Intention Defined and Embraced

One of the topics I explore here at Bloom is intention, and I wanted to take a moment to define, embrace, and celebrate its significance in my daily life.

First of all, what is intention?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it is defined as “a determination to act in a certain way”.  Note that it is not the act itself that grounds this definition but the determination to carry it out that does.  In my experience, one’s intention is the foundation for any act in life.  The presence of an intention means that there is an awareness of one’s actions and its consequences.  There is a purpose to every movement.  There is a resolve for every reason.

Simply put:


determination+awareness+a sense of purpose+mindfulness+resolve

Intention is exponential.  It reaps dividends.

Back in 2006, I moved to Nashville, TN with the intention to be a more active performing musician. Mostly, I did not know what I was doing, but I let my intention inform my actions.  First off, I started out playing open mics in the city.  Then, I booked shows at small venues and even recorded a full-length album.  By now, I have performed at several great venues and even some festivals.  My intention to perform more informed all of my decisions.  It made my path clear and focused.

It has always been worthwhile for me to know what my intention is in every scenario.  All else falls into place once this determination is made.

Of course, the intention is not the end of any road.  There is still follow-through and maintaining motivation to cultivate. I have found that setting an intention is a way to energetically say to yourself, others, and the universe for that matter where your true desires lie.  This does not guarantee an easy road ahead, but it is a fundamentally important and empowering start.


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Asian Representation in Popular Culture

I recently wrote a post about the dominance of White people and culture in every facet of society here in America (you can read the post HERE.), and I have been thinking a lot lately about Asian representation in popular culture. Surely there are more than just classic martial art films? (Cue the sound of crickets endlessly chirping away.)

I look over at the African-American community. They have come such a long way. Last year, the film Moonlight won best picture. They have won Oscars in all of the major acting categories. They have formidable pop stars. (Beyonce and Rihanna anyone?) Rap, R&B, and Hip hop have become mainstream mainstays. They have brought us jazz, blues, and Michael Jackson. A man by the name of Barrack Obama showed us all how its done, and recently, they have given us Black Panther–the first real African American super hero franchise. They are AMAZING.

Then, I look over at the rest of us–the Asians, Latinos, and everyone from the Middle East. We have yet to fully stake our claim at the table.  You can argue that many opportunities are being denied us, but what we must ultimately do is stand up and show up.

Unless we actively share our art with the world, no one will hear our voices. As a person of color, I need to rise above the limitations, the whitewashing, the gentrification, and the marginalizing. I need to stand up and be heard.

The cultural landscape is not completely devoid of empowered Asians. I wanted to highlight a small handful of them here who are officially kicking some serious ass. They are forging a path for the rest of us. We will all stand up and follow .  .  .

Nathan Chen

He is, arguably, the Michael Jordan of figure skating. It was refreshing to see a Chinese-American be the face of the US Olympic team in the media and in commercials leading up to the winter games in Pyeongchang, Korea. Even though we’ve already had titans like Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan before him, it felt as if this time someone of Asian descent was legitimately embraced as marketable and worthy of  hype and attention.

By the end of the competition, he made history by being the first of any Olympian to land five quad jumps in a single program in competition. He’s bad ass, and I’m so proud of how the whole country rooted for him.

Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen

Asian women have been dominant forces in American figure skating over the past few decades.  Again, Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan come to mind. Carrying on in this tradition are Mirai Nagasu who was the first American woman to land a triple axel in Olympic competition and her teammate Karen Chen. Both of them have been US Champions and Olympians.  Gritty athleticism, hard work, and pure talent have taken them this far. I hope many more will follow.

Francis Lam

The show “The Splendid Table” on NPR has been a longstanding favorite among food enthusiasts in America and all over the world.  When its founder and host Lynn Rossetto Kasper announced that she was retiring, there was much trepidation surrounding the show’s future. It was not long before it was announced that Francis Lam would take over as host of the show. Armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of food and cooking, as well as an easygoing and comforting over-the-air presence, he has taken the show into new directions toward international flavors and delicacies. He is the son of Chinese immigrants and is so good at his job!  Listen to the Splendid Table on NPR! He’s totally worth it.

Vienna Teng

In the indie music scene, she is well-known, revered, and beloved. Vienna Teng is a singer/songwriter and pianist whose music is rich with poetic lyricism and gorgeous melodies. I’ve been to her shows, and she is the real deal. Her piano work is first-rate. There is a gentle shrewdness behind each of her songs. She gives us narrative arcs that force us to cram our minds into tight and uncomfortable spaces, only to set us free by the final chords. Currently, she splits her time between a successful  indie music career and work as a climate change consultant for international corporations. Isn’t that amazing? If you haven’t heard her music yet, check her out.

