People have been asking what I’m going to do when I’ve completed 365 days of Continuous Practice. Will there be a Day 366? Will I continue to practice with my people on Facebook? Or am I done?
While 365 days of practice has been transformative, I am not ready to make another 365-day commitment to anything. This year I’ve struggled, pushed through, experienced elation, struggled some more, pushed through again, and at some point became utterly sick of my own mind rambling on the page every day. Which isn’t to say I’m giving up writing practice after twenty years. More than ever, it’s my compass, and I will continue with to practice regularly.
I’m shaking it up a bit in 2016, however, and dedicating the first 100 days of practice to meditation (I know, living on the edge.) It’s much harder for me to get my butt on the meditation mat than get my hand moving across the page. So while it’s only 100 days, it will be more challenging. But also, I want to be clear that Continuous Practice is not about writing.
Continuous Practice is open to artists working in any media who want to establish practice as the foundation of their work. You can chose writing or meditation or yoga or drawing or dance–any activity you commit to without thought to reward or outcome.
During the final weeks of the year, when I felt like I was crawling toward the finish line, I did discovered a few tricks that I want to share before moving on to what’s happening in 2016:
- When I was looking over my old posts, I found the original announcement and invitation I sent about Continuous Practice. Somewhere along the way I forgot I had dedicated the year of practice to my teacher, Natalie Goldberg. Not that I didn’t think of her every day when I sat down to write, but my own determination fueled me as did my devotion to the folks were practicing with me. HOWEVER, during the last few weeks I rededicated my practice to her and that added some wind to my sails.
As we head into 2016, is there someone you could dedicate your daily practice to? A teacher, mentor, or role model?
- When I could no longer drag myself through twenty minutes of undirected writing, especially when I was suffering from mold illness and didn’t have much to say outside my own suffering, I found another way to keep it fresh. I broke my daily practice into two chunks, setting my timer for ten minutes at a time. Ten minutes of rambling crap, then minutes responding to one of the excellent questions for self inquiry in Jen Louden’s, Life Organizer.
What happens when your practice feel stale? How could you make it fresh again?
As we head into 2016, I’m kicking off another 100-Day Challenge. Let’s begin the year with a commitment to stay connected to ourselves, to our community of fellow artist practitioners, and to the wider world through our effort. But don’t worry if you’re slow getting started. Any day can be day one.
I’m excited to announce that in March I’ll be offering a monthly subscription for those seeking greater support and who want to go deeper with Continuous Practice. Participants will receive monthly guidance and wisdom from seasoned artist practitioners in different fields including Natalie Goldberg, Jeffrey Davis, Jen Louden, Barbara Bash, and Deborah Hay. In addition, you’ll receive weekly support, encouragement, communication from me. More information in the coming weeks.
Here’s what you need to do to join Continuous Practice Now:
- Select a practice – meditation, writing practice, drawing, photography – anything you show up for every day without expectation or thought to outcome. I chose writing practice for 2015 because I was already doing it regularly, so it didn’t feel like a huge leap. But you might also consider a practice you’ve been longing for. In 2016 I’ll be switching to meditation for the first 100 days because it’s something I’ve always wanted.
- Decide how many days you are going to practice. I recommend 100 because it’s enough time to form a habit, eliminating a lot of resistance, but still long enough to struggle, which is where real learning and growth lies. By the way, journalist Deb Saine knew she would get tripped up by the big numbers and began with a commitment to seven days and then another seven days and then another. She recently passed Day 350.
A word of caution about the numbers: Don’t get caught up in them. The number of days you commit — whether it’s the 30 days or 100 — is simply a structure. The point is to have a relationship with your practice within that structure. If you don’t practice on a given day, just say “skipped” and continue without shame. In meditation, our thoughts wander, but we keep coming back until the allotted time is up. Same with Continuous Practice. While it’s exciting to see the numbers add up because we see what we’re capable of, it’s just as important to develop compassion around missing a day. And then get back to it. Practice is always about this moment.
- At the end of your session, snap a picture or make a note of where you are. Post the photograph or description of your practice and locale and to Facebook and/or Instagram. Don’t forget to include the hashtag, #continuouspractice. Some of our members post only to our Facebook Forum and that is fine. But when you post to your feed as well, you become a model for your friends and followers. You inspire them to make the commitment as well.
- If you’re on Facebook, request to join our Forum, and become part of our growing community.
As artists, when we have a regular practice, we affirm life in all its complexity as well as open to the world as it moves through us. We tame the ego, listen, and wait for what calls, and respond through right action.