This weekend I was fortunate to spend time with my adorable little nieces.
I watched in amazement as they practiced all of the new skills that they learned since the last time I saw them.
With support and encouragement from their parents, they learned how to take their shoes off and put them back on, color on paper instead of the walls, kick a ball across the yard, and say please and thank you when offered a snack.
As I marveled at these precious little creatures, I thought to myself, "practice makes perfect". I quickly modified that thought to, "well, almost perfect" when I saw the mischevious two and a half year old getting ready to color my couch a beautiful shade of crayola purple.
Anything that we do over and over again, we get better at.
It might be a skill like playing the piano, knitting a sweater, or playing golf. It might be a behavior like saying please and thank you, holding the door for someone, or exercising daily.
If we do anything often enough, it will become a habit. It might even become ingrained or automatic....something that we just do.
My nieces will eventually say please and thank you and put on their shoes without being prompted by their parents. Our golf swing will start to feel more natural, and our exercise routine will be a part of our daily lives.
The good news is; whatever we practice we get better at. The bad news is; whatever we practice we get better at.
We can unwittingly get better at things that we don't necessarily want to get better at.
If we often show up to work irritable or angry, we will get better at it. If we are afraid to try something new or step out of our comfort zone often enough, we get better at it. If we lose our temper with our kids each time they annoy us, we get better at that too.
Like the Olympic athletes who practice their sport so often that it becomes part of who they are, the state of mind that we practice often enough becomes part of who we are.
According to yoga philosophy, our natural state is one of peacefullness. Through the stilling of the craziness of the mind we will be able to discover this truth.
Yoga Sutra 1.12 says " these mental modifications (craziness of the mind) are restrained by practice (abhyasa) and non attachment (vairagya)."
Yoga Philosophy teaches that when we practice the eight limbs of yoga and let go of the results of our efforts, we will acheive this state of yoga or union with the self.
We can apply these wise teachings to everything that we want to get better at in our lives.
When my nieces payed attention to the process of putting on their shoes instead of being distracted by the goal of getting outside, the process of putting on their shoes was perfect. Their shoes were on the right feet and fastened securely. Staying focused on the task at hand, instead of the final outcome allowed them to get outside more quickly.
When we stay in the present moment and turn our attention inward on a regular basis, we will be more aware of our own "practices". With this knowledge, we can choose to practice only those things that we would like to get better at.
Each time we find ourselves getting better at anger, judgement, gossip, or fear, we have the ability to change that state of mind and instead choose to get better at patience, acceptance, compassion, and courage.
Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois, founder of Ashtanga Yoga said "Do your practice and all is coming."
This simple statement encourages us to commit to our practice and have faith that devoting ourselves to something greater will ultimately bring us exactly what we need.
"To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown from the nest." Pema Chodron
There are times in all of our lives that can feel like we have been thrown out of our nest or pushed beyond what we feel comfortable with.
Maybe it's a small thing.... We are asked to give a speech at a wedding despite our fear of public speaking.
Maybe it's a big thing.... We get laid off from our job or get divorced after fifteen years.
Maybe it's a huge thing....We get sick or we lose someone that we love.
Every single one of us will experience discomfort, pain, or maybe even agony at sometime in our lives.
We may try to avoid pain and make our decisions based on staying comfortable and safe. This is possible and necessary sometimes, but other times it is impossible to protect ourselves or those we love from the often painful challenges that life can bring.
The father of Siddhartha Gautama wanted his son to be protected from the pain and suffering of humanity so he kept the young prince in total but lavish exclusion. His every need was taken care of by his many servants. The prince became restless with his extravagant lifestyle and went to see what was beyond the walls of the kingdom.
He quickly saw the reality of life and his heart opened up to the pain and suffering of others. He spent the next several years of his life trying to learn how to relieve universal suffering. He tried rigorous ascetic practices, strict meditation, extreme fasting, and various religious studies in an attempt to find wisdom, transcend his physical body, and achieve freedom from suffering.
He finally came to the realization that suffering is a part of life and one must not follow a path of extremism to avoid being fully awake and alive, but one must follow a path of balance which he called, "The Middle Way". After this realization, Siddhartha attained enlightenment and earned the title Buddha. He spent the rest of his life selflessly and compassionately helping others achieve enlightenment as well.
Like Siddhartha Gautama, experiencing and being a witness to pain in our lives can transform us into wise, selfless, and compassionate people if we choose to use our pain and discomfort for growth.
We can let our challenges and difficulties destroy us, or we can use them to build strength, courage, wisdom, and confidence.
Pushing ourselves to do things that make us uncomfortable will make us better able to adapt to the bigger challenges that we might face in life.
Maybe it's pushing ourselves to do a small thing like volunteering to give a speech at a wedding, despite our fear of public speaking.
Maybe it's pushing ourselves to do a big thing like leaving a job or relationship that isn't right for us after fifteen years.
Maybe it's pushing ourselves to do a huge thing like offering to take care of someone who is sick or counseling those who have lost a loved one.
When we jump out of the nest instead of being pushed, we gain confidence in our own ability to use our wings to gracefully navigate the turbulence of life in a way that lets us know we are fully alive, completely awake, and fully human.
All Abhyasa Ahimsa Aparigraha Asmita-Ego Attachment Baron Baptiste Beginner's Mind Bramacharya Carl Jung Clear Seeing Colorless Comfortable Discomfort Creating Spaciousness In Mind And Body Cultivate The Opposite Deepak Chopra Dharma Empty Your Cup Enthusiasm Equanimity Family Fight Or Flight Great Vows Inner-awareness Inner Critic John Kabbatzinnb2faff332d Listening Mirrors To Ourselves Monkey Hunting Non Stealing Patanjali Pause Pillar Pleasure And Pain Posseses Us Practice Pratipaksa Bhavana Pratyahara Present Moment Present Moment Awareness Respond Instead Of React Samadhi Samskara Santosha Satya Sauca Sensual Pleasures Shadow Side Spirituality Steadiness And Ease Sthira And Sukha Strength Sustained Attention Svadhyaya There You Are Thich Nat Hahn This Too Shall Pass True Self Uncertainty Universal Truth What We Possess Wherever You Go Wisdom Yoga Philosophy Yoga Sutra 1. 14 Yoga Sutra 1.33 Yoga Sutra 2.33 Yoga Sutra 2 37cfe9965fa2 Yoga Sutra 2. 46 Yoga Sutras