I will be featuring more Asian artists and content creators in the future, and I too, will stand up to be heard.

You’ll see.


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The Life Lessons I Have Learned

If you’re going to take the time to read what I have to write , then I need to share information that might be helpful to you, and this week, I want to share a couple of life lessons I have learned. These are important concepts and intentions that have helped to shape who I am and how I go about my day. I have many lessons to share, but today, here are two worth noting.

Lesson #1: Generally, endlessly staring  at a screen is addictive and adds less value to your life.

Television, mobile phones, and tablets cultivate a passive existence. Staring at a tv or binging on Netflix may be hugely entertaining, and watching movies can offer a break from a stressful reality.  However, doing countless hours of it leads to a passive and sedentary life. Every minute that passes by while you stare at a screen takes away time that could be spent having a conversation with a friend or loved one or actively doing creative work that you love.

In my case, I gave up on cable television many years ago. I decided to prioritize everything else over watching tv. The benefits of this have far outweighed the losses. Sure, I became unaware of the latest shows, plot lines, and movies, but it meant that I got to focus on my music and art. It meant that I got to cultivate a clean and beautiful home. It meant that I could take a luxurious nap or a walk outside. Television is a window that lets you stare passively out into the world. I would rather open a door, walk outside, and explore the world myself.

For many of us, this would be a difficult transition to make. The best way that helped me was to cut off the distraction from the source. Ending my cable subscription not only saved me money, but it created a barrier against hours of passive, sedentary, and addictive television. I have applied this mentality to anything that forces me to fixate my attention onto a screen. I limit my time on Facebook and Instagram to no more than 15 minutes each per day. This means I do not get caught in an endless comment loop or argument, and I gain valuable time to focus on time-sensitive work or long-term goals.

I am not saying that all television and passive entertainment is evil. I do allow myself to watch a movie or binge on Netflix once in a blue moon as a way to relax, but I aggressively go for moderation with the knowledge of how addictive all of it is. I impose time-limits, and I stick to them.

Lesson #2: Drinking a lot of water is one act that provides multiple benefits.

I have made it a habit every day to drink as much water as I can. At school, I carry a water bottle that I fill up when ever it gets empty. At home, I drink water in the morning and before I go to bed at night. Here are the benefits that I have discovered from drinking water:

  • It helps with the flow of food digestion in your body.
  • It rids your body of toxins.
  • It helps you to stay full longer and to eat less during a meal.
  • It helps your skin stay hydrated and prevents dryness.
  • It gives you a boost of energy and minimizes lethargy.
  • Its lack of sugar and salt means that it does not negatively impact your blood sugar or blood pressure like other drinks do.
  • It makes you feel refreshed and is a way to cleanse and invigorate your body on the inside (the way taking a shower can do so on the outside.)There may be countless more ways that drinking lots of water improves your well being, but I have enjoyed these particular benefits in my life.

The one complaint I have heard from people about drinking water is that it makes you urinate a lot. I would agree that it does; however, taking the time to pee offers a momentary break in your day to relax, breathe, and let go. This is what I do when the opportunity presents itself, and it has turned out to be a great way to help me stay present and focused throughout the day.

Also, wherever I go, I make a mental note to know where the bathrooms are. Holding it in too long is uncomfortable and not good for your body.

There you have it. These are two simple life lessons I follow that have offered exponential value on multiple levels to my life. Avoid and/or restrict addictive media on any screen (tv, mobile, etc.), and drink water many times a day.

Thank you for reading, and if you find any of this helpful, I hope it leads to a more wholesome and worthwhile existence.


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How To Live In the Era of President Trump

This has not been easy, but over the last year, I have given President Trump the benefit of the doubt. There is often a learning curve in any occupation, and being President of the United States is right up there with parenting and sewage/sanitation worker as one of the toughest jobs in the world. During his first year in office, I have watched, I have listened, and I have learned.  I’ve taken the time to observe his behavior and to build my own mindset and protective shield.

First of all, in the interest of transparency, I was not and, at this point, do not plan to be a Trump supporter. I would have preferred that Hillary Clinton had won. Her platform simply aligned more closely to my beliefs and outlook. Her defeat was a bone-crushing loss for me as it was for millions of others.

