Posts Tagged ‘reading’


Mindful Reading

July 18, 2016

I love to read. I always have something on hand with me, and I don’t mean skimming Facebook or email on my phone. I mean I sneak a look at a magazine or book whenever I get the chance. But I’ve been worrying that I am too slow a reader. There certainly is always too much to read, and my piles grow, both on my nightstand and by my desk. Thanks to The Productivity Show podcast, I heard about an online speed reading course called Rev It Up Reading.

Last week my family went to the beach, and my favorite way to spend time at the beach is reading. Since I’d have so much time to read, I decided to buy seven days of access to Rev It Up, so I could put the techniques to immediate use. The course was really helpful. Although I was already a pretty fast reader, my speed went up nearly 25%, and my comprehension improved too. And I realized that highly effective reading is really an application of some mindfulness practices to the page and screen.

It’s All About Attention

At its core, improving speed and comprehension are about improving attention. One common obstacle to rapid reading is regression, going back and rereading paragraphs (or pages!) we’ve already read. While we sometimes we reread because of a passage’s significance or complexity, it’s more common that we go back because we were looking at the words but not reading them. This is because we weren’t giving our attention to the reading, but were instead thinking about other things. We did the physical work of reading, but not the mental comprehension that provides us with the meaning in the words.

When I’m not on the road traveling, I often attend morning meditation at my temple. During the session we chant four different dharma passages. I’ve done this enough times now that I have them memorized. Because I’m not always confident I really can remember all the words, however, I usually have my booklet open in front of me. What I now notice is that, if I just read the words, my mind can easily stray. I think about other things. My chanting mind is on auto-pilot. But if I chant from memory, then I am more aware of the words, and I think more about their meaning. The chanting gets more of my attention, and becomes a more fulfilling practice.

Quieting the Monkey Mind

Subvocalization, sounding out the words we read, can also slow down our reading rate. We speak about 150 words a minute, so if we sound out every word we read, we’re reading much slower than the mind can think. The trick to quieting this voice is to read faster, bypassing the vocalization process and moving the reading process more directly from the eye to the brain. At first this can feel uncomfortable, and it’s easy to worry that we’re not comprehending as much. But with a little practice, we end up understanding more. Just as removing the training wheels leaves us a bit unsteady at first, the need to pay attention to our balance focuses us, and we end up being much faster and more effective bicyclists.

I think of the Buddhist concept of the monkey mind as a parallel to subvocalizing. Beginning meditators can be put off when they first notice the seemingly unending stream of thoughts the mind produces. I’ve had friends tell me that, after a single attempt at meditating, they want to give up the whole process. How can we have a quiet mind when there’s so much going on in there? But this internal chatter, often replaying the past or anticipating the future, is only noise. This monkey mind leaps from thought to thought, and appears to have boundless energy. But once we bring our attention to it, we see that the monkey mind can’t sustain itself. Our deeper consciousness stops feeding it. Meditation is just tapping into this consciousness, and returning to it every time we give our attention to our thoughts. With practice, we begin to feel more settled. Similarly, if we give our full attention to the words we’re reading, we can quiet the subvocalizing. We stop giving energy to the internal talking, and we end up reading faster and understanding more.

Won-Buddhism believes that meditation can happen anywhere, anytime. I’m now seeing that reading can be form of practice, too.


Eduard Lindeman

August 15, 2007

I'm giving a lot of my work energy to improving our workshop's attention to helping our participants transfer the skills they learn to their work after our training ends. So I'm reading a book called The Adult Learner, and today I came across one of the pioneers in adult education, Eduard Lindeman. He was a disciple of John Dewey's, and he described adult education as discovering "the meaning of experience; a quest of the mind which digs down to the roots of the preconceptions which formulate our conduct; a technique of learning for adults which makes education coterminus with life and hence elevates living itself to the level of adventurous experiment."

And here are some words for me to heed: "None but the humble become good teachers of adults. In an adult class the student's experience counts for as much as the teacher's knowledge. … Indeed, in some of the best adult classes it is sometimes difficult to discover who is learning most, the teacher or the students."

These quotes were the most inspiring I've read in a while. Their vision shaped the rest of my day.

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18 Amazing Years

August 6, 2007

Today Vicki and I celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. That number seems ridiculous–I cannot believe how quickly the years have flown. We had a low-key celebration: listening to a writer at our favorite independent bookseller, The Regulator. Linda Greenlaw is a terrific writer and even better fishing boat captain. She said enough about writing to captivate me, and enough about fishing to captivate Vicki, whose passion for pier fishing in Wilmington, NC, runs at least as deep as the 150 miles she traverses every time she drives there to fish.

Linda Greenlaw

Then it was off to the Cosmic Cantina for margaritas and burritos on their rooftop patio, then home to watch "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Garden State." This morning we went for a trail run, where it was a bit cooler than out on the street.

We have had anniversaries where we've gone away, and loved the trips, especially to The Pilot Knob Inn near Pilot Mountain, but these last two have been low-key and quiet, and very satisfying, if no less celebratory. We pride ourselves on not taking our great relationship for granted, and we try to resist social pressures that can suggest you have to celebrate your anniversary with a large and expensive meal and/or an extensive getaway. As you can see from the picture of our new table in my post below, we live in a beautiful place, so it's hard to feel an urge to get away.

It's a bit ironic to celebrate a marriage by watching two movies that feature dysfunctional families, but we are terrible Netflix users–often movies sit for months on top of the TV–so a double-feature, even those two features, was another cause for celebration. And we thoroughly enjoyed both movies.

It's now midnight, and though the day has technically passed by, we're going to sip a bit of champagne before calling it a night. My toast can only be in gratitude to Vicki for sharing her life with me, and the amazing impact she has had on each day I have known her.

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