Practicing Our Way Into Becoming
Some of us believe our lives are determined primarily by our past experiences. They see us following the examples we have experienced. Our lives are responses which reflect the ways we have seen others respond.
Others of us advocate taking personal responsibility for our own lives. Whatever circumstances we have faced in the past, they say, we choose our own lives. They urge us to make wise choices and put them into practice.
There is truth in both perspectives. I see things another way.
Our lives, I believe, are more than how we react to our past or the sum total of our own choices. We spend our lives practicing our way into becoming.
Many of us have made resolutions or tried to build, or stop, some of our habits. We can see how what we do in the immediate present helps us live into the future. Some of us have come to realize how the way we see something in our past affects who we become.
For me, practicing our way into becoming means more than that.
More than our experiences of will power or epiphany, the ways we live today are us practicing our way into becoming. Each time we talk to another person, or ourselves, sends ripples across the pond of our potential selves. How we live affects not only the people whose lives we touch today, but all the people who will ever know us. We are creating our own paths by either putting our values into practice or by not practicing them.
The way we speak, or drive, or think, or feel, shapes who we are becoming. Our spiritual practices are not ways to earn more spiritual life, but ways to become more open to spiritual life.
Who Are We Becoming?
There are days, and nights, when practicing our way into becoming is just too much work. We are like caterpillars which have enclosed themselves in cocoons and just want to be left alone.
Some days are more difficult or more tiring than we feel like doing. We just want to take one day or one hour or a few moments off from practicing. Sometimes we start to wonder whether that is who we want to become anyway.
Those days are the most important, most helpful, for us to remember who we are becoming.
It takes hard work to become who we are becoming. We need to practice so, when opportunities present themselves, we do not miss them.
Practicing our way into becoming is probably not what we expected spiritual life to be like. This is not what we signed up for, not what we were promised.
Some of us were told spiritual life was a series of blissful, comforting events. We would float from one mountain top to the next and our feet would barely touch the ground.
That is not the spiritual life in which I believe. I am not becoming a person who lives like that.
For me, practicing my way into becoming is about making choices. Spiritual life is not about having it all, but about letting go. I have needed to let go of ideas and things and people which were dear to me. It is not easy to let go.
What persuades me to let go is often who I am becoming.
Each of us becomes a new person each day. We need to let go of what holds us back, whatever keeps us from becoming.
Practicing our way into becoming is the challenging, often painful way we emerge from our cocoons.
How Do We Practice Our Way Into Becoming?
Our practice is not about forcing ourselves into being something we are not. It is not as if we are training ourselves or trying to fake it until we make it.
Contemplative practices are not a way to earn spiritual points or create a spiritual reputation. We are not out to let everyone else know we are that person with the great practices.
We practice our way into becoming by being open to what spiritual life is really like. Our practices begin with recognizing how spiritual life actually works.
Many of us have vague notions or assumptions about spiritual life. Some of us think of a man with a beard and long white hair somewhere in the sky or church ladies. We may believe spiritual life does not have much to do with our everyday lives.
Practicing our way into becoming begins when we honestly explore and discover the truth about spiritual life.
Some of us are good at pretending or playing spiritual life. Playing and pretending are not practicing.
We begin practicing our way into becoming when we come face to face with the reality of spiritual life. Spiritual life strips away our artificial constructs.
Becoming Who We Are Intended to Be
My experience with spiritual life is not full of blindingly dramatic transformations. I am transformed by practicing my way into becoming.
Practicing is not magic. We are not living in a fantasy world where we can change ourselves into whoever we want to be. Our practices can show us how to either become more free or how to be stuck where we are.
I believe each of us is on a spiritual journey to become who we are intended to be. It is not an immediate, overnight change over which we have no control.
We are intentionally practicing our way into becoming. Each step on our journey has lessons for us to learn. The people we are intended to be are revealed in our choices and our actions.
Many of us carry a lot of equipment on our journey. We want to be prepared for anything which might possibly happen. Our practice shows us what we can leave by the side of the road.
Each day, each moment is filled with opportunities for us to continue emerging from our cocoons.
Who are we becoming today?
How will we be practicing our way into becoming this week?
[Image by jemasmith]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.