Recovery is key

Not only do most deliberate practitioners not spend all day at it, they also devote a lot of time to recuperation and recovery. They sleep as much as their bodies need. They nap if necessary. They take frequent, refreshing breaks. Most of us understand that rest is necessary after physical activity. But we can underestimate its importance after mental activity, too. Deliberate practice needs to be sustainable for the long term. How long a person keeps at a skill is often far more important than how many hours a day they spend on it.

~ Farnam Street from, https://fs.blog/2021/04/deliberate-practice-guide/

I’m going to trot out a rare: HOLY CRAP! Because that post is a small book on deliberate practice. If you’re only up for some skimming, click through and smash-scroll to the summary and book list at the bottom of that post.

Then I’m going to briefly stride over one of my fave soap boxes: Sleep.

…and settle onto pointing out that I make a deliberate practice out of working on writing these blog posts. I’ve been working, (off-and-on, one break involved some lawn mowing,) for four hours this morning from that one Farnam Street post. I’ve read it, blogged [this] about it, posted about it in another community, captured a few quotes, learned more about the Oddyssey, and wrote a blog post about a common Homer quote.

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The great ability

Depending on how willing a person is to take this experiment seriously, they will at some point discover why human beings have made such a big deal of the Great Ability. To the degree you can meet experience exactly as it is, without resentment, it ceases to cause you suffering and drive your behavior.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2020/09/the-inner-superpower-that-makes-us-human/

Unless you live under a rock—or “lived” under a rock since you’re not now under a rock; Welcome to the Internet! :)

Unless you live under a rock you’ve heard about “mindfulness practice” and “meditation” and probably “Metta” and maybe “one-point” and “zen” for sure. Cain hits it right out of the part, without even swinging, just by setting it out clearly. Every single time I realize I’m not currently exercising the great ability, I immediately pull myself back to it.

Now if only I could realize it more frequently.

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Convenience

I’m not a full-on coffee snob; I’m more like a middling, level 14, coffee-snob-poser. I’ve had world-class pour-overs—beans weighed to the gram, water temperature to a specific degrees, controlled pour-over rate, beans roasted by the person brewing, one 8oz cup at a time—and I’ve made instant coffee from freeze-dried crystals… “Any port in a storm,” as they say. But most of my coffee is upper-middle: A local roaster’s beans, but ground incorrectly using a Krups bladed grinder, then electric-drip brewed, using filtered water. It’s fast, it’s reproducible, it’s a solid middle-ground “good.”

Recently I’ve been percolating coffee over a Whisper Lite gas camping stove. This is super fiddly. Set up the gas stove, connect gas canister, hand bur-grind beans, set up the percolator, (picture old-timey cowboys around a campfire,) set up the wind-screen around the stove, light stove with match, balance the percolator on the stove’s spindly, (but super-strong stainless steel,) legs, crank up the gas, (audible, I’m-not-kinding-around-over-here roar,) then about 5 minutes to boil the water, dial the gas down to a whisper, check the time and get a nice perc going—but not a rolling boil—then hover close-by for ten minutes… turn off gas, wrap stainless steel pot in a tea-towel cozy…

There are a million things in life that we do every day, quickly. Selecting one or three and intentionally doing them the less-convenient way is the absolute-best salve for the hustle-bustle busy and mental noise we create for ourselves.

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Focus on what’s before you

And when you’re distracted? See what’s distracting you and choose, mindfully, what’s most important in that moment. Maybe what’s distracting you is worth your time after all.

But where your energy goes is where you’re going.

~ Hugh MacCleod from https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2017/06/27/how-to-stay-focused-at-work/

Slowly I changed how I interact will waiters, how I reply to email, how I use my phone (note particularly that I use it and it never uses me,) how I chop wood, how I show up for video calls, how I walk, and so on, and so forth…

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Mindless or mindful?

Have you noticed how often we all repeat what we say?

Too many people simply begin talking at another person, before having obtained their attention. This happens all the time! Once you start to notice it, it’s everywhere.

Too many people aren’t paying attention. Although, I suspect it’s partly in response to too many people [and computers and phones and our entire culture] clamoring for their attention, that they’ve stopped paying attention as a self-defense mechanism. Withholding attention shifts the default setting of how attention-getting something must be to actually get their attention.

Many years ago we create a house-rule that we would not talk to each other unless we were in the same room. It took a long time until it became the norm in our house. No shouting from one room to another with a question, or an order. How often do things like, “Hey, could you…” travel from room to room in your home? Our rule forces us, when I want your attention, to go to you. This puts some actual effort onto me, exactly where it belongs. No one is permitted to call from the living room, “Hey, can you bring me…” because we both know full well we should get up and get it ourselves.

Settling into that rule was tough. But part two was far harder. Improving the other side of the exchange: that of the person who is being interrupted, even if it is ever so politely, by a demand for attention. Having reached a point where we each travel to the other, (the first part,) we then had to learn to treat the arriving person with respect, (the second part.) For example, when I’m knee-deep in computer work and she arrives, I had to learn to pause from my work and turn my full attention to this person who is vastly more important than anything happening in my computer. Frankly I’m still working on this.

After a few years of all of the above, I noticed my attention was becoming a much sharper tool in my interactions out in the world. Some of this was surely due to years of martial arts training, but much of the change was due to my intentional practice described above.

(Then I realized just how much of my attention my phone was demanding, and I fixed that shit right quick. Then I threw my participation in social networks under the bus.)

Now, I see countless examples of mindlessness any time I venture out into the regular world. But I also see examples of mindfulness! They’re not as common, but some people I encounter are awake. Some people I encounter are interested and interesting. Some people’s presence make the immediate area a better place.

