Monthly Archives: February 2013

So the thing I have observed was that with fun, at least the type you consume like movies, video games, and TV, it’s more about the novelty of experience than being desensitized to it. The thing is in most of these cases novelty and sensitivity are synonymous. You are desensitized when the experience is no longer novel and it is no longer novel when you’ve done it already and to the degree to which you’ve done it. Of course this is sensitivity to novelty which is a form of stimulation being intensified or lessened depending on how novel the experience.

So the thing is that you can easily alter the level of novel by simply not being aware of the past experience and you can do this in a few ways, looking at things from new perspectives is one, and simply being present which would mean not being aware of the past experiences and being an unbiased observer, is another.

So in my quest to develop this ability in myself to apply to many areas in my life, one being learning the 3000 Hanzi, I am working out how to condition my mind to easily focus on the present. I feel that to streamline the process would allow it to be more fun and less a monk’s disciplinary quest.

So to do this I would need to create a lifestyle that makes it easy so I would have to remove elements that draw me compulsively to thinking of the future.  So what are those elements? I need to make a list. Besides the regular daily worries, and hunger, thirst, I will put out two that I think people don’t commonly associate with compulsion and stress.


I observe that stories, TV, video games, anything with a long story and cliff hangers gives me an urge to know what happens next. This urge is a pull towards the future, its enjoyable when you can find out quickly but it’s also an urge, an anxious feeling, a form of stress. This feeling is not conducive to a present moment focused mind.


I think goals invite thoughts of the future. A goal is something you don’t have presently but want to get in the future. Even surfing the internet, even learning mindfulness, these are all goals and thoughts of them take us out of the present moment. Goals are a form of psychological stress because your mind sees them as an extension of you that you don’t have yet which means it is a detached part of you. this is stressful like losing a hand is stressful, depending on how important the goal is and how long it will take to get it. I would say the further into the future the goal is the less you should think about it. Also the more important it is the less you should think about it. Also the harder it is to achieve the less you should think about it. Ofcourse there are times when it is efficient to think about it but otherwise people just think about it out of compulsion.

Being present isn’t as much about a goal of being present. How could it be when those are two conflicting things. Being present is about letting go of the future and the past. It isn’t a goal, it’s closer to a forfeit.

There’s nothing wrong with having goals, but thinking about them more than you need to is stressful. I think a better way is to choose a goal and then work towards it while being present. Yes this is possible. Just because your in the present doesn’t mean you forget what you wanted to do there. Well maybe in extreme cases it might but not the way I’m suggesting. You choose a goal for the future, then come back to the present with the intention to work on it. In the present you work on it, forgetting the bigger picture and working moment by moment simply focusing on the present. Not about how much you’ve done, just focused on experiencing each moment of your life while your working.

Ah, correction.

You aren’t supposed to try to focus on the present, that is a paradoxical goal. You should simply let go of anything that is not the present. Letting go is not a goal, it might seem like one but it is not a form of stress, it’s a form of release and so I stand by my idea that it is not a goal.

Then if you are working on something, instead of seeing it as a goal, just do it, while not having the past of future in mind as much as possible.

I feel this is the least stressful way to go about working on tasks especially larger tasks. Not only is it not stressful, it would be enjoyable as you would be able to experience novelty. Its about actively enjoying the journey towards a worthy destination.

The one time I did nothing for 4 hours:
I once did an experiment where I hung out in my room and did nothing, just stood, sat, and stared off into space for at least 4 hours. I wanted to see if I could over ride all the urges that ran through me on a daily basis like surfing the internet, watching tv, playing video games, and goals. So I did nothing for four hours to see if I could condition myself to be comfortably in that state.

What happened was that at around the four hour mark I was playing with a piece of string or something equally as mundane and I was actually beginning to enjoy myself while doing so. I ended the experiment around then, coming to the conclusion that fun is relative to what you have available to you. Meaning you can have fun with nothing but a piece of string if that’s what you have to work with.

The time I studied for 2 weeks straight :
During the 2 weeks leading to the end of one particularly hard semester in college I was studying non stop almost, for two weeks. After the exams were over and I realized I was a “free man” for the next 3 weeks winter holidays I felt a rush of emotion. I had 3 weeks to do what ever I wanted. From this I concluded that if you got used to one level of fun and then an more intense level was introduced you will experience a rush. Strong pleasure associated with the expectancy of fun and the fun itself will be more enjoyable having not been experienced recently.

These two experiences lead me to believe that fun was like a drug and that it was something you could become desensitized to and need more of to get the same high or a better high. Also that you could desensitize yourself by going cold turkey for long enough to “get used to” a lower level of fun.

