My name is Maureen Bakis and I created Landscapes for Learning, an educational company designed for humans to learn more about being human. We humans appear to be struggling with our identity and suffering because of our responses to modern living. Are we bodies? Are we minds? Are we becoming artificially intelligent and is that healthy? Why are we here? How do we exist in this world while vulnerable to pain, change, and death? Does anything matter? Is life a joke, a giant shit show, or staggeringly beautiful and fulfilling? And why don’t words convey meaning? What’s going on with cancel culture and pandemics and the destruction of the environment? Can I ever know “the truth” or who I am? An who can I trust, if not myself?
What is Normal?
I am a reflective, philosophical, people-oriented person and always have been. I was alternately criticized and praised for thinking too much, being too sensitive and emotional, and playing, moving and exercising all the time. I was too much for some, not enough for others, and didn’t really know what I thought and felt about myself, since I elevated others “insights” about who I was instead of my own.
Like you, I was conditioned by my environment over time, mostly without my conscious awareness, and found myself very often confused, frustrated, and afraid. I suffered, despite being “normal” and “successful” and “high-performing” on the external landscapes of life.
When I accidentally began self-study for self-realization (i.e. Yoga), I started learning more about my interior landscape and discovered the nature of my specific suffering. Through more detached and neutral observation in yoga practice, I learned to suspend critical judgment about the various aspects of myself and remain open to learning, with a curious attitude, even when struggling.
I became more discerning, came to know myself more consciously and honestly, and thus began to suffer better. You can call this process a development of psychological strength and flexibility. This type of REAL learning, this process-oriented learning, was very different from the type of performance-based learning that happens in school.
If I stumbled upon this process, by accident, and learned to read the book of myself instead of merely following what the experts were teaching me, then you can too. These courses are about finding out who you are as a human being. If you engage in the process of knowing yourself better, in more detail, honestly, and more intimately than anyone else possibly ever could, you can learn how to alleviate your own suffering, change the nature of your suffering, suffer less, and suffer better. It’s your choice.
Who doesn’t want that?
Yes, you would think everyone. But…Well…
You know what happens
when you assume…
Lots of people don’t want to know who they are, mostly because they are either ignorant, scared, or habituated to lying to themselves, but perhaps you are not one of them, at least not right now in this moment, because here you are ready to engage in self-study for wisdom and wellness! If you are at least curious enough to have read this far, that is all you really need throughout the entire self-study curriculum–CURIOSITY and a shred of willingness to explore.
These courses I created are about honesty, and I am very candid with you in them, whether you like it or not. I encourage you to smile and have a sense of humor even while suffering through this truth-telling journey because both are possible. Facing fear and challenge is a substantial part of this curriculum, so if you want someone to coddle you or buy into your bullshit, this is not the space you want to be working out (within) in.
For most humans, staying static or unmoving in so-called “safe spaces” is exactly the wrong thing to do for wellness. I saw how counterproductive coddling and safe-space mentality was during my tenure as a high school humanities teacher, and I continue to see it in my graduate school studies, as well as in some of my clinical training. There’s something very wrong if we are so weak and fragile that we have forbidden difficult conversations. If we cannot speak honestly with one another about our shared human suffering in ALL its forms, we will remain individually and collectively static and unwell.
I have created my alternative wisdom curriculum that I noticed is missing in our formal education system. I hope to reach far more people online, hopefully before our culture descends into complete and total chaos. Okay, a little exaggerated, but seriously, we all need to get our (individual) shit together to finding meaning in our lives. Because I focus on the individual does NOT imply that the collective or group identity is less important. We literally shape one another and meaning is contextually and socially negotiated. In my self-study curriculum, I am asking you to temporarily suspend your over-focus on the collective and social and focus more within yourself, the one among many, for balance.
Tell the truth, even when it hurts.
I created and deliver this curriculum focused on honesty with a tough-love approach because it works when I apply it to myself and it worked with more than a thousand of my students—yoga students, teens, my own kids, graduate students and other educators. In a way, these courses are your mirror. As you might already have guessed, looking in the mirror usually creates resistance– you may be overly critical and judgmental while hyper-focusing on your flaws and you may also have trouble looking for, clearly seeing, and accepting your own beauty and strength. If you are at least willing to step in front of the mirror, then you are already on your way to wisdom and wellness.
Self-study is a process that won’t always be pleasant or easy, but it will be enlightening if you trust the process, are honest, and persist, even when and especially when you fail! You CAN do this. And you should.
No mud, No lotus.
