One of the touchstones of my sitting practice is listening to dharma talks and one of my favorite teachers is Gil Fronsdal of IMC (Insight Meditation Center). I was listening to a recent talk in the early quiet, slanting light of Sunday that feels made of possibility and care, when he said something like "...ethics make it [Buddhism] real."
Now he's specifically not talking about rule based ethics, like "Don't do this, Do that," and I definitely recommend you listen to what he has to say, because he's a masterful teacher. Masterful. The general point at this moment in the talk was that the awareness we practice on the cushion finds life and meaning when we apply it to how we're living in the world. Making this connection is an expression of integrity. Okay, so I added that last bit. You should really listen to the talk, Mr. Fronsdal is amazing.
I immediately started thinking about yoga. [I know, just because I was thinking about yoga doesn't make following my restless little wandering mind less ridiculous while listening to a talk about not following my restless little wandering mind. Irony perceived.] While I'm on the cushion, I'm practicing being awareness rather than getting caught up in it's byproducts. On my mat, I feel like I'm one step closer to bringing that to everyday life, practicing forms and flows, noticing how they feel without getting caught up in any one feeling, practicing kindness and noticing what is rather than what I wish would be.
And bringing that practice home, engaging it without being led, following sensation and intuition is a massive reality check. It feeds my curiosity and questions for when I have a teacher. It keeps me humble as much as it empowers. It takes my cartoon practice of following cues to look like what someone else is leading me towards, and makes it... real. This practice allows those forms and shapes to reveal things hidden in the sinews and synapses of my restless little wandering body and brings life and meaning to the classes I take and teach.
A new student remarked the other day that she'd not thought of home practice before, but it made sense to her because when you're learning anything else - French, piano, cooking - you're supposed to practice at home, on your own. Obviously part of this is that your piano teacher doesn't need to hear every scale you tinkle through to impart the knowledge of key tinkling. But a much bigger part is that it allows you to play, experiment, make adjustments.... listen. To yourself. Not to the teacher, to yourself. Listen.