Thoughts on Practice

My meditation shrine

My meditation shrine

I realized the other day that when cultivating a new practice, an essential thing to remember is to not make it a big deal. What I mean is sometimes your rules and restrictions about what you think your practice is supposed to be are based on what you know about long time, serious practitioners, and a whole set of internalized “shoulds.” In this way, rather than easing into things, you make it a big deal and set the bar too high.

For example, with meditation, you might feel like you have to have the “right” meditation tools (cushions, shrine, timers, etc.) and that at the start you should be meditating for long sessions. These intentions in the beginning end up becoming obstacles rather than support. You wait until you can afford the “right” tools, spend hours researching and talking about the practice and the tools but not actually doing anything, or you sit for one session of half an hour one day and immediately the next day are too busy and can’t manage sitting for that long so you skip it altogether.

I could write a whole book about cultivating a practice. In fact, I probably will. What I’m thinking about today in particular is how we get in our own way when we want to start, turn it into a big deal that ends up tanking the whole thing, AND how after we establish our practice, there is a natural shift to taking it seriously, which can look a whole lot like “making it a big deal.” What I mean is while it’s good in the beginning to not worry about the specifics or put too much pressure on getting it “right,” once you are committed, it’s good to honor what you are doing in a different way.

Once a practice is in place and you’ve found your own reasons to continue, taking it seriously makes a difference. For example, when you first begin a yoga asana practice, you can do so without a mat or props or any sort of in-person interaction with a class or a teacher. There are plenty of really good free videos online, and a belt from a bathrobe makes a perfectly good yoga strap. And yet, if you’ve been practicing regularly and intend to continue, it makes sense to invest in some props and maybe even find a community in the form of a studio or specific teacher, to research the different kinds of yoga asana and regularly practice the one that resonates most with you.

So to start, don’t make it a big deal. Then when it becomes a big deal, honor it as such. And know that no matter what, it is your practice and what “honoring” it looks like is specific to you, your experience and intentions and goals — and no one else can tell you what that is. Only you know, and you can trust yourself.

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