"DON'T WAIT UNTIL YOU ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF A FIRE TO PRACTICE A FIRE DRILL." ~ DICK OLNEY
As a young therapist, I was not completely comfortable saying "I'm a therapist." It felt much more congruent to stand in "I practice psychotherapy." It's a practice, the more we do it, the better we get. Practice implies a deep engagement with the subject of practice. Practice is distinct from work.
Practice implies a repetition of something that contributes to enhanced experience. Musicians practice scales, dancers practice plies. Psychotherapists practice psychotherapy. Meditators practice meditating. Practice is active, engaged. Regularly engaging in practices that reliably untether us from the false conditioned self, empowers and liberates, elevating consciousness.
The idea of homework is not new in psychotherapy or coaching. We know that our clients have to learn to take care of themselves at some intrinsic level to feel whole. In fact, if you have a conversation with a group of psychotherapists about this subject, one thing that's likely to come up is how do you get your clients do the homework you give them? Within that question lies part of the problem. There is an inherent parent / child dynamic in giving or assigning homework.
Home practice is means of engaging in mental health hygiene distinct from homework. Every single one of us could benefit from learning effective hygiene for our mental wellbeing. Home practice is inextricably linked to the AAIT principle, taking responsibility for and tending to our inner state sustains our freedom.
With regular home practice, we all get better at recognizing the ties that bind us to compulsive reactivity. With practice, it is easy to untether and access the freedom to choose how to be. With strategic home practice, we help our clients discover the freedom of responding rather than reacting. Home practice demystifies and de-stigmatizes mental health hygiene. Imagine if we were in the dark ages and made no connection between proper dental hygiene and cavities. Now, for most of us, brushing our teeth is no big deal. It's something we do daily. We have the tools and we use them.
WHY DOES HOME PRACTICE MATTER?
These days, we have tools to tend to many of our mental health needs. Yet, lots of folks go to bed with hearts and minds cluttered with the plaque of tethered pain. Helping clients engage in home practice goes a long way towards helping them connect the dots between charged energy and feeling bad. They begin to recognize that cultivating a steady state of being, feeling more ease of being is within reach.
It's liberating. Home practice is offered in collaboration with the client given their goals. It's one adult relating to another. It's not a should, it's an invitation. As clients engage in the suggested home practices and feel the difference, they grok how home practice is hygiene for the mind, heart and spirit. Through their own experience, clients understand the relationship between their practice and their inner state. Moreover, they discover how a steady state liberates them to more easily realize goals.
Home practice empowers us and our clients to be our own saviors as we meander through the trials and triumphs of daily living. In The Six Pillars of Self Esteem, Nathanial Brandon writes, "no one is coming." We are our own saviors. It's way past time to stop waiting for someone to come and fix things for us.
"Don't wait until you are in the middle of a fire to practice a fire drill." ~ Dick Olney
My decades long commitment to sadhana informs a commitment to and understanding of home practice as a critical aspect of demystifying mental health care and becoming established in higher states of consciousness. Sadhana is a Sanskrit word that translates as "means." Typically, this refers to practices aimed at transcending the ego. For me, sadhana has included meditation, contemplation, study and asana practice. However, it is my thirty plus year meditation practice that points to why AAIT is practice and not work.
Do you guys use home practice as part of your work with others? What kinds of challenges do you run into? What really works for you? I'd love to hear from you on this.