It is Our Nature to Transcend Our Nature

Stories about our “primal nature” are everywhere…the stories we choose to believe influence how we eat, move, sleep, relate…what stories about “human nature” do you believe in?

I enjoy the idea that it is our nature to transcend our nature.

Facebook is funny. Come to my Primal Practice retreat May 27-30 to get in touch with your “primal” whatever, live.

Mistakes Are Awesome

Mistakes are your best friend. Effective practice and growth would be impossible without mistakes – if you cultivate a healthy relationship to them.

 

Often, when learning a new skill, folks will be embarrassed by how awkward their initial attempts are. In teaching both music and Primal practice, I constantly run in to students who tell me “I just don’t have good ears”, or “my body doesn’t move like that”, as if the ability to distinguish a minor 6th by ear or do a handstand is something you’re endowed with at birth. Often, when we try new stuff and they stumble, they’ll look at me as if to say “see? I told you I couldn’t do that.”

 

This is a mode of thinking that comes from focusing on the advanced manifestations of a skill as opposed to the process that leads you there. Naturally, it can be intimidating to watch someone do a handstand if you’ve never put weight on your hands before and popped your feet off the ground- I certainly felt a degree of insecurity around my first attempts at balancing upside down, or improvising over jazz standards, especially in front of more experienced people. It’s important to realize, however, that those more experienced people are just that – more experienced. Nobody ever stuck a handstand on their very first try. Nobody ever took a blazing solo over Joy Spring after only ever playing Zeppelin tunes. Skills are built over time, step by step, piece by piece. Anyone with any demonstrable skill was once an absolute beginner, and by slowly mastering fundamental components, built their way up to where they are now.

 

There’s a part of your mind that’s designed specifically to identify weaknesses. It can be dangerous if you take it too seriously. The tendency to compare oneself as a beginner to others who have been practicing longer is natural, but not necessarily useful. It disregards the process in between, and can lead to erroneously negative self-judgment and self-fulfilling prophecies of failure. Recognizing this tendency, we can reorient our relationship to this part of our mind, and it becomes very useful.

 

With an inquiry-based approach to learning, mistakes are your best asset, your best teacher. Recognize the tendency to interpret mistakes as evidence to yourself that you suck, and how much you’re shooting yourself in the foot by doing so. Mistakes give you information, and based on that information, you can adjust what you’re doing so you don’t make the same mistake next time. Welcome mistakes with open arms, curiosity, and a sense of humor. Working with this attitude, practice becomes a lot more fun, there’s less frustration and therefore more ease, which leads to more efficiency and deeper perception, which leads to positive discoveries and enhanced performance.

 

A recent study (read a great article on it here) at the University of Texas at Austin sought to identify the most effective strategies employed by pianists attempting to learn a difficult passage of music. The crux of their findings was that the most effective practice came not from overall time invested or repetitions performed, but from immediately recognizing errors, identifying their underlying cause, and adjusting appropriately. From there, the most successful players in the study played through the problem area very slowly and correctly until it came with ease. Success came from looking for the error, identifying and correcting it, then drilling in the correct performance of that little piece through repetition.

 

Mistakes are awesome, if you take the time to listen to what they have to say.

 

 

Primal Practice Fall Immersion

Molly of the Mountain

The Foundations of Physical Freedom
October 2-4, 2015

I’ve been researching and training a ton this summer and I’m excited to share my new insights into the development of physical intelligence. I’ve rediscovered and refined remarkable ways to cultivate strength, resilience, elasticity and adaptability. I’m not sure when I’ll next be offering regular classes, so if you want to tap in, come to my October immersion in rural Western Massachusetts. Space is limited to 20 participants.

This program focuses on developing the foundations of physical freedom: the strength, agility, mobility and awareness skills that are essential for mastery. Our days together will include rigorous physical training, contemplative practices, engagement with nature and delicious meals. Much of our training will take place outside and in the forest. As with everything I teach, my material will be scalable, accessible and engaging for all “levels” of ability.

$400 includes tuition, room and board. Workstudy positions are available, email kelly@ninemountain.com

 

Register HERE

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The principle of Chien or Gradual Progress

Gradual progress is a concept that is fundamental to the ancient body/mind training. The training methodology of internal martial arts like Tai Chi and meditative traditions like Zen follow the principles of gradual progress.

Deep and positive change occurs as a gradual process. Physical and mental structures reshape themselves allowing for higher leaves of awareness, strength, and skill. Transformation takes time.

The experience of rapidly losing interest in something that moments ago made us excited is universal. So is the experience of enthusiastically doing too much too soon and getting injured. Both experiences are the result of violating the principle of Gradual Progress.

I have found that gentle but constant immersion is the best way to insure continuous growth. It is a way to avoid burnout and breakdown. It is a way to slowly but surely build strength and skill.

This practice is based on the principle of gradual progress. But there is no need for gradual progress to be slower then it needs to be. In this next section we will explore a practical way to safely accelerate growth while adhering to the wisdom of gradual progress.

Focus on Pleasure

Throughout your practice, focus on pleasure. What feels good? How can I support the good feeling?

Meditative traditions use focal points to train awareness. Many traditions are defined by the focal point they choose. The focal point for awareness training could be anything. Common focal points are breath, sound, sensation and mantra. I have found focusing on pleasure to be an excellent way to train awareness.

What we put our awareness on grows. When we rest our awareness on pleasant sensation we create a positive feedback loop in which we experience more pleasant sensations. As we practice this way, we are developing a meditative awareness and increasing our ability to feel good at the same time.

Hara, Heart, Head

The Hara-Heart-Head map is map of three interconnected systems.

Hara can be felt as the system of vitality. It is primal and primordial life force.

Heart can be felt as the system of relating. It is the system that connects.

Head can be felt as the system of discrimination. It is the system that takes things apart.

As you go about your day adopt the hara-heart-head perceptive from time to time. Notice what comes up.