One of the first books I read was The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. The opening paragraph is quite powerful. “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth—once we truly understand and accept it—then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
Life being difficult means work needs to be done. Work, of course, is stressful and uncomfortable. We tend to resist it. If we accept life as being made up of work, then it no longer matters. In fact, we relax into work and enjoy it. Acceptance shifts our attention from resisting work to paying attention to it.
I’ve been doing Tai Chi for a few years. Sun Lutang, the originator of Sun style Tai Chi emphasizes the importance of practice. He says: “One must travel far to improve.” He’s emphasizing the importance of practice for mastering Tai Chi.
Practice is essentially work. We tend to relate to practice as something we have to do. We see it as something separate from what we prefer to do in our lives. It’s an inconvenience.
Intrinsic motivation helps us practice. It allows us to observe our own process because it focuses our attention in the moment. Intrinsic motivation aligns us with the learning process naturally. We willingly engage work and practice. Practice isn’t seen as something separate and inconvenient.
When practice constitutes the essence of our lives, it’s no longer practice. It no longer matters that our lives are made up of practice. Practice is simply what we do to live the moments of our lives. Just as intrinsic motivation showed us, we need to be eager to do work. We must be eager to live the moments of our lives. We need to develop the ability to accept and allow the stress, problems, and challenges to move through us, in a sense. Practice is how we process stress; it becomes the mettle for life mastery.
Mastering anything requires constant daily practice. To master life we need to make practice most important. How we use our bodies and minds will determine how well we master our lives. This “how” points to process and quality. Our lives are made of processes and through constant practice we develop quality. That quality comes from having our attention focused in the moment.
It no longer matters that we have work to do each day of our lives. We accept that work constitutes the essence of our lives so we relax into it and enjoy it. We’re going to travel far in our lives so we might as well make practice an integral part of each day.
Practice Tip: Daily Practice
I’ve noticed that I rush through stress, whether climbing or living my life. I need to relax into the stress and enjoy each day. You may be doing the same thing. I’ve begun practicing slowing down. Slowing down shifts attention to subtle nuances that occur in the body and mind. Use this simple daily practice to relax into the stress of life.
Doing with the body: Making coffee or tea in the morning is a doing, not a thinking, process. A doing process requires our attention to be focused in our bodies via our senses. When making your morning beverage, don’t think. Rather, focus your attention on breathing, relaxing, and maintaining eye contact with what you’re doing. Smell the aroma of the coffee or tea.
Thinking with the mind: Planning your day is a thinking process, which means your attention is focused in your mind. When planning your day, don’t do anything else. Rather, focus your attention on identifying the tasks you need to do and prioritizing them.