If it’s not too philosophical, I think it’s often important to reflect on why we practise. A daily practice is not as much about consistent progression in your technique as it is about giving yourself a constant background on which your behaviour, and thus your development, is projected against.
There’s no way to understand your personality unless you are able to analyse why you don’t want to practise some days and why you do on others. You should also be able to understand why there are practices that you enjoy and others that you don’t. It’s very easy to dismiss some aspects of your personality as ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’ because you have become accustomed to and empathise with your own biased understanding of how a person should behave.
This is precisely why daily practice is so important. We have a consistent canvas upon which we can experience our personality, in all its highs and lows. Experience over time leads to understanding, and this understanding leads to release. This is what really allows fundamental shifts in our being and for us to develop as genuine people.
The importance of a physical root can be seen in many disciplines, not least in the internal arts. I was reading a little on behaviourism in psychology, which was founded on the idea that someone’s consciousness can only be judged by their actions. If there’s no shift in the way someone behaves in the external world, there has been no shift in their consciousness. In the martial arts, you can claim to be as developed as you like; but if it’s not visible in your body, your claims amount to little.
The same holds true for our regular practice; as without a way to experience our consciousness when it’s manifested into the external world, we will surely be led astray by our random thoughts. Thoughts, and for that matter beliefs, are ever fleeting and so if you’re convinced of one view today, you may well believe another tomorrow. How can we hope to adjust our character appropriately upon such a basis?
For ordinary people, there is no personality trait or method of behaviour that does not exhibit an imbalance in one way or another. This is not to say that we should forcibly withdraw and avoid all interactions, because we would simply retain our imbalances but not give ourselves a means to experience them. Aside from being terribly boring, this is more detrimental than anything. Instead we should proceed in our daily life fully aware of this fact, using our everyday behaviour as a means of self-analysis.
Remember that all of the aspects of training are just tools. Nobody really cares how good your short form is or how many gongbu steps you did today. On the other hand, the process of engaging with a practice and analysing the details over a long period of time gives you a more objective reflection of who you really are. The practices are just a vehicle for internal transformation.
I’m sure anybody exposed to spiritual literature has read that the human body and physical existence as a whole are only vehicles for greater transformation and progression.
It’s important to remember that we do not exist in separation from our body. There is great danger in thinking your development occurs entirely internally and that somehow you can be progressing spiritually without exhibiting tangible changes in your body and behaviour.
Is your body tense, rigid, flaccid or agitated? Then you can be sure that a similar quality exists in your mind. Your body is an excellent means to understand the quality of your own mind.
I think an enormous degree of someone’s progression in the internal arts is defined by how humble, honest and sincere they are willing to be in their self-analysis. To be able to really listen to any aspect of your body or mind, you have to be open to what you might discover.
I hope to see an ever-increasing attentiveness to ourselves and to the uncomfortable realities of our true nature and behaviour as we all progress together as a school. We need to develop an awareness of who we actually are at the moment—as opposed to who we wish to be. After all, why else are we training, if not to develop a true understanding of our nature?