Daily Practice: Why You Fear It & Why You Need It

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Sitar | photo by Diana Waldron

We often want short-term satisfaction. When something is hard, like a dream we’re building toward, we easily want to give up and move on, thinking that it wasn’t meant for us —we tell ourselves we didn’t want it that badly anyway.

But what we fail to see is the long-term effect of our actions. We get so lost stumbling over the details that we fail to focus on the bigger vision. Good things—dreams, relationships—take time to build. If we don’t see the results we want as quickly as we want, we doubt our decision; we doubt our capability; we doubt our progress.

Since my main focus over the past six years has been studying Indian classical music, I like to view it through that lens. This music wasn’t created in a day, a few years, or even 20. Great musicians have sacrificed their entire lives in order to learn their craft. This music in particular has been crafted, refined, and passed down over centuries.

One thing that I always find helpful is reading people’s life stories and learning what they’ve gone through and how they’ve overcome their trials. If we don’t look to the struggles of the lives of anyone who’s ever achieved or mastered anything great, then we will drown in our own attempt to climb a similar mountain without support. We need their wisdom, their struggles, their challenges, and their inspiration to serve as a guiding light to us as we face our own journey of following our dreams.

We think we’ve chosen the wrong path because suddenly the work becomes work. The work becomes a commitment, a daily practice to show up once again — even though you might want to fly to another country or go get a cup of coffee or talk with friends or sleep in. And sometimes those choices win. But there is always this incessant feeling that we must keep going. Sometimes it takes walking through the desert for a long time for us to really build or gain anything.

Another thing I find helpful is not to place so much emphasis on what is happening externally but rather how I’m showing up for the work internally.

What’s your mindset like? How’s your attitude? Are you in a problem-solving mood? Or have you fallen into apathy? Are you inspired? Or are you doing things mechanically?

To paraphrase the great yogi Paramahansa Yogananda — when you think you can go no more, go one step further. Intentionally going a little further than your mind’s limitations will prove them to be just what they are—fictitious. The mind wants comfort. If we give into its demands, it will say, “Haha, I got my way again!” And it will then continue to consider itself as the victor of your actions, rather than your pure, divine, limitless soul being the one in control.

Practice is the thing that tethers you to your commitment. Not in a restricting way — it is the discipline that sets you free. We often think freedom means being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want, and go wherever you want. But is this really freedom? After a while, it becomes boring and pointless. We want something deeper and more meaningful.

Practice (or working toward your dreams) is like a fire, and you have to keep the flame going. It is a daily burn. With Indian classical music, we do riyaaz. Riyaaz means practice. This becomes a devotional commitment over time. In the beginning, we’re told we should practice because our teachers say it’s good for us. But at some point a shift happens. We actually become the practice. We become the process. Now it’s no longer, “I am going to practice,” but it becomes the fusion of subject and object, creating a synthesis. Woman and instrument. A bond of unity. It becomes an extension of yourself. In this way, as you’re practicing your art — music, writing, dance, etc. — you are practicing yourself. Cultivating yourself as you do the work.

So, practice! Even if you don’t feel like it. You’ll be glad you did.

Diana Waldron is a writer and a sitarist.

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