Why We Practice
June 19, 2014
I was walking briskly down the wooden handicap ramp, following the plumber who was talking about how he might lay a new sewer line, when it happened. My left heel hit a moist, moldy spot and went skating out in front of me. Almost reflexively I put both arms straight out to the sides, shoulder height, tightened my core, and followed my body down into an almost full split. My right knee hit the ground behind me and the fall stopped.
“Oooooo, “ I said, sucking in my breath.
“Holy Moly,” my husband said. “Are you all right?” He grabbed me under both arm pits and I was standing on both feet in just a moment.
“Well. I am okay. However, I think my right quadriceps is not particularly happy. I don’t think it was wanting to do a split at 8:30 in the morning! Thank God for fourteen years of yoga.” We both laughed.
The plumber shook his head in disbelief. I said, “Whenever I think about stopping my yoga practice, times like this remind me of why I am practicing.” He shook his head, still not forming words. He already thought I was weird. I think this sealed the deal.
I walked off the too deep stretch, wondering how sore I was going to be as the day wore on. The more I walked, the better my leg felt. By noon I was back to normal. All morning I kept thinking, “This is why I practice.” This time, and the time I fell down a full story of stairs, and the time I had to meditate through an MRI, and the time I was waiting on some dreaded news, and, and, and,…..
And this is why I “practice” at many things in the spiritual life: prayer, meditation, gratitude, community, Sabbath, stewardship, reading scripture, breaking bread. Because if I learn to pray when things are good, if I know the feeling of connecting to the Holy One, if I truly learn to listen to the Holy One daily and when times are good, I believe the reflex and capacity to do so when times are tough will be there. If I have a grateful heart and learn to receive the abundant life that is right here in front of me, I believe my heart will be grateful when things might not seem so abundant. If I build up community, receive sabbath, read scripture, and break bread when things are going well, then all of those things will be a firm foundation for when things aren’t going well. Life is always a peculiar rhythm of consolation and desolation, highs and lows, easy times and hard times.
A steady practice carries us through the whole cycle of life. When we practice any discipline, spiritual, sports, music, academics, nutrition, we do it because we take that discipline into our daily lives and we use it. Think about a practice that you already have and think about how it is serving you in your life. Then think about how you can serve the world because of that practice. If you don’t have any disciplines, wonder about what discipline might be needed in your life. Start very slowly, with something you really think you can do, and just do that one thing. It could be as small as naming ten things you are grateful for every day, or reading and meditating on one verse of scripture each day. Before long, I am sure, you will know the fruits of your practice and you will say, as I did, “This is why I practice!”
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