September,2001 Carl Hendel, MD
Students often ask me about practice, what it is and how to do it. There are no easy answers, and each person must find their own way. So, the material presented here is only one way to look at a very non-linear process. We in the west like looking at things in a linear fashion, since we seem to undersatnd it some. It might not seem to be the way of the Tao, but remember, there is the straight within the curve. So, some linear process might find a place of usefulness.
A. Do the form the very first thing in the morning (before any activities) and the very last thing at night.
B. Find a part of the form to explore, maybe just a simple turn, and really explore it, with curiousity, and in all dimensions. Spend between 15-30 minutes twice a day.
C. Bitterness........If you are a more advanced student, you are already doing this in your daily practice (if you are not, you need to relax more.) Still find a few minutes here and there and stand and to work with each leg turning the hips in both directions. There are many creative ways to do this.
D. Meditation practice.
I admit it.......I am far from ideal practice, but I am continually improving! The wonderful thing about practice is how much deeper and richer it becomes with time. "Every day, in every way, it's getting better and better and better."
So, In class, we will learn about practicing all these methods. Here is a map that might be interesting to develop, so that we can track ourselves a little. This is not about a grade or having judgments about our practice.....no guilt or shame allowed. Just a little "instrument"..............
0. no practice at all.
1. thinking about it a little.
2. doing some.
3. doing more.
4. and more.
5. maybe half of the ideal practice.
6. more than that.
7. adding additional "assignments (usually bitterness)"
8. over an hour of practice (not including class time).
9. maybe even 2 hours (not including class time).
10. ideal level (beyond words)
Other ways to get practice points...................
3 extra points for coming to class on Monday.
4 extra points for Saturday morning in the park.
4 extra points for any classes at the studio.
15 extra points for an all-day workshop.
For each day of the week, total personal practice + extras. Total it up weekly.
You are not competing with anyone else,
With practice as well as with anything else, use no force. Just practicing is it's own practice. When we relax and practice, the Tao takes care of the rest.
For beginning students, a score of twelve would be good.
For students who have been studying a year, perhaps 15 -20 is pretty good.
If you have been studying more than 2 years, there might be a few 5 point days, and 20-30 points for the week is really wonderful. More than 5 years, and 40 points is easily acheiveable, especially if there was a workshop. If you are still progressing in your practice after 5 years, you are obviously a committed and sincere student.
I'm a14 year student, and I have to admit that practice is my single biggest issue......it could be better. I just took my own little test for an estimated average week for me, and I came up with 39. I am going to work on being over 40 , and seeking 50 as my new practice plan. It is humbling to me to realize that some people I know would get over 50 points, just counting their class time. Including a workshop, class hours and good personal practice, scores of 70 to 100 are possible. I have a long way to go, and 40 is a start! What's your plan?