Have you ever visited a restaurant or boarded an airplane and been subject to that family, you know... the one with the rambunctious, loud children who ignore their parents' pleas to sit still, stop hitting each other, use "inside" voices? Maybe you've been that witness that frowns and exclaims, "those kids have no home training." I've found myself having thoughts like this in the past. I'd comment about a lack of discipline at home which spills over into behaviour outside of the home that is socially uncomfortable.
Daily practice is often a goal of new practitioners, but it is not always an easy, effortless goal. Your mind and your energy and your schedule might be as ranbunctious and disorderly as the children in that family. After years of no practice or haphazard practice, how do you change? How do you develop the disicipline that makes daily practice a reality?
Still Point is starting a new training program for members called One Sangha, a program which starts slower and builds gradually to include all aspects of the previous Intensive Practice program with the addition of community service. One Sangha is divided into three 3-month practice periods, each with more demands than the previous period. The interest meeting is next Sunday. If you live in Metro Detroit and would like support and structure around your practice, this would be a good thing to check out.
I haven't been to the temple in a long time... months. My formal practice has dwindled to nothing. I am seriously considering giving this new program a shot but something holds me back. I don't want to start something only to be swept away again into the chaos that is my daily life. I've been asking myself today, what makes it stick? How do you establish a practice routine that doesn't get blown away when your life gets turned upside down?
I think the answer lies in disicpline and home training.
When life is relatively normal (absent of emergencies, etc.) you have more space to dedicate to building a practice habit. Habit is the key word here. There is a difference between a habit and a wish, desire, or goal. Steven Covey, author of the bestselling Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, defines habits as:
...patterns of behavior composed of three overlapping components: knowledge, desire, and skill.
And while I agree, these three components are requisite ingredients in the recipie that builds habits, I don't think they complete the recipie. Along with knowledge, desire, and skill, you need (or maybe I just need) practice, commitment, and consistency.
- Knowledge - What to do and why to do it
- Skill - How to do it
- Desire - Want to do it
- Practice - Repeatedly do it
- Commitment - Pledge to do it (Not a one-time thing... every day you commit all over again)
- Consistency - Schedule time to do it frequently and stick to the schedule
Sometimes, structure and support help. Participating in a training program with other sangha members can help you renew your commitment and desire. But when you are away from the sangha, somehow you have to overcome laziness and whatever else is blocking you and actively work with these elements until they congeal into habit.
Well, this is my theory. It is time to exercise it to see if it has wings.