More than once I’ve reflected that perhaps the only thing I’ve ever done ‘wrong’ (or that has lead to undesirable consequences) has been to not embody and consistently practice that which I ‘know’ (in heart and mind) to be right, true, and appropriate. This blog is both an artifact of and reflection on how regular practices enable good things.
At various times in life I’ve thought it was really important to regularly practice activities like moving my body, meditate, express gratitude, eating raw food, measure and reduce my carbon footprint or religiously completing my “GTD weekly review”. The motivations were varied, but there was a common sense that doing, being and relating in particular ways both reflect and reinforce a sense of coherence, integrity and trustworthiness.
And….sometimes that regular practice doesn’t happen or becomes overwhelmed by a sense of duty, obligation and guilt. In my case it seems the main way I undermine this sense of coherence, the possibility of integrity and the quality of trust is to try do DO too many things! That is, putting myself in a position of over-commitment that compromises my ability to be “present with” and “enabled by”. Instead of being, relating and doing coherently I end up doing too many things….and none of them really “as” the principle or qualities intended.
And, I am learning…slowly.
Here’s an example of how it works, how it doesn’t work, and one thing I’m committed to for the next 100 days.
I haven’t had much of a physical routine for a while, probably since stopping cycling so intensely about a year ago. The time spent in Texas immersed in Cheng Hsin was a fantastic foundation of physical awareness and I’ve made significant efforts to continue Cheng Hsin in Geraldton. But without the regularity, goals, partners to play with and provide feedback, I found myself drifting a bit, doing a cross-fit set and Tai Chi a few times a week. That’s not enough to make any progress, and its subservient to my mood which can mean I don’t do it exactly when I need it the most.
My body-being was being pummelled by the knockout combo of feeling physically inactive and also feeling guilty for not doing what I had committed myself to doing. A read of Josh Waitzkin’s ‘The Art of Learning’ fired me up again, as did my preparatory contemplations prior to a coaching conversation with Michael Keller. Prior and during the conversation with Michael it became obvious that I really wanted to, needed to, do something regular and meaningful physically that was enabling of coherence in my being, thinking and action.
The insight while talking to Michael was that it’s so easy for me to over-commit and self-defeat the most simple of regular practices. Here’s an example:
- I want to develop my responsiveness, flexibility, skill, strength and presence,
- Practicing Cheng Hsin would do this, but there are only a couple of people once a week who want to do this,
- I should find and regularly practice other things that are similar to the form or embody the principles of Cheng Hins,
- Regular training in another martial art, cross-fit at home, Yoga stretches in the evening, Tai Chi at lunchtimes and surfing on the weekends should do it….
And suddenly I’m trying to do way too many things, none of which achieve the purpose or embody the principles I was seeking to embody in the first place! And, should I fail to do any one of them, I feel a sense of guilt, failure and lose motivation to get back into the routine.
So, I decided to do just one thing, not five.
It was going to be a lot of martial arts…but visiting almost every school and teacher in Geraldton suggested that none were quite going to give me that daily, regular practice. But then, inspired by a diverse set of influences, I’ve committed to 100 days of training for kitesurfing.
Inspiration for the commitment and the routine has come from memories of Karl-Henrik Robert’s regular exercise regime (remarkable in the context of his life-demands at the time), the persistence and intelligence of Josh Waitzkin, the consciousness and skill of Peter Ralson and Brendan Lea, my sister’s dedication to her rowing training over the years, conversations with Fiann Paul before he rowed out of Geraldton, a bunch of very tricky and fit local kitesurfing friends, my own memories of how committed I was to cycling and how strong and fast I got through regular training, and even somewhat commercial influences like Freeletics.
I love kitesurfing, it’s 3-dimensional and complex, in nature, Geraldton is one of the best spots in the world for it, it requires a diverse set of skills, and I’m going to be able to train some aspect everyday without any dependency on other people or particular weather conditions. The criteria I set for my daily exercise was that it involved conscious practice and development of more than one aspect of body-being designed to contribute to being a better kitesurfer. So I developed a little routine with some option to vary the components depending on circumstances.
The default daily routine is a structured combination of at least 3 of the following to total at least 30 minutes:
- 5-minute Dynamic stretching sequence,
- 10-minute cardio warm-up e.g. rowing, skipping or cycling,
- 16-minute four-round crossfit routine (thanks to Steve Cotter and Kiteboarding CrossFit)
- 12-move mini Cheng Hsin Tai Chi set,
- 20-minute Yoga sequence (thanks to Frida Lezius),
And less-structured surfing, swimming, skateboarding or kitesurfing (season starts in October) are all bonuses. What doesn’t meet the criteria are things like…lying on the ground thinking about exercising, doing cross-fit without the warm-up etc.
There’s many things that really makes this work for me, and enable me to ‘work’ better in the world. The most foundational is the commitment to do it everyday, at least for 100 days. There’s no reason I can’t do this. There’s no place I can’t do it.
And I have done it. Everyday for a week so far. And there’s a certain trust and confidence that comes from this clarity, commitment, dependability that is enabling of all sorts of other things in life.
Now, without getting too far ahead of myself, I’ve got room for one more integrating practice to commit to…something about contemplation, meditation, blogging, drawing and sharing. An integrating psycho-social-spiritual activity. I’ll post more when I discover and decide on it.