This is the final part of the series of articles titled “How To Gain Self-Discipline – A Personal Story”, if you have not read the articles preceding this one I highly recommend you do so. That way you will get the most out of reading this one.
In the last article I talked about how I started meditating for two hours a day and my motivation in doing so. Here I will discuss how acting through love instead of fear allowed me to discover my most heartfelt desire. Meditation played a key part in allowing me to consciously act through love.
I will also talk about my heartfelt desire, how I came to discover it and how doing so allowed me to monumentally fortify my discipline.
Desire is the engine of discipline and thus achievement. You will learn how this truth played out in my life and how you can also take advantage of this most human of traits.
How I Started Changing When I Meditated For Two Hours A Day
I was living with my parents in Mexico City. I had no money, no career prospects and no direction. None of the options I clearly saw for myself at the time inspired me; I knew that if I went back from where I’d come I’d only end up in the same place. So I decided to head into the unknown.
I meditated for two hours a day. I read for several hours a day. And I hung out with my mom and my friends on occasion. I had the privilege to do this and I am immensely grateful to my parents and life for having given me that opportunity. That doesn’t mean it was easy. I still felt pressure to do things the same way everyone I knew was doing them.
But still, I stuck with the two hours of meditation. I’d wake up and immediately sit up on my bed, set a one-hour timer on my cellphone and get at it. At first, it was impossible to focus my attention. My mind was wild, untamed, remorselessly galloping across the planes of thought with no apparent progress towards control.
And it remained that way for a year. I would sit down, meditate and after an hour feel like no progress had been made. I’d remind myself that it was a gradual process, I couldn’t expect to see immediate results.
I Remained Optimistic Because Of One Thing: Faith
I had faith that purifying my mind was the only way for me to break out of this cycle of meaninglessness I’d gotten myself into. I had no personal evidence it would work, so all I had to go on was faith. It was my faith in meditation which kept me going back day after week after month; sitting with my eyes closed for hours on end while making no apparent progress in training the mind.
Please note that I wrote “no personal evidence” in the previous paragraph. I did have evidence meditation worked, it just wasn’t experiential. There is a growing body of scientific research which is conclusively demonstrating that meditation has profound effects on the brain and body.
For example: experienced meditators have more gray matter in the frontal cortex, when compared to non-meditators. The frontal cortex is the region of the brain which handles executive thought, planning and self-control.
Another finding is that practicing meditation immediately lengthens our telomeres. Telomeres are molecular caps at the ends of our DNA which protect it from degradation, like the caps at the end of our shoelaces. As we age, our telomeres become shorter and shorter. Meditation elevates the concentration of an enzyme in our blood (telomerase) responsible for elongating our telomeres. This means that meditation literally slows the aging process. It has been shown that regular meditators have younger brains and younger-looking faces than non-meditators.
There Are Whole books Written On This
If you’re curious, I read about all of this and more in the books “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion” by Sam Harris, “Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment” by Robert Wright and “Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body” by Richard Davidson and Daniel Goleman.
All of this evidence served as a powerful “Why” for me to continue with my two-hour daily meditation practice. While I didn’t observe any improvement in my mental control, I was confident that changes were occurring beneath my awareness.
Fear Never Left Me
This confidence didn’t mean that I was relaxed and joyful throughout this time, far from it. I was plagued by insecurity and hounded by fear. That incessant, critical voice in my head tirelessly reminded me of my failure in graduate school, of my financial mistakes (which I didn’t write about here) and of my degrading relationship with my parents.
Despite my working on myself, this voice remained consistent throughout my time in Mexico. I would have panic attacks as I imagined my life flowing down the drain of financial ruin and homelessness. I would feel a block of ice form in the pit of my gut as I imagined my future failure in a thousand and one ways. I would ask myself “If everyone else is living life this way, what makes me believe I can do things differently?”, “What if this is all just a waste of time?” or “Maybe I should just get back to doing things the way I learned and be happy that I have that opportunity.”
Despite my incessant and withering self-criticism, my belief in myself, in my ability to change my life in the way I wanted, prevailed over my fear. It came close to winking out in the winds of doubt, that tiny flame of self-belief, but in the end it made it through the gale.
After six months in Mexico, I resolved a financial hiccup that had left me completely broke in Los Angeles. With literally 0 dollars in my bank account. I was still broke, but not completely so.
I used this money to travel to the Czech Republic, so I could be with the woman I loved.
Love Took Me To The Czech Republic
I bet you didn’t expect that I had a sweetheart during this time of great personal upheaval. I don’t blame you, adult males who are jobless, penniless and who live with their parents don’t have much success with women.
