Practice

May 5, 2012

Whatever your path is at this moment, every single step is equal in substance. Every step actualizes the self. Every moment of practice is always the koan of having to agree to your condition, to bring unlimited friendliness to what you are, just as you are, right now. Even your obnoxiousness, your failures, your rank inadequacy is it. Your best revenge is to include it as you. ~Susan Murphy

Hello, again, Quotesqueen/Only Moment readers. I am proud and happy to say I have at long last established two practices: meditation and writing. To these two practices I am trying to bring “unlimited friendliness” to what I am, just as I am.

The writing practice is resulting in poem after poem. Not all of them are good or will ever be good, but it sure beats not writing! I hope that I will be able to maintain it when I begin writing a nonfiction book on sustainable public libraries. My plan is to write poetry in the mornings, then work in the afternoons.

One important key to practice is, I believe, self-compassion. I found a wonderful little book called Making a Change for Good: A Guide to Compassionate Self-Discipline, by Cheri Huber. In it is a 30-day program for change in small steps.

What would you like to change for the better? and for good?

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Blogging as a Spiritual Practice

August 29, 2011

When I began this blog four years ago, I had no idea what it would come to mean to me. Indeed, I had no idea what a blog should be, how to do one, what I would say. Looking back on this experience, I can see now that it has been a spiritual practice for me. Sometimes, I was faithful and regular, other times erratic. I have “quit” more than once, only to find that I missed this practice.

One of the books I return to again and again is Everyday Spiritual Practice: Simple Pathways for Enriching Your Life, edited by Scott W. Alexander. There is something compelling to me about the idea of consistent practice (of anything, really), since I have always felt that my attempts at practice (whether spiritual, physical, mental or otherwise) were jerky and on-again, off-again. Just look at my previous posts about exercise and health: such good intentions, so little follow-through!

But this blog keeps on going like the Energizer bunny, if in fits and starts. And it has helped me understand at a deeper level that imperfection is our nature, that we fall down and get up again and again in this life, and that’s OK. Every day is a new opportunity to realize our vision of what living a full life can be. And every day we will get only partway there–that is,  if we have any forward movement at all. Let us practice living as though this day is our last on this earth, and as if we will live forever.


More Music, Please

February 16, 2011

We are in the process of rearranging some furniture at our house, and have brought my piano back upstairs. I want more music in my life. Today I played for about 30 minutes, and I was surprised at how much I remember. It’s not exactly like riding a bike, but a few minutes a day of practice should make a big difference.

I suppose I really should learn how to operate the machines in our house that make music. I use my iPod to shuffle songs when I walk on the treadmill, but I haven’t mastered the equipment that will play our CDs. Nor can I turn on our television. Not that I’m a technophobe (I have a blog, don’t I?), but it seems that electronics have gotten increasingly less intuitive and more complicated. Please tell me it’s not just that my brain is old! More and more, it seems that the multitude of bells and whistles (that we don’t even want) interfere with the basic operation of these gizmos. I don’t consider learning to juggle three remotes just to turn on the TV a way I want to spend my time.

Still, having more music in my life might require that I learn. Not just to play the piano, but to accept and deal with the electronics as they are (light a candle) rather than rail against the overly complicated technology and wish it were different (curse the damn darkness)!


Monday Morning Motivator

June 7, 2010

YOU’RE REALLY, REALLY GOOD, YA KNOW IT?
Actually, you don’t know it. Not really. The fact is we’re so much better, so much stronger, so much more talented – and necessary to the world – than we know. We’re so obsessed with our shortcomings, the times we missed the mark, the time someone slapped a “C” on what we thought was our best work – that we doubt ourselves and play small. So what’s the cure? Actually, it’s pretty simple: Keep a running list of the good stuff – the times you knocked it out of the park, the times you made the sale, got the vote, or just got back up after you fell down. Forget the other stuff. Hey, remember what the MGM casting director wrote about Fred Astaire? “Can’t sing; dances a little.” Thank God he didn’t stop doing either. So don’t you. Not this week; not any week.

~Gail Blanke

I first encountered Gail Blanke when I read her wonderful book, In My Wildest Dreams, which she followed up with Between Trapezes. (Come to think of it, I probably need to reread that one, since I am in an in-between space in my life at the moment!) Her most recent is Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life. It has an accompanying Web site, where you, too, can subscribe to her “Monday Morning Motivator.”

I really like getting this short, inspirational message every Monday. It reminds me to be grateful, to love myself so that I can love others, and to live life mindfully. Today’s MMM validated a practice I’ve had for a while now, and that I frivolously call my “smiley book.” Each day (as I remember to do it), I make a list of the good things I have done for myself or others: yoga, mindful eating, connections with others, meditation, appreciating nature, and so on. A focus on these positive things really seems to reinforce the behavior.

How do you motivate yourself to be the best you can be?


Seeing, Doing

January 30, 2010

What you will be is what you do. ~Buddha

Mindfulness must be engaged. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. Otherwise, what is the use of seeing? ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Today I will do yoga, engage with my husband and my life, enjoy the icy wonderland outside my window, rest, read, and write. I have resolved (again) to be more mindfully present for the unfolding of my days, to practice healthy eating and exercise, to remember that creative efforts sustain and feed me.

When I stop long enough to see clearly, I know what is right for me to do. Avoidance behaviors, comforting time-killers (for me, playing computer games, eating sweets, and other non-nutritive activities) are the way we keep from seeing clearly. After all, if we can hide what is needed from our conscious mind, we feel free from responsibility. I think this is true in both personal and social action. How can I change the world if my own house is not in order?


Home Ground

December 13, 2009

In dwelling, live close to the ground. ~Tao Te Ching

In the end, the final refuge is sustained practice. ~Dogen Zenji

Perhaps I am learning how to practice at long last. I spent all of last week traveling to, sitting in, and traveling home from meetings. But unlike on most of my business trips, this time I ate well and I exercised. 🙂 Instead of being exhausted and depleted when I got home, I was energetic and relaxed.

What made the difference? I believe it was a combination of greater self-awareness and mindfulness, the ability to stay present in my experience moment to moment. More and more, I feel at home with myself, regardless of where I am, who I am with, what I am doing. More and more, I live close to the ground of my being.

How about you?


Goals Are Not Intentions

November 21, 2009

In choosing to live with right intention…you are connecting to your own sense of kindness and innate dignity. Standing on this ground of intention, you are then able to participate as you choose in life’s contests, until you outgrow them. ~Phillip Moffitt

Today, this Yoga Journal article, “The Heart’s Intention”, was exactly what I needed. Moffitt draws the distinction between goals, which are oriented toward a future outcome, and intention, which is “a path or practice that is focused on how you are ‘being’ in the present moment.”

Moffitt says “You set your intentions based on understanding what matters most to you and make a commitment to align your worldly actions with your inner values.” Intention, unlike goals, results in integrity, unity, self-respect and peace of mind.

We clearly need goals to help us be effective and move forward in our endeavors. But Moffitt reminds us that goals are inadequate for measuring our success in life. Staying attuned to our heart’s intention (not that of the rational mind) is what Moffitt calls coming home to ourselves.

Of course, we can never do this perfectly. But Moffitt assures us that “each time you start over by reconnecting to your intention, you are taking one more step toward finding your own authenticity and freedom.”

And so the theme is practice, not perfection, again.