going nowhere well

Being scared is practice for being scared” ― Simon Holt

Let’s us begin today by digging up a sign & …

not a journey

… setting it on fire.

How many have travelled that road?

What good did it do them?

You may travel in your life, but life is not, and never has been, a journey. No wonder people get lost when they’re given directions that have no meaning.

We are not travelling any where.

So let us simply play here.

Let’s suggest that life’s both

here & not here
not here.

It’s here because … well it’s here whether you like it or not.

We’re more interested in the
the ‘not here‘ bit
today …
because it’s here that possibilities abound.

At present the ‘not here’ bit is pre sent
because we are not meeting life consciously,
we’re merely …


… re-practising the past.

But oh
the not here bit
that could be here

… wow the possibilities
if we could make use of
one sacred art …

sacred hands
… with our two sacred hands.

Practice makes permanent” ~ Bobby Robson

The following true story is how I learned that life has never been a journey, or a destination:

The practice hall or “dojo” was in a … hut on the edge of a baseball field … He was Japanese, perhaps fifty, perhaps seventy, there was no way to tell. He wore a white tunic and long black pants or hakama, the garb of an Aikido master.

A half-dozen burly men circled him menacingly.  As they began to close in on him, he was absolutely still, calm, poised … with cries that reverberated off the metal walls, they attacked him in unison.

What happened then was remarkable. The master seemed to flow like water into their mass, swirling between them, his black skirt surrounding them. Each time they reached to strike his body, he was not there …


… As a gyroscope spins faster and faster its motion appears still. So it was with the sensei as he met, diverted, and redirected the energy of his attackers. Projecting them one by one by one out of the melee, he seemed to lay each down on the ground protectively.

His actions were so effortless that we knew there was something below the surface which could not be readily seen, something unexplained …  After class was over, I approached him rather sheepishly, keeping a respectful distance. When he turned to face me, I felt every molecule of his attention surround me … I had to ask one question. “Excuse me, sensei, but how long did it take you to learn to that?”

… the corners of his mouth lifted ever so slightly before he answered … “I have been practicing rondori for forty years, but I am sorry, I have not learned it yet.

Still, I practice. That’s all there is. Simple. Practice. Like life, yes?” He bowed, turned, and was simply & completely gone.

Forty years.

I want to suggest today that life fully lived comes through ‘practice toward ‘mastery‘.

Mastery is a guiding principle, not a place or a thing or an ‘end product’ (because there is always oceans of room for growth & improvement).

The ‘life is a journey’ meme calls for a nomadic existence –


… you have to be ‘going somewhere’.

It’s funny when you ask a lot of people ‘how they are’, they reply that they are ‘getting there‘ – I’ve never met anyone who knew where they were supposed to be getting to.

When life is a journey you have to be ‘getting ahead‘. If we get any more into our heads we’re going to have to start constructing  …


… attics.

But …

with a life constantly watered with ‘practice towards mastery‘,
you go deeper & deeper into your own potential,
you climb back down into your body
& begin to grow again.

This is how children learn so rapidly – their ‘growth’ is laser-focused on ‘mastery’ of skills & knowledge that those older than them have (thus far) attained.

Masters never achieve mastery,
they are simply consummate practisers.

You and I and so many others, in the West are also consummate practisers. But our practice is damned scary.

We practise








Let’s look at what practice is all about:

practice (v.)  … From early 15c. as “to perform repeatedly, to acquire skill

We need to cosy up to this verb because it’s pure magic:

practice (n.)   …  originally especially of medicine, but also alchemy, education

initiate (v.)  c.1600, “introduce to some practice or system”.

It is ‘the way’ behind every way of life:

custom (n.)   c.1200, “habitual practice,” …  from Latin…  “habit, usage, way, practice, tradition, familiarity”.

The direction of a civilisation is obtained by its practices:

tradition (n.)   late 14c … “delivery, surrender, a handing down,” from traditus … “hand over“.

habit (n.)  Meaning “customary practice” is early 14c

Maintain the same ‘practices’ & you keep the same …

one flavour

flavour of society -ad nauseum

maintain (v.)   mid-13c., “to practice habitually“.

Religion is rooted in it – adherents must constantly practice their faith continually:

Catholicism (n.)  “faith and practice of the Catholic church,” 1610s

religion (n.)     c.1200, … According to Cicero derived from relegere “go through again, read again

celebrate (v.) … pp. of celebrare “assemble to honor,” …


 …  practice often

Celebrity comes from the word ‘celebrate’.

And you know how important it is for you to attend
that daily …


mass practice

Our entire education system is based on practice. Approx 13 years of “practice” guarantees that each little sausage turned out of the scholastic-meat-processing plant will fit properly …

frying pan

… into the societal frying pan

Ever tried ‘linking sausages”?


train (v.)   “instruct, discipline, teach,” 1540s, probably from earlier sense of “draw out and manipulate in order to bring to a desired form

School consists of years of exercises:

exercise (n.)    mid-14c., “… practice for the sake of training,” … from exercitare … “keep busy, drive on

Most of our lives are about  practice.

