline is paramount. Orders must be followed and there are rules to be followed. We see this clearly when soldiers are on parade. The pristine of their clothes, the drill they go through, the preciseness (totally a word I just made up) of how things are done, the way orders are given and followed, are all important.
Sports players are a seriously disciplined bunch. The elite players control everything they do from the food they eat, to the training they undertake, to the sleep they get, to the company they keep, to the physical exercise they carry out, to the practise of what they do. Without this discipline, they would not be elite, they would just be average.
And I wonder at work, what happens to discipline? We often talk about it as a form of punishment. Managers carry out disciplinary hearings all the time to rectify poor performance. And, it seems, that’s it.
Is there a place for discipline to be more than that at work?