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I remember reading in a Zen book that I enjoyed that you should not practice for yourself, but just practice for the sake of practice. I like that. There’s a kind of grim realism to it but it raises the issue of how exactly are you supposed to approach these sort of goaless activities, like Tai Chi and Zen? The sort of activities where even having a goal can become a problem because it interferes with the activity itself, because it needs to be about being open and aware in the moment, not thinking about things far off in the future. By definition, if you have a goal you cannot be ‘living in the moment’.

Watching that Bagua Boy documentary that I linked to in my last post I was struck by how much Mr Rogers had practiced over his lifetime. He said he spent a lot of years practicing for hours a day. It’s impressive, but it also sounds very lonely, and even if most people had the free time to do that, they wouldn’t. You need to have some sort of drive deep within you to practice anything that much.

Lots of people in the Tai Chi world practice for hours a day. Some people meditate for an hour a day. Some people stand in Zhan Zhuan for an hour.

Today I read an article by Sam Pyrah in The Guardian that asks the question, at what point does a fitness activity become a ball and chain around your neck? At some point she realised that her life long addiction to running had left her very healthy, but with a very narrow life, and at the end of the day, what was the point?

People start Tai Chi for all sorts of reasons and the reasons for doing it change over a lifetime. Since I discovered Tai Chi I’ve always practiced, but I tend to do my personal practice in little pockets of time scattered throughout the day, not in big chunks of hours at a time. Maybe when I’m too old to work I’ll do a lot more Tai Chi than I ever did before? Everything has a cost, and I wonder if the people who practice for hours a day sometimes sit down and smell the flowers and wonder if it was all worth it… Like the Bear of Little Brain, I’ve always valued doing nothing as a worthwhile activity.

Practicing a bit is good, practicing a lot is better, but sometimes you can practice too much.

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