However I am re-examining my findings in light of new research into Mindfulness. There are two factors of mindfulness that seem to fit the two experiences I described. Present moment, and novelty.

The present moment is being focused on the present moment only, without relating it to the past or future or seeing it as good or bad.

Novelty, I would say is a form of fun, meaning when you experiencing it, you are having fun. It is the feeling that you are seeing something for the first time, seeing the wonder of something. What it is is your brain taking in an optimal amount of data from something. When you see something for the first time, the less related it is to something you’ve seen already, the more novel it is and the more data your brain will take in at once to process this new thing.

The connection between present moment and novelty is that if you observe something as it is in the present without relating it to what you know from the past, you create novelty because you observe that thing as if you haven’t seen it before.

Part of my first experience may have been of novelty because I was playing with string almost as if it was something I had never seen before. I wasn’t thinking about the future or the past, I was just in the moment.

The second experience is more related to present vs future thoughts. Once I finished studying I realized I had 3 weeks to explore new and novel things and that was exiting but it was future oriented. When it actually came time to have the fun, I didn’t have as much fun as I had anticipated. Maybe because I was anticipating more than being present.

Recently I have been learning the Hanzi going by the 5min per every other hour + 1 minute routine. I have been doing my best to work out all the kinks in studying Hanzi to create a program that allows someone to almost effortlessly learn the 3000 Hanzi or anything else one would want to memorize for personal interest. I started with a variant on the Lazy Kanji Kendo Mod. It is a variant in that I make up my own stories, it’s for hanzi and not kanji, and I don’t have RTH I just use a deck called Taiwan grades 1-8 , aroud 3500 of the most common hanzi.

I have decided to change my approach from story on the front to Hanzi on the front because I realize the hanzi are beginning to run into each other now as my daily volume increases. I need to cards to be more of a test so that I learn them more thoroughly but not so much of a test as vanilla hesieg.

I have also decided I need to visualize the story in my head as in vanilla hesig.

I have also come up with a new concept as I work towards creating a fun method of learning the hanzi. I want to incorporate mindfulness into each work session. The idea here is that mindfulness is where the person focuses on the present moment only. Meaning not thinking about how long they’ve been studying for so far or how much longer they have left. When you are in the present moment, nothing is to hard because it’s only for a moment.

As well, in the present moment, one is better able to focus deeply on aspects of the present like the hanzi or the image the story provides. This concentration is not super intense it kind of flows from an interest that develops in whatever it is you focus on. Focusing on it from different perspectives like visualizing a story with a song playing in your head at the same time. Visualizing the story from a dramatic point of view. This for of observation when paired with being present and not thinking of what you could be doing otherwise, becomes extremely entertaining. Entertaining for the novelty it generates which produces dopamine or the simply the  fun of creating a weird story. When the learning becomes entertaining it becomes effortless as it becomes enhanced. Memory becomes enhanced.

So how does someone with no experience in mindfulness begin? I wont outline everything in this post but I will say that part of what makes it a fool proof method is that it starts of with a really low volume so it’s never hard. if someone were to start with the 5min+1 program and do each work session mindfully, they would be able to build up skill in mindfulness so that they would never find it too much of a challenge.

As well as learning the Hanzi I predict that this way of learning and the skill in mindfulness that develops can be transferred to many other areas in life. This program would simply be opening the door to a more healthy, fun, and enhanced way of learning.

The goal of learning a new language, for most people, is for enjoyment. The reason people quit therefore is because they can’t enjoy it until they know it and knowing it takes along time. So the real problem is people wanting something so they can enjoy it but not being able to put the work in to attain that something first. Therefore there are two problems and so there needs to be two goals.

Basic Goal : Learn new language

Prerequisite Goal : Gain ability to work hard to attain something you only want for fun.

Let’s not make any mistake about it, these are two separate goals and the prerequisite goal needs to be reached first. OTHERWISE IT’S LIKE TRYING TO SHOOT A BASKET BEFORE YOU HAVE THE BALL. The ability to have fun with the language is just that far away that thinking about it as a goal doesn’t even make sense yet. You need to make learning the language a path towards a separate goal that isn’t “having fun with the language”. I guess it’s like compartmentalizing your mind.

So how to do that. I suggest the gradual increase of time spent on the task that you are only working on to attain something you can have fun with. Start with 5 min ever other hour for 5 work/rest intervals daily and increase time spent by 1 minute each day. Couple this with having no other major goals being done for the sake of fun and couple with health, and you have a good method. With a method like this, the goal is increase the amount of time you can study up to 5 hour long sessions. That is the goal. Nothing to do with learning the language.

