“Practice makes perfect.” I’ve heard this my whole life. And “not practicing” is a recipe for failure – my fourth grade piano teacher made sure I knew that.
I like to be good at something right away. Unfortunately, it rarely works like that. This has kept me from experiencing things that I’m pretty sure I would love. Snowboarding is a hoot, I’m told, but after spending a day on my wet, bruised butt, I never went back.
There are all sorts of articles and studies that show how continued practice will yield results.
Malcolm Gladwell says that 10,000 hours doing anything will bring Mastery. In another twist on that idea, I just read a wonderful post by Steve Pavlina urging people to read (or listen to) 1 non-fiction book a week. “If you read 50 books per year in your field (about a book a week), you’ll be an international expert within 5-7 years.”
This is encouraging and inspiring. It is also daunting. While I know that a thousand mile journey starts with a single step, I also know how deflating it can be to look ahead at a destination a thousand miles (or 10,000 hours, or 300 books) away. There is a reason why Alcoholics Anonymous embraces the idea of “One Day at A Time.” I have to do this for HOW long!? Screw that.
But there is a deeper value to practice beyond getting you to mastery. The journey is the destination, right? I learned to love this aspect of Practice when I took my first Yoga class. A Yoga Practice is about the Right Now. It is not a means to an end. There are no yoga black belts or “Ninth Level Yoga Masters.” There are only perfect individuals, exactly where they should be in their practice. And that practice may not be one of linear growth. You may or may not be more flexible tomorrow than you are today. Where you are NOW is perfect, wherever that is. How comforting!
Last weekend I was reminded of the power of Practice when listening to a talk by Poi Master Marvin Ong. He practices Flow Arts up to six hours a day and has a command of his craft that is awe inspiring. “I used to practice because I wanted to be the best….Now I practice to be Present.” He explained that rather than focusing on excellence and impressing his future audience, he now tries to experience the Now as intimately as possible: Feeling the weight of his tools in his hands. Noticing subtle changes in pull and weight. “Practice makes Present,” he said.
What is beautiful about this idea is that it doesn’t diminish the theories of Gladwell or Pavlina at all. There are still golden treasures at the end of our 1,000 mile journeys. But, when we practice being Present, the entire trip is filled with fragrant flowers.
Mastery may be down the road, but Bliss is Right Now.
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