Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I Want a Renaissance Mind

TLC Book Tours sent me a copy of The Vigorous Mind: Cross-train Your Brain to Break Through Mental, Emotional, and Professional Boundaries by Ingrid E. Cummings, and they've asked me to schedule my review for Jan. 20th. It will be posted on my book blog. Or maybe, even here, as I'm enjoying the book so much.

The idea behind the book is to embark on a journey to broaden your mind, to learn new things or learn more about areas you are already interested in. Cummings, the author, looks on generalists and dilettantes with glee. Learning more about more seems to be her mantra.

Too busy? Cummings recommends the Japanese concept of kaizen, taking baby steps, making reasonable, not too strenuous commitments. A lot can be learned or accomplished in 20 minutes, two or three times a week--so design your own curriculum and make a commitment for 3 weeks or 3 months or whatever seems reasonable.

I'm almost through with the book now, and I've already begun a journal dedicated to the book and my journey toward a Renaissance (and Vigorous) Mind. Originally, I planned to use the handmade journal Megan gave me for my birthday as a "destination" journal--where I recorded places I'd like to visit and made notes, etc.

Now, I'm so glad I waited because the journal is perfect for my thoughts about The Vigorous Mind, my plans, my lists, my evaluations. The pages are smooth and creamy, a pleasure to write on.
The lovely handmade journal Iliana sent me was already where I recorded thoughts on yoga and meditation, so it is perfect for continuing my study of yoga.

Here are some of the courses in the "curriculum" I'm designing for myself:

  • learn more about yoga; learn more about the background,terms, and about the asanas and their purposes (20 min., 2-3 times a week, for 3 months) This is just expanding on something I'm already interested in.
  • include walking and weights as part of my fitness program (10-20 min., 2-3 times a week, for 3 weeks--then evaluate and decide whether or not to continue)
  • read more nonfiction, especially biographies (at least one nonfiction book a month--which won't be difficult if I choose well, for a year)
  • watch 2 documentaries a month on a wide variety of topics
  • order some magazine subscriptions to Smithsonian and Mental Floss
  • something relating to textile arts--I'm still thinking about this one, something that would broaden my knowledge or my give me a goal of some sort...

I've ordered books, checked out books from the library, and ordered documentaries from Netflix. The documentaries are on wide-ranging topics, but I tried to keep Fee in mind when I chose many of them.

The whole process is right up my alley--I'm a dabble here, read a little there, learn a little about a lot of things kind of gal. The last few years, however, I've slacked off. After retiring from teaching, I've reveled in bon-bon reading and an intellectually relaxed atmosphere.

Yet I've always loved learning (not necessarily the same thing as school) and admired autodidacts, and the timing seems just right to pursue things in a slightly more organized , yet still in a desultory, relaxed manner. Time to expand a little, mentally and physically; time to explore things that have always interested me and things that have never really been on my chart.

What else is on my long list of things I want to do or learn -- studying Italian again after about 10 years, taking a cooking class (it is never too late to learn, right?), reading my camera manual (duh!), learning about classical music, learning more about reiki, go hiking and maybe eventually make a little of the Appalachian trail in the future, go on a retreat (quilting, yoga, or just spiritual)....

Over at Kim's blog, SkybelleArts, I discovered this challenge--Creative Every Day. It will fit in perfectly with my self-challenge because a vigorous mind, a Renaissance mind, is a creative mind, and creativity runs the gamut, the entire range of human activity...


  1. I haven't checked your book blog in awhile...I'll look forward to this review and hopefully my library has it in.

    Let me recommend "What Would Jesus Buy" in will become one of our annual holiday views...funny, hilariously so, and relevant!

    Wishing you and Fee and all your folks a fabulous year ahead!

  2. wow, how interesting. this is certainly right up my street. I feel the same, I need to keep my brain active otherwise I get lazy and grumpy. I'll make sure I check out your book blog!!

    And happy new year!

  3. Karoda - I hate having to wait to review it, but thankful they sent me a copy to review!

    I think I saw some version of WWJB on Youtube last year...maybe from one of your posts. Will look into it again.

    Monica - I have been too narrow, I think, in my interests lately. Even in the quilting/fabric area, I don't explore much. The book is providing motivation!

  4. because a vigorous mind, a Renaissance mind, is a creative mind, and creativity runs the gamut, the entire range of human activity...

    Yes, indeed! I think 2009 is going to be a wonderful year. I did order The Vigorous Mind - just couldn't resist.

  5. Kim - I hope you find it as inspiring as I have. The first two chapters were not that great, but beginning with the third...fascinating.

  6. I really like this idea. I'm trying to think of how to apply it to my own life. I think a little more of everything this year is right up my alley. Sometimes you need to focus on one big thing, but my life is so chaotic that this approach (20-30 minutes at a time) seems fitting.

    I just joined my first sewing challenge, I hope I do better at it than I do at the reading challenges. I hope it gets me to my machine a little every day, as it's a one year challenge. (I'll be posting about it soon-ish.)

  7. Oh, this post is so right on! I've been auto-didacting for years. I think there is no better teacher-learner than ourselves, because we choose our topic, our pace, and how we choose to absorb the material. Bravo! Absolutely love both your blogs.

  8. I love this post, and both your blogs. I'm going to get this book. Even though I've done this sort of "self-curriculum-designing" on my own for years, I'm sure there are additional points of wisdom!

  9. Mary - I went to Austin, TX for a month and got my 200 hour training, and I'm now a RYT, a registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance.

    That is just one good thing that this book inspired!


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