Some reminders of practice

I practice. I don’t get things right a lot of the time. So, I prefer to look at things as a practice. I have instead tried to being focusing on some areas where I want to (eventually) see improvement. I set (mostly) small goals and try to see where they take me.

This past January 1, instead of resolutions that were well intentioned (and even SMART), I set goals for myself for the whole year. Rather than  say “I want to lose 30 pounds in the next twelve months,” I set a goal for the number of miles run and the amount of time exercised – for the whole year. I also feel that it allowed me to focus on making certain areas of my life more present and more of a practice, rather than make judgments about myself as a person if my goal wasn’t met by, say, February.

What this allowed me (I see from a three and a half month 20/20 rearview mirror) is to practice the art of practicing! That none of us really gets it all right, all the time. It’s part of that being human thing. And, being a “practicer,” I’m trying to understand that part of thepractice is being present to the times I don’t “measure up” and see it as part of a larger process. Practicing something develops skills and physiological memory about that activity. It builds muscles for those things that matter to us. And like muscles, they get tired and need a rest or they shrink when not used regularly.

On Sunday evenings, I meet online with a friend who also writes. It’s a practice that I’ve come to appreciate. It’s one time during the week that I know I will write, that even if there are other times I think about writing during the week but can’t. Sunday night is one time I will sit down and put pen to paper. This past week has been crazy and did not allow me any time to sit down and write. I realized this Sunday night when I opened my journal and saw that the previous entry was from the Sunday before. While it’s not always easy, I can often get at least a full page or two in the half hour writing session with my friend, even if it’s a lot of blah, blah, blah. Sunday, I kept coming up short. It was like my pen was stuck. I got about half a page.

Today, in thinking about the lack of words generated, and the lapse of time between writing sessions, the reminder of practice as a a constant process rang through. I understand that sometimes, things get in the way of practicing. Of course, that also means there needs to be the understanding that there may not be the same growth in that area. That not having or making the time to write, my ability felt weak and I had a lot less confidence in my abilities. That clearly translated into how I was thinking about myself and my writing; yet, those messages aren’t the complete story, either!

The reminders of practice keep me coming back, to learn more about the process of practice, to learn more about myself. It also allows me more compassion toward others, because we all struggle with this, whether it’s making/finding time to write, meditate, run, work out, cook good for us food, do yoga… whatever it is that centers us and lights us on fire, we struggle sometimes to practice. And yet, the fire of the things that center us? That’s important to the vitality of this world.

Do you see practice as part of your life? Why or why not?

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