Nonetheless, I wanted to see how Trump would traverse through the steep learning curve of his ascendance. Maybe he would surprise me and be a leader that I did not know he was. At this point, here are the impressions I have gathered:

  • He is often reactionary and defensive. Just read his twitter posts.
  • He likes to elicit strong reactions from people and incite controversy. Again, look at his twitter posts, his engagement with North Korea being a prime example. Divisiveness is his M.O.
  • He is often at odds with members of his own White House staff that he selected. The high turnover rate over the past year speaks for itself.
  • Russia. In spite of his denial of any collusion, there are numerous reports from various valid sources that something has transpired or is ongoing. Whether it was a whole lot of a connection or very little, this is the monkey that cannot seem to get off his back.
  • He thinks poorly of women. The recording of him talking to a friend about grabbing a woman’s genitalia just floored me. Women are more than just their genitalia, Mr. President. It is a sad commentary about the world we live in that a man such as this defeated a woman to obtain this job.
  • He has no objection to using people’s lives as a bargaining chip for political gain. I am referring to his desire to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) if he does not get his border wall. Clearly, this is his way of playing hardball, and it may get him the result he wants. This behavior is unconscionable, and it leaves thousands of DACA recipients, many of whom are children, at the mercy of deportation and separation from their families and livelihood.

I could go on and on, but I have expressed all I want to say about my observations of this man.

The question I have left is this:

How do we live in the era of President Trump?

Well, I have a few simple suggestions.

  • Become as informed as possible. Watch news and read articles from multiple sources. This will allow you to obtain a broader view of what is happening.
  • Do not get your news from social media. Algorithms and, apparently, foreign countries like Russia can manipulate what you see on Facebook, for example. This feels like a form of mind control, and we owe it to ourselves to think independently both for ourselves and our children.
  • Do not follow Trump’s example. Instead of being reactionary, be thoughtful and considerate. Respect women and all people (as well as everyone’s genitalia for that matter). If you disagree with someone at your job, don’t just fire them. Do the hard work that creates actionable solutions.
  • Register to VOTE and then VOTE. If you do not use your voice, you have no power.
  • Seek out leaders in your community who lead with compassion. These are leaders who prioritize people and their struggles over political gain and personal ambition. Lift them up in their campaigns and as they do their work. Think about President Trump and find the opposite of that. Pursue the opposite of that.
  • Focus on coalition and community-building. As individuals, we can only do so much. If we build collaborative partnerships with groups of people who share your compassion and willingness to effect change, your power grows exponentially.
  • Let compassion be your guide. DACA recipients are not a bargaining chip. They are innocent people and children who deserve kindness and the best of what humanity can give them.

Ultimately, we live in a time when we must step up to be better than and greater than we were before. We must seek out and lead with compassion. We must be more discerning than ever. We cannot be complacent.

There is a leader within each of us, whether we are guiding other people, our own friends and families, or ourselves.

If we collectively lift up and support the least of us—the downtrodden, the poor, the disabled, refugees, our immigrant neighbors and friends—our sum total is elevated. This simple math should guide us in these trying times.

Let’s go this way. Let’s live this way.


Please feel free to share this post or add the link to wherever you connect with like-minded people.

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Intention: The Value of Craftsmanship

I have been thinking about the intention involved in craftsmanship a lot lately. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is defined as “one who creates or performs with skill or dexterity especially in the manual arts”. To some degree, this implies that there is a dedicated focus on the actual skill and technical ability needed create or perform at an optimum level.

Typically, the word craftsmanship is associated with any kind of artistic and manual activity that demands  at least some amount of physical and proficient movement. Woodworking, painting, or pottery are activities that come to mind, but what if we could apply it to any kind of work that we like to do? What if we relate it more with how we approach our work versus that actual work itself.

For example, I love to write as a way to express my ideas, opinions, and to tell stories, and I also love all of the mechanics that come with doing academic work in a college setting. One of these is arguably more artistic than the other, but the attributes of craftsmanship can be applied to both.

As I writer, I can take the time to understand how to clearly and eloquently convey an idea or emotion. What kind of language does that require? How can I structure sentences  to accomplish this? What are the ways that words can flow on a page as opposed to being dry and clumsy? How can I make my writing more engrossing and easy to understand?

A craftsman would approach writing by asking these questions and meticulously finding the best applicable answers. He or she would focus on the skill itself and infuse thoughtful intention towards deeply understanding any and all fundamental concepts and doing excellent quality work.

