Practice. Practice. Practice.

“Change leads to disappointment if it is not sustained. Transformation is sustained change, and it is achieved through practice.” – BKS Iyengar.

I’ve been meditating on and off for the last twenty years, and almost every day for the last five years. Sometimes, when I tell people this they think that I must be super calm and relaxed all the time. Hahaha. They should have seen me the other day in Haifa!

Nothing brings out the grumpy intolerant arsehole in me more than noisy shouty children in art galleries. And so, I found myself at an art exhibition at the Japanese Museum in Haifa, ironically entitled “The Beauty of Silence”, getting more and more irritated by children running and shouting all over the place, glaring at their parents, and letting out the occasional “Oh, for heaven’s sake!”, before putting on some ambient music on my iPhone and trying to bring myself back to serenity. Still at least I didn’t storm out of the gallery or complain to the staff as I might have done years ago. Progress, not perfection, I suppose.

It was a sobering reminder that, even after years of meditation, I’m still not very far away from craziness. That’s the whole point of practice.

We practice so that we can draw on it when we need it. But we can’t take it for granted.

You don’t stay fit if you don’t go to the gym, however nice it would be to believe that you could. For me, going to the gym today is often merely an investment in not having to go tomorrow. And , of course, by the time tomorrow comes, we’re back at today again.

Without practice, there can be no sustainable change. Practice when you don’t need to. Practice, consistent, regular, committed practice, is the maintenance upon which our calmness, or fitness, etc, depends.

When I discuss the notion of practice with my clients, they often start from the notion that they will, for example, centre themselves in the midst of being stressed or agitated about something. But, without the habit of practice, it’s awfully hard to just summon it up in the heat of the moment.

We need to practice when we don’t need to, so that when life doesn’t go our way, when people bug us or let us down, we are in good shape and have some chance of dealing with it in a sane way. 

You could say that life is like a leaky bucket – we can’t stop the bucket from leaking, but we can top it up with practice.

Reflections.

What are the practices that keep you in good shape? Examples might include exercise, meditation, art, nature, service, yoga, etc. 

Do you orient your life around your practices? Or your practices around your life and its demands?

There’s a lovely story about Gandhi, who was telling an interviewer that he used to meditate for an hour every day. The interviewer was amazed, and asked, “but what do you do on days when you are really busy?” “On those days,” replied Gandhi “I meditate for two hours”.