A breakdown of the multiple layers of practice in our everyday life.
As a yoga, meditation and mindfulness teacher (as well as a forever student) the role of practice is a poignant one. I recently parsed out a set of three meanings of the word that were helpful to me in understanding the subtleties of yoga/meditation/mindfulness in everyday life.
On one level, everything is a practice. When we think of what we do again and again in our everyday life we can start to see the practices that make up our life. Waking up, getting dressed, eating three meals a day, are all a practice. The very things we do each day are, in and of themselves, a practice — something we do. (nothing fancy…)
On another level, a practice is how we do something. As oppose to the noun from above, the verb of our practice is another way to see this term. How do we do our everyday practice? What is the art of waking up, of eating our meal, of walking, of being in relationship with others? This is where we bring the intention and purpose into our practice of doing. We acknowledge that yes, everything we do in our life is a practice, but if we bring more awareness into our practices, we are practicing them in a different and more intentional way.
The third layer of practice is repetition. Have you practiced your pianotoday? Just, fill in the blank with whatever it is you intend to practice (yoga, mindful eating, conscious relationships). When we practice our practice in a particular practice/approach, then we start to deepen our experience and understanding of not only the things we do each day, but ultimately of our existence.
Recently, I’ve been guiding InnerMeals on Sundays in San Francisco and so I’ve thought about this in the context of mindful eating. Let me use this as an example to explain the above. On the first level, we eat about three meals a day. This is our daily practice. When we introduce mindful eating into the mix — we put two feet on the ground, we get connected to our breath and broaden our awareness on this experience of bringing food into the body to transform it into energy and so on — then we are practicing the practice of eating our meal in a more intentional and focused way. When we incorporate the third layer of practice into our experience — we bring some of the mindful eating practices into our daily world of eating a meal, we start to deepen our understanding of this practice. I could list the benefits of mindful eating, and there are plenty of them, but we only truly know them through continued practice as our body, mind and awareness gain experiential knowledge of how it feels to practice something in a certain way.
Practice, practice, practice — says the yoga, meditation and mindfulness teachers of our world. Ultimately, this understanding of practice applies to whatever we do in our life. Enjoy exploring these levels of practice in all that you do because, I’ll say it again, everything is a practice!
Sari Gelzer Stankowski, 500-Hour RYT, teaches yoga, meditation and mindfulness to youth and adults at studios, workplaces, and schools across the San Francisco Bay Area. She also offers Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga retreats. Learn more at www.YogaWithSari.com