Practice practice practice!
In spite of my demented desire to be perfect – I have little desire to practice. At least that used to be the case. Not the wanting to be “perfect” part – but my energy for practice. That, I am coming to enjoy.
The word “practice” is pervasive in recovery literature, in any profession and often to describe our spiritual lives. ”I am a practicing Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian..” etc. We refer to meditation in the same way; we practice.
I use this word to describe my desire to persevere, to adhere to an activity. I use it when I am talking about being diligently devoted to a way of thought or behavior. I apply it to taking the steps and to express my determination to abide by a code of ethics.
“What an order!” as we say in A.A.! This is immediately followed with a reminder that we are not required to have perfect adherence; only a desire.
But it is a lot to practice! A friend was celebrating his seventh year in recovery and sharing at our home group. I was barely six months in at this time. He first started by saying that he was more himself than he had been in his whole life. WOW! What an idea, that in recovery we become ourselves. This was mind boggling. I had no idea who I was.
The next thing he said rang true to me and I could identify with it. He said that “recovery was a lot of work and he didn’t know if he would have time for it all; meetings, readings, meeting with sponsors, meeting with others, the meeting after the meeting, taking the steps and on and on. He then said “it was practice. Practice and not perfection.”
Now, sober a few times more than he was at that time, I think back to his words. The effort level for recovery activities feels natural and my time is gladly spent this way. I have added breath practice, meditation practice, and yoga practice! Each has its own challenge and each its own reward.
This is how I do it.
Breath– breathing is automatic but it can also be controlled. My ability to breathe effectively can be improved with special exercises, my mood and energy level can be enhanced with specific breath rhythms and I can find peace in sleep with other conscious breath awareness. None of these work without practice. The practices themselves can feel foreign, they can feel odd, and they can feel awkward. Pacing and retention (holding) can also bring up feelings and anxieties; other times the breath can calm and soothe. Knowing how they work takes familiarity and that comes from….practice.
Meditation: comes in so many ways: walking, sitting, eyes open, eyes closed, with sound, without sound, guided, unguided and on and on. It can be timed or untimed, short or long. The only thing that is important is to do it. To literally “sit” (or walk) with it. Getting a routine can help the practice; and the practice can help the routine. There is no perfect meditation – only the missed meditation or the observed meditation. Practice and all is coming- the ALL being the acceptance of what is.
Yoga on the mat: can be a practice including consciousness of breath and meditation – and with a balance of effort and ease. The poses and the movement from pose to pose can bring attention to the workings of the mind as well as sensations in the body; choices can be made and peace can be found.
Kindness: all this practice can feel a little daunting and I can still get sucked into what is “right” and what is “enough”. The most important practice for me is self-love with self-acceptance. In this my version of “all is coming” is finding peace within myself.