How can I live my life as a practice, a practice of whole-ness, a practice of connecting with the infinite, the Holy, the Universe?
There is only this: practice, practice, practice…
The sages of all traditions knew this. the Mother knows this, the monks in their cells in the hidden corners of the earth know this. It may be that the person in the next cubicle knows this. And you know it, too. There is only practice, from one moment to the next, from one day to the next.
What is your practice, today? In my life, my practice has often changed. For a time, I spent hours every day in my car, driving from small town to small town in rural Wisconsin. Then, I began this practice, this practice that has become my life. I talked to God. I talked out loud to God, crying sometimes, laughing, sometimes, and sometimes shaking my fist at God. And I began to observe my life in its unfolding, as if I was looking at my life from another perspective.
Sure, I have had to make the choices we all make. I have had to decide whether or not to go on to school, where to live, what to do on Friday night, whether or not this person was my friend – or not. All of the external choices have been the same. On another level, though, I have discovered that life is a constant of only this: practice.
Practice is only my own way of connecting the Divine, to the Holy that is in me and is in you. I have not been limited by my practice; rather, my practice has broadened my life, my experience, and even my mind. Through my practice, I have learned to question everything I have been taught is true or real. There are no limits to my practice. Like the sea, which rolls onto the beach and roils into the deepest depths, my limits are limit-less. Through my practice, I have questioned my deepest beliefs, and I have discarded some, and still question others, continuing to wonder what is true, what holds to be true not only for me, but for all of humanity, and all of creation.
I have learned that the Holy can hold all this, all my faltering practices, all my failures, all my ignorance, all my less-than-loving self.
I have prayed, an ever-changing, evolving prayer. I have meditated, and I still do, two times a day, most days. I have walked my prayers. I have talked to the grass and the trees, and to my cat. I have cried. I have laughed. I have nodded into a sky that does not answer, and yet is shouting to me. I have sniffed the sweet, wet earth, and smelled the sweet fragrance of lilacs and rosemary and lavendar, riches. I have visited holy places. I have worshiped in unfamiliar places, and I have honored those whose practice I have been privileged to encounter, although theirs might not be my own. I nod to their Holy One, who may seem different than my own, but is not. I honor that Holy One, by whatever name. I have visited dark places, and I have arrived into another morning, giving thanks for nothing in particular, but for it all.
I have not only “tried” many ways to stay connected to All; I have practiced many ways to stay connected. Some of the ways I carry with me now, like a bag filled with spiritual practices instead of groceries. I reach into the bag and take out the one I need, now. In any day, I use my practices to stay connected to Something More, Something Whole, Something Holy – something that is in me, that is me, and that is greater than I am.
Through my practice I have learned this: I do not have to be good. I do not have to do things perfectly. I do not have to work to be worthy. I do not have to know what is right or correct in any or all situations. I do not have to understand to accept. I am complete, here and now, just as I am. This is what I have learned, what I am learning.
When I remember, I can still feel my little girl’s body on the seat of my first two-wheeled bicycle. I can feel the strength of my Dad behind me, holding onto the seat, pushing me along the sidewalk, pushing me, holding on, and then, in some moment, letting go, until I felt the freedom of that ride, that long ride that has taken me to this time, to this moment, to this day. Then, I was practicing. Then, I had the safety of Dad’s strength and love and joy until I took off on my own.
As we get older, what we face is different than what we faced when we were younger. What I have faced in my life – the choices, the decisions, the moments, the sadness, the losses, the small and great griefs – is changing. It has always been changing, although now I am more poignantly aware that my choices are changing. And I can honestly say that the only thing that has gotten me through, the ever-changing practices I have gathered and practiced and discarded, and even those I continue today, are the cornerstone, and the one constant.
Make of your life a practice.