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Do Your Usual Practice

From last year, a lovely thoughtful essay by Rayna Matsuno (Weise), titled "The Importance of Having a Teacher", on the value — especially in times of stress and crisis — of setting aside time for oneself and of doing a regular practice of mindfulness:

My partner is also my teacher. As such, we typically avoid any discussion of my practice in the home, but tonight it came up. Like many, I am attached to the practice — or rather, asana. In the heat of feeling sorry for myself, I began to lament that over the past five years of practicing, I've made little growth. My partner stopped me in my tracks and corrected my limited definition of "the practice." But being the stubborn person that I am, I still needed to get everything off of my chest.

"I've always moved forward then backward, forward then backward."

All sorts of challenges — pregnancy, parenthood, finishing a Ph.D., losing a parent, recovering from a serious illness, moving across the Pacific Ocean (twice), big changes in my professional career — all of these have tempered any forward movement in my asana practice. When I took a breath between rambling my list of woes, my partner simply said, "And this is why your practice has grown so much."

I stopped to reflect.

What this practice has done for me over the years is it has given me the quiet that I needed — a centerline through the "zig-zagging" that is life. The daily routine, the discipline — there's comfort in knowing that at least something is the same every day. In its ideal form, this is a practice of sameness: six days a week, same time, same shala, same teacher, same asanas, matching inhale and exhale.... While every other aspect of our lives may be in disarray, the practice is a reliable constant.

A particular memory comes to mind as I write this. The morning my father passed away, I followed the usual routine of dropping my son off at daycare and making my way to the shala. Upon sharing the news with my partner, he told me, "Just practice primary today." The next morning, I thought I would again have some kind of "reprieve," but instead my partner said, "Do your usual practice." It was a major effort just being there on my mat, let alone exerting myself to my (perceived) physical and mental limits. But as I struggled to maintain my focus through feelings of sadness, I started to realize what an amazing teacher I have. There was great comfort in the sameness. My world as a daughter may have felt shattered, but for those two hours of my practice, nothing had changed. My teacher had given me the ultimate solace.

Whatever my external, physical practice may be now or become in the future, it will always be my own, where I find stillness. And I am grateful for my teacher, and my past teachers, for sharing this practice with me. As my teacher always reminds people, "It's the method, not me." But, without our teacher, there is no medium for which the practice to pass through.

Vande gurunam.

(cf. SpasmodicHercules (2007-05-01), This Is It (2008-11-14), Without Effort, Analysis, or Expectation (2010-08-04), Expect Nothing (2012-02-20), Mindfulness As a Love Affair (2013-08-10), ...) - ^z - 2013-09-15

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