But I met Petra while I was still a graduate student in Los Angeles, while I had my “life together.” We fell in love then. She was doing an internship at the university’s hospital while I was working on my PhD. We met through Tinder.
Shortly after we met, Petra left Los Angeles and I was left without a person to love romantically. I still had at least three years of my PhD left and she was in the middle stage of her residency. She was a radiologist.
We continued our relationship long-distance for about two years.
One of the many reasons I left my PhD was because I was sick and tired of putting my romantic relationships in second place to my professional achievement. Behaving that way had already cost me the most precious romantic relationship I had ever had (with someone else). I wasn’t going to let that happen to my relationship with Petra.
So I left the PhD, went to Mexico, resolved my financial snafu and bought a one-way ticket to go to the Czech Republic.
- Did I have a job offer in the Czech Republic? Nope
- Did I speak the country’s language? Negative
- Did I know anyone in the Czech Republic other than Petra? Nah
- Did I have an idea for how to make a living while I was there? Kinda
I Was In Love!
The way I figured it, we are lucky if we fall in love once in life. My love with Petra was my second go around with falling in love, so I had been super lucky. The butterflies, the ecstatic joy of being with someone who accepts you as you are, everything the great poets wrote about love, it’s all true. Nothing matches love. Nothing even comes close.
So I said to hell with all the rules, all the requirements I believe I need to fulfill before I could move to be with the person I love. We love each other now! We’re alive now! What else matters?!?
I would think “If what we have is real then we’ll make it work. If it isn’t, then we’ll both be better off, because we won’t be left wondering what could have been.”
There was no way we could lose. And Petra saw that, too.
If you want some real advice, this is it: put it all on the line for love. We’re here for a limited time, we can either love our hearts out and shine like stars during this time or allow our fear to command our choices and die as dim, little unloved gremlins.
The choice is always ours.
So I chose to go be with Petra in the Czech Republic. Logic dictated I should figure out my finances, profession, everything else, before I moved to be with her.
Love trumps logic. Always.
It was (one of the) best choices I ever made. Because I made it with my heart and not my mind. As you shall see.
Life In The Czech Republic
All this talk about love doesn’t mean I was free from doubt and anxiety. I still had it, I still felt great, sometimes paralyzing, doubt over my choices.
But I was in a new, enchanting country, living with a love of my life, in a charming apartment next to a river with a grand view of the Brno cathedral. Brno was where Petra lived, it’s the second largest city in the Czech Republic.
It was all magical, and I knew it. I knew this was my chance. This was my chance to set myself right. To make the choices which would see me to the life I desired. A life which resonated with meaning.
I had some savings in dollars, which go a long way in the Czech Republic. I had a place to stay, with Petra. And through Petra, I had an in with other interesting, kind people in the Czech Republic. I was Petra’s romantic partner, after all, the young PhD dropout who had moved from Mexico to the Czech Republic to be with her. A choice like that carries weight in the eyes of humans. We don’t talk about it much these days, but we respect the people who gamble everything on love. Because love is what we value most, whether we’re aware of it or not.
I Became A Part Of Her Social Circle
I met doctors, technologists, scientists, farmers, office workers, techies, artists, all Czech and all relaxed and charming and welcoming in every sense of the word. My perspective of the world broadened, simply by sitting in rooms with people who’s culture and language was completely foreign to me. As my heart remembered what it was like to love and be loved romantically, my mind became caught up in the whirl of living in a completely foreign country.
I had begun transitioning from being in fear to being in love. My heart was opening, remembering what it was like before western adult life had gotten ahold of it. My mind was expanding, coming in touch with my curiosity. I was discovering a whole new world of possibility which I had never known existed.
Unconsciously, by choosing love, I had started moving in the direction of…
I Discover My Heartfelt Desire
I moved to the Czech Republic in the middle of 2018. Before I moved there I had a vague idea of what I truly desired. As I lived there my vision became clearer.
This is the heartfelt desire I began discovering within myself: I wanted to live surrounded by the people I loved. I wanted to do work which satisfied my creative spirit, which challenged my intellect and which served the human community. I wanted to be able to do this work from anywhere in the world I chose, whenever I chose to do it. I wanted to be paid handsomely for this work, so I could be free to volunteer my time whenever and to whomever I wanted to. I wanted to travel, to see the wonders of the world, to meet new people and serve communities all over the world, relying on my skills and interests to empower other people who wanted to be empowered. I wanted to contribute to making a safer, healthier more spiritually meaningful world for all those here, now and those who will come after us. I wanted to be surrounded by beautiful, kind, creative people; to learn new things every day and to train my body and mind to learn new skills, like dancing, rock climbing, surfing and playing the guitar.
