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Reflecting on Oneself as Social Animal

The “Right” Choices for YOU & The Group 

How do you balance actualizing your potential by being “YOU” and do right by “the group?”

This is a tough one! This is the inner landscapes meeting the external landscapes! Here’s the big secret that’s really no secret at all—separate landscapes don’t really exist; they are intricately and DEEPLY connected. Some believe they are the same exact thing. Throughout this entire curriculum, in almost every practice in every course, I merely ask you to look at yourself as an individual self rather than as a social self, but indeed, you encompass both, each influencing and interacting and “being with” the other. I have repeated several times how self-study will greatly improve your relationships with others.

You don’t “DO YOU” in a vacuum. You are a social being, and that is a critically important and substantial part of how you are who you are–that is,  in relationship to other people. We haven’t been talking about relationships with others in these courses because my focus is on getting you to develop a healthy relationship with yourself. That does not imply that relationships with others is any less important. We are simply paying more attention to one thing more than the other.

Noticing Imbalance & Balance

These courses work from the premise that many modern people experience an imbalance between how much and how often we focus on others and the external world, whether that means fixing others, blaming others, being responsible for others, helping others, or being manipulated by the world of social media and super-corporations, versus how much we focus on ourselves and our realization and actualization. We wish other people were more self-aware so they would treat us better, and we do need to understand how we can take back our attention and make choices to avoid unhealthy manipulation.

We wish other people would understand us, we wish the laws would change and policies would be different, and on and on it goes, but, in these course we are doing OUR OWN personal interior work, that is– what we can, and owning our small part in the social world. Hopefully we can become more response-able for ourselves and know ourselves in order for our relationships with others to improve and thrive and to be response-able enough to resist nefarious manipulation by very strong forces.

Look around at how disconnected we are from one another due to the pandemic and how polarized we are as Americans due to the state of political life. PART of the remedy is for each of us is an inside job, if we want to solve these relational problems and improve relational dynamics in our personal relationships as well as politically, socially, and globally. Certainly, other work on the “external” landscape also needs to be done as well, (reform, collective action etc…)and you can do that better if you are better, more whole and well.

Put your own house in order, so that you can participate constructively as part of the group.

In this course, you are being asked to observe your personal, individual experiences as a human being, and thus being yourself and “doing you” includes making choices in line with your values which could certainly include deciding to do collective, social and political action and making choices about family, communal, and spiritual life.

In the practice below,  observe, reflect and write about values and groups.  

Reflect on relationships you choose and those you did not choose.

Write about your group membership(s) and values.

Write about who you are in terms of the groups you belong to and those you do not. How do you qualify to be in those groups?

Are the values of the group, the same as your personal values? Are there some values that are the same and some that may be different? Is there conflict there or not? If not, why not? If so, why? Explain.

Write about your membership in the human race. How do you qualify as part of the human race?

What groups would you like to be part of and why?

What groups would you like to leave and why?

The QUESTIONS are more important than the ANSWERS

How do YOU do the right thing– right for you AND that will not harm others– that will make things better and not worse for you and others? THIS IS SO CHALLENGING! Describe an example. Note your emotions as you respond to this prompt.

How do YOU make the healthy choice that fosters wellness and peace and balance for you AND for the group? This is the same question, written slightly differently. (My point is to get you to ponder the question not to provide “the” answer.)

Reflect on and write about fairness and harm and what those terms mean to you. Notice how you FEEL, emotionally and physiologically, as you reflect and/or write about these topics. (Notice which terms you use to describe your emotions, e.g. guilty, ashamed, resentful, angry, hopeful, etc…)

How do YOU Make the correct choices in your life– to make your interior self thrive as well as the social self thrive? Explain.

Perhaps you think you are making the “right” choices for yourself, but that turns out to be false. Perhaps you think you are not making the “right” choices, but that turns out to be false. Find out what you are really up to with your personal choices and choice-making that impacts others. It will take courage to accept the truth of what you discover while noticing the resistance that comes up.

