Why do I skip my devotional practice (even though I really want to do it!)?

October 10, 2021

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Do you have a devotional practice (such as feminine embodiment, meditation, yoga, movement practice, journaling) that you want to do… but just don’t?

Yesterday I was speaking with a peer & participant in our Coaching Certification program. As part of her personal mastery she desired to dive deep into feminine embodiment movement practices, yet for the past two weeks, despite best intentions, had yet to do a single practice.

I got it. I’ve been there. And I’ll be there again.

While I’m aware of how well, centered, grounded, resourced, expansive and fluid I feel when I do my ‘formal’ devotional practice… it doesn’t mean my attendance track record is perfect (far from it).


Whatever your practice is, on today’s podcast we’re exploring:

  • 5 tips in understanding WHY we don’t show up & how they can shift
  • Self-coaching questions to help you move forward
  • I share what my practice looks like & how often I practice
  • The super practical tip I routinely use, it’s been a 💎
  • What to do when we just can’t find the time to practice

Resources

Resources mentioned in this podcast:


Transcript

Prefer to read? Grab the full transcript below.

Hi, welcome to the podcast. I’m Jenna Ward, and today we are having a discussion around the topic I want to do my devotional practice, but I don’t, I just don’t show up, I just don’t do it. And this podcast came about because I know situation myself, and just yesterday I was having a discussion around it with one of the participants in one of our programs. So today on the podcast I wanted to name and expand on some of the deeper reasons why we might want to show up for our devotional practice, but don’t, so that we can understand what’s actually going on in the dynamics within us, and I’ll share some of the really more practical aspects of how I meet those moments, because they also inevitably arise for me. A really warm welcome, and thank you for being here.

Welcome to the ‎School of Embodied Arts Podcast. I am your hostess, Jenna Ward, feminine embodiment coach, here for our weekly explorations of living, leading, and coaching as emotionally empowered, sensually alive, and magnetic women.

What kind of devotional practice do you have? Maybe it’s a movement practice, a meditation practice, writing, yoga. Maybe it’s a type of dance practice, a contemplative practice, mindfulness practice. So many different types of devotional practice, they’re all relevant to today’s exploration. For me personally, I have a devotional practice which is a feminine embodiment movement practice. So what I do personally for my devotional practice is my formal devotional practice happens, ideally, most weeks, three times a week. I roll out a yoga mat, or find a comfortable, quiet, safe spot in the house, and I shut down my eyes, bring my awareness and my breath into body, and I allow my body to move me. In short that’s what my devotional practice, which is a feminine embodiment movement practice, is.

I’ll share a little bit more about that practice later, but I know that when I do this practice there are so many benefits. I feel more grounded, I feel more fluid, I recenter my sanity, I awaken more of the beauty to life. I have the opportunity to slow down, it helps me to process a lot of decisions so that I move out of my practice with more clarity, and it awakens and opens my heart. There are so many benefits to this practice, and that’s why I’m committed to it as a devotional practice. But that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy to show up and do my practice.

Just yesterday I was speaking with a peer, a participant in our feminine embodiment coaching certification program, and we have a big emphasis on personal mastery in the coaching certification program because if you want to be a great coach, then you need to be committed and devoted to your own expansion in embodied arts. And this participant was sharing with me, “I really want to do my movement practice, my personal mastering, my self coaching, but just for two weeks now I’ve had the intention to go and do my devotional practice, and I just don’t. I find myself vacuuming, or reading, or going to organize something in the house, and I know that’s deep down not what I want, deep down I know I will feel better when I do the practice. I know the benefits that will come, I know I need to do it and I want to do it, but I’m having trouble showing up, and I don’t understand why.” And I’ve been in that place, and I’ve have had many inquiries and investigations into understanding why we might, deep down, really want to do our devotional practice, and at the same time not do it.

