Tag Archives: practice

This Year—Write it Down, Track it, Celebrate, Repeat.

Using the Walk Tracker app for the first time this morning, I discovered that it’s actually more than a full kilometer to the next farm down the road. (My car had registered .9 km several years ago when I measured.) And it’s .5 km to the first treeline and 1.51 km from my front porch around the corner to the third telephone pole past the sumac trees. ( and I must check out the great things sumac is good for!)

With all the news about the dangers of sitting down for hours at a time and here’s me, who has to spend hours at the computer or the piano or the art table, and knowing that walking or, exercise, improves blood flow to the brain (and don’t we all need more of THAT!) and knowing that, unless I actually wrote it down on paper and made myself ACCOUNTABLE, I wouldn’t do it….

(drumroll) One of my goals this year, 2013, is to walk 2000 km. Minimum. That’s a bit of a walk, really, when I think about it. That crosses a big chunk of this country. It’s almost the distance from Saskatoon to Barrie, or from Thunder Bay to Kelowna. (and I could walk from London, Ontario to Sackville, New Brunswick and still have a few hundred kilometers to spare!)

And how do I propose to do it? How does one eat an elephant (goes the old adage)? One bite at a time. It works about to a nearly 5.5 km a day.

  • Take a piece of graph paper that already has blocks of 25 squares marked out
  • Mark off every 25 km, working DOWN from 2000, not UP TO 2000 (reasons below)
  • Use different colours each day and colour in the little squares, one for each km you walk.
  • Put a marker or a sticker or something every 25 or 50 km
  • Create small rewards every 50 or 100… or less if you need to keep up the motivation.

I started a day or so before New Year’s and today I passed 75. I’m 3.9 km ahead of schedule. (At 100 km I’m going to splurge on a brand new pair of comfy walking socks!) I’ll post a photo of my chart later (once I find my currently, um, hidden little camera)

The actual goal isn’t important. But these things I know to work:

  • write a goal down and make it specific. Get it out of your head and onto paper.
  • I like START dates better than END dates. It makes the starting of the thing important. End dates make sure it actually ends.
  • track it. Use stickers, colours, paper and pencil.. make it visual. Get it out of your head and mark something down. Remember how much you liked it when your teacher put a sticker on your work?!
  • make up a game and rules about it.
  • reward small wins.
  • be kind to yourself— there will be days!
  • be true to yourself— on ‘those’ days, do the thing anyway. Tell your complaining mind to shut up. Better to do something than nothing.

Some Thoughts:

I count DOWN… because the numbers get smaller. SO!! YAY! I only have 1923 km left rather than YAY! I’ve gone more than 75. Try it either way. Doesn’t matter to me, but isn’t counting down to something more celebratory than counting up?

Rationalizations will get at you. It’s gonna happen. But then, hey… there’s another goal or project or new habit to form! I did that for a month. No excuses. At all. I made some, but having that in mind made sure I picked things up off the floor, put things away, went to the gym even to do SOMETHING.

Here’s a fun game. I’ve done it with meditation practice and mantra meditation practice.

  • Decide on a new habit (it takes from 21-42 days, depending on who you talk to , to create a new habit. With things like mantras, it’s often a 40-day cycle. Just choose.)
  • Repeat every day
  • TRACK and count the repetitions
  • When you miss, start again at one, with the aim of repeating the new habit 40 times in a row.

Think about this. You start today with the aim of walking 1 km a day for 40 days. Everything’s great for about 10 days. You get your little stickers or coloured dots on your calendar and they start to add up. And then you miss a day.

Start again at one. Do this every time you miss a day.

Now, you will be saying, as you miss a day and are wont to start again,  “But, I can’t get to 40 days in a row! Why bother?”

Here’s the thing: you may get to the end of the year and never have hit 40 days in a row. That’s not the point.

You may have missed a day a month or even a couple of days a month. That’s not the point. And YET…

You’ve walked 1 km a day every other day of the year. That could be 300 days that you DID walk! Why focus on the 65 days you missed?

Celebrate the 300 days…. then, start again.

Write it down. Track it. Celebrate. Repeat.

Oh…. and be kind to yourself.

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Beyond the “Follow Your Passion” Paradigm

As I was mumbling yesterday about the whole “follow your passion” career illumination theory, I went poking around for other words that might work better. Words are important. We need to use the right ones and I was saying that I didn’t think “passion” was the right one. So.. what did I come up with?

 

ZESTY ENTHUSIASM
“Enthusiasm” came up in several of the quotes that I listed in the post. “Zest” was another one. Both were interesting and have possibilities— and limits.

