writing-with-coffee

CONTINUOUS PRACTICE

As our lives bloom in our middle years and beyond, how do we manage the fullness of creative work, family obligations, and the need for right livelihood?

 

We are all beyond busy. We are parents of small and grown children, caregivers to parents and siblings. We are solopreneurs or employees dedicated to work we love. When we finally get time and space to ourselves, we’re so far away from our creative work, we need a compass to find our way back.

 

That compass is Continuous Practice.

 

Continuous Practice is a community of artists – writers, dancers, musicians, and visual artists – committed to daily activity that is a priority to our work. By showing up and documenting our practice online, we support one another and keep ourselves accountable.

 

Practicing as a community, we become conscious of our interconnectedness, knowing that when we sit down at the page or the mat or the sketchbook, we are tapping into something larger than ourselves.

 

We commit to one hundred days at a time.

 

In the beginning, we rely on determination, our own force of will. But at some point, usually around sixty days in, we stop thinking about practice and show up out of habit, with no resistance.

 

A hundred days of anything can seem overwhelming if you think about it too much.

 

But practice is showing up one day and then the next. You make the commitment anew each day, push past your resistance, and then you’re swimming. Practice holds you up. And so does the presence of other practitioners.

 

On our Continuous Practice Facebook Forum, we hold space for one another by showing up each day.

 

We practice, document, and post to the group. We see a friend in Colorado posting and another one in Louisiana still practicing. A school teacher writing before classes, a mother of three meditation before the kids are awake. It helps to know that others are on the journey with us.

 

“This community gives me courage and much-needed reminders to continue,” says Cindy Huyser, poet and co-editor of Texas Poetry Calendar, published each year by Dos Gatos Press.

 

Tambra Nelson, an energy worker, healer, and student of writing practice, says the community gives her silent and loving support. “The group encourages me to go back to the page, the cushion, the rattle-whatever I have committed to and more. We are not alone here.”

 

When you show up for regular practice, you build a foundation, a place to return. You create your own safe harbor.

 

Come Monday morning, you know what to do. You have a place to enter your day and your work week.

 

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, wait for what calls, and respond through right action.

 

Here’s what you need to do to join Continuous Practice:

 

1) Select a practice – meditation, writing practice, drawing, photography – anything you show up for every day without expectation or thought to outcome.

 

2) Decide how many days you are going to practice. I use a hundred because it’s enough to time to form a habit, eliminating a lot of resistance, but still long enough to struggle, which is where real learning and growth lies.

 

A word of caution about the numbers: Don’t get caught up in them. The number of days you commit — whether it’s thirty days or a hundred — 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.

 

3) 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 the 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.

 

4) If you’re on Facebook, request to join our Forum, and become part of our growing community.

 

Our guidelines:

1) No idea of improvement or outcome. This isn’t a place to work on your novel or whatever masterpiece you have in the works. Though I care deeply about those things, this is a place for us to meet ourselves, face to face. Practice is a priori, informing our great work from beneath.

 

2) No applause or criticism. This is hard. We’re used to seeking approval in the form of good grades or salaries or reviews or simple cheerleading from our friends and family. This is a chance for us to learn to continue without that, not to depend on it to inform our work or our worth. Non-judgment is also the first principle of mindfulness. Instead of offering comment, we support each other by holding space, making room for each of us to face ourselves and grow strong.

 

3) Along those lines, let’s assume the “Like” button is about acknowledgment and not about whether you like what someone said in their status or their picture. Consider it like a bow or deep nod.

 

4) Do not feel obligated to say something clever in your status. The most naked thing to do is show up and say you did the practice and that’s it.

 

5) Nor do I want you to stress about having a pretty picture. This is another way for us to get caught in judgment and comparison. It doesn’t matter if you have a good picture or a shitty picture or no picture at all. All you have to do is show up.

 

Continuous Practice is a gift to yourself and to our broken world. I would love for you to join us.