Whether we realize it or not, we are all practicing at something. Practice is the application of our beliefs and values, whether conscious or unconscious. What we practice, becomes stronger. What we practice, we become. So, it makes sense for us to be aware of and intentional about practice. What are you practicing in this moment?
No matter how much we practice, perfection is usually beyond our reach. But even if we could be perfect, the benefits of perfection would depend heavily on just what we are perfecting. What we do over and over again is our practice. These actions become our habits – and our habits in practice tend to mirror our habits in daily life. What habits are you forming during practice?
Practice is not just about doing. The things we repeat over and over again become more ingrained and we move toward greater proficiency in these acts, but the intention behind the practice is also important. Setting an intention informs how we practice and makes action deliberate. What are your intentions for practice?
If the intention for practice is perfection, we may miss out on valuable information. It helps to be open to and accepting of “errors” in practice. Missteps provide us with important feedback about how our actions are serving our intentions. This means there really are no errors.
The formal mindfulness practices are a kind of rehearsal for presence and awareness in daily life. These skills improve with repetition and beneficent intention. With enough practice over time, we may become experts. However, if we practice without awareness or intention, we may become experts at mindlessness.
Don’t meditate to fix yourself, to heal yourself, to improve yourself, to redeem yourself; rather, do it as an act of love, of deep warm friendship to yourself. In this way there is no longer any need for the subtle aggression of self-improvement, for the endless guilt of not doing enough. It offers the possibility of an end to the ceaseless round of trying so hard that wraps so many people’s lives in a knot. Instead there is now meditation as an act of love. How endlessly delightful and encouraging. – Bob Sharples