This past week, the academic year started again. It's very interesting to suddenly see so many students from all over the world again in Groningen, which is usually very quiet in Summer. I even taught my first in-person lecture since the Fall of last year! It was so wonderful to see how motivated the students were to be at an in-person lecture again, and in contrast to last year, this year they automatically engaged in social distancing even when it was not formally required (last year it was formally required and yet students had a lot of trouble with the distancing).
|Directing my life by being more intentional. Picture by Anna van der Meijden (https://www.instagram.com/annamaypinephotography/)|
At the beginning of the year, I was reflecting a lot on my intention, prompted in part by the #Lojongchallenge slogan 39 "Do everything with a single intention," but also prompted by several podcasts. First the Lojong slogan: this refers to constantly checking your intention for whether it is altruistic, or whether on the other hand you are doing or saying something to strengthen your ego. According to the Buddhist teachings, you should try to emphasize the benefit of others over strengthening your own ego, because only focus on others will make you sustainably happy. There is also some scientific evidence for that. For example, I found that when you think about whether a personality word describes you, this distracts you much more from remembering things than when you are thinking about something more neutral such as objects. I think the reason for this is that such thoughts about yourself tap into your hopes and fears, and may even lead to quite "sticky" rumination processes. For this reason I find it very helpful to check my intention regularly, especially at the beginning and end of the working day. Rather than focusing on worrying about my own success, I set my intention to be of benefit for others, and just do my best, and this gives me a lot of peace.
Now back to the podcasts! In one podcast, Houston Ballet's Harper Watters talked about the importance of not just taking a ballet class "mechanically", following the teacher's instructions, but rather, to take charge by setting a focus on what you want to work on. Then take the teacher's corrections that are helpful and leave the other ones. Kathryn Morgan had another useful video in which she suggested actively reviewing corrections and then deciding on the most important ones, and making a schedule for when to focus on fixing what issue. Finally, Julie Gill has a fascinating podcast in which she decomposes ballet into different skills and suggests that it is very difficult to learn all these skills in a general ballet class. To progress, you have to decide to focus on specific subtopics, and where necessary seek specific training for that. This inspired me to seek out specific pointe classes at Julie's online studio Broche ballet to focus on those specific skills as an add-on to the regular ballet classes, where we understandably don't have the time to engage in focused practice of specific parts of pointe technique.
|Reflecting on my intentions. Picture by Anna van der Meijden (https://www.instagram.com/annamaypinephotography/)|
The final step is to bring this back to my working life. The Spring semester was ridiculously busy, and not fun. So at the beginning of this academic year, I am trying to figure out a way to be more intentional with how I spend my time. One part of this is that I schedule half an hour once a week to reflect on what my priorities are, and to review my time logs, and whether those are in line with my priorities. Another part of this is that to ensure that I spend enough time on what is important, I already block off time to work on these important tasks so they cannot be taken over by meetings (with an apology to all the people who want to meet with me, which now has become more difficult...). It is hard work to maintain your intention so that your work and life can be of actual benefit, but I think also so important...