Thursday, April 28, 2011

Muscle Memory

Did you know that a lasso has memory?  Huh?  An inanimate rope couldn't have a memory.  On Tuesday, I wrote a little about our son's new lasso.  He is having a lot of fun with it, developing his skills, and  I'm learning that it is not just a piece of rope. The lasso is a tool that needs special care and careful use. After each session, he untwists it, then coils the lasso into exactly the same shape and ties it with plastic twisties to hold it there.  A new rope must be shown how to behave, and once learned, it will remember and go back to its "proper" shape.

As he prepares to throw he sizes the loop, brings it up over his head, moves it in a circular motion and tosses it toward the target. The rope knows how to make the curves, smoothly, untangled. Sometimes he has to stretch the rope into its full length and put pressure on it to remove any kinks or unbalanced spots. Then, coil it again and let it rest.
Can you see the analogies?  Our actions, repeated, repeated, become ingrained and cut a deep groove, or rut, and we become set in our ways. Sometimes we need untangling.  De-kinking.  Be sure you have dug the rut that you want to be in.

This morning, in our exercise session (we started a new series this week, I'll write about it another time), we were stretching and she mentioned muscle memory.  I perked up - oh, I know about that, just like a lasso. Of course, it's the other way around, but here again, is a lesson.  Our muscles, moved properly, consistently, repeatedly, carefully, will learn their proper shape and hold to their correct form.  It takes work, over and over again, practice and more practice, until it becomes instinctive and smooth and you couldn't imagine it any other way. It becomes natural, the norm, a good kind of rut to be in.
I googled muscle memory and found there is a debate (isn't there always?) as to whether the muscle memory is a brain function or if the memory is actually within the muscle itself, but the point remains the same.  A repeated action becomes intuitive, routine, easier.  A fast typist doesn't have to think through the location of each letter and the movement to reach that key. Their fingers just "know."  An excellent knitter can continue knitting without looking because her fingers "remember" the motions.  An athlete practices their routines or techniques hundreds and thousands and thousands of times until each move is "memorized."

We can set the patterns, the habits of our lives by making little changes, consistently, over and over and over- it is a choice.

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