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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Practice like a champion

My Buddhist teacher shared this photo of a T-shirt she saw someone wearing at the airport, commenting that it seems like a good message.

Practice like a champion.

Since my teacher suggested it, I have to think about it. That's the deal.

What does it mean to practice like a champion?

First of all, you do it a lot. You do it so many times that when you go into a competition, you don't think about where to put your hands or your feet; it's second nature.

You do it with precision. You practice to get better, not just to put in the time. You don't practice bad habits. You practice to correct bad habits. So you bring effort and intention to every session.

And you do it with courage. You try things that you're not sure you can do. You go out of your comfort zone. That's how you learn to do more than when you started.

It's more obvious in some other versions of the shirt that I found online than this one, but the whole slogan is "Practice like a champion/Act like a champion."

That's also a good reminder. You practice with diligence and clarity and intention during meditation so that you bring that to your post-meditation practice. That's why you do it, really -- not for 20 minutes of calm and escape from the torment of thoughts but for a less-stressful life. 

I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about how you can't win at meditation. There's no score. There's no winner and loser -- you're succeeding when you stop comparing yourself to others, when you stop seeing that you're in competition with everything.

Practice, though, is about working with yourself, honing your instincts, correcting habits that make life harder.


So when I sat down on my cushion this week, I said to myself, Practice like a champion. And I sat straighter, applied effort more precisely, and felt more confident. For real.

While I couldn't find a source for the slogan, it seems to be connected often with cheerleading. On a lot of the shirts, the front says, "Cheer like a beast."

A garuda, maybe, or a turquoise dragon. Or, maybe, say your mantras with a Lion's roar of confidence.