The Practice Runs through It


Life is like a river. Sometimes the river carries us smoothly and uneventfully along. Sometimes we experience the rapids. Sometimes we find ourselves getting slammed against rocks or drawn under by the current.

What runs through the river of life? Spiritual practice runs through it. We commit to practice whatever is happening in our lives: The practice runs through the good, the bad, and the ugly. We practice through the good times and through the challenging times. The practice runs through the entire course of our lives.

Spiritual practice gives continuity in life, and soon we understand that it is our ground and even our lifeline. The benefits of practice are cumulative. Thus, the key to accessing the benefits is regularity. It is why we aim to practice daily (unless we really cannot). Practice does not depend on how we are “feeling.” No matter how or what we are feeling, we practice. Fortunately, after practicing we usually feel better—sometimes a lot better.

When we accumulate, say, 1,000 hours of practice, there is a tipping point. Things begin to change for the better in our lives in ways we may not have expected. The same happens again at (say) 5,000 hours of practice, then 10,000 hours. Along with whatever positive shifts begin to manifest in our lives—in our habits of body, speech, and mind—we will certainly experience daily life with more presence, compassion, serenity, resilience, and joy.

Many of us embark on spiritual practice seeking metaphysical experiences and answers to the big questions about existence. On the way, we invariably discover that spiritual practice is for living this earthly life—for living more gracefully, more optimally—no matter what transcendental experiences or answers we might be graced with.

When we reach the proverbial 15,000 hours of practice, we enter the zone of “mastery.” That is when we realize our journey has just begun. What is “mastery” going to be for you? Only you can find out the answer to that question, if you commit wholeheartedly to seeking it.

The lifeline of spiritual practice eventually metamorphoses into a sturdy and graceful sailing boat. Then, we might look around at others flailing in the river of life: how pitiful they look tossed about by the currents, this way and that! No sooner are we captive to that state of consciousness (judging others or feeling superior), than our boat is ripped to pieces by some rock the universe throws in our way. We learn humility. We learn that without humility, there’s no going forward.

We get back on the boat: No matter what, the practice runs through it!


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