Every morning, I ask myself these four questions:
What am I writing for? What am I practicing for? What am I teaching today? What am I learning?
The answers vary widely yet patterns emerge. I am writing for peace. I am practicing for enlightenment. I am writing to be open to what arises. I am practicing to go with the flow.
What are you creating?
If you’re a writer, “what am I writing for?” is a valid and important inquiry. If you’re another type of artist, you can insert the appropriate word. What am I painting for? What am I singing for? What am I designing for?
It’s also valuable to answer the question, now and again, “Why do I write?” (Why do I paint? Why do I draw? Why do I sew? Why do I act? Why do I play this instrument?)
I write because I feel I must.
I write because I enjoy the act of filling up notebooks. I write because I can. I write because people can really connect through the written word, and what is more precious than a real connection? I write because words are little packets of power. I write because life’s precious and mundane details beg to be documented.
When a subject saunters into view that I feel the urge to explore through writing, I clear my voice and express my ideas. This freedom of expression through writing, like my body’s freedom of expression in yoga, is a genuine and great freedom for which I am eternally grateful.
What is your practice?
Mine is hatha yoga and Buddhist-flavored mindfulness meditation.
But what am I practicing these things for?
I practice yoga and mindfulness for sanity. I practice to maintain and improve my flexibility, strength, balance and focus. I practice to be more kind and compassionate to all beings, including myself. I practice to create space in my mind, body and aura for new ideas to arise. I practice to be a more present, loving partner to my husband and mother to my daughter.
I practice to be present with this breath going in and this breath going out.
I practice to soften. I practice to open. I practice to practice. Yoga and meditation are the means and the end.
What are you teaching?
As a school teacher, my third question is practical: What am I teaching today? What skills will we be working on? What will my students be reading, writing and talking about?
Equally as important: how can I be a model of mindfulness and compassion for my students? How can I teach them to love learning and reading? How can I teach them to explore and think critically? How can I teach them to be present and kind?
Even if you’re not a teacher, you’re a teacher.
So, what are you teaching? Ask yourself.
What are you learning?
Learning is a lifelong process. Learning happens from the moment of birth (or before) until our last exhale.
Failure is learning. We learn by reading, seeing, looking, watching, but most of all by doing. (And by teaching others.)
Currently, I’m reading books about marriage, happiness, Buddhist meditation and the life story of Nelson Mandela. I’m learning how to be a mom to a 1-year-old on the verge of walking. I’m learning how to cook more exotic vegetarian meals. I’m learning how to become a freelance blogger.
I’m learning 1,001 things I don’t even realize I’m learning. Our human brains are just that brilliant.
A huge part of learning is reflection. So, be curious and reflect every day. Ask yourself these sacred, mundane questions in the quiet of each morning or night.
Listen to the answers; they just might change your life.