Week 47: Practicing sincerely

Today in yoga class, my instructor said, “None of us is perfect, but we practice sincerely.”

That sentiment lines up perfectly with something I have been thinking about a lot lately: the word “practice.”

Growing up the way I did, the word practice was used in the context of music. Practice the piano, practice the drums, practice for your voice lesson. Practice meant daily (in a perfect world) time and effort spent learning music, repeating exercises and adjusting technique with the goal of improving at our instruments.

In college, I started doing yoga, and although we call them yoga classes, the correct term is a yoga practice. Often, those new to yoga will ask why it’s called a practice. I don’t know the official yogi answer, but I can tell you my thoughts. To me, it’s a yoga practice because I do it every day (ideally) with effort to improve and get stronger, alongside awareness that I will never fully master yoga.

I can get a little bit better every day — that’s the goal — but I will never be finished learning, and I will never be perfect at yoga. Same thing goes for the piano and percussion and voice.

In other words, what Bianca said.

So I’ve been thinking about this word, practice, and I’ve realized it applies to so many aspects of life and being — or striving to be — a healthy, loving, aware person. We can practice gratitude. We can practice kindness. We can practice positivity.

“Practice” is the perfect verb for all those things because, again, that word means to make the effort, hopefully daily, to do these things and get better at these things and be mindful of these things. But we also know we are never, none of us, going to be perfect at them. We will always have our selfish days, our mean days, our negative days. The important thing is that we keep trying, with the hope of being a little better every day.

Practice, more than anything, builds habit. A musician develops habits and a yogi develops habits, just as a person develops habits — of either entitlement or gratitude, kindness or bitterness, positivity or negativity. Habits can be good or bad, so we know we will get stronger every day — but only in the ways we practice. We have to practice the right ways.

But the most important thing about practice? You have to make yourself do it. You have to choose to do it. You have to put in some effort. You have to, as Bianca said, be sincere.

That’s why I love this word (if you think me strange for loving words, well, you don’t know me very well). I love to say I practice positivity and I practice kindness and I practice gratitude because to me, those are reminders that it’s not necessarily automatic or inherent in me, but I am deciding every day to be a positive, kind, grateful person.

Every time I say “I practice,” it reminds me once again that I have made that choice, and I want to continue making that choice — but I have to follow up with the effort.

As I make that effort, I know I’ll never be perfect, but I try to be mindful. I hope my daily choices to practice all the right things will help me to continue building good habits to make me a better, more loving and healthier person with each passing day.

But don’t ask me about a medical “practice.” I have no ideas as to why doctors use the word.

Endnotes:

Currently reading: One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Song of the week: One Direction’s “Love You Goodbye”

Currently watching: Master of None on Netflix

Plans for the weekend: Thanksgiving with family, and then relaxing in quiet, traffic-free L.A. with my few friends who aren’t out of town.

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