Practice, Practice, Practice

309683769_4e8749343b_o“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]

Paying Attention

16526168288_a4fa676e2b_oI’ve been working my way through a new book during my morning writing time called, “The Pen and the Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World.”  This book by Brenda Miller (love her essays, which led me to this book) and Holly J. Hughes resonates with my intersecting interests of mindfulness meditation and writing.  I am also realizing that I am paying much better attention to life now that I have made my practice of writing a priority.

All this led me to rediscover this brief piece I wrote five years ago for my old blog.  It reminds me of the wonderful things my children teach me every day, as long as I am paying attention.

This afternoon over a lunch of hot dogs and mashed potatoes our 3-year-old son said, “Mommy, I’m putting on my sun block so I won’t get a sunburn.” “Mmm Hmm, that’s nice honey,” I responded paying more attention to my lunch than to what he was actually saying. Then he said it again. “Mommy, I’m putting on my sun block so I won’t get a sunburn.” This time I heard him because his insistent tone practically begged me to pay attention, to look his way. So I looked. He had smeared ketchup all over his face, legs, and neck – the part of him most likely to burn in the sun.

Paying attention really is important in life. If you don’t pay attention you might miss something terrible—like your son smearing ketchup all over himself. If you don’t pay attention you also might miss something wonderful—like your son smearing ketchup all over himself.

[Feature Image: Mike Mozart]