Developing a Practice

The mind becomes your tool, and you are no longer the tool of your mind
— Serge Augier
When you run after your thoughts, you are like a dog chasing a stick: every time a stick is thrown, you run after it. Instead, be like a lion who, rather than chasing after the stick, turns to face the thrower. One only throws a stick at a lion once
— Milarepa

I am slightly reluctant to write about this. It is something I have tried to articulate in the past and struggled to do so.

I consider this important for those who wish to maintain a physical practice for a long time, for those wishing for a more contemplative path, and those who wish better control (or understanding) of their minds and bodies.

Practice is not exercise. Exercise might be the physical & technical components. Measured in calories, repetitions, distance, time, weight or composition. 

A practise (or THE practice) might composed of the paying attention to specific things: imagery, feeling, communication, attitude, intention, pedagogy, learning, student-ship, teachers, structural elements, biopsychosocial elements, rituals, self talk, beliefs, psychology, speed, direction, pattern, range of motion, reactions, emotional reactivity… A multitude of things to be aware of. Some of these can be modulated, manipulated and modified. Some can be taught, some can be learnt, some can only be listened for.  

Having a Practice is informative. It is a path to better know, and understand yourself. Having a way to ‘tune in’ with yourself that develops awareness and responsiveness with your body and mind. Learning to  pay attention, in a particular way, while doing particular things can lead to dramatic changes.

Depending on the way your practice develops - it might not change your daily life in terms of exercise. But it might just shift your awareness of the multitude of things to be aware of, and the multiplicity of the body. It also might be a big physical practice, that deepens your bodies resilience, flexibility and strength - while also working on developing the more subtle, internal, qualities.

What does ‘The Practice’ look like? Good question. It depends. What a practice ‘looks like’, and what it ‘feels like’ might be very different. Some might find they end up with more of a ‘mind’ practice, others might find a more balanced approach, others still might find a more physical practice. A lot of the work is rooted around engaging with your sensorium and your mind, whilst also engaging with auto-ethnographic work. Often the way you might do things might not change, but the layers of parallel narratives change - and you can choose which ones to pay attention to.

Some goals of developing this practice are: 

  • Modulating your stress response,

  • Developing a softer and more relaxed body,

  • Controlling your mind, thoughts and emotions better

  • Being able to tune in and self-assess your movements and body

  • Being able to self-manage most aches, pains or problems

Some loose examples of things you might end up working on:

  • Staying in touch with how your body is feeling and performing

  • Understanding and observing your emotional reactivity

  • Physical movements with focus grace and ease

  • Managing your stress

  • Internal awareness

  • Breathing better

  • Transitioning between sympathetically aroused and para-sympathetically aroused states

  • Noticing the quality and nuance of how you are moving and thinking

  • Connecting with nature

  • Communication and listening skills

  • Rhythm and Dance