When my kids go to bed is when my day starts. I say this because its the only un-interrupted time I have. My kids are little, 2 and 4 years old. There is no quite time. There is no peace.
A long time ago I made a commitment to develop my Shodo studio. This not only meant to brush more calligraphy, but also to do commissioned work, make videos, and teach an online course.
Where is the time for all this?
Well, nowhere really. It means I have to cut down time I spend sleeping. I already wrote a blog post about this, so this time I want to concentrate on how to make time for practice.
Truth is, if you feel like you don’t have time to do something, is because you are wasting time doing something meaningless. Identify what that is, and you will find blocks of time throughout the day.
The reality is simple: in order to find time to practice, you need to want to practice. Time will naturally show up.
Finding time is easy. What is really hard is actually doing something with it. Let’s say you want to practice Shodo, or do Aikido, or sit in meditation. You can find 15 or 30 minutes to do this. Finding the time is easy. To actually do it is hard.
We have so many distraction in our lives. We have family, work, friends, and the damn internet. All of them distracting us at all times. I often find myself distracted from a distraction.
If you want to get better at something you need to fight those distraction on a daily basis and commit to your practice. I tell my cooking students all the time “if you want to get better at cooking you need to cook 3 times every day, no matter what”.
I always struggled to stay consistent with practice. Whether is Aikido training, zen meditation, writing, brushing calligraphy, you name it. I couldn’t seem to do it on a regular basis. I didn’t know the secret. How do other people do it? This guy says “I write everyday”. This other one says “I sit every day”. I found myself able to do it for a short period of time. But eventually I stopped. I was out of the routine.
I dedicated an entire lesson on my Intro to Japanese Calligraphy Online Course on how to maintain an ongoing practice. I decided to end the course with this lesson because I think it’s so important. My goal with students who take the course is not for them to watch the videos, and practice a few strokes for a few weeks. My goal is for this practice to become a life long journey: an anchor they can use to center and enrich their lives.
These days I don’t struggle with this issue as much, because I figured out I knew the secret all along.
What’s the secret?
That’s how Zen mediation works. Meditation sessions are timed. You sit for 10 minutes. Or you sit for 40 minutes. Whatever it is. You time it. You set the time, sit on the cushion and don’t get up until the timer goes off. During meditation you will experience many struggles. Your mind will drift and you will loose concentration. You will get angry. You will feel pain. But you are not getting up from that cushion until the time goes off. No matter what.
I implemented this method for everything I do. While I write the first draft of this post, the timer is running. When the timer goes off, I’ll stop. It doesn’t matter if I finished writing or not. Time is up. However, while the timer is running I do not stop typing.
Aikido classes run on a similar concept. You train for an hour. Once the hour is up, class stops. It doesn’t matter if you learned the technique or not. Time is up.
Apply this to your practice. Set the timer for 30 minutes to practice Shodo. Practice Shodo for 30 minutes no matter what. When the timer goes off, stop and clean your brushes. Time is up.
The timer system works great, but you also need to have a schedule. Its easier to meditate for 30 minutes every Sunday morning because its routine. Its easier to go to the dojo for an hour on Mondays because its routine. Pick a day and time for your practice and stick to it. Don’t wait to feel inspired. If its Tuesday at 9:00pm and is time for Shodo, then sit down and practice. Do it even if you don’t feel like it. This will help you create a routine.
I read somewhere that it takes 21 days to build a routine strong enough that you won’t easily drop it. Back in April I made the commitment to brush one Kanji every day for 30 days. The first two weeks was hard because it wasn’t part of my routine. The last two weeks of the month I wasn’t even thinking about it anymore. It so happened that I came to the office in the morning and got my Kanji brushed before the day started. Brushing the Kanji took less time as the month went by because I was getting better at it. How could I not? I was doing it everyday.
You can’t get better at anything if you don’t practice on a regular basis. This is almost a cliché, but it is highly overlooked. There is no fast lane. There are no short cuts. You have to put in the time to develop your skills.
In the beginning there is a lot of fear, and frustration. Part of it is because you are not used to it, not because you are not good at it. Once it becomes routine, you stop being afraid. Once you become fearless, you will see results.