What is Practice?


Perhaps the best way to describe “practice” is to begin with a simple metaphor: There’s only so much we can do to get a seed to sprout and transform into a plant.  What we’re really doing for that seed is creating the conditions that will help it grow.  It’s the same with practice.  It’s not a head down, charge ahead determination that “gets” us something.  It’s not studying a long list of terms or techniques that we can force into use and hope to see a result.

Practice is all about creating the conditions that will allow us to grow, to keep us firmly planted on the path to clarifying our own truth.  Our own practice creates the conditions for growth, and for quite some time, the core of practice is meditation. Knowing we’re only able to create a set of conditions that support our practice, then it makes sense to simply practice.  Working towards something is the opposite of what practice is for. We’re not meditating to get a specific result; we’re meditating to quiet our mind enough to recognize and see past the distractions that have most of us trapped on the surface of life.

All is not one, all is not two, all is not many.  There is much to see beyond the duality that we know as our daily waking reality. This process of discovery is what is called “practice” and practice begins with that duality. Recognizing our duality ultimately it brings us to unity. But we eventually need to go beyond that unity and the duality.  How can this be shared? It can’t. And that’s what makes Enlightenment so difficult to share, teach, and express. We are used to having a set of rules to follow; a number of terms to remember. But that will get you nowhere when trying to remember your True Nature. Yes, finding our True Nature requires an immense amount of faith when we begin, because we have to trust that what we are being taught will actually have some sort of benefit.

There are countless beautiful books written about meditation, mindfulness, and practice. Inevitably, they all come down to teaching meditation practice. And, meditation practice comes in as many flavors and styles as there are cars driving around. But, whether it’s Vipasanna or any other style, all books are trying to convey the same thing; how to exist in this present moment fully. In an effort to share a practical manual on my path to my practice, look to “Awakening to Meditation” in the Life & Zen Series. I was inspired by several books on meditation, and this book was a result of that inspiration.

There is very little teaching on how to open one’s heart, how to truly take a chance and trust yourself, for what is often the first time in our lives. Most don’t realize how little we have been conditioned to trust ourselves, to trust our own power. Many of us feel powerlessness, and although recognizing your own power might not bring wealth and fame, it will bring you something far more valuable; peace. Through practice, you will learn to peer directly into the nature of reality, and see the truth exactly as it is, as you one day realize that duality does not exist when it comes to authentic truth. Within that truth, there is no self and there is no other. There is no enlightenment and there is no delusion. There is no life and there is no death. There is no being and non-being. There is only the present moment, when all else falls away and we are left with only ourselves. We can be sitting by the side of a river, but still die of thirst. We can be sitting in the middle of an orchard, but still dies of hunger. Everything we need is already within us, and we all have meditation to help us realize the vast power we forget we already possess.

Look to Zhaozhou’s “Flower of Awakening” Koan for a discussion on this very topic.

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