Practice kindness and you become kinder. Practice meditation, and you meditate better and more easily. Practice writing and your writing skills flourish.
We can’t master and integrate anything in life without good old practice. It is through practice that we improve our skills, not only the hard skills but also personal qualities and virtues.
However, what we don’t realize is that we’re always practicing things. By always I mean always: all the time, including, right now.
Given that most of what we do are patterns that we perform day after day, beliefs and mental models that run in our mind in loops, and emotional rebounds and stories we are attached to, surprise surprise, these are all things we are practicing, simply because that’s what we’re experiencing and living.
In other words, we’re mostly engaging in unconscious practice – and that is how our ways crystallize, as they keep being repeated.
In hands-on practical terms, if we go around doing our everyday things out of fear, loneliness, or selfishness, then we get to grow more of these qualities, for this is what we are practicing by acting on them.
Practice works for everything – even what we don’t wish to pursue. Practice selfishness and fear and scarcity prevails. Practice sitting on the couch watching TV and your dreams don’t flourish.
Consciousness Is Key
The key is to bring your attention to what you are doing – within and without. That’s right, not just the act in itself, but the inner process that is going through inside of you. In other words, become conscious of your present moment.
Most importantly – why are you doing these things? It is a high level of intentionality that shifts your practice, your energy, and, ultimately, your life.
Where attention goes, energy flows.
Your attention is the most precious resource in your life. That’s because wherever your attention is going, that is what you experience in life. Where your attention goes, so goes your energy.
Here’s an example. Your favorite thing is to go for walks in the woods. Yet, there are different ways to do that. You can go for a walk in the woods and be completely immersed in nature, relaxed, enjoying the smell and the beauty. Or, you can be there walking with your mind somewhere else, on your phone nonstop, worried about that person or that work project. It is exactly the same thing, but your attention is in completely different spaces, and because of that, your experience is dramatically different.
It is obvious – yet, we keep letting it slip away in the simplest things.
Master Your Attention, Master Your Life
Practice, practice, practice – with attention.
What do you want? What is it that you want to expand in your life? What is it that you want to let go of? To bring in what you want and to let go of what you don’t want require consciousness and willingness. By bringing your full attention and presence to this moment you can shift, right here, right now.
Good practice is more than just doing something to cross it from your to-do list, for doing it’s sake. Say you’re playing basketball, but you’re not really there, your mind is somewhere else. That is not the type of practice that brings good fruits.
Not all practice is the same. It is possible to practice less of something, and yet get better results. That’s because we can practice smarter, with more awareness, and more mental capacity to understand what we can improve and shift accordingly. As a consequence, we get better results. Practice oftentimes is not about doing more, but about doing it with more focus, and wiser.
It requires more energy, though. And because we are so great at saving our energy, we oftentimes end up having to struggle with time, instead of giving 110% of us in wiser ways. I know this sounds like a huge project of its on but here me out:
Lifetime is practice time. It is about being present in your life!
Allow yourself to be present. Allow yourself to care about life, giving more of yourself to your life. Keeping your awareness.
Total presence is one of the major practices in spiritual growth, for a good reason.
I know I keep telling this as if it was super easy and I know it isn’t. It takes lots of energy to be present. That’s why we’re so unconscious most of the time. It saves us so much energy, yet that’s how we keep repeating loops and behaviors and patterns that keep crystallizing.
It becomes harder and harder for us to free ourselves from ourselves, from our bottlenecks, from our mental models.
It all begins with bringing our presence and train our minds to be here now.
Because here’s the thing, when we lose our minds, we lose ourselves. When we are doing things absent-mindedly, we are unconscious of what we’re doing, which means we’re unconscious of our own life.
When we’re not present, we cannot bring our attention and care. We disconnect and lose ourselves.
Where Is Your Attention Going?
Is your attention going where you want it to go, or are you getting distracted?
Remember, what you practice is what you’re nurturing. If you are practicing being absent-minded, you are practicing not being there in your own life. I know you don’t want to be absent-minded, and that if you are practicing this it is unconscious.
On the one hand, good practice takes energy and mental capacity. On the other hand, seeds need nurturing to grow, and that is what presence is: it nurtures those seeds so they can grow and expand in our lives and become our new ways of living, our new skills, our new qualities, our new virtues.
At the same time, we can’t care about everything. We can’t do 10,000 things every day. We live in a society that is busy, worried, and never stops. We can’t keep aware of so many things every day.
Living in a sick society, part of our presence is our ability to stick with ourselves. Great mastery comes from this alone.
Part of the exercise of nurturing what you care about is to be able to say no to things that are not that important.
Priorities are a super tricky thing in life because it means saying no, not only to things that you don’t want, but to things that maybe you would actually like, but they are just what is most important. This is where most people get lost: they think that everything they want should be a yes, but think twice. There are too many cool things in life for that to work out.
It is part of the understanding that we cannot do everything, at least not all at once. Your attention is the most precious thing in your life, which means you need to choose how you use it wisely.
This is part of making peace with a mind that is restless and always wants more – and return to the clarity, simplicity, and peace of your heart. It is your mind that lives in FOMO and wants everything – your heart is a spacious and clear space.
Sometimes we need to choose what we practice, where we put our attention on, and let go of the rest. It is about stopping to struggle with ourselves. In other words, know what you care about and surrender to it, with your full presence and life. Release from the rest.
Here is a contemplation exercise for you. This exercise contains three questions for you to reflect on, so take some time to go deep into your answers. I invite you to take 10 minutes with pen and paper to answer these.
Q1: What is it that you want in your life?
Q2: What is it that you need to nurture in your life, to get that which you want? In other words, what are the habits, the feelings, the ways of being that are missing now in your life, that are the bridge between where you are now and what you want?
Q3: What are you letting go of in your life right now to make space for that which you want?
9 Reasons Why You Don’t Know What You Want
This straightforward book brings powerful insights into why you feel unclear in life.
You also get eight practical ways to clear your confusion and get clarity.