The mindset has to be there. You can’t be doing the work sessions and thinking about reaching the goal of being able to have fun. That is a separate goal now. You can’t have fun with the language yet and thinking about it will only be upsetting and discouraging. You have to let go of that want and focus on being able to work long enough to get the language first. Once you have the language, or at least the not fun part of it, then you can think about, using what you do have, to have fun. So let me give an example of what you should not do. Don’t try to understand bits and pieces of the language you are learning when you see it out in the wild. It’s will only remind you of how far you are away from being able to have fun. It puts you in a frame of mind where you are depending on something you don’t have yet, for happiness. So when you do your reps, don’t think, oh I gotta do 20 or 30 or however many in this work session. Only think, I have to work for this long at this work session. You really have to let go of learning the language for the fun of it. It wont be fun as a language not for a few months. You can make the learning can be fun which is cool, but it wont be fun for the reason you really want it for. Not yet. You know it will be fun to be fluent. Well fluent is months if not years away so you need to forget all about being fluent or even good, and just learn for the sake of putting in the time.

Well this is just my opinion. If you are like me this information will make sense to you. I’m sure for some people it doesn’t matter how far away a goal is they can still enjoy working towards it as if it was minutes to complete. That just is’nt my experience so I am finding a way around that.

I am using a program I have described earlier. It’s a daily habit and discipline forming routine. The routine is everyday wake up at 8am. First day of program is 8am 5min of work, 10am 5 min of work, 12pm 5 min of work, 2pm 5 min of work, and 4pm 5 min of work. Every day after that you add an extra minute to each work session up to 60min of work per session. This is effective because of the slow build up of duration that you can get use to.

There are requirements for the success of this program though:

It has to be the most important leisure goal in your life. You can have other things more important to you like kids or a job but as far as goals you do for the thrill, the interest, this needs to be the only one or at least by far the most interesting. Otherwise once another goal takes priority, doing this program will start to feel like a burden and that is where burnout will set in.

Also you should maintain good health in all areas including sleep and positive social interaction. Also try not to be hungry or thirsty uncomfortable while doing the worksessions.
Also have a few minor things to keep yourself occupied while in a rest period. I chose video games(ff10) and online streamed tv shows because they can be paused and they are the kinda thing that I find not to hard to pause for a work session. Just something entertaining, like a reward almost and then the routine becomes an excuse to indulge in marathon tv shows or video games. For video games it is important still that it not be something that could be a major goal. If you could play Halo Reach or Call of duty, don’t because it would usually count as a goal because they are very motivating. the video game should be a non-addictive game. I play Final Fantasy 10 cause its solo and there are periods of boring shit but the storyline is awesome and philosophical and relevant and I want to do a post on it sometime. Final Fantasy 10 bottom line is not addictive so I use it.

My observation at six days in is that if I start to think about how many Hanzi I have left to do it is extremely draining. If I even think about this program as a program for learning the Hanzi I feel like shit, I guess because the goal is so big. However If I think of this program as a program for learning persistence and discipline it’s fine. See that difference. And so while I do my reps if I try to get as many reps done in the time I am working I get this very negative feeling. However if I look at it as simply time. Just work for the set amount of time and that is the goal, then It’s fine.

That I would say is the difference between rewarding effort or rewarding results. At least for short term goals within a very large one. So if your goal is to do a certain amount of time, it even if you get less Hanzi learned as long as you still put in the right amount of effort your goal will be reached. It’s like a more visible, more measurable goal. More measurable than a goal of learning say 20 Hanzi where one day that could take 20 minutes and another day it could take 40. Also it makes more sense because the program is one where daily persistence is the ability being improved. I chose to improve daily persistence because it’s more efficient and therefore more motivating than simply working at hanzi for only 10min a day for a year or two. If it is my focus I should put as much time as possible into it and therefore that ability should be trained. If I don’t make it my focus and try to do 10min a day I notice a quickly lose interest and become distracted and then it becomes a burned and I burnout.

Also, the goal is huge, at least compared to my level of sustainable motivation to achieve it and so thinking about the whole goal of 3000 Hanzi is extremely discouraging. So discouraging in fact that I need to have other goals within that one. So increasing persistence is a great one because not only does it shrink the difficulty of the goal as I improve but the ability is transferable to any other field that requires that type of persistence. Therefore when I do the Hanzi I’m not even doing the Hanzi, I’m having fun for one cause I talk to myself while I do them and maybe play music, and I am focused on the mini goals of increased persistence which are goals I achieve daily.