In a nutshell: I wanted to live the adventure of life fully, and share it with all those I loved.
That was the vision which started to take form while I lived in Brno with Petra. That was the desire which lit me up like a star, which ignited a volcanic determination within me to make the choices I needed to make in order to get there.
Desire Is Our Engine
This is why desire and discipline go hand in hand. Discipline is what keeps us on the track. Desire is what provides us with the explosive motivation to thrive and create and serve. Our desire is the supernova which powers our passage through life. Without it, we are boats without motors or rocket ships without rockets. Discipline keeps us focused on our objectives, allowing us to zero in on them with laserlike precision.
Discipline comes naturally to those who follow their heartfelt desires. The more disciplined you are in achieving something, the more you desire it and vice versa. Discipline and desire build off each other.
And how do you discover what you desire? You go after what you love! How else can you know what you desire unless you do what you love?
Answer: You can’t! It’s up to you to do the activities you love so you can figure out what you desire to do with your life, how you desire to serve.
What I’ve noticed is that most people settle. People settle for lesser desires, desires that don’t really light them up, so they never discover the gargantuan power which sleeps within them. People who settle for lesser desires have vast stores of energy which go unused; instead it’s directed towards immediate, easy pleasure, like drugs, entertainment, pornography, etc. There, their energy becomes passively diluted, rather than manifested in active creation.
Why Do People Settle?
People settle for lesser desires because they believe they aren’t deserving of achieving their heartfelt desires. Sadly, most people have been conditioned through various means to believe that they don’t deserve the best in life. That they don’t deserve to do satisfying work. That they don’t deserve to have time off, to practice self-care, to have healthy bodies and minds. That they don’t deserve to enjoy life with those they love.
Because people have such low self-love, they settle. They settle for jobs they hate. They settle for soul-crushing routines. They settle for relationships which hurt them rather than heal them. Jordan Peterson wrote in “12 Rules For Life” that some of his patients administer medicine to their pets without fail, while ignoring taking their own. How does that make any sense?
We come first. Always. What would happen to the pet if the owner dies from a lack of medicine? Nothing good. If we want to serve others well we have to care for ourselves first. And we do that by doing healthy things we love. You can love drinking and do it regularly, but that isn’t caring for yourself.
We Accept The Love We Believe We Deserve
We accept what we believe we deserve, period. This is a law of human nature, as real as gravity and electromagnetism. All achievement starts with desire, this is true. But all desire starts with self-love.
If you don’t believe you deserve the best why would you ever try to go after it? You wouldn’t.
The truth is, we all deserve the best. Because we are human beings, children of God. Yes, God, the Great Spirit, the One Life, the Cosmic Consciousness which animates all living beings.
We are a manifestation of the divine. Our place is with God.
And I’m not talking about any religion here. This is way deeper than that. This is the structure of the universe itself, as described by the best science we have. Science has proven God, and more and more scientists are starting to realize that. I’m one of them.
We deserve the best despite what we’ve been conditioned to believe by parents, family members, teachers, the media, society, etc. I’m grateful, my mother gave me so much love as a child she convinced me I deserve the best, always. That’s what our parents do for us. If your parents taught you otherwise you can always change it! That’s your power. You don’t have to accept what you’ve been conditioned to believe.
When you discover your heartfelt desire, obstacles become fodder for your mind and body. You access the hero within you and find the way through to get what you want. When you believe you’re worthy of the best you don’t settle for less.
How I Discovered My Heartfelt Desire – And How You Can To
In the Czech Republic I was still facing the challenges I had to face in Los Angeles and Mexico City, but I was no longer a lone adult living in Los Angeles, working a meaningless job, or a jobless adult living with his parents in Mexico City. I was in love with a wonderful person. And love is the most transformational force there is.
I was still reading for many hours a day. And meditating for two hours a day as well. But I was still undisciplined in some ways, I won’t lie. I would wake up late, drink too much sometimes and watch too much television at other times. Beer is delicious and inexpensive in the Czech Republic.
I wasn’t producing anything new, just consuming. But I had started discovering my desire, I was following my curiosity and my discipline to do the things I needed to do was slowly rising.
Discovering your desire and cultivating discipline doesn’t happen overnight. It takes consistent action over time. You can’t see it as it’s happening, that’s impossible. You can only look back and see the course you’ve followed. That’s when you can say “This is working.”
