Friday, April 7, 2017

Question: How much practice is enough or required?

A common question often received in email is "It possible to do too much Tai Chi, Qigong or meditation? Every now and then students will ask me in classes, “How much practice is too much?” 

Introduction: A long time ago in a different place of time and space...It was the 1980's when I was learning these practice's. Beginning in Junior High School it was a vastly different culture and focus on standards of practice. It was very common to practice several hours a day, 3-6 times a week. There were very few Americans in these groups; it was mostly us guys in the classes as well. Many Masters did not allow women in the groups. A over the top dedication to your Sifu and the school was mandated as well. Students cleaned the school, helped the Master out with whatever they asked. Looking back I was young, fortunate and free from worldly obligations to fill up my day with practice in various forms. All information and techniques was personally and physically taught in person. We had to memorize practices on the spot, there were no video tapping or note taking as well.  

So it was a sink or swim game; we practiced more because everything was memorized and we had no Video Tapes, DVD's, Internet or handouts to fall back on. Was it better than today? I would say no, it was just different and each generation has it's value on how to educate for next generation of students. Today with fast pace of life, everything wired for speed many students just are not equipped to "woodshed" it out as in the old days. Many just don't see the value as well.       

With that being said I do believe that each generation should focus on "Qigong of today, Tai Chi of today or meditation standards of practice today". A worthwhile note as well is that typical in our culture, where we feel that if a little is good, more must be better. It is a common paradigm for Americans, to try and re-engineer anything we can get or hands on. This can be true with these traditions, but will only go so far. 

Cautionary Note for Eager Novice Teachers: A common problem is that many practitioners and teachers of today is they mis-appropriate practice, create their own video tape and water down way too many things. All good systems are well informed and documented in today's world. If you teach - promote your Teachers material, skills and all the great things you have learned along the way with them. There is nothing better than the original! Indigenous traditions should be honored in this way. Make no mistake about it, if you cheat your students out of crucial information and technique, they eventually will find out, and lose faith in the tradition. Many people in many areas have made many videos and books now and claim skills and backgrounds that they do not really have. This continues to be a problems filled with false and misleading information. Don't become part of the problem, be a genuine person focus on leading an example of quality and tradition.    

Less is More!

The Science in the study of Qigong, Tai Chi and Meditation says that as little as 20 minutes delivers very tangible results. One of my Master teacher's is now 80 years old, I asked him during a practice in May of 2016, "how much does he practice"? He said with his busy schedule he practice's still no more than one hour per day. He also practices what he teaches as well. 

There is no need to practice for hours a day, and when people report doing so, often times they are not really accomplishing much better skill as well. The purpose of these practices is to help us to balance ourselves and engage more fully and healthfully in life. If we do too much of anything, we cannot find balance. I will concur that for a modern person practicing up to an hour a day is more than sufficient. We can do two twenty-minute sessions, or one longer session, per day. I recommend that you start with only five to ten minutes a day accomplishable goals because it is easier to set aside such a small chunk of time every day, no matter how busy your lifestyle or daily schedule.

 The advantage of starting slowly and following "less is more" as bendable guideline is that as you begin to feel the effects, your desire to practice increases naturally. When that happens, there is no need to force ourself to practice and, in fact, forcing ourselves to practice rarely leads to an quality, long-term practice. In closing for us that engage in these traditions as a "way of life" take an honest look at your schedule and plan accordingly. It is best to set yourself up for success, rather than setting goals that will be hard to achieve. Sometimes more is just more; it which is not better. :)