Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Why We Practice

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

12 thoughts on “Why We Practice”

  1. I want to focus on what is, not the surround story I make up in my mind. I often ask myself – do I know that for a fact? I want to be calm in the face of "chaos". I want to practice q-tip: quit taking it personally, especially when dealing with my aged mother who has dementia. Some days are diamond.

  2. It's lovely to discover a natural action outcome of whatever you've been practising, isn't it? I'm practising (or 'fluffing and buffing' – love that!)my personal boundaries too with my sister over our ill mother. It's working well so far. We are talking straight to one another and I've realised I was kind of preparing for this phase of our lives. I've also found that the focus on being assertive on someone else's behalf which comes from my volunteering in social care for the last few years is helping me with this phase with my mother too. You practice, you learn, you keep practising, and before you know it you are doing what you've been practising in such a natural way, you don't even have to think about it – like you suddenly rebalancing your body on the plank of wood. It is nice to get some kind of pay off here – makes it all so worthwhile!And as you say there are so many other aspects of behaviour to practise, which for me are about making sure you adhere to your particular chosen values – to be true to yourself. Lovely post, Galen!

  3. Making sure you adhere to your values — that's the key here, I think. When we consciously practice our values, or at least recognize when we fail to, then as you say, we begin to do what we've been practicing in a natural way. Your situation with your sister and your mother is a challenging opportunity. Family issues, especially in major transitions such as birth and death, can strain our abilities. I'm sure the practice you've done in other settings, such as your volunteer work, have prepared you to handle this personal situation with grace and compassion. For your mother and your sister, and especially for yourself. Thanks for commenting, Lynne.

  4. Q-tip — I love that, Mona! Wow, that is my new mantra. Thank you! And as you point out, some days are better than others. We learn from all of them.

    I also like your recognition of the stories we tell ourselves instead of engaging with what is. I've been noticing in my own life all the stories I tell myself, not only about circumstances and other people, but also about myself. I'm beginning to question all of these stories and release them.

    Thanks for commenting.

  5. Practice can become our salvation. If we believe in Christ's words, and imitate as best we can, we are less likely to slip and fall on those bridges and unexpected encounters that come our way. We can pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and know that tomorrow is another day to try, try again. No need to take the impressions of others personally. Simply be!
    Blessings, Galen!

  6. That is what practice is, isn't it, Martha? Learning from our successes as well as when we fall short. Then, with enough practice, there is no need to try anymore, or at least not as much, because we integrate what we are practicing and it becomes as natural to us as breathing.

  7. Its amazing how the human body and that of other animals can react to an imbalance without thought. When I was walking along a very rocky shore in North east Newfoundland recently, I was doing instinctively what I learnt as a boy, as I stepped and sometimes jumped from rock to rock avoiding loose rocks and kelp. Its amazing to observe a 61 year old body do what it had learned a long time ago. There was no thought, just the internal intelligence that came from practice over many years. Life seems to be all about learning and practice. When we give up practice we give up living. The practice of gratitude toward all life is perhaps my greatest teacher. Its a process like all practice, but very rewarding because a side effect of gratitude is happiness.

  8. I love that image of you hopping from rock to rock. That is a great example. And yes, a practice of gratitude has so many benefits. We drop all our judgments and rest in our blessings. Happiness abounds!

  9. Wow, I think I will join you in the things you mentioned. I really loved reading this one and it hit me in areas that I need to practice more.
    Hugs for this one!

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