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Presence Over Perfection: Practice as a Sanctuary

Photo of trees overlooking a snowy lake. Green rectangle over, text: presence over perfection: practice as a sanctuary gracequantock.com

I love a good morning routine.

I adore the structure, the simplicity of it.

I love to promise myself that I will be able to get up every morning and do the same, often strenuous, energetic things and that I’ll be well enough to do those same things every day. When truly, living with chronic illness, that’s not the case.

I love the idea of doing ALL THE THINGS and then starting ‘work’. But healing is work too, as every wellness warrior well knows.

But that’s the challenge, isn’t it?

As much as a part of past-me would like to be using January as the ‘fresh start‘ to ‘get sorted’, to steamroll the messy, painful, scary and shadow parts of life into place with a huge, strict and spartan routine… that’s not what’s going to happen.

(It doesn’t work anyway, at least not for me. Because I’m human and not a robot, which saddens my type A tendencies, because my ‘perfectionist’ thinks being a productive robot who works all the time and just gets fixed by the mechanic when a part of me is out of order would be awesome. No emotions you see, no fear, no grey areas, just perpetual forward motion. But I am not a robot).

No, that’s not what’s going to happen, because it’s so unkind.

Instead of being your saviour (and on the shadow side, your jailer), a practice can be your sanctuary.

It’s the place you come back to, the place that “always heals over“, it’s what accepts you, no matter where you are, no matter what it looks like.

Because it’s called a practice – it’s all a process, you aren’t expected to be perfect.

We all get illnesses, injuries, appointments that feel like they interfere or throw us off track. But here’s the thing – humanity, to me, isn’t about perfection, it’s about presence. A practice is something you can always come home to, like a sanctuary.

Your practice is what you hang on to when things get tough. Because when everything is bleak, we often can’t see a way out or just can’t find a reason to get out of bed in the morning. But if every day you get up and say your prayers over a cup or tea, or get on the yoga mat (no matter how few asanas you can actually manage), if you always write in your journal before you sleep, or call your best friend on a Thursday evening, then that’s what you get up and do. Not because you need to, or you should, or you feel like it. But because that’s what you always do. Your practice can be a sanctuary, it’s where you come home.

I’ve done my yoga practice everywhere from waiting rooms, car parks, bathrooms, in bed, in libraries, beaches and train stations. I’ve done it in hospital, while evacuated in terrifying situations and even in yoga studios on occasion.

My practice is always there for me to return to, no matter how long it’s been, no matter how achy and alienated I may be feeling.

If you want to think about starting a practice, I encourage you to look at what practices you have now… do you always get up when the alarm goes, or do you luxuriate in bed 5 more minutes? Do you take meds in the morning, always have lunch at midday or like a glass of wine at the end of the day? These are rituals and practices already in your day. What would happen if they became more conscious? Opportunities for self-care and compassion?

If you want to start a yoga or meditation practice, please check in if this is the best time for you to do that, and why you might be motivated to do it? Plans made out of self-disdain often fall, leaving us with more ammunition against ourselves because ‘we can’t even get that right’.

You don’t have to change just because a calendar has turned over – you can heal at your pace.

(However, if January is giving you a welcome support and a meditation or yoga or self-care practice do feel truly right for you, you can check out my posts on those here.)

But really, truly, I want you to know that I value you and the process of stepping away from everything that tears you down and moves you closer to coming home to yourself.

Do you have a daily practice? What’s your biggest challenge to using it as a sanctuary? Let me know in the comments.

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