Petra and I together solved any challenges which came our way. Six months into living in the Czech Republic, through Petra, I started getting my first language students. I ran private Spanish and English language discussions, the way I wanted to. My methods were highly effective and people loved our discussions. I started earning a modest income on my terms. That was priceless.
We Need Each Others’ Support!
Petra gave me the support I needed to start shining. Humans need each other. This whole idea of complete independence espoused by the west is foolish. We need help. We can’t make it alone. My savings eventually disappeared, despite my income. But in Petra I had a stable financial provider who gave me the space I needed to explore my options, to learn and to grow.
This was tough. Men take note here. Men have been conditioned to be material providers. Our capacity as providers has been deeply tied to our manliness. Of course it made sense that Petra was paying the bills, she had a steady job as a doctor in a hospital, while I had moved across the ocean to a new country and culture for us. She was happy with shouldering the financial responsibilities, as long as I kept working on myself and on my goals. She told me so multiple times.
But just because she said so it didn’t mean my unconscious belief system accepted it. I felt emasculated, less than, for having to rely on my partner to provide for me. This was a source of stress and anxiety, especially when friends made fun of me for being a freeloader.
We Were Both Happy. And What Else Matters?
But Petra was happy with the arrangement. And you know why? Because she was getting as much out of it as I was. Just by living with me her English was improving by leaps and bounds. Speaking English confidently provides a massive professional boost anywhere in the world. Our relationship was expanding her language capacity beyond her defined limits.
But, more deeply than language, she was happy with our arrangement because we were together, loving each other. And that was more important than having me pay my share of the bills. Petra knew I was working towards that, in my own way.
Men Are Lovers Before We Are Providers
As long as you love and work diligently towards your goals, people will gravitate towards you. That’s what it is to be a man, I believe.
We lived like this for almost two years.
Throughout it all I continued meditating, reading, teaching, and discovering the Czech Republic and Europe with Petra as my guide. I surrendered completely to our relationship. I gave up control. I was completely engaged in doing the inner work I had to do in order to create a peaceful, prosperous, loving life, in line with my desire.
It was a love story which taught me more about myself than any degree from any university ever could. I kept learning, discovering new habits I could adopt which would increase my focus, my creativity, my energy and health, make me faster and stronger. Slowly my choices began feeding on themselves, building on each other, like compound interest. I developed the discipline to write a 225-page manuscript, which I aim to have published one day.
I Upgraded My Habits
The habits which held me back slowly dissolved away and were replaced with empowering ones. I quit drinking and smoking cannabis. My diet became cleaner, I practically eliminated sugar. I gave up most television. I started waking up early, visualizing (Reprogram.ME is excellent for this), exercising (Six Degree Flow is superb for this) and journaling daily and watching educational documentaries and video essays online. Out of all these habits, waking up early was, and continues to be, the hardest to practice, it takes conscious effort on my part to do it. But all the others gently left or came into my life, without much effort on my part.
The way I see it, practicing these habits empowers me in my journey to achieve my desire. The more I practice these habits the more power I have to direct my life. Eating sugar, watching television or smoking cannabis are small things to give up when compared to what I gain from doing so: the power to achieve my dreams.
Meditation Played A Key Part In All Of This
It allowed me to discover my values and to choose how I responded to conflict. That’s what meditation does; it allows you to choose how to respond to things.
Naturally, frustrations and disagreements would arise in our relationship. No relationship is perfect. When these frictions did arise, either because I was frustrated that I had no money or Petra was frustrated with me for not doing the dishes or vacuuming, I would be able to remain calm and focus on what was important. That we were together and we could figure it out, whatever “it” was. That instead of pointing to what was wrong I could focus on changing myself in order to live harmoniously with Petra. I also changed in this way. I became an assiduous cook, dish washer and vacuumer.
We lived together happily, discovering the world, learning new things and challenging each other to be better.
This Is The Story I Lived – What’s Yours?
Had I remained fearful I would have never created a wonderful relationship with Petra. I would have never faced the stress which challenged me to rise to the occasion by training my mind and body and learning new things. I would have never discovered what I really desired. Had I been fearful, I would have remained in a job I hated, far away from a woman I loved, wondering what could have been. Fear would have kept me dim, lonely and dissatisfied.
To know our desires we need to know ourselves. And to know ourselves we need to follow love.
So I leave you with an invitation to follow what you love! There’s no way you can lose.
To our wealth and success.