Muscle memory is a curious phenomena; as a particular movement is practiced through focused repetition, neurological and physiological changes begin to occur simultaneously. When we master a task it becomes imprinted into our brains and our motor skills can reproduce it with minimal effort.
I used to be perfectly happy keeping my ‘hula hoop’ moving in concentric circles around my waist. Then my brain started to get bored. My synapses were firing effortlessly, directing my hips in a counter-clockwise motion. My neural pathways were operating with ease and I no longer had to think about this process. A challenged neuron is a happy neuron; I have since embarked on an amazing journey and I am bringing my beautiful new hoop with me.
Last weekend I was trying to learn a new trick and was failing over and over again. I would succeed from time-to-time, but the whole process was shaky and ugly looking. My spectator told me to give it a break, “you don’t want to develop bad muscle memory.”
Negative muscle memory is a curious phenomena to ponder, can our brains and muscles learn ‘bad’ behaviors through repetition? While considering this possibility, I remembered that our hearts are muscles. For ancient Egyptians, “it was the heart and not the brain that was the seat of emotion, thought, will and intention.” Civilized cultures have long-since dispelled the rumor that our hearts are capable of higher thinking- Hearts pump blood.
However, I would like to cling to the human heart as a beautiful metaphor for muscle memory and our capacity to train our muscles in both positive and negative manners. Please bare with me here; throw King Tut and Ms. Cleopatra a bone. I believe that our capacity to truly love and accept one another is a behavior that becomes innate with practice. I must practice before I will be able to effortlessly lift my hoop above my head. I must consistently look at my neighbor as someone who is deserving of unconditional love and acceptance. After a while, I will never drop my hoop and I will always regard my human counterpart as beautiful and worthy.
Furthermore, I agree with my spectator’s interjection; we must take a step back and give our negative behaviors a break before they become cemented in the fibers of our muscles and brains. As a collective society we have spent centuries learning how to alienate each other; the sensitive muscle memory of our hearts is not one to forget. We revel in eachother’s differences and use them as grounds for hatred or mere ignorance: this has become a natural tendency of startling ease.
I encourage each and everyone of my readers to reform the muscle memory of your hearts. Start with small repetitive behaviors: consistently find positive attributes in your neighbors. This will not be an easy task as first, you must practice love and acceptance every day of your lives. But I assure you, it gets easier. After a while, your heart will be healed and it will start loving on it’s own.