What's in a practice?
What goes into moving from an idea or a need to action and follow through?
This is a question that I imagine we all run into *somewhere* in our lives, and then in other places not so much.
For example, I have almost no difficulty creating a plan to exercise regularly and in a way that meets most of my needs --and then carrying out the plan. Makes sense, right --movement is innately interesting to me, so I'm intrinsically motivated to do it. How I go about it keeps shifting and changing with my interests and needs, but that it's gonna be part of my daily life is a given for me.
But if you expect me to cook a meal, I need to plan for the fact of the task, figure out a strategy to overcome my resistance to it, and get started early to make sure I finish on time... and then being tired or in a bad mood could derail the whole thing.
So, I've been thinking about "practice" --taking a thing you want to accomplish and breaking it down into manageable pieces that require dedicated attention to make progress.
There are scores of articles and books on how to do all the things you could want to do. And sometimes all you need is a step-by-step guide or some general advice.
And then there are those times when a guidebook just doesn't cut it --developing a practice seems impossible. (There are lots of articles and books about that, too --this is definitely a known phenomenon.)
Lately, I've been thinking about what it takes to build new practices in my office work (in addition to teaching movement, I also spend my days steeped in project management), where there can be lots of external and internal roadblocks. And that makes me think about how to make movement a practice, especially when it doesn't come easily, which is what I hope to share with you here over the coming months.
building a practice off of gimmicks?
Almost everything I read about getting yourself to move more includes what I'm cheekily referring to as "gimmicks" but are really just good-natured shortcuts. Smart ways to sneak movement into your day because movement is a big part of health and longevity.
I like these suggestions, I've given them, and I'll share some that I know. But what do you do when they're not enough? I for one am not likely to voluntarily do anything that I haven't learned to care about or find interesting. Without your own will, shortcuts can feel like tricks --and no one likes to be tricked.
So, if you like the idea of using some shortcuts to building a movement practice, what do you need to be able to trust those shortcuts? To see them as valuable tools rather that trickster's gimmicks?
In my case, knowledge goes a long way. The why behind the what and --critically-- the proof behind the why, if it exists.
But that's not usually enough. I need to check in with myself -- through awareness of myself -- and compare the evidence with my self-knowledge to determine whether this is a reasonable shortcut for me.
awareness turns shortcuts into tools
The classes I teach are driven by a practice in awareness, building awareness skills while also moving in a way that feels good and is self driven.
Building that awareness can and does happen in many different ways; one path can be through learning movement/body concepts and skills as taught by another person, and then practicing putting your understanding (or questioning) into action, transforming the skill into your own awareness.
Awareness of myself has always been necessary to develop a practice in anything. Following someone else's suggestions only works if I know how to make them my own. And I suspect the same is true for lots of folks when it comes to building a movement practice.
Building awareness of yourself through movement often comes through trying new things or taking a familiar action and looking at it from a new angle... and it can also come from doing the same thing day in and day out and making new realizations over time. There's no one way and some ways are more comfortable than others --it's fine to choose one path over another.
For my part here, I've chosen ten awareness-building skills that we don't typically think of as skills --more like innate aspects of being-- but are indeed learnable, practice-able, and possibly foundational to pursuing movement, exercise, and sport for fun and achievement. I plan to introduce each of them --the what and the why-- and then offer a short session for putting the concept into practice if you wish. I created a quick video introduction to what I plan to share. Watch the video here.
Stay tuned for the first practice in the next two weeks --and if you want to engage with this idea in the meantime, perhaps consider whether you can come up with three movement skills that you think are fundamental to moving well and with joy!
Be moving, be true, be you,
photo credit jamie davies, found on unsplash