The Practice Before the Practice

The Practice Before the Practice February 5, 2024

There is always a practice before the practice; a sitting before the incomprehensible long enough to feel and sometimes understand the Mystery each instrument and craft is designed to invoke.

In Japan, before an apprentice can clay up his hands and work the wheel, he must watch the master potter for years. In Hawaii, before a young man can ever touch a boat, he must sit on the cliff of his ancestors and simply watch the sea. In Africa, before the children are allowed to drum, they must rub the length of skin stretched over wood and dream of the animal whose heart will guide their hands. In Vienna, the prodigy must visit the piano maker before ever fingering a scale, to see how the keys are carved and put into place. And in Switzerland, legend has it that before the master watchmaker can couple his tiny gears, he must sit long enough to feel the passage of time.

Starting this way enables a love of the process that is life-giving. The legendary cellist Pablo Casals was asked at ninety-two why he still practiced four hours a day. He smiled and replied, “Because I believe I’m making progress.”

It is this sort of deep progress that saves us.


A Question to Walk With: Describe your own experience of the practice before the practice. What difference does it make in how you relate to life?

This is from my book, Drinking from the River of Light. 

Happy New Year! Mark will be guiding some special journeys in 2024 and we’re glad to share all the links here as a reminder:

Falling Down and Getting Up, a Mastery Week at the Modern Elder Academy in Baja, Mexico, Feb 5-10, 2024 

The Gift of Deepening and the Radiance in All Things, a weeklong retreat on a river cruise in France hosted by Global Journeys, May 18-24, 2024.

You Don’t Have to Do It Alone: The Power of Friendship, a Mastery Week at the Modern Elder Academy in Santa Fe, Mexico, Sept 16-21, 2024.  

Saying Yes to Life: The One Life We’re Given, a weeklong retreat in Costa Rica, hosted by Global Journeys, Dec 8-14, 2024.


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