How do you get better at playing the piano? By playing the piano.
How do you improve faster, more comprehensively?
By practicing the piano – taking specific, focused actions on the instrument that have a specific purpose. Improving those fundamental skills that apply to all songs, all elements of performing.
If you want a healthier body or a certain physique, you exercise. The details of what you do, and how much you do it, will influence your results.
If you think about the piano or the exercise bike, you will notice they are not very concerned with your personal or spiritual philosophy. With no judgement, they give you back the energy you put into them.
It is not much different when it comes to inner work.
I choose that phrase “inner work” very deliberately, along with “practice” and “coaching.” It is not flowery, abstract, spiritual, or dependent on any belief system.
Your growth and progress, that ability to stay centered during chaos, to go deep, uncover what emotions are active, what patterns of thought are creating distress and conflict, what is holding you back…
These are skills. Skills that improve with practice. They are not cosmic gifts granted to a special few (yes, there are degrees of natural talent, like anything) but I am convinced they fall into the skill bracket.I know it’s not as common, and not as popular to view it as such.
There’s the “take this course, do this process and watch all of your problems vanish” marketing that floods this space. I suppose that marketing is everywhere, it’s just easy to run rampant due to the invisible, sometimes elusive nature of a lot of this type of work.
There are also the “spiritual” figures who make it all sound more mystical and abstract than it is.
There’s little to no practical steps given for you to understand and take daily, sometimes no discernment for different personalities or a learning styles. Often just an implied a sense that if you listen to them for 1,000s of hours you’ll eventually absorb their superior wisdom. This is its own marketing. A discussion for another time.
Perhaps it is that I make my living as a musician. I am a fan of taking things into elements that can be practiced, executed, and improved upon. My life depends on it.
I propose that having a daily practice for your inner work will dramatically improve your life. Most of us know this deep down, but there are some common factors for it not happening.
Major Obstacles to Regular Practice
Lack of clarity on what practice actually is. Spending too much time on things that aren’t actual practice, while inaccurately believing them to be.
Lack of clear intention, connection to why you are doing this.
Lack of clear, repeatable actions
or – actions that are too involved in order to implement easily, consistently, anywhere.
Absence of habit-building, too much room for choice. Leads to a lack of momentum and thus motivation.
Allow me to propose an example of something that could address these, and easily be made into a daily practice that will help you. At the absolute minimum, it will have positive effects on your body and mind for a few moments, and you will definitely be using both of those afterwards 🙂
Taking a deep breath while putting your conscious attention on it, IS practicing.
You are using that muscle of consciously bringing awareness to something that was previously operating unconsciously, as well as giving the body a nice dose of oxygen.
Choose any reason that works for you to do it. “Helps recharge me for the next task” – “helps me feel centered” – “brings me closer to my true nature” – whatever actually resonates for you.
That action is clear and repeatable. Your second breathe may feel even better than the first. Your mind may wander a bit, but that is fine. The practice is simply the fact that you are doing it, whether or not wandering happens.
Finally, if you decide, and it is a decision, to do this couple of times a day, it will begin to become habit. You could put reminders on your phone, next to your bed, anything to take a few conscious breaths.
This is a small practical example, but it alone could be very powerful.
There are different types of physical, mental, and emotional inner work exercises. Some will resonate more than others, due to your temperament, your goals, schedule, and more.
Taking the time to explore this and develop a practice that works for you, even if brief, can change your life. I strongly encourage it.
Do you have a regular practice? Do you have thoughts or feelings on the subject? Questions? I love to engage in the comments below.
If you would like to take a deeper dive on this subject with me in a more personal way, I am doing a class – “Building a Daily Practice.” It is $10. The recording and written material is always available.
Click the button a little bit further down this page if you are interested. Thanks!
I spend moments of the day breathing in and out through my nose only …. I notice how much further I can run now without having to open my mouth , just breathing in and out through my nose … it used to be hardly any distance at all.
The breath is fascinating. so many different breathing practices all for different things. Simply noticing the breath and paying it some loving attention is amazing 🙂
Very interested to see that apply to running. Makes sense to me, in the yoga I’ve done for many years its a pretty long class and it’s all through the nose except for two exercises. Makes a huge difference. Another big plus for using the breath as practice is that it’s always available to us, no special equipment, environment or sitting position required!
What criteria does good practice have to satisfy? In my experience, I think its actively tackling a micro aspect of a skill that you first have to be aware that you are doing inadequetely e.g. not having breath control when you’re grappling Then taking conscious steps and planning on how you’re gonna work on it, e.g. playing super slow, drilling over it, experimenting with different positions that are not optimal and figuring out why they are not practised by others But how many reps of that do you do? How much do you trust that feeling inside that is saying… Read more »
Good questions. There is a distinction between how you address a particular issue, which there cannot be a real stock answer for as there are millions of variables, and your ‘daily practice.’ The daily practice would be certain things you do on the horn more or less every day, or a selection of them you mix up, that are fundamentals and universally valuable. It’s important that you don’t have to ponder every day “what should I work on” but have some things you can wake up, do, repeat, and know they serve everything well. Decision making is actually quite taxing… Read more »
Hey Evan, great post – looking forward to the call. I do a regular meditation practice in the morning and night (although I haven’t been as consistent with the nightly one), but didn’t think of making a habit of doing something like that regularly during the day. Could be a good habit to integrate into my life 🙂 This reminded me of something Brendon Burchard talks about, which a practice he has and teaches called ‘Release tension, set intention’. He does this every hour or so during the day with the goal of staying centered and calm and focused on… Read more »
Thanks Martin, good to hear from you man! I love Brendon’s stuff and it is definitely influencing me. He suggests doing something similar every time shifting gears from one activity to another, ie after I finish writing this and before I go to the bass for a bit before the call. I have not made this a habit yet but it works. One thing I have found myself doing, is I will listen to the recording of him talking about that exercise multiple times, maybe for days in a row, helping it soak in. I used to go through material… Read more »
The call was great, I never got to ask about setting a clear intention before practising.
How does setting a clear intention look like exactly?
What criteria do we have to check for it to be considered a clear intention?
I think this pertains more towards inner work subjects that I want to clarify, like clarifying on what I want with my vision.
Is it silly to assume that setting a clear intention is pretty implicit in any other subject other inner work? If I’m doing an exercise, its pretty clear that I’m intending to improve.
Thanks, glad to hear you enjoyed the call. In theory everyone is trying to improve when they sit down to practice anything, but by itself it’s too vague. It’s like saying “I want to have enough money to afford my needs, to do some things I enjoy” or “I want to be happier.” They are implicit, but don’t really focus anything. One way to look at it is, if it’s that obvious, it’s hard to call it ‘intentional.’ I doubt one human being in history has practiced something with the goal of getting worse at it, so it’s not exactly… Read more »