You can interact with these courses and their practices at your own pace—it’s gradual exposure therapy, and you are in charge; the point is to take personal ownership of and responsibility for yourself. Just begin. I have made each course simple allowing you to take baby steps and action throughout. I have made the courses failure-oriented, so you can’t screw anything up! How about that being the OPPOSITE of traditional schooling? Here’s the trick– when you do fail– and you will, please be compassionate with yourself. Try not to be a judgmental tyrant. You can tell yourself the truth, even when it f*#king hurts, but you also can be nice about it. The freedom you want must be earned and that usually includes some pain. That’s just the nature of being human. Sorry, not sorry.
The Self-Study Wheel
Don’t like mirrors?
I learned about my own human nature and the nature of my suffering from my life experiences, but I did this far more consciously through practicing Bikram yoga which taught me how to attend to my pain and suffering and study myself for wisdom and wellness. We in the Bikram Yoga community call the yoga practice a self-study for self-realization practice. It’s not about wearing spandex and balancing as most yoga studios in the West have you believing. Rather, Bikram designed his hatha yoga class using mirrors and high heat, so that individuals could willingly and honestly confront themselves directly in the mirror under bright lights and under physical AND psychological distress to observe themselves suffering, in order to discover and connect deeply to their truth, their own human suffering. I had no idea I’d learn this when I accidentally tried a class.
It is now many years after beginning my yoga journey and I am currently a grad student in counseling psychology, where I continue to read and receive confirmation about Yoga and the self-awareness process. I did not need the confirmation by psychologists, researchers, and neuroscientists to prove that understanding my specific human nature through self-study has been positively transformative. You don’t either- and in fact I think we turn to experts as an excuse from turning inward to do the work nobody else can. My curriculum, just like Bikram’s yoga, encourages you to stop making excuses, stop being lazy, stop distracting yourself from yourself, and face your fears to know yourself — this is the path to wisdom and wellness.
If I can get honest and get healthy,
You can too!
When I began paying deep, nonjudgmental attention to my attention, my body, my mind, my personality, character and my choices, and all the ways I related to myself and my experiences, I realized just how much I could actually trust myself. I realized how much I relied on others to tell me what to do and how to be– as if they had the answers and the logic and the insight about me that I lacked! Through self-study, I trust my instincts, my heart, and my gut to make the most appropriate choices for a life worth living– a life of deep meaning and purpose. You can too.
There are loads of suffering humans in the world, and unfortunately, business in the mental health sector is booming, as is the self-help industry. I will have plenty of students taking these courses, especially now, with all the inhumanity and insanity happening in American culture and with our formal education system hanging on to its current form by a very thin thread. In crisis comes opportunity to grow!
The information that I will share with you in these courses isn’t original because it is classic wisdom that’s been around for a very long time—delivered in various forms, communicated in a variety of ways, but perhaps not in the unique package of courses I have created for you, here. I encourage you to check them out with an open mind because they may be just what the universe ordered for you, here, now––even if, especially if––they make you uncomfortable. Maybe now is YOUR time?!
No more “Either-Or”
Perhaps conducting self-study in your own private way by engaging with these online courses will work best for you and/or in concert with what you are already doing for personal growth and wellness! Please know that you can use my self-study courses in concert with anything else you are doing– whether working with a therapist, nutritionist, life coach, palm-reader, dog-trainer…whatever. Becoming a better human doesn’t happen with either-or thinking.
I will tell you that in many ways, my courses in self-study are foundational to many other forms of help and self-development. I think I provide you with the first step in self-help that people skip or ignore because it’s the hard part. I will also say that my course curriculum is rooted in wisdom traditions both East and West that have been around for a very long time. The dictum “know thyself” has evolved over thousands of years, so there’s obviously something to it.
As I mentioned already, the courses here are based on demanding honesty and loads of you will drop out because of that. Many of you will make excuses, some will blame my material or my delivery or accuse me defensively of incompetence or whatever—usually the resistance is rooted in fear, fear of the truth and change that might suggest. Self-Study is time-consuming and demanding. Like life– it’s not easy! But, maybe you and some other brave souls who REALLY want to live a life worth living, with meaning, will hang in long enough, feel your growing pains, and vibe with this classic content and my unique delivery, and if you do, please let me know and please share your experience with others who may also benefit. Pay it forward, just like I am trying to do.
Pay it Forward
I am grateful to you for JUST SHOWING UP, here and now, and possibly even deciding to TRY to be more whole, wise, and well as the amazing and imperfect unique YOU. If you are suffering less or suffering better, that benefits everyone else! Thank you and Enjoy the journey of traveling the landscapes for learning!
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