Be the poet of your life’s song. Laurence Boldt, Zen and the Art of Making a Living
Making the music of your life is a lot easier with a samurai mind notebook.
When I first started teaching up in the South Bronx, I started to notice that some of my students had notebooks where they worked out their rhymes. They treated these notebooks with a heck of a lot more care than the work I was giving them, but I respect that.
To create, shape, and save your words means that you get to create your vision, create your own song. To keep a notebook is to create your samurai sword. To review it regularly is to polish it with love.
I just hit a patch of inspirational material that has been overdue for a six month review. At the time I was reading Zen and the Art of Making a Living and copied the best ideas and quotations. One more time I got to hear William James say, “Human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”
The Samurai Mind Notebook is a way to do what James is asking. By taking time to write ideas and inspirations into your little notebook and gently review them, you systematize on-going cultivating. It’s like you are leaving little treats or positive “bombs” to challenge or steer you in the future.
I’m also coming across little bits of music theory in my notebook. Lately, I’ve made a conscious decision to give less attention to music, but coming across these snippets in my samurai mind notebook is challenging that decision in a fun way. I know that the holiday sale at jamplay.com is happening again, and I just might pull out the guitar and the five minutes a day to make it part of my song.
There are no obligations with a samurai mind notebook. If reviews aren’t interesting to you, you can gloss over them and call it a success. But every now and then elements and ideas pop up that want to be part of your life’s song. Review. Trust your joy. Play your life’s song.
A samurai notebook is a toy for the mind. It should have fun bits and ideas that you can run with. Play is important. photo from unprofound.com.
I keep what I like to call a samurai mind notebook. It is a notebook where I keep project ideas, inspirational quotations, and useful information. I review the notebooks so that eventually everything is reviewed after 2 days, 4 days, 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, 3 months, etc. If the ideas stop being interesting or useful to me, I cross them out.
What happens with a samurai mind notebook is that I start picking up the pieces so I can play with them again. It’s not just review for review’s sake but also shake up my mind and give it little forgotten cat toys to play with. When I review my notebooks not only do I review information but I also review inspiration. I pick up on ideas and states of mind that made me excited. These quotations and inspiration all get another to be “part of the conversation” of my busy life.
Reviewing my samurai mind notebook is not some dreary, rigid, self-flagellating study in obligation. It is a chance to let inspiration and interesting knowledge become part of my mental DNA. Steve Chandler, author of Time Warriorand a host of other transformational books wrote, “Be conscious of your real loves. Keep self-inquiry alive. You don’t drop it, you include it, and align it.” A samurai mind notebook and the scheduled reviews is one way to keep that love alive.
I often miss scheduled reviews, but the notebooks are always there to re-light little fires. I didn’t haul of my notebooks to Japan so I’ve recently unearthed a few notebooks and have reviewed while on the train or waiting to get a hair-cut. Here’s a few of the tidbits I found:
fun questions and thoughts and inspirations from Zen and the Art of Making a Living
notes from a summer coaching workshop
random inspirational quotes
great ideas for teaching that I had forgotten
ideas for courses I am developing for my students
little pieces from The Little Book of Talent
fun and useful Japanese sentences from various books
Theoretically I would have reviewed everything on a schedule but I came across entries from six weeks ago that had only received a two week review. That is okay. The beautiful thing about the samurai mind notebook process is that eventually everything gets its review and a chance to play in your mind again (or be marked out and “trashed”).
Pick up a notebook. Pick up the pieces and play. Take the toys and run.
Keeping obligation out of your samurai notebook is about keeping your spirit free. There are other tools for “shoulds” but fly, fight, and love in here.
But there is Boddhidharma, fierce eyes, teeth showing, intent and determined, a free spirit who [will not accept] the propaganda of mediocrity. He challenges you to be free enough of society to transform it for the better. —L. Boldt Zen and the Art of Making a Living
Nurture your minds with great thoughts. To believe in the heroic makes heroes. –“All About The ” Benjamin(z) Disraeli
Sometimes in life you need to battle the “dark forces.” You need a weapon. You need a battle strategy. You need to reexamine your tactics in a world that isn’t necessarily out there to bring out the best in us. You need a de-programming device that helps you center your mind. You need to become a beacon to others by becoming a beacon to yourself. You need your trusty, dusty samurai mind notebook.
As I’ve been playing around with keeping notebooks, I’ve come to rely on them more. A samurai mind notebook is a place where I keep the thoughts and knowledge that I want to have kicking around in my mind. It’s the place where I put snippets of knowledge or forward moving quotes that will be there to lift me up and change my climate of thoughts. They have a longer-lasting impact as I playfully review them on a regular basis. (You can have notebooks to work out problems, complain, etc and that is awesome but the samurai mind notebook works better when it is positive, silly, useful, and fun. Get a “working it out notebook” if you need a space for that.)
