When Devi and I ran the North County Yoga Center, a subset of our students were serious athletes—world-class runners, volleyball players, tri-athletes.
It was amazing to hear an Ironman champion sweating away in downward dog say, “This is hard!”
Huh? What about swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running 26.2 miles without a break? To me that’s beyond hard. Yet the same people who competed in the Ironman were challenged by a basic yoga class. How is that possible?
It’s really that simple. Whether you’re running up hills in the blazing sun, playing arpeggios on the violin, baking sourdough bread, or teaching kids to read – you get good at what you practice.
If you practice intentionally for about 10,000 hours you get more than good.
You gain mastery. That’s what K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues discovered.
Now there’s more news on the power of practice. The practice principle doesn’t just count for externally observable skills. The principle also applies to inner states of mind.
That’s what the research in the relatively new field of contemplative neuroscience suggests.
Contemplative neuroscientists study the brain science of meditation. And what they’re learning provides hard scientific support for the discoveries that yogis, mystics and meditators have said for centuries: meditation practices work.
“We all know that if you engage in certain kinds of exercise on a regular basis you can strengthen certain muscle groups in predictable ways,” says Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin.
Davidson and his research team have hosted scores of Buddhist monks and other meditators for brain scans. “Strengthening neural systems is not fundamentally different,” he says. “It’s basically replacing certain habits of mind with other habits.”
The deepest habits of mind—and the ones that limit you the most—where encoded in your childhood.
These patterns of family karma are well grooved in the neural structures of your brain. But, they are not fixed. You can transform your family karma patterns—through specific meditation practices and mindfulness exercises.
Meditation practice can literally re-configure the emotional circuitry in your brain. Through meditative practice you can free yourself from the habitual patterns of family karma—and re-engage with your life with greater wisdom, courage and compassion.
It’s all a matter of practice.
Remember, there was a time when the Ironman champ couldn’t run a mile. Transforming family karma through meditation is the same.
The key is practice. A little bit every day. Every journey is completed one step at a time.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise
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