- Selah roughly means "pause to consider"
Sharpening the saw is the notion of pausing to prepare for the continuing of an active task.
Active and passive tasks ∞
For most people, an active task is one which requires learning, planning or anything else that entails their individual presence of mind or awakenness. Active attention.
For most people, a passive task is one which is already mastered to a notable degree. It has already been memorized rote, and is played back with only passive attention.
Take the win ∞
"Take the win" is a phrase I echo in my head whenever I pause after a successful active task (or just a part of one). When I think about it, I can easily say that all active tasks should be bookended by passive tasks.
I don't think this is just morale-boosting. I think that there are legitimate mechanical benefits for practicing this.
Sleep on it ∞
There is the old saying "I will sleep on it". I do know from practice and specific experimentation that pausing to consider something often yields vastly superior results to just continuing on to the next active task.
To pause and consider offers the opportunity for an active task to unwind itself and settle into your memories. The true benefits of learning or experiencing then become available.
On the other hand, I also know that acting on intuition (as opposed to acting on impulse) to pursue an active task also yields great results. But I'm going to leave intuition alone for a little while.
Don't rush ∞
Others may work differently, but for me following one active task with a second active task diminishes the "win" which is presented with the first task.
Rushing ahead also removes any benefit which pausing offers before beginning an active task in the first place.
Interleaving tasks ∞
For me there are definite mechanical advantages to pausing before an action, and for pausing after an action.
And so I'm beginning to think that it's possible to interleave passive and active tasks. Perhaps not to do this in any sort of planned way, but to do this with intention.
So I would plan out my active tasks, and I may or may not write down my passive tasks. When working on my active tasks I would specifically stop after each active task, nomatter the situation or perceived advantages in working another way, and I would bookend that active task with a break or a passive task.
Breaks as passive tasks ∞
I talked about breaks being an advantage to an active task. But I began to talk about passive tasks begin an advantage to an active task when interleaved with them.
I believe that breaks and passive tasks can offer the same advantage to active tasks. But I also believe that passive tasks soulfully offer more to onesself.
Soulful passive tasks ∞
I believe that passive tasks can become more soulfully important to onesself than anything else in life.
Passive tasks could be restful, or could be learned rote and played back. But at some level, they become more soulful.
A passive task becomes soulful when one has some kind of underlying confidence of self-mastery.
Imagine becoming so skilled at and confident with a skill that it becomes second nature. The ability is so soulfully-present that practice is no longer practice. Practice becomes play.
The master musician idly plays, and everyone take note. There is something there even in those in-between moments when there is no intention, no goal, in the playing.
The master artist idly sketches, and each one is a work of art even to the most serious student. This artist may idly crumple up and throw away pieces of paper whose creation is the most lofty goal for another.
Love as rest ∞
For some, doing something that is loved can be just as restful as taking a break. This seems to be true with a mastered skill, and it also seems to be true with such other things as meditating or otherwise mindfully relaxing or even playing music.
Some people play music while they work on active tasks, and somehow this helps them. This is a bit of a strange topic because it can distract others. Perhaps well-loved music is the least likely to distract and the most likely to enhance work with an active task.
Wilfully stacking a second loved-element on top of an active task is an interesting thing to consider.
Mastery revealed in every action ∞
A man who has attained mastery of an art reveals it in his every action. -- Samurai maxim
This phrase says a lot to my idea of passive tasks.
Imagine that instead of bookending an active task with a break and a preparation for the next task that one bookends an active task with a mastered skill.
Something within the that mastery does for the master what resting does for the novice.
Mastery in that unrelated skill becomes revealed in the next action, even when there is no intention for this.
Some thoughts ∞
It's possible that mastery and intuition are linked in some way.
When a break and a passive task become the same thing, there becomes a very significant ability to complete more passive tasks.
An example day ∞
- Wake up.
- Pause, look at the ceiling, appreciate the sound of the birds outside.
- Use the bathroom, consider what you'll wear and begin to think about your day.
- Shower, hum a tune.
- Dress, and go mentally consider your morning checklist.
- Cook something experimental. Eat while cooking. Maybe take it seriously and set a place and sit in the morning breeze to eat.
- Begin work, pull out your checklist of things to do, which you prepared the day before. Begin your morning review.
- Pause, "take the win"
- Begin your first task. Reach a milestone in the task.
- Take the win, get up and make some tea.
- Continue in a more restful manner with this task. You already know what you're doing with it so there is confidence in how you do it. Complete the task.
- Take the win, and do something more idle like replying more thoroughly to an email you didn't have time for yesterday.
- Begin your next task. Get frustrated.
- Take the loss, and either rest do something passive. Reschedule the task if need be.
Either continue the task or begin a new task. You already know what to do if you manage your daily tasks well, so there's confidence with what your day's tasks will be like. No need to think ahead, just focus on the task at hand.
An overview ∞
Interleaving / bookending active tasks with breaks, passive tasks or mastered skills means that there is a constant dismissal of the stress of each active task, that there is time for the active task to sink in, that there is time to intuitively prepare for the next active task, and that there are those in-between moments to accomplish personal tasks, sharpen the saw or practice mastered skills.
Imagine that you play the piano fairly well. Imagine being able to get up every once and a while, even at work, to play a tune on the piano. Get off the phone, play a little. Finished checking email, play a little more. Out of a meeting, play.
Just how good would you get? When every day contains thoughts of a subject that you're soulfully interested in, then it's a matter of instinct and mechanics that you improve in subtle ways.
This isn't a matter of learning the subject or skill. That usually requires active learning. But imagine that children learn language as a passive skill. Real subtle mastery requires a long time with it as a passive activity. A good ten or twenty years, which seems to make sense when comparing the language and communication skills of a child to an adult.
Now imagine wanting certain things, and being able to "intend" them, but being able to shape them within this idea of interleaved passive and active moments. If those wanted things are wielded as your passive moments, then you're on the right track to mastery.
I paused after a task to write this. Every time I do this it becomes more and more obvious that writing is my mastery. The more confident I become with this notion and the more often I interleave my "wins" with writing is the more masterful I will become.