 

Enthusiasm was originally connected to religious fanaticism, but it’s more common contemporary use is for “strong excitement or feeling.” It can refer to ardour, zeal, fervour, ambition, alacrity, obsession, eagerness, and yes, passion. It can also refer to a short-term enthusiasm or buzz— a one-hit wonder, or cultural blip in popularity.
OK, helpful and needed. One must have SOME modicum of enthusiasm for one’s work, wouldn’t you say?!

 

Zest and other food-related words seem to have more oomph! Other than the lemon zest variety, listen to these wonderful foodie words that have migrated to describe “an enjoyably exciting quality.” Piquant, relish, gusto, zing… and then… keen, invigoration, stimulation and thrill. (thanks, Merriam-Oxford Dictionary)

 

I’ve focused on these words for a bit because, really, the words we use are important. The foodie words above certainly give us bright shiny images in our imagination. While imagination is mucho importante, I’m still not convinced.

 

We toss “passion” around so flippantly. I wonder if it’s become so popular because it immediately grabs us by the gut and pokes at our emotional centre. These words are evocative and who doesn’t like to evoke a provocation?

 

“Passion” has a flame to it. And if people are sitting on their laurels, pining after their dream job, then, maybe lighting a fire underneath them is a good start.

 

But then what? As one reader here pointed out, passion burns out. The reader was commenting on relationships and expecting fireworks all the time, which was not my point at all, but it’s pretty hard to stay full steam ahead merely on a hotly lit match. Something else is required.

 

STEVE MARTIN TO THE RESCUE

 

Steve Martin

Steve Martin (Photo credit: lincolnblues)

 

We all need a little Steve Martin in our lives!

 

One reader posed a link to an article on <a href=”an excerpt from Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.” title=”Steve Martin’s Advice” target=”_blank”>lifehacker in an excerpt from Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.

 

And there—well, a start. SKILLS! And then ACTION! This SHOULD be a blinding flash of the obvious, but it isn’t. Maybe if we said, “Act on your passion,” it might help. It could also get someone killed (as in “crime of passion). In any case, the big problem with the phrase “follow your passion” is that you can follow it all day, over hill and dale, to the far reaches of the earth and over the rainbow, but unless you grab the darn thing and DO something about building the skills that will make you valuable and useful, it’s a useless, nay wasteful pursuit.

 

Steve Martin’s advice was to “Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You.”

 

And being so good that “they” can’t ignore you requires work. The day-to-day kind of work that we all hate at times. As any successful person will tell you, it’s the daily grind of showing up and doing what you don’t really feel like doing all the time. And doing it over and over and over and…

 

Well, it’s a start. I’ve kind of got the “P-word” problem resolved, at least in my head, but I know there’s more.

 

Still need to focus myself on what I’m to do with the next part of my life, though! More later. In the meantime, I’ve absorbed all the time I’ve allotted for this little passion… have to go act on the list of other things on the list that inspire zeal, fervour, eagerness and zing in me today.

 

Comments welcome! We really need to sort this thing out so more of us can get our butts in gear (and our ‘buts’ out of the way) to make this world work better.

 

Thank You For Everything, I Have No Complaints Whatsoever.

Blooming lotus in peaceful mind...

Blooming lotus in peaceful mind… (Photo credit: Thai Jasmine (Smile..smile…Smile..))

Thank you for everything, I have no complaints whatsoever.

There was a low period in my life just a few years ago when I repeated this thousands of times. Daily, nightly, during the day. When I woke up and going to sleep. For several weeks. It changed my life.

The story goes that a woman, looking for healing in her life, asked and asked and asked for the name of a healer she could visit. “Go to this person,” she was told, ” she is an amazing healer. Everyone who goes receives a special blessing.”

The woman went to the healer and stood in line, as many people were there to receive a healing. She saw people go in bent over, sick and crippled and they would come out walking tall and healed. She grew more and more excited.

The woman reached the doorway, removed her shoes and quietly entered the healing room. The healer sat on a cushion, welcoming each petitioner. She kneeled before the healer.

The healer smiled, leaned forward and told her to repeat, “Thank you for everything, I have no complaints whatsoever,” over and over and then dismissed the woman.

The woman was in shock as she left and then she got angry.Who did she think she was, this healer? THAT was no healing! I was expecting a true, real healing! This woman is a charlatan! She felt embarrassed at having been duped into believing that this woman could heal her.

As she went home, fuming, the phrase kept rolling around in her mind. Thank you for everything; I have no complaints whatsoever, Thank you for everything; I have no complaints whatsoever, Thank you for everything; I have no complaints whatsoever.  Over and over and over. And soon, the woman was healed.

