Not practice in the sense of practice makes perfect. Not like practicing scales, practicing lines, practicing as the rehearsal before a final performance that is to come.
In the world of yoga, in which I have been firmly rooted for the last five years, having a practice is something very positive and personal. As teachers and studio support staff, we talk of helping students develop and maintain their personal practice, we talk of our own practice as the ground for our work, as something changing and evolving and ever alive, ever present.
My practice is my refuge, my home base, my safe place. It is where I go to resource and recharge, to stretch or sweat out the kinks of daily life, to iron out my nerves, my spine, my breath so that I'm ready for the next round.
Here are some more facts about my yoga & meditation practice: it will never be over. It is ongoing, and the point is not to get it right, to do it perfectly (or even to do it well!). The point is to engage with it, to hold it up against the needs and challenges of my daily life and to make adjustments, amendments, so that what I do on the mat or on the cushion (literal or metaphorical) both reflects and supports my daily reality. There is no making perfect. There is just showing up, breathing, moving.
It occurs to me that I would do well to approach motherhood as a practice more often. Much of what I do in my days as a mama is to try to figure out what is the right way to do things. Specifically when it comes to my son's sleep issues (rather, his lack of sleep, or inability or unwillingness to stay asleep), it feels as though there is a magic answer up in the sky, a perfect method of soothing and cooing and leaving-be that will deliver perfect nights of sleep for my family, and that my job is to stare, squint and try to decipher it. At this, I have failed every day. In the long laundry list of things I feel clueless at, here is a random sampling: feeding, playing, signing, napping, dressing (it's cold out--what's a baby to wear?) For each of these, the first assumption is that there is a right way to do things. The second assumption is that I do not know what that is
Here is some relief: there is no final performance for motherhood. There is no test. That means there will be no applause and no gold star, but it also means there will be no judging, no failing grade. There is no perfect. There is just showing up. Every day, whether it's with my son, or on my mat, there is only one question: What is needed right now? And to this, there is only one answer: Love. From there, the particulars of the day flow more or less with ease. What is needed is a hat, a hug, a tickle; a deep breath, a rest, a spinal twist.
What is the practice of motherhood?
Observe what is.
Act with love.
Over and over and over again.