Practice – Abyāsa – according to Patanjali is a continuous and dedicated approach towards something. In order for the work to be considered practice it must be done regularly, for a long time, without breaks and in full earnestness. To practice, versus “to do” involves awareness and acceptance that there is room to evolve, to move forward, to improve. Another thing that can be differentiated is practice versus habit – two things that with time can seem the same thing. Practice requires consciousness, presence and intention. Unlike a habit, practice cannot be done automatically or thoughtlessly. Practice is that ingredient which makes our following a spiritual path into Sadhana.
We practice the violin, we rehearse our roles in a play, we take practicals for driving tests. In these actions we are aware of our learning curve and our need or desire to move along it. It might help that they are all things with a goal. We also use the word practice when it comes to yoga – we have an asana practice and a meditation practice. And that practice is really “a practice” when we do it consciously, with presence and intention.
There are so many things we can simply “do”, “feel” or “think”. I walk, I breathe, I speak. But how do I walk or breathe? When I speak, am I aware of the words I use and the impact they have on those around me? Or do I do all these things automatically and without enough attention?
“I care”, “I love”, “I believe in freedom”. These are sentiments and thoughts we have but maybe too often they merely play the role of background music in our lives as we move along our schedules, needs and immediate responses. We forget to bring them past this internal passive state into external words and actions that we put into practice and have an effect on those around us.
There is space, at least within me, to practice caring, to practice loving, to practice and therefore make into a realer reality that all beings have and enjoy freedom. I know there is room where I can become more active, become better at making it happen, become more conscious of the results of my actions and their effects on the world around me. I need to regard these essential thoughts and sentiments with the curiosity practice requires, the learning curve practice has, and the questions, doubts, answers and bravery practice asks for. If I apply myself to this continuously, uninterruptedly and in earnestness, then my caring, my loving and my belief in freedom for all will make a difference.
David Foster Wallace wrote: “The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.”
To practice freedom is to practice care. I love that. It ensures a freedom that entails a sense of responsibility for ourselves and others, an awareness that it is a precious gift that must be cared for, it entails a realization that for one to have freedom, all must have freedom, otherwise it does not work.
Make sure to check out Maria as she is in town and will be teaching classes on the 4th of July through July 6th.