So whatever your practice is, today I want just to share some ideas, practical, emotional, anatomical, that may illuminate some of the reasons why you want to do that practice, but you don’t show up for it. And I think it’s really important, before we speak about these practicalities, just to check in with the why behind why we might want to do a devotional practice. For me, I want to do my embodied movement devotional practice because I have seen the fruits and the benefits of it. I am a far, far better person, far more awake, alive, centered, grounded person when I do my practice. And so the reason that I want to do this is not because I need to tick it off my to-do list, it’s not because this is the only path to being embodied, it’s not because that’s what good people should do, it’s not a should or a mandate that is the motivator for me to want to do this practice, the motivator is that I know it creates benefits for me, I have seen those benefits in my body.

And my disposition as a body is different to yours, so I’m not saying that you should do a feminine embodiment movement practice for 40 minutes three times a week, that’s what I do, because that’s what really works so well for my body, my lifestyle, and the season of life that I’m in, what your body needs is going to be very different, I would imagine. But the key thing that I’m just wanting to center before we dive in is your motivation, your why, and making sure that that’s earnest and heartfelt, rather than arbitrary, because none of these tips are going to apply if you and your body don’t actually want to do a devotional practice. If there’s a part of you that’s act actively in, I don’t want to, or a part of you that’s actively in, I’m only doing this because I’ve been told it’s what I should do, that’s probably not going to be motivation enough to show up and to devote to whatever it is that you are devoting to.

I use a movement practice which is called primal feminine flow, all the details are about it on our website over at JennaWard.co/flow, if you’re interested in finding out more about that practice, and I know that I do this practice, I’m devoted to this practice, because I am devoted to get getting out of my head and getting more into the lexicon, the language of my body. I can feel when my energy is in my head because my shoulders get tight, the vibe or the swirl of my energy is more centered in the upper half of my body. I feel my lower body constricting, and I notice my breath being shallow, and I also notice that the pace, the fast pace of the world is more likely to wash me away with it, rather than me stand firm in the slowness that my body usually craves.

So for me, the reason why I do my type of practice is because it gets me into my body, increases the sensitivity of my body, and has so many benefits that ripple out from there. And yet, and yet, and yet there are seasons and there are times where it’s just not easy to show up and do your devotional practice. So let’s explore some of the reasons why that may be. Now I don’t live in your body, so I don’t actually know what’s going on for you, but I’m going to present a few different ideas or a few different options, and some of them may land as more true than others, so you can take the parts that work for you. I also acknowledge that this is not a totally exhaustive list. We’ve got a 20, 30 minute podcast here together, so I’m of you the highlights, but there can be other reasons why that are beyond the scope of this short conversation we’re having today.

So the first thing, number one on the list of reasons why, why, the underpinning why we might secretly be avoiding doing that devotional practice that we tell ourselves that we want to do, the first reason why is, in my experience when we show up to do a devotional practice, there is very often something that is going to change or evolve within our being. When I do a feminine embodiment practice, I uncouple and I disconnect from the agenda of my mind, and the meanings of my head, and I reconnect to the wisdom of my body, which is a source of power which I believe is pretty unconventional in these times. A lot of us are told, for example, that it’s unprofessional to bring your emotions to work, and you shouldn’t be hormonal, or cyclic, or you’re too much, or you’re too loud, or you are not enough of this. We’re told how emotional we are allowed to be, in what quantities, and when, in order to conform to this idea or this narrative of what it means to be a good human.

And I know that when I get into my body more, my emotions do out louder, my sensations do become more erratic, I become more alive, I become less linear. And so the first piece that I’m naming here is actually, when we do some type of devotional practice, we are beginning to change the status quo of how our body operates, and we are navigating in a different direction. And there is a part of our body, I’m going to just simply describe it today as our survival mind, that says any change in direction is potentially going to be a threat to my status quo, my safety, my support, my place in the tribe, and I don’t actually want anything to change.

And so this first point is really one considering, if we are to do a devotional practice, and if we are to deepen or grow or evolve or transform in some way, which our soul, our spirit, our essence is likely deeply yearning for, there is another part of us, this survival self, which is actually seeing that potential for transformation as a threat to the current safety that you have. It may be that in contemplating doing type of devotional practice there is a part of you that’s saying, hold up, I don’t want to rock the boat, I don’t want to change, I don’t want to go in a different direction, and I don’t want things to be different.

