By Laura Mills
This week I’ve invited my students to consider the word “practice.” Obviously, we refer to every 60 or 75 minutes on our yoga mats as a practice; in a larger sense, some of us refer to our routine of attending classes and maybe other aspects of our lifestyle collectively as our yoga practice. Off the mat, we practice sports, music, dance, and other activities that we’ve made ongoing parts of our lives. And some professionals like doctors, dentists, and lawyers refer to their work as their practice.
Without looking up the word in a dictionary, it’s obvious that both the noun and the verb “practice” connote something that isn’t a singular event or that we don’t do just once. A football player doesn’t just practice until he “gets it”; by the same token, yogis don’t ever reach an endpoint at which no additional depth exists to explore. Practice doesn’t take us to a destination. What practice does, though, is keep us tuned up and tuned in.
I think as human beings it’s natural for us to seek results, to look for the prize at the contest’s end, to find motivation in the attainment of a goal. But it’s humbling—and comforting, when life challenges us—to remember that there is no endpoint to the greatest practice of all, the practice of living. None of us is supposed to arrive at some particular place in life with a great “I made it!” and our own personal claim to the finish line. Instead, we keep moving forward and interacting with life’s constant ups and downs…the “flow” we refer to when we tell someone to “go with” it. Every time we take a breath we begin again, on some level….
And indeed, how sweet it is. How fortunate we are.