Talk about life long learning. I love that there is a book dedicated to teaching seniors how to play The Ventures. But why wait until you retire to do what you want to do? My Japanese father-in-law is taking up guitar. I’m thinking of seeing if I can join his classes. Japanese and guitar, wow!
Yesterday, I decided to stop at a cafe to have an iced latte. Because it was hot outside and their air conditioner wasn’t on, it was relatively empty. Then they turned on some Best of Jimi Hendrix, which I hadn’t heard in a long time. Listening to Hendrix after a long drought is like drinking a cup of coffee after I’ve “given it up”–it blasts me to the stratosphere. What was interesting was that as I was listening to it, I was thinking things like, “oh he slid up the strings there” or “how and where did he get that idea?” I didn’t do the usual hero worshiping, practice stopping rant. “I will never get there.”
If you think you never will “get there” you are right. You will never get there because where you are is right here right now. So what are you going to do about it? Find a way to hit just one string clearly or worship the rock gods? (Hey, why not do both 🙂 ) Will you find a way to just push for a few minutes to write a little scale or moan about how you wish you could write songs?
Part of pushing is allowing yourself to “suck” while you move forward. Part of why reading alljapaneseallthetime.com was so liberating was Khatz’s concept of “suckage.” As he explains, you have to be comfortable with were you are with your skill but not so comfortable that you aren’t doing something about it. “Accepting permanent suckage is not humility. That’s resignation. Sucking is a temporary condition. Contact is the cure.” Have contact with your desired skill at many ends from the theoretical pushes to just having fun listening to the “masters” without being threatened.
You will never get there. You are always here, now. Push. Play. Repeat.
Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. –Rainier Maria Rilke
Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit. –George Fox
Don’t panic. Be like the tiny waterfall joining the big river. Deep, man, deep.
Don’t panic and if you do, don’t panic about panic. If you are trying to move forward in your business or your learning, a little edge is good, but panic is not. Certain kinds of panic comes from trying to have it all at once. I felt it one day when I listened to five different podcasts about WordPress and just started to worry that I didn’t know x, x, and x. OMG! If you try to have all your breath at once, you are hyperventilating. If you try to have all your water at once, you will drown.
All of this has come up as I’ve been reading Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design by Laurence G. Boldt. First of all, the book sent me into a little bit of a panic because it is so big. Second, Boldt’s rambling style can be a little overwhelming. But I’ve been hanging in there, skimming and looking for gems because I’m at a point where I need to hear a lot of what he is saying. Taking Zen a few pages at a time, I’ve been putting the thoughts I need to hear into my samurai notebook where there will rub constantly against my little ole at-times nervous samurai consciousness. A lot of my recent quotes come from this book.
Though Boldt writes about setting out on a “warrior’s quest” for the career you want, he emphasizes doing it in a calm and persistent manner:
Being too concerned with what is “out there” [instead of what is] “in here” puts you in a position of powerlessness. We encourage you to begin by identifying the results you want, then to move confidently and deliberately in that direction no matter how small those steps may seem.
Here we go with the power of the small again. I began to move forward in with writing and now guitar after I started to take advantage of small consistent steps as a by-product of studying Japanese. The man who helped me ‘grok‘ this concept was Khatzumoto over at ajatt.com. In a recent post, he talked about avoiding overwhelm of big goals, just as you might avoid looking directly at the sun:
I am enjoying just reading the chapter titles. The chapters are bite-sized but I haven’t gotten around to reading the innards. There are some great hints for leading a powerful, simple life. Here are a few of my faves. As always, take my translations with a dash of soy sauce. Use it for your life or for your sentence sampling if you are studying Japanese.
十五分、早起きしてみるーーTry waking up fifteen minutes earlier.
朝の空気をしっかり、味わうーーReally take in the morning air.
脱いだ靴を整えるーーWhen you take off your shoes, arrange them neatly
いらない物を捨てるーーGet rid of things that you don’t need
デスクの上整える＾＾Arrange your desk neatly (uh-oh)
一杯のコーヒ＾を丁寧に淹れる–Serve Up Your Coffee Mindfully
食事をおろそかにしないーーDon’t neglect your meals
食事では、一口ごとに箸を置くTake Only One Bite-Full with Your Chopsticks
好きな言葉を探す＾＾Search for Words That You Really Like
持物を減らすーーReduce the Amount of Stuff You Carry Around
ベランダに小さいな庭をつくるーーCreate a Small Garden on Your Veranda
自分の手で自然に触れるーーTouch Nature With Your Hands
寝る前は嫌いなことを考えないーーDon’t Think About Negative Things Before You Go to Sleep
My Un-Zen desk at the Manga Cafe.
