Last post, I explored the meaning of ‘practice.’ Today, I’d like to share some practical tips and helpful questions to consider when choosing or designing a practice for oneself.
It’s important to remember that our bodies and needs are ever changing and what worked for us in the past may no longer work for us in the present or the future. Sometimes I find that one practice leads to the next, and other times, what is called for is a radical departure from all that we held as true and supportive. These transitional periods can be wrought with anxiety and uncertainty; try to ask, in these moments, “what is the story that wants to be told?” Be receptive, engaged, and patient, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes or take chances. Have a sense of humor, as well as a sense of gravity. It will help you balance care and concern with grace and levity.
Here is a breakdown of some key considerations to take into account when choosing or un-choosing a practice:
Season: Our lives have seasons, both literal and metaphorical. It may be summer, but we are mending a heart break that makes our inner climate feel cold and barren. It may be spring, and our inner exuberance may match the blossoming of trees and flowers and allergens!
If you can work with the natural, organic chemistry and setting of your body, then there will be an efficiency and sensibility to your practice that feels deeply nourishing.
Can you notice which season resonates most? You can consider what foods you are attracted to, the moods that are coloring your days, and how much you need to sleep as clues in the process…
The season of your life will also effect the next consideration which is the level of challenge that is most appropriate.
Challenge: It is not unusual in our culture to exalt the high energy, solar, heating practices as ways to overcome or extend the limits of the physical body. This is part of an age-old tradition and can be of great value and service as we begin to contemplate the power of the mind. However, the mind, itself, is not necessarily cultivated or understood through these exercises, and at times, can become even more rigid and repressed. True challenge is found not in the extremes of the mind-body, which we are all too susceptible to, but in the moderation and middle ground of equanimity, kindness, and observation.
That said, there may be ‘seasons’ in our life when we desire to engage in a discipline that does take incredible courage, effort, and faith. This may show up as an inquiry into behaviors that are self destructive, a fast from certain substances, or a sun salutation routine that gets our hearts beating and our skin sweating and our souls radiating!
Alternately, an excess of challenge can make us feel over worked and burnt out. In times of emotional sorrow, mourning, or physical dis-ease, it may be better to focus on gentle breath work, regular massages, or simply – long walks to heal and restore our wholeness.
I will pause here, and continue this thread in the next post, where I will cover the considerations of resources and relationships.