I was up late last night, performing my new poem, For the Mighty Dead, and this morning’s tai chi practice was… weak, I guess is the best word. I feel bad about this, because yesterday I gave an interview to Peggy Freeh, who interviews people about their daily practice. I listened to three of her shows on the drive home last night, and it’s pretty awesome. I’m honored to be in such company.
But as I said to Peggy in the interview (which she said will be out on Wednesday), sometimes your practice is up, and sometimes it’s down. I stubbed my toe the other day, and the damaged toenail came out in my sock when I took off my shoes at the end of the day today. That made doing push-ups this morning impractical —the toe that would support my weight is sore and raw right now. And the resulting throbbing throws off my martial arts practice. Here I am trying to be all fierce and disciplined and practice my moves; and I can’t do it as well as I’d like because my foot hurts.
But it’s a lame excuse, and it’s a lame excuse in light of yesterday’s tai chi practice and follow-up comments. As Topher pointed out, the writing and the tai chi are separate practices; so, for that matter, is the Druidry practice, and the push-ups. Each of these is an element in a larger whole. The core element is the tai chi form — the rest of the practice at the start of my day is really just an unfolding of that basic element. And it’s the nature of a daily practice to undergo iteration and expansion and unfolding: the repeating of elements from the practice in the morning and evening; the deliberate effort to improve some portion of the practice (as I did with the sonnets earlier this year, or when I was making an effort to slow down deliberately); or the effort to add elements to one’s daily practice or re-order them in some fashion so that they flow more easily.
Peggy asked a lot of good questions, and I look forward to being able to link to the interview. But she also got me thinking about my practice in another way, which is that it ebbs and flows like the tide. Some days, I’m really committed to the practice, and it’s easy to get up and get started on it. Some days, I’m on the verge of giving up. In the past, I’ve called these things the Dweller on the Threshold, and the Noonday Demon (thanks, Christina, for that!): these are the sense that your practice is stupid, and you should stop before you get too deeply embedded in this foolishness; and the despair that your practice is great, but that it’s not really for you. It turns out that the most important thing is to keep going…