PRACTICE MAKES … A DIFFERENCE

‘You are what you practice most’ Richard Carlson

One of the things I try to do in clinic is encourage my patients to start some kind of personal practice. By that I mean taking some regular, structured time every day that you just dedicate to yourself.

A practice, in this sense, is about beginning to explore the landscape of your body and your mind in a way that interests you, and grows your ability to use them well. It’s a bit like map making – the better you understand the territory, the easier it becomes to navigate.

The amazing thing is that whatever we choose to practice, we get better at it. That might sound obvious, but what an incredible capacity that is – we can literally choose something, practice it and improve! The body-mind is so intelligent and adaptive that it will immediately start to change itself as you start something new.

Body practices usually focus on movement as a way to explore. We can practice balance, strength, co-ordination, control, balance, agility, flexibility – the list of potential improvements we can make, if we wish, is huge. And it makes no difference how old or unfit you think you are – when you begin your practice, you’re on the road to improvement.

The most popular practice for the mind is of course meditation, but, as with the body, there are lots of different aspects of the mind to develop, which we can do by just shifting the object of practice slightly. So for example we could get better at directing and holding attention or self awareness. We can practice cultivating positive states like gratitude and self-compassion, or we can practice our relational skills, like how to connect and be with others without judgement.

Many practices, like Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong for example are a combination of both.

Engaging in one of these long established practices is a great way to begin, because there is a ready made framework and community to plug into. I recommend trying out different practices and different teachers to see which might fit you best.

There is now literally a mountain of evidence from studies that show how practices that incorporate mindfulness improve the health of mind and body in all sorts of ways. If you’re interested to find out more about the research, you could take a look at the work of the Centre for Mind Body Awareness, The Centre for Mindfulness Studies or more locally, the Sussex Mindfulness Centre.

My own personal practice varies depending on my curiosities. But mostly I try to do a half hour movement practice and a half hour sitting meditation every day. I know that might sound a lot to fit in, but that’s just what I like to do personally. It’s the regular showing up every day, without fail – even if it’s only five minutes, that starts to build the practice.

Do get in touch with the clinic if you would like some advice and support about how to start.

 

Paul Harrington Registered Osteopath