Knowing a better way isn’t enough to improve your life. How easy is it for you to put a new way of being into practice?
Even though I’m spiritual rather than religious, I’d like to start with Matthew 7:24-27, a segment Matthew writes as being spoken by Jesus about practice: Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain cam down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
First, I certainly don’t mean my words; I mean the words you hear and feel in your own heart, the words that speak to you and your spirit, the words spoken directly from Source to you. Second, I’m not calling anyone foolish; though, each one of us has our turn at practicing foolishness at one time or another. That’s just part of the learning and growing experience, whether we like it or not. Third, as I opened with, knowing something is not the same as practicing it, ever; and practice really does make progress. It forms the solid rock foundation of self-trust and trust in Source, even or particularly when we feel ourselves temporarily in the valley rather than on the mountaintop.
How do you learn or train yourself to practice what will improve you or your daily experience of life? You start by deciding what it is you wish to practice, say, “Choose inner peace.” You likely don’t have to wait long to have an experience where this choice would be a good practice, and you forget, maybe for a day, week, month or longer, because emotions run strong. Once you’re calmer, you remember you did make that choice. You think on this, perhaps admonish yourself for forgetting, which I don’t recommend. I prefer a gentle reminder like, “Okay, I forgot to remember this time; but eventually I will remember my choice.” Maybe you forget a few more times until one day, when triggered, you do remember and say to yourself, “New program: Choose inner peace.” You figure out how to do that and put it into practice. Please keep in mind that practice does not mean “perfect.” It means practice.
Each time, it becomes easier to choose it, that is, to practice your choice, to engage your new program, even if following through presents challenges that ask for more or different inner work, insight, and creativity on your part. As you practice, you feel your evolution and personal power, as well as your relationship with yourself and Source move up a notch. And it feels good. It feels right. You find you pay attention for other opportunities to practice your choice, or other opportunities to make similar beneficial choices. The new practice, and the evolution it causes in you, starts to feel more natural, more comfortable than not practicing or evolving, despite challenges.
We tend to make an external change first, when we desire improvement, which may work for a while. Then we revert back to the original behavior, because Change Happens from the Inside Out, never the other way around. We may even talk to others about how we’re going to change. There is a school of thought that says if you tell others your goal or intention, you stick to it. But that isn’t always the case, is it? And if you don’t stick to it, you feel not-so-good about yourself; and you may waste energy fretting about what others may think of you.
I recommend you get to know yourself. Maybe it works best for you to tell others what you intend. Maybe it works best for you to keep silent and do what’s required then speak about it only when people comment on what’s different, improved, and ask what you’re doing. Maybe it works best for you to share the inner-work process you’re experiencing as you continue to where or how you intend to be.
Example: You want to lose weight, so you diet. Diets work only so long, because of our tendency to revert back to familiar behaviors, and because we tend to not like to feel uncomfortable and limited. But once you have a different mindset about wellbeing, you’ll make lifestyle choices that have greater and lasting effects no diet alone ever promotes or provides, especially if you feel you suffer in some manner from a diet. It’s the same for any change in yourself or your life you desire, intend, and commit to. Right practice leads to improvements, not suffering.
Here’s something most of us don’t want to hear: Practice requires experiences, and not all of them are ones the ego-aspect would prefer. But, you don’t learn math if you never experience it and put it into practice. You don’t learn how to forgive or be forgiven without one or more experiences that open this opportunity to you. It’s the same for inner peace, joy, love, wellbeing, fulfillment, having quality relationships, a relationship with Source, and so on.
It is never about knowing (mind) what to do only; it’s about putting what you know into practice (heart). It’s about head-and-heart alignment about the practice, which can lead you toward the improvement you desire. Here’s a question: Are you improved in some measure at the inner level (mindset, perspective, self-trust, inner peace) from what you were a year ago? Even some improvement counts. No perfectionism, please.
When it comes to Practice Makes Progress, I’m reminded of a line in the movie, “Eat Pray Love,” where Julia Roberts’ character comments about a man whose continual prayer-plea to a saint was, “Please, please, please - let me win the lottery.” After years and years of this, the saint, exasperated, finally said to the man, “My son, please, please, please - buy a ticket!” Roberts’ character says she finally got it. We are often like the man, imploring if not pleading with Source for what we want, but not doing what WE need to as our end of it. Practice, especially the spiritual-in-nature inner work, is very often if not always, our ticket we need to “buy,” or rather, buy into.
Remember to ask Source to assist you. Source always assists you, but it makes a difference to and in you if you become comfortable with asking; and, Source wants to be asked. Your asking is like an expression of appreciation born of trust in Source. Your practice can help you stay in or return more easily to a state of appreciation. Commit to the practices that lead to progress, with Source’s assistance, and you and your life will improve, perhaps gradually; but that’s always better than the opposite. Buy your “ticket.” It’s a good practice, one you’ll appreciate.
Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer