(This is part two of Adopt an Attitude of Practice. if you haven’t read part one you can access it here.)
Over time, I have identified the seven deadly obstacles to an attitude of practice for me. When I approach something new and exciting – something that will take practice – these are the gremlins that hold me back. Yours may be different, but here’s mine:
- Attachment to being right vs. doing right
Being right is, by nature, dualistic. For me to be right, someone has to be wrong. From that point on, possibilities and growth become stunted.
- The need to be perfect, and believing it’s possible
Holding yourself to some imagined standard of perfection will blind you to all the beauty of your imperfect life.
- Avoidance of fear
Here’s the deal – to be open to life, love, and possibilities is just going to be downright scary sometimes. But so what? Fear is not the enemy. Accept it and move on. If you are obsessed with staying safe, I guarantee you never get to enjoy your life and your fellow travellers.
- Victim orientation
A wise person once told me “There are no victims – only volunteers.” She qualified that statement, though, by admitting there are some horrible situations in which people are indeed victims. Her point was that when we become attached to being the victim in all aspects of our lives, we populate our world with perpetrators and we give up any responsibility for our own happiness and well-being.
Some say they find that anger helps them make changes. I say that’s great, but for me, it’s a waste of time and energy.
Shame is the belief that you are wrong at a very deep, core level. I took a break from practicing law a while back to work as a counselor in residential treatment for alcoholics and addicts. To a person, they carried a deep, abiding sense of shame and didn’t even know it. When they finally realized this and let it go, you could see the most amazing light come back into their eyes. Shame is the great internal oppressor that keeps us locked away from a wonderful life. If this is one of your gremlins, I encourage you to get some help from someone who can help you recognize it, acknowledge it, and be done with it.
Do I really need to expound on this?
Developing an Attitude of Practice
If you’ve stuck with me this far, then let me share with you how to approach your life and your relationships with an attitude of practice. Truth is, it’s quite simple – not always easy, but simple. When you find yourself interacting with someone or some aspect of life and you want to nurture the possibilities there, here’s what you do.
- Stop – step back for a second to create just a bit of space.
- Breathe – it’s really difficult to fully engage when you hold your breath.
- Notice your emotions – no need to change them – just be aware of them.
- Notice your thoughts – we usually let our minds run themselves with very little attention or adult supervision. Noticing what you’re thinking helps put you back in control of your life.
- Know your intention – what do you want, why do you want it, and are you sure?
- Pay attention – throughout the entire interaction, pay attention to what and who is happening
- Respond – don’t just react.
And finally, if you really want to learn to practice life and all your relationships, find some teachers and mentors. Look for people around you who seem to be able to live or relate in ways you like. Watch them, listen to them, learn from them, practice with them.
Remember what I said at the beginning. Approach life like a musician. Practice life to become comfortable with what doesn’t come naturally. It can be physically, mentally, and emotionally uncomfortable to learn and practice a new life skill, a new relationship, or a new way of approaching life. Through good practice, though, it becomes more natural. Eventually, it requires little or no thought to play.
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