A disciplined mind leads to happiness, an undisciplined mind leads to suffering.
Look at consciousness as a function of matter and you have science.
Look at matter as the product of consciousness and you have spirituality.
That aim in life is highest which requires the highest and finest discipline.
—Henry David Thoreau
You obviously don’t need to be spiritual in order to be disciplined. You don’t need to be spiritual even to practice mindful self-discipline—for that, meditation and awareness are enough. But can spirituality help self-discipline? Yes, tremendously.
Both spirituality and self-discipline share a similar journey: taking you from the reptilian brain to the evolved brain, from the animal to the human, from reactive to conscious. They both aim to elevate you above your impulses and negative emotions, and truly master yourself.
If you are open to spirituality, it can add an extra layer of depth, meaning, and strength to your practice of self-discipline. And if you are not, feel free to skip this topic, as Mindful Self-Discipline offers plenty of effective tools for your journey.
It is challenging to define spirituality in a way that encompasses all its manifestations and makes everyone happy, yet we need a definition so that we can be somewhat on the same page. Here is my working concept:
Spirituality is a worldview and a way of living based on the intuition that there is more to life than what meets the senses, more to the universe than just purposeless mechanics, more to consciousness than electrical impulses in the brain, and more to our existence than the body and its needs. Spirituality embraces this mystery and seeks to explore it. It often involves the belief in a higher form of intelligence or Consciousness as the source of the universe, as well as life after death and the existence of subtler levels of reality. It is an answer to the deep human thirst for meaning, peace, connection, and truth. It incorporates the transcendental aspect of human existence, the depth of our being, and gives context to transcendental experiences.
Spirituality is not the same as religion. Religion is one of the manifestations of spirituality, but you can also be spiritual but not religious. For the purposes of Mindful Self-Discipline, it doesn’t matter what form of spirituality you practice—but only that you have awareness of the non-material aspect of life, and willingness to explore it.
Research shows the mental health benefits of a spiritual practice, reporting positive outcomes of a spiritual worldview and practice for the purposes of treating depression, anxiety, PTSD, schizophrenia, and trauma. Studies also show benefits for patients coping with illnesses such as cancer. More of such research is bound to come, as the scientific inquiry on contemplative practices deepens.
For now, the main point is that spirituality and self-discipline can support each other and deepen the meaning of your journey, lifelong. Spirituality helps you develop self-discipline; and self-discipline is a powerful tool for you to grow spiritually.