I did tai chi this morning. I have no idea what to say about it. Every morning for the previous five hundred thirty days, I’ve tried to say something interesting or unusual about my practice, and I just don’t know what to write about any more. It’s almost like, “I’m done.”
I don’t think that the failures or the success of a given day matter very much. What’s really important is that the practice, the effort to keep doing the work, continues. Tomorrow’s tai chi practice will be much like today’s — there will be an elbow out of place, and I’ll go too slow, or too fast. There will be a move that could have been done more precisely or more carefully. There will be an elegant spin that will be executed poorly — or perhaps it will be the best one I ever do in my entire life. Perhaps a motion will wrench my shoulder blade or my collar bone, and I’ll be complaining about hurt arms for a while.
And maybe not.
But the day-to-day effort to learn the forms, to learn how to perform them correctly, to obey the rules of tai chi, to practice the forms… it kind of feels like that part is over. Now so much of the work is about continuing to perform the work on a daily basis, regardless of whether I have something important or interesting to say about it. Which is another way of saying that the real work is beginning now. Because the challenge with any sort of daily practice is not with learning the material to the level of basic competency. It turns out that basic competency takes a year and a half – ish of daily effort. No, the real challenge lies in finding a way to move beyond basic competency into mastery. And I don’t expect that this will happen right away. The daily work is not as interesting, in a sense, to the long-term practitioner, because so little will change from morning to morning. And yet the form’s real power comes not all at once, but after a substantial amount of practice over months and years.
The experiment continues.