On Learning. Part 2: Practice

kirtan education May 15, 2023

The great Indian Saint Shirdi Sai Baba always said, “Shradda and Saburi.” This was interpreted to mean, “faith and patience.” My guru, Swami Kaleshwar interpreted this as “practice and patience.” To me, this means that in order to develop our skills and capacities we must PRACTICE over a duration of TIME.

To be an effective Kirtan leader, we must embody many essential practices of leading Kirtan including playing the harmonium, singing, speaking publicly about Kirtan, leading our band… and many more. If we practice these over time, we can move from being a beginner to being competent, and then continue on to become expert, virtuoso and masterful. Wouldn’t that be cool?

In Talent is Overrated Geoff Colvin writes, “The factor that seems to explain the most about great performance is what researchers call deliberate practice.” He points out the elements of deliberate practice:

• Designed specifically to improve performance – identifying elements of
performance that need to be improved and then working intently on them.

• Can be repeated at high volume.

• Continuous feedback from a teacher or coach.

• Highly demanding mentally. Requires intense focus and concentration.

• Not always fun.

Colvin describes both holistic and parts practice.

Holistic practice happens while doing the activity. Before you set a daily goal. What to focus on and how to get there. During, engage in rigorous self-observation. Observe own thinking, emotions and body. After, we compare performance against standards. What were the errors and what caused them? What are ideas for what to do differently next time? A key question is, how can I get specific feedback from others who are competent in this action?

Parts practice, frequently and traditionally used in the domain of music, involves (i) break down the skill into specific pieces, (ii) practice each piece with intent and (iii) get feedback from coach or recording device. This is why it is critical to work with a coach and practice in-between sessions.

In addition, it can be useful to conduct simulations of circumstances that require fast responses to see what has been embodied. This is why it can be useful to be in a workshop situation with others and your coach.

The Kirtan Leader Institute is a learning community with a methodology, experts (who can offer coaching, guidance and support), peers (fellow learners), practice and time. Members learn in solo, partner and group configurations. We deliberately practice, working on parts and holistically. We practice over time, and continue to deeper our skills and capacities for the sake of cultivating powerful Kirtan experiences for ourself and others.

The goal of practicing is to build embodiment. More on that in a post to follow.


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