What do we mean by the word ‘practice’

Sweeping floor

Buddhists use the word, ‘practice’, a lot. But what do we mean by ‘practice’? It is often, maybe most of the time, used to denote meditation – that is, sitting, or sometimes walking, meditation – whether alone or with others. But formal meditation is only one aspect of practice.

We could define practice as: learning and demonstrating the art of awakening – the art of living with, and in, impermanence and contingency. Practice is the moment-by-moment realisation of awakening – the word, realisation, referring both to coming to understanding, and to demonstrating our understanding by how we think, feel, speak and act.

Anytime we are learning the art of awakening we are involved in practice – whether it is in sitting meditation, or in any other activity where we are mindful, open and responsive. If we are attentive and present – engaged yet non-attached and non-reactive – then any activity is a mode of practice. Standing, sitting, lying, walking, running, cycling, swimming – these become significant forms of practice. Listening to what someone says; speaking; digging the garden; cleaning teeth, washing-up, taking the kids to school; putting out the rubbish bins; waiting for a bus or train; going to work and being at work – these can all be forms of practice if approached in a mindful, attentive and caring way. PRACTICE IS DAILY LIFE – DAILY LIFE IS PRACTICE.