Two things kept me on my feet and at my desk. First, I genuinely love and am grateful for work that is filled with purpose. It's a privilege to spend my day coaching leaders, helping bring youth-focused publications to life, or designing meetings that foster learning and dialogue. Second, I had people counting on me to show up. (If you're a Happiness Project follower... I'm what Gretchen Rubin calls an Obliger. Give me an outer expectation -- a deadline, a time to meet, a request for a batch of biscotti for a bake sale -- and you can count on me. It's much harder for me to show up for inner expectations -- e.g., I will walk at least a mile a day, even when it's cold and rainy.)
Halfway through the week, I had a chance to talk with some close colleagues about how the new year is going. I realized that focusing on purpose and presence will only take me so far. What's been missing, for nearly all of the last year, is a dedication to practice.
During the year I studied for my coaching certification, I came across the Sanskrit word for dedicated practice: Abhyasa. A 2012 article by Annie Carpenter in Yoga Journal offered this definition:
"[Abhyasa] is the act of making an effort to reach a goal, wholeheartedly and consistently over time. In yoga, this implies discipline, but it is also a movement toward effortlessness. 'Practice' means staying aware of the present moment. This awareness is quickly lost if you get too interested in achieving a pose. Effortlessness arises when you let go of the outcome of practice. You have to make yourself show up, which is hard, but if you stay interested in the practice itself, rather than the goal, effortlessness will come."
I pasted these sentences onto the cover of my class notebook and then stuck them on my office bulletin board as a reminder of several big ideas: Whole-hearted presence. Showing up. Staying with it. Trusting that the practice itself -- whether movement, meditation, prayer, yoga, writing, caregiving, service, work -- matters. That eventually, over time, it will feel easier.
Without what my friend and teacher Jay Fields calls "some sort of daily, non-negotiable practice in which you check in with yourself and try to assess what's true for you that day," it's hard for me to keep showing up for myself and for others.
As the year begins, I want to pay more attention to what I'm practicing, how, and with whom. I'm not much of a resolution-maker, but I do like frameworks. So here's my reflective framework for now: Purpose, Presence, Practice, and People.
How is your new year going? Does the idea of "practice" resonate for you as a way of organizing your day, your week, your year? Please share in the comments, or reach out to me directly.