. . . better. Practice makes that which once seemed difficult easier.
In athletics, and even in playing a musical instrument, or doing any other action requiring motor skills, practice can create something commonly called “muscle memory.” The repetition of an action makes the action more natural and less dependent on intense concentration. An accomplished basketball player might be able to spin a ball on the tip of her finger, for instance, a skill I would find immensely difficult and even, at least currently, impossible. The basketball player does it almost without thinking.
Our spiritual journey can also benefit from repetition. That’s the part we call “practice.”
I think it’s important that we differentiate between beliefs and practice. Someone can have beliefs with no practice. It’s also possible to have a practice without specific beliefs. But when we combine the two, we create a spiritual life that is alive and growing and engaged and the source of a consistent river of peace and joy that flows through our lives. Perhaps most important, it is the ongoing practice of our beliefs that strengthens our intuition and allows us to be the primary guide on our own journey. It’s how we become our own guru.
A spiritual practice can be almost anything as long as it occurs with some regularity and is meaningful to you. Meditation, yoga, mindfulness, mantra chanting, prayer, reading a spiritual text, listening to music that centers you — these are some of the more common spiritual practices. But a practice can also be planting flowers or looking up at the full moon or lighting incense or volunteering or acknowledging the four directions or making good use of that magic wand you bought on a whim at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. You give symbols their meaning, and whatever you decide is significant . . . is.
The paradox is that it’s not the practice, but it is the practice. Let’s break that down a bit. It’s not the practice in the sense that any physical action or practice we engage in within the temporal realm of ego and this physical existence is not inherently important. The Truth with a capital T is that the Divine Essence that you are remains the same regardless of any act you carry out. Whether you meditate today or not, you remain the Presence of Divine Love.
But, in this dynamic life, the life of time, the life of beginnings and endings, it sometimes takes a practice, even just a quick breathing exercise or making prayer hands, to remind us again, and again, and again, of who we truly are and what is truly real. And in time, we create a spiritual muscle memory that helps us to live more consistently from the core of our being, the place where only love and peace and joy reside.
That’s what practice can do. It can help us uncover our Divine Nature, and it can help us live from that place more and more consistently all the time. It can be the conduit to the the most important discovery of this life — the discovery of the Self.
But there is one thing practice won’t do. Practice won’t make perfect. Because it doesn’t need to. You already are.