If I look at what has changed for me in the past five years, it is the slow coral-reef-growth of practices.
It began with learning metta from Jan Lundy: taking time, each morning and evening to bless myself, my loved ones, an enemy and all beings –
May you be safe.
May you be strong.
May you live with joy.
May you be peaceful and at ease.
When I began practicing metta, my mother was dying. There was so much I wished for and knew could not be, but I could ask for these blessings. I have continued the practice, sometimes including myself in the spot reserved for enemies. It is a small thing I do in the twilight between waking and sleeping. It points me toward loving kindness and connection.
Metta led me to shamatha, where I spend time focusing on my breath. My mind wanders and, following the teachings of Susan Piver, I release my thinking mind and gently return my attention to my breath.
These two practices teach me how to practice: I intend to focus, lose track, release the monster voices and gently recommit and return to what I was doing. From the drop of meditation practice, the rings expand. Painting is a practice. Writing is a practice. Exercise is a practice. Living itself becomes practice.
Now, when the monsters howl or my ego roars or life gets busy and I lose my place, I return my focus to my core practices. They lead me back into my life, back into gentle connection. They save me.