It’s all like the first year of tai chi again. I got up this morning and my brain said, “You only have to do one iteration of the form today.” And after two iterations, it said, “You don’t have to do three.” And after five iterations, it was still saying “You don’t really have to do this, you know. You could stop now.”
The energy to do eight iterations of the form was there. But it took a sheer act of will to do it. And it was hard. After four years of doing more or less the same thing, intensifying that work to the next level is proving hugely challenging. None of the tai chi iterations today was any easier or harder than any other. But the real challenge was actually doing the next iteration.
Why should this be so? Why is the decision to do eight so challenging, so difficult? If I eventually decide to expand to twelve, will it be this difficult, as well? What is it that makes this so challenging?
Part of it, I think, is that it’s a change of habit. I don’t mean that I’m changing clothes; although I suppose it can be contrasted with changing clothes. When you change clothes, you’re changing an outward identity— when I go from jacket and tie and khaki pants at school to black jeans and black shirt for a dinner with friends, I’m changing from a professional identity to a more anonymous one. When I choose to wear a tie in the color of the day of the week (have I really been doing this for five years? wow), I’m establishing an identity. And habits are part of our identity, our exercise habits no less than our habits of clothing.
Right now, I’m changing my exercise habit, and trying to change how I go about interacting with my exercise practice. My body resists this in several ways; it wants to keep wearing the same old clothes and living the same old way. My mind wants to change… or at least, part of my mind does. But the mind is a multi-faceted and multi-valenced entity, I’ve found. It doesn’t all want to do the same thing all the time. And establishing new habits takes time, just as finding a new wardrobe takes time.
This will be interesting. I hope that I settle into the new habit soon, so that I can adjust it further.