On May 25, 2010 I started a 100 day practice vow with the encouragement of my teacher, Hokai Sobol. It’s a pretty straightforward challenge:

  • 100 days of practice. In a row. (that last part is key)
  • Practice every single day, no matter what, no matter how long.
  • Do the same practice every single day.

(For those of you less skilled in math and the Gregorian calendar, I’m on day 8. It’s cool. I have to use a Mac application to remind me what friggin’ day it is).

Of course, for anyone undertaking a contemplative path, discipline and regular practice is crucial, whatever form that takes, but for me it’s particularly relevant. I have my strengths on the spiritual path. I’m good at going all-or-nothing, like doing a solitary retreat, but the discipline in daily life is a bit more challenging, so this practice vow will be immensely helpful.  Over the last year I have had some breakthroughs and have felt on the verge of another, but I have only been cycling back and forth. There has been real value in the way I have approached practice in the last year, in a more spontaneous manner, but it is time for a different approach, one that bears fruit only discipline can give.

But why do this? Intention has become incredibly important to me in practice, and connecting to these living intentions over and over is what keeps me on the cushion. So, why am I doing this?  I’m serious about waking up. It is both through the practice itself, by itself, and the resulting insights that I am of benefit to others in some way spiritually.

More specifically, there is something beautiful about consistent practice, perhaps even a little paradoxical, and I’ll let Rilke speak this truth as he so elegantly and powerfully does in this passage from Letters to a Young Poet:

…all progress…must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened. Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating.

In this there is no measuring with time, a year doesn’t matter, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means: not numbering and consuming, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stand confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it only comes to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything.

I cannot know when fruition will come, but it is through consistent practice that it will arise and it’s arrival will not be announced. Even though I will practice for 100 days, that number means nothing. It is only important that I do it. And so I practice in these 100 days hopefully with such patience.

I’ll be writing about my practice and experiences here. If you’re doing something similar, please share along in the comments.