28 December 2008

Happy Rebirthday to Me

Yesterday marked two full years of keeping up my daily practice. I've stopped caring so much about the number (and found when I went to check that my count must have gotten off somewhere along the way), but it now stands at 731 days of practicing breathing exercises, yoga, chanting and taiji. So what have I learned through 2 years of practice?

It took getting through the first year to get over my obsession with "How many days have I made now?" For a while, part of my motivation was sheer desire to see the number build. If I missed a day, it would start over at zero, and I didn't want that. Now... I still don't want to miss a day, but the numbers don't really enter into it. Thinking about missing a day is a bit like trying to imagine going through the day without breathing. There were times early on when I hadn't managed to practice by 11:00 pm or so, and I groaned when I realized it. When that's happened more recently, there was no groaning. It was more matter of fact. I needed to practice, and this was the time I had.

The other thing that motivated me early on was trying to overcome my depression. After practicing, I always felt better. It seemed logical to think that a regular practice might help me climb out of it. It did. It's actually a bit strange now to feel that weight gone. Every so often, a tiny bit of it reappears, but it's a bit like being hit by a rock after having a mountain sit on you for a year. The rock isn't pleasant, but it's almost laughable.

What I've noticed most is how differently I experience time now. I can remember when it went by quickly, and I wondered where it had all gone. Now... Most days seem to be two or three days long. The semester seemed to last a year or more. I'm actually aware of time as it passes. There's a lot more of it than people realize. I suspect that people don't know how to deal with all the time, and so they subconsciously find mental ways of making it go away. Then they wonder where it all went. I used to do that, too, but at some point over the past year, time just started opening up for me.

I've also found that the time I most want to practice goes in cycles. For a while, it will be steady in the mornings, then it will gradually shift over to evenings. Occasionally, other commitments dictate the time, but usually a morning or evening time just feels right for that day. Part of me would like to get something going both in the morning and in the evening, but I know full well that there would be days when that would be nearly impossible. So for the moment, I'm just keeping the commitment steady.

Sometime this year I'll pass the 1000 day mark. Supposedly, some of the breathing exercises I do have cumulative effects that show up past the 1000 and 10,000 day marks. I'll be curious to see if I notice anything unusual.

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