Month: February 2017
It dawned on me: I have so many talented people around me.
Sometimes I make it into a hurtful thing – I start the comparison game. I take some individual with their bag of talents and put them into my shoes, and see how well they would do, how much better they would be at managing the demands of my life, how much more creative they would be at my work.
Thankfully, I always seem to come to the point that it all comes down to this; they are not doing what I am doing nor are they living my life. It’s an individual journey I am having and they are having. It’s all right. Let’s move on.
But they are so talented. I look at them and they are honey to my soul. There is nothing more beautiful to behold than someone who is dancing their passion out.
To me it’s interesting because it’s not natural for me to be like that. I have to learn everything and the basic skills of life as well. I have to balance the abstract with the physical. And somewhere in the whirl of all this management, I have to develop myself and my authentic preferences. I don’t know what my preferences are. I mean, language, yes, but is that it? I look at the talented individuals and they seem to be multipotentialites. They are quick studies. Learn this thing and that thing and sandwich the other in between. And in my case, learning something takes a lot of emotional energy and commitment.
I believe physical location can either facilitate or hinder learning.
At the same time, I am at the point in life where I don’t think it’s of any relevance – the physical location. What matters is how you make it feel to you – you change the feeling about your environment and the environment changes. Now I live in a place which feels much more spiritual to me than any other I’ve been to. England is my energetic home but I have multiple homes and I think it’s a delight to have homes scattered around the world and finding them randomly. It brings so much joy to relax in one of such homes. Crimea is another home of mine. I feel that this is the place where a lot of my development is going to happen. I mean, leaving this place does not feel right and I will stay here. I don’t know for how long but I feel natural here, I feel a learner here. Home can also be a person, not necessarily a place. The point is that having home…nourishes me more than career opportunities and southern climate.
I have been catalyzed into a deeper growth here.
Anyway, what I wanted to say was that it’s all fine having talented people around me, talent is natural. Suppressing it is a bit of a doozy to deal with but as I have already pointed out a million times before – it’s an individual journey – some people use their talents, some people slowly crawl to being able to use them.
Whatever’s your lot, I am sure there is deliciousness somewhere in it.
Much love for you,
My town sits on a beautiful piece of the wildest nature.
Especially in early mornings, when the town is warm and shrouded in deep darkness, I can feel it all – the raw energies of being and more.
The rhythm of this town as I connect to it on my morning run becomes music of sensations and possibilities. And then, sunrise.
I am not going to sugarcoat it – life is almost impossible for me, and talking about sunrise and this sort of thing, makes it tolerable, and sometimes pleasant, and sometimes more. In a way, I am trying to incorporate the bliss feelings into my consciousness, to release my previous years in the place to which I died.
I am aware that classifying things into pluses and minuses is judgement. However, it helps me make sense of my experiences. My experiences are all gone when I meditate though- I find the blue sky to dive in, the ocean along which to flow. It’s the inner journey that is unraveling, revealing itself, and this longest road is for me to take, and my choice remains on the uncertainty side because I don’t know…how to embark on this kind of journey alone. I don’t want to go there unsupported, but am I unsupported? The kind of support that I have in mind is a community of people who form a soul family. However, obsession over building a community like that doesn’t have to prevent the embarking on this road. I mean I am dealing with fear here. That the road will be devoid of love – that’s the greatest fear, the random blockings of love, the sensations of loss and being lost, the guilt, the inability to feel the direction in which to move. Basically, it’s the empty map that is making me so panicked. And that I have to suck it up, be a warrior. What if I don’t want to … what if I am fed up of the idea I should be some kind of hero and win in life, maybe even win life itself, to be so damn nonpareil, to be completely triumphant, graduate from here with success. What if I just want to love, and love softly. What if I want to be honest, and be so softly. What if I want to touch softly, to open softly. What if all I want is complete surrender. What if I am sick and tired of restriction, competition and boxed-in realities. Having experienced depth, I cannot go back. Having experienced love, I cannot go back to like. Having let fire into my consciousness, I cannot go back to lukewarm. I have to either open or perish, and I am scared to open. It feels uncertain, it feels destructive. Something is being destroyed.
My way of dealing with this sparkling, intense reality, which keeps collapsing and rebuilding itself, is meditation.
