I was raised with the adage that “practice makes perfect” and for quite a while I was a very stressed out little kid trying to “perfect” myself. In fact, I recall my mother reminding me of a “little rhyme” from her childhood schooling that went like this –
“Good, better, best
Never let it rest
Until your good is better
And your better is best.”
Yikes! Thankfully, I can report that I recovered from this burdensome mindset and over time embraced a different energy and intention to the concept of practicing. As this is my first blog entry on my professional website of a Psychologist in Private Practice, I thought I would share a bit about a couple of current practices in my personal life, that may reflect a bit more about myself in my practice as a Psychologist.
For starters, virtually without fail, I attend a weekly yoga class at 9:30 am on Wednesdays. This midweek practice is a very centering, meditative and “invitational” yoga in that the the teacher (love you, Maggie!) literally says at the beginning of every class, that this is more about attuning to one’s own experience in the moment vs trying to make your body mimic what she is instructing. So her suggestions are in fact invitations and genuine questions; e.g. “you might want to notice what it is like to soften the muscles in your face; what does it feel like to find your expression of warrior today?”
Our class generally ends with the word “Namaste”, which is preceded by Maggie saying something in the spirit of “As I meet myself…in this moment… as I am…and as you meet yourself…in this moment, exactly as you are, it is from this place that we come together. Light to light…Truth to truth.” I am aware, that the visceral, experiential impact of settling into this place of connection in light and truth is difficult to fully experience from reading these words, that said, I know that this 75 minute weekly practice, with it’s focused internal attunement to my own physical and spiritual self, nourishes my own ability to attend to the souls of my clients, friends and family. As such, this personal practice strongly feeds me and informs my professional practice.
Another practice that I have incorporated into my regime is a daily dose of endeavoring to learn some Spanish using the Duolingo app. As of today, my streak is 210 days! There are many features to appreciate about the structure of the Duolingo lessons and what they do to keep users engaged in learning. For me, maintaining “my streak” is a powerful motivator. On a super busy day, I can fulfill my daily quota with five minutes of reading a brief story and responding to comprehension and vocabulary questions. With more time, I can tackle discreet learning goals and demonstrate mastery of them by passing tests. This accomplishment is rewarded by the app opening up new levels of learning. The mascot of the site is an adorably drawn owl named Duo, who celebrates my efforts and victories and even consoles me and encourages me when I am getting things wrong (e.g., “Mistakes are how we learn”, he hoots). Once the site had a glitch and it mistakenly thought I missed a day of practice, Duo the Owl had tears in his eyes that nearly broke my heart.
But apart from wanting to keep my streak growing and being held hostage by a cartoon owl, what is my intention in trying to get some Espanol into my cabeza vieja (old head)? Well, I do believe that intentionally creating new neural pathways is an exercise in vitality, and I am committed to doing what I can to keep expanding my capacities as long as possible. While I don’t expect to ever become fully fluent, I can experience making progress over time that will enable me to travel to Spanish speaking countries with some tools beyond “Hola” (although I am still presently only speaking in the present tense!). Additionally, this discipline of daily language learning expands my empathy for non-native English speakers who are working hard to learn my native language.
My intent in sharing these two different practices from my personal life, is to be a bit more human about my journey so readers can know that I am someone who values practices that grow and nourish the soul. In my professional practice, I believe that when we are doing our best work, my clients are in fact creating new and better neural pathways in their brain that enable them to face the challenges of their lives with greater capacity and vitality. And nothing warms my heart and inspires me more than seeing my clients developing their own meaningful, nourishing, intention-filled practices in their own lives.