Now that we are taking care of the basics and have begun to move by walking the Path of Tiger, and we have gone a ways down the path, and things have become a little easier than they were at the beginning, we could choose to Dance the Path of Snow Lion.
What is a Snow Lion? It’s a beautiful big shaggy lion, a mythical beast that leaps from mountain top to mountain top, full of the joy of life. Its feet barely touch the ground as it leaps and soars shaking its mane bounding through the snow on the mountain peaks.
What is the source of all this joy? Discipline.
But this is not the kind of discipline you might imagine when you hear the word. Rather than the military version where we are doing it because someone is forcing us under threat of harm, which is often how we treat ourselves, this discipline is one that we invite into our lives. Just like invoking the sun to shine on, and inviting the rain to fall on a field to help plants grow up tall and strong and thrive, we invite, summon and call discipline into our lives to help us grow strong and thrive joyfully.
This view of discipline is a powerful reversal. For example if there is something we want to do like meditate every day, or exercise or eat well, the external version of discipline would be to force ourselves there and punish ourselves if we don’t do it. Tell ourselves we are lazy or stupid. It’s like someone else’s finger pointing at us, wagging. The discipline of the Snow Lion is very different. It is an invitation we make ourselves – it is an organic form. We choose to go and sit and meditate or eat a healthy meal because we know it will help us thrive. And if we don’t do it today, that’s ok but we can call upon our internal strength, work to summon our own natural discipline more strongly, and now go sit, knowing that it is good for us, that it helps us grow stronger.
We don’t tend to trust ourselves and so we resort to violence against ourselves. We don’t trust that we could do the things we want to do unless we are forcing ourselves into. So this reversal is a key part of spiritual transformation. To invoke Discipline is an act of gentleness not violence. It is an act of trust in ourselves. An act of love – inviting Discipline to come into our lives and be with us in a very intimate way.
So how exactly do we Dance the Path of Snow Lion?
Dancing the Path of Snow Lion
Step 1: Develop Clarity: bring your gaze down to what is right in front of you.
Get clear on what is going on just in the space right around you. Turn off the news, stop reading or watching stories about other people’s lives. Stop consuming. Bring your gaze and your attention to the six feet around you, and what is ahead of you – you and your own actual life.
What projects do you have going on in your life? For me when I’m in an overwhelm state I often have to write these out over and over and over again in my journal as way to bring some clarity. Get a complete dump of everything that is going on. What are all your commitments. What are all the things that you have running around in your mind as things that you should or are supposed to do. Get them all down on paper. Rewrite them over and over until they start to become clearer. This is a very helpful process to develop clarity, which is a seeing-through of the fog of overwhelm. Doing this itself requires you to begin to call in Discipline. The discipline to keep working on seeing, even when it’s foggy. Doing this develops the eyes of clarity. To have clarity it is necessary to develop clear-seeing eyes. Give up, renounce looking everywhere else besides what is right in front of you.
Step 2: Summon the Discipline to Choose
Now we must choose. We must make prioritization calls – what is most important right now? When we’re in the midst of overwhelm this – deciding what to do – can be very difficult, and that’s where the discipline comes in. We might only get a few words down on paper before we get distracted by the overwhelm, or go back to watching some Netflix. And then, in this step we choose into coming back. Invoke the sense of discipline to come back again and again, and focus on moving through what is in front of you.
I always think of the example from when I was working at a really high paced job in a technology startup in San Francisco. The pace was overwhelming, I had 50 meetings a week, and absolutely no time to do anything. I had to hire someone but there was absolutely no time to spend the many hours it would take to read all the resumes and do all the interviews. But of course if I didn’t, nothing would change. One of my favorite phrases – if nothing changes nothing changes. So, there was nothing for it but to dig in, invoke the discipline of Snow Lion, and make the really hard priority calls. I created the time first thing in the morning to spend two hours reading resumes and working on hiring someone. That meant I wasn’t working on a bunch of other urgent stuff, so some things didn’t get done. But ultimately I ended up hiring someone amazing that changed my experience there completely, and together we got so much more done.
So we must identify what is the most important thing to work on. This is the same whether we’re talking about work or personal or family or spiritual or any other kind of projects. I find it’s best to put them all together since they all contribute to the overwhelm. Then just keep digging and digging through them until you gain some clarity around what is it that is really on your plate, and what are the most important things you have to do. And then choose – make a radical choice that you can’t do everything, and just do the most important thing right now. The process of moving on something will help free up all the undigested energy that is clogging up your body and world.
Step 3: Create Structure.
Having identified what to do, create the structure to do it. Again we call in the discipline of Snow Lion here. Does it look like getting up two hours earlier to work on this because your day is already full? That means going to bed early tonight – drop the desire to watch TV or whatever else you might do in those last two hours. There are a lot of ways to create structure, too many to cover in this post, but that might look like daily and weekly planning and review sessions, lots of journaling, set times in your calendar to work on the hard stuff, sticky notes in your home to remind you – any number of things. Whatever is useful is the metric to use.
Structure is often something that we don’t like to embrace, similar to Discipline. But a similar reversal of the idea we have about it is in order. Structure is not something that takes away our freedom, quite the opposite – freedom comes from structure, from constraint. Structure is something to help us, to lean on when we need it, like a trellis that helps support a plant when it it windy. The importance of structure is immense, and well worth shifting our mindset around.
Step 4: Use the Discipline of Consistency & Focus
There is big magic in the combination of consistency and focus. In just a few days of consistent action, where we are focused on the most important things, it is amazing what we can move through. And after we get moving for a little while, and clear through some parts of our projects, the sense of lightness on the other side of the overwhelm can be very joyous.
Like when you’re in the ocean swimming in some really big waves. If you let them crash on top of you, and let yourself be dragged by them it’s very uncomfortable. If instead you turn towards them, then dive right into the middle of them – you’ve got to swim pretty hard for a while but then you surface on the other side out in clear water again.
So the main part of dancing this path is consistency and focus. Each time you get knocked down, use Tiger to get up again. Then invoke the discipline of Snow Lion to turn towards what is difficult but important. And repeat, and keep repeating.
Step 5: Remember to Dance
And when I feel very down about the situation, when I feel put-upon, that’s when I remember the word Dance. We can bring a sense of lightness to the whole situation. Actually enjoy the feeling of swimming hard through the wave. The sense of working hard on something that is important to us. Instead of letting doubt pull us down, even when things feel heavy, just lift your feet, and dance a little, a few steps here and there, looking out at the sky, the mountains, the birds.
Pretty soon you will find yourself leaping across those mountain tops and feeling the joy of the air rushing through your fur, being Snow Lion. And you may begin to feel a little fearless, and reach out your paws to support and invite others to walk the path.
We should also know that these two paths are sequential – first Tiger, then Snow Lion, and also they are simultaneous. We must keep walking the path of Tiger as we move on to dance the path of Snow Lion. Transcend but include. It is the grounding in Tiger that allows us to dance as a Snow Lion. While we are dancing and leaping amongst the mountains, it is important to remember to also keep Tigering – keep eating well, brushing our teeth, exercising and all the other Tiger things that keep us moving and thriving.