Hi <<First Name>>,
A reminder to join our Thursday Meditation and Chat this evening 7-8pm Pacific Time. Zoom info is included below. Enter any time you can, but please try your best to arrive before 7:05 if you'd like to join the guided meditation.
Today's recommended reading is longer than a quote or a poem, but very much worth our time! Staci Haines is a somatic coach, teacher, social movement leader, and author of The Politics of Trauma. I had the fortune and honor of taking her course Embodied Transformation a couple of weeks ago (that Thursday when I hosted our meditation hour in the car in Petaluma!) and have been learning a ton about somatics and embodied learning and thinking about how relevant it is to our taiji practices and vice versa. Her article which I excerpted below extends our understanding of what practice is and offers ways to think about how we can make our practices (taiji, meditation, and others) more powerful in taking us towards our goals in life and work.
The Transformative Power Of Practice [full article]
by Staci K. Haines and Ng’ethe Maina
... generally speaking the more we practice something the better we get at it. Our experience of course teaches us that sometimes we practice and we don’t seem to get better, but in fact we are getting better – we just may not be getting better at what we want. Each time we practice piano with a grumpy attitude, then we may get better at piano, but we will also certainly get better at being grumpy. Or when we practice meditation and consciously allow ourselves to daydream, then as time passes we get better and better at daydreaming while sitting ever so still. Practice is always happening. It is continuously shaping us: opening us up to new ways of being, or increasingly calcifying the way we think, act, and feel.
Default practices are learned behaviors and reactions that are inherited through our life experiences. Our families, cultures and the social conditions in which we live invite and at times demand certain ways of being. Violence, oppression, rejection, loss, or other situations that threatened our safety as children (and as adults) all played a role in shaping our default practices. We have a practiced response to anger or to sadness, a practiced way to interface with power and intimacy, and countless others. These practices were formed at a time when we needed them – they played a crucial role in our survival and our ability to belong.
However, because our default practices have often been shaped out of difficult experiences when we had limited means of dealing with and processing them, these practices often don’t align with our present-day values, politics, and/or what we most care about. ... Where once they were essential survival strategies, they may now be problematic. Because they are so practiced and have now become unconscious behaviors we can feel like we have no way to change them.
The easiest way to learn about your default practices is to feel your own sensations and emotions and to observe your own thoughts. Meditation, centering practices and self awareness are new practices that can help you learn about your default practices. By building awareness of your default practices you begin to uproot them. You stop the automatic reactions and prepare the ground for new ones. You build in time between your internal reaction and your external action. You can feel more without reacting. This allows you to begin to make choices and take actions more aligned with your values and your politics.
Intentional Practices are those that we choose to do in order to transform the way we show up in the world. Through new practices we increase choice and alignment with our values.
When we begin to look at our own practices and then practice on purpose, the first thing we want to ask ourselves is: “What matters to me?” “What do I care about? “What am I committed to?” The answers to these questions become the guide for taking on new practices.
At the end of the day there are no shortcuts or magic tricks. Practice offers this brutally refreshing reality: practice only puts into place what you practice. If you don’t put in sufficient practice, embodiment of the new way of being simply won’t come. In fact the key to good practice is to accept this fact and to strip away all that is superfluous and distracting from the bare practice itself. Strip away the stories and narratives about how difficult and punishing the practice is. Strip away the stories about what a great person you are for walking the path of practice. Release the desire to be seen by others as magnificent or as a martyr. Simply practice with intention, and pay attention to what happens.