Recently, I have been in meditation for long stretches of time and I noticed how a new kind of depth has begun to emerge.
I can almost physically feel myself diving into my own consciousness, and I find it…well…fully engaging.
I have to combine this exploration with the physical life and its demands. Physical life assumes different colors and flavours though – it becomes the extension of my creativity, of my meditative journeys.
What scares me about life is the schisms in consciousness. Everybody has an individual consciousness journey. Due to the fact that we still have a lot of consciousness that hasn’t yet incorporated love to the degree that would make conflict impossible, it’s always a possibility that some kind of violence is going to unfold. I’d say this is the scariest element of life for me – because it makes love non-present.
I am on this very private Self journey and I have never intended to fall in love with another being and I did exactly that. The temperature of my being rose.
I rose. I fell. I felt all that “love” hormones’ cascade and so much more. There was gentleness everywhere, I closed my eyes – I was bathing in it, I was trying to remain calm when on the inside, I was performing an exciting, passionate energy dance and what I really wanted was to invite that other being to join in my feast. To celebrate.
What’s different about this particular experience is my openness to it. I try to surrender to it more and more. I try to listen to it. I try to feel into it and with it. And the blooming of this energy of love – I try to allow it to flow through my body, with heat and and fire and
Habit 3 is autonomy.
Autonomy is an art of enjoying a disaster. I’ll explain. When you learn a language on your own, you are up for a lot of chaos. Chaos settling into the English language which continues to develop – the living being which we either respect and are interested in, or which we ignore, preferring instead to stay in the comfort zone of what we have already learned – a loop of clichés and overused words. What I observed is the tendency to hide from the reality of the language, the reality of our inability to learn it, from the fact that we don’t get to that point in our evolution as learners where we can say, that’s it, I know my subject. No such point.
Which translates into fear – fear of further learning. Because if we are too attached to our ego further learning can make us feel small compared to what there is to learn, so we shut off.
I see people obsessing over their levels, adopting a competitive point of view. However. If you don’t compete, nobody can compete with you. In my book, language is neither a competition nor a tool. It is what I have always loved but kept running away from. I admit I also used to feel that it’s better to stay in the bubble – where I think that I can manage to live with only so much knowledge.
However, knowledge is fluid, and the language itself is fluid, and there are days when I think I don’t know anything about it, nothing at all, yet the whole thing is natural to me – to think about the aspects that go into language learning, and learning in general. One of those aspects is emotion. The emotions that are moving the learning process. The process of life. The movement on one side, and on the other – silence, stillness. Today I felt so much movement in the morning. It was me moving, running, connecting with body, and the wind dancing along the streets, I felt it in my hair, on my skin, cleansing my heart and mind.
The warm darkness of my town. Right now I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Moving here was taking the initiative. Taking initiative is mental, emotional, physical movement initiated by yourself. It feels rewarding to take initiative. Taking initiative defines how much progress you make, initiative is autonomy.
Practice of taking initiative is developing an eye for opportunities. Since the limitation consciousness is what we are trained into from the start, it’s absolutely essential to be able to see learning opportunities in order to develop yourself.
By taking initiative, you learn to widen and deepen your life. In terms of language learning, the blatant truth is that the resources for that endevour are internal. The external ones are built on the internal ones, the ones you already have. Many people block theirs – the energy that creates life.
People say that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I don’t really believe in the concept of one being a teacher, the other a student, because of the implied (and false) hierarchy of this relationship. I believe in sharing though, and facilitative presence. But I’ve come to realize that much of conflict happens because we put the same concepts into different words and cannot agree on the words even though we mean the same thing. A conflict about nothing…Human nature has a sense of humour.
Self-facilitation would be another way to describe autonomy. You don’t have to be in a loving relationship with yourself to start autonomous learning although it helps. Emotional journey is inextricable from your learning journey. However, you can start with language if starting with emotions is too much of a task, too intangible in terms of results. Language is a bit more obvious – concentrate on language. Learning opportunities are abound and they require to be fed by your discipline. Discipline means patience and dedication – and a spark of enthusiasm, of fire, that makes your nervous system dance. Dance. It’s either passion or drab.
Openness is a choice. Or is it no longer a choice?
I would go as far as saying that openness is the choice of the brave.