My life as a college student could also strongly utilize a craftsman’s mindset. I could analyze how I use my time in order to ensure that I can keep up with deadlines and due dates better. I can figure out the study techniques that offer maximum retention and actual understanding of concepts for an exam, and speaking of exams, I can figure out and implement test-taking best practices for all kinds of tests. There are any number of possibilities.

Whatever the pursuit,  the only important component is that you focus on the skill itself and determine ways to execute it towards as close an approximation of excellence and mastery as you can.

Whether one’s life passion is artistic, menial, scientific, simple, or multi-faceted, it is easy to fall prey to the allure of fame, money, recognition, or any other external motivator. Alternately, the craftsman relates to the work itself on a day-to-day, or even minute to minute, kind of cycle that stays fully present and in the moment.  Anything involving the ego becomes secondary, if not completely immaterial. There is a singular priority based upon doing strong and competent work.

I am writing about this to explore the idea of exemplifying craftsmanship in all that I do as a student, musician, artist, and human being. This means feeding a constant curiosity to fine-tune any work that I do to its fundamental nuts and bolts and to do it as well as possible. What excites me most about this prospect is that it cultivates a lifelong state of being towards doing work that I can be proud of and that matters to me.

A life that is lived well is a life full of deeply worthwhile pursuits.

This is how I want to live.


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Yup, #metoo.

I was 19-years-old then, too young to have the wherewithal to stand up for myself against someone who took liberties over my body.  It was a part-time job at a small sandwich shop.  Our lunch rush required us to have the ability to make up to twelve sandwiches wrapped and ready to go in under five minutes within a team of three people.  It was during this lunch rush that she groped my crotch as I was carrying a basket of bread over to a counter.  The look of shock and disgust on my face did not faze her.  I was speechless and completely caught off guard.  She laughed it off and went back to work. This would be one of three instances in which she did this, and one of several in which she would humiliate me in front of others.

She was not a manager, but she had the benefit of having worked there longer than any other employee.  She was bossy and demanding, and quite honestly, she was a monster.

The owners of the business liked her a lot since she seemed to get a lot done, and in hindsight, I should have spoken up.  I also should have left.

Now, years later, I wonder why I’ve never spoken openly about this experience.  It truly was humiliating and dehumanizing.  At the time, I was embarrassed and ashamed and couldn’t get myself to talk about it to anyone.

I filed it away under memories that were isolated incidents that I would rather forget.

I never forgot.  I never forgot how she made me feel.

Fast forward to the last couple of months when many courageous women are standing up for themselves and holding people accountable for their bad behavior.  This took me back to my own experiences.  All things being relative, what happened to me feels small compared to what others have gone through, and I am thankful that I have not been in a similar situation ever since.

I truly hope that this time of reckoning in our culture creates deep and substantive change in our society.  I hope we can take this further and figure out ways to talk to our children about how to stand up to people who abuse their power by abusing others.  Maybe it can be discussed in schools.  I wish someone had taught me about how these dynamics play out.  I did not have that awareness back then, but I do now.

I wish someone had told me that no one has a right to treat me and my body that way without my consent.

To some extent, even though it accounts for a short period of my life, I wonder how it affected me in the long-term.  Anybody who knows me knows how extremely modest I am.  Someone would have to pay me very well to take my shirt off in public.  I often default to being passive when dealing with difficult people (I’m working on this one), and I avoid terrible people at all costs.

So, maybe there’s good and bad in the end.

If I ever see her again, I would tell her how she made me feel and that she had no right to treat me or anyone else that way.  I would tell her to rot in hell, because I still feel a little angry about it all, as long as I’m being honest.

Whether it’s a film production company, NBC, CBS, a factory in the midwest, or a sandwich shop in the south, I hope women and all people can feel safer where they work.

We all deserve safety, respect, and to be treated with dignity.


Befriending on the Outskirts

Have you ever gone to a party knowing that you would not know any other person there except the person who invited you? After you arrived, did you wind up in a corner with no one to talk to for most of the night wondering why you even bothered to show up?  Well, I have, and these kinds of instances in my life have altered my thinking when it comes to befriending new people.

These days, I put a little more intention behind who I choose to befriend in a social or group situation.

No, I do not seek out the beautiful people or the ones who seem really popular and outgoing.  I have no beef with them, and they can be as gorgeous and engaging as they want.

What I look for is the person who seems shy, out of place, or who could use at least a friendly acknowledgement.   Imagine if you will a low-key soiree at a friend’s house.  There are about 30 people milling about and carrying on some mild chit-chat.  There are small groups of three to five people separately congregated at different points around a large living room.  Invariably, there might be one or two people just looking around or staring at their cell phone.

