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#OccupySamsara: The Power of Practice

The news about neural plasticity, the ability of the human brain to develop new neural pathways through repetition, is quite encouraging.  It affirms what the old yogis and meditation masters have been saying about the nature of the mind for thousands of years.  Our personalities are not static, we are not actually stuck in patterns of thought and behavior (although it often feels that way).  We can change ourselves.  The way to do it?  Through practice.

When picking up a new habit or letting go of an old one we may notice that the old pathways still feel "right" while the new ones feel awkward.  But we persevere and notice the new habit forming.

It seems that it doesn't really matter as much what the practice is as long as you have a practice, something that you are consciously working toward.  And the payoff (or karma) is that you will improve at doing whatever you practice be it yoga asana, meditation, drawing, facilitating meetings, performing comedy, writing, talking about feelings honestly with your partner, brewing tea, dog walking, engineering, math, Photoshop, coding, molding figures out of clay, scrap-booking, making jewelry... on and on.  The important thing is to do it.  Action is the differentiator. 

Watching the Food Network for hours every day won't make you a good cook, it will make you good at watching the Food Network.  Only cooking, the actual practice, will improve your culinary skills.  Watching porn and reading erotica won't make you a better lover.  Researching the mechanics of running won't make you a runner.  Your skill will not improve until you put what you learned into practice.

Experience is different from knowledge.  You may know the concepts of love, peace and happiness, but unless you have some kind of practice and feel for yourself those states of being it's all just talk.  Not that there's anything wrong with talk, with discussing ideas.  Communication is also a practice, be it skillful communication or, you know, the other kind.

Practice.  That's all there is to it.  If you want to be a painter, grab a brush.  If you want to be a writer, pick up a pen.  If you want to improve your relationship, talk to your partner about the authentic truth of your experience. 

It may feel awkward at first... later it will get easier, then you'll get good at it... and all of a sudden you are a master.  Still you practice.  And practice will start to actually feel joyful.  What was once hard will feel soft.  What was once uncomfortable will feel natural.  What was once foreign will feel like home.

 

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#OccupySamsara is a column dedicated to the heartfelt yearning for all sentient beings to be safe, happy, healthy, and free from suffering.  Samsara is a Sanskrit word used by Buddhists to describe the cyclical nature of our own and societal suffering and dissatisfaction.

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The Thursday 12 - 1:30pm Sustainable Activism Yoga and Meditation class is free and open to all change-makers, everyone who is working in service to the community.  No experience necessary.  Come as you are.

 
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Comments

Meditation Network

Patrick,
Love the Meditation Network. A little boring... but in a cool kinda way ;)

Anonymous,
I never said that learning is useless. But it isn't much use until put into practice. So researching running, or reading about meditation, or watching the Food Network, or looking up information on how to build rockets are all fine activities. But progress will only come for those who go out and run, or sit on a meditation cushion, or cook, or try building an actual rocket. Sure, learning and "mental rehearsal" are useful, but at some point there has to be effort, or practice, put in.
I'm not seeing it in terms of "I'm right and you're wrong". We are both pointing out useful factors in describing reality.
Thank you for your comment!

Researching the mechanics of

Researching the mechanics of running will make you a better runner, if, while doing so you are imagining yourself doing what they describe. 'mental rehearsal' counts. You can even build muscle mass by focussed visualisation. Look it up. Also, experiences of failure undermine attempts to build new neuropathways, white successes reinforce the new behaviour. So if you feel insecure about having sex and don't have much experience to draw upon, watching good porn or reading about technique or going to a workshop can help increase your chances of having a positive experience. Like if you don't have any idea how to cook then watching the food network will definitely help you become a better cook. In the way that learning about any subject is necessary to become good at it. We could do am experiment to see who is right. Let's see who can build a better rocket. I'll start by acquiring knowledge, and you 'just do it' by experimenting with mixing explosives and let's see who gets it right.

P.S.

Can we start a "Meditation Network" and do the same thing? I could get really good at starting at someone staring at a wall...

Mmmm

"Watching the Food Network for hours every day won't make you a good cook, it will make you good at watching the Food Network. "

Haha, I know some people who might contend with this statement!

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