Why Does Practice Make You “Better”?
What’s your practice?
What are you practicing for?
The holiday season can bring up many emotions, decisions, plans, and choices. Perhaps leaving you either fulfilled or empty. Maybe both?
This is also the time when many of us realize that “our practice” starts to look different. We’re not meditating as much. We’re not stepping on our yoga mat. Our writing practice looks like a text message. And we’re either thinking or saying out loud:
“I’m not practicing as much these days. There’s no time between holidays, travel, family, and conversations.”
Perhaps there’s a bit of judgment or sadness or shame to that reflection. But I’m here to ask, isn’t that kind of the point? To allow our practice to help us during our daily life? At the end of the day, what are you practicing for?
What does practice technically mean? It’s always helpful to look up the technical definition. As a new(ish) proclaimed writer, I find it beautiful what I’m learning from other writers and their nerdiness with words, their love for etymology, and solo dictionary dates.
as a noun it’s: the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it. OR the customary, habitual, or expected procedure or way of doing of something.
as a verb it’s: perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency. OR carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly.
I hope that you got a chance to answer the first journaling question, even just loosely in your head — What is your practice?
For me, my practices are meditation, yoga, breathwork, writing, therapy — to name a few.
If you need a moment to ground yourself right now before we keep going, I recorded this class and there’s a guided meditation in the beginning. So take your time and come back once you feel more centered.
The practice is often a contrived scenario of the “real thing,” whatever that real thing is for you — that’s what I’m getting at when I’m asking you “What are you practicing for?”
The 2022 World Cup is happening right now, and while I don’t know anything else about soccer aside from that — when I watch these players play their technique it’s so instinctual. There’s no hesitation with what to do with their bodies when a ball is thrown at them.
If that were me which thank goodness it’s not, I would immediately flinch. It wasn’t that they woke up one morning and realized their body can move and perform that way — that a ball getting thrown at their face means they jump up to head bump it and not duck in anguish like everyone else — it’s through their practice, repetition, and discipline that their body reacts this way.
They embody their practice in the game.
It’s years of fake scenarios (aka practice) that allows them to play at the World Cup.
And so, what about for you?
How do you embody your practice?
Think about what or why you are practicing for. Back to this analogy, what’s your game? It’s not exactly for the sake of practice, or to say that we meditate if that’s our practice — there’s something else.
Why does practice make us “better”
I love this quote by meditator and author Kate Johnson in her book Radical Friendship,
“Our minds [during meditation practice] become places where we not only feel safe to feel suffering but also safe to feel completely loved and completely free” — Kate Johnson
If that’s what we’re practicing for, at least in meditation — how will that play out outside in our daily life? What kind of curve balls get thrown at you? Or what kind of curve balls will get thrown at you during the holiday season?
» Rushing out the door
» Catching flights
» Gathering with family
» Conversations or hard conversations or triggering conversations
We all have our thing. In my opinion, there’s almost no point in having mindfulness practices if they can’t support us with the above. The point of our practice is to live in our daily life. Not to act as if we live up in the mountains, remote, isolated, with no distractions, and therefore peaceful and content. We’re asked to face a really tough game, the game of life, day in and day out.
What practice to do during times of stress?
The techniques might not be obvious, for a while.
Again, go back to the soccer player analogy. Why do they choose to kick the ball a certain way? Because of years and hours of practice that the body just knows what to do based on the game their playing.
Why do you choose a certain practice for a certain moment? It’s harder to tell. It’s taken me 13 years of practice and about 10 years of teaching, to just barely scratch the surface of how the practice helps me during— hard conversations, or how to calm myself down when I’m already triggered and just want to shut down. How do those “fake scenarios” in yoga or meditation then translate to daily living?
In our modern times, this can the biggest challenge. Because we want to reap the benefits of the practice now. Instant. Next-day delivery. We can’t wait 10 years for it to start making sense.
It’s a slow climb. Not to deter you, but find your community! Find mentorship! Find a place where you can speak about this stuff and get to hear the experience from practitioners and teachers that have been in it. We’re in a sea of influencers, and media that seems like everyone is all of a sudden an expert. We’re not giving the microphone to the teachers that have done their 10,000 hours of practice.
Even meditation apps have their air that “you can feel calm instantly.” Stress-free guaranteed! But maybe there’s more to it? Maybe there’s more to just feeling calm after meditation?
All to say that I hope this is helpful. I hope it’s helpful to see that analogy with another type of practice, like soccer. What’s your “game?”
In the video there’s a practice toward the end called the “Breath of Victory” that is super easy to do, you could even do it while in line at the grocery store.
Remember to slow down. Hibernate. Live your practice during this time. Not by saying or listing all the practices you do, to your friends, family, and loved ones but by embodying them. Living it. Showing it. 🙂