In 1999, Lydia and I began a yoga practice in Birmingham, AL called Bikram Yoga (this is not an advertisement). Over the years, I’ve been practicing, on and off, as I am able to get to a studio. The last time I was able to practice regularly at a studio in metro Atlanta was three years ago. Life changes and movements have recently made it possible for me to begin, again.
Here is what I am noticing after a few sessions. While my body has groaned and ached a bit from the newly returned practice of yoga, something else also happened. That day when I first returned to the yoga practice (it is very intense–90 minutes, 26 poses, in a room heated to 105 degrees) my experience was that I took up exactly where I left off. The things I had learned over the years from my yoga teachers, about breathing, about smiling, about letting muscles relax and letting thoughts go–all were present and with me in the practice of that first return to yoga as if I had never left. Yes, muscles were sore the next day, and my whole body went through a sort of major hiccup as if to say–what the hell are you doing to me! Nevertheless, on the inside some part of me knew what to do, how to do, when to do, and was secured in the doing.
This is what spiritual practices do for us, and we can trust them. While we are doing them, we often feel like we are going through the motions, but at some point down the road, they “kick in” and we realize that they have formed something important in us.
Spiritual practices do not have to be yoga. What regular thing do you show up for? A daily walk? Writing in a journal? Sketching? Working out a the gym? Meditation? Lighting a candle? Reflective reading? Mindfulness practices? Jogging? Prayer? Gardening? Cooking? Arranging flowers? Writing poetry?
Your regular practice is a way of sinking down into who we really are, our souls. Cultivation of that deep place creates for us, whether we realize it or not, a place of sheltering walls, a soft place to land, a familiar interior experience that reminds us–this is who you are. You are solid. The essence of who you are has effect.
What is your practice that keeps bringing you home? If you are willing, share with us in the comments.