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A New Way In
I’ve been working with Laura’s suggestions regarding Minimums and Maximums for my long-term practice. If you haven’t watched Laura’s 8-minute Min-Max video, do it now. This blog will make much more sense once you do.
For those of you who know me, you already know that my long-term practice is writing. I have written consistently since I was thirteen years old. It has been my longest chosen practice for over forty years.
Over the decades I have tried many ways of engaging with this practice. I have brought many forms to it. Daily and weekly schedules. Product output and word count goals. Long writes and short writes. Morning writes and night time writes. Regardless of the forms above, the structure that I have used consistently for the last fifteen years is based on Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Practice (see her book, Writing Down the Bones). I have attended weekend retreats, week-long writing workshops, and year-long writing intensives as a student and assistant to Natalie. All that to say, I have been deeply invested in this practice for a long time – all the ups and downs of it.
Here is what I have come to know through my own experience and through the journeys of our ICC students’ engagement in practice: Regardless of the forms or structures put in place, at the end of the day, we face ourselves in practice. We face the empty page or computer screen, the gym or the yoga mat, our practice space, whatever that may be. It comes down to a moment in time when we either lean toward or lean away from our practice. This moment faces us anew each day. Just because we had a great practice yesterday does not mean today will be a walk in the park.
I think the moment of our practice arriving may present the biggest opportunity and the hardest part of practice. Facing ourselves again and again and again. God, who wants that? Yet, there is no getting away from it.
Once underway, once the pen is moving across the page or the fingers are on the keys, once the laps are being swum, the guitar is being played or the meditation is underway, we are in the practice. Things are often good in the middle of practicing because we are in moments of the practice itself. Some have said this is when, “practice is doing practice.” There is movement or momentum or stillness. I don’t know about you, but I don’t tend to stress about the midway point of a practice in advance! It feels very different in the middle than in the deliberative moment to enter the practice itself.
In the moment when we are choosing – practice or don’t - that particular instant hangs there, pregnant with choice-making. We are alone with ourselves and all of our alternatives to practicing. For some of us, that moment feels like it is over in a second. No big deal. We make a choice (or feel like the choice is made for us) and we move quickly. No going back and forth. For some of us though, the moment hangs out there like some huge pressure point.
Will I go get my laptop or go have a snack?
Are these moments tough for you? You know, that exact moment of choosing to do something like your practice or following through on something that matters to you. They are tough for me.
In my interior, these moments of leaning in or leaning out feel like a big deal. Through my current way of seeing, I can load up all kinds of deliberations that make these moments feel big. Like this one, “If I don’t go write now, I am not stepping into what I am meant to be doing in my life.” How’s that for a loaded moment? Who needs that pressure? Even if I have defined my Min-Max (from Laura’s video) as one 10-minute write, that Minimum Practice can feel huge on a busy day, especially if I am facing the moment with a loaded statement like the one above!
So, alongside my Min-Max practice for writing, I have another tool that I often use. I call it my ‘way in’ to my practice regardless of whether it is a minimum or maximum. Why is the ‘way in’ an important part of my practice? It is important because in that exact moment of deciding to go write, my particular ‘way in’ or ‘way out’ of my practice shows up. I have found that my ‘way out’ is often related to my current way of making it such a big deal. For those who know some of our Integral Lenses, I am an UL-orienting (secondary LR), Enneagram 4 with a 5-wing. When I decide even my minimum is ‘too big’ or ‘too much’ for this moment, I have often overanalyzed it, felt defeated before beginning, and come up with a very good argument as to why I should put off practicing in this particular moment. I am so predictable! Watch me make a big deal out of it. Like clockwork. It is my ‘way out’ of even my 10-minute minimum.
My ‘Way Out’
I don’t have the energy to invest in my very substantial life’s work right now.
On the other hand, my ‘way in’ is related to a new way of being and tends to draw on something that I am still developing. My ‘way in’ needs to be something that brings me into my body (UR) and enables my UL/Enneagram 4-ness drama to come down a few notches. By the way, my new ways of being and ‘ways in’ nearly always involve my body being engaged! My ‘ways in’ have changed over the years. They need to stay fresh as I find my way around them. Do you want to know the ‘way in’ that I am using these days when it is time to write?
My ‘Way In’
I shrug my shoulders and inside I mutter to myself, “What the hell…”
I have to tell you a secret. Even though I consider myself more of a words-woman, the most important part of my ‘way in’ to my writing practice is the shrugging of my shoulders! Really. This teeny little somatic line, UR movement does something that no words can. It’s like this little shrug of my shoulders somatically transmits something to my interior like, “Don’t be ridiculous, Joanne. It’s ten fucking minutes.” Truly. That’s what the shrug feels like to me on the inside. And let me tell you, there is no UL dramatic Enneagram 4 argument that beats a shoulder shrug. If an argument tries to arise, I just shrug again. What I have also noticed is that regardless of the words that I mutter inside, the shrug often ends up being accompanied by raised eyebrows and a wry smile. I’m on to you. Shoulder Shrugging Wry Smile Joanne out manoeuvres I Can Out Argue You Joanne every time. Every. Single. Time.
A new ‘way in’ to your practice does not have to be big. In fact, the simpler the better.
As you play with the Min-Max Principles of your own practice (or your clients’ practices), it might just take a little shoulder shrug to meet the moment (see my New Year blog post, Meeting the Moment). What aspect of a new way of being could you employ as your ‘way in’ to a practice or conversation or activity today? It might draw on an unused quadrant or some new aspect of a feminine or masculine capacity. It might draw on a physical move or a sentence or a song.
What’s your shoulder shrug?
Please, enjoy yourself!