The way and the shortcuts

I was thinking about how setting a goal shapes the way one takes to reach it.

Where am I going?

Let me pick an example with music, my most familiar environment. Let’s say my orchestra plans to play a given difficult piece for next concert. That goal will influence all rehearsals, filling them with a detailed plan, that includes the progressive steps to the full execution of that piece: separate rehearsals per section, focus on getting to play to the required speed, focus on expression, and finally playing the piece properly from start to finish.

When difficulties arise during rehearsals and it starts to look like we are not progressing as fast as we thought, it’s time to find shortcuts. We simplify our parts, play a little slower than required, remove details. This is where I start to diverge from how one is expected to work. I rarely think about the goal directly, it is for me more of a part of the landscape that I sometimes remember to look at, but my interest is on my immediate surroundings, on the atmosphere at the current rehearsal, on what I can do right now. I’m relieved that someone else is responsible for keeping the boat sailing straight towards the goal, because I just couldn’t! My work is more of a fractal exploration, without direction, with the focus on how I walk, and no eye on the time – in this mindset, shortcuts simply make no sense. I observe and I accidentally also take part to the rehearsal. This is where I’m not offering any grip to the usual motivation talks which sound likeย  “Don’t you feel the pressure, the urge to reach the goal?”. No, I don’t. It doesn’t mean I explicitely avoid it, but simply that it will be the side effect of me having the space to wander at will. I first had to prove that my random exploration takes me to the goal anyway, before I was given the trust to be left free alongside the bridled horses, apparently aimless, for the surprise of some.

I felt that this can be a good parallel with how one works with animals, for example during horse riding. I sometimes get the feeling that the rider has a goal in mind and gets to the point where the test approaches and they start looking for shortcuts, but that is where+why the horse loses connection – because the horse doesn’t seem to think in terms of goals, and the proposed shortcuts look like forced steps that take attention further away from the flow of observation, of being in the present. This gearing up tends to make things work both worse and slower, it requires even more shortcuts, and that brings the opposite of the desired effect!ย  It takes a lot of trust to stop this vicious cycle when the deadline is approaching, but re-focusing on the present seems to me one of the few respectful and efficient ways out.

I hope that makes sense! Let me know if that resonates with you, I’m curious to read about your experiences with deadlines, goals and shortcuts.

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Yoga update: the practice of perception and the avoidance of strain

The yoga class I have been attending since January is becoming really interesting for me. I have been a very sport-averse person until recently, and I have been using my body with the bare minimum of awareness possible. Through this yoga lessons I have finally started to notice that: 1- my body is actually able to do more than sit and walk; 2- practicing a physical activity like yoga requires more than simple strength, flexibility and endurance, and this means: concentration, balance, awareness of posture and alignment, memory (for longer sequences, and the details of each posture), coordination, perception of effort so that it doesn’t harm any part of the body.

BKS Iyengar Sirsasana – from Svenja Karsten’s artwork on svejar.com

At first it was a new activity for me and I was trying to follow the teacher’s instructions, but was often distracted by tension in some part of the body, or had to focus on keeping balance and could not think of anything else. Now I start to notice how I can guide my attention to each part of the body and check if it’s in the right position, if there is the right amount of tension in the muscles and ligaments of that part, then go on to the next one. Sometimes it happens that I feel the overall tension of the body as a whole, that there is a good amount of strength in every part of it, nowhere too much, and I take it as the sign that I’m doing the posture correctly. And it’s so rewarding!

This kind of experience is quite far from my initial learning process with music (and a bunch of other things in life), where usually the opposite worked fine: especially with the drums, I have previously been able to make (temporary) progress by producing a lot of tension on the arm(s) or wrist(s) or finger(s) and therefore produce the sounds at the desired speed and intensity. However, it’s a dead end, because tension is both damaging to the body on the long term, and it is a sign that some technical challenge is being forced through instead of properly processed – and that means that progress actually stops there. Jared Falk mentioned something along these lines in the beginning of a longer video on Drumeo, and I’m glad that there is a convergence among the various disciplines I am practising, so I can reuse the mindset everywhere ๐Ÿ™‚

Bread update: breads from #51 to #60

Yesterday I baked bread #60 in my list, and here are pictures of the last ten breads I baked:

Actually, I have no picture of bread #52, and as you see I have grown a preference for whole grain loaves. I try to keep them interesting by varying the recipes a bit, but I rarely change the shape ๐Ÿ™‚ Making buns require more space to leaven and bake, so it has to be a special occasion!

Happy baking and cooking everyone ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Fox sketches and book recommendation: “Fuchs ganz nah” by Klaus Echle and Anna Rummel

I was looking for great nature photography books in my local libraries and stumbled upon this one, that narrates the friendship between a vixen and two humans: the three met almost every day for a few months in a specific point in the woods, and from there they walked together, with the humans observing the behaviour of the animal and taking pictures. It is a fascinating narration, full of awe and respect for wildlife, and of incredible close-ups of the vixen.

Link to publisher’s page

As I have to give back the book in two days, I decided to draw a few portraits of the fox just now:

As usual, the first two sketches are a bit off. From the fifth onwards I got a better grasp of the typical marks that make the drawing look fox-like: the large ears (still, I made many of them too small), the white patch on the sides of the nose and cheeks with its sharp boundaries, the colour pattern, the black back of the ears, the pointy muzzle. I think the last portrait sums up that quite well. Her ears are really huge ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m getting hooked to this 10-sketch sessions, I’ll post more of them with new species – if you have preferences just leave them a comment below!

Spring leaves

The tree near my bus stop has put on new leaves, and I took a few pictures of its progress:

It was an exceptionally hot week and all plants have quickly grown leaves and flowers, it’s really nice for the mood to see life coming back after this long winter ๐Ÿ™‚

Baking progress: breads #41 to #49

With a short break during the Christmas holidays, my baking streak continues, with mostly positive results ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m learning a lot by baking regularly, and more importantly, by taking notes about how the different steps went (how long the dough was left leavening, how hot was the water, if I used a different flour, how was the texture of the dough after mixing, how did the baking phase go…). It helps me noticing what went well and bring it to attention for the next bread. I have my favourite recipe, the one I’m now sure of the result, but I like to pick up recipes with different flours, that require specific preparation steps (cooking part of the dough in a pot, make two or three pre-leavened doughs, adding lemon to enable the binding of gluten…) just to add interest to the process. One thing I have learned, thanks to a few burnt crusts, is that I can’t leave the loaf in the oven completely alone and keep track of the smell, because it will come too late for me to fix anything. So it’s better for me to stay near the oven for the first 10-15 minutes, when the crust becomes golden-brown, then lower the oven temperature and leave the bread complete the following 20-30 minutes baking phase on its own.

I’m considering to make it a small side job, but I’m unsure if making bread on a larger scale could be too time-consuming, or also difficult. Any ideas or tips about that? Thanks in advance!

Happy new year!

Evening in Veneto

With this post I wish you all the best for the year that just started! I’d like to quote averagefairy, whose wishes resonated in me:

2018 is about little victories. weโ€™re not putting pressure on ourselves to become everything weโ€™ve always wanted to be because nobody can do that in a year. instead weโ€™re focusing on making forward strides and weโ€™re celebrating every single win no matter how small. — source: Tumblr

Speaking of little wins in my radar, I decided to practice drums, yoga, blogging and drawing on a more regular basis. I tested various apps and off-line tools, and I finally chose an app for activity tracking, Loop Habit Tracker. I can set how often I plan to practice a given activity and it produces nice statistics and graphs. I’ll let you know how it works in a future post!