今できることを一生懸命にやるーーDo everything you are doing now with gusto
ときには、考えるをやめてみるーーTry to Stop Thinking Every Now and Then
起こっていないことで悩みないーーDon’t Worry About Things That Haven’t Happened Yet
仕事を楽しむーーEnjoy your work
悩むより動くーーMovement is better than worry
人と比べないーーDon’t Compare Yourself to (Other) People
平凡な一日こそ、感謝するーーBe Grateful for the Average, Every Day Things in Life
This book didn’t make my browsing cut but I like the message. I think the title is something like ‘Nothing is Pointless.’ More Buddhist self-help, please!
Of course, this all brings me to the question： Is Zen Zen because its Japanese or are the Japanese Japanese because of Zen? The answer is probably yes.
Will all of this help you? I don’ know. I do know my mother in-law is thrilled I neatly arranged the shoes. 🙂
“Chase two rabbits and lose them both” (nito otte itto mo ezu). This Japanese proverb is a graphic picture of the mind which is divided in its purpose, and therefore loses that which it would gain . . .
In the martial arts, the hesitant abiding mind is considered to be the most vulnerable to attack. The main thing is to get moving. You cannot balance on a bicycle unless you are in motion. Once you are moving you can adjust your course. . .. William Reed. Aikido expert and business consultant
So many rabbits too little time. I spent the day at Makai Farms in Fujinomiya. Language immersion and family time. Killing two rabbits with one stone? Ouch!
Indecision can be a time and motivation killer. I know. I struggle with it every day. Sometimes I lose precious time playing around with Japanese because I agonize about which would be the right method. Should I finish a japanesepod101.com or iknow.co.jp lesson or should I do something fun in Japanese. If I decide to ‘have fun’ in Japanese, I agonize about what would be fun.
The key would be to keep moving, as Samurai Renaissance William Reed explains. As I’ve explained before, I am currently doing Silverspoon, a a subcription program where I get daily recommendations of what to do and study in Japanese. Khatzumoto, the webmeister behind AJATT, deftly calls it structure without stricture. I like having a structure not just to have a structure but also because it gives me something to rebel against. You want me to watch anime all day today? Eff it…I think doing a japanesepod101.com lesson might be more fun today.
A friend recently asked me what I would do to create a program to get more people writing. One of the main suggestions I offered is to simply get a timer and write. I am not Shakespeare but I am writing. When I get stuck writing about a specific project, I get out my timer and go to the ‘blurts’ section of my documents and complain, scream, whine. Many times I come up with ideas for chapters or blog posts. Sometimes the blurts are just kitty litter、but at least I am moving. ‘ Once you are moving you can adjust your course.’
We spent some time at the sheep races. Which sheep to pick? Indecision. As Khatzumoto says. ‘Just pick. Click. Move on with your life.’ 🙂
So stop being such a queen and just pick whatever. Decide. Either way, it’s easy in that all action in your cushy, sedentary life is easy. It’s easy to do; it’s easy not to do, and — now that you’ve given up the duh-rama — it’s easy to pick as well.
Go on, timebox it. 90 seconds. Pick. Click. Move on with life.
Take out your Samurai katana and cut through indecision and do something in the direction of your dreams. And, if you see me on the road vacillating, give me a swift kick in the samurai.
“Every day I count wasted in which there has been no dancing.”–Friedrich ‘Shake What Your Momma Gave You’ Nietzsche
I’m staying with my wife and my daughters in a a little town called Yui. It’s famous for it’s Sakura ebi shrimp and the fact that it is shown on NHK television when the waves from a approaching typhoon crash across the interprectural highway. It is a good trip. In the mornings I’ve been able to get away and hike among the farms. I’m living the slug life, yo.
Have you ever watched a Studio Ghibli movie and watched a cartoon slug wander down a plant. They are slimier in real life.
I can tell it’s a good trip because when my daughters play with their cousins, they vehemently tell me to go away.
We are also here to enjoy the matsuri or festivals. This weekend, at night this sleepy little town is transformed into a festival of lights. My shaky little iPhone pics won’t do justice to it.
My daughter, Sakura, especially enjoys 盆通り, or bondori. This is basically a festival dance. Anyone can come dance around the yagura, a large beautifully lit central platform where the musicians and drummers play.
The central platform around which bondori dancers dance. There’s something primal in a maypole kind of way about this kind of festival dance.
