“We are always practicing, until the very end,” writes Brenda Miller in her book The Pen and the Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World. I admit, in such a performance-driven world, the idea that we are always practicing gives me comfort. So what if I don’t preach my absolute best sermon at our upcoming Baccalaureate Service. It is good practice for the next time. So what if I never get that essay published that I worked so hard on. It was good practice to write it. When I sit with my students to lead them in meditation I always begin by saying, “Don’t worry about getting this right or doing this perfectly, we are just practicing.” Saying this seems to relieve tension present in the room. The invitation to practice is an invitation to offer ourselves some grace, because if we get it wrong we are still okay.
Miller goes on to discuss practice as an end in itself, as the discipline that brings us to life. She quotes Kim Stafford who says that a violin, played every day, will keep the vibrations of the music in its body, even while lying still and silent. If it is not played every day, the vibrations dissipate and the wood grows lifeless. An instrument dies if not played daily.
This is true for so many things. If I do not practice good parenting, or practice being a good wife every single day, then I imagine my relationships would not sing with life. Instead, they would grow stale and distant. If I did not practice my Christian faith, then that faith would cease to offer me life or new opportunities for growth. When I am diligently practicing my writing and intentionally tapping into my creativity, the muse of inspiration flows more easily. Life is rich with creative inspiration, when I am practicing.
Miller concludes her chapter on practicing with this contemplative exercise:
Reflect on what you practiced as a child. How did you feel about it? Was practice something you dreaded or embraced? What did you practice today? Think about all the skills and habits of mind you practice each day—and how those practices make you who you are.
[Feature Image: Kate]