Negotiation, Sacrifice, Balance
(Give a little, get a little, sometimes, and it depends…)

You have to negotiate within yourself—amongst your inner impulses, desires, needs, thoughts and feelings, and negotiate and cooperate with others which means making compromises and sacrifice. It’s a tricky balance. Just as within you, aspects of yourself must “die” for others to grow and flourish, so too with “letting go” of desires or beliefs to allow the social body to flourish and grow. And, as you have been learning all along, this is a difficult process requiring courage to notice and manage resistance (to change, loss) and honesty accept the truth.

Try to notice yourself in terms of choice when it involves you and a group and how you sacrifice or refuse to, compromise or not, let go of your ego’s desires or not, let go of a belief or not, cooperate or not.

Trusting your gut is related to social rules and standards for survival and membership in the group, as we are social animals and need to belong and be accepted by the group. Our bodies (and minds) know this and need connection and belonging. We are bodies and emotional as you learned in the Course on Self-Awareness. We didn’t just become civil in our minds alone nor rationally make this fact about human nature up.

Our humanness tells us to play nice and cooperate. We have altruism, empathy, and compassion built into us, as well as the need for order and control. Just like you learned in the Challenge Course, self-discipline gives you more freedom. So too for the group or social organism as a whole, proper discipline is necessary, that is, good, balanced parenting that supports growth and actualization for as many of its members as possible, if not, ideally, for everyone of them.

Avoid Extremes to Be a Good Playmate!

When people behave in the extreme or pose a serious threat to the group, the group collectively decides upon discipline to maintain the balance and survival of the group. It behooves each individual in the group to discipline themselves, to become a good parent to themselves which will allow them more personal freedom. If people struggle and fail to do this and pose a threat to themselves or others, the group provides help, support, and discipline as a good parent (not an authoritarian brutal dictator!) This is the ideal, of course, which in reality never works perfectly nor consistently.

Finally, the group, parenting, mentors, and elders all model both healthy and unhealthy human choices. They model responsibility, courage, and other aspects of character and virtue as well as vices and failures, abuses of discipline, and lack of insight etc…You get to choose which models to follow and you will be held accountable for your choices by the group.

Becoming aware of your own human nature and observing social life in all its complexity is A BIG CHALLENGE. When you think about it this way, holy cow, there’s an overwhelming amount of experiences to learn from. There are so many opportunities  to choose, make good and bad, right and wrong, extreme and balanced choices, which means so many opportunities for us to be more alive and well and fully expressed as ourselves!

PROSOCIAL BEING 

Obviously, ideally, we’d like to make decisions and choices that are good for us rather than harmful, individually and collectively. And, ideally, since we are social creatures and our relationships with other humans are such a HUGE part of who we are, our choices should, ideally, benefit the group or at least not harm the group or make its health worse! We are a constant work-in-progress, continually swinging between yin and yang. REALISTICALLY,  where do you fall on the social wellbeing spectrum?  Reflect and Write.

Notice how the pendulum swings!

As you may have already experienced in your life, humans are imperfect, health is a spectrum, and thus balancing your choices as an individual who lives among other humans is challenging! What I am suggesting here is “relative balance” which happens within the human group– some people get more, some less; some people must give up something, and others get something; and on and on it goes with extremism as pathological. If we completely abolish the political left or ignore it entirely, the whole political organism becomes dysfunctional, just as if we completely ignored the right– same outcome. When we choose to believe that all republicans are bad people and all liberals are good, that dichotomous all-or-nothing thinking polarizes us further and further away from cooperation and unity.  As social selves, we need each other for our individual health and fullest actualization, whether we like it or not.

Just as I explained the relative balance and imbalances that happen within you in your organism, the same is true for the social organism.  I think Modern Life shows how many people are unwilling to make sacrifices within themselves for their own growth, health and actualization AND make sacrifices for the group’s vitality.

Reflect & Write on your Groupish Nature

How groupish are you?

How much of your personal identity is defined by the group?

Reflect on your feelings and emotional life as it relates to relationships and groups.

What important emotional, mental, and physical needs are met by your group membership?

Write about a time where you sacrificed for the sake of “the group” (you define the group).

Write about a time when the group sacrificed for your benefit.

Write about one time when you were unwilling to “let go” a part of yourself when the group demanded it.

