‘Discipline’ sounds like making ourselves do something we’re not going to like. If we liked it, we wouldn’t need discipline. It’s a word that has some should in it. With related tones of harshness and negative consequences.
‘Precision’ achieves the same effect as discipline.
For example, if I’m trying to meditate for a total of an hour per day, precision gets me there just as well as discipline.
Precision can feel artistic or sophisticated. It requires attention. It can be the result of flow. Sometimes precision comes from stillness rather than impulse. Using just the right amount and kind of power, not just pushing harder.
Precision has many mental qualities in common with mindfulness. Precision can be kind without compromise.
It’s often assumed that mindfulness has kindness built-in. I don’t think this is true. A counter-example is the way that some beginner meditators criticise themselves for not being mindful enough. It’s an act of unkindness towards one’s self.
Mindfulness needs to be deliberately filled with the quality of goodwill.
As well as making a healthy static meditation practice, kindness can also be used to give a sense of direction to the practice. It’s the first signpost that we are moving along in the direction of less suffering.
Mindfulness without kindness is like standing on one leg. It won’t get us very far along the path.
One of the biggest mistakes that a new meditator can make, is to become judgemental about their ability to be mindful.
The scenario is that a meditator is being asked to place their attention on an object, such as the breath. When the mind drifts, the student is to bring the mind back to the breath. However, instead of bringing the mind back, the student starts criticising themself for ‘failing’ to keep the attention on the breath. This is a mistake because the criticising thoughts compound the distraction.
There is a simple counter to this self criticism – it’s kindness. You should apply it proactively. So now the instructions are like this: Place your attention on the breath. When you notice that the mind is no longer on the breath, fill yourself with the quality of kindness. Then, remembering your original intention, ride the kindness back to the breath.
If you find it hard to bring the quality of kindness to life, then practice it. Mindfulness and kindness are the two legs of a beginners’ practice. You need them both, so you can move along.