What is the purpose of your practice?
Lots of athletes will spend many hours in practice. Runners will do speed work, cyclists will ride miles in the triple digits, and basketball players work on their shot. It’s all about practice for the game.
It wouldn’t make sense for them to focus on the practice itself. Sure, we might have an aim for a particular workout, such as strength or precision. But the purpose of practice is to prepare you for the challenge ahead.
It’s the same with a mediation, yoga, or religious practice.
We might build community in a religious practice, attending church, perhaps not right now, to feed our minds and souls. I remember one pastor at Grace Fellowship saying that church is like the locker room where we get the pep talk. The plan isn’t to stay in the locker room. The plan is to go to the field.
Meditation is the same. We might aim for 20 minutes a day, but looking for a particular achievement in mediation misses the purpose. The purpose of meditation is what happens off the cushion. Meditation serves to prepare you to deal with the bullshit you might encounter, or the bullshit you might have encountered. Sure, you might seek nirvana, enlightenment, samadhi, or divine union, but if you find it, you don’t remain there. You return to your post-cushion world with a better outlook. You might even want to change the world.
And yes, your yoga mat serves the same purpose. An asana practice is the method, not the outcome. Coming to your mat looking to “conquer” a pose is not the outcome. Showing off your complex arm balance while you sport your $150 Lululemon outfit is not the outcome. The outcome is what you do when you step off your mat. Are you working on shedding your ego? Are you becoming less materialistic? Are you living truth?
It makes no sense for us to practice yoga every damned day if the minute we step off the yoga mat, we become an asshole. It makes no sense for us to meditate for several hours a day if we aren’t working on our attachments. It makes no sense for us to keep a religious practice if we condemn those who don’t practice like us.
Whatever we choose to practice, the purpose is to make us better so that we can make the world better.