This is Why We Practice

I feel very strongly about practicing what I preach.  When I was running addictions programs, I worked the 12 step program with a sponsor, just as I expected my clients to do.  Now, when I encourage meditation, good nutrition and exercise, I make sure I do the same.

None of us are perfect.  We all have the tendency to slack off when things are going well, myself included.  But when things get stressful, we need to have the skills and strength to withstand the storms that come at us. If we’ve been neglecting the habit of using those skills that we know keep us healthy and strong just because we haven’t needed them, they tend to get rusty.

That’s where discipline comes in.  We all know that physically, if we work out on a regular basis, our muscles don’t feel as sore, and we feel healthier and better about ourselves.  So it is with emotional and spiritual health.  If we know meditation or prayer works to help us feel better about ourselves, feel more peaceful and to deal with the world around us, then we need to build that muscle by doing it consistently.  If we continually strive to express how we feel (taking personal responsibility for it – not accusing others of making us feel it), we might begin to see that the emotion stems from the way we perceive the situation. Hence, if we are open to checking our perspective, we should be more able to regulate and tolerate emotions in a healthier way.  In this way, we can work on not letting the emotions control us, but recognizing them as a response to the choice we made in how we looked at the original event.   Then we’ll have stronger communication skills when that important conversation with our boss, child or partner needs to take place because we’ll be more open to seeing their perspective as well.  The more we do these things consistently, the stronger we’ll feel when we need it.

In the last couple of years, the atmosphere in our world has become very heavy with fear, division and hatred being thrown around like it was a volley ball – or maybe more appropriately, a heavy medicine ball. This weighs on all of us, regardless of how involved we are or how closely we pay attention to the news. There are days when I have to stop between sessions to breathe, relax and clear my own body and mind because so many of my clients appear to be in crisis mode. It takes a lot out of them and, because compassion and empathy are two of the major tools in my tool belt, it takes a lot out of me. I’m grateful that, over the years, I have developed the ability to be compassionate, while also maintaining a sense of objectivity that allows me to not get too sucked into the energy of my client’s heavy emotions. I can’t be helpful to her/him if I’m not taking care of myself.

A few years ago, a friend shared this article with me and I love it because It says what I’ve just tried to relay in a much more eloquent way:

You will be called on to expand. And this is why we practice.

I traveled to Dharamshala, India with six friends to meet with The Dalai Lama. It was cell-altering and heart-expanding. (The story is here.)

The week before our arrival, there had been a horrible event in which some monks were murdered — most shockingly, by other monks. The story was on everyone’s mind and in our small, private meeting with His Holiness, the first thing we did was offer our condolences. His response captivated me.

“Ah, yes, thank you for your thoughts,” he said. “This is why we practice, for times like these when compassion is so necessary.” He didn’t nod in mutual disdain. He didn’t show any drama. He was soft and … practical.

This is why we practice.

For times like these.

You don’t need to forgive until you need to forgive. You don’t need nerves of steel until you need nerves of steel. You don’t need to call on your reserves of compassion, or fortitude, or faith until you’ve used up everything else.

This is why we practice.

This is why, that even when life is ambling along nicely and there’s food in our spiritual cupboard, we still make sure that we get to yoga, or the reading group, or Sunday services.

When we’re healthy and happy we make sure to dance, we hit the court, we pick up the phone to check in, we drop by with something in hand.

When we’re believing in the fairness and the glory of human nature and the so-called Fates, we keep seeking, and meditating on reality, and praying for healing though nothing obvious ails us.

We keep standing up to make our art even when we could be predictable pedestrians.

Because the day will most certainly come, as it does whether you are a whole-hearted Lover or in denial of Grace, that you will be struck down or ground down by life. It can come in tiny tearing heartbreaks five times a day, just walking through your neighborhood. It could come in the name of tragedy that could only happen once in a lifetime.

And you will need to withdraw the insights that you put into your heart’s escrow. And you will need to call on your people — the unseen and the ones right in front of you – to help you meet the day.

You will be interrupted. You will be called on to expand. You will be asked who you are and why you are here.

This is why we practice.

-Danielle LaPorte