Wednesday, 14 January 2015

How to Learn

Early Lessons

Growing up I had the good fortune to be taught two important lessons.

1. Always question. The previous chief Rabbi (Sacks) of the United Kingdom tells a story of how, when growing up, his mother did not ask him "what did you learn today?" - rather she asked him "what questions did you ask today?"

2. If you are not moving forwards, you're going backwards. This lesson may seem a bit harsh, but in today's fast moving world this can certainly feel painful at times. I was given the analogy of walking up an escalator that is going doing. You need a certain speed of walking to remain stationary, stop and life (the escalator) will naturally move you down. If you want to move up - it requires significant and continuous effort.

Sefer Yetzira Commentary

After over half a year of concerted effort - I have finally finished reading for the first time the commentary by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero on Sefer Yetzirah - the Book of Formation.

I say first time as I intend to start all over again in a couple of weeks. Why? Because the first hurdle was being able to understand the vocabulary. The next time I hope to understand the concepts better and who knows? Perhaps the third time through I'll actually have completed all the meditation exercises.

Learning to Learn

Why did it take so long to get through pages 57 - 178 of this book? Because my knowledge of Hebrew was (and still is largely) fairly basic. I found that studying it for 20-30 minutes each day on my daily commute worked best. It turns out that this is the Pomodoro technique.

You can learn more about Learning to Learn at this lecture series at Coursera. In fact, if you take nothing else away from this blog ever - just look in to this Coursera lecture series and it could well transform your life.

The diffuse and focused minds that the lecturere talks about in the first week are oscillating consciousness that Sefer Yetzira chapter 1, mishna 4 talks about: "Underrstand with Wisdom and be Wise with Understanding". This book was redacted in to it's various forms probably between 200-900 CE, so you can see that the ideas of different mental states go back a long way - much, much longer if you do your research properly.

Anyway, since you are reading this blog I hope that you are a life-long learner. If not, I encourage it strongly since it will keep you mentally healthy & balanced, improve your world outlook and who knows what opportunities it may open up?