When I was growing up the word practice meant the opposite of play, something that wasn’t fun or enjoyable. As much as I loved making music for instance, to me practicing music meant focusing on rote chores like playing scales over and over again instead of playing songs I liked or improvising. This limiting view of practice slowed my growth, since it stopped me from embracing actions that create powerful incremental improvement of my abilities.
These days the word practice has a very different meaning to me. I now see practice as the intentional actions I take regularly that are responsible for much of the happiness, growth, and clarity I experience. I am fascinated by practices and see them as essential ingredients to my life everyday. This blog shares about three practices, dance, cold exposure, and nature meditation, that I employ to improve my overall experience and health.
Practices are the most important tools we use to tend our Four Gardens. Since everyone’s gardens are unique, we each require our own set of practices that are woven together in a way that suits our individual reality. This means testing a diversity of practices, reflecting on their impact, and adapting them as necessary.
One way to think about this larger process is to relate it to planting seeds in a garden. Before I plant a garden, I make an educated guess about what plants will thrive based on all the conditions I’ve observed and other information I’ve gathered. I then make a plan about where to plant them and how to tend them. As my garden grows, inevitably there will be surprises and things to learn. I’ll observe which plants grow stronger and make adjustments based on challenges that emerge such as pests or weather conditions like a drought. All of this effort is for the larger intention of creating a thriving garden that creates nourishment and natural beauty.
It is helpful to apply this wisdom from the garden to our personal practices.
Here are four steps you can take to learn what practices work for you:.
Choose practices to test that you are drawn to and you feel like you could realistically do everyday. This could be familiar practices or brand new ones you have just learned.
Write down why you are doing the practice.
Set a specific time for them into your day, and commit to a number of days. (I recommend a minimum of one week for most practices.)
Reflect on how the practice is making you feel and other impacts you notice. Keep a daily journal to track your practices and how they are affecting you.
Here is an example from my life of using this process:
My test practice is to turn my cell phone off at least 30 minutes before going to bed and turn it back on one hour after waking up.
I am doing this to improve my sleep quality and have a better morning meditation.
I am doing this for 10 days in the mornings and evenings.
I am better rested and feel less anxious. In the morning my mind is clearer and I am more relaxed starting my day.
Checkout our shorter podcast episodes that focus on individual practices for inspiration on ideas to test in your life. I’d love to hear in the comments how this all works for you. Enjoy your practices!