Q&A with Mary Corning, author of Perfect Practice: A Philosophy for Living an Authentic and Transparent Life

What is Perfect Practice about and what inspired you to write the book?

Perfect Practice is about realizing that we can shift our perspective and change our world. I was inspired to write the book because I found this to be an absolutely consistent path to freedom. I found that through the awareness of my perspective I reclaimed my natural and effective ability to choose how I see things and how I respond to the things I see. This offered me freedom from my own inner feelings of inadequacy and separateness.

I first became aware that I had a choice of perspective through my sincere love of animals, specifically horses. All my life I adored horses and when I was finally able to buy my first horse, knew I was home. I learned from horses all that I needed to learn about life. I sensed a rich authenticity in the relationship I had with them. The magic in the connection was that all thoughts of right and wrong or good and bad went away. I have never met a bad horse. I could see the horse as a horse not as its behavior. I soon found that levelof acceptance within myself as well. But back then, it was only when I was with horses. My life’swork was to bridge that gap inall my relationships. And that is what Perfect Practice is to me.

The judgments I felt from the externalworld melted away. I realized that when thehorse and I were together I didn’t feel separate, as I often felt with people. This was my early education in acceptance. I could clearly see that the horse and I both wanted the same thing—peace through unity.

This connection is what inspired me to reach again and again for that perfect awareness. I wanted what feltso natural with horses to expand into my entire relationship with life. This heart-led, lifelong study is what inspired me to write Perfect Practice.

You say you don’t settle for anything less than perfect. Does that mean perfect practice is about being perfect?

Not settling for less than perfect is not about being perfect, though it is about the awareness of what we practice. When I heard the quote, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfectpractice makes perfect.” I realized the value of being conscious of all that I was practicing in my life. I looked at my relationships, habits, reactions, as well as all the cultural and psychological beliefs that were operating behind the scenes of my mind. I realized that if I practice what’s ineffective, my life felt heavy and burdened. I soon realized that I feel like a victim of my life rather than the creator of it.

Perfect practice comes from my willingness to grow, and to learn from my mistakes. As I became aware that I was settling for what I didn’t want, I became free to turn my life around from painful to purpose-filled.  I learned that I can understand life on life‘s terms. So you might say that Perfect Practice isabout being in a state of grace or presence, and lettingthat perspective shape the life we live.

How does changing our perspective alter the world we live in? Can you give an example of this?

 I feel that our perspective does create the world we see. We can see the world as a hostile place or we can see hostility as a pathway to peace. The choice is ours.

The world in which we liveis full of contrast—good and bad, right and wrong, and us and them. When we are unconscious of our perspective these very separating factors can and do create conflict. It is easy to see how conflict has affected our world since the beginning of time. Conflicts between cultures, religions, political beliefs, and even within our own biological families perpetuate a sense of separation. This perspective creates a hostile world.

I see that shifting our perspective about our problems can in fact open possibilities for success. If what we have done is ineffective let’s do something different. I feel it is more effective to educate than eradicate what is undeniably a part of life.  I realize that I, forone, can learn how to use conflict to achieve confidence, or turn fear into curiosity. To me this is utilizing what’s natural in our world to benefit our world.

To me this is a grand example of shifting our perspective to change our world.

What do you mean by “transparent authenticity”?

What I mean by transparent authenticity is that I come from a place within me that is not conditioned or created by the judgments or opinions of others, my past, or even my own fear. I learned about this through one of the most important relationships in my life.

When I was a little girl my father moved away, out of the country. I saw him so infrequently that when he did come to visit I felt that I only had a few short hours to prove myself a worthy daughter. At a very early age I acquired a habit of being the daughter I thought he wanted me to be, rather than being who I truly was. I couldn’t have known what my father wanted, because I didn’t know my father. Eventually, later in life, I had the opportunity to have a real relationship with my father. I saw him much more often, though that habit I created as a child was still in place. I would even find myself altering my voice on the phone when he would call. Eventually he passed away from cancer. In my grieving process I wrote him a letter. I wanted to say all the things that I wish I would have said. The opening of that letter is what really brought me to understand transparent authenticity. It read, “Dear dad, I’m so sorry I never let you know me.“ When I looked at those words looking back at me I realized the habit I created so many years before still got in the way of our true relationship. He never knew his daughter and I never got to know my father. I felt so sad and I realized what a great loss that was.

Not long after that realization, I made a dedicated decision to be authentic and transparent and allow myself to be known by others. In doing this, I realize that I also create a space for others to be authentic and transparent. This was a great gift in my life. It was one of those lessons that, although difficult, proved to be life-changing and beneficial. To me, transparent authenticity is allowing you to know me.

Many people are afraid of failure, yet you say we can overcome self-judgment and the fear of taking risks. How?

I think the fear of failure is one of the greatest fears that humans take on. I think this really came from the original separation of feeling that we are not enough or sensing a dependency or a need for scarcity. All of these things feed into the fear of failure. I have a very effective shift of perspective that helps to overcome all fear, and that is that we work from a success to a success. I see that when we can work in small increments and have an awareness of the smaller successes, that we slowly build confidence. Much too often our idea of success is the end-all. So we make each task a means to that end, without recognizing that there are successes in every day. Yesterday was a great example of this in my life. My husband and I had an enormous workload and we were working very hard to get it done so that we could leave on a trip. It seemed that one thing after another kept breaking, or not working out, even right down to while I was writing these words. My dog knocked over my laptop and broke the power port. It would’ve been very easy to see this day as disastrous. But there was a beauty in it. My husband and I both recognized how every time something went terribly wrong we supported one another. We realized that, that was a greater success than anything of material form. Because everything that is material—all our “doings“, all things that we make or have on this earth are temporary. But that deeper wisdom and unity that my husband and I experienced, that was the greatest success of all. There are times that you have to draw back and look from a broader perspective to see what the real success criteria is. It isn’t always what you see before you. There are opportunities in every life, in every day and even in every breath, to find a success. How we overcome the fear of failure is by shifting our perspective and seeing the greater purpose.

