Building a daily routine of practice is no easy task, but in the Da Xuan tradition it is very necessary. We have a saying in the school that I’m sure you have heard many times, but I’m going to repeat it once more to really… *ahem* hammer… it home:
“The pot that’s regularly taken off the stove never boils”
It means that if you’re regularly missing days of training, many of the changes one might expect from practice might never occur, particularly those that are unique to our tradition. Take it from someone who learned this the hard way by constantly missing training days for about 10 or so years. It was quite confronting for me the first time I did some work with people in Da Xuan who had only been practicing 3 or 4 years, but whose grounding and relaxation were far superior to my own, despite my 12 or so years of experience at the time.
In a world that is so fast paced, we leave little time for ourselves. A daily practice is an appointment that we make with ourselves, for ourselves, that gives us some much needed time to simply take care of ourselves. It also confronts us to many, many moments of imperfection. As soon as you have a daily practice going, you pretty quickly and regularly run into days that don’t pan out quite as you planned, and you need to find a way to do practice in the most inhospitable conditions – with less time than you wanted, being tired and unable to concentrate, doing it at 2 in the morning when everyone else is asleep, and so on. In these moments, it is so easy to quit and find the comfort of the bed. But a little push to do even 5 or 10 minutes of practice does 2 things: it gets us used to doing things not-quite-perfectly, and it trains our willpower.
After enough time doing this, you find that your willpower has increased quite considerably, bringing with it a resilience and a capacity to do that is quite formidable, and teaching you to work well in less-than-ideal circumstances. Being so tired that you “can’t even anymore” – a mood you will likely find yourself in if you’re practicing every day – also has it’s benefits. Practicing in this kind of mood can sometimes be the key to letting go of the need for everything to be perfect, which can unlock the doorway to many things that cannot be forced on contrived no matter how technically brilliant you are.
It is also a super wonderful feeling to stay committed to something over a long term. The feeling of not having missed practice for 6 months, a year, 3 years, 5 years and so on is quite remarkable, and far, far superior to many of the quick fix hits of elation that our society is so enamoured with these days.