Art by Paul Lewin
This was written for The Record the Antioch College Paper
Life as Practice!
I am moved by this community. Moved by its endless struggle to live it’s values, and it’s willingness to show up for hard conversations. The world needs you!. I want to support the community in continuing to grow in its skill to build a powerful community that not only lives it’s values but models for other schools what is possible in higher education.
I keep writing and rewriting this article in an effort to hit all the knowledge I have gained in having 20 years of practice as a community builder and healer. Impossible! So instead I want to offer a simple fact that I wish I had known when I first set out to be a movement builder, art activist, and world changer;
Everything is a Practice!
I have always been driven to make a difference whether it be in how I felt about me, how my family functioned, or how my community looked. The struggles around me and my internal suffering always felt overwhelming and intolerable. When I first became an activist what I was seeking was relief. How do we fix it! How do I fix me! How long will it take!
In my 20’s I worked feverishly to find the answers. In that search I found 2 master teachers. The first taught me the art of being present to the moment and knowing myself outside of the distress of oppression, the second taught me the power of practice. She would say time and time again that it takes 30 repetitions to memorize, 300 to know something, 3-5,000 repetitions to create a muscle memory or embody something. Unlearning the old and building the new paradigm takes practice. As part of my training as a somatic healer and activist we learned the Jo Kata which is a pattern of Aikido moves. This was an embodied practice that taught me the power of practice and here are my leanings I’d like to share with you.
Phase 1: Making mistakes. Can you be brave enough to make mistake to say the wrong thing receive the correction and try again? I am still working on aligning my actions with my values. I receive the corrections without guilt and I recommit to reprogramming my mind so that I can live into the world I want to live in. The key is if you don’t start somewhere you’ll go nowhere. Please note that now is the perfect time to be making mistakes and getting corrections!
Phase 2: Discipline. Take your practices seriously. Practicing is not easy and not always fun. If we go back to the Aikido metaphor the first step of become a master is showing up. You have to be committed. You have to make the practice important if you want to be an effective leader. In a overwhelm tsunami of old thought, you have to have the discipline to practice new thought. What are your daily practices? Remember 3-5,000 repetitions and you have to start over your count every time you miss a repetition.
Phase 3: Competence. This is when your body, mind align and things start coming more easily. You begin to enjoy the feeling of aligning your values with the way you live. You believe in accountability and you are accountable for your action, you believe in honesty and you easily tell the truth.
Phase 4: Mastery. This is where you are the lived expression of the thing you are trying to create. This is not about ideas or thoughts this is about being. When you are in the presence of a master you know it. They don’t need to flash a badge or state their credentials for you to identify them. Their being speaks of their embodied practices. Many people become masters in the old paradigm; masters of the struggle, of denial, of suffering. What is it to become a master of justice, fairness, and compassion?
Answer these questions for yourself:
What do you want to master?
What do you need to practice?
What can you do every day to unlearn the old beliefs and create a new reality for yourself?