This mantra filled the space in my mind where the chatter and negative self-loops would have been. Whenever I heard those voices of doom, I’d start the repetition. It didn’t matter what other thoughts, the negative ones, tried to seep through the cracks and crevices, I’d overwhelm them with this mantra.

The thoughtforms changed. I moved through and onwards. I remember the sensation I had when I realized the shift had happened and I was able to move forwards again.

When we talk about gratitude, and being thankful for everything we have, we forget to be thankful for the bad that happens in our life. We often say, “I’m thankful for everything I have” when things are unpleasant and we use gratitude to make us feel better. It’s a way of escaping the true muddiness we’re walking through, the sinkhole we’ve fallen into, the crap that is happening around and in us.

When I say this, I am thankful for EVERYTHING… the good, the bad, the ugly, the frustrating, the depressing, the heartbreaking, the falls and crashes, the flying high… everything.

The good and the bad are perceptions and reactions we have of whatever is happening to us. We forget that we bring the thoughts upon ourselves; we don’t take responsibility for them and we try to get through the crap as quickly as possible. What usually happens is that the fight ensnares us and the ties that bind, bind further.

When we can sink in, taking responsibility for our life, being grateful for it all, knowing that there is a way out, the trip is easier. We don’t fight. We let go, we accept, we go to work and we transform.

Thank you for everything, I have no complaints whatsoever.

The (Musician’s) Soul

Music teachers…looking for things they can DO with their kids on Monday. New technique this, new ideas that, new technologies, new ways to include , to diversify, everything you need to know, move, drum, sing, play. (I’ve been at a music teachers’ conference for the past three days)

Music teachers…a daily marathon to inspire, encourage, uplift, direct, pull up, put up, shout out, cheer on

It’s not just here, but in all journeys. Is it the doing or the being that is more important? When a conductor steps in front of a choir, a band, an orchestra, a classroom, a lunchroom, an office full of employees, WHO is it that does the stepping?

We bring all the who we are to all we do.

Resting, emptying, stilling, holding, letting go, living from the centre— these are the things to spend our efforts on, the things music teachers, leaders, directors, managers, visionaries, impulsers need to learn to do with the kids on Monday.

To teach from the inner place, the calm place, the high place, the focused, directed, together place.

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. (Tolstoy)

The only thing we CAN change is ourself. And our relationship and response apparatus.

Do THAT on Monday, and it won’t matter what you do.

Need to Develop a Good Habit? Try stickers!

I used these for my private music students… and now, they motivate, reward and inspire me!

I use stickers, coloured dots and check lists to track my good habit creation. Just like I did with students when we were changing behaviours. Really. I respond to stickers, coloured dots and check lists. I make up games to get them! They are visual. I see them. Day after day. They motivate and reward me. (I’m pretty easy to satisfy. I guess I’m pretty self-directed.)

I DON’T want to see a missed day and eventually, the new habit becomes, well, a habit. I’m a pretty good self-checker.

In my head, at least, consistency is not my strong suit. But I KNOW that repetition is the mother of learning (thanks second year University Russian course—it’s a Russian proverb—and piano practice) and I also KNOW that I get more, better work done when I have my personal practice aligned.

Of course, that sounds all nicey nicey. Knowing and Doing are two different things. It’s hard to find out what works.

I have apparently stumbled upon the way that works for me. For now. I’m hoping this ‘game’ will let me play into a series of good, productive habits that will allow me to create and produce more… and better.

Right now I have several ‘behaviour projects’ underway. And tracking systems to go with them all!

  1. 40- day Mantras on Abundance and Removing Obstacles (thank you Lakshmi and Ganesha)— sticker in my planner
  2. 30-day post-a-day blogging challenge—pink dot on the tracking page
  3. Morning pages—sticker in the planner
  4. Meditation—ditto
  5. 10 000 steps a day walking goal—green dot on the tracking page
  6. stretch, do qi gong, yoga every day—planner
  7. 30 min/day reading of something intellectually challenging —planner

The morning practice is key.

I’ve had several versions of this for nearly 20 years. In the last years before I left teaching, my practice included biking 20 km to work, going into the gym and doing tai qi, leaving by 4:15 and not taking any work home. When I took the bus, I’d get off one stop early and do tai qi in the park, then walk to school. There are lots of ways to develop a habit. Now that I’m at home every morning and needing to accomplish other things, I have a different practice.

Here’s what I do now.