I don’t necessarily believe you should become a positive thinking machine. You will have your feelings and you will feel suffering, but what will be out there/in there for you through that and after that? The television news? Keeping a notebook allows you to create your own channel of information of skills, thought, jokes (?), whatever you want to move forward in your life. Read through my different posts about keeping a notebook, but here are some powerful uses for my notebook that I’ve recently discovered:
My notebook is a place where I can re-enjoy the marrow I’ve sucked out of good books and resources. If I buy a $20 book I can multiply the value I get from the book by putting the ideas that make me stop and think into my notebook. As you review, if the knowledge still makes you “tingle” rewrite it in your latest notebook. That forward moving thought or inspiration gets reinforced.
My notebook is a place where I put little mechanical skills that I used to feel would never become a part of me. Sometimes there are little blocks of knowledge or skill that can help you create and play. If you put it in your samurai notebook, in small digestible bits, those bits can become more of you. For example, I am going through a music theory book for guitarists and wrote down some information on compound meter. Do I have that concept nailed? No. But as I come across it more and more, it becomes part of the conversation.
Random Collection of Notebooks. Samurai notebooks help keep me inspired, searching, while at the same time keeping me anchored.
Keep in mind that your notebook is not a place for obligation. Don’t write anything in there that you feel you “have to.” As you review, you can skip over parts that don’t rock your boat. Your samurai mind notebook is your weapon, your tool, your de-programming device. Though it can be physically messy, keep your notebook gleaming and shiny with your love.
Random Collection of Notebooks. Samurai notebooks help keep me inspired, searching, while at the same time keeping me anchored.
I’ve mentioned samurai notebooks lately, but haven’t really gotten into detail about them for a while. Samurai notebooks are notebooks where you put positive ideas, plans, information, etc and review on a regularly spaced basis. My samurai notebooks aren’t necessarily pretty, but they have been transformational.
Daniel Coyle reports that a great percentage of high performers keep some kind of notebook, whether it’s an actual notebook or even a shoebox of loose papers. Coyle cites Serena Williams, Eminem, and Twyla Tharp among others. Write down “results from today, ideas for tomorrow.”
A samurai notebook helps you create your own channel, the information and ideas that you brush up against. You can bathe in the fear, sarcasm, and negativity that gets offered up 24/7 or you can create your own channel.
A notebook helps you direct your life by helping you remember. Adding spaced repetition keeps reviewing from becoming burdensome.
Buy any notebook. Think cheap and sturdy. I prefer Campus notebooks from Japan but don’t get hung up on what kind of notebook to get.
Put any information, thoughts, plans that interests you into this notebook on a daily basis. Make sure to date each entry. Recently my notebook includes snippets of guitar/music theory, helpful hints from a Japanese book on guitar, and ideas from several teaching resources.
Review the notebook every day. If you’ve put interesting and valuable information it will become a fun process. I put a date on the review and mark how many days from the original date. I try to review according to the following schedule 1, 2, 3 or four days, and a week after the original review. After that it is one week, two weeks, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, etc. I use a timer and review five minutes every morning. I also review if I feel like it on train rides, appointments, etc.
Dating entries and reviews are important. It would be overwhelming if you didn’t space out reviews.
Quickly mark what kind of review it was and include the date. I put 1D for one day. As you do reviews, you will save time by only entries that are “up for review.”
If you come across an entry that wows you or seems really important, copy it into the days new entries. Doing this puts it back in a shorter term loop and reinforces that this notebook is exciting. (BTW, you don’t have to “study” each page, just glance at it. If there is something you want to target and do some work with, go ahead.) Cross out pages that you think you may never be interested in again. Deletion and skipping over. Happy feelings bring happy learnings. (See ajatt.com on the importance of deletion.)
I’ve learned to alternate between “New” reviews and “Old” reviews. One day I will review the most recent reviews and the next day, I will begin from an earmarked “Old” page. “New” information gets to “mature” and “old” information gets a systematic chance to get refreshed. I write “New” or “Old” on the day’s entry to let myself know where to go in the next session.
Date the cover, depending on the last entry. This notebook will be up for review in two years. If anything hits me like a lightning bolt from an old notebook I make sure to a) put it in a more recent notebook and/or b) do something with the idea or information.
When you finish with a notebook, mark the outside with when the next review date should be.
Feel free to use any or none of these methods. According to Coyle, Eminem uses scraps of paper tossed into a shoe box. Whatever you want to do, some kind of notebook will help you get there. Try my samurai notebook style or flow into your own style. A simple little notebook could transform your life.
