Are there benefits in creating a daily practice?
Well, I have two answers: the ‘up-level’ answer is, “It doesn’t matter.” The other answer, the one most of us want and need to hear is, “Yes, it’s absolutely wonderful to have a daily practice,” because most of us are embedded very deeply in the world and we get lost very easily in, the stuff of life.
So, to have a daily practice that keeps reminding you and pulling you back and awakening you again; giving you a chance to look at what’s happened and how you may have gotten lost the day before, to keep putting what’s happening to you in the world back into perspective is very useful.
Every morning when I wake up, I read a little spiritual passage, I keep them next to my bed. I just pick one up and start the day reading a little quote or something like that, and it starts me remembering what the game is about, it reminds me. Now, that’s a regular spiritual practice, it happens every morning when I get up.
There are certainly some traditions in which no regular practice is required and people do fine, so I can’t say it’s necessary, but I certainly find it useful and I would certainly encourage other people to do it. It’s rather delicate though because it’s important that you practice from the place of really remembering why you are doing it. Also, that you are doing it with some joy and appreciation.
It’s easy to get caught in, “Oh, I’ve got to do my practice,” which is fine. The practice will probably clean that out in you but it can be similar to what happened to most people who were made to go to church every Sunday – they ended up hating religion. I would rather push people away from spiritual practices until they are so hungry for them that they really want to do the practice, rather than having them caught in the feelings of, “I ought to do the practice or I’m a bad person,” where they end up hating the whole business. And in the long run, that’s not good for you. So I would say, spiritual practice is wonderful if you want to do it, and if you don’t, don’t.
That isn’t to say there isn’t value in doing a practice every day, even when you don’t want to do it, especially in a meditation practice, because in meditation practice, the not wanting to do it is as much grist for the mill of meditation as wanting to do it. It’s all stuff you can work with in the mind and that’s very beautiful. It’s a delicate balance that goes on inside oneself, recognizing that if you build up too much of a negative tone towards your practice, too much resistance, you’re going to have a reaction to it that’s going to take you away from it for a while.
This really isn’t “falling off the path,” it’s just another part of the path. My guidance in regards to practice is to go slow. Try not to get too ‘gung-ho,’ – don’t figure you’re going to get enlightened today. Relax into it and just start to tune in.
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To your daily practice, hopefully at least for the next month.