How to start a practice when you’re not really a practice person

 

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I have a confession to make: I’m not exactly a practice person.

It’s not that I don’t do things.

I walk and write and do yoga.

Sometimes I drink a glass of warm water infused with lemon first thing in the morning.

I’ve been known to get still and calm with mindfulness meditation.

I love art journaling.

And if you look around here you probably can tell that gardening opens me wide to the beauty and mystery of life.

But here’s the truth: I do many of these things sporadically.

It’s a little hard to admit that in this online personal growth environment where practices are revered and their life-sustaining benefits shouted from the rooftops.

I’ve no doubt these practices have the capacity to be life-sustaining, though.

I know this because whenever I step back and really consider the people I deeply admire, most of them have at least one established, long-term practice.

And whenever I admire someone in this way, it tells me that there’s actually a practice person inside of me, waiting for her turn to be nurtured and encouraged.

So this month, I’m dedicating time to nurturing my inner-writer-practice-person-waiting-in-the-wings by taking part in the Free Write Fling.

The Fling is the creation of Cynthia Morris.

Cynthia’s one of those wise women I’ve deeply admired since I first stumbled upon her site, Original Impulse, a few years back.

Not only is she a coach, writer and teacher with a bunch of her own established practices, but she also brings a zestful, infectious, creative joy to her life and work. So I couldn’t have picked a better guide or process to help me start nurturing my practice person.

It helps that I love free writing and have done a fair bit of it, but never in such an intentional way. It’s great to finally have space in my life to do this now.

Here’s how it works: Cynthia asks us to write for 15 minutes each day, which is very doable.

I mean, here we are, 15 days into the Fling and I’ve consistently opened my journal and put pen to paper 15 times.

15 times for 15 minutes for 15 days. Wow, there’s a nice ring to that, isn’t there?

Of course, I could write for more than 15 minutes but I’m deliberately keeping it short and starting small, because like I tell my clients, and like many wise people before me have said: the smallest actions create motivation, momentum and more action.

When I started a few weeks ago I thought I’d be writing first thing in the morning, but you know how life intervenes, and that hasn’t always been possible. But I’ve discovered that I look forward to it all day.

No matter when I arrive at my journal it’s like a little gift waiting to be opened.

What I’m learning is that in order for this to work, I need to be consistent and flexible, giving it some structure but also trusting that it will find its own rhythm.

Not forcing it, and most certainly not expecting it to become anything. Whatever shows up on the page is fine.

So far, what’s shown up has delighted and surprised me.

Tiny, unexpected little fictional story fragments, all reflecting my deep desire for personal renewal right now.

Exploring metaphor and symbol.

Digging deep into paradox.

Releasing. Emptying out. Filling up. Inner work.

There’s also the lovely side benefit of a community of Flingers to connect with.

I was a little wary of this at first, because I’m not exactly an e-course person either, and I can get overwhelmed trying to keep up with and participate in online discussions.

There’s a part of me that just aches to be in the room with those I’m talking to, or at least on the phone with them. In my ideal world small groups of Flingers would meet regularly in real-time, to write and process together.

But like I’ve said before, I’m not Queen of the World.

And searching for perfect is a waste of time when we have good enough right at our fingertips.

Plus, the people in the Fling Zone are wonderful. I pop in when I can and stay as long as feels good for me, soaking it all up and getting what I need.

And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Getting what we truly need from our practices.

Okay. So here’s what this newbie has learned (so far) about starting a practice when you’re not really a practice person:

  • if you’re working with a guide or teacher, choose one whom you deeply admire
  • tap into your own deep wisdom and choose a practice that’s truly compelling: you already know it’s meaningful for you or you have a strong hunch it will be
  • keep it safe and small in the early stages; there’s always time to branch out later
  • be flexible and draw some loose boundaries around it, allowing it to establish its own shape and rhythm
  • turn toward it and let yourself be surprised by where it takes you
  • detach from an outcome or need for it to become anything
  • find the right balance of support and solo time, whatever works best for you
  • don’t wait for the perfect situation; realize how much meaning can be found in good enough

 

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What about your own struggles and successes with being a practice person? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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4 thoughts on “How to start a practice when you’re not really a practice person

  1. I’m not a practice person at all. I had to obey so many rules for most of my life that I cannot stick to anything anymore, it feels like being in prison. BUT…I’ve noticed that in the last 2 years or so, practices have found me, ever so gently. There’s no schedule to stick to. There are things I do every day and that keep me grounded and happy: meditation, photography, writing. I allow myself to embrace them when it feels good and right, and it does feel good and right almost every day so I guess they’ve become practices. And if I’m too busy and skip a day, that’s fine too. It works well for me. ♥

    • Love the idea of practices finding you, Maryse. That really resonates with me. You’re making such an important point, that we can be both practicing and not a practice person at the same time. The two don’t necessarily contradict each other.

  2. I see the value of consistent practice, especially with writing. It’s not something I do yet, but I think it keeps you focused on the creative process. I have friends who swear by writing every day to prompts. My concern is getting too caught up in the prompt and NOT obeying the time clock when it’s time to stop:~) That said, it might something I should try! I also like the idea of writing vs typing. I need to get myself a new journal:~) This was an interesting post. You made me really think about the value of practicing. I’ll save the link and look for the next FLING.

    • I know what you mean Sara. I wondered if it would be challenging to stop after 15 minutes but I’ve discovered that I can fill about three composition book pages in that time and towards the end of the third page the writing itself seems to know to begin wrapping it up. It doesn’t feel conscious on my part, though. Kind of cool and weird, actually!

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