Practice Practice

Definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

The above definition of insanity is most frequently attributed to Einstein. At its core, the message is about the behavior of someone who is not aware, particularly of how specific action relates to results. When we want to improve our circumstances, we need to be aware of the crucial issue, in order to make choices, and, we need to practice, in order to improve our capacity. In short, awareness creates choice, and practice creates capacity. Desiring change, and being aware of change, is only half of the equation required to create change. The second half of the equation is practice.

All too often, we mistake cognitive recognition for capacity. We read information. We gain knowledge. We acknowledge new ideas. We take different perspectives. We experience “aha” moments. We see new choices. These moments of insight brighten our mind. However, they do not build embodied muscles that enable us to perform differently in the world. Taking better action requires practice.

Awareness creates choice. Practice creates capacity.

Being aware and having capacity are two different aspects of development. Being aware ignites the motivation to practice. Engaging in practice is consciously harnessing energy in the service of embodied growth, to cultivate sustainable capacity.

I have a lingering beef with people’s lack of motivation (courage, vulnerability, humility, truth, discipline, heart, determination and choice) to practice, particularly from those who “know” something. Nothing changes unless practice is part of the experience. Nothing changes just because a concept is understood. We need to choose practice and we need to choose practice with awareness, even if the practice is to be here content with what is.

Practice is a conscious activity that allows wisdom to co-emerge with action. Ultimately this action, when coming from pure wisdom, is compassion in action. But most of us are practicing for a long, long time before this realized way of co-emergent wisdom and compassion materializes consistently.

Why do I harp so fervently about practice? Because practice really matters.

Insanity isn’t a healthy state of mind to engage life. Repeating harmful patterns causes unhappiness, frustration and a downward spiral of suffering. When it comes to money, the lack of awareness and practice is pervasive.

The money field is notorious for a lack of embodied intelligence. Housed primarily in the left-brain strategic mind, we know many facts about money and the systems in our modern world. We recognize that many situations need to change to improve – individually and collectively.

Financial professionals are typically taught to discover problems. Define problems; analyze problems; develop strategies to alleviate problems. But as emphasized above, only being aware of the problems does not change the problems. It simply makes the problem evident, in order to make a different choice. Unless there is a skillful practice to engage the situation in a new way, preferably a practice that includes the body, there will be little to no progress. In fact, more suffering ensues because the problem is clearly known, perhaps new choices made, but remedies are stalled. Working with clients and their money limitations requires both an understanding of the issues and focused practices to build muscles to address the issues in an optimal way.

Going deeper and further, practices that only engage an exterior mechanical activity rarely attend to the essential issue because they do not touch the heart of the issue. Unless we access the root, what touches our hearts the most, we will continue to circle with band-aide solutions that look like viable practices.

Here is a common client issue: overspending. Overspending from an exterior practical view is having more cash outflow than inflow. It is a math equation, the amount of money coming in is less than the amount of money going out; it is called deficit spending. A negative balance is created at the end of a period of time (month, pay cycle, accounting period). One way to address this issue is to create a budget, a spending plan that dictates all income sources and where that income will be allocated over the specified period of time. One can call this a practice. However this practice rarely succeeds. There is no connection to the real issue that stands in the way of a balanced cash flow. A budget accesses the rational linear mind; it does not actively engage the body with awareness.

A superior and more successful practice for spending will combine a spending plan with meaning and somatic awareness. Here are a few examples:

  • When you reach for your credit card to make a purchase, pause and bring your attention to your belly. What sensations do you notice? What thoughts are running through your mind? Do you feel tight, warm, agitated, calm, or confused? Our bodies provide accurate information about purchases. For example, do you feel tight, agitated, and are you running a fear-based commentary? Look directly at the purchase: am I satisfying a need, a want or a rush? If it is an unconscious pattern, put the credit card back in your wallet and walk away. Note that refraining from the purchase is in service of saving for a higher priority. Appreciate yourself for shifting unconscious spending. After weeks and months of practice, a new way of being with credit cards emerges that allows you to stop spending before getting to the register.
  • If you are in a depressed emotional state, do you go shopping? If this is a pattern, disrupt the pattern with a healthy alternative choice: a 15-minute walk in nature (or a hallway or the sidewalk or the house) giving attention to your heart with self-acceptance. This practice, multiple times over a period of weeks and months, enables the pattern to shift to a healthy habit of loving kindness and decreased reactive depression spending.
  • At the end of a pay cycle when reviewing your budget, note where your income was allocated. Appreciate conscious spending choices, such as: mortgage/rent, grocery store, gym. Visualize the safety and comfort of home, eating and preparing meals in your own kitchen, a healthy body and mind from exercise, respectively. As the visualization intensifies, feel appreciation in your body. What do you notice and where in your body do you notice it? What does conscious spending feel like to you? Claim and feel your progress.

With each of the above somatic spending plan practices, powerful chemicals in the body get activated as a result of our body’s intelligence letting us know at a cellular level that we are changing in a positive way. We activate calming responses (through the para-sympathetic nervous system) that release dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.  These powerful natural chemicals feel good and support building new muscles aligned with optimal choices toward what we most want to achieve.  Connecting the somatic response with cognitive recognition reinforces the feedback loop to repeat the practice again. Eventually, the practice becomes embodied – sustainable without needing to think about doing it.

Instead of practicing insanity, disrupt insanity with a powerful practice.

What stands in your way of making progress with your life? Delve deeper into the situation and connect what matters deeply to you with the issue you discover. This connection is the seat of your motivation – typically we are moved when we get to the heart of the matter. Develop a somatic practice (or ask for help from a trusted friend/coach) to bring your awareness to the issue, to see better choices and to engage your body intelligence.

Give generous attention and discipline to your practice over time. Be determined and kind. Allow progress to grow by recognizing the changes in behavior and new insights from those changes.

Practice enables us to grow while having a rich human experience – fully embodied.