What better time for renewal than when a new year and a new decade is upon us? If you're like me, you're shaking your head and wondering where the time has gone. So much has changed and yet, paradoxically, it hasn't.
I won't be making any resolutions as I hang 2020 on the wall. Instead, I do my Quick Year-Planning Exercise - Stop! Start! Continue... activity.
Although I've not quite stopped one bad habit - food addiction, namely to sweets - I've made vast improvements in that area, attested by the fact that I am (finally) at the same weight that I was in Grade 7! Intermittent fasting agrees with me.
A dear friend and I were discussing how important it is to our well-being to explore new ventures. I realized that I had fallen into a rather too comfortable space and that I needed to start adding some new ventures and adventures to my repertoire. My "stories" were becoming repetitious - a sure sign that I was in arrears when it came to renewal.
Our running joke is "I've got an excuse for that!" It covers a multitude of reasons (sins?) for why we aren't/haven't/can't/won't do something that adds width, depth and breath to our days. The rushing river that is this past year has overflowed its banks far too often for comfort. While I legitimately "have an excuse for that," I know that I can wade into the shallows and get my feet wet in some new activities.
I've been reading about the importance of maintaining cognitive health. The literature suggests challenging oneself by learning something new. What you choose to learn should be "Goldilocks" in nature - it should challenge you but not overwhelm you. In other words "just right" enough to exercise your brain.
"Learning new skills may improve your thinking ability, too. For example, one study found that older adults who learned quilting or digital photography had more memory improvement than those who only socialized or did less cognitively demanding activities." - Cognitive Health and Older Adults
Get out and explore, either close to home (your neighbourhood or city), or further afield (province, state or country). New vistas, new experiences and new social connections serve to broaden your horizons and shift your perspective.
How to Train the Aging Brain, published in The New York Times, suggests:
"Educators say that, for adults, one way to nudge neurons in the right direction is to challenge the very assumptions they have worked so hard to accumulate while young. With a brain already full of well-connected pathways, adult learners should 'jiggle their synapses a bit' by confronting thoughts that are contrary to their own, says Dr. Taylor, who is 66.
Teaching new facts should not be the focus of adult education, she says. Instead, continued brain development and a richer form of learning may require that you “bump up against people and ideas” that are different. In a history class, that might mean reading multiple viewpoints, and then prying open brain networks by reflecting on how what was learned has changed your view of the world."
How can you blur, or to quote Dr. Taylor, "jiggle," the boundaries of "I know what I like and I like what I know," which is an indication that at a certain stage in life you tend to know yourself? It could be as simple as following someone whose politics are on the other side of the fence. I know, I know. It would be that much easier if one could be guaranteed a respectful conversation - one that didn't regress to playground antics.
You could attend Town Hall meetings or library lectures. Here in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University hosts a Philosophers' Café where the discussion is often robust, or so I've heard. There's a start for me.
Another start is that I'd like to learn a musical instrument. However, my hands and my hearing are the roadblocks. Nonetheless, my plan is to visit a music shop to test-drive some instruments.
A word of caution for new adult learners. Be aware of the stages of learning. You can read about it here on Acting: Thinking to Doing - Part 1.
Instead, Stop, Start, Continue serves as a direction-finder. It's somewhat "Scrooged" in nature - tilling the past, present and future in order to "respirate" and renew my commitment to living as well as I can in 2020.
I need to improve upon the skill of asking myself more open-ended questions, such as:
- How do I find novelty in the way I do some things?
- How do I develop...?
- How do I be more creative in...?
- What is the best way to...?
- How do I want this activity/conversation to go?
- How do I end this conversation on a high note?
By asking these questions, I let my brain go to work, even when I'm not consciously thinking of the question. By doing this, I am cultivating the "beginner's mind." Wikipedia describes the "beginner's mind" or Shoshin, as:
"Having an attitude of openness, eagerness and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would."
On Make it Simple in 2020, my online friend Beth Havey provided a quote which is timely, especially for this post.
“Live your questions now and, perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers.” - Rainer Maria Rilke
In 2020, May You:
- Enjoy wealthy health and healthy wealth, too!
- Let go of suffering and have increasing moments of calm and peace.
- Experience a renewal of spirit, in whatever way is important to you.
- Have a Happy New Year!