I had a great exchange with Kathleen this week about a student complaint. If you haven’t been in class with Kathleen, or have never had the chance to read anything she has written, you might put it on your to-do list. She has a sharp, clear mind and a way with words that I find to be so brilliant, so true, funny and precisely to the point every single time. In our chat, she was talking about being “in your practice” a turn of phrase from another teacher, from another time. To be more accurate, she was actually going on about what it looks like when you’re not in your practice, but that exchange, and the one which inspired it have been with me these past few days in a churning way.

What does it mean to be in your practice? I’ve turned the question over and over. And while I certainly cannot tell you what it is to be in your practice, I’ve pulled the threads on what it means to be in mine.

What am I even talking about? For me, to be in my practice means to be in the yoga more of the time than not. I don’t mean getting on my mat every day and doing some asana, though that is essential for this body I live in. It’s not even about sitting on the cushion and doing meditation every day, though that is essential for my mind and spirit. It’s taking all that is the yoga and living it through as many hours, and on as many days as possible. From non-harming, non-hoarding, self-study and devotion to discernment, detachment and awareness of the obstacles on the path, this is both the living yoga and living the yoga. This is what it means to be in my practice. 

I worked through a long list of indicators about how to stay or be in my practice, and these were on top:

Morning Discipline- Whether for ten minutes or for two hours, to even hope to be in my practice at any point in my day requires me to dedicate the first slice of that day—however much I can carve out– to be with myself, in my body and with my breath, and with the source of all that is. It is my time to remember who I truly am before the business of life tries to tell me otherwise. When I fall out of the discipline, I fall out of my practice. And when that happens, everything begins to unravel, and quickly. 

If I don’t start the day from a place of connection and truth, I will be struggling to be in the yoga- be in my practice- right out of the gate. Finding the yoga once I’ve engaged with the chaos of the world is infinitely harder than starting there in the first place. If I’m true to my morning discipline on more days that not, I’m at the baseline of being in my practice. Frankly, there’s not much hope otherwise.

Presence- In two ways. The first is presence with a big P. It’s essential for me to engender an awareness of the all-that-is-ness that is with and around me all the time. Guidance is here. Support is here. Abundance is here. Light is here. All the time, in every situation, even in the darkest hours. When I am settled in that, attuned to that, I am in my practice. 

This allows for the other presence, which is my choice and ability from moment to moment to be truly with each person I encounter. From my closest friends to a stranger on the street, when I can sit with, stand with, connect to, hold space for the person I am with- when I can bring true presence that is full of compassion and empty of judgement to my encounters, I am absolutely in my practice. When I have interactions that I am less than proud of, when I am critical, impatient, demanding… I am not present, and I am decidedly not in my practice.

Surrender- I know that I am not in control. I am connected to and inspired by the notion of divine timing. In my mind, I know about faith and letting go. But for this one, the distance between knowing what to do and doing what I know is likely the journey of my life. I have come to accept that the intention of surrender is as best as I am able to do on most days. It’s letting go –ish. I recognize and continue to move toward thinking and living in surrender—allowing the current of my life to take me where I should go, without desperately white knuckle grasping the dead tree limb on the shore or trying to push the river faster than this section of the journey allows. I know it when I do it. I feel it in every cell as less separation, better alignment, and a deep, abiding peace. It is choosing to be truly all in. Letting go, completely and whole-heartedly, is being in my practice.

There are so many other things on my list, from self-care to deep listening to cultivating contentment and more. But I love this as a point of orientation. From moment to moment in my day, paying attention to the question, “am I in my practice?” Is the choice that is before me, from what I eat and with whom I spend my time to the thought pattern I am cultivating, keeping me in or pulling me out of the yoga? It’s a great compass. Because when I’m in my practice, I’m operating from the best version of me. It’s accepting, loving, authentic, honest, connected…and that’s not just good for me, it’s good for everyone around me, too.

How about you? What does it mean to be in your practice?