Practice - to rehearse, to work at, to train; from the Greek Praktikos - active, practical.
Practice is a word that we use to describe our meditation and yoga training. We speak of a meditation practice, our yoga practice, our qigong practice. In this vein, what might practice have to say about our day to day endeavors that surround these trainings?
When we turn up for our yoga class or sit to meditate invariably there is that part of us that is looking to be better than last time - to have a clearer mind, to hold that position longer than last time. We look round the room full of other yogis and create stories in our mind that do not serve us. The narratives speak of how we should be, and we feel that until we get into that position our own practice is somehow lacking.
But let’s stop and look at that word practice. There is a sense of ongoingness about it, continuity. One rarely hears about the end or conclusion of these trainings…unless we choose to pack them in. What practice is telling us is the never-ending nature of the activity that we are engaging in. There is not a finishing place, a goal to which we are headed, rather a continuous learning and deeper exploration of what it is we are engaged in. If we are willing to explore, with each learning another door opens to reveal deeper truths that are waiting to be discovered. It is an understanding and realization that you are never quite there, you are always practicing to reach that next level.
Returning to the narratives that we tell ourselves, in time holding ourselves to those expectations becomes exhausting. Just the practice and asking of our body and mind to do something that it is not use to doing becomes enough. To give yourself competition on top of that just becomes too much. So you let go of the striving and just show up to practice.
We strive for perfection, creating in our minds a world that does not exist for us right now and may never do so, and in doing so we miss being present to where we are now. Practice is not about reaching for perfection, it is being present with who we are now, bowing to the insights that that brings us, and moving through the same motions again to see what else might be revealed to us.
Practice shows to us the elusiveness of perfection, even if in the eyes of others we have achieved it, for in getting there we see that more is possible. We can go deeper, and the practice continues. This is even true if our body doesn’t allow us to bend further, run faster. We still ask ourselves, “what more is there to learn here?”
So in your work strive to do well, strive to do your best, but remember the practice element of it. What is there for you to learn in this moment?