I found my practice spot

My daughter KD launched our family on a learning journey when she began to play the violin/fiddle two years ago. A few weeks ago, I walked into our house and she announced, “I found my practice spot in Minuet 1.”

Her words and the wisdom behind them resonated with me.

Over the course of her learning violin, and with some wise help (double hat tip to Teacher Liz Peyton), both KD and I have learned a great deal about practice. 

  • What makes playing something hard - easier?
  • How do you locate a small group of notes (or “lego” as Teacher Liz likes to say) that you can focus on and practice rather than just playing the whole song over and over again?

As KD has been playing the violin, I have begun sitting in a circle with about 30 folks gathered together every six months or so by the Movement Strategy Center dubbed the Transitions Lab. Dosed with wisdom from Zen Teacher Norma Wong along with each person gathered, conversations and learning about what makes for good practice have brought me some essential learning and guiding questions:

  • The difference between a habit and a practice is that a habit is something you repeat unconsciously while a practice is something you repeat consciously.

  • What is the relationship between personal practice and social transformation?

  • What are you practicing? Who do you need to be?

  • What does it mean to share in collective practice?

  • What are differences between pain-informed and pain-based strategies?

  • Successfully taking a big leap requires moving with enough certainty, spaciousness, and potency.

  • What is needed to move and navigate into the unknown guided by a big vision and clarity of purpose?

  • If you don’t take space to heal, you won’t heal.

  • What does it look like to have a practice of mutuality on your core team?

KD’s announcement, learning from the Transitions Lab, and reflections on my last few years led me to begin searching for my own practice spot.

Here’s what I’ve come up with for now:

  • Pay attention to my habit of self-doubt
  • Notice when calibrating to the most fearful person in the room
  • Get into better relationship and awareness of my own limits
  • Grow my ability to stand alone when needed without resentment and humanity intact
  • Appreciate the difference between change strategies, transformational strategies, and the depth of practice, context, and conditions for each
  • Tell the truth and point to hope


It is essential at the beginning of practice to acknowledge that the path is personal and intimate. It is no good to examine it from a distance as if it were someone else’s. You must walk it for yourself.
— Robert Aitken Roshi, "The Teacher in Everything"