I’ve always watched the Olympics with a combination of awe and envy.
Even as a child I was mesmerized by the skill and beauty with which these athletes performed, and as an adult I still am.
I also still watch them with a pang of regret. Regret that I have never dedicated myself with such focus and intensity to the mastery of any particular skill. I’ve never played an instrument, never played a sport that required hours and hours of practice. My friends would bemoan the time they had to practice playing the flute or clarinet or the Saturdays they had to give up for skating lessons but I always sensed, that underneath the complaining, was a feeling of pride. Pride in their dedication to acquiring skill. Pride in the beauty of their discipline to their practice.
So, as I watched these most recent Winter Olympics, the same slivers of regret pelted my Spirit. Instead of just feeling sorry for myself, I decided to dig a little deeper.
Is it really true that I’ve never dedicated myself to the practice of anything? It turns out that is not true at all. In fact, I discovered that I’ve applied the same type of focus to many areas of my life:
Marriage may not be a sport but it certainly takes the same kind of fierce dedication to make it successful. After 25 years, I can say that we are succeeding. Sure, it’s been rocky at times but we stuck with it, with each other, by practicing, failing and practicing again, communication, loyalty and kindness. Which is just another way of saying that I love the heck out him.
Motherhood has been my single biggest teacher in compassion and awareness. Have I always practiced both? Absolutely not. But I have practiced letting go and starting over, day after day, moment after moment. Whatever I’m doing is working because our daughters are smart, kind, incredibly confident young women.
I have been writing for almost 30 years. Do I have an agent or a book published? No, but that doesn’t diminish the time I’ve dedicated to my craft. It doesn’t diminish the notebooks I’ve filled, stories I’ve written, books I’ve read. In the face of rejections, I keep showing up to the page, showing up to myself. It’s my practice.
Over the years, I’ve joined gyms, bought exercise equipment, worked out to Denise Austin on TV or Jillian Michaels on DVD but they’ve all ended up being short-lived excursions into fitness. And while they lasted, I had to force myself to exercise. Then came yoga. With yoga, I look forward to going to the studio or doing my own practice at home.
I’m able to practice five to 10 times a week. My time on the mat is so much more than getting a yoga butt (though that would be nice). It’s about showing up to who I am, in body, mind and spirit in the moment. I’m always curious as to what I’ll find so each practice feels like an adventure.
Sure, none of these things will earn me any medals or trophies. But I no longer feel the angst of regret at not having dedicated myself to one particular activity. While it looks like I’ve dedicated myself to many things, it actually comes down to one thing: practice. Not practice as in do your scales on the piano or throw 100 free throws in a row but practice as a way of bringing intention, awareness and compassion to everything I do.
It turns out that my life is my practice.
No regrets there.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo credits: alexanderward12 on Flickr