Creating a Practice that Works

In the last post I talked about a practice that I am engaged in at present for my own development.  It is a very particular practice that arises out of my two decades’ worth of training in the martial art aikido as well as my work as a somatic coach.  I am hoping that seeing the practice in the video inspired you, but another thought I had about this is that it might have made you feel a bit intimidated.  Or maybe that the practice isn’t something you would choose to do yourself.  Or maybe it seemed to be too hard to learn.  Or perhaps you didn’t see the relevance.  (Or maybe you’ve all purchased wooden swords and are voraciously making up your own forms!)

All these pieces are crucial in designing a practice that works.  The practice needs to be right for you.  It needs to engage you for your own reasons.  And of course, it has to be relevant to what you are wanting to develop in yourself.  We practice to begin to reshape our body-selves.  What does that mean?  It means that we all have areas of holding-back, habits that have been with us for a very long time, ways in which we react to the circumstances of our lives in ways that might not be advantageous.  It’s what we know.  It’s what has lived in us for many years.  Our habitual patterns took shape in us wisely—but what worked all those years ago might not serve us anymore.  Yet it’s hard to change what is so deeply a part of us, literally something that lives in our psychobiology.

Did you ever try to speak up only to find that your throat was so constricted you could not?  Did you ever face an authority figure and even though you knew exactly what you needed to say, you couldn’t because you stammered, your heart raced and you began to sweat?  Or maybe it’s something else for you, that you talk too much and lose connection with people you very much want to be in relationship with.  There are endless holding patterns!

Really the only way to change those deeply held patterns is to return to the source of how they were originally formed—through our bodies.

First, bring awareness to the pattern itself.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the ways in which I hold myself back?
  • What happens when I’m triggered by something or someone?
  • When under pressure, what part of me emerges?
  • What do I believe about myself in this place?

Then, don’t ask why this is so, but how.  How does this holding live in you?  Where does it live in you?  What does it feel like?  Does it have a shape, a texture, a color, a temperature?

And then you can ask what you would rather have living in you.  What does that feel like?

Then we can begin to design a practice that is particularly for you, for what you want to develop in yourself.  The practice I designed for myself comes from many places—a love I have of the wooden sword; bringing in a commitment that can live beside and within me; wanting to deepen my ability to keep stepping into creating work in the world that I love, that is genuine to me; cutting through old patterns of resignation and hiding—so many things!  We are complex, yes?

When we design a practice, we need to keep in mind “for the sake of what” are we practicing?  What are we moving toward?  What do we desire?

Consider a body movement or discipline that you are already practicing that you love.  Maybe it’s yoga.  Maybe you have a sitting practice. Maybe you love to hike.  Or play tennis.  Or swim.  The possibilities are many.  You can certainly begin with what you are already engaged in.  Then add an intention to your current practice.  Let yourself feel yourself as you engage in that practice.

Let’s say that you’re a swimmer and what you want in your life is to allow more, to stop controlling everything, to feel the flow of your life, where the current wants to take you.  Something like that.  Swimming is a perfect practice for you!  Before you get into the pool or lake or ocean, ask yourself what you want to feel more of in your life.  Then commit to it.  Devise a short sentence that speaks to what it is you want more of.  “I am a commitment to being in the flow of my life.”  Or “I am flow.”  Or “I am a commitment to allowing my life to take me where I need to go.”  This is yours.  I’m just giving some possibilities, but this is uniquely yours, this commitment.  And as you stroke across that water, feel yourself in that commitment.  You might say it over and over as you backstroke. Or you might say it at the beginning of your swim and let your body live into what that means, what that feels like, this new degree of allowing.

Practice doesn’t have to look like one thing.  And your body will reveal to you over and over how life is living through it, or how it isn’t. Keep practicing your way into that dream-space where the joy and love and spirit that wants to live through you finally begins to find its voice.

And ask questions or engage in some coaching work to get the support you need!

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