Caroline Wales

Dear Caroline,

I’ve tried for years to begin and stick to any number of practices. It doesn’t really matter what the practice was, but only one really ever stuck and that was becoming a student. I’ve been through years of higher education, and where this takes a great deal of discipline and stamina, it also takes a kind of soul who seeks that way of life. Not all practices do. This is where I struggle. So, practically and mentally, how do I begin a practice that sticks? Yoga, meditation, exercise, awareness, or flossing for that matter? I need to go beyond the first day of practicing.

Sincerely Stuck in a Rut


Dear Stuck,

Welcome. The rest of the human race embraces you and your familiar struggle! I’m going to give you a lot to think about, but in an effort to skip straight to the punch line, just do it. Sure, Nike said it and so am I. A practice begins in choice. Start here. How much do you want this practice? Any practice? Is it because you desperately need to know that you can or because any one of the things you begin actually means something to you? If something matters, eventually you will learn that it needs to become a priority. I don’t think many individuals truly get this until their 30’s, parenthood, or graduate school. At some point in each of these scenarios, you learn to become good at sifting through the BS and cutting through to what really needs your attention. This is a practice in seeking what matters enough to become priority. Start each day by also noting what does not and then cross that off the list, chuck it out the window; give yourself permission to let that one go and a high five for a job well done.

We are talking real lifestyle change here, so part two requires you to stop putting it off. You’ve figured out how much this matters; now you have to decide how much you matter and realize that you are making this choice for yourself. This, in itself, is a sacred learning experience: how to choose you. We have the option to make choices every single moment, the power to constantly correct our course. How many times would your life have looked a little bit more the way you really wanted it to had you made that choice for yourself and not for a million other reasons and pressures? We are talking about an opportunity that everyone should have, but one that you actually have the option to capitalize on. Don’t waste it. So, softly I ask, with a smile and a slight sense of urgency, what are you waiting for?

Set your intentions to where you want to go with this and what you’d like to gain. No one can know what the process will look like, but you can constantly reach toward that ever-evolving target. This is balance; falling in and out, stretching, modifying, learning, failing and succeeding, feeling empowered, feeling disappointed. Start looking forward to all of it because it’s all a process. That’s all practice really is. Go ahead and make your lists of cans and cant’s, should’s and could’s, all of those expectations that are not desired, but imposed. Give all the reasons you won’t jump back in tomorrow and then let them go. Be ruthlessly kind to yourself and say, “okay, I hear ya’ self, and let’s keep going”. Get real for a minute. What else are you going to do with that time? Work? Sleep? Sure we’d all like to feel more productive and rested, but I’m sure well rounded and satisfied are on that list too. If you need a few weeks of doing nothing before you set that intention to jump in, then take it. Netflix binging will actually run it’s course if you let it, and you know yourself well enough to know that if you are such a seeker then you will eventually want to get off the couch. Become the one witnessing and enjoy the process instead of judging it and yourself. Allow yourself to decide that it’s worth continuing because despite the discomforts that show up, you want it and that is enough. Show up every day at the same time because showing up is the hardest part and a set time coordinates a pattern in your brain. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and visualize the practice in one movement. Ready, set, go!


Feature image by Rolf Tumat

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* The ideas and advice presented here are not a substitute for professional advice. Talk to your psychologist, counselor, physician or health care professional for situations that warrant further analysis.

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