Friday, March 10, 2017
What Are You Practicing?
It’s a simple question. Is it not? We all may have a particular idea of what practice is or what it means to us. We are taught that practice makes perfect or that the consistency of which we do things will yield favorable results and consequences. Some of us may dread the whole concept of practice all together where we recoil in horror at the thought of repeating something very routine or heavy with rigid and demanding disciplinary actions.
We have been mainly raised to see practice as a compartmentalized type of technique for achieving a set out goal or attaining some type of reward or desired state. An athlete will see practice as a way of getting better at their own craft and sport as well as strengthening their sense of purpose and value systems. When we are deliberate with practicing for the sake of a means to an end or the perpetuation of a certain lifestyle, we box in practice as something that must fit into our desired sense of identity. Practice may give us a sense of purpose, joy, direction and meaning because we feel passionate with core of the value it presents to us.
We can dissect and analyze practice and become better at it. We learn from past mistakes and achievements through the actual implementation and action of practice. This is necessary to understand. We may have days of bad practice and days of grand practice! Some days we might not what to practice at all, but we know that by doing it no matter how badly, we will ultimately get something out of it even if its not entirely positive. The consistency of keeping up with practicing whatever you are trying to practice can allow for immense personal growth and life lessons.
Some of the best practice sessions come from little to no expectations. Where practice becomes a form of structured play that integrates error and grace. Some of the best rewards that come from practice come from the strength to pursue even when certain factors are going against our plans such as mood, body strength, mental acuity and attentiveness.
What if we were to expand on the concept of practice a little bit more? What is we were to not analyze, divide and compartmentalize what practice is and simply live a life that is more integrated with practice? Let me explain.
We may practice things that we don’t necessarily consider practicing. We may be unconscious or not aware of the things we are practicing. Some could be the habits we have picked up over the years. Both good and bad. Some practicing strategies may be influenced by conditioning we have accepted and not challenged in our current situation. We may tell ourselves that we practice mindfulness and self-awareness on a daily basis, but may be missing the mark on actually “practicing” these techniques.
Talk is talk. Thought is thought. How we practice both paves the way.
If we can strip the “means to an end” pleasure/reward driven center from practicing, we can dig deeper into a more beneficial and integrated form of practice that with work in harmony with what we call “living”. Practicing goes hand in hand with living with what is and what is happening within you. You are practicing the same thought patterns and preferences that make up the way you see the world. Do you see? You are practicing the same way you haphazardly make your bed or how you hastily brush your teeth. You weren’t totally there. You were in a state of effort that was trying to achieve a mundane goal. You may have not taken the time or had the patience to really “Improve” or “Be” with the process you are practicing. That’s the thing. It is about the process. It is about trusting the process without necessarily worrying about the result.
So we can move from the inner to the outer. What patterns are you practicing in your head? What kind of value does it give you? Are you just practicing the same pursuit of pleasure patterns that your mind feeds on and perpetuates or are you practicing being in the moment and accepting uncertainty and the constant that is change? Do not get too concerned with trying to fit your practices into a good/bad/beneficial spectrum. Great learning comes from the practice of not falling into a boorish routine or a conditioned approach. When you try to imitate directly from an certain practiced approach, you are limiting yourself from discovering the unseen. It is easy for us humans to try to latch onto a certain boorish system that will yield the same results from the past. The past that forms our knowledge and the past that ultimately informs the way we see the world and what we practice. Do you understand what I am saying?
When we can see practice as not a blueprint and more of a method of discovery with various consequences and outcomes, we can open ourselves to a life that is abundant with practice. We can start to look at the way we do our dishes like the way a basketball player treats his practice of getting better at free throws and dribbling. We can start to practice the cleaning and maintenance of our room as if we are ballerinas trying to delicately and attentively trying to improve our graceful bends and moves. Do you see how our life situation and this concept of “practice” are all intermingled with each other?
When we are present with whatever action we are doing no matter how routine or non-routine it is, we are practicing presence and improving on the way we do things without the will and intent of trying to improve things. When we try to improve things, we are aiming towards a “should be” scenario and we are less accepting of what is. Should we not improve things? Absolutely not, but conscious improvement comes from the harmony of action and self awareness. Conscious improvement is seated in understand ing and the acceptance of the here and now.
You may hate to pick up your room, but your attitude on that matter is of little relevance in the grand scheme of things. You can either not pick up your room or pick up your room and your attitude might have some affect in how it is executed. What happens when you “try” to “get excited” about picking up your room? Do you feel any more motivated? Do you feel any more passion for the task at hand? Ask yourself these questions for the things that you do not like to do. Ask yourself these questions for the things that you don’t do with your whole presence and totality. We live in a world where we multitask and do things quite half assed and not present. Don’t we?
The quality of our practices in daily life is determined by the amount of presence and the understanding of what is. We all have things that we need to do. We all have things that we want to do. When we are able to dissolve the line between the need to do’s and want to do’s, we can integrate tasks into our consciousness and the way we live. We can accept that some things might offer more challenge, but will help aid us in learning more and growing.
How are you practicing? How are you living? What are you practicing? What are you living?
One of my favorite lessons and writing comes from William S. Burroughs’ The Discipline of DE (do easy). This has a lot to do with what I am talking about in relation to practice, consciousness and action.
Here is an excerpt.
DE is a way of doing. It is a way of doing everything you do. DE simply means doing whatever you do in the easiest most relaxed way you can manage which is also the quickest and most efficient way, as you will find as you advance in DE.
You can start right now tidying up your flat, moving furniture or books, washing dishes, making tea, sorting papers. Consider the weight of objects: exactly how much force is needed to get the object from here to there? Consider its shape and texture and function. Where exactly does it belong? Use just the amount of force necessary to get the object from here to there. Don't fumble, jerk, grab an object. Drop cool possessive fingers onto it like a gentle old cop making a soft arrest. Guide the dustpan lightly to the floor as if you were landing a plane. When you touch an object weigh it with your fingers, feel your fingers on the object, the skin, blood, muscles, tendons of your hand and arm. Consider these extensions of yourself as precision instruments to perform every movement smoothly and well. Handle objects with consideration and they will show you all their little tricks.
It seems easy enough does it not? The concept of things being hard arises from compulsive thought. It comes from the discomfort of failure and the minds clinging for security. When we can break things down to small steps ( micro steps ) we can see that these immense tasks we saw as difficult are not difficult at all. They are comprised of small, intentional, and fruitfully present tasks.
When that thought plants in your brain that relates the future “hardness” of an endeavor, are you watering it. Do you have a whole forest of doubt planted in your head that takes up your consciousness?
Every moment you are aware and without an agenda, you are able to integrate presence into practice. You practice the way you think. You practice the way you look at your thought. You practice the way you refrain from eating that cookie. You practice the way you treat yourself and that affects how you treat other people. You practice what you value and you practice what you are conscious of. Are you really practicing when you are unaware? Or are you practicing things without knowing that you are practicing?
Are you practicing presence or practicing unawareness?
Are you practicing the fragmentation of self through discipline or are you practicing the ease of integration within your life situation? Are your practices resourceful?
Are you practicing patience?
We practice what we preach. We practice what we want and don’t want. We practice what we need and what we don’t need.
The way we practice one thing is the way we practice everything. If we can integrate the act of practicing more into our lives and see it less a separate and obligatory imagined entity, we can start to understand living. Living that is not constrained to routines and conditioned features influenced and dominated by the past. Living that is attentive and keeps us competent with the seen and unseen.
The simple art of “living” becomes a practice in itself.
Practicing living is the practice of practical bliss.