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5 Steps to a Zen Commute

5 Steps to a Zen Commute

“I love sitting in traffic,” said no one ever.

You have to get from A to B, B to C, and C to D. You need to get groceries, go to work, get to the gym, and maybe you would like to go out for a drink. Let’s face it – most of the time that involves getting into your car. And if you live in a big city, more often than not, it also involves traffic. How can you make that time less stressful and more zen?

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Here are 5 tips:

1. Listen to an audio book.

How often do you complain that you do not have enough time to read? How much time do you spend in the car? Why not use this time to check a book off your to-do list, or learn about something new that interests you? Here’s the best part: the library. The library has hundreds of audiobooks to be checked out – for free! When you have an audio CD, it automatically stops and starts up again when you get in and out of your car. No playing around with your cell phone, no problems if you are in a rush and cannot find where you left off last. Audio CDs make it simple and efficient to listen to in the car. You’ll be surprised when you find yourself nodding in agreement with your latest self-help book, or laughing out loud to a celebrity autobiography. Your commute goes by faster, and it does not feel like you are just sitting in your car wasting time.

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2. Find your calm.

What symbolizes calm to you? Find a small object or picture that reminds you of calm: a picture of a beach, a pinecone, a flower, a pebble, or a picture of your family. Whatever it is, hang it from your mirror or place it somewhere close to you. When you are feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to hold your calming object. Reconnect with your breath. Change your perspective and realize that change is the only constant in our lives, and this frustrating or exhausting experience will end. Make the choice to breathe. You do not have to judge yourself or change how you are feeling. Just breathe. Yes, you would probably like to be anywhere but in your car, but here you are. How can you connect with this moment?

3. Be grateful.

When you find yourself slipping down the slope of self-pity, begin to list all the things in your life you are thankful for. If you are on your way to work, that means you have a job, and that is something to be grateful for. If you are headed to pick up your kid, they will probably tell you a funny story on the way home and make you laugh. If you are headed to the grocery store, it means you have money to put food on the table. Begin to focus on and appreciate all the wonderful things you have in your life, and realizing that extra time in the car is sometimes just a price we pay for living wonderful, full lives.

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4. Practice positivity.

Stuck in traffic? Look around you at all the people who are also in the same spot. This is the best way to get out of the movie scene you have created for yourself in your head. Wish them a safe commute. Wish for their health and happiness. Send them good vibes and you will also start to feel better. The good energy you send out will come back to you.

5. Visualize.

Use your commute to visualize your day. How do you see it going? What challenges do you foresee, and how can you handle them with grace? What choices will you face? Use your time in the car to manifest the day you want.

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Featured photo credit: www.picjumbo.com via picjumbo.com

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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