Learn and Have Fun Learning

All of us start off as bright, innocent kids. Endlessly curious about the world around them. Good singers, artists, communicators. Expressive. Filled with life.

Somehow, as we become socialized into adults, we lose that spark.
Some of us become perfectionists. We constantly evaluate, judge, and criticize everything we do. There’s a constant self-anxiety and shame. It becomes hard to concentrate. Feeling bad, our minds are endlessly anxious and loose rather than focused and relaxed.

I’ve been working on rekindling the bright, creative, and action oriented mode of children and the stupid.

Part of that has been learning how to sew. I spent at least thirty minutes watching videos and practicing how to thread a needle and tie a knot. I practiced on a napkin and paper. I fixed a few broken cushions. It wasn’t a great job, looked pretty terrible, and one of them broke again. But it worked and most of all I’m learning and having fun while doing so.

Today, I went to the hardware store and bought 4 caster wheels and a board. I wanted to make a cart so it’s easier to move large bulky items like beds around the building. Rather than perfect the drilling holes and get the perfect piece of wood, I just went for it. By the end, I realized I made a great and dangerous skateboard and zoomed around the room before finally falling on my ass.

I also bought a shelf and two brackets. Again, I did some minimum measurements and leveled it a bit. But mostly I just went for it and now have a wall shelf.

For perfectionist and intellectual folks like me, the temptations is always to keep planning and doing everything but the actual actions which involve making mistakes. I want to close that loop between learning, trying, feedback, and learn again.

And have a whole lot of fun in the process.

We Do It For The Children

Growing up, my mother used to tell me, “when you have kids, you’ll understand.”

I didn’t like that answer. I still don’t. But I think I do understand more even though I don’t have kids.

It’s feels really hard sometimes. Living this monastic life. Trying to build something new within a great deal of uncertainty and change. Cultivating this community and culture. Key word here being “feels”. Because, for the most part it’s a good life.

The challenge is that we run towards our shadows. We continually work to face the truths within ourselves and with each other that we deeply don’t want to face. To live fully present is to be fully alive without anywhere to hide.

It’s funny. People don’t say it more often. But meditation retreats are obviously the happiest and best experience for a lot of people. Yet, there’s something deeply disturbing at the thought of doing it continuously. The actual retreat itself can be hellish for most of us at times.

And in those challenging moments, facing my angels and demons, letting go of who I think I am, viscerally working through the repressed parts of myself, shedding all the stable reference points, many many times I don’t want to continue, don’t think I can continue. Don’t think I should continue.

Lately, more and more, I think of children. What sin has these children committed? What sin has the Earth committed?

And who will protect them? Who will guide them? Who will help them?

If everyone is satisfied with their patch of mixed truth and lies to live a good-enough, comfortable-enough life, who will guide the kids of the future?

Somehow, that helps thinking of the kids.

Out of love for the innocent, I’ll do whatever it takes or at least try to.

Defining Success For Today

One of my favorite activities at the monastery is washing dishes.

I love washing dishes because it’s repetitive, it’s mostly physical, and the end point is obvious. These traits are the opposite of my office work where it’s often unclear when the work is done, mostly mental, and novel situations.

Because mental, office and creative work is so nebulous, I find it’s important to have a way to define the scope of work and define what is good enough. Too many people burn themselves out trying to do as many tasks as possible and still feel unsatisfied at the end of the day. At the same time, they’re often doing unimportant tasks where a lot gets done but doesn’t feel like it really mattered.

In order to overcome these obstacles, I find it’s important to do a few steps:

  1. Define your big goals, what’s the most important things to do? For me this includes the monastery, circling, meditation, health, and friendships.
  2. Work backwards from the big goals to what are the projects and tasks?
  3. Each day prioritize at least 2-3 most important tasks tied to those big goals.

If I complete those most important tasks then my day is a success.

Metaphorically speaking, there are more “dishes” (tasks, projects) than I have time to do each day. So, I’m choosing what are the most important ones that fit my given day / week / month. If I do them then I’ve succeeded.

Detox Non-Fiction

Before, I wrote about my experiment going a month without fiction books. It went very well. I found my attention moved towards reading more non-fiction instead. While I enjoyed reading new things, I still felt like the non-fiction was more of a distraction than a positive.

So, I decided to go one step further by removing any new non-fiction reading for the next month too.

My rule is:

  1. No Fiction Reading
  2. No New Non-Fiction Books (Exception: unless balanced with practice/implementation)
  3. Allowed to Read Non-Fiction Books for the sake of note taking review & implementation

This next month (Feb-March), my aim is to implement the skills and learning from my reading. I find it’s too easy to continually read more and more without any of the knowledge translating to a positive impact on my life or behavior. Instead, the reading is information-porn that feels good in the moment but doesn’t provide benefit in the long run.

Part of my motivation came recently from reading my old notebooks. I noticed the same goals year after year to learn swimming or implement systems like cloud backing up my data. Yet, I kept pushing these projects off.

I could always argue that I’m too busy to add any new activities. After all, I live in a metamodern monastery. My schedule is tightly regimented. Where would the time come from?

Yet, the truth is I had no trouble finding time to read many hours each week .

So, my biggest time sink appeared to be reading. I had already severely limited my social media (see my facebook post). I rarely watch television shows or movies. I don’t play video games. But reading is a huge part of my week. By cutting out reading, I can devote time towards practice and implementation of these projects and skills.

Surprisingly, it hasn’t been too difficult to cut out reading. I think like porn, reading was a way to fill time and feel some pleasure. But I find enjoyment in practicing these skills and projects too, there’s just an initial resistance to starting them.

It’s not all perfect though. The one stumbling block is reading online articles. I get into research obsessions like RV dwelling, mini PCs, phone/computer automation, best ways to backup, and more. I found myself spending hours reading everything I could about these obscure topics. At the end of the day though, all that research is only useful if I implement them into my life. I’m not sure what to do about this except ruthlessly plan, track, and review my time.

So, what am I doing with this extra time that used to be spent reading?

One of my current side projects is to learn basic hand sewing. It took me thirty minutes to find the best way to thread a needle and tie a knot. It took me another thirty minutes to sew my first button. On one hand, this seems like a waste of time. On the other hand, I can always do these basic sewing things now. More importantly, it’s helping me to practice a new way of learning with fun, patience, and curiosity rather than perfectionism and anxiety. That’s worth more than reading another book or even the skill of sewing itself. I’m learning how to learn better.

For years, I’ve worried about backing up my computer files and finally came up with a good, free solution. With my laptop recently dying (resurrected with a new battery), the urgency of backing up my files became more important. I had previously backed everything manually using an external HD. But, I’ve been robbed before and lost my external HD so that didn’t seem the best, final solution. After some murking around, I discovered Google Drive now has a better backup/sync app that allows you to choose any folder/file on your computer as well as do only one-way sync without automatic deletion. So, now I can backup my important folders to Google Drive without having to download any of my google drive files. I can also delete files on my computer and they stay on Google Drive. Cloud Backups Done.

I’m also re-reading the Work Clean book to systematically learn the values, habits, and behaviors to practice this way of being, this way of excellence involving focus, discipline, planning, continuous process improvement, and presence.

Eventually, I’m sure I’ll re-introduce more books to my life. For now, I’m going the extreme of practice 80%, reading 20%.