I am still living in the experience of contraction but openness is now my everyday choice. I am not sure I have ever done anything more painful, more joyful than that.
When I came in contact with S, she was a fire. I could feel the energy pulsate in the room. And then, when she started to talk – completely magnetic and pure, I became a swelter of questions.
She had so much to say about emotions, she thought aloud, her words wove this beautiful picture of her consciousness which completely fascinated me. I felt myself expand, at the same time, I felt myself travel deep inside. Even though my focus was completely on her, on what was unfolding, the magic that was filling the room, I sank deeply in, and I encountered myself.
The room was hot, the day was spring. The afternoon sun was spreading over the town, and I felt lost in this brilliant and uncertain universe. I felt that something beautiful was going on but something unstoppable too. The internal earthquake started – and I knew resistance was futile. I just decided to let it go, let the earthquake intensify and break the glass case of protection. All my armory and ammunition was being shattered and rained down – now in form of droplets of light. I perceived my internal space as light now, filling itself and filling itself and filling itself, the process into eternity.
I was in the body, in the lightness of it, in the sharpness of my senses and at the same time, I was falling so deeply in love with nothing in particular…everything…the thin air itself…I forgot who I was, where, why; the internal earthquake was becoming more intense, and I was breaking, I could almost…I could hear myself BREAK…break open, more and more, and to the end.
Well, I knew I was supposed to attend that meeting. Even though my schedule was full, I wanted to go, and when my schedule suddenly cleared, I knew I was going, I didn’t even bother to tart myself up. The way I saw it in my mind’s eye was some kind of café and a lot of tables- islands, and me amongst them, just seeking for the straw of inspiration from this person who had so much heart…I thought it would be about her experience…it turned out to be about her heart.
And she talked about conflict, emotions, passion. It was fire. I could feel this beautiful dance of fire beneath my skin. The heat that was thickening in my chest and wanted to take flight, with no shame, no limits, just flight.
I was intoxicated by my own imagination. By the magic I knew S was regarding as normality. I knew that I could, whatever it was that I wanted to do, I could, to be – I could. The only thing to do was open. Open and love, love and open. And how difficult is that when the pain and dilapidation of the previous years are still lingering in your memory. How can you possibly be okay. Okay? What about the explosive dance of passion as the definition of life? Yes, the room energy was healing, her energy, her consciousness, was healing, and it was like looking in a pure lake which was saying, see, what you see – that’s what you are. I am sure all the people in the room had different experiences of her. We all perceived S and each other differently, which is the manifestation of the diverse imagination of life.
She was so free giving of love. She expressed her feelings. I was thinking about my own experiences of expressing emotions. How I would express then question the whole thing and wonder if I had overdone it, gone over the board, you know – over-expressed love.
It hit me then, that love cannot be over-expressed.
What was happening in my experience was under-expression of love. Taking a snap look of my own situation, I realized I was contracting, pushing, resisting, arguing, running away from, disregarding, ignoring, distrusting, love. I was the source of movement of love. Of movement itself.
A thousand lightening strikes.
I am sure the meeting had effects on other people too, but my effect was that I burrowed deeper into myself, into the raw, into the soft, into the hot. I thought the room was about to catch fire…the way my consciousness caught fire that day, and then broke open. Before leaving that room and after leaving it, I knew there was no way back – I was about to break in a major way, and to break beautifully…all the defenses, and the doubts, and the armory – gone, and gone, and gone.
When I have to deal with the physical world I feel I am the last person for the job.
Sometimes I don’t see things right in front of me; things and I don’t mesh well, but I am thinking, maybe it’s happening because I haven’t developed proper skills for the physical life. As a coping strategy in my childhood, I disengaged from the physical world – it was too painful; and started living in my thoughts, I started to live in the insane mental whirl – I was a thinker, but not a practical one nor the kind of thinker who actually comes up with useful philosophical insights.
In a way, I lost my body and with that, lost a large part of my life, because I was very busy being in the abstract. Who needs extra-curriculum activities! My body had become rigid and uncomfortable (and that was on a good day, when I cared to feel it). I was so busy with this mental life, I thought it was all there was, I mean all there was that was important. That led to stagnation, the kind I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I got stuck in an unpleasant physical environment, I got stuck professionally, fat got stuck in my stomach. I was nowhere, but, looking back on it, that “nowhere” was an illusion. I moved out of it quickly, and I did it over and over again, there is something in us that cannot be stopped.
