Practice

What is a “practice”? You may have heard this word before and wondered. People these days will talk about something that they do as being part of their practice. Your practice is anything you do mindfully and intentionally.

In the same way that you have to practice playing piano to get better at it, you have to adopt a practice for life to get better at it.

The interesting part is that there is not just one way to practice. Anything you choose mindfully can be your practice. You can have several practices and they can change over time. You don’t have to keep the same one. In fact, when your practice becomes stale is a good time to reexamine it. It may be time to change it. It may also be time to stick with it and dig deeper.

There are just as many practices as there are people. Gardening can be a practice. So can walking outside. So can painting, drawing, and writing. Eating vegetarian, or raw, or local can be a practice. Being part of a group class at the Y is just as valid a path as exercising at home alone to a video or making it up yourself.

The only constant to a practice is that it must be intentionally chosen. It can’t just be something you do because that is what you’ve always done. It can’t be something you do when you are bored. It has to be the exact opposite of an addiction.

How do you pick a practice?

First, think of where you want to go. If you don’t have a goal, you aren’t being intentional. Now, your practice may be the goal. You may find yourself opening up and growing just by adopting a practice.

A practice is like a map that gets you there. If you want to go to Cleveland and you have never been there you’ll either ask someone who has or you’ll get a map. The same is with a practice. Ask people who are good at what they do and enjoy it. Ask people you admire, either friends or experts (the two can be the same thing) what they did (or do) Read a book or twelve. Pray for guidance. Ask God/Source/the Divine to show you what direction you should go.

Then pick something and do it. It will be awkward at first. Give it some time. If it doesn’t feel like a good fit for you, try something else. You can’t get there if you have on the wrong shoes. Sometimes the practice works for someone else but it doesn’t fit you. That is normal. It doesn’t mean you are wrong. It means the practice is wrong for you.

Your practice may be to fully participate in your religion. Practice doesn’t have to be something new, it can be something old. You don’t have to take up a new habit or hobby. You can just do what you already do, but more mindfully.

You can find enlightenment through almost any path. Even doing a jigsaw puzzle can teach you a valuable lesson. Being open and childlike is essential. If your practice becomes like a job, then it isn’t a practice anymore.

It helps if your practice helps others. Sure, you need some inward focus too. You can’t help others very well if you are broken. If you are off balance and you try to catch someone else who is off balance you will both fall. But a practice that is all self-focused will be tight, like a flower bud that isn’t open. Flowers are made to open and be delightful. So are we.

On Light Language, and uncovering myself.

For years I’ve suppressed who I am. This may not seem like a true statement to people who know me. They see me as a free spirit, an artist, a creator. They see me as someone who isn’t afraid to speak her truth.

This is true, but there’s more. In this past year of writing I’ve opened up more. I’ve gotten looser. I’ve stretched far enough to reach parts of myself I’d forgotten, or chosen to forget. I’ve suppressed my true nature because it isn’t socially acceptable. It’s weird. I’ve feared I’ll be looked at strangely – more than I already am.

However, in these last few years I’ve found new people who see the world like I do. I’ve found visionaries, seers, misfits all. I’ve found folks who hear a call that others don’t, or won’t admit that they do. We are finding strength in our friendships. When we share our stories, we know we aren’t alone, we aren’t crazy.

If others hear the same call, you know you aren’t making it up. Part of being different is being brave enough to speak your truth, in part so that others can speak their truth. When one person admits that they see the world differently, it gives others permission to admit that they see it that way too.

It is as if the rest of world is colorblind. I’ve tried to speak of other colors, of the vibrant fire of red and the cool healing of green, and the world just looks at me like I’m a sweet little child to be humored. They can only see yellow and blue. They don’t know what I’m talking about. They’ve patted me on the head and said “That’s nice” and gone on their way.

For years I thought I wasn’t seeing correctly. Now I know better. I’ve met others who see these colors too, and paint in them, sing in them, dance in them. I know, that we know, that this is a reality.

This painting is speaking to that.

This is the final version. Fortunately I’d taken a picture of a previous version to share with you.

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(I apologize for the dark corner – I’ve included a better picture of it later.)

It started off as an accident, but we know there are no accidents. Accidents are just events that we didn’t plan for. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t meant to happen.

I was painting something else and had a lot of paint left over. These days, I paint by putting blobs of paint right on the canvas and mixing it with my fingers. It is very fun, but very messy. I didn’t want to waste the paint that was still on my fingers. There was a lot, and it had swirled in really interesting ways. I’d hoped to keep the project going in a new way.

I took another canvas out and wiped the rest of the paint off my fingers onto it. There wasn’t enough paint to cover the canvas and I’d already put up most of my paint tubes. I then decided to paint over it with white so I could use the canvas for something else later. Then, after covering it with white, I scribbled on it. I did something that I’ve done for years but not known what I was doing.

It looks like shorthand, but it isn’t. It doesn’t look like any language I know. It is quick, and free, and it just feels like it needs to be this way. There is a rhythm, a pattern that happens when I write like this. It isn’t really scribbling. It feels like writing, but I don’t know what it says.

One of my new friends has introduced me to a term for this. It is called “light language.” It is like speaking in tongues, but it is visual. The fact that she is writing a book about it using information from many other people who do this too makes me feel better. It makes me not feel like a weirdo. There are YouTube videos of people speaking and signing in light language as well.

It looked like this.

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I really liked how the color from the first application of paint showed through the white. I didn’t like how the canvas showed through though. I decided to let it dry and think about it.

A few days later I painted over it with a lot of beautiful dark colors. I loved the swirls and whorls. One side effect is that the first example of light language showed through. I’d not planned on that. I’d hoped it would be filled in and covered up by the paint. This is deeply meaningful. Once again I’m trying to suppress myself, my true nature.

I almost didn’t want to go on with the second part of the project because I liked the color paths I’d created. But, it is just paint. Part of my practice these days is learning to accept change and that I can’t keep everything to myself. I’ve got to let some things go.

Part of my practice is also learning that some things can’t be done in a day, or a week, or a month, or a year. Some things take a while. You have to let something dry. You have to wait until you have the right part. You have to wait until you learn a new technique. You have to wait until you are ready for the art to be created through you.

I’m learning the balance between action and inaction, and that inaction doesn’t always mean sloth.

I painted over this but left the bottom right corner exposed. I wanted to show the beauty underneath. I didn’t want it all hidden. I also like that you can see the light language I covered up when I painted over it.

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This piece speaks to my years of hiding myself and my abilities. It speaks to self-censorship and of fear of ridicule. It speaks of finally finding my voice and delighting in it. It speaks of the joy of knowing that I’m heard in a compassionate way. It speaks of a new community of people who see in full color and aren’t afraid to admit it.

I’ve dated it, because the day I finished it is St. Brigid’s feast day, and the day before Imbolc. It is a day of new beginnings, and of the new and the old merging. It is a day of unveiling. This bodes well for a new year of new discoveries.

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