It’s something that you do, deliberately and consistently, whether or not you feel like it, the circumstances are right, you do a good job— this is what makes it a practice,— and it causes a fundamental shift in some part of your life— this is what makes it transformative.
So often we seek change— we want to be happy, or lose weight, or feel better, or be more creative.
We try to create change by limiting or denying ourselves, and we feel worse. It seems clear to me that saying “I’ll stop eating french fries,” “I’ll stop watching TV,” or “I’ll stop slouching” is ultimately no fun, and when we inevitably mess up, we are angry with ourselves. These aren’t things you decide to do, they’re things you decide not to do. Different.
We can, however, invite change through practices. This is way more fun and rewarding, and sometimes we change in wonderful ways we didn’t anticipate. The neat part is, almost any practice can be transformative. It’s the practice, not the transformation, that needs to be deliberate. You can start a practice and realize eventually that it has been transformative.
Here’s what makes it work:
- A practice is non-negotiable. You aren’t trying to decide whether you should do it or not. You’ve already decided that. The default setting is “do it.” You don’t have to make any more decisions.
- Practice is power. A practice is not results-driven. It’s something you do to honor yourself, and the external things that happen can’t alter that.
Examples? The sky’s the limit, but here are some that I or people I know do:
- yoga (duh). I practice yoga. I show up and unroll my mat and move with my breath. I do this when I don’t feel like it, when I can’t get get into a pose, and when I totally nail crazy arm balances. And I feel better, I’m happier and more relaxed, and my body works better.
- meditation. I don’t do this regularly, but people who do talk about experiencing transformation after practicing it for as little a a few minutes per day.
- Sunday dinner. this is an unusual one, but I think it’s a practice. I invite a group of friends to my house for dinner almost every sunday night. I cook a big old vegan feast, and we eat and drink and talk and laugh and hug and support each other and tease each other. Sunday is fun now. Monday will be OK.
- Gratitude. This is kind of trendy now, but it’s a good one. Have you tried a gratitude journal? Taking a few minutes every day to make a list of things you’re grateful for? It has “transformative practice” written all over it.
- Running, or walking.
- Morning pages
- Mindful eating
The point is, they can be big or small, physical, mental, or emotional, solo or with a group. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s deliberate and consistent. See how you change.