Monday, October 16, 2017

Practice Me/ Practice You ♥

Practice ... it is what I return to again and again.  As I age, I find myself gathering more and more practices around me - meditation, yoga, art making, prayers, writing.  What is obvious to me now is how life IS my practice in the sense that a commitment to  maintaining alert presence, wakefulness, non-attachment and responsiveness (versus reactivity) demands daily  - indeed minute by minute - attention, effort and commitment. 

Recognizing this truth for myself has been a source of immense liberation. Rather than believing I "ought to have it right by now" I can relax into the vastness of my self, my life, as a work-in-progress.  There is great freedom and possibility in the notion that I am ever and always evolving, growing, changing.  The important distinction is intentional growth versus hapzhard growth. I can let life shape me, but that is a passive experience.  If I am choosing to enter into the conversation of living (as David Whyte describes it) I  am also choosing to be an active agent in this process of growth and unfolding.  And that seems to me to be the more exciting and rewarding option. 

This past year illness and lingering grief challenged me to dig deeper.  Oh, I thrashed around for quite a while.  But when I finally surrendered to it all, when I accepted I felt lost and stranded, then I was ripe for being found. The work of yoga teacher and author Elena Brower has guided and inspired my moving forward. More accurately, her online mentorship program Elevate provided me with the tools and the space to draft my own map home.  Now there is her newest offering Practice You: A Journal which combines all of my favorite tools for self inquiry: creative art play, writing, dialogue and meditation. 

Tarot cards from the Anna K Tarot

In addition to her new book, there is an online offering (a second incarnation of Elevate) to help us squeeze the most out of this already juicy gift. I have worked through the first Elevate mentorship program twice (in 4 months!) and the process was deepened through conversation with a dear friend also in the course. We will be together in this second round ... but what excites me is the invitation to share this work with my yoga students and my Cowgirl. 

Flipping through the pages of  Practice You what is immediate apparent is the versatility of the journal. The prompts and the artwork inspire wildly creative and personal responses. My Girl is not much for traditional journaling (read: not at all!) but the beauty of this work is the invitation to respond in a variety of ways: collage, paint, free flow word play, mindful doodling ... I have yet to explore all the possibilities but I can sense a ripeness for the unexpected to reveal hidden treasures of insight and understanding. 

"i am" page from Practice You

Life with a newly minted teenager has brought to the surface many old and triggersome questions: what does it mean to belong? How do I see myself and my gifts? Who is in charge of my happiness, my sense of self worth? How can I learn to embrace ALL parts of myself to both heal and to honor and understand the complexity that is being a human animal in this crazy wonderful world of ours?  

Just as I am a work-in-progress, so too are my relationships. As my Girl steps into the rocky terrain of teenager, our relationship is changing.  I am grateful to Practice You as a tool to support me supporting her. I don't know if she will engage fully in the process with me, but a copy waits for when she is ready. Meanwhile, I do my work so that I can hold space mindfully and lovingly for those around me to do theirs.

When it seems like Life is throwing up roadblocks, the choice for me has been to lean upon my practice. Illness, pain, emotional challenges, spiritual darkness - each and every time these challenges have visited me, I have felt stranded and abandoned.  Yet when there seems to be no solution in sight, the only option is "keep on keeping on" which for me means: turn to my practice. 

I have a mantra that kicks in whenever I feel lost or aimless: I support my practice and my practice support me. It is my formula for living. I could also say I support my creativity and my creativity supports me. I support my work and my work supports me.  I support Love and Love supports me. Underneath it all are foundational beliefs I have had to extract from the hard rock of inherited attitudes and concepts about myself held for far too long. Here again, my practice(s) have fortified me for this ongoing excavation.  I am excited to discover how Practice You supports and deepens the vital work of Practice Me. For if I want my Girl to understand the full extent of her beauty inside and out, if I want her to explore and express the richness of her talents and gifts, I must do the same.  

pages from my Elevate notebooks

Yoga reminds me that my natural state is Wholeness and Unity; that my experience of living in this human body is a journey of healing through the process of remembering myself already whole and complete. The outcome of this journey is freedom within and connection with Life around me.  

And so, I return each day to practice ... in whatever form it may take ...  it is like a walking stick that steadies me as I make my way forward.  I do the work, but my practice keeps me upright and moving along my path. "This is how I respect myself. These are my practices." (page from Practice You)