You may not have thought about it this way before, but you are always practicing. Every moment of your awake day, you are thinking and feeling and doing. The question is, what are you thinking and feeling and doing?
That’s what you are practicing.
Recently, i wrote about Culturing, how we are culturing certain habits all the time with our attention. What we put our attention on grows stronger. What we dwell on persists. We tend to think that we only need to practice something when it’s new, when we need to learn it. Once it’s habit, we no longer practice, we do. This is indeed one meaning of the word practice. But another is what we carry out, what we do, as in “practice law” or “practice medicine”.
Life is always a practice and at any moment, we can choose to reinforce a habit or chose to practice a new skill. A new way of responding to events. With awareness, we can shift from habitual reactivity to considered response. This is choosing, this is practicing consciously.
Teachers suggest inquiry. To ask who am I? Why is this arising in me? At first, we will miss it and respond by habit. Remember after we have reacted. Then during our response more and more. And finally, we will see it as it arises and nip it in the bud. This is the process of stepping out of attachment, stepping out of absorption in what has been or might be.
What do you practice? Being spiritual? Being better than? Catching juicy gossip? Finding reasons to be mad or upset? Skills for improving the world? Listening? Everything we do is a practice, an expression of ourselves. If we see it that way, we offer ourselves control. If we simply practice habits, we are treading water.
Without awareness, every response arises from memory and we continue to practice what we have done before. We get better and better at riding a bike or writing a letter. But we also get better at tricking ourselves. At denying what is. At being angry or fearful.
Habit is not our enemy. It is our friend. It is only the content of some habits that need changing. And that takes practice. What are you practicing?