I was recently in conversation with clients about what they gain through the practice when we all know it can be such a frustrating and painful challenge while also being time consuming and sometimes hard to motivate toward doing. Certainly one focus is to learn the mechanics of movements/ideas/concepts/frameworks/drills/tools because practice is the continued application of various drilling methods to learn how to execute something.
Clients often have limiting beliefs that they need to be “at a certain place” — usually some idea that isn’t even clear but often is some time immeasurably down the road — “in order to be” some imagined, made up goal that defines “good enough” when in reality, it’s your practice with your rules and you get to choose what all of it means to you. No one gets to tell you — including this article — what your practice is or should be for you and what we aspire to do at Temple of Poi, while it involves learning how to execute a move, is really focused on assisting you in becoming the most artistic practioners you can be at whatever level you choose to engage your practice. Yes, of course that means you have to practice to learn technique; just like you have to know what a word is before you can use it in a best selling novel, you have to know the mechanics of some moves before you can express them in artistic performance.
Which is to say the bare minimum of what you learn is the idea of how to do a move here. Ultimately though, learning how to do moves is about a destination and an end point in your practice rather than what we perceive the goal of the practice to truly be.
Practice is about becoming. It is a constant and ever changing opportunity to develop awareness, techniques, tools, attitudes, behaviors, beliefs and embodied experiences that allow you to, from moment to moment, evolve into something you were not in the past. This is the point of Flowology Mindset number 3. While learning a technique can help you, it is more fundamental and far less powerful than what is garnered through the process of continuing to return to the practice again and again over time… despite your resistance, the obstacles, the pain incurred, the challenges of being disciplined and even the simplicity of choosing to make time for it in your life.
Practice is about accepting there is no perfect other than the perfection of surrendering to this moment… and this moment… and this moment… and each subsequent moment with non attachment to what has been or what will be, while also fully owning the now. It’s wonderful to laud your accomplishments and aspire to become something more. At the same time, we have to appreciate the journey itself as the gift since we can never be guaranteed to achieve an outcome in our practice. You can’t truly control how long it takes to learn a move — only how much time you put into the practice getting there.
Practice is standing there boldly and bravely knowing you may bash yourself fully in the face (or nuts) and it may hurt. A lot. It may bring you to your knees. And that is an important part of this practice too because you’re risking your body, your ego and your comfort to strive toward learning to be that which you weren’t before. All these questions naturally arise in that space: How do you confront that fear of being hit? Do you protect yourself with body posture that limits you and shuts you down? Do you fail to show up for the practice altogether? Do you avoid that discomfort simply by practicing something else? Do you lean in and smile, knowing that each time you hit yourself you have truly empowered yourself by continuing forward? And do you approach your life the same way you approach your practice? They say, “how we do one thing is how we do all things” and in that, the practice can be revealing.
Practice is an opportunity to see your blind spots, places you don’t often exercise. With poi, this can be quite literal in the way you move your body, uniquely in ways you don’t do in your life in other contexts, perhaps as you explore the space behind your back where your eyes can not see. This exploration offers the opportunity to notice who we are as we are confronted by difficulty in the practice. Not just getting hit in the face — or even the fear of it — but frustration with wanting to be somewhere other than we are and not necessarily wanting to put in the time and effort to get there. Through being with our frustration, we learn non attachment to outcomes and how to accept our present skills and current limitations, ideally while cultivating patience, persistence and an ability to laugh at ourselves.
Practice is therefore a discipline, an act of compassion, the art of self acceptance, an ongoing commitment, an act of self love and an expression of our desire to continue to make ourselves move toward ever expanding possibilities both in our body and in our understanding of how our body moves through the world and expresses itself. This shows in the physical manifestation of the artistic expression but also shows just as clearly in the commitment we bring to the practice.
When we are truly blessed, practice is realizing the possibility of getting out of our own way long enough to let go of our self and allow something greater than we are to arise through us, using our being as an expression of its essence in only the way that we, each of us specifically, singularly and personally can create. In the profound words of Martha Graham: “There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.”
This space of vitality of which she speaks is a poigasmic expression of peak poi states (#peakpoistates) where we no longer think nor engage in ego becuase we are experiencing unconscious competence (we know what we know so well we no longer need to think about it) and at the same time, while our body is moving without thought, we are present toward the stimuli that is motivating the expression and fully in connection with it which allows our being to be that vessel of expression of spirit. A visual paintbrush of the ‘divine’ or ‘spirit’ or ‘god state’ or ‘flow state’ or ‘Jedi state’ or ‘wizardry’ — all descriptions of this experience.
It can happen in many contexts, not just poi, though the particulars of what poi requires to make it happen move some people in ways other mediums can not. For example, I have experienced this with both piano and poi many times in my life but poi is a fuller body experience whereas piano is much more specific to my upper body and more so my fingers. Over the years I’ve spoken to many practioners who also relate to this “altered state” as a means of transcending the movements themselves and embodying them as an extension of our soulful expression and in that place, transmuting technique into art. It becomes more than a mechanical expression of technique and takes on a new expression by unveiling something previously unknown and unseen.
If you’re lucky, when you’ve tasted that place of poigasmic expression, it’s hard to not want to practice and achieve it again. And again. And again… even though it can’t be achieved simply by wanting it. . . Rather, it is a dance between the surrending into and pushing toward that allows our dissolution of self through which spirit can take hold. So yes, practice is a means by which one can learn a movement or pattern and if that’s all you want from your practice, you surely can get that.
Similarly, if you choose, practice can go deeper. . . In the end, it’s just two balls and some string and, like life, it’s what you make it.
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Want to start or deepen your own practice? Check out our class calendar. We also provide private instruction by appointment. Please contact GlitterGirl directly at GlitterGirl at TempleOfPoi daught com or call us at 415.543.4911.