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an article by Joan Ruvinsky published in Reaching Out
Does practice make perfect?
It is an age-old practice of deciduous trees to drop their leaves in the fall. One by one the leaf stalks seal themselves away from the twig and falling happens. A little fluttering sound accompanies their practice if the rush of autumn rainstorms does not drown it out. Sometimes bearing witness to this falling event occurs. So practicing watching leaves practicing falling in the fall is just happening.
But somehow, with Yoga, practice often becomes much more self-conscious. What is the reward? If the practice is asana, will I get better at it? Will my health improve? My physical conditioning? If I meditate for an hour a day, will I become happy, calm and centered? Will I become more spiritual? Inherently, there is always a kind of bargaining in this kind of practice. “I” is willing to put in a certain amount of time for some kind of future gain. But, in spite of itself, sometimes, in the middle of all this efforting and end-gaining, there is a moment of grace out of time. No one is practicing. Asana is just happening. Sitting is just happening. And later, someone jumps in and says, “I just had a really good practice”. Once again, separateness has reasserted itself.
Yoga has always been a spiritual practice and has only very recently been divorced from it. Of course the repetition of certain exercises will improve one’s physical conditioning, and of course, concentration exercises will calm and clarify the mind. But is a fit body or a calm mind necessarily spiritual?
There is, it seems, a common agreement that spiritual means exalted, in some way apart from the ordinary, somehow better than, more than, special, extra-ordinary. Are fit bodies and calm minds out of the ordinary? I hesitate to ask the farmer down the road, whose practice has taken him from 4:30 AM onward, with activities appropriate to each passing day for 70 years, with not infrequent all-nighters during calving season. Is this vigil spiritual or merely circumstantial? In spite of itself, often, at the end of such labour, there is a moment of grace, out of time, when birthing is just happening and new life slithers into time. These moments of grace do not appear only during intentional practice or as a consequence thereof.
Life has always been a spiritual practice and when we stop to notice it, Yoga is happening. A certain silence underlies this practice, the simple silence of the perfection of things as they are.
Stretching, like a falling leaf, in inherent perfection, Sitting, like a falling leaf, in inherent perfection, Being, like a falling leaf, in inherent perfection, Practice as inherent perfection, just as it is.
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