Why wouldn’t they be?

Humans are learning creatures. It’s what we do.

Some animals are superb predators, some are skilled at surviving in extreme conditions.

Humans learn.

And then they practice what they have learned.


and …



Your life is the shape it is because you are practising again and again what you have learned throughout your life.  Mostly what you learned, you learned when you were very young.

Your life is an art form whether you can grasp that or not:

art (n.)  early 13c., “skill as a result of learning or practice“.

You are highly skilled at holding and maintaining the inner shape that you see as you.

You are highly skilled at holding and maintaining the way of life you have practised for years & years.

I’d like to suggest that if there are parts of our life that we are not happy with, we can begin adopting new practices.

adopt (v.)  …. Sense of … “to embrace, espouse” a practice, method

I’d like to suggest it is very possible to re-practice ourselves.

The saying:

fake it till you make it

runs along those lines.

Children of course are consummate pracitisers and if you asked them, they would probably tell you that the above saying was silly because everyone  knows that what they mean is that you should play.


They might also say that everyone should know
that play is
the most serious alchemy
in the world.

My one-eyed cat loves to play with a flexible, bite-sized …


… pearl earring. She especially loves when I lift a rug & roll it under. You should see the speed of her paws & claws. It has quite often happened that not long after a ‘play’ session she will return with a poor lifeless creature from the garden. It didn’t take me long to put two & two together.

What we call ‘play’ to all sensible creatures (this includes children, but not adults) is serious, serious practice towards mastery. And because it so totally engages the emotions, it is all the more powerful.

Emotions are to learning what rocket fuel is to … well rockets.


I have been learning to touch type – it has not come fast, but I have persevered. It seems almost in spite of myself, my body has caught on. This is the first article I have ‘touch-typed’. Nothing but practice would have gotten me to where I am now. I still need to keep practising – but where once there was no neural, or physical pathway to touch-typing, now there is.

Do you get it?

Practice is alchemy, magic. It makes something out of nothing.

It creates a door where there wasn’t one.

It builds a bridge where once there was only an abyss.

This is what humans are about – learning & practicing – & the superb feelings that come with improving, building upon & extending our abilities as well as boldly heading into or opening up, all sorts of new territories:

Many theorists have talked about the need or drive to master events in the environment. In a classic exposition, R.K. White (1959) proposed the concept of competence. He argued that the basic drive for control had been overlooked by learning theorists and psychoanalytic thinkers alike. The need to master could be more pervasive than sex, hunger, and thirst in the lives of animals and men. Play in young children, for example, is motivated not by “biological” drives, but by a competence drive

There is no end to what you can practice.

I now practice driving my car – I had gone numb because I thought I knew it all.

Practice has nothing to do with that god-awful book-selling phrase:

“Be in the Now” –

children are not ‘being‘ in the ‘now’ –

practice of smell

… they’re ‘eating it up’ and going back for seconds.

They grab hold of it and shake it & shape it, up.

They build it up and tear it down …

building up

… & rebuild it again.

They turn in inside out & upside down.

They use it all up in their striving for competence & mastery …

… & then go back for more.

Like it or not, your life is an art form that you are practising every day.

What are you practising?

Practice makes permanent” – Bobby Robson

One final thought if you want to practise a new life into existence.

You absolutely, without any doubt whatsoever have to start practising ‘discomfort‘. I’m not talking masochism, I’m talking something infinitely more disgusting – I’m talking “reality’.

You have to practise living in reality again. Living in your body again. You need to get familiar with the world as it is. You do that by allowing the uncomfortable feelings that those things arouse, exist in your body. That’s very hard at first …


…  but like everything else it gets easier with practice.

Think of each practice session (of anything) as having the strength & durability of one sheet of tissue paper …


… Left alone it is doomed to an ignoble fate by fire, water, wind or rough hand.

But when you build up layer upon layer you create …


… an incredible strength.

Most probably more to come …

~  ~  ~

Text in this colour from An Unused Intelligence – Andy Bryner & Dawn Markova

Text in this colour from Helplessness – Martin Seligman

March 21, 2013. Uncategorized.


  1. recoveringmetalhead replied:

    Nicely said Alex,
    Reminded me of something a friend said to me once. If memory serves we were talking about something competitive at the time like money or racing or some such. He said “Best cheater wins”. Not sure why that came to mind.

    It is quite challenging to develop and practice new things of an individual creative sort. My life experience tells me that it is well worth it but for some reason I always struggle with it. Maybe the more years of training we have at the same old things make it harder to conceive of new things.

    It seems that we get quite well trained to never try something which we cannot precisely forsee the value of. The long term effects are not good.

  2. alex robinson replied:

    Thank you mr metalhead.
    I guess the best cheater is the one who practices their ‘trade’ the most :)

    I’m working on the why of the struggle at the moment but yes I would say the longer we stay shackled to old ways of doing and seeing the harder it would be to change to new ways – at least not without a good kick in the pants. One thing we need to remember however is that you most certainly teach an old dog new tricks if he / she has the desire to learn.

    very best to you as always

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