I am about to sit down to practice the guitar. I take lessons once a week and I practice daily. I run scales, play songs from sheet music and I improvise solos over backing tracks that my teacher provided on CD or that I find online. Later today I plan to go to my local yoga studio to engage in my regular practice of asana. This morning I engaged in my daily practice of meditation. Oh, I also have a consulting practice.
So as I boil this down a bit, and without consulting Webster, it seems I have several meanings of practice. Preparing as Learning, Doing through Repetition, Beingness in the World.
I think we move between these states constantly.
There are domains in which we are in the first stages of practice. These are new projects, skills we are acquiring, relationship we are embarking on and acts of creation in their infancy. In these stages our Practice is a learning process, a defining of the parameters and acquiring the experiences that we need to move forward. I don’t love scales, but they are necessary for me to gain competence and confidence and fluidity with the musical notation, the physical movement of my hands and the terrain and geography of the guitars fretboard. New projects or clients require research, planning and preparation. New relationships require exploration, inquiry, accustoming and accommodating our styles and preferences to the styles and preference of the other person.
In the second stage of practice we repeating and refining. We use our feedback to tune the action to meet the goals we have set. When I play certain songs over and over, my muscles are incorporating a memory of where they need to be and my mind is freeing itself so I can really hear what is going on, sense the chord changes and allow myself to improvise over those changes. The same is true when I am in the classroom or with a client. When my material is a part of me, I respond quickly and easily to the needs of people present in the moment, bringing the right examples or analogy or changing the practice slightly to suit the needs of a client implementing a new system. In my yoga practice, through repetition I find the expression of balance, strength, focus and alignment coming together. Because we are following a repeated series, I can gauge where my alignment is and correct it. I have a reference point, especially when I have received ‘adjustments’ from teachers to help me feel the proper alignment and expression of the pose. Through repetition, I become my own inner reference point.
In the third stage of our creation our practice is who we are. I do not mean to infer that we are ‘done’ or perfect or that we don’t have more learning and repetition to do. However, as we internalize those learnings and practices we morph from Human Doings to Human Beings. We become practitioners of our own excellence. We do this in a state of constant testing, honing, changing, experimenting, failing, falling, growing and improvement. We are not static. We are dynamic, vibrant, engaged, vulnerable, honest, enthusiastic, flexible and creative.