What Are You Practicing?

It’s a time of practice for our 2nd-6th grade class.  They are in the throes of preparation for the 32nd annual Way-off Broadway production.  It’s a long-standing summer tradition here at the Seed and involves prop making, backdrop painting, practicing dance moves, and learning lines.  The performance at 2:00PM (which will be presented on Zoom), will be a perfect exclamation point for our summer camp.  Practice makes it happen.

I’ve been thinking about practice more than usual after tapping into Adrienne Maree Brown’s Emergent Strategy work.  I was listening to the first episode of the Emergent Strategy podcast and one of the women in conversation asked, “What are you practicing?”  It’s a powerful question that I’ve had on my mind all week.  I’ve been reflecting on my own practices, what they are and why I do them.  Among them are walking, making art, cooking, early morning meditation, prayer, gardening, caring for my great-granddaughter, writing my blog, listening to social justice podcasts, working at the Seed, and yoga.  I have these practices to make sense of my life, to bring order to it, to help me feel like I’m making at least a small contribution toward planetary healing.

In an effort to understand the role of practice in emergent strategy, I found an article that summarizes Brown’s book, Emergent Strategy.  Here are a few excerpts:       

“The ground level of emergent strategy is made up of small practices we integrate into our daily lives, which draw the patterns that metastasize into the structure of society… The key words, I think, are ‘integration’ and ‘practice.’ You can attend a weekend training or retreat that introduces you to a new practice. But it is the regular routine that gives it power.  Notice that tightening feeling in your chest? Being willing to try on new practices in such a fluid and unattached way requires releasing the high stakes game of success vs. failure we often adopt when it comes to ‘habit formation.’ Maybe you’ll stick with the new practice, and maybe you won’t. Over the years I’ve discarded far more than I’ve adopted. And many are appropriate only for a season of life, and after that can fall away.”

As we enter our final days of summer camp next week, then transition into some time off before returning to prepare for our 46th school year, it seems like an appropriate moment to consider what practices will be important to have in place as a staff for the coming new school year.  As one of the school leaders, I know I must begin by taking stock of my own practices.  Certainly, a strong listening practice will be essential, paired with a commitment to open-heartedness and bravery to engage in hard conversations.  I also know a practice of staying curious and remaining an active learner will be key to success.  Part of my work, I know, will be guiding children, as well as their teachers, to establishing their own practices.  Together I feel quite optimistic that our collective practice of working on relationships with each other will have a far-reaching effect on this world in which we live.    

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