Life as Practice, Practice as Life

We can live - or simply exist...

We can live simply - embodying the extraordinary in the ordinary - or not at all...

We can live deeply, transformatively, and well, and when we do - our life itself becomes our practice...

I've been reflecting on the broader meaning and implications of practice. For those of us who practice yoga, we dedicate much of our time and focus on the practice of doing asana - or poses - setting ourselves the goal of achieving certain postures, or deepening in them.

But, what happens when you cannot do asana the way you once did? Or, what happens if all of a sudden, for one reason or another - you are unable to sustain a physical practice at all?

If you have cultivated a broader perspective of practice as one that is fundamentally a spiritual path, then asana is merely just one aspect of what constitutes your practice.

What then, is practice? What does it mean to you? What does it look like now? How will it evolve in 20, 30 or 50 years from now?

I picked up a book from my bookshelf today, Living Deeply: The Art and Science of Transformation in Everyday Life, published by the Institute of Noetic Sciences, and opened to a chapter titled, "Life as Practice, and Practice as Life." And I thought to myself, yes, I relate to this - it is my experience at the moment...

"If you are really awake, conscious, and aware,
then your life is a practice.
Then everything you do is a practice."
~ Wink Franklin

We must truly integrate our lives and our practice, and there are many tools available for us to do this. We can engage in something as solitary and individual as meditation, or, we can reach out and be of service to others...

There are practices that enable us to cultivate greater insight, and thus, are transformative. Other practices are conducive to greater purification, like pranayama, or, the yoga or practice of the breath, which can also be cleansing and healing. All practices enable us to be more present in the moment and invite us to let go and to surrender. For each one of us, our practice dances and flows into a unique expression which changes and evolves throughout our various life stages.

Rachel Naomi Remen, a respected and published physician who has worked extensively with cancer patients, says this about her practice:

"Service is my practice. Service is one of the most powerful of the practices."

Gerald Jampolsky, another physician, defined service in this very meaningful way:

"Service defined broadly, can be seen as how you interact with each person and in each situation, no matter what the circumstances are."

So, life is practice, and practice is life...

The more we practice, the more easily we dance through life's circumstances and challenges...

Your practice becomes your own, when you stop doing someone else's practice, and do what works for you - it becomes yours when you make it your own.

Today, whether you step on to your mat, and do a modified practice because of injury or illness - or you decide to sit longer in meditation, or take a moment to slow down, be more mindful or conscious of your breath, or you simply open your heart to someone in need - know that you are serving. Your life is practice, if you choose to make it so. Only then, will practice become your life...

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