Practice (Abhyasa)

By Shana Kuhn-Siegel, October, 2007

I took a class with Genevieve Kapuler this morning and was humbled by the precision and the poetry of her instruction. The insightfulness of her teaching inspired me to remain present. There was no escaping. I confronted new boundaries, made realizations and then watched as my mind attempted to fix them in a state of ‘knowing’, I lost my balance and then found it again, I learned, but mostly I was reminded to refine, encouraged to move deeper and deeper into my experience on a moment to moment basis.

It is amazing how much there is to uncover as well as how far there is to travel when each step is taken mindfully. It is astounding what the practice can become when it is approached that skillfully. It is delicate and profound, but simple nonetheless. All the practice seems to ask is that I pay precise attention to what is being delivered – whether by my teachers or from what I uncover elsewhere – and then, that I explore and observe how I receive that information.

Finding time for daily practice can be a challenge, but it is the very thing that most of us need. So why is that time so hard to make? Why is it far easier to float along as our habitual selves when most of the time those habits seem only to lead to greater frustration and more suffering? I shudder to think how many times there have been in my life that I wish I could have slid a string of words back into my mouth as they were emerging or have listened with more care before I reacted. And yet, those kinds of realizations have become the impetus for my practice as well as its substance.

Pema Chodron writes, “We already have everything that we need.” So why is it that so much of the time, so many of us feel quite the opposite? I can only speak from my own experience and say that my struggle against the innate intelligence to which Chodron refers is fear, the fear that I might not have the answer, but as I am slowly learning, the real beauty of the practice comes, as Rilke advises, by living these questions. That takes practice.

Paying attention is a practice. Patience is a practice. Being is a practice. Mindfulness is a practice. Practice, practice, practice. I have only just begun to peel back the layers in my own practice, but what has been revealed has been worth every effort I have made.

Whatever your method, make a commitment to your practice. Collect wisdom. Challenge your habits and beliefs. It might just be the key to freeing all beings everywhere from suffering, which includes you. Now isn’t that worthy of investigation?

Shana Kuhn-Siegel

Shana Seigel has been teaching yoga for over 15 years after she took the first-ever teacher training program offered at Yoga Shanti in Sag Harbor. After getting her Masters in Social Work from NYU, she ran the the first Urban Zen Foundation, a nonprofit started by Donna Karan, the pilot program held at Beth Israel Hospital. Shana is grateful for all the teachers she studied with over the years, especially Colleen Saidman Yee and Rodney Yee. She is also inspired by the groundbreaking work of Nevine Michaan and her Katonah Yoga method. Shana’s classes are playful, intuitive and challenge students to move beyond limiting beliefs. She is grateful for all her students and for her private clients who offer her opportunities to learn more every day. She is especially grateful for having met her spiritual mentor ten years ago who inspires and challenges her to live each day authentically and in constant pursuit of the truth!

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