This one’s been brewing. I hope you’re ready for a long one. Subjects separated by horizontal rules.

I’m loving this music sharing stuff. Tonight I have an additional FIVE music libraries to choose from, thanks to the university computer network to which lots of people’s computers are connected. Currently we are listening to Dvorak’s New World Symphony.

The Experiment
(those in search of ‘real’ news may wish to skip this section…!)

I’m still feeling remarkably good. Last year, when I started reading about the power of our thoughts and so forth, I was pretty skeptical, and didn’t think that all that much would come of it. I mean, come on, self-help, self-development, self-improvement books?! But I gave it a go, and a year on, the ‘experiment’ continues.

I’ve only recently started thinking of it as an ‘experiment’. I think it was our good friend anonymous who used that word to refer to what I’ve been doing through reading, listening to audio books and putting the lessons I learn into practice. Initially, I was a put out, I mean, this was more than an ‘experiment’, this was my life, this was me we were talking about. By referring to my new belief system as an ‘experiment’ was to deny its roots, to imply that it is just a fad, some mask temporarily adopted in a in a bid to fool myself and the world that things were different – whilst underneath there was the same old Joseph.

I cast that thought to the back of my mind, and left it there to do whatever it wished. It didn’t waste its time: when I wasn’t looking, it infiltrated my subconscious, and through that worked its way back into my conscious mind. Until one day, I woke up and found that yes, I was living an experiment.

Situations arise, prompting a reaction from me. I am faced with a choice: to behave ‘naturally’ as I would have done in the past in that situation, or to give a very different reaction – one that is more in line with my new set of beliefs. It’s a conscious decision. When someone tells me they’ve had a terrible day because of this that and the other, in the past I would have joined them in celebrating the misery and harshness of life, but now, I find myself actively considering my reaction – what can I say to turn this conversation around?

It’s this very ‘conscious’ nature that makes me feel that yes, this is an experiment.

It’s like breathing – most of the time we don’t give a second thought to the process, it’s just a natural thing that the body does (which is kind of handy really..!). However, we do have the choice to make it a very conscious process, to regulate our intake of air in whatever way we wish. But, if we do that (e.g. take a series of short, sharp breaths) we make the process into an artificial one, an artificial one which, when we stop paying attention to it, will return to the natural rhythm that our bodies have ‘built-in’.

And it’s a bit like that with this positive attitude stuff. I’m consciously interrupting my ‘natural’ thought processes and choosing to process ideas in a new and different manner, resulting in different decisions and (therefore) different actions.

It’s an experiment, as there’s a strong sense of “I wonder what will happen if I do this…” whenever I stray from the established path.

…and yet, these past few weeks spent in a familiar environment have begun to show me that no, it’s more than that. It’s gone beyond being just some experiment – some fundamental changes have occurred. I can think of several instances this week (such as in lectures and other group situations) in which I have behaved in an extrovert manner. These ‘outbursts’ have not come about following close scrutiny of the situation before me and then a conscious decision to act in a certain way, they have simply ‘happened’. Sometimes, they have left me feeling somewhat surprised – did I really just say that? (by the way, these aren’t offensive outbursts…!). Seconds later it’s “Well yes, I did, and that’s great, it was a positive contribution, well done!”. It seems I may have learnt something from my initial ‘experiments’, and taken whatever that learnt thing is on board as a core belief.

The natural rhythm of my breathing has started to change.

As a parent, one may not notice just how much one’s child has grown, after all, you see them every day and they don’t look all that different today from last week. But when Aunty comes to visit, what does she say to little Jimmy? “My! Haven’t you grown!” …and that’s how I’m feeling here. The last time I saw Joseph in Sheffield he was pretty extrovert (the photos from those Christmas parties are all the proof one needs), but I recall that at those times he felt that he was stepping quite a long way out of his comfort zone. There was an awareness that this was ‘not normal’, and a concern for the opinions of others. This caused a good deal of stress, but he continued none-the-less, desperate to break out of the (self-imposed?) shackles of society.

It doesn’t feel like that anymore. I feel OK with whatever I’m feeling, and OK with not being overly concerned about the opinions of others. It’s no longer a struggle for some distant goal (whether that be ‘joy’, ‘self-belief’, ‘confidence’ or whatever) – there is no unreachable happiness in the form of a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow; rather, I’m walking along the rainbow, and the path beneath my feet is giving me all the gold I need.

The cynics may read the above and say “What a load of bollox, I think we’ve lost him”, but that’s OK. Perhaps I’ll read this myself in 10 years time, when on the maximum hourly dose of Prozac, banned from approaching high bridges and prevented from going diving with sharks by friends, and say, “Crikey, what the hell was I on then? Were those vitamin tablets really 100% organic…?”, but I don’t think that will be the case. Why? Because personally, it feels very right living like this. It’s the first time I’ve really handed over control of my life to my self, damn hard though that is with such an hyperactive ego trying to make its voice heard at all times.

So, the journey continues.

Oh, as a sidenote, if anyone has any recommended reading, something that’s available in audio format, do let me know. My thanks to Bibi for the audiobook you sent me out of the blue: I listened to the intro this morning and am very much looking forward to listening to the rest of it and putting the tecniques described into practice.

