My friend Flo writes about meditation practice "Beginner" by saying that she spent most of a recent retreat trying to focus just a little on her breath. I know the feeling. Some days the resolve to focus is strong; some days it’s weak.

It’s a struggle not to hate the weak days and to hate myself for being so out of the spirit. Practice for me has usually been a kind of drudgery. It was that way with the cello when I was growing up. I had wanted desperately to learn how to play it, and my parents bought me an instrument and got me lessons. I never became a good player, but I learned a seminal life lesson from Gretchen Belknap, my teacher: "Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you never get it wrong."

It’s a profound directive, and one I’ve mostly ignored. Generally my excuse is that practice is too tedious. If I were really meant to concentrate on something, it would be more fun. I don’t know if that’s just wishful thinking, but I see some evidence that there are people who love what they do. It must be said, though, that I also know many people, too many, who grit their teeth and soldier on.

What’s the point in that really? I guess you can argue that you keep at it for the sake of the family for whom you do these things. Do they want you to provide at the expense of being happy and fun with them? I suppose it depends on the circumstance.

More and more I’m longing to find some one activity that I can practice religiously. What have you found that’s worth practicing?

1 thought on “Practice

  1. Flo

    I sometimes think my morning ritual for tea and reading is all about practice. There are days I get it wrong. There are days I barely get out of the shower and I’m sitting at my laptop, in my bathrobe, looking at something that flashed through my brain or that I’ve forgotten, like checking an account balance at the bank.

    The morning tea ritual is important and each day I keep at it. Filtered water, electric tea pot, oversized clear glass cup, PG tips tea and turbinado sugar. I take a deep breath and let my day begin.

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