And I think this is just really important to acknowledge because if this is the case, and if this is playing out, and it isn’t if, this isn’t true for everyone, but if this is playing out, then particularly for feminine embodiment practices, it’s going to be really difficult for us to get in into our body because if we don’t have a foundation of safety, or a foundation of increasing safety, it’s very difficult to let go, to become more vulnerable, and to move into the tenderness that is the depth of our body. And so I think this is something that very practically we can look at by considering, is there some part of me that doesn’t feel safe in doing this practice? And conversely, how can I let my body know that it is safe for me to do this? Two questions that might be really relevant, depending on your circumstance, to sit with and to write or reflect on. This is me being a coach. I love coaching, I love me a powerful question, so I offer those two.

Now related to this topic of safety also has to come the topic of exhaustion. This is the second potential reason that might be the why, the underlying reason why you might be avoiding a devotional practice. If you’ve been on a path of growth for a while, if you’ve been doing a lot of transformation, if you’ve been growing and expanding, there may come a point where your body and your being says, whoa, whoa, let’s just slow this down, I’m a little bit exhausted.

I really feel like the self-development industry as a whole has this idea that we’re moving from someplace of brokenness to someplace of wholeness, and it’s this finite journey where we can have our spiritual awakening and then we can be awakened. And some of us can do a devotional practices, or work at our development, work at our awakening, as if it’s a PhD or a master’s degree that can be completed in three years. I put myself in that category a few years ago, and it just doesn’t work. Because actually I feel, and my I view now, is that when we are committed to devotional practices and/or embodiment practices, they’re actually lifelong practices that enable us to show up as better humans each day. They’re practices that are as fundamental as having a shower.

You go out into the world, you go out into life, and stress happens, disaster happens, opportunity happens, yearnings happen, and our devotional practices are a way for us to come back to ourselves, come back to our center, to process that stress, to reconnect to that yearning, and to have a space where we commit to the blossoming of the actualization of who we are. And that’s not a sprint, that’s a lifelong marathon. Personal development, self-improvement, I really feel like these are actually, they’re not a season of life, in my opinion, they’re something that those of us who have the privilege to contemplate, and those of us, which is all of us, which have the responsibility to contemplate, these are things that we will continue to do for the rest of our life. I certainly, sincerely hope, not because I’m broken and I need to get fixed, but because life is an ongoing blossoming, and I want to continue to blossom for the entirety of my time here.

And that means that if I’ve been doing growth and transformation in a way whereby I’ve burnt myself out transforming myself, that’s not sustainable. And there’s no shame around that because there are sometimes very intense periods of growth or personal development where we really go through a big blooming, or a big blossoming. I have this image of a caterpillar emerging as a butterfly, we certainly have those periods in time. And it may be, if you are exhausted, that you’ve been through a big transformation. It may also be that you’re approaching your transformation as a sprint, and that could be causing exhaustion. So the second thing that I find in terms of the underlying why, I want to understand why I’m not showing up for this practice, the second thing could be exhaustion. Maybe your body needs a break. I think there’s a season and there’s a cycle for that too. I am taking a small vacation next week, and I’m going to be taking a break from my devotional practices, my more formal devotional practices, because my devotion for that period of time will be spending time with my family. So bring that on.

Okay, so the third piece that I wanted to speak to is sometimes we can avoid our practices because it’s part of the practice. So let me break this down a little bit further, when I’m doing a embodied movement practice and I’m getting ready to shut down my eyes, bring my awareness inside my body, and contemplate all of the deep feelings and currents and sensations that want to commune with me through the temple that is my body, it might be easy to assume that that 20 minutes, 40 minutes, whatever it is that you decide, on your mat is the practice, full stop. Similar to, let’s say, yoga asanas, so maybe do a yoga asana class and that’s your devotional practice. It’s easy to assume that that practice starts when you do your first movement. Or if your devotional practice is meditation maybe you sit in stillness and your intention is to empty your body. Again, easy to assume that the practice begins when you sit down and shut your eyes.