Write about one time when you were demanding someone in the group let go of something for you or your group.

Reflect in writing about your emotions, physical sensations, and ideas in response to the prompts above. Even though these are memories, notice both the more visceral and rational qualities of your experiences, as you remember them, and write about them. Just notice your responses.

Individual Values and Shared Human Values

So, making good choices within you and for you is connected to attention and knowing  your values. Living your values rather than follow distractions which include the urges and impulses from within you and the temptations that arise from the external landscape (other people, nature, living in the world) is the challenge of our age.

Another challenge is paying attention to how your values contribute to the health of the human group, shared humanity, because this is important for your own health. Why do you need to know this? Because you are human which means you are social and you need group inclusion to thrive to your fullest individual actualization.  You can’t be an entirely selfish asshole because it benefits nobody (you can be a little selfish, you can be a little tribal– again, it’s the extreme all-or-nothing that causes dysfunction within and “out there”).

What happens if your values conflict with the group’s values or the group’s values aren’t healthy for you or yours aren’t healthy for the group? Well, choices need to be made. Either the group changes, or you change, or you negotiate (ideally); that is, you compromise and cooperate.  Sacrifice, loss, and change (willingly or unwillingly) are how we survive ad thrive in groups. As always, balance is the key on both the individual or personal level (response-ability within one’s inner landscape) and on the community and global level.  If you have not yet noticed, do you see how a person on the inside isn’t so distinct or separate from the “outside” world?

You can choose to put yourself in healthy spaces and surround yourself with people  that support healthy, shared humane and humanitarian values. You can set yourself up, through choice, to minimize or eliminate unhealthy distractions– whether within you or from the forces of the world beyond you. So why do human beings fail to “do the right thing” or “make the logical choice”?  Why is it that  when we KNOW rationally or even by gut instinct, what the “right” thing to do is for our most healthy, authentic selves to flourish, that we fail to ACT accordingly? Because we are emotional, intuitive, fleshy embodied animals with human brains,  that’s why.

How can you be a good group member and be your own best advocate, friend, and wise guide too?

There will always be distractions and pressures pulling you away from your path toward values, and even the various urges, impulses, and thoughts within your own inner landscapes will seemingly be distracting and tempting you to go off course. If you are aware of them because you are paying attention, because you are practicing being mindful, you have a better chance of coping and managing than if you are oblivious and unconscious.

Super-corporations including the social media companies and conglomerates are reaching deeply into your inner landscape and manipulating your emotions, your physiology, and your mind in order to keep your attention, energy, desires, and self-awareness glued to their targets FOR PROFIT. They are manipulating YOU in unhealthy, nefarious, and negative ways, while also providing you with an amazing, progressive, useful tool that can be used for good health, healing, and wellness (individually and socially!) AND this is the conundrum of our modern time. THIS problem and the disconnection from ourselves as emotional, embodied beings is why I created this curriculum.

The wake-up call, a loud bell, and action you can take to defend and protect yourself and those you love is to know thyself. 

There’s no better reason than this to keep up your self-study for self-realization!

Yes– being a healthy human– both individual and part of a larger whole is a delicate and demanding balancing act on a constantly changing landscape—it’s the  challenge of modernity. Embracing the journey as a  learning process is the path to wisdom and vitality, individually and collectively.

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Anti-fragility Training

Bikram Yoga as Anti-fragility Training

Bikram Yoga helps people develop distress tolerance which is the ability to withstand challenge– some of which include emotional distress, difficult physical sensations, mind-racing or distorted thinking, and general discomfort with staying in the present moment. What’s the point of being able to withstand challenge? Shouldn’t we just eliminate challenge to make the world and all of our experiences in it nicer? Um, no.

Bikram yoga is EN–COURAGING.

That means you become courageous through practicing self-study for self-realization. What is self-realization? You pay attention to how you respond to challenge– to being YOU, and you practice nurturing the thoughts and habits that make you flexible and resilient and discard the habits that make you weak and fragile.

Anti-fragility: Yogis bend; they don’t break! 

