I practice. Everyday for the last six months, I come into a handstand against my bedroom wall. Slowly I move one foot and then the other away from the wall. Most days I achieve a half-second miracle of equilibrium before I fall out. I am never unhappy because I really love being upside down. I can honestly say that I don’t know if I will ever make it (especially when I imagine pulling myself up to a handstand with NO wall support!)
There are two fundamental yoga principles that inspire my handstand practice and absolutely apply to your public speaking practice. The first principle, Abhyasa, literally means practice and the second, Vairagya, means non-attachment. One is saying, “Never give up” while the other says, “Always let go.” How can you apply these concepts in your public address?
First, you’d be surprised by the number of people who avoid practicing their speeches. They (not you, of course…them!) seem to think that reviewing it in their heads or out loud by themselves in front of a mirror is enough. It’s not. Public speaking practice means delivering the presentation in front of a trusted someone and getting feedback. Edward Tufte said in our workshop, “Don’t be put off by the nervous-making quality of practice.” I really like the way he formed that thought. So many presenters avoid it, because it is usually awkward, imperfect and not finalized. It’s supposed to be. Commitment to practice is the first step to a powerful presentation.
Vairagya, the detachment from desired outcome, is the balancing energy of dedicated practice. For me, it means that I don’t get discouraged or put off by the variations of my mind and body on any given handstand day. This mental attitude creates strength in the midst of uncertainty. In public speaking, this concept powerfully moves practice forward because it allows presenters to notice and observe themselves without succumbing to unnecessary embarrassment or avoidance of the very work we need to do to achieve a positive, productive, meaningful outcome. Both principles require attention and developed effort.
So, practice and detach. Never give up and always let go. Or, as William Butler Yeats wrote, “In Dreams Begins Responsibility.”