How do you support your growth, development, and release your inner artistry? What does it mean to have a regular practice?
This article was co-authored by Ray Foote
Developing and tending to a practice gives you an opportunity to invite more of yourself into your inner conversation. It is a time to turn toward the significant questions you’re carrying and to engage them directly. Having a conversation with that part of you where your artistry and wisdom resides is what helps you bring forth your artistry.
Practice is a powerful tool to enter into and be in a relationship with this conversation so that you can become more self-aware or rather, aware of self. Consider practice as an engagement for learning and growth independent of obtaining a predetermined outcome.
There are a variety of existing practices — such as morning walks, time in nature, journaling, meditation — that you might choose as your own, and you may already be engaged in one that supports you. You might also take something commonly known and refine it to fit you, in order to make it your own. It’s not what you claim as a practice that matters most, it’s how you engage in your practice that matters tremendously.
Consider this poem, Stay Home, by Wendell Berry:
I will wait here in the fields
to see how well the rain
brings on the grass.
In the labor of the fields
longer than a man’s life
I am at home. Don’t come with me.
You stay home too.
I will be standing in the woods
where the old trees
move only with the wind
and then with gravity.
In the stillness of the trees
I am at home. Don’t come with me.
You stay home too.
Claiming your practice begins with the question: What is your way of regularly engaging an activity that supports you in your growth, your self-awareness, and your understanding of your humanity and self in relationship to anything and everything that lies beyond you?
Cultivate your practice as you would your own craft without expectation of outcomes.
An Ongoing Conversation
When engaged in your practice you will be immersed in an ongoing conversation. This conversion is often generative and recursive. Think of a Mobius strip: the intertwined nature of the Mobius strip represents the nature of this conversation. There is a constant and perpetual exchange between giving and receiving.
Ultimately, a practice supports us, helps us grow, cultivates curiosity and imagination, affirms our humanity.
As an example, consider the subversively simple practice of practicing a “gratitude.” In this practice, we are invited to regularly reflect on recent experiences and encounters and to name what we are thankful for. Our part of the practice is to regularly notice, name, and then to express gratitude. We may journal our reflections, or share it with a partner. The “giving” portion of this includes setting aside the time and regularly committing to this practice. It also includes our own tracking, noticing, naming, and expressing gratitude.
What we receive in return from this practice is multifold and can include:
- An intimate and personal understanding of what brings us alive and supports our vitality
- Appreciation for connection with others and the world around us — an antidote for feelings of being alone or isolated
- Increased awareness of our own emotions, particularly emotions and experiences that are rewarding
- Research has shown that those having a gratitude practice may also benefit in the following ways:
- Experience more positive emotions
- Sleep better
- Feel a sense of abundance in their lives
- Have stronger immune system
Through the practice, and being with what comes up from the practice of gratitude, we shift. Our awareness of ourselves and our relationship with the world around us can change. Noticing, naming, and expressing gratitude regularly can change how we relate to our situations in ways we might not have thought of at the beginning of the practice. Over time, those practicing gratitude tend to have a more positive outlook on life. Research has shown that practitioners who have written letters of gratitude to others received mental health benefits — even if the letters were never sent!
These kinds of benefits come from giving oneself to the practice. If the practice becomes mechanical or perfunctory without connection, the giving of oneself is lost and the benefits to be received are also impacted. Pushing to name one gratitude from this day just to tick the item off a list before I fall asleep from exhaustion is not the same as setting a time and space, and supporting one’s self in the genuine act of noticing, naming, and expressing gratitude.
Another practice is one developed by Julia Cameron called Morning Pages. This is a simple daily practice of writing down what comes to your mind. It’s most effective in long-hand using paper and pen (or pencil) and you write for three pages. It’s a stream of consciousness writing, without judgement, editing, or tweaking. If it comes into your mind, write it down. See what shows up. Morning pages are ‘a clearing exercise.’ As you give to this practice you will be amazed at what comes back to you.
And there are many other practices like these that foster inner connection.
Let yourself come to notice a current practice, or the possibility of a practice, that supports you. It doesn’t need to be a practice that others may recognize such as meditation, time in nature, or a creative art form — singing, painting, writing or reading poetry, etc. It may be something quite particular that you may claim as a practice for yourself.
Consider these questions:
- What do you do that supports your growth, curiosity, and humanity?
- What does your practice ask of you? What is important about how you show up, act, and give of yourself in your practice?
- How do you benefit from your practice? What influences what you receive from your practice?
- What is important to you about your practice? What compels you to invest and commit?
- What would you like from a continued or deepening relationship with your practice?
- If you were to give a unique name to your practice what name would it have?