With January drawing to an end, New Year’s resolutions are often already forgotten as the pace of the year begins to quicken, the frustration of not being able to follow through on those plans can cause a sense of overwhelm and futility.
The same often applies to practice, both formal assignments as well as self-chosen explorations. At the beginning of a new course, or the end of a transformative workshop, the motivation to integrate and deepen what has been learned is high.
Then over time, with life’s demands and shifting priorities the impetus to follow through diminishes and the excitement about having entered a new exploration often gets replaced by a niggling feeling of failure and self-doubt.
So how do you engage in practices that integrate and strengthen over time?
Here are five steps to support you:
Create new habits
We are creatures of habit. Whatever skill we acquire is learned by repetition. Whatever we repeat most becomes our predominant pattern. For integrated education, it is best for us to combine cognitive understanding, emotional resonance and somatic learning. Therefore pick and engage in practices that speak to your mind, your feeling and your body.
Remember that whatever activities you perform most in daily life shape your habits and dispositions. Most of us spend the majority of our time in focused, hurried and stressful activities. When you want to create new habits you need to engage in embodied practices that are designed specifically to counteract these tendencies and give you access to your body’s natural intelligence.
Little and often
To establish new habits, doing your chosen practice only for a few minutes at a time, and repeating them often gives greater benefit than doing one long weekend session. Even if you only practice for a few minutes a day, the accumulation of these practices will, over time, shift your perception and attitude.
Set a time
With all practices it is best to determine how much time you will spend on each session beforehand, and set a timer. You can always go longer if you have the time and energy, but try to not cut short the duration you chose. It is important for practices to have a formal beginning and end, as this creates clarity and relaxation in the body. You can even bow to yourself, or offer any other gesture you like in order to formally end the practice before you transition into whatever is next.
Do only what speaks to you
Most important is to look at a practice as a treat and not a chore. Pick what speaks to you and what you genuinely want to do. Don’t be aspirational, be realistic, and be kind to yourself. It is much better to pick one thing to practice, and stick with it for a month than it is to make big plans and then being upset with yourself for not following through.
Teaming up with friends or joining a group that provides long term guidance and support can make all the difference. Having someone guide your explorations and provide motivation as well as adjustments can boost your engagement substantially. Much like a high performance athlete, even a good practitioner can benefit from some outside observation and guidance. Connecting with others pursuing similar interests adds a social component and can provide added motivation and make practicing fun.
To find out about our Men’s and Women’s 9-Month Study Groups, click here.