"Wax on, wax off": Research as a meditative practice
I was initially drawn to research by a combination of the challenge and the opportunity of finding my charismatic and responsive supervisor. I had worked with him on my Master's Degree, and a research component within the degree. Research wasn't as straightforward as coursework and, in fact, it was a whole other culture. My supervisor was an experienced researcher with international contacts and a publishing record which is long and varied. He had enthusiasm for my quirky side and I didn't drive him crazy.
My nature is to move quickly and directly to an outcome. I am a multi-tasker extraordinaire. Juggling is what I do best. Moving fast is my speciality - jump in first, ask questions later. I am rewarded for this in my personal and professional life. People tend to like results, and they like them now, and I can deliver. Pretty soon my life is racing around me in a constant swirl of ideas, projects, outcomes and excitement.
But at the hub of all this activity, I have realised a few things. One: I am a better practitioner in my field if I can understand and critically assess the research of others, and embark on research myself. Two: I need to slow down - to think and to consider. I need to engage in a process which cannot be concluded quickly, where I am not experienced, and where I am humbled by the experience of others.
Research has given me the opportunities to explore a different side of myself. Research has allowed me to flex muscles which are weak from years of study and practice that require similar skills and knowledge. I wanted to stretch and be forced to do something slowly, something hard, something that would make me a better critical thinker. I wanted to do something that would make me better at my job, something which is a socially acceptable and not boring, and something that has small tasks which add up to a larger picture.
Often I feel like Ralph Macchio in the "Karate Kid" movie. I am diligently waxing cars, under the guidance of a strict master. The work is hard and slow, but when everything clicks into place I will be able to rise from the meditative practice and flex new, big research muscles. I can't wait.