Thoughtful learning …

Learning is a science, an art and a skill that has to be acquired. In my opinion ‘learning to learn’ is probably the most important lesson anybody can have in life. However in my experience I find that most people have not mastered the technique of learning well.

I often see people who are impatient, hurried or mechanical. The process of learning requires complete attention to the act of learning. We must focus on what is being learnt and how our mind and bodies act & react during the process. For e.g. if we are learning to swim we must completely and fully feel every stroke that we make. We must feel our body balance in the water. We must concentrate on our breathing. There is a enormous amount of thought that should accompany the act of swimming. I usually notice people get into the water and mindlessly splash like a pro and get nowhere in the process. Similarly if we are learning to play a musical instrument, say the violin, we must feel the pressure of string below the bow, we must listen carefully to the sound that the bow makes, and our mind must start its own timing mechanism.  If we rush into the process of learning we usually fail. If we fail a couple of times we are really setting ourselves for frustration.

Learning is a slow and deliberate process. Learning is almost like writing a software program where we determine the steps for progress while also taking into consideration how we determine if we are not on the right path.

The process of learning requires a constant feedback which we send to ourselves. We have to completely aware of the continuous feed back that our minds, our bodies send back at every instant and we must be able to adjust in real time. This is extremely critical to making real progress in learning.

Learning a subject, learning to program or learning to paint or all similar. Learning has always to be accompanies by loads of thought. This is what I call “thoughtful learning’.

For my part I am still learning …

Gita’s principles for peak performance

Performance, peak performance – these are the buzz words we hear all our life right from our academic days to our professional years. The Gita provides us with some profound insight on how to derive peak performance on all fronts. During my younger days I have been puzzled by these lines of the Gita which says “Therefore do your duty without any attachment to the fruits of your work”. I used to wonder why we should do our duty unmindful of the results of our action. The Gita is not telling us that we disown any fruits that our actions may result in. Rather the Gita enjoins us to perform actions unmindful of the fruits or the thoughts of success or failure. If we ponder on this wisdom, it is obvious that what is required is a single minded focus on the job at hand. The person is required to perform to the best of his abilities without worrying about the results of such action or in other words “Niskama karma ” or desireless action.

If we were to become conscious of the results and if there were any expectation of praise or worry about resulting criticism then the effort becomes that much diluted. There is a Chinese proverb that also indicates this as “He who chases two rabbits catches none”.It is therefore necessary that we concentrate on the action at hand and later worry about the results. If a performer on a stage is conscious about his performance while performing then he is bound to become nervous and his performance will suffer. When an archer is focusing on a target there should not be any lingering thoughts on whether he will hit the target or not. The only thing in his eye and his mind’s eye should be the target and nothing else. He is certain to hit the target if there is such concentration. The Gita summarizes this as “He attaches nothing to the results of his action. He doesn’t need a purpose to motivate him to action.”

So the key here is not that we should disown any success, but rather understand God’s play in all humility, and perform our actions with great focus and concentration for the best possible results.In fact an unalloyed attempt in performing any action is bound to be much better than action in which there are nagging thoughts about either resulting praise or criticism. So for peak performance and excellent results the action and the results of the action should not be considered simultaneously and the work should be performed with single mindedness and focus. Therefore one should perform one’s duty with total concentration devoid of thoughts of the fruits of one’s action.

Tinniam V Ganesh