The idea of a “daily practice” is one that has a lot of popularity these days but like so many popular ideas, it is often not very well understood.
There are books, authors, teachers and preachers who are all too happy to tell you the whats, hows, and whys of daily practice, your daily practice.
And many of us try in good faith to follow “the rules” to get up at a certain time every single day and do the prayer or chant or drumming or make the offering as best they can.
I don’t think that is necessarily a bad or harmful approach, but as the topic comes up for my students and clients every year, I would also say this: there is a difference between a practice and a system.
Choose to cultivate practice.
Do not plug yourself into (especially someone else’s) system.
A system most frequently is a series of steps developed by someone else and presented as a “silver bullet”.
So it is that we are told if we do these 10 specific things we will definitely have the following outcomes which are usually some version of perfect health, perfect beauty, lots of money and great sex all the time — according to some vague, societal standard and not one’s own sense of what is right, best, and most appropriate for oneself.
Any kind of “systems” thinking relies on certain basic assumptions, the number one being that people — you and I — are not soulful and nuanced beings but that we are much more like computers or machines so that input determines output.
It is not so, Miracles. Don’t buy it.
Practice, coming to us from the ancient Greek “prassein” means deed or act and it is contrasted to “theory” or idea.
Not contrasted in the sense of working against one another, but in the sense that they work together…your understanding informs your practices and your practices inform your understanding.
For this reason, practice cannot be laid out as a system, we are each unique and our understandings, our knowings are just as unique.
I would also remind everyone who has tried and failed at one daily practice or another to remember this: in faerie tales encounters between mortals and the Otherworld do not happen in high ceremonial settings.
They do not occur when people are surrounded by candles and sitting in a meditative stance.
They happen when people are doing everyday business: milking cows, washing clothes, bringing in a herd of sheep.
The times past from which we glean our myth and faerie stories were full of the daily business of living — two hour long pre-dawn prayer rituals were few and far between.
All of which is to say that your outer practice is a reflection and mirroring of your inner state — it is found in every deed you do and every action you engage in.
So it is that daily practice is not something that should take us away from or require us to be out of “regular, daily life”. Rather the opposite. Daily practice at its deepest puts us right into the mucky middle of life for that is where the magic happens.
A good question to ask oneself as one considers and engages in daily practice is some version of this:
What do I love and honor about the world and my place in it and the ways in which my beloveds and my friends and my enemies inhabit it?
What kind of actions or deeds reflect that love and honoring?
How can I cultivate them more deeply in my own life?
These are the questions that will help you discover what YOUR best daily practices look like, in this moment.