Our dreams become the themes in our lives.
The themes lead us to manifest our dreams.
is the mechanism through which themes and dreams are fed and lived.
If you are alive, you are practicing something…
This past weekend, I participated in a yoga retreat. How delicious to join several other people, to take a break from our “regular lives” and to dive into the practices of yoga. This weekend included some very deep personal work and much needed respite, and as such is a cherished aspect of my yoga practice. Yet, since I can go only once a year, it can only enhance what I do on a regular basis.
On a regular basis. That doesn’t mean that I practice everyday (I don’t). That does mean that each time I come to my mat, I do my best to focus and stretch and breathe and to come back to my center. As I approach each practice, with the body I woke up in that day, I start where I am, with mindfulness and awareness: How am I today? What is the mind doing? How is the body feeling? How does the current state of mind and body affect today’s practice? What can be learned about myself today? Can I be friendly with myself for my failings? Can I pat myself on the back for my success?
Can I bow in gratitude for this practice that feeds the themes and dreams of my life?
With enough awareness during practice…
anything can become second nature.
And here’s the caveat: the same is true if you move through your life with no awareness whatsoever! So, here we are again: practice has a lot to do with mindfulness. While the specifics of a practice shifts and changes from day-to-day, at the heart, they will feed into the themes I am living.
Why do you practice and what do you hope to gain?
One of the most valuable parts of practicing one thing with full intention is that it will eventually trickle into and feed other areas of life. The things I have learned through the practice of yoga have helped me to bring awareness to life off the mat.* To learn how to be in the world. To find out that what comes easily might bring happiness at first, only to turn into boredom or complacency later on. To watch the struggle through the difficulties, the frustration that makes me want to just spit and quit, but with a little perseverance turns into great satisfaction. To weigh the value of short term and long term actions with rewards or regrets. To observe attachments to the stories and beliefs of “how it ought to be” and the deeper understanding that is gained if I can let them go.
In answer to the question, “Why do we practice and what we hope to gain?” there are a few main concepts that I’d like to explore:
Such a many-faced concept! Are we talking about physical alignment? mental? psychological?philosophical? ideological? I would say all of the above. Alignment is the most ego-driven aspect of practice, especially because it has so much to do with “getting it right.”
In a physical practice, whether it’s a sport or yoga or learning to play an instrument, there are forms that must be followed. This type of alignment is critical because a) the chance of injury is lessened dramatically and b) the efficiency of good form will expedite advancement in your practice. In this way, being attuned to the workings of the body, physical alignment is a practice in mindfulness.
To say, “I am a ___” is to invoke the psychological, philosophical and ideological forms of alignment into the fabric of who I think I am. I think about practicing. I read about and emulate others who have a similar practice. I may align myself with certain beliefs about the practice.
Nature ~ Nurture
The age-old debate. I’ve come to realize it’s not a question of either/or but of both/and.
Nature gives us a framework, a structure, a set of rules or parameters to work within. In this way, nature and alignment are related. It is my nature to choose an activity like yoga or art or music over underwater basket weaving or extreme free climbing. Yet, the activity I choose has a nature in and of itself that makes it attractive to me.
Nurture is what we can create and develop with what is given through nature. Practicing within a paradigm can be challenging and sometimes we need to break the rules; yet it also gives us a starting point and maybe a little sense of security. Through practice we create our lives, we experiment to find out what works and what doesn’t. We cultivate and explore and grow.
The physical work and identification with the activity feed devotion – of energy, of time, of funds. Yet, this is where the ego begins to fall away. The practice expands through devotion, as we realize the level of meaningfulness and satisfaction and enrichment that is brought to our lives. We practice because it feeds us. There is this idea that practice make perfect, but I like Jane Fonda’s interpretation better:
“We’re not meant to be perfect. We are meant to be whole.”
~ Jane Fonda
It is my experience that devotion to a practice helps to make us feel and recognize that wholeness. It is through devotion that the relationship with the practice becomes symbiotic and indispensable.
For example, I have re-started my yoga posture practice five times after being sidelined due to pregnancies and surgeries. I keep returning because I know how well it feeds my body and mind and spirit as well as the other areas of my life. I would be adrift in some way without it.
How we do one thing is how we do everything. Practice in one area develops certain habits; habits create a way of being in the world. At some point, it does us no good to be diligent in one thing and completely lackadaisical in another. If we take care of the body through a posture practice or time at the gym, it becomes dis-integrating to follow that with a trip to McDonalds. If we go to church on Sunday to hear the word of the Lord, then take people out in the parking lot, we are missing the point of the message entirely. Here we are again: the practices of Mindfulness and Self-study.
This quote from the Karate Kid inspires me daily:
“Kung Fu lives in everything we do, Xiao Dre!
It lives in how we put on the jacket, how we take off the jacket.
It lives in how we treat people! Everything… is Kung Fu.”
~ Mr. Han, the Karate Kid (2010)
This is where all the various aspects of our life and practices come together and inform each other. The research we do, the information and inspiration we gather feeds the themes we live. We practice with others, sharing energy and ideas. As the themes in everything we do begin to link each other together by their the commonalities, dreams begin to take shape ~ our path is laid before us, we begin to seek opportunities to share the fruits of all that work we’ve done with the greater world. The practice becomes the path to the dream we wish to live.
Is practice moving you in the direction you want to go?
All of life is practice, not just the activity we sit down with for a few hours a week. Our intention, combined with action moves us in the direction of our dreams. Yet, at the end of the day, what are we really aiming for with whatever practice we choose? Is it really that important that I can do some super advanced arm balancing pose? How long will the thrill last for winning some great prize or recognition for doing some good? What if it’s not the end that matters in the end, but the fact that we show up in happy times and challenging ones and just do the work.
Practice, when done with intention
can lead us to the highest version of our Self.
* Please note: While I have written this post through the lens of yoga practice, I have found everything I’ve said to be True through learning any other activity I might pick up: art, piano, golf…
These truths have even extended into my practice of being a wife and a mom.
– Invitation –
What do you practice “on purpose”?
What are you manifesting in your life?
What do you hope to gain:
a) from the act of practicing?
b) from the activity you practice?
If we recognize that resistance is also a practice,
in what way does that affect what you are creating in your life?
In what way does that sabotage your desires?
I am a wife and a mom, a yogi, an artist, and a writer… but not always in that order! I tend to think in collage and have trouble starting my day without coffee (black). I am a contemplative and a seeker on this wonderful, odd trip that is this human life. I love to have adventures and detest fences of any kind. Dedicated to my journal, I blog part-time at www.vignettesfrommylife.blogspot.com