I am the practice ground

i’ve been accumulating practices – actions I do intentionally, to increase my mindfulness. I recently learned that the Arabic word for human has the same root as ‘to forget’, so the word translates to ‘one who forgets’. And that in the language of most Buddhist texts, the root word of mindfulness is the same as ‘to remember’. my practices have felt like this, remembering what I have forgotten about how to be, and how magnificent existence is.

at the amazing center for whole communities next generation training I just got the honor of cofacilitating, we offered seven practices, such as silence, creativity, hospitality.

in my allied media community, we have a set of core practices which grew out of shared principles, including listening. for my somatics and trauma work there are three practices I’ve been engaged in – sitting meditation, yoga and jo kata.

it’s getting me into a perspective where more and more of my life becomes an opportunity to be practicing – awareness, abundance, love, being myself, being honest, listening.

I recently said to someone, ‘I am the practice ground to show that all humans have the capacity for abundance’, and I caught myself saying it, you know sometimes when you say something and it rings true in a way that seems larger than yourself or your experience? that seems like a piece of the universal…stuff we are supposed to be figuring out? it felt, and feels, like a truth larger than my little life.

we are none of us perfect, or consistent, or finished. i love the idea that we are each practice ground, and have some degree of control over what is practiced on and in our lives, bodies, hearts.

accounting for trauma, and oppression, and for all of those things which come to us without bidding, simply because of where and when we were born, which i cannot comprehend reason for, or ever attempt to rationalize…there is still a space where we can gain awareness of ourselves as a distinct point of miraculous existence, and bring purpose to our little tiny insignificant but potentially massive impactful and transformational lives.

so what is the purpose of our lives? what do we want practiced in the space of our waking lives, our dreams and nightmares, our sentience?

right now I’m crushed out on abundance. I can see that a root of my life’s work is scarcity, a constant scarcity of time, money, love, sex, people, challenge, excitement, etc – both for myself and the communities I was born into, or have chosen to love. I have a sense that if more people could experience that in every aspect of their lives they had ‘overflowing fullness’, there would emerge a culture of generosity, kindness, patience, curiosity, balance, and the deeper presence that comes when we are not worried about the next scarcity.

and since i am a believer in that grace lee boggs quote I reference all the time, ‘transform yourself to transform the world’, of course I’m in here trying to manifest abundance in my own life.

and i daresay it’s going splendidly, without any risk of perfection.

after approaching abundance from many different angles, I have found that time is the foundation of my experience of scarcity and abundance: how much time I have to do what I want, how much time I have for love and friendship, how much time I have for health, for family, and how much time I feel I am operating out of obligation, or out of control.

the abundance of time I had during my sabbatical at first felt too brief, then like it would never end, and then suddenly just marvelous. maintaining that abundance post-sabbatical has been daunting and worthwhile work, understanding and prioritizing and protecting my time so that I can taste abundance.

i feel utterly beginner, but some days, more and more days, I am able to give myself enough time to do the things I want and need to do for my own health and balance, so that most of my time spent with or for others comes from my fullness, from an authentic desire to give, rather than a sense of obligation.

the little surprise in all of this is that how I spend my time hasn’t changed too significantly. how i approach my time, that’s been the key. i still shower, but i shower in a practice of gratitude for water, honoring and conserving the resource, keeping the shower clean, etc.

approaching more of my time as practice time, practicing abundance and awareness, has made my life feel plentiful and useful.

I thought I would share here some of the daily-ish practices, which started one at a time, and which i only commit to as long as they serve me.

my practices right now:
1. yoga.
2. Jo kata.
3. meditation.
4. keeping phone and computer devices out of my bedroom when I sleep.
5. showers, sometimes candlelit, where I really focus on my gratitude for the water and use only what I need.
6. cooking foods, preferably locally sourced food that I know will nourish my body – and taking a moment for gratitude before consuming food.
7. happy style. literally dressing towards joy as often as possible.
8. reducing my belongings regularly, and reveling in the less and less things I need – and then keeping what I do have in clean clear order. the visual of simplicity elicits simple energy in my life.
9. drinking tons of water, really being of water.
10. becoming a better listener, particularly in my family.
11. taking responsibility for my feelings and actions, particularly when I feel or do something that makes me feel embarrassed or ashamed – exploring what’s there, what work I need to do.
12. carving spoons and other wooden creations.

there are more, of course. in some ways almost everything is becoming practice – looking at clouds when I am lifted into the sky in an act of science-magic called human flight, generating forgiveness, love and compassion for those who hurt me, recycling and composting instead of creating waste…but those 12 seem like the most prevalent ones now…and 12 is a pleasant number.

the emphasis on practicing is important too, as opposed to trying. I have found that when I was trying to meditate, or trying to be a good sister, I was often failing. ‘i’ll try’ was a way of saying what I felt I ought to do, and maybe intended to do, but didn’t believe I could actually do, or didn’t want to do.

when I am practicing, I feel like yoda is on my shoulder saying ‘do or do not, there is no try.’ and I become starkly aware of how often trying is a way for me to Not Do without taking responsibility for choosing to not do. or, if I drop a task, or hurt someone, and say I wasn’t trying to, it’s a way to again not take responsibility for what was done.

and in that realm of responsibility, I am tasting this other thing, a liberation from the lifelong burden of victim hood.

and it seems that even with the life I was given, the scarcities and struggles and identities and griefs, that I am capable of abundance, that I am creating it, co-creating it with others who are also practicing in their own ways. my life ceases to be the dynamic monologue of my ego, my soul ceases to be the prisoner of my worry.

the main thing I want to ask other people these days is – ‘what are you practicing?’ and from that, ‘what are you learning?’

you and i shape our purpose from what we believe, the shared dream, this world we all create and uphold every day. and some of us want a different world. and our every action is either a practice of the world as it is now – full of scarcity, struggle and suffering – or of a world we are creating as we dream it, say it and sing it to each other.

this week i also learned the term for a concept I’ve been in love with for years: imaginal cells. these are the cells in the cocoon that emerge, utterly new, cells that never existed in the caterpillar that spun the cocoon around itself, cells that are attacked by the decaying caterpillar cells until the spontaneously emerge in such large numbers, and cluster with each other, and when the clusters exist in large enough numbers to stop fighting for existence and begin to do their purpose (be wing cells, eye cells, etc) – then a butterfly is born.

i am pretty sure we are imaginal cells. at least, we could be.

we are definitely the practice ground for the world we are creating.

so – what are you practicing?