"It does not make sense! I don't know anymore why I do it..."
A woman I work with told me yesterday that lately it did not make sense anymore, this practice. She did not know 'why' she was doing it. There was no logical answer coming up when asking herself this question so she lost motivation to do any kind of practice and started slacking in practicing what I suggested in her programme, especially the stillness parts I proposed.
"It is a good question!", I told her because clearly as humans we are good at being busybodies, we like to be active all the time. We like to do things. Constantly there is something to be done, but really there is nothing to be done.
Most of the activities we are doing we have created ourselves and often we have forgotten why we started doing them in the first place and how we got here. We are kind of sleeping in all this insect-like activity, automatically going from one thing to the other without giving all of it much thought or letting others do the thinking for us and just follow - as Joseph Bartz talks about in his "Vordenkleistung" lecture.
So why on top of all of that would you add a practice? Well I would say, exactly because of that!
If through observation of ourselves we see that we are often zombie-ing through life - "we are being lived," I often hear - and in this zombie-like state we make our life-decisions of what to do and not to do; what we like and dislike, there is clearly a need of something that shocks us of out this state by making us see who we are and are becoming.
That for me is reason enough 'why' to "practice"!
I practice so I can frequently be horrified by how little I see of reality, to observe that my perspective on what is possible is narrowing year after year, how easily I go with my many emotional states - feeling happy on this moment, sad on the next. I practice so I can see my "double" at work, the one I am when I am dead-in-life to get an up-top view of myself, how I am in relation to the people in my life and in relation to the world I am in.
But important then is when I do choose to practice, I make sure I am not doing it in the same folksy state. I have to be there. It is a conscious decision that I will now do this. Or as Jozef Frucek once told me when talking about an observational practice we were doing: "you can never sleep in 'the Form'".
So in the next phase of her programme I suggested my student to specifically work on this idea, the importance of the start of the practice:
Before practice make it clear to yourself that you are going to practice. You don't just wake up, get out of bed and practice. You wake up, maybe drink a tea or coffee and then tell yourself "I am now going to practice" or you do a bowing movement that you see done in these formal ways of training. You bow forward for yourself and you are telling yourself and reminding yourself that you are now starting your practice: “you are now going to the mountain”.
On this going to the mountain thing, I connected with what a writer I'm now fascinated with, René Daumal, wrote about it. Daumal was befriended with a student of George Gurdjieff and inspired Alejandro Jodorowsky to make his film The Holy Mountain.
Why bother going to the mountain? Here is what Daumal wrote about it:
“You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.”
This for me says very much about a 'why' behind practice, and its relation to life because we are in life and observe, if we are honest to ourselves, that we are not always a-live when we are 'below'.
To me it is about the growing and making stronger a memory of some sorts, another kind of sensing kicks in. Any activity that contributes to this conscious memory is a good practice and has a worthy 'why'. The problem often is this thing that is grown, grows inside of you and only you know it, feel it and can sense it - it cannot be seen, it's not an outwardly impressive skill, won't impress on the instagrams and it cannot be quantified.
So, I ask you: Why do you practice?