I jokingly call, my close friend, S. a surrogate daughter. She’s pregnant and single, for the moment and about to give birth – perhaps even tomorrow.. I attended her birthing classes where I learned a lot about how delivery and labor are handled these days. My own sons were born a long time ago, when a very different attitude prevailed.
Last weekend, things got very dicey. S. went into hospital with very high blood pressure, severely swollen feet (and face) arousing serious fears about preeclampsia. Without going into all the scary and upsetting details, I want to share one thing that stood out in relief, from the ordeal.
When S’s. QiGong friends showed up, and she, despite her pain, began to practice, the large hospital room filled up – with laughter, with joy, with a steadying calm essence. I breathed it in – taking long, deep inhales and I thought about what was transpiring before my eyes…
We practice – whatever our practices are – and we struggle with questions like “Why can’t I be more consistent?” or “How is it I let myself slip out of my routine?” or more frequently perhaps and certainly more poignantly, “When will the effects of practice show up?”
Sure, practice is challenging. It’s not sexy. Often repetitive, sometimes boring, frequently done begrudgingly as other more delicious delights beckon. Sometimes a smooth, easy rhythm sets in and for days or weeks, practicing is easy, effortless and we think, “Ah, I’ve got it now,” only to be shocked when the inevitable distractions reappear.
Practice builds muscle, but not in the way of strength training as the muscle being built is far more complex than the pecs or abs of the body. While the body is involved in the type of practice I’m pointing to, so is the heart, the psyche and uniquely, the spirit.
So practice, whether meditation, Inquiry, Qigong or other work on The Path, is both rigorous and simple, hard, yet easy, deeply moving and deeply affecting and sometimes superficial feeling.
For beginners, it is especially challenging as it comes with few “benchmarks.’ The very shifts one might point to represent “striving” or “achieving” – both to be avoided on a spiritual path.
So what keeps one on the path? Why continue to practice?
Faith and devotion are the words that come up for me. Faith, that practice in and of itself, regardless of any outcome is “right action” as the Buddhists would say… or in the words of Jewish mystical teacher, Rebbe Nachman of Breslow, “ ‘Hitbodidut” – meditation – inner directed, unstructured, active self-expression before God – is the highest path of all. Take it.”
Tapping into the undifferentiated Oneness is practice whatever the methodology might look or sound like. Of course, that’s a big statement. And the faith, I point to is that the Universe, or God or The Motherhead exist as that Oneness.
Devotion represents returning again and again to the practice – a devotion to self, Self and whatever you name the interconnection of all creation as evidenced in action.
So back to the lovely S. As I watched her awareness and fear of the physical pain recede, as I saw her come shining forward from a larger space than her body and mind – to join her spirit in joy, I saw the evidence for ongoing, continued practice as “the way.”
And as I watched difficulty transform into opportunity, I one again realized that while not sexy in the standard definition, practice is necessary and revitalizing and reconnecting. It brings together all of ourselves – our minds, hearts, bodies and spirits.
Naturally, the practice I’m talking about is lifelong – not the coaching variety that I often assign my clients. Those are short term and serve a very specific function, build upon one another and address particular outcomes.
What I am pointing to here is the sustaining practice of bringing more and more consciousness forward – a living into the Truth of Reality that doesn’t end with a particular outcome achieved.
Interestingly, both types of practice bring up some of the same frustrations with different intensity. (Knowing a practice is to last 4 weeks makes it more doable than a lifelong commitment.) Yet, all practice demands faith and devotion. Faith, in the efficacy of the practice, the intention behind it and the coach offering it, and devotion to the self – its development and growth.
Watching S. practice in the hospital room with our friends, renewed in my own devotion and my own faith. I strengthened my intention to be consistent in my practice and also compassionate with myself when that was challenging.
I invite you, dear reader, into this action as well – a nourishment for all situations, all beings, all time. And remind you that compassion is an act of love so as you take up your practice, either for the first time or again, bring on the compassion around your intention. Truth demands it.
If you’re thinking about your development, The Valiant Group can support you with suggested practices individually tailored, accountability and an objective reflection of your next steps. It begins with a conversation. Call us at 510-722-3292.