Practice, Practice, Practice

I’m fairly sure that I’m not the only person who went through school with the vague sense that somehow if I worked harder, everything would be easier, or at the very least, better.  It was this feeling of a sense of lack that spurred me on to do more and think harder and try, as all conscientious individuals do, to figure out why it was that I was not ‘there’ yet.

We in the west tend to see all our efforts in life like a profit and loss balance sheet. We do not trust what we cannot see and we do not feel like we’re getting anywhere until somebody else recognizes our efforts and gives us a qualification, a job or a pay rise.  Our entire system revolves around what we can ‘get’ for what effort – a better job, more money,  greater recognition.

The list of material things that we strive to attain is virtually endless.  Our entire society is based upon the production, sale and distribution of ‘stuff’.  Even our language subtly discredits that which is not tangible. The word immaterial not only means that which is ‘not material’, but also ‘of no consequence’ and ‘irrelevant’.

Yoga teaches that is is our daily practice that is important, not any particular attainment.  There is no ‘better’ in yoga and nobody else can tell you if you are ‘there’ yet.  The experience is internal, entirely personal and utterly customizable to our individual needs.

This is all very well but all this is dependent upon the all important practice. So what exactly constitutes practice?

In yogic terms, practice is any regular repetition of an activity.  This could be a 15 minute asana routine you do every morning or the 3 classes you attend weekly.  It could be the 20 minutes of meditation you do before the children get home from school or the 10 minutes you spend pulling weeds or watering the plants before everyone else is awake.

The difficulty in practice comes when we get bored or we find our choice of practice becomes challenging or downright difficult. Of course it is important that the practice you choose is suitable and beneficial to you, but for the purpose of this instance, I am assuming that is the case.  Anyone can stick to a routine that is new and makes you feel good, but it’s a whole different story when that practice becomes a chore.

The key is detachment from the results.  As westerners that is easier said than done, so conditioned are we to expect a pay off for our efforts.  We all want to be happy, to grow and to evolve, but these are not things we can go out and get.  Happiness, growth and evolution are bestowed upon us when we relinquish the need to see results, when we let go of the eternal grasping question ‘what for? ‘

The gaining of peace and enlightenment comes from stepping back from our desires and letting be.  In our yoga practice that means not getting caught up in whether we are better or worse, not feeling guilty if we miss the odd day, but equally being truthful with ourselves if we are finding excuses more often than is absolutely necessary.  In short it is allowing our experience to be what is, in all its complexity.  Taking breakthrough days and the months where nothing seems to happen with equal enthusiasm.

A regular yoga practice is simply a space where life comes to visit us.  It can be dull and repetitive, but it can also be like Dr Who’s tardis  just a nondescript box on the outside, but on the inside, a whole universe of possibility.

© Vanessa Francis 2010

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