Learning to enjoy practice

Photo courtesy of Imran Arshad (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Imran Arshad (Creative Commons)

I do not like to practice. I enjoy the feeling of mastering a skill or action, and dislike the process of fumbling with it awkwardly. From playing the guitar to understanding a new computer program, I chafe at the process of learning and want to jump right to achievement.

But life is necessarily full of practice, isn’t it?

During Lent, I am practicing mindfulness. At first, I didn’t recognize the significance of the phrasing “practicing mindfulness.” But as I revisit this every day, I am understanding that some things will always be a practice and not something you master.

But the value is in that daily practice. It’s being willing to keep at it every day, and know that some days will go well, and some days will be impossible. But it’s the effort that moves me forward.

For me, mindfulness is especially difficult because even if I manage to find quiet outside, it’s never quiet inside my mind. There seems to be constant noise in there – things I need to do, things I’ve done, random ideas, rehashed conversations – I feel like the Grinch as he describes the “noise noise noise noise” down in Whoville on Christmas morning!

That is part of the reason I found the idea of practicing mindfulness so compelling. The idea that maybe I could quiet all that noise, even for a little while, and stop some of the chatter in order to gain better focus is fascinating. To be able to move through life with more calmness is an exciting prospect.

So I’ve been practicing when I run. Sitting still for any length of time for me is near impossible, and I knew I’d be fighting an uphill battle to spend even 10 minutes that way. Instead, I’m practicing mindfulness by focusing on my breathing as I run, visualizing the random thoughts and noise kind of falling away from me as I move forward like dirt washing down the drain. I just continually come back to the breath.

The challenge is in recognizing that even a small amount of time in my “zone” is valuable. There is no way I can be mindful throughout an entire run, and it’s dangerous to start feeling like a failure when I can’t do that. At some point in the run, the noise just returns no matter how hard I visualize and how much I tell myself breathe, breathe.

But I have been practicing every day. And I am learning to celebrate even a short time spent in that space.

The most exhilarating part is that I now look forward to the practice. Who ever thought I would say those words? I anticipate the practice of mindfulness and enjoy that process every day when I head out for my run. It’s not something I have to remember to do anymore, but it’s becoming a part of my day.

How might you practice mindfulness each day?