- Own your attention: The primary element of practice is the ability to focus our attention on something. This is far more important than 'the perfect method', or even the nature of our results. Getting a handle on this ability is the first step for establishing discipline. Appreciating the worthiness and value of our attention is very important.
- Start small: Too often we are bombarded with the achievements of others, now more than ever before because of the internet. This can lead to a distortion in our appreciation of how the practitioner/learner has got to where they are. While role-models are essential, we really need to take the steps relevant to us, no matter how small. This could mean a 5-10 minute session of practice, rather than an ambitious longer session that we 'don't have time for' or 'don't feel like'.
- Appreciate small successes: Following the above, even if we just manage to 'show up' to our practice session, that is still a success. We could end up simply standing, or sitting and observing the material and context of practice for a few minutes. As long as we are not distracting ourselves and are at least present, we have succeeded. Just slowing down enough to focus is an essential achievement for practice, and we can congratulate ourselves as such. Recording any such small success in a journal/creative process is a good way to lay a foundation of positive feedback around practicing.
- Letting go of preconceived ideas: One of the effects of ongoing practice is that we change, not only because we naturally change and grow as time passes, but that practice really does affect how we think, act and feel. For this reason we need to 'surrender to the process'. This means being open to unexpected shifts in our preferences, limits and needs. If our practices are working, we are going to be facing uncertainty and unfamiliar territory.
- Returning to basics: is a good way to keep practicing and maintain discipline in times of uncertainty. This is another reason why recording our progress in the early stages is useful. We can look back and appreciate the weight of previous lessons, and see how far we have come. Learning not to get ahead of ourselves is important in sustaining motivation and positive regard for the long road.
- Seek support when needed: Remember that support is often essential in establishing discipline. A few words of encouragement can be all that is needed to keep practicing, or conversely: to remind us to take a break! Being supported can help us to appreciate the wider context of our discipline and its worth, and also to fortify our sense of purpose and philosophy. In this way, discussion and exposure to peers is invaluable in maintaining discipline.
Inspiration is a wonderful experience, but grounding it in an established practice is a challenge for every practitioner...The rewards however, continue to deepen with discipline and an effective philosophy.
Michael Maso Ellis.