1 a : carry out, apply <practice what you preach> b : to do or perform often, customarily, or habitually <practice politeness> c : to be professionally engaged in <practice medicine>
2 a : to perform or work at repeatedly so as to become proficient <practice the act> b : to train by repeated exercises <practice pupils in penmanship>
I have been doing insight meditation as part of the Winter Feast for the Soul, and in the talks at the beginning, “practice” comes up often. Meditation is an important practice in many types of Buddhism, as it is in some parts of Christianity and other religions. Mindfulness, paying attention to what is happening each moment, is another practice especially associated with Buddhism, but which can be found in Christianity, also. Prayer is, of course, a practice, as is worship.
I grew up in a part of Christianity, the American Baptist church, which had very few practices. Study of religion in Sunday School was one, Sunday morning worship, daily individual prayers, and in our family, a daily brief reading and prayer as a family, and grace before meals. Beyond this, there was not particular guidance on how to live daily life, beyond the Ten Commandments, which tell you what not to do, and Jesus’s overriding command to love, which is not specific.
Like many others in the 60s, I discovered Buddhism in college, and thought about meditation and mindfulness, but didn’t really practice. Starting my own household, there were a few things I started doing that I meant to put my beliefs into practice: being vegetarian for a while, and then eating little meat; using cloth napkins and sponges instead of paper napkins and towels; composting and recycling; trying to eat “real”, natural and whole foods; living simply. When I was a new mother and a branch librarian in a Jewish neighborhood, I became fascinated with Jewish household books, which give detailed instructions on not just keeping kosher, which most non-Jews have heard of, but the many other lesser-known aspects of traditional and Orthodox Jewish life I didn’t know about. I was envious of Jews, who have developed rituals and prayers for everyday acts, to continually remind of the sacred.
We added a few family rituals, lighting candles for family dinners and saying grace. We tried to add nothing to our lives that was not useful or beautiful, preferably both. We tried to be outdoors and really see nature often. But I think now there was not as much real practice as there might have been. Now that I have more time to explore and to practice, I am trying several different practices, which I will be sharing a bit about here.