What you practice grows stronger
I read an article and watched some ted talks on this topic by Dr Shauna Shapiro a few weeks ago and it really struck me. You probably already know this but it was new to me and though I think I knew it at one level, I had never seen it explained so simply.
Dr Shapiro is a professor, clinical psychologist and expert in mindfulness, she talked about her first encounters with Mindfulness and how she loaded on the expectations and judgment for what was to happen and how she was going to be great at it. She certainly didn’t get what she expected.
She says: “No matter how hard I tried my mind kept wandering off. And at this point I really started to judge myself. What is wrong with you? You’re terrible at this. Why are you even here? You’re a fake. And then not only was I judging myself, I start judging everyone, even the monks. Why are they just sitting here, shouldn’t they be doing something?
Thankfully a monk from London arrived who spoke English, and as I shared with him my struggles, he looked at me and said, “Oh dear, you’re not practicing mindfulness, you’re practicing judgment, impatience, and frustration.” And then he said five words that have never left me: “What you practice grows stronger.””
It got me thinking about what we all practice in our lives. Every day we tend to practice all of these things and then we wonder why our lives aren’t getting easier!
Lots of clients say to me “I was just born this way” or “it’s in my family”, and yes there is a component of genetics to our personality. However, that doesn’t mean that things can’t change, that you can’t train yourself to be something different.
Consider these two sentences: “I practice worrying” V’s “I am a worrier” or “I practice self-judgement” V’s “I am hard on myself”
The latter implies that you can’t do anything about it, that it’s just the way that you are. The former implies, well that you just stop practicing that!
Neuroscientists have shown that the brain can change shape and we can create new habits and patterns according to what we practice. So why not practice compassion or spontaneity or patience and calm? It will feel odd in the beginning, a bit like wearing new shoes, but the more you do it the easier it will become.
Here’s the video from Dr Shauna Shapiro if you’d like to learn more: