My palette’s got quite the eccentric pairing of taste buds. You would think I would do well at a buffet with the wide variety of selection—the salad bar, the burrito bar, the rotisserie, the “unknown,” and my favorite, the non-fat yogurt machine. I’d be able to taste a little of everything and leave satisfied having gotten the most bang for my buck. But in fact, I would just overstuff myself, and perhaps feel overwhelmed with the urge to occupy the ladies room. To be honest, I would never survive at a buffet. There’s just too much to eat, and not enough space in my stomach.
In her book, The Vigorous Mind, Ingrid Cummings advocates for a way to end “mental malnutrition” through kaizen, an ancient Japanese Zen philosophy that advocates taking small steps to accomplish large goals. I am compelled to take a break before making my second round to the mashed potatoes. Cummings argues that by committing just 20 minutes of concentrated attention per day to a topic of our choice, we can make progress toward braking through mental, emotional and professional boundaries. By becoming big-picture thinkers, we have the potential to develop a richer, more engaged life.
Take on a hobby. Sounds simple, right? It’s easier said than done. Although we live in a world where we are taught to strive for more, to know more, and to want more, we should do more. Cummings argues that we should make a healthy habit out of cross-raining our brain. We should reach for breadth over depth, become generalists rather specialists. This is not to devalue the work of people like neurosurgeons, but rather point that neurosurgeons have the potential to expand their world and stimulate their brains by exploring various interests. This is Cummings’ key to staying intellectually sharp and emotionally happy.
While I would like to try every flavor of cake in line, I don’t think I could stomach such a feat. As a student at Cal with two part-time gigs and rent to pay, I wish I had more time to cross-train my brain, take on something creative like cake decorating. I just know I have to train myself to better manage my time and palette.
Follow Ingrid Cummings’ Book Tour here.