But I actually believe that the practice begins before that. How we do life is our devotional practice. So how we do life is our devotional practice. And we may have a formal devotional practice, so for me that formal practice is when I do that 40 minutes of movement three times a week, it’s the formal practice where, it’s like going to the gym, that’s where I do the most of my practice, but that formal practice informs every other moment of my day and my life, it informs multiple moments of informal practice for the rest of my work and family and the way that I live. And so I believe that actually to get to the moment of our formal practice beginning, there is often a lot that we need to move through, shift aside, reprioritize, create new boundaries around, and really figure out in order to create that space for devotion for ourselves.

In order for me, as a woman who works, has a family, has a busy life, also as a woman who has a lot of access to money and privileges, but for me to be able to create the space to practice there is a whole lot that I need to recalibrate, plan, and put structures around in my day. And my desire to prioritize my practices, which I don’t always get right, I want to be really clear and transparent, I don’t have a perfect practice record, absolutely. This week I have done two, or no, I’ve done one out of my three practices, so I’ve got still two left to go in this week, and don’t know if I’ll get there. So this week I might have about 66% success rate, I think, so there’s full transparency for you.

But what I’m getting at here, if I get back to the point, is if I have, let’s describe them as barriers, to showing up and doing my practice, time barriers, space barriers, in-law barriers, childcare barriers, pandemic barriers, all kinds of barriers, figuring out how to move through those barriers to keep my desire and my devotion centered, that’s part of the practice. I believe that’s part of the practice. I don’t believe that our practice begins when we shut our eyes, I believe every time you bring your awareness to your intention and you look at how can I make this happen? What discussional boundary do I need to renegotiate? What expectations within myself do I have to adjust, all of this is part of the devotion, so it’s part of the practice.

And that may mean, like for this participant that I was speaking with yesterday, it may mean that for two weeks you do a dance back and forward of I want to practice and I’m not, and you’re maybe exploring safety, or you’re maybe exhausted, or you’re maybe edging closer and closer to the practice, and it might not look like it’s formally begun yet, but actually it has begun because you’re moving in that direction. One of the biggest challenges for me is that the time that I have for myself is often labeled by myself, my family, the world, as my work time, and you would expect that during work time I don’t roll out my yoga mat and writhe around on the floor for 40 minutes, that doesn’t seem, in conventional sense, something that would be practical, or work related. And yet I deeply disagree, it’s one of the most important things that I do during my “work” day.

And so I’ve really had to recalibrate expectations within myself as what’s important work and reprioritize my movement practice, and reeducate those people around me that this is part of my work, and this is sacred and this can’t be encroached upon. And I believe that is all part of the practice, it’s all part of the devotion. So this third piece is considering that maybe a formal devotional practice also has a lot of building blocks and a lot of pieces that build up towards it, and that might also be considered part of the practice, and something that we can celebrate and keep energized around instead of putting ourselves down.

The fourth piece that I wanted to speak about is a little bit more of a practical tip, and I got it from my partner, and it has been a game changer. So there was this book that he read and then shared with me, it’s called Atomic Habits. The book’s pretty good, but this is the key part from it, I’ll include a link to the book with the notes for this podcast. So the tip is this, if you want a habit to become successful, you need to make it visible. So make your habit visible. What does that practically look like for a devotional practice? Well for me it looks like, in order for me to do my devotional practice I need comfortable clothes and a space to practice. I prefer to have a yoga mat, I prefer to do it to music, and so I like to have a nice speaker that’s charged. I often need to pick some music to go with it, so I like to have the playlist selected.

