One of the essential elements of good news in Buddhism is that each one of us is not fixed …
we can change and grow over time, and a path for that growth was laid out by the Buddha and subsequent practitioners.
Buddhism challenges each one of us to recognize and value our human potential. We have consciousness to see and reflect on our experiences, we have imagination to conceptualize what might be, we have memory to learn from past decisions, and we have intention to be able to determine the inclination of our life’s trajectory: love or fear?
Practice was the focus of our exploration together at our last Wednesday night meditation group. Why do we call this journey a ‘practice?’
A practice is something we do over & again, despite challenges and setbacks, in very specific ways with the explicit goal of iteratively developing a competency. What is that “something” that we are investing effort to practice?
… living our lives with more love, conscious choice, presence, freedom, and authenticity.
Some aspects of practice that might be helpful to keep in mind, especially when in need of encouragement:
i. Practice is to be ready for the performance. In the case of meditation practice, that means getting ready to live life more fully and with greater compassion toward myself and others. With a consistent daily meditation practice the progress from the cushion to the day-to-day will happen. And over time that transition will benefit from an expansion of the practice (such as including reminders throughout the day such as when crossing the threshold into each room) to cultivate presence and mindfulness in the face of relationships, responsibilities, stressors, finances, & deadlines.
ii. Practice often benefits from a container environment. We begin early stages of learning the piano in our home without an audience, not in Carnegie Hall. Similarly sitting on a cushion or on retreat as a special environment with less distraction, nothing to do, nowhere to be, & friendly supportive people (like you guys!).
iii. Practice often takes on a special approach. When I was learning to hit a baseball, my dad tossed the ball underhand from a short distance over and again. I could not just walk into the stadium and hit a curveball. Similarly when I was first starting out with meditation and was struggling to maintain focus a teacher made what turned out to be a very helpful recommendation, giving my mind something automatic to do such as counting (1-2-3-4) on the inhale and exhale.
iv. Practice can seem overwhelming sometimes. It is helpful to notice when self-criticism and doubt arise such as “I can’t ____” or “I am not any good at ______” and respond to my inner critic with friendliness, reminding myself that challenges and setbacks are a normal, expected part of practicing.
v. Practice takes repetition. Even people who have dedicated their lives to more mindful living need to maintain a daily practice because it takes ongoing reinforcement.
I hope the above summary is helpful. I look forward to hearing from you about what it means to practice and any ways I may be able to support you on your journey.