Reflection: The ultimate motivator?

Apparently, writing weekly blog post is the main motivator for keeping up with my health goals. I slacked off, and all those awesome upward trends have gone limp.pubchart

I didn’t post because I didn’t feel like it. But doing ‘the work’ means showing up even when you don’t feel like it.

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Enlightenment achieved.

I hope the title is obviously tongue-in-cheek. However, it does highlight the fact that last week was a milestone in my mindfulness practice.

One of the secrets to this success, other than simply being more mindful, was being creative in how one can practice mindfulness and meditation. In the spirit of breaking wood and carrying water, I began meditating while drying dishes. Not while washing, that’s too stressful and the only time I cut myself with knives.

I don’t dry all of the dishes, just the ones we will need first thing in the morning and the big pots and pans that don’t fit in the drainer. Instead of listening to a podcast, I set my Simple Habit app to unguided meditation ‘Ocean sounds’. It’s rare to be alone with my thoughts, and the sounds of waves help remind me to maintain focus.

Today, my reflections led to a great idea to share my wife Yuka’s progress on her ongoing art pursuits.

by yukamila via Instagram

She is pursuing pattern design as an independent business, and has begun sharing her latest sketches, motif ideas, experiments, and works in progress. I love her color sense and eye for visual trends and feel very encouraged that she is becoming more willing to show her work. It will definitely help to grow her social media following on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, and lead to sales at her Society6 online store. Go check her out!

Left, right, and the French Revolution

I recently completed Mike Duncan’s epic podcast series on the French Revolution, starting with Revolutions Podcast episode 3.1. It’s become a habit of mine to listen to podcasts while washing dishes in the evenings. Throughout this one, I was amazed by the historical parallels to what I observed in US and global politics throughout my lifetime.

While righteous change can be achieved through violence, it is always at the expense of the values that would have made the change righteous. As an example, any good that could have been achieved by removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq has been eclipsed many times by the disastrous effects of the US invasion and occupation.

Interestingly, a quote from David Brin’s blog post, Cryptocurrencies, stock buybacks, regulations… they are counting on you being bored!, caught my attention at the same time the revolution was wrapping up.

The idea of the political ‘left’ and ‘right’ originated in the French National Assembly in 1789 when supporters of the king gathered on the right side of the hall, and supporters of the revolution were on the left. Why has such a context-specific dichotomy overwhelmed our political thinking for over two centuries?

This is a time of complexity, but are people’s thinking processes and understanding of the world in which we live keeping up? Considering that after decades of ‘education’, I had virtually no knowledge of the French Revolution, I would say not.

Teaching portfolio and Chinese Crabapple

My ‘appraisal’ portfolio was due on Friday, so it more or less consumed my waking – and some sleeping – thoughts.

Thinking about teaching

That’s a flagrant exaggeration, but seeing as how a significant portion of my monetary compensation is tied to it, it’s something to take seriously. I also posted a handful of blog posts in an effort to share my learning and maintain a professional blogging habit. And despite publishing the posts within days of each other, they actually were ongoing works in progress until becoming due. The most philosophical of them is Agency and Independent Inquiry. I have designs on starting a more pedagogical, theoretical, rhetorical publication on Medium, Learning vs Teaching, and maybe Agency is a good topic to explore to get that project underway.

Late bloomer

Even with work hanging on my shoulder, I was lucky to notice and snap a photo of my new favorite blossom, the Chinese Crabapple.

I love how it screams ‘Spring!’ by blooming after the leaves are growing in, and the balance of pink and yellow highlights encourages a feeling of peace, as well as reminding me of my dad.

So long, Cecil

While not admiring natural beauty, I noted the death of one of my musical heroes, Cecil Taylor, and reflected on his deeply reverent music.

Unit Structures was my introduction to him, but I grew to appreciate the fearlessness of his solo piano music.

Endless Spring Break

Mentally, I’ve somehow been able to keep a ‘spring break mentality’ going. Is it due to a successful meditation regime? Lack of sleep? Hard to know but at least I’m having fun.

In case it doesn’t make sense, the idea of the graph is for the blue line to get lower, and the other lines to get higher.

Spring Break 2018

January to March is the most difficult season in school life. In Tokyo, it’s the coldest time of year, flu season, and also inexplicably popular for special events.

Spring break arrives just in time every year. This year has been one of the best ever.

First, the cherry trees bloomed perfectly on cue at the beginning of the week.

Sunset light on #Sakura

A post shared by Bart Miller (@bartmlr) on

Even better, the weather was sunny and clear every day, which kept the cherry blossoms on the trees for everyone to enjoy. We followed a ‘staycation’ model, venturing out into the city a few times. A highlight for me was a a ramen lunch with my son at Marutama.

Still haven’t managed to be more consistent with my workouts and meditation, but that’s to be expected during vacation.

Goals & habits

For several weeks, I published my weight among other personal information. Then, the folly in that choice became apparent and I’ve deleted that private information. Instead, a few hours of geeking out with Google Forms and Sheets has yielded the graph below.

Instead of revealing the specific data tracked by the Health app in my iOS smartphone, the graph displays them as a percentage of a goal. The objective is to achieve consistency through reflection and build habits and better health over time.

One glaring insight is revealed by the graph: I need to meditate more consistently. These days, my meditations are limited to 3-5 minute ‘brain breaks’ at work. That’s fine, but what I really need is more formal meditation, early in the morning. That’s a challenge because waking up early hinges on going to bed early.

I also consider deeply listening to music to be a form of meditation, and that can be an ideal way to relax in the evening, perhaps even leading to an earlier bedtime.

New Year 2018

My joys: Food and kids. #bestnine2017 via Instagram
As I suspected, New Year festivities disrupted my routine quite a bit. However, I’ll publish what I can here and take a moment to share a resolution for 2018.

My primary goal for the year is to be more social. Over the past several years, my two sons grew out of the larval stage during which they require constant physical care. During that time I ruminated over many business and creative ideas but never took concrete action. I feel that I did so much ‘thinking without doing’ that now I can start ‘doing without thinking’, in a sort of Zen state. However I can’t do anything alone. My ideas are all collaborative, and if I don’t taking action to include others, share my ideas, receive criticism, etc, all of my thinking will amount to nothing.