1 day ago
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Where to start. How about with definitions of the word "practice?" It is such an interesting word. I first knew it to mean doing something over and over to gain skill or expertise, as in "practicing the piano." Then I heard people talk about "practicing law" or "practicing medicine." This wasn't someone trying to become more skilled, this was a skilled person just doing their job. Then I knew it as trying to follow or observe something, like "I practice such-and-such religion." Finally I became familiar with the definition that used the word to mean doing something habitually, as in "the practice of meditation."
I love all these interwoven definitions, particularly when it comes to thinking about meditation and yoga. I was thinking about it in yoga class, actually. I was certainly "practicing" the yoga poses (called asanas) so I could get better at them. And doing yoga regularly is also a "practice," a permanent life activity. A habit (I hope), a mode, a way of being. Practicing my practice.
The instructor really made me laugh when she noted that the next pose was used to fight bad posture, or our "slouch-asana." I laughed loud enough to get her attention, and every time she used the "word" after that she looked at me and I laughed all over again. It was funny to me, thinking of the idea of a slouch as a yoga pose. "Now everyone - slouch-asana!" Finally, yoga I can do really well.
Then I thought more, and it became less funny and more enlightening. Slouching as a pose. Something we actually practice day in and day out, getting better at it all the time. We slouch when we walk, sit, stand, and sometimes when we lie down. We are so good at it that it takes years of dedicated work to un-slouch ourselves. And we don't just practice slouching to get to be more skilled slouchers, we end up doing it as a lifetime practice. A habit. A mode. A way of being. From the outside, some alien culture might imagine we have a deep belief in slouching.
It made me think harder. What else has moved into the status of an actual practice? What do I believe in so strongly that I "practice" it the way I do meditation or the way I brush my teeth? How about my constant stream of self-critical comments? That could be a practice - yes, self criticism as practice. Maybe self-hatred as practice. When did my practice start? I'm really amazingly good at it. Is there a love-asana that can be used to work against my excellent hate-asana? What would that look like? I don't mean it literally, although if there is a pose for self-esteem I'll practice it. I mean spiritual asanas. Poses of the mind and soul.
I think this is an interesting way to consider all the things I do on a daily basis, and how much of a grip they have on me. What's been glorified, in a way, with the status of practice? Should it be? How can that be changed?
What are your practices, good and bad? How do you set aside an honored practice, even a bad one, and put a new, healthy one in its place?
Your Hostess With Neuroses
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