5 minutes, creativity, deliberate practice, flow, Guitar, motivation, overcoming blocks, zen habits
All I need to know is how much is enough. —James Heisig’s translation of saying on a small stone basin at Ryonji, a Zen temple
Buddhist poet Saigyo tried to live “one inch above the ground.” . . .not with one’s feet planted firmly in the everyday, not walking on the clouds, but floating a thumb’s length above the ground. –Heisig, Dialogues at One Inch Above the Ground
Stop being a jerk to yourself. You did your best given what you knew at the time. Now do your best now. —from a Silverspoon email.
Remember, in order to actually get better at guitar you need to actually take the guitar out of its bag. —Dan Emery, head of NYC School of Guitar in a postcard to all the students
In my last post, I focused on Heisig and how he examined his systems and perfected them. Heisig optimized his learning and the learning of many more through his system for learning kanji. I also suggested that it’s great to examine your methods, find your weaknesses and reassess. I still believe that is true, but I also believe you also just have to show the Samurai up! If you can’t think of the “right” thing to do, do something! In short:
- if you can’t think of the most fun or targeted learning activity, do the “boring” one until you are inspired
- inspiration sometimes comes through “work”–sometimes it doesn’t
- keep your brain myelinated …keep the mental and physical conversation of the skill going
- still, don’t forget the fun–what’s really great is when some fun activity or experience reinforces the work and seals the deal on what you have learned
- stay “one inch above the ground”…grounded in the practice of what you are trying to learn and also dreaming and enjoying it . . . watch experts and children who still enjoy learning and model them
- use a timer to get through the blocks
I need to practice what I preach. 🙂 Lately, I decided to start playing guitar again. I have no dearth of materials, in Japanese and English. I was getting my underwear all in knots thinking of which set of materials to use: a Japanese guide, Jamplay.com, or the many English DVD’s and books that are hidden in different corners of my apartment.
I finally to stop fretting (guitar joke!) about all the materials and just get started. I had an old flashcard deck devoted to guitar playing and started with some scales. Then I decided to open up one of the many guitar books I have and just go through it. It includes a DVD and I fired up an old Dell that I now use as a spare DVD player. The first few lessons are really simple, and explain how to hit the strings with your pick. The first few video lessons show how to hit one string with different rhythms. It’s kind of boring but hitting the strings and doing it rhythmically correct is fundamental to a lot of guitar playing. Hey, someone should write a book called Zen Guitar! (It’s an actual book!)
After doing scales for a few days, I thought about perusing the lessons at jamplay.com and found a new series on the guitar playing of Eric Clapton. I went through a beginning lesson that covered the style of the Yardbirds doing a song called “Boom Boom.” I listened to this song and the many versions of the original by the blues-man John Lee Hooker. It’s so much fun to watch what the masters can do with their guitar. (of course you never hear what they sounded like when they were sucky beginners)
But all of this happened because I decided to show the samurai up! Use a timer if you need to do but do something daily instead of fretting about the methods. Stay grounded but not at the point where you are digging your own rut. Get inspired by the masters but not to the point where it looks impossible and you stop practicing. Work. Have fun. Stay “one inch above the ground.”
A very pleasant reading!
Correct if I'm wrong, but japanese would not be just a means for something else? I mean, my interest for japanese began because my manga/anime addiction. Language is just a means for… us to enjoy activities such as talking, reading, watching series and understand new cultures.
I liked a lot of the fusion that you made between japanese and guitar learning. Such atitude give you more context and pragmatic approach in language use.
I'm actually studying japanese in my own. I had started in January and I study every day. After "learn" 2360 kanjis, now I'm translating phrases in Anki, reading some texts and watching animes with jap-subs (it's VERY hard to me). If you could give me some advices, I will appreciate a lot.
Anyway, thanks for the article!
not sure if you got a chance to finish your comment…Japanese is my main goal but I've realized that I can reach other goals and help my Japanese as well by using Japanese materials as much as possible
ajatt.com would probably be the best place to go for how to think about your Japanese studies . . . make sure your have fun…yes, learning a new language opens up a lot of things…and it's made me realize how much fun learning is again
I see. There are very different reasons that make people want to learn japanese. Sorry If I was not clear before. I tried to say that my objective to learn japanese is not for the learning sake. Even yet, not necessarily a need. But as long I like japanese culture, it's crucial for me to understand the language. I had read a lot of manga and watched a lot of animes, but they were translated by fans. So I asked myself… what if I could read from the source? Have a genuine understanding of the japanese language. So, I had started to study.
In fact, I already dissected AJATT's techniques. I adapted others that looks like useful. But I want to intensify my studies. I wonder… I am doind the right things or what? I don't know. Trial and error.
I agree with you, fun is essential. Even yet, I want to learn japanese so bad, that I don't care if I'm going to have fun. It's a bonus for me.
Anyway, thank you for replied.
I'm on the Japanese path myself, so it's not like I can give you a view from the mountaintop or something like that. Find ways to inject Japanese into all aspects of your life. Turn your operating systems into Japanese. Follow your other hobbies in Japanese. I think it's best when the hard "work" reinforces the fun and the fun reinforces the work. Let your "recovery" time be in Japanese. It's kind of exercise (not that I do that kind of thing :))…. You do your hard work out and then what …sit on the couch? No, a nice walk …stuff that keeps you in motion…just relaxedly look at all those fun websites, comics, hobby guides …don't worry that you don't know each character or how to do the readings …you'll meet them again during your "work out" times and say, "Hey! I know you from somewhere…didn't I meet you at a party or something?" or you might have just met that character so many times before that you have already become good friends without the work…hope this helps. Being good to yourself is important, too.
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