Student Life Revisited
Magnatune have an astonishingly large collection of hour-long podcasts featuring DRM free (no copy protection) music, covering many different genres. To find a genre that suits your taste, open iTunes and do a search for "Magnatune", then sit back and enjoy hours of wonderful new music for free. My personal favourite is the World Music podcast, followed by the Ambient and Indian podcasts.
It's fascinating observing oneself trying to deal with change, especially when one is in the process of implementing new methods of dealing with change, as I am.
Up until today, the return has been relatively pain-free. Sure, there have been periods of struggle, but generally they have been limited to a few hours at a time, and soon dealt with through positive action.
Today however, I have been caught off-guard as 'student life' has suddenly rolled up on the doorstep and demanded entry with the full force of a rather large tidal wave of bricks. First off, there was the 1st-year intro meeting, which saw me (as one of the 4th year representatives advising the new folks not to go out and get drunk every night!) being taken right back to my first day at uni, when I too discussed with my new classsmates the best ways to remember kanji.
Following that, it was the Freshers' Fair, which saw Japan Society (and 160 other student groups) doing its thing and recruiting new members for another year of fun. This year, whilst unable to completely let go of the society that played such a pivotal part in my student life in 2004/05/06, I am managing to not feel responsible. It helps that it is in very good hands, my classmate Maria and my former senpai Zak being at the helm. This year, I intend to make the most of the opportunities the society offers to meet Japanese students to help me improve my language skills, in addition to helping them to have a great year in Sheffield; lasting, meaningful relationships are the desired outcome.
As the new community of Japanese language students and Japanese exchange students starts to take shape, I catch myself thinking of a previous year, in which there was a Master's student called *Twinkle* just about to start her course. It makes me a little sad that she is not here in person this year.
This afternoon, as I wandered around the Octagon Centre being bombarded with flyers and free sweets from eager society volunteers, I couldn't help but feel a little tired. Whilst I look forward to the language study, I do find myself challenged by the culture of the student's union. I hate to say it, but I actually feel a bit past it. It was great in the first and second year, I loved being able to go back in time to when I was a teenager, receiving all those free sweets, T-Shirts and disposable cameras, being handed hundreds of flyers which after the briefest of glances went in the bin. I was full of enthusiasm for going out and failing in every drunken attempt to get laid.
Today, having signed up for JapSoc and donated an old SLR camera to PhotoSoc in lieu of a membership fee, I found myself wanting to get out, to retreat to my comfortable room, to sip a sweet, milky, fairtrade coffee and listen to Radio 4. I was grateful to be able to tell myself "You don't need to be here Joseph. If you want to go home and listen to Radio 4, do it". And I did.
I think what it is, is that today's events have posed a direct challenge to my feelings of being an adult, with my own beliefs and attitudes towards the world. Due to the nature of the Fresher's Fair many of the people working behind the various stalls are (quite naturally) passionate about their causes, and thus overly-eager to encourage others to adopt them as their own. This makes me feel uncomfortable, it makes me feel that the punters are being regarded as blank canvases onto which society logos can be etched.
It also feels a bit like walking down the Bund in Shanghai and being bombarded by requests to buy a plastic glow-in-the-dark model of the Eiffel Tower.
I know that things will settle down after a while. The initial hubub will subside, and those first year students that haven't dropped out will be found sitting in rocking chairs, smoking pipes and listening to Radio 4. Then I'll be happy.
Recently, I have been trying to work on that part of me that likes to be a consumer. This has been a strong part of me for as long as I can remember, and is manifested in the many belongings I have filling this room. I have always liked owning things.
Influenced by my reading on the Tao, I've recently begun to try to let go of things (thus the flurry of activity on Amazon Marketplace this week, and For Sale / For Free messages on the university website). And you know what? It feels good. It feels good to be light and nimble, to not be weighed down with belongings, to be free of unnecessary clutter that might just come in handy one day. This may sound a bit weird, but through relinquishing permanent ownership and instead embracing temporary guardianship, my attitude towards everything around me has changed to one of gratefulness. There is no taking anything for granted, but instead a feeling of joy that I am fortunate enough to have (for example) this sexy Mac at my fingertips, this beautiful mug to drink this tasty coffee from, this swiss army knife with its mini-scissors. It's great to feel joy every time I cut my toenails.
Another thing partly influenced by my reading this past year is a change in my attitude towards my body. One always hears how important regular exercise and a proper diet is - but how many of us take it seriously? A recurring theme of many books on health, success and spirituality is that of taking care of the body that we're temporarily inhabiting. Through my reading I was made increasingly aware of how I tend to take my body for granted, and that if I was to put off looking after it until after my health began to deteriorate I would be a fool indeed. Thus, these past few weeks I have been thinking "I really must get back on track", but where was the kick up the backside to come from?
Then it happened: last weekend the opportunity arose to attend a free fitness coaching session run by a top US instructor, who also happens to be a very very nice guy. Boy was that inspirational! He reminded me how good it felt to be fit, and outlined a basic 10-minute exercise routine which can be done every morning without having to turn one's daily routine upside down. I've been doing it every day since - and Wow! What a difference it makes to my general sense of wellbeing!
The routine is: 4 minutes of running fast and slow (on the spot in my pajamas - you should see me, I look like a right idiot), 3 minutes of resistance training (I use free weights), 2 minutes of core body work (with my 75cm sports ball that doubles as my desk chair to help improve my posture), and one minute of stretching. You'd be surprised how puffed out one feels after all that - and studies show dramatic improvements in health / weight loss after a few months of such a program. The key is to enjoy it, which I do.
I've also re-started taking EPA and DHA (from fish oils), which with our family's history of heart disease is only sensible, and of course I'm continuing with my organic supplements (vital for students otherwise powered by Baked Beans!).
Also influenced by my reading of the Tao (and other texts) are my continuing attempts to not feel obliged to fit in. I know that I will only find true peace when I abandon the pointless quest altogether - easier said than done! Curse my social conditioning! Oh to be a toddler again!
But you know, with practice it's becoming easier. This does not mean that I am purposefully going out there and being a rebel, rather, I am listening more to what my heart tells me is the right thing to do or say, as opposed to attempting the impossible - to get inside the minds of my counterparts and act in accordance with what I think they want to observe. It feels so good to trust in one's own inner voice or whatever one might call it, rather than having to attach values to conflicting viewpoints, weigh them up and act in accordance with the result.
One thing that I have found disquieting lately is the realisation that my ego is far stronger than I had ever realised (you can save the comments!!!). This is something I have begun to work on, although I am only beginning to move into the second phase of this process, the first having been to look back on past incidents of ego-domination and be appalled by the behavior shown as a result. Now, just in the past few days, I have started to catch myself at those times when my ego is exerting excess influence upon my behavior, and saying "Woah there horsey!" (or something to that effect).
It's so exiting to journey inside oneself. There's not a dull moment, and boy does it take the stress out of things.
Anyway, I must be off as I have a Japanese BBQ to attend. Will's WillYaki business is going from strength to strength; I feel privileged to be a part of his journey too.
Tatta for now.