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Are there benefits in creating a daily practice?

Well, I have two answers. I mean, the ‘up level’ answer is that it doesn’t matter. The answer most of us want to hear, and we need is ‘Yes’. It’s absolutely wonderful to have a daily practice, because most of us are very deeply in the world. We get lost very easily into the stuff of life, so to have a practice that keeps reminding you and pulling you back and awakening you again and again, giving you a chance to look at what happened and how you got lost the day before – putting it all in perspective, is very useful.

Each day I read a little spiritual passage in the morning when I get up. I have them next to my bed, and I’ll just pick one up, and I’ll just open and start the day reading. It’ll just open and start me remembering what the game is about, and it reminds me. That’s a regular spiritual practice. It happens every morning when I get up.

The sitting practice is extremely useful in clearing away and letting you see how your mind keeps creating your universe. Most traditions require a regular practice to get ahead, to move ahead. There are certainly traditions in which no regular practice is required and people do fine, so I can’t say it is necessary, but I certainly find it useful, and I certainly would encourage other people to do it.

You do it from the place of really remembering why you’re doing it, and doing it with some kind of joy and appreciation. If you get into, ‘Oh, I’ve gotta do my practice,’ I mean it’s fine, but that’s what happened to most people when they went to church every Sunday, and they ended up hating religion. I would rather push people away from spiritual practices until they’re hungry for them. I would say to you, spiritual practice is wonderful if you want to do it, and if you don’t, don’t.

I mentioned a little last night that we tend to ‘overthink,’ so we often choose a Sadhana, a spiritual practice, a little before it’s time, or before it chooses us, and we find ourselves in this ‘ought and should’ predicament, where you start out with great love and within a little while, it becomes, “Oh my God, I’ve got to do my practice.” It becomes like another thing like washing dishes.

However, there is value in staying with the practice, even when you don’t want to, especially in meditation practice, because the not wanting to do it is as much grist for the mill of meditation as wanting to do it. It’s the stuff you can work with, with your mind. There is a delicate balance that has to go on inside oneself, recognizing that if you build up too much negative tone to your practice, too much resistance, you’re going to have a reaction to it that’s going to take you away from it for a while, and before you can come back later on.

Now, the other thing is when you say, “I found my practice.” You can’t assume that the practice you found is the practice that’s gonna last you for the rest of your life, because who found that practice is in the course of the practice, and is going to change into somebody else. So the practice that was appropriate for you initially may not be appropriate for you a little way down the line, so you’ve gotta keep staying open – you heed these delicate balances that are going on in you. I see the value of deepening a practice. Like Swami Sivananda said, “Well, you see, you can’t just go around digging shallow wells everywhere. You’ve gotta dig a deep well, so that you get fresh water.”

 

-Ram Dass

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