Here I offer my last in the Gifts of Practice series. This piece is on that ever-elusive virtue, persistence.
I Haven’t Been Great at This
Here, my friends, is a virtue I have had to learn later in life than I might like. As a kid, many things—academic, literary. musical, social—came easily to me. I learned that if I could do things easily and get attention for them, why do things that came with difficulty, that required persistence?
Not such a great perspective as life went on. There are too many things in life that don’t come easily, that require determination, diligence, planning and implementation—in a word, persistence.
It wasn’t for many, many years that I began to learn the value and virtue of persistence. In part, I have had help from my family and friends. I have seen the example of others, particularly my brother and my nephew’s mother as they have come again and again to new physical practices, to writing, and to meditation.
Partly, I have had the encouragement and support of my wife, for whom routine and dailiness come more easily than they do for me.
And while I owe all of them a debt of thanks, there is something else that has helped more than I can say: Spiritual practice.
How Does Spiritual Practice Help?
Well, for thing, the simple act of dedicating yourself to doing something every day requires persistence. There are times we don’t want to—as the yogis say—get on the mat. That’s why beginning with tiny, tiny steps is so important. (See my e-book, Your Journey Toward Wisdom for more on the tiny steps you might take.)
For another, nearly every time I’ve done a practice—written in my journal, sung at my altar, gone swimming, meditated, done energy clearing—I feel confirmed in my choice to do those practices. Not every single time, mind you.
Sometimes swimming exhausts me. Sometimes meditation is just plain difficult. Sometimes I’ve forgotten to do something and I just don’t want to make the time to go back in the day and do it. But if I do it, if I persist, there is a sense of accomplishment, joined with the other gifts of the practice.
Not only does persistence engender accomplishment; it engenders more persistence.
Ah, Gentle Discipline
Furthermore, it is—as with so many things—helped by gentle discipline. Sometimes, it is the very act of giving myself permission to take care of ME that allows me to return to practice.
That discipline is about “remembering what I really want”—is something I once read on the wall of a yoga studio. And what I really want is to be peaceful, joyous, and wise. I want to be curious about how my life is changed by practice. I want to be healthful in many realms.
The goals of spiritual practice—even physical practice—need not be about external goals. Not how we look, nor how people perceive us, not weight loss, nor achievement of any kind. While there are gifts of practice, they are mysterious and don’t follow a schedule of appearance.
Like peace (which I wrote about yesterday; you can find the post here), persistence is a gift for which I am profoundly grateful. It has changed my life, and continues to change it every day. It helps me order my environment, take better care of myself and my relationships, and it gives me hope that I can continue to make positive change.
What more can I ask for?
Do You Want This?
If you long for persistence, for determination, and dedication that bears real fruit in your life, sign up today for Growing Our Souls, the January class that meets on Tuesdays at 5 PST/8 EST.
Again, the class starts TODAY. It will include support for you and your practice, whether you have one or not. It will include learning new practices like guided perception, energy clearing, meditation, and prompted writing. It will also include deep sharing about our own experiences of practicing—or not practicing, which is totally okay—and how our lives are or are not supporting our desire for spiritual deepening.
Come join us, for however many of the four classes you can attend. Each class will be recorded and sent to everyone who signs up.
Many, many blessings, and the gifts of practice to you.