(Baby Step, Toronto, 2011)
I joined a Kung Fu studio…oh, months ago now, I don’t even know how long. I dutifully attend once a week, practice at least twice a week. That’s the time I allotted when I started, squeezed and eked from a life that’s flying too fast with so many hopes still beckoning. I knew what that meant, from the start. I knew it meant I would be “taking it slow.”
Here’s the thing I didn’t know. I didn’t know what that meant to me.
I’m not slow. In school, in work, I’ve never had to give it my all to keep up and even lead the pack. And here I am, with my under-developed body-sense (isn’t the body just here to carry around my mind and do things for it?), trying to learn a completely foreign discipline. Just being seen by other humans doing this causes my brain to scream, “hide!”
If I were training alone, I think I’d be quite happy with my progress. Each week I can do something I couldn’t before. Some things are coming more naturally, a little faster. I’m starting to remember some of the order for the forms. I'm definitely stronger and more flexible. I’m not stagnated.
The problem I’ve discovered is that it’s much harder than I thought it would be, to notice that I fall behind one cohort and then another. It’s a little painful being the class dunce, the slow kid in remedial. I know it’s probably good for me, I recognize the rich and fertile ground for my personal development. That doesn’t make it a pleasant feeling.
There are times when I want to say, forget it, I clearly am not committed enough to keep up, and being seen not keeping up is a bad feeling I don’t want in my life right now, when everything is already so uncertain and scary.
Someone inside me laughs gently, with love, and asks in a mild tone, “Is this not your own life practice? What have others to do with it?”
She strokes my head and whispers, “Today you are not the hare, you are the tortoise. Bask in your pace while others stress and run around. For this one thing in your whole life, just one step and then another. Despite the pack. Your speed is your own, unique to you. You are the only one training your training.”
One step. Then the next.
(musical accompaniment from The Music: Take the Long Road and Walk It)
or if you're feeling more mellow, try Badly Drawn Boy: One Plus One is One)