And I am completely inspired by this ability. The ability to open and let it all come at you and see yourself emerge so clean, so strong, again and again. This ability of never stopping, I caught a glimpse of it through physical movement. As I was moving physically, I moved out of my own way mentally. I moved out of my depression, my thoughts that were creating mental hell. I just moved out of it all, and then physically moved to Crimea, then Sochi, then back to Crimea which I love. I feel a connection with this place, and it breaks my heart – but it only breaks the layers of shallowness and numbness around it – so that my heart becomes more and more, hotter and hotter. Heck, I am never cold in Crimea.
The physical movement is emotional movement. When you want to shake your life, when you want to improve your work – the physical movement moves you toward the desired goal. There’s a ton of research on how exercise makes you smarter and all that. What I find fascinating though, is my own experience, because in order to know what you experience you have to listen to yourself, in other words, feel yourself.
Yes to feeling.
I basically felt myself into closer to physical health. Physical health is a fascinating journey. I can see how body can intuitively choose what it needs – and it’s wonderful. The kind of intuition that can be honed. Another thing is energy, the kind that starts sparkling and bubbling and hooks you up to this tremendous enthusiasm and love for life, penetrating every atom of the thin air. The magic of it all. I can see, sometimes, with my heart, and I fall to pieces because what I see shakes me and breaks me and takes my breath away – the beauty.
However, this energy that comes from physical health which is not separate from emotional health, is what allows me to do creative work, or even consider doing creative work – the work that requires so much learning, dedication, development and love.
That’s why I decided to start. I decided to start many things, but starting tomorrow – I’m a jogger. I am going to run to the beach at about 6 o’clock in the morning, straight to the sunrise.
Habit two is Deep practice.
I always try to be better but I have come to realize that there is no end destination. There is no end point. You are on this journey of being with language. I feel supported on my journey, I don’t know what it is supporting me, but I can feel it, right there, in the thin air.
Deep language practice means you really, seriously love it. You are in a relationship with it. It’s a gentle but fierce relationship. What do you want? The more mastery you want, the higher the price, the more dedication is required, the more work needs to be done, the more understanding needs to be experienced. The more needs to be felt.
I will now outline the most salient points of deep practice.
First things first, Begin with yourself. Come to terms with the idea that you are now going to embark on a journey with no destination, in and out of which people will flow, fiascos and deep friendships, healing expansion, painful expansion. Your box will crack open and you will see the blinding sunlight, and maybe you will feel the brilliance of it in your own bones, neither reflecting nor originating, you simply being the brilliance.
Technical practice needs to be emotional practice. Emotional core of yourself – that is your study, your subject, your research. The deeper you know yourself, the more you are able to learn, the more open to learning you become.
Now notice. What I see all the time is automatic hovering over the language surface – no deep engagement, penetration, wonder. I wouldn’t call it a mistake because I don’t think there’s such a thing. I’d call this language malpractice: not-noticing, of which I am guilty,guilty,guilty. Just stop. Just notice. Notice this word. Look at it. Feel into it. Notice the words around it. Notice how they clothe the meaning. Notice how they sing themselves into a line that rolls off your tongue ever so softly. Language is a soft river of memory.
Train your memory. Language is your memory. Memory is emotional. Emotional experiences are easier to remember. They are remembered for long. That’s why we try to emotionalise language – your second language, your third language? Get rid of the labels. Feel and let yourself notice.
Noticing happens when you practice being in the now, being in the language, being in the word, being in the text, being in someone’s voice. Noticing happens when nothing else does.
Write about your experiences with the language. Write something in that language – a poem. Let yourself open like that. Let yourself be gentle, expressive, all heart and no sleeve. Let yourself be, let it.
