The Weekly Practice
I've fallen in love with two words through my work — awaken and practice. For me, they co-create in what feels like a mysterious but intuitive way, but perhaps it's all in how you personally employ them.
I don't feel like I went in search of these words so much as they found me both through experience and the longing to marry slowing down with a reminder so simple it came in the form of single words. Words that remind me daily that all of life is a constancy of ease, effort, and engagement, and when done with intention you get to see more, experience more, and understand more.
In short, awakening is a practice.
I used to think awakening or answering a call came in a burst of insight; some singular yet profound event that could magically land me in a whole new reality. And should this day come, I also wanted it to solve a bunch of problems for me such as worthiness, self-acceptance, trust, and how about making me more money while we're at it.
I thought if you were awake, then doesn't all of life get easier? Shouldn't that be the deal?
My favorite definition of awakening is "Coming into awareness." What awareness? It depends on what needs to be seen, noticed, or felt in that moment. What I love most about this practice of awakening is its never-endedness. It can't be accomplished. It is either present or not present.
But then the most profound thing of all happened in my life — loss. Significant, identity-altering loss. The kind of experience that did wake me up but subsequently required a daily practice or I would get lost down the grief rabbit-hole; a place it can feel all too easy to climb into.
In other words, awakening didn't solve my problems. Instead it seemed to create a whole host of new ones I was unprepared to manage. Emotions like sadness and longing, memories that just tap me on the shoulder when they desire to, and questioning more than I knew I was questionable.
However, these were not my only companions. I've been accompanied by gratitude, clarity, presence, faith, and even a splash of reverence. Some have asked me if my practices are now about mitigating pain but it couldn't be farther from the truth. Now, my practices embrace life more wholly. But here's why:
The whole of your life, the really good stuff that you will recount as having made up who you are, cannot be mentally chewed through. It requires space to converse with, to invoke you, and to guide you from a deep well already inside you.
The space you create in your life for such a process is called contemplative practice. My favorite definition of this practice comes from Naropa University:
"Contemplative practice transcends the idea that knowledge arises in the thinking mind only. Instead, it invites students to embrace the immediacy of their interior lives as a way to fully integrate what they learn."
Over the past 18 months, I've come to long for this container that gives way to interior space. While my practices vary — yoga, writing, meditation, cooking, walking, art — their purpose has one constant:awakening. The purpose of a practice is a continuous exploration of the self which assumes there is always something to unearth.
A yoga teacher of mine recently shared this: "Don't break the body to meet the idealism of a pose. Build the pose to meet this moment of the body." Practice isn't about a life rehearsal in order to perfect or perform when the time comes. Practice means allowing the experiences of your life to give you a greater capacity for things like compassion, insight, grace, love, intuition, meaning, and purpose.
In a world where accomplishment has become a harsh measurement for a successful life, the experience of loss has taught me a different rule book; one that beckons a different journey not as popular but, for me, far more fulfilling.
I made a choice when I lost my parents to only move toward my personal truth and continue to create a life I both take seriously and find immense joy within. This may not speak to you. You may be in search of more convenient answers that don't require stillness or sitting in open-endedness. If so, this may be where we part.
However, if you're craving something similar, here's what you can expect from what I am calling the Weekly Practice:
Content to open you to your interior.
Personal stories to help you feel seen and not alone.
Resources I am currently reveling in such as podcasts, books, and writing prompts.
Thank you for being a reader and for committing to your own practices! Having this space has been a personal refuge and I am grateful to have readers such as you.