When I was 13 years old I was desperate to learn how to play the guitar and so after cajoling my poor parents enough I managed to get hold of a fairly decent instrument. Unfortunately, simply owning a nice looking guitar wasn’t enough to ensure musical success. Scrubbing away at the strings in a cacophonic bid to express my musicality, it took me a couple of years to realise that if I actually wanted to make some palatable sounds I was going to have to put in some serious amounts of focused practise. How disappointing and hardly rock and roll! At the time I was fascinated by Jimi Hendrix. I just loved the way he played so well, so effortlessly and with such expression. It was only after reading an old interview with him where he said that he used to practise for six hours a day (and even on the toilet!) that I realised that his talent wasn’t something he could just do, it was inextricably linked to hard work and he had really worked at playing the guitar for a long time.
Slowly but surely I started to set aside time to practise my riffs and scales every day. At first it was agonisingly difficult to find the time, there were always so many other tempting things that I could be doing instead, like watching TV. Gradually it became more normal to practise for an hour or so before or after college and what began like a chore soon became a distinct pleasure. I started to cherish this time set aside to really focus and immerse myself in my practise. I found it very relaxing and satisfying in a fundamental way and what’s more my guitar playing improved rapidly! A few years down the line and encouraged by my parents to earn some money (I was still paying off that flashy first guitar!) I started to teach guitar to a number to teenagers in our town. I had about ten regular students who came for weekly one-to-one lessons with me at my parents house. They all had two specific things in common. Firstly, all were really keen to be able to play the guitar and secondly they were all very reluctant to actually do any real practise! What a quandary indeed. I taught guitar as a part-time job for about 4 years and only a handful of students put in the necessary work to become decent musicians despite my unceasing encouragement to practise. Those that did however really achieved something worthwhile and long lasting.
“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” Laozi
I think it is the same with being fit and healthy. Everybody wants to be happy and healthy but those that put in the time are too few. The state of our bodies and minds, for the most part, reflect how we use them on a daily basis; our most habitual thoughts and movements form who we are. This is not something subtle or pseudo-spiritual but something very obvious, physical and down to earth. Once you know how to observe correctly, it is quite easy to see how people use their bodies and which bits move easily or are restricted somewhat. Our connective tissue, or fascia, which forms the bulk of the human structure continuously moulds to how we habitually use our bodies and greatly informs all vital bodily functions. As such then, it is our habitual movement and behaviour that contributes most to our overall health rather than occasional or drastic, grandiose efforts. Setting aside a small portion of each day to exercise intelligently and mindfully gradually adds up to make a huge difference to one’s fundamental physical and mental health that should over time carry over into all aspects of daily life. By persistently and perceptively engaging with your physicality on this little and often basis you can gradually become healthy in a sustainable way.
On that note, I’m really looking forwards to all of our spring Tai Chi courses starting next week. We have both daytime and evening beginners Tai Chi courses starting in Chichester and the surrounding area: all the details are on the website. In just a few weeks you can learn some simple exercises that can really improve your health and fitness – especially if you practise at home!