Lately I’ve been thinking about the beauty of practice.
Not the kind of practice that results in a sense of perfection, but the kind of practice that brings us closer to peeling away the layers and boundaries of our own hearts.
I grew up practicing, always with an end goal—always with a results-oriented mind, focused on the next best thing, the glory and the gold.
For a long time, practice translated to an act which would lead to success, and success has taken various shapes over the course of my life.
Of course there is an innate part of us that practices in order to improve and to gain mastery over what it is we are doing. For example, we practice languages in order to hold conversations with people of different cultures; we take cooking classes so that we can host dinner parties; we practice presentations in order to successfully communicate a message.
We practice so that we can become better; however, ironically enough, oftentimes the more we strive to be better, the less present we become to art of the practice itself.
I could talk about my love for yoga all day to anyone, anywhere, anytime. I love the movement, the creativity within the fluid transitions of vinyasa and the discipline required from the mind.
I think of yoga as an art form, weaving together breath, body and soul in order to establish connection in the midst of an ever-evolving practice. The yoga sutras essentially say that the goal of yoga is to attain mastery over the mind.
Mastery, in this sense, does not equate to perfection; mastery does not signify reaching an ending point at all—mastery is about balance; it is about knowing how to respond when life throws us curveballs and when we fall off track.
Mastery of the mind is about responding with grace and being willing to starting over again and again.
Life itself is a practice. There is no grand answer or equation for how to live a happy, successful life. There are tools we can use to practice, there are relationships we can cultivate and there are habits we can integrate into our everyday lives. However, there is no magic A+B=C formula in the mathematics of life.
We all practice to find our own equations for happiness and fulfillment and the key is that this practice is life itself.
To master is to recognize that we can be confident without knowing everything, we can be successful without having everything and we can be okay with knowing that tomorrow will always be different than today.
We practice so that we can respond with vivid intuition and graceful strength, rather then reacting from a state of desperation and fear. The more we practice finding balance between effort and ease, grace and strength, courage and vulnerability, the more we can see that having mastery over anything is a reflection of how well we continue to practice being with what is; letting life unfold as it must, and being willing to ride the roller coaster that always finds its way back to the start.
Life is just a cycle of beginning again: pausing, reflecting, growing, learning, feeling and practicing.
To be in the practice of life is to access mastery of our own existence.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Lauren Cohen
Editor: Emma Ruffin
Photo: Asja Boros/Flickr