GP lessons from a Zen dancer

I was deeply moved and enlightened by this performance from Japanese Zen dancer Miyoko Shida-Rigolo. And I would advise all GP students in this day and age to watch it, and reflect.

What can this amazingly delicate balancing act teach us about GP, you might ask?

It teaches us the sheer power of the time-honoured art of concentration. And stillness. The two qualities have not become less relevant with time, but more.

Today, I find that one of the most prevalent problems our GP students face is the inability to concentrate. Small wonder, as they are living in the Age of Distraction. Did you check your WhatsApp messages while doing your chemistry homework today? Tweet while talking to your friend about his girlfriend problems? Almost step on the head of the Bangladeshi worker in the manhole because you were doing online shopping on the go? Today our minds are splintered, always in three or four places at once.

What is more, according to the Washington Post, cognitive neuroscientists are warning that humans seem to be developing digital brains with new circuits for skimming through the torrent of information online. This alternative way of reading is competing with traditional deep reading circuitry developed over several millennia. “I worry that the superficial way we read during the day is affecting us when we have to read with more in-depth processing,” said Maryanne Wolf, a Tufts University cognitive neuroscientist. There is growing concern that young children’s affinity for digital devices could stunt the development of deep reading skills.

It is precisely these deep reading skills that are needed in GP. The ability to stay focused from the first sentence to the last, the first paragraph to the last in your compre passage. To identify the theme, thesis and main supporting and opposing points. To follow the flow of the writer’s thoughts and separate his main thrust from his elaborations and even side comments.

Bear in mind that this task is made much more difficult by the fact that many accomplished writers do not follow the cookie-cutter PEEL structure of essay writing – point, elaboration, example, link – that most GP teachers insist that YOU use in your GP essays. In compre passages, writers pretty much write any way they like. They can have two topic sentences in one paragraph. They can start with an example and place the topic sentence at the end. They can even have no topic sentence at all and make you infer what they are driving at.

Thus, concentration is key to understanding a compre passage. The skill of concentration must be coupled with the high-level reading skills that you can only develop by, well, reading high-level writing every day, for instance The Economist or the Opinion section of a good newspaper.

The dearth of concentration is closely linked to the dearth of stillness in our 21st century society and human condition. The world is becoming increasingly urbanised and in modern cities, one can hardly go anywhere without the hum of traffic, the chatter of human voices or the beeping of cellphones somewhere in the background.

As a result of this lack of stillness, our own minds are also a vortex, a swirling, convoluted mass of everything and nothing.

We need to find that stillness within, if we are to achieve clarity in our lives. Clarity in our thoughts, in our understanding, in our communication, in our strategic vision for our lives.

Otherwise, we are lost.


For enquiries on GP tuition by the blogger, a First Class Honours grad from NUS, please call/text 98392152 or click ‘About the Tutor/Testimonials’ above. All lessons on a one-to-one or two-to-one basis. Secondary English tuition and Personal Statement Editing services also available.

For GP model essays, click here.

10 things that would make me proud(er) to be Singaporean.

About gptuitionsg

A dedicated English and GP tutor with First Class Honours from the National University of Singapore, Steven Ooi retired from the profession after a 14-year career during which he was one of the most sought-after private tutors in Singapore. He is the recipient of the Minerva Prize from NUS, which is awarded to the top English Language honours student of each cohort. This website, which has consistently ranked among the top 10 on Google and has received over 530,000 hits, has now been converted into a GP resource site cum listing of recommended tutors. If you are a GP or English tutor who wishes to be listed here, please email Steven Ooi at stevenooi18 @ (remove the spaces). Interested parties will be assessed and interviewed by him, and qualifications will be checked. These procedures are necessary to uphold quality standards. DISCLAIMER: While every reasonable effort has been made to assess the competence and verify the qualifications of recommended tutors here, no guarantees are made and you engage them at your own risk. By using this website, you agree that you will not hold the webmaster Steven Ooi responsible for any consequences — direct or otherwise — that occur in relation with your use of this website.
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