Life as a Practice

I think most people are familiar with the terms ‘yoga practice’ and ‘meditation practice’, but has anyone ever heard of a ‘life practice’? I’ve been thinking it would be not only wise, but also prudent to view my own life this way—as a practice. Let’s just think about that for a moment, shall we?

Quite simply, a practice is something you do over and over on a regular basis. Practice. All life really asks is that we continue to show up, day after day, and give it the best we have. Practice. Life asks us for the consistency of showing up and putting in our best effort. Practice.

Many people live by the mantra that practice makes perfect, but I’d like to suggest that it’s really not about perfection at all. In fact, sometimes we’re so busy trying to be perfect in our daily lives that we miss out on the spirit of what it is to practice. In all our attempts to attain the elusive ideal of perfection, we forget that doing our best and then releasing—physically, mentally, and emotionally—is the better way.

By the way, I think this is the actual mathematical formula for the practice of life:

(Showing Up) + (Doing your Best) + (Releasing [x Infinity]) = The Practice

I am coming to understand how this is one of the most important (and perhaps also the most challenging) lessons we are meant to learn during our time on earth. It isn’t always easy, but that’s why we practice. Anything more than the practice is excessive and controlling. Anything less is a copout. Both extremes block the flow of life and the ability to surrender to our own inner guidance.

Distractions, challenges, and off days are guaranteed to come your way. But when we start to see these distrurbances as part of the practice, that’s when the magic starts to happen. They are gifts from the universe, lessons in disguise, if you will. They provide opportunities to dig deeper and learn to know ourselves better. They create momentum for our continued forward movement. And so, when we feel lost, tired, weary, or frustrated, all we need to do is have faith and keep showing up.

Having an off day, week, month, or year? No biggie. Be aware, assure yourself the world is not ending (because it isn’t), and then bring yourself back. You may figure out the lesson right now, or you may not. There’s no need to worry, regardless. That’s the beauty of the practice: as long as you keep showing up, life will keep giving you another chance to try again.

There is a quote often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson that says: Life is a journey, not a destination. To me, this means focusing on the here and now, or emphasizing the process, rather than putting all your eggs in one basket and placing greater importance on specific outcomes. Rather than rushing through life, each moment should be given the proper care and attention it deserves. It means the whole of life is greater than the sum of its parts, so to speak.

Journey

The joke related to this quote is, when I met my (now) husband and he was still living at home with his parents, he had these words typed on an 8.5 x 11” sheet of paper attached to his bedroom wall. There was a typo on the page, and all I ever saw when I looked at it was the mistake. At the time the meaning was entirely lost on me. I suppose the punch line is that I’m finally getting the message over 20 years later.

Continually looking ahead and putting our energy into the next route marker or destination only robs us of today, whereas being here now for life allows events to unfold naturally. Approaching life as a practice is about enjoying the journey and being ‘all in’ for the ride. It is surrendering to the richness and fullness of the experience.

It goes without saying that I haven’t always had this understanding. Life as a practice is something relatively new I’m learning (and practicing) because I’ve lived the other way. I’d like to share this idea with others so they, too, can see how life is like a two-sided coin.

When you allow your life to be a coin toss and it comes up heads, you are ruled by the head (logic and ego); you resort to controlling; you need to be right; and perfectionism is your nemesis disguised as your ally. However, when you allow your coin to come up tails, you can be ruled by the heart; guided by the force of love and the knowledge of your soul; you open yourself to learn the art and magic of surrender; you trust life and go with the flow. This is what it is to practice life.

I’ve personally experienced the limitations of living from my head and ego, constantly striving for perfection, and being so attached to specific outcomes that I could no longer see the big picture. The costs were steep: losing my place in the present and sacrificing my happiness for some  far off place in the distance.

I now know better and I’m choosing another way—living from my heart. For me, life has become a practice that I must show up for every day. My practice is my commitment to let go, cut myself some slack while I hold myself accountable, and relish the sweetness of each day.

Do you approach life as a practice?

How are you showing up for life today?

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