I think I can safely say that everyone knows the concept of Practice. If you practice a craft, you get better at it. You learn simpler ways of doing it. You become more consistent at it. Doing the craft becomes easier for you. With exercise, a kind of practice, your reflexes become faster and your muscles become stronger. The effort you engaged in makes the future attempts easier and more quickly done.
I have been listening, over the last few months, to tapes by Jack Kornfield, a Buddhist teacher and a practitioner for over 40 years, and Pema Chodron, known for her interpretation of Tibetan Buddhism for Western audiences. Quite a bit of their teachings have pointed me towards some understanding of the ideas that thought, our mental reactions to the world around us is also a practice, and has the same consequences.
I saw a woman the other day who showed me quite clearly the consequences of her mental practice. You could see it on her face. Looking at her, it was difficult to imagine her reacting to anything in her day other than with irritation. She was irritated that you stood too close. If she was talking to you, she was irritated that you were too far away. She was irritated at the weather or the traffic. Even her talk about her friends was in terms of how they irritated her. This takes practice. By the time she got to her present age, she had practiced irritation diligently for the majority of her life, and it was now the only filter through which she could see the world.
It is possible to practice contemplating the world as something against you, that your life is continually a stress and a challenge, an illness. For many it is easy to see it that way. For many it would seem obvious that a particular persons life was that way. But I have also seen people coming from lives of incredible difficulties, still thinking well of themselves and others, even their oppressors, purely because of their ways of thinking. That takes practice.
I look at myself, the times of loneliness I have felt, days of depression which come over me at times, and wonder, how have I practiced this before? I know the feelings have come over me many times in my past. It is familiar to me. I have practiced it.
The strange part about thoughts and emotions is that we tend to think of them as out of our hands, inevitable, caused by something outside of ourselves, reactions. I am toying with the notion that it is not necessarily the way it has to be. In these times of difficulty, I think it is appropriate to look at ones thoughts and accept that there is a part of conscious choice in the matter, and as I begin to realize that more and more, I find opportunities to make a different choice.
Sometimes it is through just taking a break, moving away from what is troubling me. Sometimes it is moving towards that which pleases me. That really is a very useful tool. remembering what pleases you. I take great pleasure in the joys available through women. They have always been a powerfully positive (lol, most of the time) force in my life. So, when I can, and admittedly that is not always possible, I think of the wonderful women in my life, one who gives a kiss, one a childish laugh, one who allows me to assist in her exploration, the one who is a Dancer. She makes me smile.
Find the beauty in your life, whatever it may be. Practice bringing it to mind, music, art, people, even work if that is a pleasure, and practice bringing it to mind and holding it close. There are so many parts of me. Here I am The Eroticist, and it is a part of me that gives me joy and humor. I tend to smile here. That is a good thing. It is something to practice.