On Keeping Notebooks

IMG_9991Every once in a while my morning playtime consists of randomly picking up notebooks  and reflecting upon whatever I happen to come across. Now I have been pretty good over the last 30 years about taking notes. Not that the notes I have taken are detailed enough to remember all of the things I have been taught over the years. However, more often than not I am able to get the gist of many lessons because I choose to take time and reflect on what I had just learned or experienced. After years and years of notebooks I can look  back at my first class, and can reproduce in part what I learned my first day being exposed to the Art of Pa Kua.

Writing things down is magical.  According to my Sifu, handwriting notes is the best way to engage the magic of taking notes. Let’s break it down a little bit. First, there is the act of remembering what you did. Going through your memory and recalling what you did and creating some sort of mental order to the writing of your notes. This helps  (in other ways as well ) to create a path for remembering. This is true whether or not you ever look at the notes again. Second, is slowing down, not rushing towards the next thing on the schedule, this makes space for absorbing what you learned. Third is writing down thoughts, observations, and feelings about the experience of learning.  In my experience, these details are the glue that holds together all of the disparate nonlinear parts of the lesson. Kind of a shorthand that begins to dive into areas that don’t exist in the verbal instructions but are just as important. Forth,(these numbers are arbitrary, and there as so much more), is creating a path that you can use to recreate the experience for yourself, even 20 or more years later. There are so many, things I have only learned 1 time. And years later, reviewing my notes, I stumble across something that I really enjoyed playing,  and have rebuilt from my notes. It has also happened that, I have come across some form or art that I didn’t like at the time and find that I love playing it now!

Note taking in invaluable. There are many ways to go about this. Some people are very precise, and take the time to draw detailed sketches and diagrams, some people just use words for descriptions. I have had many methods over the years. I have usually found a balance between usefulness and the time I can spend taking notes.  Over the years when returning to the notes, there have been many times I wished I had taken just a little bit longer.  This is good practice for any type of learning. It is a visual road map for where you have been, and things you might have forgotten along the way.

Here is my basic formula for taking notes now. In no particular order.

  1. What did I do in class?
  2. How did I do what I learned?
  3. What were the overriding themes that held together the body of the class together?
  4. How well did I engage the lesson? What was my experience?
  5. Who was teaching, and who else was present?

If I included all of these things in my notes I have a usable record that I can repeat and many times I can do it without looking at the notes.  Is there more to be said about note taking? Yes!!!!! Much of it though you will learn from personal experience, trial, and error, which informs how you create your own systems of absorbing information, and writing it down. It must be a personal experience. You just have to know that it is important and vital to the learning process.

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