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The Discipline of Docility

Bushi no nasake translates to “the tenderness of the warrior.” Stephanie Russell’s One Flash of Lightning: A Samurai Path for Living the Moment explores the topic of docility and bushido, the code of conduct for Japanese samurai.

“At its core, docility is the means to a greater awareness of what action is needed at the moment—or whether action is appropriate at all," Russell writes. "Docility is a uniquely subtle discipline...of conserving one’s vital energies to create a rich reserve of internal power. It means allowing your wife to scowl because you forgot to buy milk—and then apologizing, even if you do not feel bad about your forgetfulness. Docility is quietly making up the difference, being bigger than a petty conflict, letting go of trivial injury when friendship is at stake.”

Reading this excerpt transported me to a place of humility and awareness that the world is bigger than my feelings and needs. Yes, there is a need to acknowledge where I am (and where you are) emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and everything in between. At the same time, there is a place for showing tenderness by remembering the bigger picture and exercising actions that show love and kindness towards others. As a fellow human being, I benefit from this concept because there are times when I value close friendships over being vindicated for a situation that with further reflection bears little weight objectively. As there is room for naming hurts, there is also a place to let hurts go to preserve something of greater worth.

Russell ends the topic with this: “Knowing when and when not to react with action, or meet a fragile moment with gentle silence, receptive as sand to water.” Thus, something I will work on in the coming days is exercising the kind of receptivity that is docile—similar to the sand in the midst of water.


Lou Lim is a licensed mental health counselor and registered expressive arts therapist (REAT) with a master's degree in Expressive Therapy and Mental Health Counseling from Lesley University. He is a member of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association and on the committee for REAT credentialing. He has 13 years of experience in counseling and expressive therapy working with children, adolescents, teenagers, adults, and retirees.

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