You are what you practice most.”
― Richard Carlson
Practice is a big theme for me this month.
When I use the word practice, I’m using it to mean something particular. It’s not the kind of practice that you do to get better, like a violinist before a performance. It’s not the kind of practice that makes you perfect. It’s the kind of practice that you do to get to know yourself.
As Natalie Goldberg writes in The True Secret of Writing:
Practice is something you choose to do on a regular basis with no vision of an outcome; the aim is not improvement, not getting somewhere. You do it because you do it. You show up whether you want to or not. … Here’s where you have an opportunity to meet your own mind, to examine what it does, it’s ploys and shenanigans. That’s ultimately what practice is: arriving at the front – and back – door of yourself.”
My online courses are really all about laying down the practices we need to live the lives we hunger for: lives of meaning and courage, lives in which we do our great work in the world while taking care of ourselves. That kind of life takes practice.
So I’m a little bit obsessed with the art of practice.
I’ve spent time in deep immersion with each of my core practices over the past four weeks and I’ve been thinking about what it is that helps me sustain my practice, and what it is that I allow to get in the way.
Here’s one of the pieces: community plays a big role in supporting and sustaining my practices over time.
This year I’m on the road for five months. Which is a long time to be away from my community in Wellington. It’s a long time to be away from my yoga buddies, my writing pals, my meditation companions, my dance partners and my running crew.
So when I travel, I seek out communities with which to practice. Here are some of the communities I’ve dropped in on – to varying degrees – while on the road so far.
An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”
Vira Yoga New York – I took a class from founder Elena Brower, which was magical. Elena is co-author of the very beautiful Art of Attention and kindly invited me to come along to one of her classes as a guest. She’s gracious, kind and a powerful teacher.
Reyn Studios New Orleans – It was hot outside, so why not get even hotter? Usually if a class is described as ‘power yoga’ I run the other way. I’m a bit scared of ‘power yoga’. But my friends in NOLA loved this class, and so did I. Beautiful space, skilful teacher. Hot, sweaty fun.
Black Swan Yoga Austin – More hot, sweaty fun. This time we avoided the class marked ‘Power’ and went for ‘Sweaty’ instead. It was already 105 degrees outside, so a little more sweat couldn’t hurt. Extra lovely people, proving once again that Texas really is friendlier than your average state.
Yoga Source Santa Fe – Another great studio. Top tip: I went to the Early Street studio, which had a gorgeous little Ayurvedic cafe connected to it, called Rasa. Highly recommended for a post-class juice.
Om Time Yoga Boulder – Shannon Paige, founder of Om Time, generously invited me to attend at class as her guest. I popped down for a mid-week morning class and absolutely loved the space, the warm greeting and the class.
Sutra Yoga Seattle – I actually didn’t take a class here, but I did get to enjoy the space when I held a book talk at the studio. It’s a gorgeous space, with a farm-to-table restaurant attached which I hope I’ll get to visit next time I’m in town.
Namaste Yoga Oakland and Yoga Kula Berkeley – at both places I took classes with the wonderful Kimber Simpkins. She’s a great yoga teacher, and author of the memoir: Full – How One Woman Found Yoga, Eased Her Inner Hunger, and Started Loving Herself.
Sweat Your Prayers Sausalito – This is one of my favourite places to dance. I was introduced by Julie Daley and whenever I’m in the Bay Area on a Sunday morning I try to get there. 150 people, two hours, amazing music. It’s magic.
Embody Dance Santa Fe – This was a very sweet experience – a group of about 40 people, in a hall near the railyards. The playlist was perfect, and the community was warm and welcoming.
Upaya Zen Centre Santa Fe – Upaya feels like the kind of place I could call my spiritual home. Home of the Upaya Chaplaincy Program, as well as being a beautiful refuge, Upaya is a space for engaged Buddhists to find community.
I always mean to visit other meditation centres, but I find it easier to do meditation at home most of the time. Upaya is special, though. I’d happily travel a long way to sit in the zendo at Upaya.
While on this trip, I’ve found a writing community online; a private Facebook group with a few other women who are committed to a daily writing practice. We check in with each other each day simply noting whether or not we’ve done our writing practice and maybe a line or two about how it went.
What about you?
What are the practices that keep you honest? What are the practices that bring you back to yourself over and over again? And where are the communities that can support you and help you sustain those practices?
They may be online. They may be happening in your neighbourhood. They many not exist yet, they may be waiting for you to call them together. But life takes practice. And – in the long run – practice takes community.
Find your community of practice, wherever you are.