What You Practice, You Become

"What you practice you become; what you become has consequences.”

Health and happiness become real possibilities for those who put enthusiastic effort into a daily self-care practice. Indeed, every wellness goal you aspire to depends on effort and practice. If this were not so, it would be easy to achieve your health objectives.

Effort in this case means doing what is necessary to achieve the goal. There are two forms of apathy that prevent a person from doing what is necessary to accomplishment their objectives. They are

  • The voice in your head that causes you to procrastinate by involving you in distracting activities
  • The voice in your head that discourages you, so you give up.

When enthusiasm and calmness are present inside you, the voice in your head changes. It becomes your supporter rather than your detractor. When this happens, the two forms of apathy disappear and correspondingly prevent any added stress and disillusionment from arising.

Aspects of a Daily Self‐Care Practice

Make it a ritual. Create and maintain a sacred space in your home. It won’t happen if you try to practice on the couch in front of the coffee table and magazines. Also, make an altar, upon which you place sacred objects—objects that have special meaning to you, that remind you of spiritual teachers, friends or loved ones, special places, or transition points in your life.

Become a lifelong learner. Do some spiritual reading every day. The way we think is the way we think, and, so far, that’s what’s been causing all the problems. The only way to change the way you think is by putting yourself on a diet of enlightened ideas. This is why I recommend daily reading. Discover the truth about your internal reality (biology and psychology), read about meditation, and find out how the universe works. 

Meditate and be mindful. Engage in daily formal meditation and informal mindfulness practices.

Move. Take some time to participate in daily movement and exercise.

Find a way to give back. Find a way to make your life meaningful (the true source of happiness) by contributing to the welfare of others.

When you begin to practice self‐care, a profound transformation takes place. Here's how: Every moment, millions of neurons link and unlink in your brain. This happens to everyone; it happens to children and old people, the healthy and the sick. The process is slow but powerful. Your brain is in a constant state of change. Scientists call this persistent brain rewiring “neuroplasticity.” Neuroplasticity is driven by the following factors:

  • Whatever a person loves or hates (emotion) captures his or her attention
  • Paying attention focuses the activity of the brain (concentration)
  • Repeatedly concentrating on the same thing causes new neural links to form.

Therefore emotion, concentration, and repetition hold the keys to neuroplasticity. What this means is that, the more a person engages in certain thoughts or actions, the stronger the neural connections associated with those thoughts and actions become. If, on the other hand, a person refrains from engaging in certain thoughts and actions, the neuronal links associated with those thoughts and actions weaken, and can—eventually—break. From this perspective, neuroplasticity is both the basis for learning and memory and also explains how a person might change or heal.

Meditating is a way of self‐directing neuroplasticity. In other words, a person who observes their suffering can learn to heal it. By repeatedly placing attention on, and remaining aware of the flow of thoughts, feelings, and sensations, you will change yourself.

Find out about upcoming programs with Mark Pirtle at Kripalu.

This article was originally published on Mark's website, skillfullyaware.com.

Mark Pirtle is at the forefront of integral thinking in the mindfulness arena. He is a filmmaker, author, public speaker, and "innerpreneur."

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