The other day while having lunch with my sister and our 97-year-old grandma at a Chinese restaurant (Chinese is gram’s favorite!) the following advice appeared in my fortune cookie: Practice is the best of all instructors.
Bam. The message resonated--and it appeared at the right time for support. Over the winter I’d been working to reignite and deepen my personal meditation and self-healing practice. Tto be honest, it required a challenging new level of disciplined and patience.
As I considered the message in the fortune cookie, I started thinking about how I came to learn what I know and how, in most cases, my independent practice provided the leaping-off point from which I moved from novice to confidence to self-authority (and then continued to practice!)
Owning Your Practice
If you’ve ever been involved in a team sport or group exercise, after the teacher-led coaching or instruction there’s an opportunity to step away and practiced on your own. If you did practice on your own, you may have found that you returned to the group practice with a new feeling of authority in your body and ownership of your skill.
I experienced the impact of independent exploration in my yoga practice a few years ago. As soon as I began practicing away from class on my own, I developed a new relationship to my body awareness. Back in class, the teacher’s guidance still supported my learning, but I had become my own guide in how to deepen my practice and communicate with my body. Yoga is no longer an outside challenge that I needed to master. Rather, I’ve integrated yoga into the way I express and know myself.
You can do this too. You can connect directly to your inner awareness and empowerment. Perhaps you’ve begun already.
Embodying Your Intuition
A very talented violin soloist played at a concert I recently attended. Although the soloist was a petite woman, I kept noticing how small the violin looked in her hands. She seemed to have energetically embodied the violin so that it became an extension of herself.
Developing your intuition is similar to learning to play a musical instrument. At first, intuition may seem larger than you and outside of your grasp. With practice, as you grow your skills and awareness, intuition becomes an integral part of your consciousness.
There are a few universal truths about intuition and inner guidance, but the way we experience our inner guidance is unique to each one of us. When exploring intuition it’s essential to learn your own inner language: the specific way you receive and perceive information from within. There’s no one who can tell you what your intuition feels like, sounds like, or looks like. No one can experience your inner guidance and the way it works but you.
Of course, having a teacher remains helpful and important. I have deep gratitude and appreciation for my teachers and mentors who modeled their own self-practice and exploration. Teachers share information and hold a space for you to explore and learn. However, after the class, you choose whether to take what you’ve learned into action through practice and application in your daily life. If you do, it creates a powerful combination of teacher/group support and independent practice.
A Story of Personal Practice
When I was studying energy healing, my teacher at the time introduced the concept of spirit guides: we each have a guide that is specifically assigned to us. In class we connected to our guide and learned what that felt like. We then received an assignment between classes: on a daily basis, connect to your guide and use writing to channel the guidance your guide has for you.
I accepted the practice. For several months, each morning I took 10–20 minutes to stretch, center myself in meditation, and connect to my guide. My awareness expanded exponentially. I owned my relationship to my guide and anchored that connection. I also learned what my own inner voice sounded like, so I could begin to discern the voice of my higher truth from all the other voices in my head.
When I returned to class, I felt a new layer in my inner foundation that was always with me no matter who my teacher was and whether I was part of a group or not.
Becoming Your Own Teacher
We’ve entered an era of self-directed discovery. We find ourselves less and less likely to look to a supreme authority for direction. Therapists and healing professionals provide a foundational service to support our growth. However, if you see a therapist or healer or take classes on a regular basis but do not have your own independent practice (journaling, self-reflection, meditation, movement, or whatever supports you) you’re setting up a dynamic of imbalance. Without maintaining a personal practice, how can you cultivate your own space for observing, information collecting, self-healing, and self-expression? How will you learn what you truly know, feel, and need?
The practice of getting to know yourself in depth isn't quick or easy. There’s no shortcut to mastery, just like there’s no shortcut to healing. It takes trial and error. Sometimes you're on the horse and sometimes you fall off. But if you stick with a practice for any length of time, your inner awareness begins to bubble up from inside, and you begin to create a personal foundation that stays with you wherever you go.