What is Practice?

In Buddhist circles, people talk regularly about our “practice.” In introducing ourselves, we ask “How long have you been practicing?” Most people have a simple answer, “Oh I’ve been practicing about 15 years now” or “I just started practicing a few months ago.”

When I’m asked this question, I panic. My story of practice has always felt more complicated than that. I usually fumble through an answer, “Well, I’ve been applying Buddhist principles to my life for 8 years. About 5 years ago, I started seeing a therapist who helped me calm down and learn to be mindful of the experiences going on in my body. But up until the last few months, I completely panicked if I sat in meditation for more than 5 minutes. So, um, some time in there my practice started.” When I’ve actually launched into that, people just look a little confused and unsure whether to tell me when they think I started, or just go talk to someone else who is a little less complicated.

I’m going to use my panic as a sign to look more deeply. What is practice? What does it mean to “start a practice” and what activities are required in order for one to say, “I have a practice”? I am writing a series of posts that look at my own history with mindfulness practice, to try to make sense of this seemingly uncomplicated question of “How long have you been practicing?”


One response to “What is Practice?

  1. Pingback: Buddhist Beginnings « Off Trajectory

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