What is the biggest thing horses have taught you about life? How can all of us apply that to our own lives?

Horses have taught me everything that I need to know about life. That would be a broad spectrum to discuss here. I can say what is at the fundamental core of all that they taught me. That word would be acceptance.

I loved horses in a way that was not conditional. I didn’t see their behavior as good or bad or right or wrong. I saw their behavior as effective or ineffective. That perspective is what offered me the bridge that filled the gap between denial and control. I think that it’s often misunderstood that acceptance means you accept it even though you don’t agree with it, or in some way that acceptance condones bad behavior. Neither is true. If I am working with a 1,000 pound animal it is best that I have a very clear understanding of what is effective and ineffective. But if I try to control or micro-manage that animal, I have often found that fear takes over and the very thing that I want to change becomes even more advanced and even more volatile. This is a great lesson that horses can teach us.

I think the message of the horse is best stated in these words, “Horses are spiritual enough to hold the presence of forgiveness for the world in which they live and powerful enough to show us the value in harmony.”

To touch on some of the additional wonderful attributes that came from my relationship with horses, I would say I deepened my compassion, empathy, understanding, tolerance, patience, and absolutely my own exploration of forgiveness-forgiveness for myself as well as forgiveness for others. Horses modeled all of that for me. They made it necessary for me to gain a deeper understanding. Just as pain in our society and in our world creates the need for change, my relationship with horses created the opportunity to learn the greatest gifts of life. Acceptance of what is, is the pathway to understanding and understanding is how we unlearn the habit of fear. I’m not sure what else is more important than that.

How do we transform conflict into confidence? And fear into curiosity?

Well I might say that it is a wonderful experience when we can transform conflict and create something that is not only beneficial but is also life-changing.  I feel strongly that the elements of life that we resist such as pain, conflict, fear, anxiety, separation and grief give us the opportunity to explore a different way of seeing. These struggles are what shift our perspective and offer us new ideas. They are the experiences that knock us right out of our comfortable mediocrity. It is during pain and conflict that we reach deeper into ourselves for answers. Although at times the pain brings us down to the point that we don’t reach at all. We can become victims and just allow life to take over.

I have a very effective way of shifting perspective that creates opportunities out of hardship. I have lived my life with the absolute dedication of learning how to transition my pain into purpose. I have done this by the willingness to look into the difficulties of life and understand that they are showing me their exact opposite. Sorrow shows me joy, fear shows me confidence, and anger shows me acceptance. The problem with so many of us, myself included years ago, is that we don’t look past the resistance. Our intellect stops at escape. We want to get away from the thing that is offering our greatest lessons. I say we end up shooting our guru. Pain is our guru. We can learn from it if we are willing. Curiosity is a spiritual trait. It is what brings answers that we have not yet uncovered. When we pause in our fear, and we are willing to look deeper with curiosity at the message in the fear, we find answers we never knew existed. This takes practice-perfect practice. The world initiates the survival responses of fight, flight or freeze. Those habituated responses take us away from the answers. It’s absolutely natural to feel the responses but the difference is not to let it control our lives. To take our life back is to bring the willingness and the curiosity into the things we are trying to get away from—education over eradication. This is the key element for growth. We have fabulous minds that we can use as tools but nothing is more valuable than our open clear awareness. This is our consciousness and it is who we are at our core.

We can change conflict into confidence by broadening and deepening our perspective.

  • Step one is the willingness to pause.
  • Step two is the ability to see that we have a choice.
  • Step three is the willingness to try something we haven’t tried before.
  • Step four is to realize the incremental successes.
  • Step five is recognizing that the change came from within and not from without.

This is true and lasting change. If a change in our lives comes from outside of us we will always be dependent on things to change for us to “be”. But, when change comes through us from the wisdom we gained through pain, that awareness it is something we will always have within us. And, it is always accessible. When we are willing to make these shifts in our perspective we can indeed change our world.

How can we learn more about Mary S. Corning? Where is your book available?

Well, you can learn an awful lot about Mary Corning in my book Perfect Practice. The entire book is full of the stories that brought me to the wisdom. It is a journey through life on life‘s terms. You can also find out more about all that is coming up, such as speaking, book-signings, and podcasts on our website MaryCorning.com. We also have available there, on the website, special-edition signed copies of Perfect Practice ~ a philosophy for living an authentic and transparent life. If you prefer we also provide links to amazon.com and other online bookstores. We have placed links to various radio talk shows and there are some blogs that I have written. You will find links to our Facebook and Instagram pages as well. It’s a wonderful journey through Perfect Practice and it is the best way to find out more. Mary Corning.com.

You can learn more about Mary S. Corning at Marycorning.com and on the usual social media platforms. Books are available wherever you like to buy your books, including all the online bookstores such as Amazon and Barnsandnoble.com, plus regular bookstores and libraries.