The fear, pain, and challenges NEVER go away (someone will hurt your feelings, steal from you, and other injustices, even the injustices you inflict upon yourself from negative thinking; shaming etc— count on it because this is human nature), but you CAN DEVELOP YOUR ABILITIES AND CAPACITIES to cope, survive, and dare I say even thrive! This development is one of both MIND and BODY.

QUIZ

QUESTION: So guess what the antidote to stress (whether from fear, threats (real or imagined), problems, mean people, oppression, offensive “violent” language, vulnerability, confusion, and bullying) is?

(*HINT: It’s not running away and it’s not distraction.)

A. Living in a bubble of protection, safe-spaces, and being coddled thus missing valuable opportunities to grow stronger, courageous and wiser.

B. Practicing with gradual exposure to difficulty and challenge to develop trust and faith in your abilities (that maybe you didn’t know you had!) and gain a greater sense of self, independence, and personal power.

C. See the world as good versus evil (without room for nuance) or worse “good groups” vs “bad groups” and fight the enemy until peace, justice, and perfect equality reigns (i.e. utopia)

D. Ignore compassion, forgiveness, friendship, and that people are prone to error, bias, negativity, and flawed and working through their own trial and error

 

Podcast HERE

The answer is B.

Yes, of course, there are actual injustices, abuses, and REAL threats to our safety, but the “concept creep” that Haidt & Lukianoff, 2018 talk about in their book has created a culture of coddling– a fear of fear and pain; a world where we try to control others to make our own always-pleasant-safe-spaces where trigger warnings will alert us to any potential intellectual offense that may make us feel emotionally distressed or uncomfortable. Where nobody gets hurt– ever. A place where behavior and ideas that differ from our own cannot possibly be tolerated because they cause us discomfort.

The best learning is uncomfortable and stressful because it catapults you from a safe space to an unsafe space; from a place of security to insecurity and back again and it never ends. Might as well decide you will try to enjoy this process, otherwise you will continue to suffer more and be forever frustrated that you cannot control other people and your environment or anything that may threaten. Accept vulnerability and pain and see them as your best teachers. This is the practice of yoga.

Sure, people make mistakes and bad things happen, but DO NOT accept continual extreme physical or psychological abuse or extreme danger, even the kind you might inflict upon yourself. There are extremes, but these are well, extreme, thus highly unusual or out of the norm. MOST transgressions are forgivable and can be managed as opportunities for personal growth.

One of the worst things you can do is deny people, especially young people/kids, opportunities to build resilience and hone their skills for stress management.  Altering the learning process of direct experience– by censoring it, sanitizing it, limiting it, short-cutting it, or overly-controlling it is disempowering too. This kind of tyranny will destroy creativity, cooperation, friendship and growth. It turns out that facing your challenges and learning to cope with them is what makes you healthy and gives you purpose. As we say in Bikram Yoga– we will not spare you your struggle– to do so is an injustice! You practice suffering to get better at it rather than fighting tooth and nail to be pain-free which is an exercise in futility.

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Podcast 17: LEARNING as OPPORTUNITY MINDSET

In this podcast, I read Part V: LEARNING from

Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self-Study Guide for Wellness (2019, Amazon).

The podcast includes subtopics like:

*Vulnerability as intrinsic to learning process and creating meaning

*Parenting without safe-space or victim mentality

*Schooling discourages failure and uniqueness

*How and why to continue learning as a lifestyle and as a moment-to-moment mindset

*Curiosity and Possibility (Adopting a Landscapes for Learning mindset)

 

Stream the podcast here, Download it, or visit Landscapes for Learning @ iTunes.

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Same Song, Slightly Different Lyrics

I loved this conversation between Rich Roll and Dr. Jud Brewer on the Rich Roll Podcast. My book, Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self-Study Guide for Wellness (2019, Amazon) overlaps with so many of the concepts and ideas Dr. Brewer talks about. I feel like my own life experience (especially in practicing mindfulness intrinsic to Bikram Yoga) is evidence for what Dr. Jud has been studying for a very long time. We are singing the same song with slightly different lyrics!

