Practice, Practice, Practice

Buddah Practice Featured Image

We all know the famous joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice, Practice.” Some credit this joke to violinist turned radio and television comedian, Jack Benny. Others have credited the violinist, Jascha Heifetz or pianist, Artur Rubinstein. However, I first heard it from my father, Daddy Lee. He has recounted it throughout my life, whether during my frustrations at having to practice the piano as a child or struggling with my craft as a student of Dramatic Writing at NYU. It’s a clever joke and I appreciate it even more because it highlights the benefits of hard work. However, as of the last few weeks it has been on my mind for another reason.Word Porn Facebook Quote

I only recently seriously started practicing yoga and meditating on a regular basis. It was a last ditch effort to right the ship of my life after a particularly difficult start to 2015. Things had been slowly shifting to a negative place over the course of five years, but I reached a point where life couldn’t continue as it had been. It was hard to establish a yoga and meditation routine and it took a lot of resolve to work up to going to yoga five times a week and meditating every morning. It was made somewhat easier because I simplified my life. I had been working a ridiculously high amount of hours for years, averaging 60-70 hour work weeks between teaching, editing, producing, and managing our company, Morgan’s Mark. I was frustrated with the fruits of my labor, especially since my whole life I was taught if you work hard, good things will come. In fact, the Stiff family motto is, “Luck is the residue of hard work.” While I valued my work ethic, the result often meant I wasn’t taking time to care for myself.

In February of this year, I stepped back from my editing and producing projects. With only my teaching jobs as a responsibility, I embarked on establishing a self-care regiment. After a couple of months, the benefits of this work started to show. When the yoga “started doing me” (as one of my favorite yoga teachers always encourages us to allow) I started noticing all the ways I put my needs aside and focused instead on the needs of my wife, my family, my friends, my students, even strangers. One day I woke up and realized something so small that spoke volumes. I wouldn’t even take enough time for myself in the mornings to lotion my entire body. Only if I had to go to work would I at least cover my knees and elbows. If I couldn’t even take time to do that simple task of self-care, no wonder I wasn’t exercising, eating well, taking time to rest outside of sleeping, or just enjoying life. I had convinced myself that these things could wait until I had reached my goals, which are often career centered. 

Focused, I started eating better, exercising, making and finding time to connect with friends, and enjoying my life. By cutting out half of my responsibilities I had the time and I was using it wisely. I knew that this level of freedom could not continue, but hopefully I would establish a good base from which to grow. About a month ago, things started to shift toward my hectic schedule of the past. As quickly as I had let everything go, I was back to working 60-70 hour weeks. Some unexpected things happened, too. I won’t go into detail because it involves more than just me, but let’s just say I had a couple of one, two punches in the gut. It was the time, more than ever, to use what I had learned. However, the bad habits that I had established for over 30 years saw an opportunity to reemerge. I’ve read that it takes 30 days to establish a habit and 90 days to break one. However, many of the things I struggle with have been habits since I was a child. So, when life began to get more complicated, the first bad habit that reemerged was talking down about myself. The same old records played with resounding clarity in my head, “I’m fat. I’m ugly. I’m a failure.” As an observer, I watched myself fall into the same traps that had suffocated me previously. I would wake up and look at my mala beads, wondering why I wouldn’t pick them up and do my mantras. I would hit the snooze button when my alarm clock went off signaling it was time to go walking at the track and sleep through my workout. I convinced myself that I just couldn’t go to yoga because I needed to work instead.

I was starting the blog while all of this was going on and a part of me felt hypocritical. I knew the things I was talking about could work, but I had taken a major step back. However, I wasn’t a completely lost cause. I was doing some things, if not all, and at least I was aware. Over the last few weeks I’ve been like a scientist trying to recognize my triggers as my schedule returns to “normal.”

Last week I saw this quote on Spirit Rock’s Facebook page:

Spirit Rock Facebook Quote.Photo Credit: Spirit Rock Facebook Page

It gave me pause. Of course it is easier to practice yoga and meditation when life is cooperating with you. It is easier to sit in silence when your own personal demons are not pestering you. When you have free time, finding time for yoga is easy and you actually have time to cook a healthy meal. However, when life gets in the way, throws a curve ball, or sweeps you up, what do you do then? From my yoga classes and my silent retreat, I know the answer. You still practice. You still sit down and try to center yourself when your thoughts are all over the place. If you get sidetracked, you realize it, you stop, and you simply begin again. I realized that I was blessed to have had the time to establish these new habits, but there is no way I can live a utopian existence where life’s challenges never surface. As fear, doubt, and old stories start to creep back in, I have to keep practicing. Instead of looking at my malas in the morning I have to actually use them for meditation. When I’m too tired from the day, I’ve got to find that extra bit of energy that gets me to my yoga class. When I want to eat fast food because it is the quickest option on my way home from work, I need to instead set myself up for success by planning my meals on my day off. I need to carve out an hour a day to read my books on mindfulness. I need to take time for me because if I don’t I will only burn myself out again and the cycle will continue.

Two weeks went by where I didn’t go to yoga. It took everything in me to just go back. It was like when I was hospitalized as a teenager for clinical depression as an outpatient. I missed 9 weeks of my sophomore year of high school. One of the hardest things about that time was returning to school. I knew people would wonder where I had been and ask me questions I didn’t want to answer. I avoided going to school whenever I could and the more I was out, the harder it always was to return. However, I’m no longer a 16-year-old kid. I found myself avoiding my yoga classes because I didn’t want to explain where I had been. I started feeding all those stories that made me feel like hiding. The good thing is, I recognized it. So last week I started going back to class. My good friend, Amy, even joined me for my Saturday classes two weeks in a row. I found knowing someone was there waiting on me, motivated me to show up even more. This was good to get me back on track, but I also fully recognize there is always a good friend waiting on me…and her name is Sheda (that’s my nickname, if you didn’t know!)

Amy and Morgan at YogaWorks

I was talking to my wife and a friend of ours and I commented that I felt like a fraud, struggling the way that I am and talking to people here about the benefits of the practices I have been learning. With their encouragement, I decided to share my struggles with you as well as my tips. Some days I wake up and I do exactly as I know I should do. Other days I wake up and struggle through every step. Then there are some days that I quite simply fail. However, I know that I can always start again the next day, the next hour, the next minute, the next second. No one said it would be easy. In fact, I have heard many people over the last few months talk about the struggles they deal with in their practice of meditation, yoga, and living a mindful existence. Why should I be any different? I am human.

Insight Timer FB ImagePhoto Credit: Insight Timer Facebook Page

I will continue my journey and all that comes with it. I will learn to practice even when life makes it difficult. I will try not beat myself up so much if I find myself off the path. Instead, I will learn how to recognize when I’m veering away from it and make my way back. I will push myself to learn new tactics of dealing with all of life’s curve balls. Finally, I will remember that it is a process and I am a work-in-progress.

When I first heard about mindfulness five years ago, I did a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class at Insight LA. It was my first taste of this particular practice. There was a poem in our workbook that I think of often and it comes to mind now.

Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters
by Portia Nelson
Chapter 1

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter 4

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5

I walk down another street.


I’m looking for my new street and in the meantime working on walking around my holes. Anybody have tips for getting back on track after faced with a setback? Share them below, I’d love to test them out.



More from Morgan Mabry-Stiff

Say That!

Two weeks ago I couldn’t sleep. I needed to do something to...
Read More

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *