My dad is an amateur musician. He started playing the guitar when he was 14 years old, playing along with the Kingston Trio, learning finger picking from Peter Paul and Mary, taking bluegrass classes from the guy up the street, and quietly swearing through Bach.
By the time I came along, he was an accomplished guitarist playing just about any style (that interested him) and with a great ear. He knows how to practice. His whole life, he has been practicing. Sitting alone in his room engulfed in his music, creating connections between his right and left brain, training his ears as well as his great big daddy hands.
I think about playing the guitar. I listen to Ray LaMontagne and Wilco. I hear the rhythm and the chords; I visualize myself playing it. I have a blue guitar, a gift from Daddy. It’s out of its case, tuned, and on a stand in my living room.
But… I don’t actually play the guitar. I love the idea of the guitar. I love the sound of it, the way it feels against my body when I hold it. The way my dad can make music with so much ease. You see, the difference between my dear ole sweet grey-headed daddy and me is that he practices.
I practice yoga, stretching my body, finding more space, listening, and breathing. As a result I receive all the benefits of a strong yoga practice, mental clarity, emotional availability, heightened empathy, and a supple and strong body.
Practice is the way of spiritual life. Too many of us speak tolerance with our tongues while practicing judgment in our hearts. We tell our children to sit down and be humble while our egos over shadow our relationships, causing friction and discord.
It’s not just an American or European thing. It’s a human thing. Allison just came back from a trip across the Far and Middle East, she said regardless of Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim the people all had a firm conviction that their faith, their beliefs were 100% right. The uniformity of these convictions shows me that none of us come into this world naturally full of tolerance.
Just as Daddy spent hours practicing his guitar (and now his sax), we must exercise our spiritual principles. It requires self-awareness, willingness, and a community of people who will hold up a mirror to our unlovely behavior so we can try, ever so haltingly, to practice these principles.
Just for today
I will practice kindness, compassion, selflessness, tolerance, and humility. I will practice brotherly love, willingness, and awareness of God.
God, help me remember that even if I don’t do it well, I can still try to practice being kind. Help me to honestly accept who I am today and grant me the strength and the courage to strive to be more of who you have designed me to be. Don’t let me grow weary, refresh my desire daily as I try to behave more lovingly, more tolerantly, and more humbly.