I’ve been thinking recently about what it means for something to be “a practice,” and how that perhaps differs from something you just do, or a habit, or a hobby. For instance, I’ve been taking yoga classes for 11 years, and somewhere in that timeline that I stopping “doing yoga” and began to have my own “yoga practice.”
I often don’t feel like I have a real yoga practice, to be honest. I take two or three yoga classes per week, and I know the poses very well, and my body has absolutely changed and adapted as a result. But I almost never practice yoga by myself. I know there are people who have deeply internalized multiple series of poses and can string those series together for themselves. But I find that I spend a lot of time thinking, “Up dog, down dog, and, well… now what?”
And yet when I teacher at the end of class says to everyone, “Thank you for being here today and sharing your practice,” it still sounds right. We have all come together to try to go through these movements. And I truly believe that we are all better at it because we do it together.
I’ve been thinking about practice, too, in the context of going to church. It’s no secret that I wound up at St. James because I was looking for a place to sing – and a choir that didn’t require an audition of any kind. In the process of showing up week after week, being at church also became a practice. Singing is part of that to be sure – a physical activity that is as focused and emotionally uplifting as yoga. Sitting quietly, listening, and contemplating the questions that church asks of us – that is also a practice.
To be confirmed into the Episcopal Church, you have to take a class. And one of the first things the clergy asked everyone in my class was why they had chosen to do this. I replied, “Well, I realized that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.” I’m sure it came off as silly. What I meant, though, is that we are what we do.
In so many contexts, we assert that we are what we say we are. In faith, that we are what we believe. But in truth, I believe we are what we do. We are what we practice. I can say I’m a runner, but I’m not – because I don’t run. I am a yogi because I practice yoga. And I am an Episcopalian because I go to this church and contemplate my place in the world in this way.
I haven’t felt like a writer in a long time, because even though I know how, I haven’t been doing it. Perhaps that will change with practice. More Posts »