There are different dances but it usually involves stylized hand and arm movements and very little moving of the hips. What I love about this festival is how many different types of people come. It’s cool to watch tough guys twirl their hands delicately in the air. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.) It’s kind of amazing that people have been coming to dance together for hundreds of years.
Last night I saw an old couple dancing. The woman was pushing his wheelchair in the general directions that the other dancers were moving. The man’s had moved like eagles above his wheelchair.
That’s how I want to live–grasping every minute that I can to dance in some way. It’s why I woke up this morning and walked to the hills and farms above the local zen temple. It’s why I swim through lameness totry to keep on writing. Join me. Keep dancing.
Above the zen temple–from the hills where you can really see far.
Jetlag can be a drag, but there are its advantages. This morning I woke up at 4:30 a.m and walked out to the rising sun. After purchasing a canned espresso drink
Fueling my jetlag with canned coffees.
from the local vending machine (they are everywhere!), I headed out for a morning walk. I saw Mount Fuji in the distance, with its little trails of snow. My little iPhone picture can’ t do justice to Fuji-san, but seeing this ancient volcano is one of the perks of waking up way early.
This visit to Japan is slightly different. I can understand a little bit more, I can read a whole lot more, but I still know just enough Japanese to get me in trouble.
However, I am also better “armed” with a smartphone. This morning not only was I able take these “stunning” landscape pictures but I also took pictures of signs along the park for future reference. I’d always meant to write down these signs and translate them later but when you are walking you don’t want to break the flow of the walk. A quick snapshot and then I’m gone. Jetlag samurai on the prowl.
Later, by the beach, (not as romantic as it sounds), I was able to use my Midori app and look up a few words and insta/presto turn them into flashcards. Jetlag lifehack.
It’s better to get a full night’s sleep and I know I can’t keep this up for ever. But it brings up a point Furuichi-san makes in his books. Take advantage of sleepless moments to study something and explore. Usually after 20 minutes, I can go back to sleep. However when my body is telling me that it 5:30 in the afternoon, I take the opportunity to use this “awakened” moment to be out in nature and among the vending machines. 🙂 Every moment is precious for the jetlag samurai. zzzzzz.
This time on my visit to Japan, this samurai is “armed” with an iPhone, ready to capture sights, sounds, and random kanji on the fly.
Cleaning and clearing clutter helps me see to the distance. Part of the attraction of temples and gardens in Japan is they are clutter free zones for the mind, and spirit.
I recently watched an episode on NHK (the Japanese PBS) about a celebrity who spends a weekend at a Zen monastery. Before she gets to the “business” of meditating, she has to clean the bathrooms, cleaning the beautiful wooden floors with a cloth. I guess it’s part of the Zen attitude that every activity is a chance to wake up. It also saves tons of money on cleaning bills. 🙂 Clear clutter, clear mind. Samurai cleaning is samurai learning. (I love it when I can talk like Yoda.)
The school year is coming to a close, and during non-administrative duties I’ve been cleaning and organizing my classroom. I have over twenty years of material in addition to materials left over from previous generations that have used my room. I’ve been able to methodically work on every corner, throwing out materials I don’t need any more and organizing the materials I still want to hang on.
That is the essence of a samurai review—toss out the material you no longer want and organize, touch, reshuffle the material you want. The added plus is that it doesn’t just involve your mind; it involves your body in action.
Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, suggests clearing clutter as one way to breakthrough creative blocks:
Few things are as distracting– and destructive– as clutter in your home environment. It is hard to have clarity when you are living amid rubble. Clearing up your space gives you room for new thoughts. Clutter can be tackled in small amounts. Try fifteen-minute cleanups. You will be amazed at the difference in your psyche. Where before you felt frustrated, you will now find yourself feeling optimism.
From Miyajima Island temple. Clear mind, happy mind?
Cameron gets the Samurai Mind award for not only suggesting a technique but also using time limits as a tool! Clear clutter, clear mind. (Clearing Yoda throat) Clear clutter, clear mind. Samurai cleaning, samurai learning is.
I did it! I headed to the post office, got the right postage and sent my book proposal to an agent I worked with years before. (I will tell you later what it was my book proposal was about. I like to let creative projects incubate until they are ready.) What’s amazing that even though I’ve been working on this project for seven years, I hadn’t done anything to move it forward. I’ve done more to move this project in the last six months than I have in six years combined.
The secret? The power of five minutes. Turtle power.
I’ve had almost everything you might need to work on my writing. I have a computer at home. I also have a laptop and I am even member of a quiet space to work called the Writers Room.
