Practice

The theme of my life this winter can be summed up in a word: practice. Two-thirds of the way through a memoir, with another four chapters to go and a deadline less than two months away, I have made a commitment to writing practice.

But I am a slow writer, never certain of the way forward, and so I have no choice but to practice patience.

Waiting for words to come, trusting that if I stay here long enough, the next sentence will find its way home to me, requires a certain kind of faith. Faith in mystery and faith in the process — and so I practice faith, too. Faith, it turns out, takes quite a lot of practice.

Yoga practice makes my writing practice possible; in order to sit for hours on end, I must first get up and really move.

Breathing practice fuels the yoga practice; without the union of breath and movement, yoga is just exercise, and I need a little more sustenance from my practice these days than a few leg lifts would provide.

Meditation practice guides me back into my writing, for before I can write so much as a line, I must listen. And in order to listen, I must practice stillness.

Stillness is a challenge, possible only when I practice discipline, for stillness is so not my nature. Discipline practice returns me to my yoga mat day after day, and then it hustles me right back upstairs, to my spot against the bedpillows and my laptop balanced on my knees, and the words on the page, and the view out the window.

I look at the dark curve of mountains against the winter sky, hear the whoosh of wind curling around the corner of the house, the ticking clock, the soft, steady breath of my dog asleep on the rug, and I practice gratitude, for really, what could be better than this – this life, this moment, this practice of pausing and noticing and saying “thank you”?

I used to think of my life in terms of the various roles and responsibilities that made me me: there was motherhood, house work and editing work and writing work, marriage, exercise, spirituality, friendship. Lots of expectations to juggle and jobs to tackle and experiences to either embrace or endure or reject. And never, ever, enough time to fit it all in or get it all done.

Writing was always the first thing to go. How could I sit alone in a room typing words on a screen when there were so many more “important” things I should be doing instead?

But with only a slight shift in imagination, everything has changed. I’ve come to see my life for what it is — not some elaborate story I’ve told myself a thousand times, but simply this: an opportunity to practice.

And suddenly, there is plenty of room and all the time in the world for me to do the only thing I need to do — keep practicing.

A little background: I wrote this post quickly, at the invitation of memoirist and writing teacher extraordinare Marion Roach, who is guest-editing this week over at SheWrites, a terrific site that empowers and informs women writers. (You can read her brilliant “Memoir Manifesto,” in which this little piece is included, here.) When I read Marion’s email, asking if I wanted to contribute something, my first impulse was to say, “Thanks, but no, I’ve got way too much on my plate already.” I was actually about to type just that into my “reply” box, when this started to come out instead. I think it is the first time I’ve ever written anything without thinking about it first. The first time words have ever “just come” to me. (I hear this happens quite often for OTHER writers, but not to me, not ever.) And yet, surprise, there it was. An answer. An affirmative answer rather than the “thanks but no thanks” I was intending to write. And this, I guess, is the benefit of practice. Do anything long enough, regularly enough, and eventually it starts to do you. Even writing practice.

A word about “Unimaginable,” last week’s post: Your comments made me cry. They made my heart overflow with gratitude. They reaffirmed everything I already believe in and cherish about the connections between women, between writers and readers, between friends who have never met. I wanted to answer every single one personally — but I also realized that I couldn’t; all I can do, for now, anyway, is keep writing and hope that you understand. I read every one, though, and I particularly loved the way conversations even sprung up between you, readers reaching out and finding one another right here, in this space. That is nothing less than a dream come true. Thank you.

And finally, in answer to some questions I got about about the Wholeheartedness Playlist widget: If you receive this blog as an email, you won’t see the widget. It’s on the website. Just click on the title in your email, and it’ll take you to my website, where the playlist can be found on the bottom left sidebar. (It’s also a bit easier on the eyes to read the post on the website!) Many thanks, and a Happy Wholehearted Valentines Day to all!

for my reflections & inspiration

your comments

  1. Donna Daniels says:

    I love your writing! I always thought maybe I could write, but it just seems way to hard! I so appreciate that you tell me that it really is! That it takes practice, so maybe one day, with enough practice, who knows? Thanks for keeping at it.

  2. This may sound strange, Katrina, but I read this feeling tremendous gratitude that, at the moment, I do not have to write… and yet I feel as if you are doing this particular work for more than a few of us, at least for me today, and that feels so right and nourishing as I delve, so very slowly, into Rolf and your offering of Meditations from the Matt that Pamela sent so to me… as I vaguely prepare, without thinking too much about it, to teach a parenting workshop at my local yoga studio this weekend… as if the falcon is circling closer and closer and the center coalesces, not in any one place but in the everyplace that all softly opened hearts comprise.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Bruce, You are wise! I think I’d be grateful, too, right now if I weren’t writing. But I guess practice is also about making our peace with where we are and what we’re called to do in the moment — and as we do our work, we do serve one another, as you always so eloquently point out!

  3. “Do anything long enough, regularly enough, and eventually it starts to do you”. Beautifully said….thank you for sharing your words with us.

  4. Thank you for your continued honesty, Katrina. Also, while I was awake in the middle of the night last night, I thought about the gift of this website in my life. I was wishing I could click “like” on the replies…and then I thought that I would probably click “like” on all of them! :)

  5. Thanks so much, Katrina. This is just what I needed to hear as I’m about to send a very personal essay to all my classmates in a Personal Essay Workshop I’m taking, and feeling a bit nervous and anxious about their responses. You reminded me that we all have readers, and the connections we make may happen immediately, or perhaps tomorrow, or sometime in the future. The important thing is to keep practicing!

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      Yes! And when we think in terms of “practice” instead of “perfection” it’s so much easier to release our work into the world, remembering that everyone else is just practicing, too. Good for you!

  6. I found you again via Marion Roach ( a tweet I think ) and I’m profoundly glad.

  7. In the chaos of the moving truck arriving in my driveway, I am tardy as I come to this post. But I love it as much, a few days ‘late’. You always tell me you can’t believe I’m still writing, as our life is turned upside down right now, but I think this post touches on some of my reasons. Recently I’ve been occasionally re-visiting some of my own blog posts, from my first attempts at putting my work ‘out there’, and I am realizing how true it is that ‘practice makes better’(never perfect!). The more I write, the more I know my own voice and the easier another piece comes.
    Thanks for the early morning refresher, as I checked in with you before my household wakes up and the unpacking continues. I cherish your friendship. And I’m willing to read any ‘practice’ you’d like to share!
    Judy
    justonefoot.blogspot.com

  8. Hello and congratulations! You’ve just been awarded the Versatile Blogger Award. I do enjoy reading your posts. There is no pressure to take part, but if you wish to know what it entails, click on: http://beingalivetoday.wordpress.com/2012/02/19/294/.

    Have a great weekend!

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