Nia as a Lifestyle Practice

This guest post is written by Allison Wright, who is a Nia trainer and teacher based in Portland, Oregon.

As Ram Das said, "Practice is like a roller coaster. Each new high is usually followed by a new low. There are stages at which you feel pulled to inner work and all you seek it a quiet place to meditate and get on with it, and there are stages where you turn outward and seek to be involved with the market place. Both of these parts of the cycle are part of one’s practice. What happens to you in the market place helps your meditation. Likewise, what happens in your meditation helps you to participate in the market place without attachment. At first you will think of practice as a limited part of your life. In time, you will realize that everything you do is part of your practice.” 

Practice is a verb; it is something we learn by doing.

More and more, everything I do feels like I am practicing. From washing my dishes to walking mindfully in the park behind my apartment to answering the phone at Nia Headquarters to driving my car along the winding Willamette River downtown–each simple action has become a form of practice. After five years of “being out in the marketplace,” I have been magnetically drawn outside the city, living alone for the first time in many years. I’ve initiated a daily 6:00 a.m. yoga practice that is transforming my body and mind with every invigorating chaturanga dandasana I breathe through! My evening walks at sunset bring a sense of aliveness, closure and integration to the hours that came before. Suffice to say, the sensation of "practicing" sets a tone that ripples through every aspect of my daily life.

What is the sensation of practicing in your life? What are the practices you do that ground you, center you, and connect you to your authentic self? The beautiful thing about identifying this is that it is an opportunity to witness how you live your life and tweak it accordingly. We say in Nia that “tweaking” is making a small change without altering your overall movement.

What are the small changes you can make in your perceptions and actions that will help you sense every moment of life as an opportunity to practice what you value most?

When we allow ourselves to be fully present and "practice" in each moment, we are in what Nia calls Living Meditation. In Living Meditation, my awareness practices become something that are not separate from my daily life, rather it’s like I’m meditating through everything I do. In Living Meditation, we place a full attention on “being” even as we are “doing.” Rather than seeing meditation as an isolated practice, we perceive it as the art of being fully present to all that is–on and off the dance floor. In yoga, they call this "taking yoga off the mat.” It’s an awesome metaphor for something so simple, yet it requires a continual recommitment to our own practices.

Once we’ve put a practice into practice, what do we do when it wanes, when our enthusiasm to infuse our daily life with awareness dissipates? We recommit ourselves. We return our attention again and again to what we want most. I don’t know about you, but the nature of my mind is that it can be easily derailed by bright and shiny things. In my Nia classes, I’ve been using the metaphor of the mind on a retractable leash to denote the method by which we reclaim our attention when our mind goes wandering. Practicing deeply does not mean we sustain without getting derailed–it simply means that we notice the derailment with self-love, then reorient ourselves, drawing the leash back in. Practice is continuous.

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to take the most “mundane” action in your daily life and bring a warrior-like spirit of practice to it. There is a great gift concealed in every aspect of life that challenges us with the illusion of meaninglessness. Practice living meditation deeply, and reveal for yourself the meaning that every moment of life has to provide. Ride the roller coaster and ignite the sensation of practice in everything you do. Then let me know how it goes.