We enter another decade. The beginning of a new year is always a time of reflection and a time when the energy of the new year holds the promise of another chance.
I look out into the garden, poised over my laptop, looking out at the everything that has remained almost the same for the past year. Neighbours go about their rituals as they always have, the birds do the same, I do the same. A car starts, and even though I am sitting inside, there is an image of the neighbours getting ready to leave for work. I hear the sound of children’s voices and a television set. It throws me back to childhood and I imagine them sitting, engrossed in that screen world. It seems too familiar.
I suppose this way of looking, takes a sweeping look at the portrait in front on me. I suppose too that it is this type of looking that leads us to make generalised statements about circumstances, about ourselves – this sort of wide gaze that ignores the minute. I am reminded of the butterfly effect – the micro movements that bring about large, recognisable change. These are important.
I am in no mood to write today but I must.
I must because it is a commitment that I have made to myself and a responsibility that I have taken. It’s like a workout. Some days, my workouts last all of five minutes but they happen because although I feel untidy and slightly ill-tempered, "This could be one of those days I push past tired mode," I say to myself.
And if it doesn’t work out, I would at least have moved in a way that wasn’t sitting behind a desk or on the floor with my instrument burdening my legs.
I do not begin with strenuous exercises. Light stretches lead to more stretches and before I know it, there’s a full workout happening. On the particularly lazy days, floor exercises seem the most logical starting point, since lying on the floor and staring at the ceiling is what I wish to do. It’s a form of having your cake and eat it too. It is the mind’s way of compromise. When I do start, the sweat begins to feel good and I keep going. Some days, it’s just a simple no go. But, at least I have tried.
Working out with an eye not so much on the result as it is the memory of how exhilarating a workout feels, on the idea of movement in a largely sedentary world, is my angle of looking in. Focus on breath control and muscle co-ordination becomes a way of thinking. Physical exercise becomes a visual practice.
And most athletes will attest to the fact that a major part of their performance has to do with visualisation even before the actual act. It is the feeling that we are going for, the happy feeling of movement. Pushing through a deadline; sitting with focus to write just one more sentence; pushing through a technical exercise on my musical instrument bring me to a point of satisfaction. It isn’t a relief that says, "I’m glad this is over," but rather, one that says "I made it! And I look forward to tomorrow again." Two different feelings. The habit of physical exercise, is not, for me just body conditioning. It is woven into the habit of creative thought, the challenge to seek out new experiences.
This much I have learnt in the past decade: the idea is to keep moving.
"Just keep swimming, just keep swimming," chants the forgetful Dory in the film Finding Nemo.
"Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving," says Einstein.
No surprise too that Twyla Tharp, a leading dancer and choreographer titles her most recent book Keep It Moving: Lessons for The Rest of Your Life.
To keep moving doesn’t necessarily mean great strides immediately. It is to move, conscious of the goal ahead. It is not mindless movement. Dory isn’t moving mindlessly. There is always an "aha!" moment.
I write about habits because they condition the way we see and create the worlds that we inhabit. Habits of eating, of waste disposal for instance, are all a part of the idea of living. Habits are the micro movements, and to adjust them is dependent on how conscious we are, and driven by the necessity for change. This applies across the board, from health to politics. And it is useful always to re-examine them for relevance.
As we prepare for kicking into gear for 2020, I wish everyone a creative and fun-filled year.