However, I would get to the Writers Room after a long day at school and be overwhelmed by the day that I just had and the enormity of “WRITING.” Then I would proceed to read the New York Times, take naps, grade homework, study Japanese, and then later on check my Facebook page.
I Khatzumoto put it best how often what we really need to do is just start:
I’m with HONDA Naoyuki on this one — most of us don’t need to prioritize our work, we just need to get started on it. Many times. That’s what’s killing us…paucity of starts. And all the tidying and soda breaks and relaxation exercises in the world cannot will not ever change this. Let’s be brutally honest: your life simply is not that complicated — most of the time, you already know what your top priority direction is. The only question is: are you headed in it?
As I’ve discussed ad nauseum on this blog, I started to do All Japanese All the Time and later the paid Japanese immersion coaching service called Silverspoon. Part of what I learned to do with AJATT is to use my vibrating watch to take little bites of everything I want to accomplish and move forward, whether it’s learning Japanese, writing, or doing more mundane things like cleaning up my classroom.
Having time limits can turn everything into a game. How many words and ideas can I fit into five minutes before the time runs out? What’s next? It turns big tasks into digestible bite sized git ‘er done bits.
I also changed my routine. One of the things Japanese writers on learning discuss is finding your “golden time.” What is the time of day when you can move your mind, tune into creativity, and let things flow? For me, I realized it was in the morning. I had to break my routine of going to my favorite coffee shop, which opens at 7 a.m. Instead, I made sure that I was at carrel at the Writer’s Room. (With a cheaper and less tasty cup of coffee at hand.)
A lot happens in the hour before I have to go to work now. I do my Japanese “sprints” (little Japanese “study” suggestions from Silverspoon). I work on my traditional writing. I work on the blog. But I work at a turtle’s pace, going slow and a little bit at a time. But it turns out that maybe that is the best way for me to work. It means that I always have my tools out (laptop, notebooks, reference books, headphones, etc) and move a little bit on them everyday, not thinking about rushing to the end.
So I continued to work on a book proposal for a project that I started seven years ago. (Seven years!) It felt like a big mess, but I took daily stabs at it—organizing ideas on paper, looking at a proposal writing reference guide. I would set the timer for five minutes and take one little piece. Sometimes, I “cheated” and worked a little bit more. One day, I looked at my book proposal and realized that I had come to the end. I realized it needed a lot of proofreading and took the turtle approach. Again, I was surprised that I had come to the end.
The book proposal may not lead to a contract, but I feel like I have moved a mountain. I’m ready to write again, five minutes at a time. What’s your dream? What are you willing to give five minutes a day? Mutant Samurai Turtles activate!
Every effort creates an echo or even a dissonance to be listened to, to build on. Even a “failed” effort creates a lingering question. The question is, can you persist and grow from it? Continue reading »
Happiness, breathing, bowling. It worked for me one amazing night. Photo from Jim at http://www.unprofound.com/viewpic.php?pic=bowler.jpg&photographer=jim#
I haven’t gone bowling in years, but three weeks ago I was back at it, funny shoes and all. I think I’ve played mini-golf more times than I’ve gone bowling, and that isn’t saying much.
I only played two games. The first game, I was getting used to bowling again. I kept experimenting with different balls. I went for the pink gum light gum balls and tried bowling with that. I kept noticing my buddies next to me getting strikes and having a great old time. I hung my head in shame and then just kept trying. I kept trying different balls and adjusting my technique. I got a heavier ball and got a strike towards the end of the game. I think I got an 85–not an impressive score.
However, towards the end of the game, I made a few interesting choices in addition to getting the heavier ball. I modeled the form that the more successful players were using–something like my foot ending up on the other side of my body. I also made the decision to breathe and, as hokey as this is going to sound, I made the decision to love the moment. I made the decision to be happy holding the ball, seeing where the pins were, releasing the ball, and staying connected even after I released the ball.
The results were shockingly fun. Almost every frame I played a spare or a strike. At one point, I got three strikes in a row. I surprised myself by being able to pick off single pins. Each time it was my turn, I made the decision again: have fun with this moment, connect, love. I ended up the game with 200.
Maybe creativity flow can happen like this, a balance between concentration, focus on technique, while breathing and letting go. Photograph from Jim at http://bit.ly/UChtLh
I didn’t know that this was a big deal, except for the big video display. Then guys came up and said, “Wow, how did you do that?” A couple guys explained that they have been bowling regularly and have never gotten to 200.
I could end this little post with some big lesson. In fact, as I wrote this, Steve Chandler’s 100 Ways to Create Wealth came up on my samurai shuffle. His wealth tip #29 is: “Learn to Keep Breathing.”