Which are you, mindless or mindful?

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Waiting for the next one

What, I can experience an entire trip to the mall without sighing, grimacing or silently cursing? I can sit through an entire red light without fidgeting? I can make (or miss) my connecting flight without losing my shit even once? Can I live my whole life this way?

We can, if we’re willing to give time, as a habit. Nothing else makes sense really—it’s just experimenting with a willingness to live in reality as though there’s nowhere else to be. (Not that there ever was.)

~ David Cain, from http://www.raptitude.com/2016/07/how-to-be-patient/

Occassionally I get the urge to attend a week-long, silent meditation retreat. (For example, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vipassanā retreats.)

Why?

Because sometimes I experience small periods of blissful serenity. I’d particularly like to be able to go there on a more regular basis. It seems to me that spending about 10 days doing nothing but meditating in silence would be a delightfully mind-altering experience.

Rarely, but with increasing frequency, I find myself enjoying sitting pefectly still. Doing perfectly nothing. Paying attention to the moment instead of being completely obliterated by an endless torrent of thoughts. Eventually a thought which I deem worthy enough arises urging me to go do this, or check on that, and I rise from my glimpse of serenity.

I always wonder what would happen if I just kept thinking: That’s not quite worth getting up for just now, I’ll wait for the next thought.

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Serenity

The most prominent quality of this state of presence is the quiet that comes over the outside world. You can still hear the city noise and traffic, but the loudest thing has gone silent, which is your normal mental commentary.

~ David Cain, from https://www.raptitude.com/2014/03/how-to-stop-your-mind-from-talking-so-much/

Sometimes I manage to bring myself to the present moment.

Sometimes a feeling of serenity appears.

Sometimes I notice I’m staring at the horizon with a benevolent feeling suffusing my existence.

It happens too rarely.

Each time it does, in the subsequent moments—as I’m dragged down from that brief enlightenment by my personal zombie horde of thoughts—I’m left only with a echo…

MEMENTO MORI

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Feeding the mind

https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/08/21/lewis-carroll-feeding-the-mind/

I wonder if there is such a thing in nature as a FAT MIND? I really think I have met with one or two: minds which could not keep up with the slowest trot in conversation; could not jump over a logical fence, to save their lives; always got stuck fast in a narrow argument; and, in short, were fit for nothing but to waddle helplessly through the world.

~ Lewis Carroll

What an interesting metaphor! Can a mind be overfed? Can a mind undergoing regular, additional exercise require more feeding? Are there different diets—composition of the nourishment, not strategies to lose weight—for the mind?

Am I the sort of person who takes seriously the specifics of nutrition and exercise of the mind?

What would “junk food” be for the mind? What would “comfort food” be for the mind? What’s the equivalent of quadrupedal movement for the mind? What would over-training be for the mind?

…and why do I have the urge to dump out the “cabinets” where I store my mind’s nourishment in order to reboot my mental diet?

No answers today. Only questions.

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§16 – Don’t be that guy

(Part 28 of 37 in series, Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

Serendipity.

I’ve been working on writing these thoughts for over three years. Without actually checking, I think it was the Fall of 2015 when I sat in Le Jardin Joan d’Arc and read my copy of Thibault’s book in one, all-day sitting. Almost 4 years ago?

I created this particular blank note for Chapter 16 in May of 2016. “16”?

As I’m writing, it is May of 2019. Another, “May”?

About three years ago I started the project which eventually became Movers Mindset. Two years ago the project grew to include a podcast.

This morning, I feel compelled to “finally” get around to writing something for Chapter 16. I open my digital copy, flip to Chapter 16, and I read, “Chris ‘Blane’ Rowat once wrote…”

Care to guess who I am interviewing for the podcast today? Yes, really.

This is sublime.

All those threads woven together lead to this moment of realization at 8:00 in a rented London flat, 6,000km from my home.

Critically, while I’ve known for months the exact date and time of Chris’ interview, I’ve not read Chapter 16 recently enough to have remembered that it starts with his sentiments. If I had, I’d certainly have made some complicated plan to co-publish this writing and the podcast, or something—but this serendipity would not have materialized. Energized by the jolt of adrenaline when I read Chapter 16 this morning, I now feel a renewed belief in the entire Movers Mindset project! (Which is good, because most days there’s more strenuous labor than love in the labor of love.)

But, serendipity and coincidence are bullshit.

It’s just my brain, (yours may be the same,) working its tremendous powers of pattern matching. This morning my mind found a slightly-more-interesting-than-usual pattern and screamed, (ala the old adrenal gland,) that it had found something that demanded much closer attention. I’ve been spurred to carefully read Chapter 16 about five times this morning, to mull over my thoughts, to spend an hour or so writing, and to think of all the people I want to share this story with. I was inspired to create a vision of how the interview will go, new questions have popped into my head, and I’ve thought of a specific person who I now realize I’d forgot for about two years!

I wonder: What would life be like if I simply paid closer attention?

What if—instead of needing a kick in the adrenals to be this motivated—I could begin to intentionally notice things a bit smaller than this morning’s coincidence?

What if!

…and of course, “don’t be that guy.”

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The letting go

https://www.librarything.com/work/294031

When our mind is tranquil, there will be an occasional pause to its feverish activities, there will be a letting go, and it is only then in the interval between two thoughts that a flash of UNDERSTANDING—understanding, which is not thought—can take place.

~ Bruce Lee

I’m not sure I’ve experienced the not-thought which is that flash of understanding. I think things are even more simple; Year after year, as I quiet my mind, understand simply expands into the new space.

Regardless, tranquility is key. Pausing is key.

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