Beauty in repetition



Einstein calls it insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. And I completely agree, but then I thought, what about practise and training? – Where repetition is key in the development process. I allocate a certain portion of my life to practice, for example this blog is my practice of writing and critical thinking, I practice handstands against a wall every other day, I ‘practice’ at the gym, practising conditioning exercises to get my body more efficient, and I practise singing to train my voice. In all theses practices I do the same thing over and over again, and there is a calm beauty in the repetition. They say that you can achieve inner peace when you repeat mantras or chants in meditation, and sometimes these rituals help you gain that stillness in a busy, loud, city life.

However, perhaps we should introduce change to repetition, which is the thought that I am currently chewing on. If you practise and practise, and eventually learn something, that’s great. But if you practise and practise and nothing changes, maybe you should add structure to the practise. I have now been able to hold a handstand against the wall quite comfortably for half a minute, but still can’t get over the fear of throwing my legs up vertical (I currently walk up the wall), or taking my balancing leg off the wall. So I need to change the practise – I am going to start forcing myself to throw my legs up from today. Walking up the wall will strengthen my arms so I can still do that on the days that I feel to weak to wrestle with my mind, but that won’t do anything to break the fear in my mind, and to get the strength to spring my body weight over my shoulders. So I need to introduce change…

I also try to train my brain now and then, through an app called Lumosity, that challenges you to beat your personal best at mental games, that claims to improve your mental performance on things like problem solving, mental agility and quick mathematics. I honestly believe that if you don’t keep these exercises up, you start to lose your access to the information and ability that your brain currently has. Which is something that frightens me, because I want to learn more, and add to the collection of things in my head, but if there’s a leak, then I will be losing info as quick or quicker than gaining info.

A potentially contentious subject is training relationships. Can you or should you train people, as you train dogs and pets (not including professional training of course)? I don’t think you should, but I do think we all do it on some level without even thinking about it. For example, it could just be a natural way of settling into a relationship, you let the other person know the things you like and the behaviours you may not like so much, and you compromise. That isn’t ‘training’ necessarily, but it shares a similar mechanism, reward for good, and ‘punishment’ for bad, and it’s a natural way to learn to live harmoniously with someone. But there are some people that try and train you actively. I was once in a relationship where my partner said he’d identified some behavioural and personality issues in me, and he was going to train me out of them. I remember having a strange moment of clarity, when he was kneeling next to me with a glass of water over my head saying ‘I will pour this water over you unless you can tell me honestly right now whether you love me or not’. Just typing this out now, even though it was over five years ago, makes me feel really uncomfortable. I can see what he was doing, he was trying to snap me out of being in a mood with him, by making me able to admit loving feelings even in the toughest of times. BUT – threatening to pour water on a grown up woman doesn’t inspire the most loving of feelings. His response: if you act like a child, you get treated like a child. What I’ve learnt: if you respect someone and know them through and through, then you know that if they’re acting like a child, then something has caused this anomalous reaction, and that is the root of the problem, not that the person has a behavioural disorder. It’s all down to respect and being mindful.

That was a bit of a hefty aside, so to get back on track, we were talking about training, repetition and practise. And to finish today’s post off, I wanted to mention training the eye and the creative brain. To be an artist you really do have to instil practise into your daily life, you’re always composing and thinking up stories in your mind as a writer, or taking delicious sentences or phrases you’ve heard and keeping them tucked away so you can whip them out at a ripe moment. Or framing the world in your mind’s eye, sketching, doodling and daydreaming. But structured practise is also necessary, practise that has an aim, and has an end point. Focussing your energy and dedicating your time to create things and to move your art forward – there lies the real challenge.

Here’s an example of someone who has done exactly that, daily and structured practise: Zyzanna’s Blog – she puts me to shame, and I really should be making or creating more.

So, I will start throwing my legs up against a wall, and I need to shake the dust off my tablet and bring out my pens again. Watch this space… and if you see nothing, please give me a hard time!



2 thoughts on “Beauty in repetition

  1. Great post! Keep working on those handstands and you will be surprised one day.

    Someone I love also had something profound to say about practice:

    “Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes PERMANENT. PERFECT practice makes perfect.”

    In asana we strive to improve each day, with the hope that by learning a lot of small things, one day we might learn a big thing.


    • Thank you Christopher, and thank you for reading the post. I do capoeira, and my teacher has also said ‘perfect practice makes perfect’, and I really love the thought of learning small things in the hope to learn a big thing.


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