I was describing to someone how working on the last stages of my new book as I was preparing for cancer surgery this summer really helped me stay centered. Reading and rereading the chapters to edit and proofread kept the content of the book front and center in my consciousness and was a constant and loving reminder to practice what I was preaching.
“I lived this book,” I told her. “I was my own most needy audience. It helped me navigate an intensely challenging time with trust, courage, and occasional moments of grace.” I paused and looked at her. “I’m here to tell you, this shit really works.”
“That should be the title of your next book!” she exclaimed. We both laughed.
Maybe it should be. Several people have asked me if my practice over the years supported me through this year. My answer? Absolutely.
It helped me to expand my experience to encompass more than a series of tests and surgeries, to align myself with the natural movement of energy in my life, to stay connected to the earth and all realms of creation, and to trust that no matter what, all was well. It became a way to love myself and my body, and to be grateful for my life in whatever way it unfolded.
To be clear, being grateful does not mean that I enjoyed or welcomed much of what happened along the way. How does a person with years of spiritual practice navigate a life changing illness? As Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield said, just like a human, that’s how. There were plenty of tears and fears. There were times of feeling weak, whiny, confused, angry, and embarrassed. It’s all accepted with compassion, without judgment, without trying to make things anything other than what they are, without trying to make myself anyone other than who I am.
People sometimes ask me what the best spiritual practice is. My answer is simple – the best practice is the one you will actually do. Whatever grounds you, whatever gets you out of your head and into your body, whatever connects you to nature, whatever opens you to love, whatever helps you accept things as they are, whatever touches your heart with compassion – any of these things practiced on sunny days will guide you through the inevitable storms of life.
If we have a regular practice, there are times when we wonder if it really matters, if it really does us any good. We don’t know until it’s put to the test, so to speak. This year put my practice to the test. And, as practice promised me, it carried me through.
So believe that whatever your practice is, it will sustain you and nourish you when you need it. Practice is not a duty or a burden. It is a relationship. We devote our time and attention to it, and in return, we are cared for and accompanied through our lives. If you have a practice, be grateful to it and for it. If you don’t, then consider introducing yourself to one. Find one that you can love and that will love you back. It’s worth it.
In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is. ~Yogi Berra