The case for a Daily Practice

I get the new hygienist at my 6 monthly check-up.

After ten years as a ski-bum, finally having dental benefits means I vaguely dread these appointments – there’s belated penance to be paid for sins of omission and neglect. And the new hygienist, though young and capable, is brusque enough to be a little Scary. Not to mention the sharp instruments she wields.

“Do you scrub when you brush your teeth?” she asks.

“Ummm…” (Is there any point in denying this?)

“Imagine scrubbing the skin on the back of your hand really hard.  You’d scrub it raw. That’s what you’re doing to do your teeth.”

“So you’re telling me I can’t brush twice as hard for half as long?”

“No shortcuts,” she smiles. “Sing Happy Birthday. Brush for the whole song. Gently.”

Be gentle with yourself. Take the time it takes. 

This has been the story of my 2011. Repeated so often and coming at me in so many different ways (in yoga class, in the dentist chair, in the garden, on my bike, building a trail, at the shooting range, in bed with the flu) that I expect they’re going to take my “gifted” card back. *Sorry, we didn’t realise how dense you would turn out to be when we gave this to six-year-old-You.

My constitutional density has turned me into an advocate for a Daily Practice.

It is why I love my friend, the Manifestly Un-Dense Julia McCabe for her Art of Discipline yoga immersions – for not only committing to a personal 6am practice of 2 hours of yoga a day, but for cajoling a class full of sleepy-eyed students to the mat with her.

And it is why I keep checking in on my (also Not Dense) friend Rory Tucker with his Photo a Day project. His curiosity to discover his recurring themes and obsessions has taught me that it is okay to revisit the same things over and over, that sometimes, that return is what it takes for things to sink really deep.

Year Forty One. Photos by Rory Tucker

A daily practice is like standing in the stream of time trying to catch a fish with your bare hands. You’re rarely successful, and you miss far more than you touch, but you really really notice everything… including the strength of the current, the temperature fluctuations in the water, the close calls and near misses, the muscular sashay of the fish, the occasional bird-shadow that will suddenly block the sun.

It is attunement by full immersion.

So I recommit to another year of practice: 30 minutes of yoga, a daily poem, and flossing. Even when I don’t feel like it. Especially then.

Because I owe it to my future self. Not the clean teeth or the memory book or even the opened hips, (which my future self quite desperately wants.)

I want to give myself the power of a habit. The unbroken chain of a daily practice, freed of the burden of back-sliding  to zero. Starting over is the hardest thing. It’s so much gentler just to do it every day. And let it take the time it takes.

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