I’m really down with burning some incense or some candle, having a nice warm feeling space, and I do my best movement practices in the morning, generally before the family wakes up, or first thing at my working day. Those are the ingredients that I need for my movement practice. Maybe you need to know the time of your yoga class, or you need to pre-select the type of meditation, or you need your journal with your special glitter pen. I don’t know what you’re going to need, but whatever your ingredients are. The tip is to make those ingredients obvious, visible, and unmissable.

So I have a specific spot in the corner of my office where all those ingredients live, they’re laid out in this special space, and it takes no effort, really it takes next to no effort, for me to see those ingredients and to say, ah, everything is here for me to do my practice, great, let’s just start. And that’s really different to waking up at 6:00 AM in the morning and realizing, my phone is flat, and I don’t have a playlist, and where are some earphones, my speaker, and oh no, my movement clothes are in the bedroom but my partners still asleep in there, and I live my yoga mat in the car, and it’s like, who’s going to do a devotional practice with all those barriers? Not me, I’m going back to bed.

So this tip that I wanted to share from the Atomic Habits book is make your habit visible, get all the ingredients in one place. I even go as far as to pre-determine how long I want to practice and I set a timer for that of time, just so I don’t have to make any decisions or do anything, I just show up and everything’s ready to go. It’s been a really good change, a really helpful, just small, super simple, but a really helpful practical support for me.

And the final thing, the final topic that I wanted to speak about, is about finding the time to do the practice. I’ve alluded to this in a number of different ways already, I understand that all of us have different bodies, backgrounds, desires, lifestyles, commitments, time pressures, privileges, identities, locations, so many different unique quantifiers, and it can feel really difficult to find the time to do your practice. Without the intention of shaming everyone, I also feel that many of us buy into the story or the narrative that something like a devotional practice is optional, or it’s extra, or it’s something that’s superfluous and not essential. We live in a culture that sees devotional practices that way, it sees them as something that’s indulgent.

My experience has been that when I buy into that idea, that my devotional practice is optional, I am a mother and a lover and a friend and a partner and a wife that is a much poorer quality than I am when I do my devotional practices. So my opinion, and this is only my opinion, you’re very welcome to form your own, is that for me, my devotional practice is essential if I want to be a centered, sane, and well human, and my wellness is incredibly important to every other role that I play. So I feel like there absolutely is challenge in finding the time, but at the same time that narrative doesn’t help us, and if we are complicit with the narrative of, I don’t have enough time, then we are never going to create a culture that centers the wellness of every human as a priority.

We have to center our wellness, and if for you that means a devotional practice, again, I’m not saying you should have one, I’m saying if you want to have one, here’s some ideas around it, but if you want one, then we really have to center that want and that wellness as something that is so important to our productivity and our quality of interaction as a human. So yeah, it can be difficult to find the time, but if you don’t find the time you are complicit in diminishing your own wellness. And again, I want to say that without shame, while also calling truth, and I acknowledge that’s a bit of a delicate balance, so I hope that you can receive that in a way whereby I want you, I wish for you, I wish for all of us, to have a space for more devotion, for it to happen with more ease, but that only happens when we make the commitment to it.

So, as a result of today’s podcast I hope there may have been one or more nuggets of insight about what’s going on for you if you want to show up to do your devotional practice, but you’re not doing it. If there has, and if something’s landed, do let me know, drop me a note on the socials, or at the blog over at JennaWard.co, I would really love to hear in the comments for this podcast. All of the resources that I’ve mentioned in today’s podcast will be with the show notes, so you can find the feminine embodiment movement practice that I mentioned at JennaWard.co/flow, and thank you so much for joining our podcast today.

If you loved the podcast, do also leave us a review, I would be deeply grateful. The best place and only place really to leave a review is to jump over to iTunes or Apple Podcasts, and drop any reflections or notes that you have about the podcast there, I’d be really grateful, again. And until next time we speak, many blessings to you and to your devotional practice. If you loved this episode and want to explore more like it, head over and subscribe on iTunes, or jump across to JennaWard.co/podcast and we will lovingly hand deliver the best of the podcast, as well as new episodes, to your inbox each week.

With love,

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