I get up early, make some hot water and fresh lemon juice and get my body awake. I prefer tai chi/qi gong to yoga on the whole. In the summer, I do a form of qi gong called Tao Yin Fa, outside on the grass. I learned it in the summer, and we were outside. I’m a certified practitioner/teacher. There’s a resonance there.

Last winter, I received a Rodney Yee yoga DVD—Yoga for the A.M. For me it’s more important to do something than to choose the right one. I make things simple. Follow the order. Don’t think, don’t fart around with it. Just get on with it. I’ve now resurrected a Tiger Shamanic Qi Gong DVD and put that in the mix. Doesn’t matter. As long as I do something for 15-20 minutes.

Morning Pages

Julia Cameron coined the phrase. Millions have joined the practice. Three pages, stream of consciousness writing. Sometimes it’s profound. Sometimes it’s a to-do list. Sometimes there are diagrams, a shopping list, a wish list, a what not to do list. Sometimes it’s just scribbles. Literally. Or, when it feels like there aren’t words, I write things like “keep writing” or “blah blah blah” or “pen paper scissors porch marble nightstars chocolate blah.” And then I’m off.

It clears my mind like qi gong clears out the chi-webs that form in the night.

Mantra Meditation

I’m on the third 40- day practice. That’s 40 days in a row. Every day. Without a miss. If I miss, I have to start again. Sometimes I’ve had to do it just before bed. But I do it. And that’s the point.

If I can build these small routines into a consistent positive habit, then I figure I can add larger ones. One step at a time.

I also use an emWave with that. This is a biofeedback device developed by the great folks at the  Institute of HeartMath, who researches stress, emotions, heart intelligence, coherence and more. I play a game. I only repeat the mantram when my heart is in partial or total coherence. This means it takes longer than if I simply repeated the mantra.

Meditation

This active form of meditation focuses my mind on a seedthought and orients me towards that for the day. It’s a method of soul contact and integration and includes the Great Invocation and, often, the Gayatri.

THE GREAT INVOCATION *

From the point of Light within the Mind of God
Let light stream forth into human minds.
Let Light descend on Earth.

From the point of Love within the Heart of God
Let love stream forth into human hearts.
May the Coming One return to Earth.

From the centre where the Will of God is known
Let purpose guide all little human wills –
The purpose which the Masters know and serve.

From the centre which we call the human race
Let the Plan of Love and Light work out
And may it seal the door where evil dwells.

Let Light and Love and Power restore the Plan on Earth.

* adapted version
__________________________________________

This is a slightly adapted wording of the Great Invocation which was given out in 1945. In accordance with the changing consciousness and language of humanity as we enter into the Aquarian age, this “adapted” wording for the Great Invocation is offered in the hope that it will encourage wider distribution of this world prayer.

Many religions believe in a World Teacher, knowing him under such names as the Lord Maitreya, the Imam Mahdi, the Bodhisattva, and the Messiah, and these terms are used in some of the Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish versions of the Great Invocation.

Men and women of goodwill throughout the world are using this Invocation in their own language. Will you join them in using the Invocation every day – with thought and dedication? By using the Invocation and encouraging others to use it, no particular group or organisation is sponsored. It belongs to all humanity.

Reading for 30 minutes

I used to read while I was eating breakfast. I didn’t time it, but now that I read for 30 minutes (and time it) I realize I wasn’t reading so much then! And it’s the light stuff… Treatise on White Magic, Esoteric Astrology, and starting tomorrow or Monday, I’m heading into  a new pattern: I’m rotating through The Secret Doctrine… and four others, as yet unchosen.

I’m going to shake things up, though, and work at 3-5 books, 30 minutes a day, a different book for each day of the week, for the energy of the day, or just set them out and pick one up every day. We’ll see. As my father-in-law used to say, usually just before he played a nasty prank on someone, “Ya gotta have fun sometime.” Again.. more important for me to do something than to do the ‘right thing.’

30-Day postaday Blog Challenge

I’ve been sitting on the fence about blogging for several years. Rather, I’ve had blogs, but have had no strategy nor plan. Failing to plan=planning to fail. (quote attributed to Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin and Alan Lakein. I’m going with Win and Ben) It’s been hit and miss to say the least. Mostly, I haven’t shown up. If you don’t show up, you don’t get results. Go figure.

So I decided to push myself to post something every day. Just for the practice. Without pushing for followers, without pushing for comments, without expecting anything. The project is to post something every day and learn. I started on the New Moon of Libra. So far So good.

