Sending Your Daily Practice Out Into The World

As a teacher, applying what you learn is one of my top goals for my students. It’s also a goal that I have in my non-academic life. I have written here about several of my attempts at a daily practice. The most successful one may be the poetry practice I was able to do 365 times in 2014.

But, if you say “daily practice” I think many people think of something religious or spiritual. Hopefully, they don’t think of daily habits – such as getting a coffee at the local shop on the way to work.

When I was more serious about my meditation practice, it became important to me that the practice moved into some actions in my life. The idea of meditating peacefully on some hilltop or is some tranquil Zen monastery is very appealing. But it also seems very self-indulgent.

Buddhism is generally not taught in America as a religion. Buddhist teachings are offered in a very practical, nonreligious way, and students of any – or no – religious background can benefit from learning them and putting them into practice.

When i stumbled upon the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Germany, that’s what I was thinking about.  EIAB has a mission to not only offer training but also “methods for using Buddha’s teachings to relieve suffering and promote happiness and peace in ourselves, our families, our communities and in the world. ”

The institute operates under Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, the world-renowned meditation teacher, scholar and writer, and Dharma teachers in the Plum Village tradition.

Of course, many people apply Buddhist teachings as a way to release tensions of the body, reduce stress and pain. Moving that into the lives of others makes the practice more powerful. Students in a monastic community profit from the collective energy of mindfulness and concentration and being surrounded by a harmonious community who wish to apply mindfulness into their daily lives. But can that community be made even wider.

I tried yoga twice, but it didn’t work for me. It does work for many others as a practice.

In a post about Yoga from the Heart by Seane Corn, she talks about a concept of “body prayer” where she applies her yoga practice to her humanitarian efforts. (Here’s a video excerpt of her demonstrating the movement of “body prayer”)

Meditation and yoga classes are offered in corporate centers, churches, hospitals, schools and storefront and formal fitness centers. It may seem new and hip but it is a 5,000-year-old spiritual practice even if it is being blended with technology,  modern medical science and with other religious and philosophical perspectives.

I did send my daily poems out into the world. The idea that there was some audience for them was important motivation for continuing. I had responses to the poems via comments, emails and some live conversations with friends and a few people I met through the poems. That was small compared to the way some practices change lives. Something for all of us to consider.

Five Hindrances

The Five Hindrances are the obstacles identified in Zen practice that arise in meditation, as well as in our lives. Each of them has its own way of diverting us off the path.

They can lead you off the path of your Zen practice, but also off the path in life, even if you don’t practice meditation or Zen Buddhism.

In that odd Zen way, as with koans, the hindrances turn you from your practice and they are your practice.

If we had no negative emotional states to confront, we wouldn’t be on the spiritual path at all.

The hindrances are desire, aversion, laziness, restlessness and doubt.

Sensory desire (kāmacchanda) is the particular type of wanting that seeks for happiness through the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and physical feeling.

Aversion or ill-will (vyāpāda) can be the kinds of thought related to wanting to reject, feelings of hostility, resentment, hatred and bitterness.

Laziness AKA sloth-torpor (thīna-middha) is the heaviness of body and dullness of mind which drag one down into disabling inertia and thick depression.

Restlessness (uddhacca-kukkucca) is the inability to calm the mind.

Doubt (vicikicchā) is any lack of conviction or trust.

Which one is the most harmful to your own life practice?

A Daily Photo Practice

Daily practice is a part of many religions and spiritual quests. But the discipline of daily practices doesn’t have to have anything to do with religion or spirituality. The self-discipline of having a daily practice is good for the mind, body, and soul.

My writing online is a daily practice that is spread around in a number of places. It is the best thing I have done in my life to improve my writing. I have tried daily writing practices before. William Stafford and other poets are known for their daily poems. I have tried that short-term – a poem a day for a month, for example. It helps that Stafford when asked about how he could write a poem each day, he replied that he lowered his standards. He didn’t write a gem every day. But he did write every day.

Maybe your practice is yoga, meditation, working in the garden, painting, a time set aside for serious reading. The list of possibilities is long.

One daily practice that I came across this past week is taking a daily photo.


The idea comes from Lisa Bettany, a professional photographer (an iPhone developer and TV & Web personality) based in San Francisco. She references the idea that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in a field. She translates that for photography to about 100 pictures a day for about 5 years.

That sounds like quite a journey, but if it’s something you like to do, it will be a welcome journey.

So, she is encouraging everyone to shoot and share one photo a day for 365 days. To help you with the challenge, she created where you share your daily photos with the world with one tweet.

It’s something you can do with that fancy DSLR, or your cell phone camera, or whatever camera you have.  Then you post it online (look at her suggested list of sites for that below – they will all work for her site) and then tweet it using the hashtag  #mostly365.

It is doable. It is discipline. I wrote about a friend of mine, John LeMasney, who did a daily digital sketch project last year. That was a lot tougher. But, as much as I like to take photos, to do it daily AND post it online AND be satisfied that it was “worth posting” is not as easy as it may sound.

Are you up for the photo challenge?  Are you up for the challenge of any daily practice? I’m going to give it a try.

“Discipline” has a bad bad reputation. It makes you think of school and getting sent to the principal’s office for detention. But discipline is good and necessary.

Lisa’s suggested photo-sharing sites:

  1. Flickr
  2. Twitpic
  3. yfrog
  4. Twitgoo
  5. Mobypicture
  7. Plixi
  8. Instagram
  9. and her own Camera+ for iPhone

Lisa’s portfolio is at