Practice makes practice makes practice

3 05 2010

Does it terrify you that medical doctors call their day-to-day work “practice?” For my money, I think it’s delightfully honest and humble. I find the same reassurance in Buddhist literature, where every element, from meditation to physical exercise to even the simplest task, is considered part of one’s “practice.”

As my interest in Buddhism has grown roots, I’ve been fascinated to see that there is remarkably little real abiding dogma, and that most Buddhists are far less concerned with the writings and ceremonies than with simple awareness, kindness, generosity, and simplicity.

This notion of awareness appears to reign supreme. Bringing one’s awareness to the task at hand is an incredibly powerful tool to gain peace and happiness. This essentially means paying real attention to what you’re actually doing, down to the most mundane tasks–peeling carrots, washing your face, unloading the dishwasher.

I thought this sounded terribly silly and overly simplistic when I first read about it, but the moments when I find awareness are some of the most meaningful these days… Driving to the studio last week, I found myself paying attention to the trees I was passing, and noticed the most beautiful little blossoms emerging. Walking to my car the other day, I smelled the fresh-cut grass and was transported back to summer days of my childhood. Carefully watering my tiny garden sprouts, I thought of what the food will taste like when I can harvest it.

It’s this awareness of the present moment that is the key: it empowers us, calms us, and reminds us that we have everything we need. And indeed, this moment is the only one to which we truly have access–the past is a vision, and the future is a fantasy.

Imagine the power inherent in thinking of all of your pursuits as practices. The practice of being a spouse, parent, child. The practice of being an employee, mentor, supervisor. The practice of being a friend, confidant, supporter. The practice of being a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew.

We all know, but I think too often forget, that the goal is not perfection in these pursuits. I find it refreshing, reassuring, and deeply honest to call our efforts, in whatever pursuit, a practice and, well, get back to practicing!

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