Thursday, February 16, 2012

Humbly Starting Over

Oh, isn't that how it always goes? We fervently devote ourselves to something, and then we can't keep up with our own enthusiasm. Well, it has happened to me before, anyway.

In my last post, I imposed a self-created system of deadlines so that I could learn Sanskrit in a timely manner... and then I totally walked away, overwhelmed by it. It makes me laugh now. I pick myself up and try again, this time with gentle patience as my walking stick.

Truth is, I am overwhelmed by the task of teaching myself a dead language. As one friend pointed out, it isn't like I can find a Meet-Up group in town with a group of people practicing their Sanskrit together. 

I have come up with a few tips for myself, and anyone else who has taken on a big task: 

1. When in doubt, go back to the beginning. 

I was charmed initially while reading the introduction of the text I am using. The sweetest perspective on learning itself-- so Eastern. So straightforward it seems barely worth including in the book, yet I found myself going back to find those words when I got snagged. I will paraphrase for you: 

~Review in a relaxed state of mind before doing the exercises. Then the exercises will be more enjoyable. If the exercises seem difficult, review more. Do not strain in remembering thus "programming" your mind to forget. Memorization should be easy, comfortable and frequent. ~

It's almost as if the author of the text has been where I am. Duh. Leads to my next point... 

2. Be gentle with yourself in the process of learning. 

I love that "do not strain in remembering thus programming your mind to forget". It brings me back to one of the first Sanskrit words I learned-- a favorite of mine to teach during yoga classes-- Ahimsa. 

Ahimsa is the first of the yamas & niyamas-- the ethical system of yoga, the lifestyle, the foundation of all yoga, perhaps of all Eastern thought-- the concept of non-violence. We must be non-violent with ourselves. 

When I impose standards on myself that are too high, bad things happen. :) Perhaps I become rigid and short with others, unkind, or perhaps I give up on my task altogether. No good. In order to be successful in our spiritual pursuits, we must throw out our culturally ingrained "no pain, no gain". 

3. Remember your motivation. 

When facing a big task it is helpful to keep in mine the goal, the objective, the reason for starting in the first place. Reconnect with what drove you to start in the first place. 

I want to metaphorically sit at the feet of the ancients, understand the words that came out of their mouths and onto paper thousands of years before us. Cultural context is everything, and the taste of a language has so much to do with that. Understanding the taste of Sanskrit can help me to better understand this beautiful journey I am on called yoga. 

What helps you to stay motivated to make your dreams reality? Please share in a comment below.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Learning Vowels

The book I am using gives examples of english words when describing how to pronounce sanskrit vowels. Like the difference between the a in "America" and the a in "father". They are two different different lengths of the same sound. Try it-- say both words. Can you tell?

Our Roman script isn't this specific/thorough-- but sanskrit is so deliberate. I love it.

At any rate, I am finishing up the chapter on vowels and moving to the sounds of the consonants. This seems a bit more involved than vowels so I went searching for a video online which would pronounce the consonants for me.

I ended up finding this great video on vowels instead. Thought I would share it with you-- its a succinct  review for me, and I hope a fun experiment for you. It is 9 minutes long-- but if you are interested, your attention will be wrapped. Be sure to pronounce along with him. Good stuff (and the intro made me smile-- "Esoteric Teaching Seminars").

Monday, January 9, 2012

Practice and all is coming...

I continue my studies in Sanskrit-- which as I shared earlier begins with Devanagari (the script and pronunciation)-- though the holidays do take us away from our disciplines a bit, don't they?

What is it that motivates us to plug along and get through it while in school? 

Deadlines and the next class session when we know the instructor is going to expect us to have read our stuff. In self teaching, we don't have that incentive. As we find with yoga practice-- really with any endeavor-- self-discipline is key. We must stick with it to achieve our goals, to receive the benefits. I believe Pattabhi Jois said, "Practice and all is coming..." 

In order to keep me moving on this self-study, I have to develop a sort of curriculum. Anyone who knows me personally will smirk with that statement, because I am a systems-type person and welcome such an opportunity. I am going through chapter by chapter in a textbook I purchased online, and am working through assignments....

...and grading myself. The first test I did was more than a bit discouraging. I got 50% in translating from sanskrit to english, and 87% in translating english to sanskrit. *humbling* Being the lenient self-instructor I am :), I allowed myself to re-take the test, and received 100% in both the second time 'round.

Now for the system and the deadlines to hold me accountable. I get more grace than an academic semester, as I am not held by a 16-18 week timeframe. I will complete a lesson/chapter every 2 weeks and report back to ya with some interesting tidbit or highlight from each.