Intensity. Last night I was lying in bed after another fantastic day near the sea. I was thinking “What I love about the sea is its intensity, its complete integrity, its unrestrained desire to be itself.” Today at the beach I had a heart tugging experience with a black cat. She was sitting on the stone ledge of one of the pillars on which the open café’s roof rests. I noticed her and approached, sending a positive intention towards the cat. She looked at me with her foxy yellow eyes and curved her body around the pillar, then looked at me again and I stroked her thick silky black fur. I connected to the cat – instantly and powerfully, so much so I forgot to take a picture. There was openness inside me – the door that flung open to embrace the cat, the sand, the sea, the sky, everything. I call this experience intense connection – it’s intense because I am not usually connected like that- my heart lying at the paws of this gorgeous black creature. I felt my heart in her heart, myself as her. That’s what I call perspective shifting – it’s available – all that you risk is vulnerability. Complete, total, loving vulnerability. Now, regarding language learning, you can shift into the perspective of an excellent communicator or even a native speaker. Start viewing yourself as someone who is proficient, or strives toward proficiency – connect to your desire for excellence. The desire for excellence is the driving force, the force so great, nothing will stop you.
Practice deep thinking. Here I am talking about opening your mind. Going deep allows you to emerge with a better idea of the underlying principles of things, going deep allows you to assemble more wonders of the world, that includes language. Imagine language as an ocean. If you practice working with fear, anxiety, ambiguity – you will become a natural deep waters swimmer. Deep swimming requires that you dance with fear. At the bottom, at the roots, deeper and calmer waters allow you to experience clearer vision of what’s going on, and you can find breathtaking views – breathtaking experiences, then emerge on the surface (if you wish) with so much experiential treasure. It’s impossible not to be a good swimmer if you are going deep and risk learning in that kind of water.
Hours. This one is a very practical tip –you put in the hours. As many as possible. If you cannot practice, if you are left without a computer, a pen and a paper, without a book even, you can use your mind’s eye. Your imagination is your first and last and most potent freedom. That’s where you practice. That’s where you get more experience. That’s where you feel for what you want.
What do you want?
It’s time to talk about what it means to be a successful language learner, or a learner in general. The principles I’ve come up with are equally operational in other areas of learning. This article talks about habit one: Emotional Fitness.
Emotional fitness. We are incredibly emotional, that is we are human. Learning is inextricably linked to emotionality. Language learning is even more so because it is a communicative skill (unless you learn it to read books) – you will use it in interactions. People have individualities and emotional make-ups. Conversation is not just words but an emotional connection between you and another person. That connection may be absolutely there or it may not. What I call a conversation is language plus this emotional connection which means we are stepping into the enigmatic field of emotional intelligence. Emotional connection which is being present, is a practiced skill, in other words, it’s another thing to learn.
Emotional fitness or emotional intelligence is a broad subject about which I could talk for days but I want to touch on what I consider the most salient areas to master in order to accelerate that language learning of yours.
Extroversion. Even if you are not extroverted at all, being social seriously helps in case you want to make words come out of your mouth. You can either clam up or approach people. Frightening. I used to experience abhorrent episodes of anxiety which were cured by social engagement which happened to be the very thing I wanted (and want?) to run from – long and hard and forever. I still continue my social engagement practice even though it’s mostly one on one conversations – they are the salve for my anxiety burnt system.
Ambiguity. This is seriously vital – to be able to function in a world where things can be interpreted in more than one way, where meanings have various shades, where words are inexhaustible in the hues of their meanings, where how you say things can shift and shaped and re-clad in ways the amount of which is at mercy of your imagination.
Failure. Total fiasco. Crash and burn episodes of life. Now, this requires emotional dealing with. Rare person is properly equipped to deal with that. Language learning fiascos equal social embarrassment. And who wants that. Emotional intelligence is the underlying force of success, especially when we are describing something as enormously human as language.
As if all of the above is not enough in terms of the emotional challenge language learning presents, there is the element of stick to it which can scarcely be ignored. It’s not only technical linguistic practice that awaits you each day, it’s the emotional practice of being with something long-term, honestly engaged, honestly interested.
Positivity. I am really excited by the research findings of Barbara Frederickson of Berkley university on positive emotions. She found out that positive emotions broaden and expand us. Barbara thus pioneered “the broaden and build” theory.
Her research shows that positive emotions make us better at everything, make us more “unified with others” that is kinder human beings, and oil success. When I think about the implications of this theory for language learning, I realize that it opens unlimited possibilities for us as learners in terms of mastery and excellence. Growing genuine positive emotion makes you a more proficient language learner! I have to admit it is one of the pleasantest surprises of my life. Thank you, Barbara.
End of habit one…