Take Up A Deep Practice
I feel confident saying that just about any form of self-improvement that you engage in (therapy, coaching, self-help, study of the wisdom traditions, etc.) is designed to do one thing: to work on obstacles that keep us from living in peace and freedom and imperturbability. A deep contemplative practice (like centering prayer, meditation, lectio divina, mantra, focused silence, etc.) is the path for recognizing and then disarming these obstacles. Such practices ask us to center (silence and calm the mind and body); clear (disregard distractions, inner and outward); open (to hope, possibility, grace, atonement); and finally, receive (the good, the true, and the beautiful).
We do such a practice over and over without being attached to outcome. Day after day, we remain devoted to the process, not grasping for the result. And at some point, in spite of the desire to just “be the practice,” we begin to see (or feel) tiny shifts in the way we reside in the world. We feel calm. We experience joy. We stop rushing. We have clarity. We are present. We are at ease with ourselves and with others.
Do you want this?
In our monthly group coaching sessions here at LifeArt Studio, we gather to unearth the obstacles that are keeping us locked in unsatisfactory situations. These gatherings are amazing, because as we listen to one member of the group share her frustration with a perceived obstacle, we recognize the same pattern in ourselves. It’s as if we get the benefit of the deep work she is willing to do on herself, just by being in the room. It’s a dramatic demonstration of just how connected we are to one another.
The work of actually disarming the obstacles may require a more formal therapeutic situation: therapy, coaching, accountability group, spiritual mentor. It depends on how deeply entrenched the obstacle (usually a false belief) is in our consciousness. But in these monthly collaborative explorations of our patterns, we seem to always make progress toward releasing the obstacles that obstruct our good living. The first step to releasing is recognizing the obstacles for what they are. To call them out and name them. This can be challenging, but it is always rewarding.
So know this, there is a way to disarm your long-term and closely held obstacles. The wisdom traditions tell us practice is the way. And it is your calling to find the practice that works for you. It is your birthright to live every day in courageousness and freedom and imperturbability. Your practice is the first step to deepening these qualities in yourself.
Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön says practice “awakens our trust that the wisdom and compassion that we need are already within us.”
The I Ching says that “by working patiently and steadily on correcting and balancing our inner attitude, the obstructions that stand between us and our goals will disappear by themselves.”
This is not to say that people who have a deep practice have no problems. To be alive is to have problems! But we know that a contemplative practice is a key way to become more facile in managing and responding wisely to our problems. Then, well-practiced people take swift action to correct mistakes, acting with loving kindness toward themselves and others.
And so I urge you, take up a practice (there are many ways to do this). Think of these words as your action steps as you do:
center > clear > open > receive
Not a bad path to freedom, courageousness, and imperturbability.