How Do You Practice Your Own Life?
If there is one theme running through the fields of artistic craftsmanship, psychological growth, and spiritual discipline, it is the emphasis on practice.
In the quest for expert performance, hours and hours of deliberate practice on a very specific skill set (say playing the violin or mastering chess, etc.) is the key to growth.
In psychotherapy, the idea of practice is broader and includes the development of awareness of our own resistances, hurts, shame, and control patterns.
In spiritual disciplines such as Zen Buddhism, the term “practice” is even broader. It includes more conventional religious activities like meditation, study, and ritual, but also the way in which we engage with our own lives and the quality of our attention to what we do, say, and think.
In his book, At Home in the Muddy Water: A Guide to Finding Peace within Everyday Chaos, Ezra Bayda shares his Thirty-one Flavors of Practice, a list of the ways we can engage with our life as “practice”.
From the list below, he recommends choosing one slogan each morning, holding it in your mind throughout the day and then using it to deepen your experience of your own life. I’ve created a PDF version of the following practice slogans that you can print out and use.
Thirty-one Flavors of Practice
- Practice is about experiencing the truth of who we really are.
- Practice is about being with our life as it is, not as we would like it to be.
- Practice is about clarifying our belief systems so that even if they remain, they no longer run us.
- Practice is about seeing through the illusion of a separate self.
- Practice is about learning to be kind, but we will never be kind until we truly experience our unkindness.
- Practice is about attending to and experiencing wherever we’re stuck, whatever we’re holding, whatever clouds our True Nature.
- Practice is about willingly residing in whatever life presents to us.
- Practice comes back again and again to the basic koan: “What is this?— always pointing directly to the experiential truth of the moment.
- Practice is about turning away from constantly seeking comfort and trying to avoid pain.
- Practice is about learning to be no one, not giving solidity to any belief system—just Being.
- Practice is about becoming free of the slavery of our self-judgments and our shame.
- Practice is about seeing through the false promise of our ideals and fantasies.
- Practice is about becoming a lamp unto ourselves.
- Practice is about moving from a life of emotional upset toward a life of equanimity.
- Practice is always about returning to our True Nature.
- Practice is about the growing ability to say thank you to everything that we meet.
- Practice is about the transformation of our unnecessary suffering.
- Practice is about the clash between what we want and what is.
- Practice is about increasingly entering into Love— not personal love, but the Love that is the nature of our Being.
- Practice is about turning from a self-centered view to a life centered view.
- Practice is about finally understanding the basic paradox that although everything is a mess, All Is Well.
- Practice is about appreciating our preferences without making them demands.
- Practice is not about suffering, but learning from our suffering.
- Practice is about perseverance-the ability to continue in our efforts even though life doesn’t please us in the ordinary sense.
- Practice is about learning to live from the open Heart-the Heart that only knows connectedness.
- Practice is about becoming free of our attachments and the suffering that is born of those attachments.
- Practice will always entail forgiveness, at least as long as there is even one person whom we can’t forgive.
- Practice must ultimately deal with the most basic human fear, the fear of extinction, whether of the physical body or of the ego.
- Practice is about learning to say yes to what’s happening even when we hate it.
- Practice is about giving ourselves to others, but like a white bird in the snow.
- Practice always comes back to the willingness to just be.
How to Use the Practice List
1. Read one slogan each morning or each week as a way to focus your attention during the day.
2. Use a slogan as a prompt for journaling or reflective writing. What does the slogan bring up for you? How do you embody and resist that form of practice?
3. Add one slogan to each Monday morning on your calendar.
4. Use a slogan you find interesting as a prompt for a lunch conversation with a close friend.
5. Print out a few slogans and tape them to your car dashboard to reflect upon while driving.
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*Photo by Jeremy Brooks