different kinds of practice

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

Unpolished Thoughts 12/14/2018

Practice.

That word means so much more to me now than it once did.

As a child, practice mostly referred to soccer, baseball or piano.

The first two of those practices brought excitement: “cool, it’s time to go to soccer practice!” The last was different. “Ugh. I have to practice the piano.”

Later, I wished I had been capable of finding the way to make practicing the piano as exciting as soccer. But I never did.

(At least not in the standard fashion. It’s true that I broke more than 10 piano strings in the practice rooms of the music department at college during countless hours of wild untrained improvisations and even developed a style just focused enough to win 2nd prize in a school-wide piano competition).

I just finished sitting in meditation for 15 minutes. That has become a practice of a different kind than what I ever knew as a child, or even as a younger adult. A practice that I simply do, no matter what, day after day. And gradually, this writing has become the same thing as well.

I have a practice of drinking coffee every day also – but that’s not quite the same.

I’m forming the outlines of a practice of noticing my discomfort and just watching it, not trying to escape it or fix it. That’s not an easy practice, and quite often, it falls apart.

But that’s part of practice.

How often does your practice fall apart?

Not long ago, I determined that I would like to learn to do a handstand. That is a practice that has fallen apart repeatedly. Except that it’s still a practice, because I haven’t given up.

It doesn’t look like my meditation practice, which is clearly visible. A bird living on my window sill would see me doing it every morning.

Yet, the handstand sits there in my head and talks to me on a regular basis, reminding me of the promise I made, and why.

Why we practice is possibly the essential thing we practice. And I certainly know from experience that the reason I think I practice is not always truly the reason.

When you discover that the reason you practice is not what you thought it was, what do you do then?

I suspect that’s when your practice falls apart. Or it deepens.

These days, I’m searching for the practices that will bring me closer to being the human I would like to be.

(Most likely, those words are not the true reason why I practice, but I will keep them until I find some better words.)

In any case, I’m looking to find the things I can discipline myself to do consistently that might excite me one day and make me groan the next, but, either way, lead to new possibilities of interacting with the world when I do them daily.

Interacting with the world is also a practice. For many years, I had no interest in that practice.

Or perhaps I should say that I longed to have such a practice, but thought I wasn’t qualified.

Instead, I practiced holding myself inside where the world couldn’t see, and keeping the world outside where I couldn’t feel it.

And I created my own worlds.

As it turns out, the way we respond to our wounds usually serves a larger purpose once we are sufficiently healed to return to the path of progress. Having recognized the limitations of hiding from the world, I still recognize the value of creating your own world.

Actually, that’s the world we live in every day, the one we create.

But there is a difference between living in the world you create and having a practice of creating the world you want to live in. It’s another practice yet again when you acknowledge all of the other inhabitants of this world beyond the borders of your skin.

That’s the practice of connection.

The more I practice to become the human I wish to be, the more I see that I want to be that human that knows how to connect his insides to the outside world.

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