What I like to do in this scenario is to seek out those people on the outskirts who haven’t connected with anyone yet, and at least, say hello to them.  Usually, I would walk up and say hi and then ask if he/she needed a drink.  This harmless question helps me figure out if she/he would rather just be by themselves.  That’s okay too, but if not, I go in for at least a quick conversation.

Here are some questions I ask if they seem willing to engage:

  • So how do you know so-and-so?  (Insert name of person who is hosting the party)
  • Where did you get those ________?  I really like them. (Insert any object of clothing or accessory that you genuinely like.  Compliments can tear down the biggest walls.  Go for the hair if it looks great.  That disarms just about anything.)
  • Do you happen to know who sings this song? I really like it.  (Assuming of course that music is playing at the party, which is usually the case.)
  • Do you happen to know where the bathroom is?  (Use this if nothing else is an option.  It gives you a small window of time to chit chat before you actually should go to the bathroom. Definitely go to the loo at some point even if you don’t have to. It would seem creepy if you didn’t.)

Be friendly and smile.  The goal is not necessarily to make the most amazing friendship for life, though I am never opposed to that.  It is to acknowledge a fellow human being who might be feeling alone or dejected. I can remember times in my life when other people have made me feel welcomed and supported.  It is a warm, fuzzy, and supremely life-affirming experience.

Befriending someone on the outskirts can happen anywhere.  Look for the last kid picked to be on a team in P.E. class.  At your job, make a point to say hello and introduce yourself to a new co-worker or someone who is often sitting alone in the break room.  At a business meeting, find the person no one else is talking to.  Whomever you find in any of these scenarios might be someone who is worth knowing and deserving of some warmth and kindness.





Intention: Rest

There are some truths in life that are worth knowing deeply.

One of these truths is the value of rest.

Yup.  Rest.

I am sharing my thoughts about this because weariness and burnout are mightily formidable. They wreak havoc upon your body and your spirit steadily, and over a long time (or even a lifetime), they can erode all of the parts of your life that were intended to give you  joy and fulfillment.

First, let’s clarify what I mean by “rest”.

I am not talking only about sleeping at night.  I am referring to an intention to shut out all of the pressure, noise, expectations, and anxieties you face every day.

I am talking about the kind of rest that is restorative and relaxing.  A state of being in which your mind, heart, and body are quietly at ease.

I will be the first to say that entering into this state is not easy, particularly if your are not used to doing it.

We can say we are taking the day off, but are we really?

In my experience, I can be sitting on a chair and look like I am doing nothing.  What is actually happening is that my mind is moving at the speed of light thinking about all of my responsibilities and disappointments.

For others, taking a day off might mean spending hours on a cell phone pouring over Instagram or Facebook.

Both of these instances certainly address some aspects of rest, but they also fall too short of what it means to rest deeply.

Deep rest means actively decluttering your mind and body of the pressures of life.  There’s a reason why vacations are so fun and restorative.  They physically take you away from what you have to face head on every day.  They take you away from your burdens, at least temporarily.  As such, they feel liberating.

If I could take a vacation every week, I totally would, but since I am not independently wealthy and care about my personal responsibilities,  it is not possible.

Or is it?

To me, true deep rest has to feel like a vacation.  There has to be some level of joy, and you have to create a sense of separateness from your every day life. It also has to be ridiculously easy so that it does not become its own chore or burden.

This is what deep rest looks like for me .  .  .

Sleeping in and staying in bed at least one day a week.  I can read a book and fall back to sleep any time.  I’ll have snacks by my bedside. Cuddle with my cat Steinway.  I might watch a movie on my laptop or just stare out of my window.  In my head during these moments,  I am just enjoying myself and intentionally not thinking about anything stressful.

A quiet, warm bath also works well.

A massage from someone you trust works wonders.

Rest means physically allowing your body and mind to quietly settle into itself.  For this to actually work, you have to give yourself permission to let go of life’s physical and emotional demands just for a little while.

Think of it as your own mini and super easy vacation.  Find what works for you.

Do it every week.

Do it often.

Know that you deserve it.

As for all of those exponential gifts that this lesson will give.  I’ll leave those for you to discover.   Just trust that the rest of your hours and the busy-ness of your life will be better for it.



Intention: The Value of a Slow Lifestyle

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I grew up on a remote island in the South Pacific.  I vividly remember what life was like over there.  The speed limit was no more than 25 miles per hour on the roads.  Everything.  EVERYTHING moved at its own seemingly glacial pace.