10 000 Steps a Day

I’m not achieving this and didn’t fully expect to. Plus I was sick for a couple of days and my blood pressure was really low for a day. So, this week, I’m giving myself a break. The realistic target is 5 000 a day and 10 000 several days. When it’s not pouring rain and I’m not in the car, it’s easier. But it isn’t difficult at all if you do a few 20 min walks.

And so it goes. Brendan Burchard, in The Charge, talks about 30, 60, 90-day learning projects. Rather than start at the beginning of the month, I’m working with the first of the month, the new moon, the change of zodiacal sign and the full moon. This gives me a chance to get something underway before a new pattern begins.

We’re in Scorpio, so I’ve set a challenge (which I’m keeping to myself for now) and the Full Moon is coming up, so I’ve set a mental pattern to change over the next 6 months)

And I’m going to use stickers, coloured dots… and maybe even some gold stars. They’re more interesting than simple check marks, no?!

Looking for other ways to inculcate a good habit….

The Struggle

We’ve moved into Scorpio this evening.

Trial, Test, Triumph.

Stay committed. Stick to it. Struggle through Transformation.

Expose the fear, shed the fear, get to the heart of it. Let Neptune transform it.

Dig in. Face the limitations, the obstacles, the tests… I’m gonna get it done.

“Warrior am I and from the battle I emerge triumphant.”

If you don’t have a spiritual struggle, get one… what is the spiritual struggle.

With Saturn now in Scorpio, it’s now time to grow up, overcome the emotional chaos. Commit to the transformation.

What behaviours need releasing? Still, again. More? Are there more? What transformations are possible this month?

My ‘secret’ project begins tomorrow morning. Let’s do it. I’m keeping it secret to keep it sacred. Day by day. Moment by moment. Step by step.

It’s gonna be a fight.

To a triumphant finish.

Week Three- and I’m still at it

Piano

Piano (Photo credit: esc861)

 

Things don’t typically go as planned— my three-time a week at 9 AM practising plan among them.

 

However, I’ve stuck to the hour a day commitment for three weeks now, relaxing a bit about my schedule, just making sure it gets done —in the morning. Showing up is the main thing. Once I walk up the stairs, the next hour of playing is given.

 

Every day has started with drums. Drum sticks on a practice pad. This helps calm my brain, empty it of wandering thoughts and clearing it for focus. It also helps my drumming! Whatever I’ve been pondering up to that point in the morning goes into park, on to the back burner, off to the side, percolating, while I focus on right left right left, in some combination. I remember to breathe, to relax, to have fun doing it.

 

The piano requires a different approach. It’s an instrument I know, one upon which I’ve practised for years, and so know how the practising is ‘supposed’ to go. As I go through scales and arpeggios, broken chords and Hanon, I’m also breaking some old patterns. I don’t have to spend the whole time on one scale. Today, I did 4 or 5 scales, 4 octaves, 2 octave splits, in thirds and tenths, then plowed through arpeggios using the cycle of fifths.

 

This is not revolutionary stuff. However, releasing the old requirement to stick to one scale day after day, has been important. The flow is better now and I’m listening for fluffy notes—those times when my fingers aren’t quite precise enough to hit the key squarely.

 

One note at a time—full and complete and precise and heard.

 

I’ve opened up the Grade 9 book. Didn’t spend much time on it when I was 13, so there are lots of pieces I haven’t played at all. It’s and easy sell. The pieces are easy enough that I can learn them in a few days and interesting enough to provide a challenge—speed, expression, mood, colour.

 

Bach‘s Prelude in C- is my current best friend. It’s such a training and requires a precision I’m looking for in pieces right now. It trains me, leads me, teaches me. I listen. I’m beating my old practice patterns out of myself and Bach insists better than most. For once, I’m really learning a piece, bar by bar, listening, looking, watching my fingers, paying attention to the line, the interweavings. It’s going deeper. I’m going deeper, insisting on precision and right notes and right fingerings— not just letting everything slide under.

 

I have to breathe more, practising this way. I have to relax my shoulders, sit squarely on the bench, start again, go slower and enjoy it. The going slower. How many times did I hear “Slow Down!” when I was a kid. I say the same things now with my students. It really does work.

 

I have no expectations or aspirations — yet. Right now it is enough that I play, and practise and repeat and slow down. It is enough that I do this for three hours a week— and find myself able to do it without difficulty. It is enough that I play up and down the keyboard, using all the things I know. I DO want to get better. Not just on the piano.

 

My hour ran out today without improvising and without playing unusual scales or learning something jazz. I have to watch that I don’t make practising the classical stuff an excuse for not improvising and chopping away at something new.