Give Good Hugs

October 10, 2013

This weekend I received an amazing gift: One of the best hugs I have ever experienced. I felt so supported, held and loved as my dear friend Christine Price Clark wrapped her arms around me fully, held my chest close to hers and affectionately squeezed me deeply. Afterwards I told her what a great hugger she is. "I consciously practice giving good hugs " she revealed. 

Hugging as a practice? It had never occurred to me. 

Having just come back from teaching a magical weekend retreat with Christine all about bringing our sadhana (spiritual practice, quest) to life, I am re-inspired to look at what and why I practice what I practice. 

Practice: to do or perform something habitually or repeatedly, to make habit of,  to carry out in action. We are always practicing something. Whether it's practicing judging ourselves because we can't do handstand, talking negatively about other people,  practicing giving good hugs, we are creating who we are by what we choose to practice. 

We are what we repeatedly do. 

Being "spiritual" or practicing yoga, meditation and healthy eating does not mean that one day you and your life will be perfect and all your problems will melt away. As obvious as this sounds, for a long time I practiced with the underlying idea that if I did everything right, nothing bad could ever happen. 

When we take time to engage in formal practices; to sit in meditation, to move on our yoga mats, to eat consciously, we do so not to escape pain and achieve perfection, but to practice responding with an open heart when inevitable parts of ourselves and our lives begin to become apparent. When we formally practice, we are training ourselves to be open-heartedly-present, we strengthen our "presence" muscle, so that quality of bringing ourselves open-heartedly and fully to each moment becomes a habit, in other words, our heart opens and we become present to our lives, in all it's aspects. 

"Practice practice all is coming" said the late Guruji, Pattabhi Jois. It's all coming, not just what you prefer, but all of life, the full spectrum of flavors and emotions and experiences. No amount of formal practice will change this. 

What you do everyday matters more then what you do once in a while. It's the cumulative effects of our daily, seemingly small choices, that create our "practices" and experience of life. Do you want to be more loving? Practice being loving and carry it out in your actions. Do not only practice being loving when it's easy and you have a reason to, but practice what responding with love would feel and look like when it's not so easy.  This will strengthen your "love" muscle. Do you want to be more free? Exercise your freedom to choose how you show up to your life. You choose your practices!

Become conscious of what you are practicing; keep your heart open. Practice love. Relentlessly. 

Chantal Russell