Be absolutely determined to enjoy what you do. –Ben Hogan
You don’t have to “feel”happy to put your mind in happy places.
Focusing on happiness is a decision.
It’s possible that happiness is a habit of turning your mind to positive places. There is also a key role for tears. Sometimes you need to wring out a wet towel before putting it in the dryer.
The happiness decision may help you learn more. Earn more?
Learning more may help your happiness. It’s an unvicious cycle.
I’m back in New York and writing out of the Writer’s Room. It has a lot more sunlight than the cave-like atmosphere of a manga cafe. My laptop, copies of the books in the post and two of my samurai notebooks. Samurai notebooks are more fun to review when you fill it with fun, personally thought provoking and inspiring material. What is in your notebook is a happiness decision.
For a few weeks now I’ve been walking around with two Japanese books in my “man-bag” and realizing that there is a strong connection between the two books but not quite being able to put my finger on it. Today I finally realized what was the connection. Happiness is a decision and it can help you transform everything that you do, especially with learning and transforming your life.
My dose of soy sauce translation of the two book titles are: Only Do Good Things with Your Brain by Ken Mogi (脳にいいことだけをやりなさい！）and Speed up Your Information Rate by 10 Times with the NLP Speed Reading Method by Naoya Matsushima (情報量が10倍になるNLP速読術). (Keep in mind that I am in day 457 of a 595 Japanese immersion experience. Some day I will throw more English resources at you.)
Ken Mogi is a Japanese brain scientist and prolific writer and talk show host. This book is slightly more technical, so I find it hard to keep really give the full meaning of it to you. (I am also only in the middle of the book. Yeah, I break the rules but at least I tell you!) But it is pretty clear from on of the first drawings that Mogi believes that happiness is, in part, a decision. Part of the reason I picked the book is because it has pictures (all is fair in love and reading!). The first picture shows a happy person with the happiness lgauge on full blast. The illustration below that is an unhappy person (fumes emanating all around him) with the happiness full gauge on low. The final illustration on the bottom shows a person changing a control gauge (like an old fashioned volume control) from bottom to high. The phrase at the bottom reads: 脳の中にある「幸せど度」いつでも変えられる or “You Can Always Change the Degrees of Happiness in Your Brain.”
How do you do this? The second illustration tells you how. It hows a person who has built a happiness house:
The foundation is “elimination of negative thinking.”
The supporting pillars are: positive thinking, love and gratitude, the body’s energy (breath, position, etc), and “grabbing big power” (?) 「大いなる力」とのつながり。
The roof is goals for living.
There is a nice yard around the house and that is labelled, relationships with people.
All of these things interact and Mogi spends the rest of the book describing certain techniques for developing happiness. Just looking at the picture makes me happy.
Speed up Your Information Rate by 10 Times with the NLP Speed Reading Method by Naoya Matsushima (情報量が10倍になるNLP速読術)
Matsushima’s book is a guide to help busy, overwhelmed or under-motivated readers increase their reading speed and increasing their information retention. Matsushima, being an NLP guy, emphasizes the importance of getting in the right state of mind for reading and argues that one of the reasons people have problems with reading is all the negative associations they have with reading. He offers several exercises for using breathing and body posture for changing your state of mind before reading.
But what is most interesting to me is that he asks readers to pick a happy moment and think about and feel it with all the senses before commencing with reading. Happiness is an active decision that can help you learn more and experience joy through learning, if I follow Matsushima’s book correctly.
This happiness decision might be worthwhile in other areas. In 100 Ways to Create Wealth, the authors explain that you should always “move to the part of the work that you love.” This is a happiness decision that can result in improved efficiency, service, and even the ability to more easily transition to work that you love.
If you make the happiness decision then maybe you can experience more creativity in your life. Self-loathing and criticism aren’t going to help you. I finally got around to getting out my Japanese guitar books. Learning through love. Trying to make the happy decisions. Many birds, no stone. Online Guitar Lessons
I will warn you that the day I made the connection with all of this happiness stuff, I was grouchier than the Grouch. I also believe there is a role for crying and other forms of expressing other emotions. Sometimes you need to wring out a soaked towel before you put it in the dryer.
But it’s nice to be able to make more decisions to move towards happiness. Heck, it might even get addictive and help to you to transform the world.
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!
Yeah, sing it, just like the Rolling Stones. “Sa-mu-rai Time is on my side! Yes it is!” Don’t know how to sing? That’s okay, sing it badly. Don’t know who the Rolling Stones are? Abandon all hope ye who enter.
As I write this, I have a device strapped to my wrist, counting down and ready to vibrate in twelve minutes. Continue reading »