Practice Makes Imperfect

The title of this blog post is a purposeful exaggeration. Here's the real title: practice reveals everything. If you commit to a practice—any practice—you see all of yourself. You see resistance, curiosity, judgment, joy, freedom, and doubt. There's no escape from yourself and that's the point: you show up and you stay

I have many practices: meditation, photography, writing, gardening, and yoga. In all of these, the process itself is most important; the outcome is extraneous. What's essential is my commitment to practice, whatever the experience brings. I have long-term goals, but in the short term I have no expectations. This is when things flow. 

Yet regularly flow is interrupted by assumptions and judgments. I enter meditation expecting to feel good and then meet fear. I take photographs expecting beautiful images and then find dullness. I weed the garden expecting to finish—to wrap up life—and then spot more weeds. In these moments, things don't flow. They feel sticky and messy. And this is all part of practice. 

If I continue to show up, no matter what, then I experience flow and stuck-ness. I see the machinations of my mind yet I also see the love in my heart. Through this process, I develop trust in myself and faith in my practice.

Here's a mantra I repeat to my students: the most helpful practice is the one you'll actually use. The imaginary—often extravagant—practice does nothing; it sits on a shelf. (I can't meditate unless I have 30 minutes. I can't photograph unless the light is gorgeous. I can't write unless I have a clear idea.) We sabotage ourselves by not starting. Then self-judgment seeps in and things get ugly. Better to actually start an intentional practice. Dive in, see what happens (meet the ugliness).

So what is a helpful practice? That's up to you. Get quiet, listen inward, and set an intention--a realistic intention. Then make a commitment to show up no matter what. Show up even if you're busy or tired or cranky. Stay with the practice, pay attention, and get curious. Stay with your experience, whatever arises. Because practice reveals everything.