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Practice Natures

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

Practice encompasses the entire realm of ritualized human activity. This makes identifying and making sense of our own practices tricky. What practices do we regularly engage in? Which practices are taking up too much space? Which practices need more attention? How many practices are humanly possible?! Answering these questions takes personal inquiry, trial + error, and a relentless pursuit of balance.


Balance can be achieved by understanding and maintaining an awareness of the various natures of practice. Practice can take on infinite natures-- Masculine, feminine, collaborative, individual, rigorous, restorative, traditional, nuanced, and so on.


Any practice can, in fact, take on all of these natures, leaving endless possibilities for establishing an individual aesthetic within a practice. My music practice is my professional practice, but is also creative, physical, feminine, rigorous. It takes on new natures as I meet different roadblocks. Typically, practices each have a predominant nature. My music is, first and foremost, a creative pursuit.


Achieving balance requires that the cumulation of your daily practices yield the natures that feel genuine and important to your sense of self. This will look different for everyone. I sometimes ask students, "If your life was a pie chart, how much of the pie chart would your practice take up? Do you wish it was taking up more or less? Do the other items on the pie chart reflect the type of life you want to live?"


As there are infinite natures of practice, everybody's pie chart will look different. However, some practice natures apply to a typical balanced human experience. At this point in my research, I've identified seven leading natures:


Physical


Primarily physical practices focus on our relationship with our body and breath. They developed our somatic understanding of the world. We learn to use our senses in more productive ways, build muscle memory, release tension, and much more. Practices that may be primarily physical include team sports, dance, yoga, figure-skating, wine-tasting, massage, hiking, and more.




Creative


Primarily creative practices teach us self expression. We use creative practice to recognize and make sense of the patterns in our lives. Creative practice is intrinsically tied to personal experience and aesthetic. Primarily creative practices might include music, painting, cooking, writing, tap dancing, clowning, knitting, photography, or ceramics.




Professional


We touched briefly on professional practice in Practice 101. Professional practice is about the pursuit of expertise. It requires a certain level of rigor. To practice professionally often takes up a great deal of time and space. Professional practices can take many forms, but they may be clinical, entrepreneurial, academic, research-based, marketable, and collaborative.



Intellectual


A practice that is predominantly intellectual engages the cerebral body and focuses on developing logic skills. It teaches us to think critically, cross-reference, and develop vocabulary. Intellectual practice can look like reading, writing, researching, engaging in academic debate, studying, and so on.




Social


Social practices address the interdependent reality of the human experience. They offer connection and solidarity. We learn to better help one another through engaging in regular social practice within a diverse social circle. Social practices include parties, dinner dates, face-to-face transactions, concerts, festivals, social media, and some religious activities.



Wellness


Like physical practices, wellness practice focuses on the body and, in addition, gives attention to the mental and emotional body. Wellness practice is our way of maintaining the body so that it can carry out our other regular practices. Wellness practice might look like yoga, evening walks, meal prep, regular workouts, a vitamin ritual, a weekend retreat, etc.



Spiritual


I use the term spiritual to refer to practices that connect us to our sense of the big picture. Spiritual practice is used to try and understand the universe of things that exist outside ourselves, and how we fit into that image. It can take the form of formal religious practice, regular meditation, regular exposure to the outdoors, a study of astronomy, an interest in astrology, or traveling to new places.



Because practices inform each other, multidisciplinary practice allows us to embrace all the natures that feel essential to us personally. For example, if I run into an issue with the physical nature of my music practice (perhaps I have physical tensions that cause my voice crack while navigating my passaggio), I might supplement with an adjacent physical practice, such as yoga, to find solutions. If I feel too exhausted to carry out my practice plan for the week, I might need to take a look at my wellness practice to see what is out of whack. If sitting down at the piano sounds like the most awful and boring thing in the world, it may be time to reassess my creative practice and see what is helping my self-expression and what is hurting it.


Take some time this week to identify the different natures of your practices. Doing so will help you find some balance and enhance your practice experience.

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