Sunday, May 21, 2006

The delights of daily practice

The topic of daily practice is up within my women's group.

We all recognise the value of making a commitment to a daily sacred ritual. We know that it does not have to be long or complicated but that it should provide an opportunity to step outside of our ordinary world and to re-connect with the divine, with the bigger picture, with something greater than our daily lives and the story created by mind.

Although we could all feel the value of such practice, a quick round of the circle revealed only one of us who could say that she did something sacred every day.

We explored some of the possibilities:
* Lighting a candle and giving thanks for the blessings in our life;
* Ten minutes (maybe even only five!) of chanting or meditation, dancing or breathing;
* A yoga ritual, a simple asana series or maybe a longer practice;
* A walk in nature, a run on the beach or a ride on the bike made sacred by our dedication or intention.

One of the women revealed that the time that she felt most connected to the divine was when practicing her cello. We seemed to agree that it was our intention with our practice that was more important than it's content. Even our resident yogini expressed that as part of our experiment she wanted to make her daily yoga routine more of a prayer.

We supported one another towards a decision about the form of the practice that we would take on. It needed to be achievable within our busy lives, suitable for our body and realistic given our family commitments. It was surprising how easy it seemed to be for each of us alone to set ourselves up to do something we were bound to fail at. Thank heavens for the other women!

Duly committed we set out on our week.

My commitment was to three sun salutes, offered as a prayer. I had been making a vague effort to do three sun salutes each day for some months but my success rate was about one in two. I realised that to make it a daily reality I needed to do them as early as possible, before I ate and ideally as soon as I got up. I share the care of my son and noticed that it was much easier on the mornings that my son was not at home. I also noticed that the knowledge that I would be reporting back to the group really supported me to remember - even on the busy school mornings when I had previously let my mothering take precedence over my practice.

But the most interesting discovery was in relation to the "prayfulness" or otherwise of the ritual. I had thought I had a sense of this when I had expressed what I wanted to do to the other women. But when it came to it I found myself wondering and pondering for several days what it really meant to offer my practice as a prayer. Was it about gratitude, dedication, intention, a request even? Was it to do with my presence and focus within the movements? Over the week I explored the possibilities in my attitude as I moved my body through the familiar stretches. And it was within the sensation of the stretching that I found my answer. My practice feels sacred when I follow the feeling of stretching and extend it out beyond the physical expressing the longing of my heart and my willingness and my prayer to stretch ever open in all ways towards truth, love and the divine.

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