Nonetheless, things still got done.  People worked, cooked food, had gatherings with friends and family, built homes, and lived full and rich lives.

On a clear summer night, I left that island with my tear-stained face on a plane headed for America.  Now, I live in a land in which someone else is always driving faster than you on the freeway, regardless of your own breakneck speed.  People hurry along in droves trying to get so much accomplished in so little time.  They are pulled in multiple directions raising kids, posting on instagram/facebook/twitter/etc, taking selfies, building a career, staying healthy, partying, traveling, creating, doing, doing, and more doing.

They all move SO FAST.

But why?

Seriously, why?

At what point did we learn that faster is always better?

What if we took on the intention to slow down in life?  Instead of taking on so many things so quickly, what if we did the opposite?

Could we do one thing at a time?  Do it at a slower and more comfortable pace?

Why not?

What if we regularly stepped back to press on the brakes and proceeded slowly?

For myself, what I gain from doing this is more space to breath and gather perspective.  So what could this look like for you?

Instead of a tackling a to-do list of 20 items, take on one important item with the trust that either everything else will get done in their own time or that some things just actually do not need doing.

When you eat food, chew slowly and savor every morsel of flavor.

Walk a little more slowly along your way.

Have multiple moments for yourself to take a long, deep breadth.

Take a drive through the countryside and do it slowly.  Feel the wind in your hair.  Drive slow enough that you can take in the view.

Pause before the next time you pick up your cell phone and acknowledge what is going on around you.  Is there someone you can talk to instead?  Maybe you can just do nothing for a few minutes.  Why rush?

Ultimately, living a life that is paced at a rhythm that is comfortable and sustainable means living a life of deeper contemplation.  You can trust that everything will get done and will happen as they need to.  You can still live a rich and full life.

Slowness allows us to actively live in our own richness.



Intention: Incremental Learning for Life

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One of the primary ideas I want to explore here at BLOOM is the concept of intention.  This is the first of an ongoing series of posts that expound upon the notion of living a life of intention.

First of all, what is intention?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, intention is defined as ” a determination to act in a certain way.”

It is synonymous with the words .  .  .


It’s a big word with a lot of depth.  So, the next question is “How does one live a life of intention?”

I suppose it means living with an active awareness of and acting on one’s preferences, desires, goals, and dreams?

I suppose?

All of that sounds hunky-dory, but is it really that simple?  I will not pretend that I know the fullest and best answer, but I want to take the time to find out.

One way that I have explored intentional living is through what I like to call incremental learning.  It is the kind of learning that is diametrically opposed to crash courses or any kind of fast learning.  Basically, you take a skill that  you want to learning and pick it apart to its most simple and fundamental components.  Then, you SLOWLY explore each of these components one at a time in a gradual, organic, and consistent way that has no deadline.

Back in 2012, I bought a cello.  I started taking lessons and have loved it ever since.  The challenge was that I am not a cellist by trade.  I am a piano player.  The way I learned to play and understand music is almost completely different than the way a cellist does.

I must have been crazy to take it on.

But I have always loved the instrument.  (Also when I grow up, I want to be like Yo-Yo Ma.)  At first, I dove in.  I found a wonderful teacher who taught me a lot that first year.  I was ambitious and focused.  I tackled as much as I could as fast as I could.

Then, I started to feel pain.  I felt pain in my thumbs and in my hands. I never felt pain when I played the piano, which feels as smooth as water cascading down a mountainside.

I had to stop and reassess.  I stopped taking lessons and took a long break.  I mulled over the viable option of quitting the instrument altogether.

What I eventually decided to do was to stick with it and do it more methodically and slowly.  This is where I have come to practice incremental learning.  I play no more than 15 minutes a day to reduce strain.  In those minutes I focus on just one element at a time.  For the longest time now, I have been working on strengthening my bow hold in a way that does not create pain or strain.  I have made good progress, but there is more work to do.  Other times, I might focus on creating a good tone that is pleasing to the ear.  Another time, I may just work on memorizing a piece.

Incremental learning means slowing down and taking the time to understand something one small element at a time.  There is no pressure.  No deadline.

This has been my intention, and I have reduced the pain while managing to learn something I love.  Even though this particular learning process takes forever, I am still getting out of it what I  wanted.

If there is something new that you want to learn that feels impossible or overwhelming, consider learning it incrementally.  Go with that intention and see where it leads you.  It will not be long until you find your own way.