After you hear a good song once or twice, you start to build
up an emotional expectation of how good that song should feel.
This is based on the amount of stimuli, the novelty, of the
experience the first times. The next time you listen to the
song you already have an expectation that the song has to over
come which it usually can’t and so it feels a little less
enjoyable. Also the song is less novel because after the first
couple times, you have come to a conclusion of what the song
is in relation to all the other information you have in you head.
So you stick to that conclusion and consider the song “understood”,
so it is no longer novel.

To prevent these things:

Listen to the song without the emotional expectation. Do this by
listening to it in a relaxed state and focusing on the song
instead of what you expect the song to be.

Listening from different perspectives. I think this might actually
happen naturally once we take our brains of autopilot by focusing
in on the song. See the song actually is new everytime we hear it
because our brains change constantly in relation to the song. You
listen to the song one day focusing on it and it will sound
a certain way. The next day it’s raining, or you get a raise,
if you focus on the song again it will be different in relation
to the song.

Idea is based on my experience using mindfulness meditation and concentrating I had long grown tired of. This song became more and more amazing
and I was struck with the feelings I got the first time I heard it.

However my concentration deviates from the normal idea of

mindfulness meditation slightly because initially I had a song playing through
head phones and I simultaneously concentrated on hearing a second song
just in my head by memory. Focusing on that second song until I was enjoying
it to the exclusion of the song that was physically playing. After this was achieved
I started noticing that the song I had in my head was sounding better than usual so
I took of the head phones and focused even more deeply on the song in my head
and it got even more beautiful.

So try both techniques described if you want and also if you can be lying down andrelaxed. If you can slow your breathing down and relax your muscles that should help
with the focus as well.

I think the way people buy food with the intention of enjoying it and eat is so fast that they barely do is a really good example of how not to go about life in general.
It’s the definition of destination over journey.

A very rough way to go through life but a lot of us end up getting sucked into the trap. It’s the idea that one can only be happy once such and such a goal is achieved. It is “delayed gratification” at it’s worst. What causes this btw? Where do we start deciding that we have to sacrifice present pleasure for future pleasure. I am assuming when ever the first time we were in a situation where that seemed like the best option. Probably when we were kids and had to do something shitty to get what we want. Then we just assumed life is just like that because we(maybe not all of us) didn’t know how to make the work(some work) enjoyable. I mean sometimes we have to make that choice but I think it’s important for people to strive for as much fun in life as possible which would mean enjoying the journey towards what ever destination your interested in as much as possible.

Fun,(I am thinking is a very important part of life)

After some research and thinking I have come up with a model of fun
composed two types. some basic principles of what would make the situation fun.

Passive and Active

Passive is fun by experiencing something that feels good.

This is tricky because passive fun is relative to w/e else you could be doing.
Whats more fun than the experience of hard drugs? Maybe nothing, that’s why don’t do drugs so you don’t have to compare everything else to that experience.
(not the only reason not to do drugs).
At the same time, the more in-depth you focus in on an experience, in ways like described below, the more enjoyably the experience.

To experience this in any situation(lets say while doing homework) :

Mindfulness – be in present moment
– observe each piece of information from as many new and interesting
perspectives as you want. Of course don’t spend forever on one math question.
(example, pretend you are a scientist in a lab)
(example, try to apply a concept from the homework to real your life)
– accept the homework as what you should/want to do. This way no nagging feeling of “I could be doing so and so”.
– (Have nothing more fun to do either by choice or environment or need)
– randomization

Homework is an interesting choice for creating passive fun because the experience itself is active. However the fun is still passive. If the experience was passive like enjoying a walk outside(cognitively passive), you would have more options to make it enjoyable cause you could add things, music, smells ect.

Active fun (Play) is fun by goal achievement.

– where challenge meets ability.
– Short term goals (one math question)
– mid term goals (one erasers worth, one page, an even number, ect )
– long term goals (all home work, whole school year, ect)
– rewards, encouragement, multiple goals with progress made
simultaneously(Put a star on your wall for each question done, check calendar for each day, get an A on test, put completed page of homework on wall as a trophy)

Social interaction would make either type of fun more fun but I am deciding if it is really an element of fun or simply an element of good health.

The importance of fun in human development can be seen when you observe that almost everything that increases the fun of the activity also increases the development of the person. I am only talking about cognitive development here as well, the physical, psychological, emotional benefits are huge as well.

A comment on passive fun – The way a lot of people eat now is directly the opposite of what this describes. People buy Crispie cream doughnuts and they eat them fast and they eat them while doing a bunch of other things. This will really dampen the enjoyment of the Crispie cream moment and make the person more likely to be unsatisfied and wanting another one. Mindful eating is basically what I described but like, “what does the doughnut taste, smell, feel, sound, look like?” and “hold each bite in your mouth for 10 seconds and then chew it slowly before swallowing.”