Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Stop Monkeying Around

When I was in junior high school I received a book and journal gift set by Elaine Cannon. The book that came in the set was a collection of short essays and thoughts on a variety of subjects. One quote from that book has been a strong influence on me:
Mark Van Doren wrote:

There is one thing we can do, and the happiest people are those who do it to the limit of their ability. We can be completely present. We can be all there. We can control the tendency of our minds to wander from the situation we are in toward yesterday, toward tomorrow, toward something we have forgotten, toward some other place we are going next. It is hard to do this, but it is harder to understand afterward wherein it was we fell so short. It was where and when we ceased to give our entire attention to the person, the opportunity before us.


In my memory Elaine Cannon went on from that quote to apply the concept to the daily life of a teenage girl. When I pulled the book out, though, I found that what I remember as being part of the book were actually my own thoughts on the subject, because that essay doesn't expand on the quote the way I remember it. So my teenage thoughts on being present were this:

  • Don't just hang out with friends - cultivate friendships.
  • Don't just sit in class at school - apply your mind to learning.
  • Don't daydream during sacrament meeting - seek the spirit.
  • Don't just say your prayers - communicate with your Heavenly Father.
  • Don't put in an hour at the piano - progress in your ability.

I got a lot done during those teenage years, and I get a lot done now. However, as much as I have been motivated by the idea of being present, sometimes I struggle with it. For example, when Jaclyn was 3 years old I read the book Nurtured by Love by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki. I really liked Dr. Suzuki's philosophy toward talent education, and I decided it was something I wanted for my children. As I looked into Suzuki piano lessons, I found out that a local college offered Suzuki teacher training classes in the summer, and I decided to audit the course. I was telling a friend of mine about it, and she asked me why didn't I actually register for the course. I told her that it would cost a little more money, and that I'd have to prepare an audition tape to apply as a participant. She reminded me about my commitment to being present when she said, "If you're going to spend the time, you might as well get the credit." I practised the piano, made the audition tape, and achieved my level 1 Suzuki teacher training.

I got another reminder of my commitment to be 'present' from a quote on someone's blog. (I hate it when I can't reference a source - please comment if this was your blog and I'll edit this paragraph!) The quote gave me just the nudge I needed to get me out of lurking and into blogging:

"It is weak and despicable to go on wanting things and not trying to get them." -Joanna Fields

And that is basically the story of my URL: Stop Monkeying Around. Be present.

It was Stacy's blog! I'm so glad to have that question answered!

13 comments:

Amy said...

Barb, I LOVE that you wrote this explanation. A perfect mantra to live by. And I'm glad to read the reasoning behind it. Lovely.

Neighbor Jane Payne said...

This was profound Barb. Thank you. I also loved your applications.

I'm so glad you wrote about this.

carlo said...

awesome post barb. i love that you pulled your teenage self out of the book and shared them with us...

Michelle A. said...

I so admire your dedication and love the way you wrote this blog - great writing! It's good to see posts like this that focus on woman's personal successes. Congrats!

Kelly said...

I needed this today more than you could know -- for many reasons and in many ways. Thank you.

Price Cream Parlor said...

Wow! I love what I have learned today by reading this post! Thanks for sharing!

Mandy said...

such an inspiring post to read. Thanks for sharing.

lelly said...

i constantly struggle with being in the present. i am having a conversation with someone, and i have to really focus to bring my mind back to that conversation. multiple times!

i love this post, and i am so happy that i chose to hang my monkey here on my desk at work!! i think i might get a whole barrelful and strew them around my house, too!

Dana said...

I love that quote! Makes me want to try harder to go for the things that are worth it!

RGLHM said...

1st- I did not know you had your Suzuki Certificate. I knew you taught piano before but I didn't know you had Suzuki. Very cool.
2nd- I love that quote by Doren. If I could tape it to me glasses so I could see it every day I would. I need to be reminded of that every 5 minutes and sometimes every minute!
3rd- I don't feel so bad anymore. I often go back to articles and find that I can't find my interpretation. I am not the only one! But now I realize it is the spirit and our life teaching us what we need to hear from it.
4th- Your parents were incredibly lucky to have you as a teenager. I think I started to figure that all out in Gr.11 or so.
And lastly, I love that last quote. Weak and despicable. Never thought of it that way.
Alex once told me he didn't believe one could have regrets. If we truly had regrets, we would alter our life to do what we regretted not doing, therefore proving we really wanted to do it. That has often come into my mind when I needed it.
But as you can see you have just reminded me yet again with this thought provoking post. I have had all these thoughts swimming for 24hrs. and it's good to write them all DOWN!
Thanks for the ponderings.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for sharing this. Being present is something I struggle with. I think I was better at it as a teenager.

stacys said...

Too funny! The quote is from my blog. But it was so good for me to read it here again and to get your insight on it. I also love to hear you are a Suzuki piano teacher. That is how I learned to play. I wish I could say I was a great pianist but I think its a great way to start. Way to go following your dreams and being present in your life!

carlo said...

i still love this quote and it is neat to look back and read it again, along with comments.

i can't look at a monkey and not think of you...