My friend Earle plays the oboe professionally. I have heard him say that practice does not make perfect as the old saying goes, but that practice makes permanent. He means that the repetitive rhythm of practice over time will seep into the muscle memory of our being. Things become more automatic, as though they are woven into our DNA. He explained that when he looks at sheet music and sees the letter A, he doesn’t think about what fingers to place where on the instrument to create the note, as he did when first learning to play. The sound just happens.
It takes time to develop our spiritual practice. We find this to be true in our monastic rhythm of prayer and meditation. Whether it is Lectio Divina, Centering Prayer, Silent Meditation, Yoga, or something else, it requires that we show up regularly and practice. In time, the repetitive rhythm begins to settle-in, and things begin to feel more natural. It becomes easier to fall into the deep space within, untethered from distractions, and just allow things to unfurl within us.
We should also free ourselves from any idea that our spiritual practice will ever achieve perfection. As the Trappist monk Thomas Merton once said: “The biggest obstacle to contemplation is any idea of success.”
We need to be both diligent and patient in our practice. Just keep showing up and know that it takes time. And one day, the music will just happen.