One of my favorite yoga teachers talks about using the yoga mat as a 2'x6' laboratory. Here, she says, a person can safely run experiments about focus, attention, comfort, discomfort, breath and effort. Ideally, these experiments spread to life off the mat as well.
I've been thinking a bit lately about another aspect of experimentation: data collection. Data collection can draw our attention to habits and patterns that may go ignored in our health and in our productivity. Data collection doesn't have to be fancy, and it can be qualitative as well as quantitative.
By running our own experiments on ourselves we learn to take control over our quality of life--our energy, our productivity, and our daily practice schedule. Right now I am living with the tough results of one such experiment with caffeine. By attending to how my body feels after drinking coffee, I realized that I tended to feel racy and anxious and too warm after my coffee, feelings I am trying to decrease right now. Faced with this data, I realized I needed to change out my coffee for herbal tea.
The point of such data collection is to reflect on the question, "How is this working for me?" If the answer is not so well, then there's opportunity to change.
For example, one might try attending to the matter of writing time for one week, tracking when the writing took place, the length of the session, and the quality of energy during the session. The same experiment might be run another week with writing location. Similarly, one might track what time of day yoga practice feels best or at which one is likely to practice. Then ask, "How is this working for me?"
Get a Life, PhD
The Professor is In
The Thesis Whisperer
Tenure, She Wrote