Portland is experiencing a “Weather Event”, again. This time there’s up to a foot of snow around the city. Seattle has loaned us snowplows and crew to run them. People are strongly considering if it is time to salt the roads, which has been a no-go for my whole life; Portland doesn’t salt, for a number of reasons.
This has meant that my home practice has been even more important. It wasn’t my intention to open the year with 3 posts about creating a personal practice, but since this year has begun with so many cancelations due to weather, it makes for an obvious choice of topics!
These days I’m teaching 12 classes a week. Mondays through Fridays I get up, feed our companion animals, and get ready to teach. I don’t have to leave especially early, but have to be mindful of traffic. I try to catch a moment of sitting meditation before teaching. I teach at least one, but some days 3 or 4 classes. In the evening I write in a daily journal, do some movement, often to soothe the efforts of teaching & commuting, and more seated meditation. When this schedule is thrown off by a foot of snow in a city that only sees snow like this once a decade, or some other reason, it shows.
Practice helps me maintain my equilibrium and focus. The practice of teaching expands this, adding additional elements that come into play when you’re facilitating the learning and practice of others. When I forget a piece, I feel the distractions of this world more deeply and fret. I also make mistakes.
This week it was a pre-made pizza crust.
Knowing I wasn’t going to rush out to teach on Thursday morning, I instead sat down to work on a project on my computer after feeding our animal companions. I rather thoughtlessly skipped that morning moment of mindfulness and dove right into the noise of the internet, then onto some house tasks since we wouldn’t be going anywhere all day. It certainly felt productive.
By evening, I had a headache, felt anxious from reading too much news of the day, and hadn’t really eaten well. We were foraging out of the freezer and fridge, I’d decided to make a kind of “taco pizza” with a pre-made crust, some leftover taco filling, corn, and refried beans instead of sauce. Of course I’d used the cardboard that was supporting the crust while putting on all the toppings. I looked at the directions and realized that I could pop it into the oven, then do 15 minutes of sitting meditation while it cooked. Perfect!
A few minutes into my attempt to settle my mind by following my breath my spouse yelled to me, ““Hon, did the directions say to cook the pizza on the cardboard it came with?”
I was so distracted that I put the whole thing in there, cardboard and all! My wife wouldn’t normally interrupt my meditation time, but this was pretty exceptional. I paused my timer and ran to the kitchen. As I rescued my pizza she asked, “Have you practiced today?”
I laughed and mentioned my decision to use the pizza cook time as a meditation timer, for the first time all day. To someone who lives with me, it is pretty obvious when I skip practice.
Luckily it was a very minor mistake, one that gave us a good laugh. There wasn’t a fire and my pizza was fine, really pretty tasty. It is the perfect demonstration of how consistency in our practice makes all the difference. I skipped the morning centering I do and spent the day fighting distraction, only making it worse as the day wore on.
Classes are great, you get a better understanding of the postures, the breath work, and meditation. You get to practice with the insight of someone without all the same baggage you will have about your own practice. When you don’t have a class, when you are thrown off your schedule, when you’re in a secluded retreat by yourself, your Sadhana, your personal practice, is what sustains you. It is those times when you take the bits and pieces from class and distill them into what meets the needs of your whole self.
Practice isn’t something we take a vacation from, it is the means by which we keep the energy of information flowing and integrating.
Photo courtesy of Christie Koehler, 2017