How do we keep our practice alive over time?
Everything ebbs and flows. Cycles of the moon, the seasons, our energy throughout the day, creative cycles of inspiration, creation, and completion. Even in our spiritual practice, we can come and go with the depth of experience or dedication and commitment. What are some of the secrets to keeping the momentum of a regular practice?
I have clients often ask me for a directive here – how much should I be meditating? And, when? Is 20 minutes good? Should I do it in the morning? At night? Is it okay to do it on the subway on the way to work? What about while I am out on a run or at the gym? Walking around town? My answer is usually YES! ALL OF THAT! Then comes the BUT…
WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION?
If you are just trying to add some peace and stability to a modern life, then 20 minutes can be profound! Even 7 minutes of concentrated breathing can be transformative if practiced with enthusiasm. Introducing an alternative to the ego and anxiety driven lifestyle for any amount of time can have excellent benefits.
But what exactly is it that you want to get out of your practice? Why are you exerting any effort this direction in the first place?
This question is really where I find people begin to stumble. Well… why SHOULD I be doing this? Everybody is supposed to meditate right? I just want to quiet my mind… I want to be less angry… I want to be less reactive . . . I want to write better songs . . . I want to meditate because everybody is meditating… I want a mantra . . . Then, when pressed a bit, we get to the heart of the matter. (Usually, this is the first instinct – I want to be free! I’m tired – I want to feel energized. I want to love better.) This intention can be a single word or a feeling or an overall vision or even a deep quest for spiritual understanding.
Whatever it is, it can be super helpful to get in touch with your personal WHY. Knowing this can help direct you in how much time and energy you want to put into this practice. And then, you can “measure” the results. Am I feeling more peaceful? Was I less angry this week? I noticed I was able to write better when I sat for 30 or more minutes in the morning. You can be a bit scientific about it and also lovingly disciplined. You can be your own teacher – observing, listening, tuning into your own practice – inviting yourself to be present to it and honest about your needs, desires and results.
Then, it can become a joy. A pleasure. A great service to yourself and your world as you begin to deepen your daily experience of being authentically oriented to your own heart in the moment.
Then, the rewards of practice are the PRACTICE ITSELF.
The first several months of this year, my life was quite chaotic and I was moving about almost month to month. I began having a very disjointed relationship to my practice. It became something on my to-do list. Something that I had to get to at some point this morning. I was doing it – religiously – but I certainly wasn’t enjoying it. I was on autopilot. Eventually, I came back to it in a way that began again to bring me satisfaction. To feel like it was a part of me and that I really had a chance to connect to truth and spirit and to give thanks and allow the energy of my being to restore and reset.
Sometimes keeping your practice alive is simply about CONTINUING TO DO IT.
I was pushing and prodding myself with all kinds of methods and techniques during this disjointed phase in an attempt to try and get back into some kind of deeper connection with my practice. I cannot say whether or not any of these worked because ultimately it was a very simple morning sit earlier this week that reminded me of my WHY.
I love Spirit and Life and my practice gives me access to the place inside that is absolutely joyful, happy, powerful, strong, calm, loving, and peaceful at all times. My meditation practice brings more and more of myself into harmony with this vibration, adjusts my perspective to view the world from here, and offers me greater freedom to enjoy my experience from the vastness of being rather than the limits of thought. It grants me access to my deepest KNOWING and offers me courage to act on it. I can hear the messages of my heart and face my desires and fears.
Keeping my practice ALIVE means allowing it to shift and change and flow along with my LIFE.
In a meeting with Ram Dass a while ago, he said to me – go get your career and your relationship and your spiritual life will come along. I did not trust that at all in the moment and in fact kept on clinging to the perceived security of my practice, rather than forge ahead in the material realm, for another year after his direction. (It is HILARIOUS and PAINFUL how often I have disregarded the wisdom of my teachers.)
Now I am beginning to witness the continuous luminosity of my journey and how the energy is shifting to allow this pursuit and how, of course, my teacher was right! IT IS TIME to let spirit move through my experience and to trust that the practice will come along. Moving into the world is part of keeping my PRACTICE ALIVE and allowing the evolution of the inner world to manifest on the outside. It is of THE MOMENT and no other time. This is the journey we are truly on – moving into a much more DIRECT EXPERIENCE of any given instance – the TRUTH of our spiritual pursuit is ALIVE IN THE NOW.
For more on the transformative power of practice, listen to these great interviews with Jo Tastula and Susanna Harwood Rubin.
This article was written by Be Here Now Network teacher, Melanie Moser, and originally published on her blog Stay Awake. Find more teachings from Melanie Moser at meditatewithmelanie.com. Photos via Susanna Harwood Rubin and Yogascapes