My study plan, as outlined a few posts ago, has been hugely beneficial. I have a spreadsheet on the wall with a column for each activity along the Y axis, and days of the week along the X axis. It’s working in two ways: firstly it prompts me to cover those areas of study that I may have forgotten (or neglected out of fear), and secondly, it reassures me that yes, I am studying, I am getting through the material. Having this sheet brings me peace of mid – I have proof that I have actually been studying, even if I feel I have learnt very little (which is probably not true, it’s just that being so close to the study I can’t see the outcome). (Is ‘learnt’ a real word? My spell-checker says it should be ‘learned’, but I think that’s just US English…?)

I’m really having trouble meditating though. My mind just wanders. Part of the problem may be the guide that I’m using, which is a little too intrusive. Still, I shall persevere as meditation is something that comes up again and again in all sorts of texts by all sorts of people, as something that can have a big (positive) impact upon one’s life.

The exercise is fun too! It’s only been a few days so I’m not feeling any real differences yet (although I can do 5 more press-ups than last week!), but it’s certainly helping me feel energetic in the mornings. And this ball – it’s great! Everyone should have one! The most comfy chair I’ve ever used!

Went for a cholesterol test earlier this week – results next Monday. I used to hate blood tests (I think the time that Japanese nurse punctured my artery, sending a samurai film-like arch of blood across the room, might have something to do with that), but this was no problem at all. Really interesting talking to the nurse too who was all all for alternative medicine. Made me want to try acupuncture, something that still strikes me as being a legal form or torture.

Leaving the doctors I passed by my opticians. On the spur of the moment I decided to pop in and ask about getting a spare pair of specs, in case my current ones get broken at some point in Japan. On hearing that I’d not been in for 3 years the secretary told me I was overdue for a sight test – something that had never even occurred to me. After a short wait spent discussing her beautiful Mac and my time in Japan, I was ushered into the optician’s den at the back of the building, and subjected to all manner of bizarre tests.

Eyeballs back in their sockets, the optician looked at me and smiled, “You have the least deterioration over three years in anyone I have ever seen! Whatever you’ve been doing, keep on doing it!”

So, that’s more sitting in front of the computer for me then.

Photosoc’s great. We have an amazing president, who copes remarkably well with a somewhat unresponsive bunch of members. There’s plans in the pipeline for a trip to see some of Andy Goldsworthy’s artwork in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park – that will be a dream come true for me.

Before that though, at the next meeting we have Joseph’s amazing presentation about his trans-Siberian voyage. I can just see it now, introducing Pepé the penguin to a bunch of folks who sit there in a stony silence, wondering when this idiot is going to shut up so can all head down to the bar.

I got some more prints done of some recent shots, and boy-oh-boy, what a difference it makes to have them on paper as opposed to on the screen.

The Minidisc Auction (3 MD players / recorders plus 150+ discs) continues to go well. With two days left we’re up to £72. Feel free to take part in the battle for my entire music collection as of 2003ish.

At the beginning of our Work and Society in Japan lecture today, we were told about a visit by officials from the Japanese Embassy in London on the 22nd October. I think the ambassador might be coming too.

Their mission is to promote the Jet Program, which everyone familiar with Japan is probably aware of. Jet is a common way in to Japan for foreigners – stay there for any length of time and you’ll bump into someone working as a teacher’s assistant in one of the public schools.

Whilst I’m not interested in teaching children, the CIR posts do appeal. CIRs are essentially program co-coordinators, working in government departments acting as the bridge between the foreign workers on the ground, and the local / national offices that run the program. Unlike the teaching assistants, “CIR Applicants must have a sufficient command of Japanese for daily work in a Japanese environment.”

I asked a member of staff who knows me very well what they thought of this program, and whether it would suit me. Their response backed up what I was thinking – it was just the kind of thing for me. Working with people, problem solving, providing support.

Not only this, but as pointed out today, it would do wonders for my Japanese skills. At present, one option I have for when I return to Tokyo is to apply for a job with a training company, training Japanese business men in Western business skills. Whilst this does appeal to me, and I am very grateful for being told about the possible opportunity, it does lack one element: Japanese language use. For me, this is pretty important, as I really want to become fluent in Japanese within three years. I feel that I owe it to *Twinkle* to learn her language, to put as much into our relationship as I can. Thus, ideally, I want to work in a Japanese-speaking environment.

Looking at the Jet website tonight, I saw one requirement that troubled me:

“Applicants must not have lived in Japan for 3 or more of the last 8 years”

I tend to assume that I have lived there three years… have I? Let’s see.

TOTAL: 31.5 months = 2 years 7.5 months!!

HURRAHHH!!!!! I’m eligible!

We’re told that the embassy is especially keen to recruit Sheffield graduates this year as we have been under-represented in the past.

Whilst the wage is way below what I could earn elsewhere (300,000 yen p/m, which at today’s rate translates as £15,000 p/a) I’m not really fussed. It’s the experience I want, and being a dual income family we won’t have any money issues.

So, I’m excited about this. The initial meeting is 10 days from now – I’ll keep you posted.

Anyhow, by blogging tonight I have taken myself way beyond my bedtime. But it’s OK, I have a late start tomorrow.