Why you need a Personal Practice?

What is a Personal Practice, and why do you need one?

There is a very important stage of personal evolution that you want to obtain.

It is so important that over the years many paths have been developed to help you get there. They are all fundamentally trying to accomplish much of the same thing, but in different ways. They have originated from all over the globe, there are both past and present techniques, some are even built into the fabric of life itself, and they all have different names. Yet if you put masters from each in a room together they would all agree on what the landscape of their inner world looks like.

Some examples include:


Your goal is to find a way to Practice that works for you and start practicing.

You might be thinking, “So what is this thing that is so important, and how can you compare this list? These things are not all the same.”

I’m not saying these paths are the same, just that they have the capacity to bring people towards a similar goal.

Here is the bottom line……YOU are not your thoughts.

It might be a little tricky to understand something from a blog if you don’t have already have a Personal Practice, because you are trying to do something most people only start doing after years and years of practice.

I’ll try to explain it, but it’s more likely you are going to have to trust that there is something out there worth getting closer to since so many other people are also trying to get there in so many different ways.

First I want you to close your eyes and DON’T think about anything, have no thoughts whatsoever.


How long did you last before you had your first thought? It probably wasn’t that long because it’s really hard to do. When your brain is awake it is basically in a constant spasm of bio-electrical regurgitation…..thoughts.

That is essentially what that organ does. A muscle contracts to move your skeletal system, and your brain is like a computer running software. Of course software is never perfect, is it? There are bugs sometimes and it doesn’t always do what you want it to.

So the statement that you are not your thoughts is like saying you are not the software, YOU are the programmer.

The tricky part of that analogy, is that instead of a human programmer using code to talk to a machine, the “programmer” in your head is a component of your thoughts/brain/machine built into the machine itself.

So if we are talking about software that can manage other software, we are talking about the operating system…..interesting parallel, huh?

This makes it almost impossible to really get, because you have to use your thoughts to think about your thoughts and it all seems like YOU anyway, so it can easily seem kind of trite, circular, and pretty meaningless.

Maybe, just like a computer, you have layers of thoughts. Some are deeper, closer to being YOU and are like a computer’s operating system.

Then there are more specific thoughts that are reactions to your life and those around you. This is like the software installed on the operating system, the most import “thought software” for most of us was installed during our childhood when the hard drive had the most space and we were open to new installations.

So in a nutshell, a Personal Practice gets you to see that you have your own operating system in there somewhere, and it’s capable of installing and un-installing, and running or not running, the other software or thoughts that you have.

Now consider how much of your experience in life is a direct result of the thoughts you have about stuff.

When something good or bad happens, you are going to have certain thoughts about it, and those thoughts will lead to feelings, good, bad, or indifferent. Then those feelings might make you take action, and those actions are going to be good, bad, or indifferent as well. Is everyone out there eating right, being kind to others, and getting enough exercise and rest?

Since all that stuff is coming out of your brain, and your brain is kind of like layers of software that spits out thoughts, what if you could change the software?

Do we have to swallow everything that comes out of our brain hook, line and sinker? Is our brain so perfect that we are absolutely 100% certain our thoughts are always spot on perfect about everything we think about?

If your brain can do that, then please, please contact me because you are God and I want to hang out with you and listen to what you are thinking. :-)

The rest of us have to Practice, and go through the slow, and gradual process of finding the software that is working, the new stuff we want to install, and the software in our head that needs to be debugged, or un-installed altogether because it just isn’t working right.

This work can’t even begin until you realize it is even possible in the first place. This realization can come from a variety of activities, for a variety of reasons, but they all have in common the ability to give you that experience.

It also really helps to be looking for it.

What most people don’t realize is that they need to be looking for this experience. So while two people may be doing the same activity, only one may actually be doing it as a Personal Practice. (Think sex addict and Tantra master)

The martial arts also lends itself well to a Personal Practice, but there is a lot of variation in terms of how well that aspect is taught at any given school, as not all teachers have this orientation towards their art. Some think how well you can fight is the measure of success, but unless you are a professional fighter, a Navy Seal, or personal safety is a likely, regular and serious concern, then how well you can fight is probably not the best choice for your ultimate purpose in practicing a martial art.  Since you don’t really need it, it will soon fade as a motivation for Practicing, and most of us don’t really need it to be honest.

Martial Arts as a Personal Practice

Personally, one of the things I love about Isshin-ryu is how well it lends itself to being a Personal Practice. If you look at all the symbolism in the patch, the fact that it is worn over the heart, the 8 codes of Isshin-ryu, the symbolism in the patch itself, and the fact that the translation of Isshin-ryu is “One Heart Way,” there is overwhelming evidence that Tatsuo Shimabuku considered Isshin-ryu his Personal Practice and wanted others to be able to use it that way as well.

How Does a Martial Art work as a Personal Practice?

The martial arts, like yoga, is an art of movement. What a martial art adds to the movement, is interaction.

Learning the movements creates opportunity for a lot of thought about the process of learning. A simple examle might be that you think, “this is hard, I can’t do it.” But being patient and determined you keep practicing, and then you can do it.

It might occur to you to ask yourself, “why did I have that thought about not being able to do this, when clearly I can?”

Will you always have that thought “I can’t do it” about everything? Was it a necessary or helpful thought? Or maybe you are wondering why crap like that ever came out of your head in the first place, crap is supposed to come out of the other end.

“But I can’t help what I think, my thoughts just happen!”

Yes, I know. It’s because you don’t have a personal practice.

When you interact with someone else in a martial arts setting, you will have a whole new set of thoughts. “Did I win?” “Am I better?” “Did I loose?” “Do I totally suck?”

The answers to those thoughts are going to produce feelings, then maybe actions.

But what if your thoughts were, “Nice move!” “This is fun!” “I really learned something.” You are going to probably have different feelings, and probably different actions.

When you develop the confidence through expertise that gives you the CHOICE of which thoughts to have it gradually, or maybe suddenly, occurs to you that every thought you have had is not the golden egg you once thought it was.

Then you realize that even though you are a black belt, you have just started truly becoming a student.

It’s a humbling experience, and one of the most precious gifts any teacher of any discipline can pass on to a student. If you are a parent considering a teacher for your child, logistics will be a major factor, but also try to determine if the teacher has the capacity to deliver that gift, as that is really what should be your first priority.

The irony of focusing on the Personal Practice aspect of a martial art, is that in the end, it will make you the most formidable opponent for the simple reason that all true warriors know that their most important weapon is all that stuff in between their ears.

The battle with another actually starts long before the first punch, and usually before the first word. Your brain is the only tool you have for that part of the battle, and winning there is the highest goal, as it means nobody got hurt.

“For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”Sun Tzu


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