Practice, that thing we do on the cushion each day. We may set the timer. Or ring a gong. Sit in a chair, on a yoga mat, or on the ground. We can watch our breath. Recite mantras. Count our mala beads. And visualize enlightened society or any object of refuge we choose to focus upon. We set our intention to benefit all sentient beings. To be better people. More generous. More diligent. More compassionate. Grateful and more helpful rather than harmful.
When does your daily spiritual exercise take place? Does your practice come at a certain time of day? Or is your life your practice? Does practice include every step, conversation, thought, action and breath of each day? I believe this is what the Buddha taught– that we must step into the practice cultivating mindfulness in each and every moment and when we lose our way, as inevitably we all do, we regroup and find our way back.
So work is practice, thinking is practice, action is practice, speech is practice, cleaning is practice, sweeping is practice, feeling is practice, cooking is practice, and how we eat is practice. These daily routines off the cushion are as much practice as being on your cushion being a noble dedicated meditator.
Joan Halifax and Steven Batchelor recently spoke to actualizing “the way” in our daily life as the way of practicing and if there isn’t translation into our everyday life then the question becomes: what are we doing? Joan postulates if we walk out of the room and do not turn off the light we should understand we are “priming global warming” and understand interdependence and the consequentiality of that action. And so practice should be seen as completely integral to the myriad of activities within our life, body, speech and mind.
When we discover our own negativities, our own robotic reactions to life where we create negativity, and we are able to take stock of interdependence — we realize our wish to do less harm in the world becomes our practice with each moment.
Just so veganism can become practice because we deeply know an intensely sentient being must die for us to eat flesh and we do not want to be the cause of death and suffering.
And just so veganism can become practice when we crave a piece of cheese on sandwich, or in a salad but we know connected to the cheese is mother cow enslaved on a farm whose child has been taken from her so that we could eat this cheese from her child’s milk, stolen from her breast.
In this way veganism can and is a form of actualizing practice in our daily lives. We can practice kindness and compassion at every meal. We can be informed of interdependence at every meal.
In the opposite way the standard American diet (SAD) is a form of practice in our daily life which is rooted in greed, attachment and delusion. Eating meat, fish, dairy and eggs harms our body creating a host for diseases to arise but we are delusional when we believe we are creating health. It is greedy from a resource standpoint utilizing protein from plants in a wasteful manner, using excessive amounts of water, fossil fuel, herbicides, pesticides and enormous amounts of fertilizers which end up on the rivers and oceans killing more sentient life in the form of 600 marine dead zones globally.
We can either practice being part of the death and destruction of all sentient life on earth and eat the SAD diet, or we can practice being mindful of the interdependence and interconnectivity of all life helping rather than harming.
Does your daily practice embody the consuming of death, disease, violence and creation of global warming? Or does your daily practice embody peace, connectedness with all life and humbly honor the resources of our world?
Let’s be vigilant and remember eating is practice too.