Home Base with Jeff Warren
Home Base with Jeff Warren
Practices Are the Habits We Choose

Practices Are the Habits We Choose

And, eventually, our practices choose us.

*Is making art your practice? We're looking for volunteers to create artwork (in any visual medium) for our meditations. Show your work and support Home Base at the same time! Email info@jeffwarren.org if interested and we'll share more details. Thank you! 

Lately when I go to a new place, I leave a small ceramic skull. I found a bag of them in a bead shop, tiny grimacing heads, blues and greens and oranges. I’ll tuck one into a fold of bark at the base of a tree, or into a crack in a wall of graffiti, or behind a jar of dried lentils in someone’s kitchen. It makes me happy to think about someone finding them later, puzzled, delighted, possibly indifferent.

My little ritual isn’t really for them though – it’s for me. It’s a gratitude practice. I’m always asking life for so many things; this is a way to offer something back. Not materially, but energetically, behaviourally. It’s a practice of knowing I’m in relationship with life. So I leave my skulls, and feel mischievously connected. 

What is a “practice”?

It’s something I think a lot about. Meditation practice, artistic practice, sports practice, therapy practice, work practice, spiritual practice. There are the established practices many people do – yoga, piano, active listening. And there are the weird customized practices people invent – pretending to be a tree, hiding tiny skull beads in public, or darning moth holes while listening to Amy Winehouse.

My working definition of practice is any activity or way of being that we engage in regularly and deliberately. We all have habits that creep up on us and get in our way: the habit of procrastination, for instance.

Practices are the habits we choose. The more we repeat them, the less we seem to choose them. Eventually, our practices choose us. Throughout this process, they have much to teach us about ourselves and the world.

I love hearing the inventiveness and range of people’s practices. For example:

Mary, a writer. Mary has a practice of holding eye contact with animals, even – in her words – “a guinea pig I recently taxidermied.” She explains: “The act of looking deeply into a face tells my nervous system that I’m not alone. In the purest, non-narrative way, it reminds me of the shared experience of being alive.”

Or Richard, a limo driver. For hours on end, he drives. It’s a job, but also, it’s not a job. “I call it ‘windshield time'” he says. “No radio, no talking, just me and the road.” He needs this time, he says. “It gives me peace.”

Practice is an indispensable part of my own life. From my swimming practice, which helps manage my energy, to various awareness practices, which help manage my sanity. Even this writing and sharing is a practice, part of a deliberate strategy I use to connect, to work out creative ideas, to understand my own heart.

What’s your practice?  

Practice is its own creative medium, the medium of mediums, because it directly shapes our moment-to-moment experience of being human. A practice can also be passed around to others, tried on, sampled, explored. From this perspective there’s no hierarchy; no special artist over here, or enlightened person over there. We all have something to teach each other about being human.

Sometimes we don’t realize the significance of our practices until we take the time to describe them. Reading about other people’s practices builds understanding and connection.  To that end, if it appeals, leave a comment below. Just a few lines, describing any or all of:

  1. What practice do you do? (does it have a specific name?)

  2. What is the experience of doing this?

  3. Any noticeable long-term effects?

  4. What has your practice taught you, if anything?

For inspiration, here is Pamela’s practice of listening to the wind: 

“Every night I go outside before bed, sometimes I have so many clothes on I wobble out. I sit in a deck chair and make sure all the lights are out. I live in the country, so it can get pretty dark. I sit for at least 30 minutes and listen to the wind.

It makes me focus on something transient, to impress how ‘a moment’ feels. The wind at first seems very simple, but the more you listen, you can feel how multidimensional it is... volume, speed, direction... what’s in it, rain or leaves etc. Where it’s going, up into the universe with my thoughts, or skimming the surface, loud with other beings and thoughts. It has life. It is life. I breathe the wind.

When I started this practice, I was just aiming to sit still. Then it developed to sounds around me, and after a few months … hours would pass! I am connected to life.” 

Our meditation practice for today is about thanking life. 



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Home Base with Jeff Warren
Home Base with Jeff Warren