“Practice, practice, practice and all will come…” -Shri K. Pattabhi Jois
I woke up Saturday to the birdlike sound of a flute playing a raga, listening as the sound wandered, swooping down, climbing up, and meandering through the morning quiet. Sleeping downstairs from me for the weekend was master bamboo flautist Steve Gorn. who was engaged in his morning practice. In the bedroom next to mine, Sianna Sherman was on her asana mat and across the hall, our host, Sue Elkind, was deep in meditation. As I moved through my own morning rituals of meditation and asana, the sound of the flute connected us, telling the story of our love for our own practices.
The reason why I share this moment is to make a point about practice. All of these people are brilliant practitioners who had converged for a weekend Intensive at Dig Yoga in Lambertville, NJ, along with the brilliant Tantric scholar Paul Muller-Ortega. These individuals have more skill in their fields than most people dream of acquiring in a lifetime. But what do they do first thing in the morning? They practice. Clearly, they all have a natural gift, but without practice, the gift might never have emerged or fulfilled its potential. Their brilliance, like everyone’s, is in a state of continual evolution. Without practice, it can’t grow, develop, or flourish. The gift shrivels, like a neglected plant.
Accepting that moments of frustration and dissatisfaction are part of a whole that also contains contentment, curiosity, and sometimes ecstasy, is part of being a mature practitioner of any art. Yoga-running-writing-painting-cooking-singing-whatever. My teacher, John Friend, reminds us of how many times he had to fall in a pose to get to where he is now. And it never ends. That’s the beauty of having a practice. As Paul Muller-Ortega said to us on the last day of the Intensive, “You cultivate this path with love, commitment, dedication, vigilance…Life is the process of refinement.” And to refine, you have to practice.