The Many Paths of Practice by Michele Lawrence

Several years ago I came across this image (shown above) of a tree that represented on its branches various different contemplative practices. On the trunk of the tree were communion and connection, and awareness. It gave me a picture of what I had been feeling for some time: There are many paths to practice. And it also conveyed to me that there can be many interpretations of this thing we call “practice.”

When I was new to yoga, I remember thinking that “practice” only referred to what I did on my yoga mat, at a set period of time, and for a lengthy duration (e.g. 90 minutes). As it goes, the longer I have practiced, the more I have come to broaden my definition of practice. As yoga therapists, we aim to shift this for our clients as well. Practices are woven in throughout the day to offer connection and awareness, regulation, balance, fulfillment, and joy.

The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, who published this tree, had this to say..
“We understand that your personal practices may not appear on this illustration… This does not mean that practices which don’t appear on the illustration aren’t “contemplative.” A more comprehensive representation might have thousands of branches! Any activities not included on this Tree (including those which may seem more mundane, such as gardening, eating, or taking a bath) may be considered a contemplative practice when done with the intent of cultivating awareness or developing a stronger connection with Divinity or one’s inner wisdom.”

This feels like a huge halleluiah to me. And included on their website is a pdf of a blank tree that you can download and insert your own practices. (Tip: What a fun activity to do on your own or with a client!)

I was reminded of these many paths again yesterday as I was co-facilitating a Yoga & QiGong workshop with my friend and colleague Oley Smith. The workshop entitled “Calm in the Storm,”  was designed to offer practices, tools and techniques for nervous system regulation and stress resilience. We aimed to empower our participants to glean some of the practices to take on and incorporate in their daily lives. We shared from different traditions but coalesced on common themes.

I feel empowered when I visit this tree or list my own practices on it. I hope you do too. And if you’re seeking to incorporate some new movement practice into your daily routine, we’ll be hosting a live virtual QiGong workshop with my friend Oley in a couple of weeks on May 19. It’s entitled the “Healer within Medical QiGong.” Details and registration can be found here.

With you on the path of practice,


PS And a very happy Mother’s Day to all those who consider mothering a part of their practice.

Source: The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society