Skills of Practice (Part I): Showing Up

In my last post, I mentioned three skills to practice: showing up, doing the work, commitment to the practice. Over the next few posts, I’d like to explore these three areas. I’m very curious about practice. If it leads to more practice, then why the heck am I doing it? If I’m having problems with creating something sustainable, then what can I do to help me get there?

CAUTION: I doubt these will be how-to posts. I don’t have answers. My process is more exploratory. You’ve been warned.

Oftentimes, showing up is one of the hardest parts of the practice for me. Sitting my butt on the cushion. Lacing up my shoes and getting out of the door. Setting a timer and writing for even 10 minutes. Hard to get those things to happen.

Last time, I talked about setting intention – why am I doing this? I’m finding if I want to do something, but am not, there is some disconnect in my brain. Perhaps the rebellious part of me that says, Well, everyone tells me I should, so I won’t. (Maybe this is just me.) But, the “everyone says I should” is simply not easy to connect to. So, for me, showing up is directly connected to why I’m doing something. Secret: I’m also finding that “Because I *love* to” is also not something that I connect readily to. It’s not likely to wake me up a half hour earlier during the week to do said “thing.”

Sometimes, I have to trick myself into showing up, whether it’s through treats, accountability, or another person’s support. A reward (i.e., gold stars) or accountability of some sort, helps me at certain times, to get going.  Other times, having a “buddy” helps. I meet weekly with M. Fenn. We started doing this nearly eight months ago; I have written more in that eight months than previously. Not only is it great to get to check in with her and spend time chatting, I know that is one time during the week that I get words on the page. Having someone to show up with has made it possible to show up at other times, too. (In part because I know she’ll ask me how the writing’s been going.) With sitting, I’ve begun putting out my partner’s cushion as well. I’ve made clear that there is no expectation for her to sit with me, I make a 20 minute commitment and will stay there the whole time, just in case she wants to come sit for the last five. It’s allowed me to carve out the space.

Which is an important point to consider – carving out space. This is often a huge boulder to me showing up. I never believe there is time, or that showing up means for large swaths of time. This is a perspective I’m working on changing, though it’s hard. I have my fair share of scheduling problems, but I also find that I’m much more productive the more structured my time is. It then becomes finding a way to structure time without becoming the (high strung, highly stressed) person I was in college. (Note: I was known as the person who put her schedule on the white board so people could find her. It was often scheduled from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM, with nearly every single thing scheduled for.) I don’t want that kind of structure, but I do need something. In my planner, I’ve begun listing meditation as a To Do, not as another item, but a gentle reminder that I would like for it to happen. I add it in to each day at the beginning of the week, with a goal time for each day. So far, it’s worked for a week. It’s something that’s easy, and because my planner is often at hand, it allows me to see how feasible it is for each day.

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Showing up is about finding what’s worth showing up for. That I have a choice of where I spend my time. If I look at it like money, my time and energy could be spent on so many things. For me, it’s about my intention, my focus, my ideas of what matters. And sometimes, what matters is reconnecting with people, which may look like Facebook or texting. I want to become mindful of when it’s about reconnecting, and when it’s about checking out because I simply don’t wanna. And if I don’t wanna, knowing that’s a choice I’m making, as opposed to a reaction toward something.

And as good as this all sounds, things shift and change. That showing up may look like this one week but not another. That what I choose to show up for changes all of the time. My life, and my priorities, are not static. And there is time – when I am able to look at it as available to me.

Showing up is the hardest, and most necessary, part of practice. Because practice makes practice. And if I don’t show up, practice cannot occur.

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