Last weekend I was walking along a trail with a friend. We had our dogs with us – my little fur ball and her big Lab. We came to a small single plank bridge over a tiny creek. The plank was 12 inches wide. I started across. Just then her dog decided that she wanted to be in front. Before my friend could warn me, her dog came up behind me and in racing to get past, bumped into my left leg, knocking it upwards and spinning me sideways on the plank.
By all reason, I should have ended up in the creek, which was only a short drop and the worst result would have been wet shoes and maybe a wet rear. So not that big a deal. But somehow I didn’t fall. As I turned, I managed to maintain my balance, sinking smoothly into my right foot and bringing my arms up in a pose that looked something like the photo above.
Poised there as my mind took in what had happened, I felt sort of foolish and amazed at the same time. I slowly stood back up, looked at my friend, who was just staring at me, and said, “I have no idea how I did that.”
Perhaps that is not entirely true. My martial arts practice involves a lot of balance and responding to the unexpected. When the dog bumped me, my body just did what it is trained to do. I really had little to do with it in terms of analyzing the situation, making a plan, and executing it. It was over before my mind caught up and figured out what had happened.
In reflecting on it later, I understood that this is why we practice. We practice so that when needed, our training kicks in and operates without much conscious supervision. We internalize our practice and it becomes part of who we are.
Here’s the thing. We are always practicing something. I got to wondering what else I’m practicing. Am I practicing kindness or meanness? Compassion or judgment? Forgiveness or anger? Generosity or withholding? Connection or separation? Faith or fear?
We practice intentionally and consciously what we want to manifest when something catches us off guard, so that our training will kick in when needed, guiding us as we engage with others and the world around us.
So I’m going to be paying more attention to what I’m practicing as I go through my day. For example, thinking of some recent events, I want to practice not taking things personally. I could also use some brushing up on taking responsibility for my own feelings. I would like to practice taking the long view when considering my response to something in the moment. And I definitely need to fluff and buff my practice of maintaining good boundaries.
How about you? What would you like to practice?
An ounce of practice is generally worth more than a ton of theory. ~E F Schumacher