Do you remember learning your multiplication tables in elementary school? We were expected to go over them until we could rattle them off like we were wielding a numeric machine gun. It wasn’t my favorite assignment, for sure, and I remember my mom drilling me on them until they finally sunk in. The theory, in part, is that once they are embedded in our brains, we will then be able to use them with little effort to solve bigger problems.
So many times it is practice that enables us to progress or gives us the tools to move forward.
As I’ve referenced before, I’ve been making yoga a part of my weekdays now for months, and though I am certainly not a smooth operating yogi, I do actually see progress in my practice.
I love that yoga is referred to as a “practice.” There is no ultimate “there”—one just keeps practicing.
For me, since I’m just doing my practice in the early morning quiet of my family room with an instructor who only “sees” me through a screen (but darn if she’s not an encouraging soul, that one), I really don’t know how badly I’m butchering my poses. I’ve taken classes before, and I loved how the teacher came around and gently helped me improve my poses, but now it’s all up to me to assess myself, and I’m not nearly as gentle.
But I have realized how my goals have evolved over time. My first goal was…surviving. I just wanted to get through the workout with at least some semblance of doing what I was supposed to without bursting a carotid artery.
After a while, I felt that maybe I was doing it adequately because surviving was easier…until in practicing I realized I wasn’t. Once I could see past surviving, I saw more and more ways I could improve. The goal is now to just keep finding those ways.
Every practice offers the chance to understand how subtle changes can improve the quality of my work—and this is really the “ultimate” goal—recognizing there is no state of perfection to achieve but always working toward doing better.
Practicing life is the same way, isn’t it?
Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better,” and it is often through practice that “knowing better” opens up to us.
Not only for our bodies, but for our minds and hearts, too.
Think about what you practice during your day. Are you coming up with any examples?
The answer is simple: Everything.
We are practicing in every single facet of life…work and play. Everything is a chance for us to know better and then do better.
That means that every day all that we do is practice for us to do better the next day. Accepting this is liberating—if we falter (tree pose, anyone?) we just use the experience to add to our practice. And if we see some improvement, we know that as we continue, we will eventually see more. No matter how the day shakes out, your practice means something and offers hope for tomorrow. Liberating, indeed.
In your practice with relationships, did you say something that accidentally hurt a friend’s feelings? Tomorrow you can apologize.
In your practice as a parent, did you give your kid a big ol’ hug? Tomorrow you can give another. And another.
In your practice at work, did you have a crappy day? Tomorrow may still suck, but you get to try again.
In your practice as a human being, did you open your heart and feel for someone? Tomorrow it may open even wider.
As I practice my life, I know lots and lots…and lots…of areas that need work. Each day is an opportunity for me to make some headway.
Every new day is a gift from God for all of us to try to know better and do better. We just have to keep practicing.
Maybe I should set my alarm extra early to get a jump on the day!
…Nah. I think I’ll just practice hitting the snooze button a little less.