Archives for February 2014

The Art of Workbathing

I watched a wonderfully relaxing two-hour video the other day from faircompanies.com . Made by the inspiring Kirsten Dirksen (of Tiny House fame) and husband Nicolás Boullosa, it is an account of their road trip through the USA in a VW camper van with their three young children. The film allows the family to fully experience life in a very small space and examine how attached we are to property and our stuff.

Apart from being extraordinarily relaxing, the film also contains some fascinating reflections, particularly from Spaniard Boullosa. One of his observations really hit home for me. He was talking about the difference between deep REM sleep and fitful dozing. We all know what that feels like. but then he compared it to being fully immersed in a work project as against dealing a stream of constant interruptions.

I had never thought of this. Of course I am aware of the dangers of multi tasking and never being able to fully focus on one topic, but to compare this to deep relaxing sleep as opposed to restless napping was quite brilliant and striking.

He went on to say that being in nature has much the same effect and that in Japan there was a culture of forest bathing, where people allowed themselves to be surrounded by nature and all its sights, sounds, smells and tastes. Don’t you just love the expression “forest bathing”?

How many of us these days, with email, twitter, facebook, web surfing, rolling news and God knows what else ever really get completely immersed in something, transported to another world, are truly “in the zone”? Yet that is where miracles happen and breakthroughs are made.

Time management books often advise us to make lists, break tasks into small steps, spend a brief time each day on a number of different things. That may help us plough through the workload, but does nothing for our poor distracted minds.

So I am going to try “work bathing”. Immersing myself totally in a piece of writing with no distractions until my mind stills and the muse takes over. My monkey mind will object big time, but I hope with practice it will calm down and cease its endless quest for entertainment and distraction. It looks like it might be worth the struggle.

A Library With No Books?

old fashioned library

An old-fashioned library

I have always loved libraries, in fact, I have always had a weakness for anywhere that you can find books – antiquarian bookshops, charity paperback shelves, the lovely Deanery secondhand bookstall in Winchester with its honesty box…

But today the Independent has a story about the world’s first paperless library, in Bexar County, Texas, USA. They have tens of thousands of ebooks stored in the cloud and, having never had access to even an old-fashioned library with real books, the people of Bexar County are understandably extremely happy.

The county has 1.7 million residents, so providing a library was never going to be a simple task. The advantages are obvious. It’s cost-effective and well-equipped. “According to its website, the $1.5 million (£920,000) BiblioTech currently has 600 e-readers, 200 pre-loaded enhanced e-readers for children, and 48 computer stations, 10 laptops and 40 tablets to use on-site,” says the Independent.

Its staff, unburdened of the tedious chores of stacking shelves, replacing volumes and cataloguing are free to teach and advise, a clear bonus for those Bexar County residents who are not technology literate.

It’s supremely ironic that the man who set the whole idea in motion, County Judge Nelson Wolff, collects first editions. But good for him, because now BiblioTech is bringing stories and information to people who couldn’t access them before.

But still, a part of me sighs when thinking about a room full of touch screens and laptops instead of bookshelves. There’s something about the feeling of a real book that just can’t be replaced by electronic wizardry. The smell, the weight, the touch – it’s like holding a little bit of magic in your hands.

And we all need magic in our lives, don’t we?