 

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Opportunity Mindset = Meaning & Wellness

Q. What is Landscapes for Learning?

A. It’s a mindset—-an opportunity-focused way of looking at the world of personal experience.
You can CHOOSE to see your life any way you decide. Just decide!

Q. Why did I name this blog and my independent education website and business,
Landscapes for Learning?

A. Lots of reasons, but primarily because I discovered that life is a landscape upon which we all travel and all of our experiences–– whether the experiences happen on our ‘inner’ landscape: within our mind and body, deep down within our hearts or our souls, in places nobody but us is privy to where the absolute truth of us lives, or on the ‘outer’ landscape: the social and natural world (that appears to be separate from us but arguably isn’t), which is the public world beyond us––are FOR LEARNING.

Just like Will in Goodwill Hunting,

We are MOST ALIVE & WELL when we are learning. I don’t mean only when we are reading, writing, and doing arithmetic!

Like Will learned, all the knowledge in the world will not help you live well and fully actualize if you don’t know who you are by learning from your direct experience with your suffering, your challenges, i.e. your opportunities.

I became somewhat (okay, very) disillusioned at the end of my career as a high school teacher because my students had been conditioned to believe that “learning” was limited to “schooling” which was a competitive race to achieve. This made me sick because it was making kids sick. It is a terribly limiting way to go through life. Because almost ALL of the attention and energy was given to this type of “learning” in school, students were stunted in their growth as whole, fully-expressed human individuals. AND they were getting more ill (more anxious about grades and their identities more narrowly confined to socially-constructed images) over the years that I had spent time getting to know them as human beings with unique natures.

As a Humanities teacher, I was interested in knowing the people I worked with, relating to and connecting with them, beyond merely interacting with them in a coldly rational, business-like manner, as if they were academic specimen expected to produce and meet various outcomes (e.g. for parents or college admission). I was interested in the process of learning, not the outcomes of schooling. It became a difficult problem for me, for kids, and for parents.

Now, I help people get out of “Safe Spaces!”

I was and still am interested in empowering young people to know themselves (in a deep way through body and mind, not just by acquiring information) and their human nature and uniqueness in order to express themselves from a place of truth and integrity, and to take responsibility for themselves, so that they can unconditionally love and parent themselves, thus live with meaning and optimism and enjoy their lives which will include great challenge, adventure, suffering, fear, and pain.

My job  was and is to en-courage people, that is, teach them how to develop courage by facing problems and their fears, manage vulnerability and stress that comes with it, develop discipline to do what’s challenging, and see these challenges as opportunities to discover more truth about themselves–– more of who they are and who they are becoming, what they are made of, both assets and weaknesses, and to reveal their endless potential to themselves to actualize as a never ending trial and error process!

Trying and failing in school is WAY different than trying and failing in life.

Institutionalized schooling prevented students growth and my own, so I left to teach a wisdom and wellness curriculum (rationale, tools, and practices) that will absolutely meet kids where they are at and to TRULY en-courage them to be LIFE–LONG LEARNERS— in the REAL sense, not in the hypocritical, limiting sense promoted (with perhaps the best intentions) in institutionalized public schooling. It seems to be a gargantuan task and an uphill battle, but I like challenge! It felt incredibly subversive to teach in ways that opposed the system, and it’s incredibly freeing to be able to share my mission now beyond it “in the real world.” I am trying to independently educate young people (and all people, anyone who is interested!) with a wisdom curriculum for their wellness, and since more people can be accessed online, I hope to reach far more people than I could while stuck in a classroom in a building. I’m not sure anyone has read any of my blog posts, but I continue to have faith as Ray did in Field of Dreams, that if I build it they will come. And if not, that’s okay too! I don’t focus on outcomes; I trust the process.

If one person at a time can grow in wisdom and wellness and express their true, unique nature, then that’s good for everyone. The “secondhand smoke” effect of one healthy person can transform the world, one person at a time.

You have no idea how many lives you can change for the better simply by being the best YOU possible!

My curriculum––a self-study for self-realization guide––can help you whether young or old,
highly ‘educated’ or not,
to get started on
traveling the landscapes for learning!

 

 

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How and Why Self-Study, Podcast #16

Landscapes for Learning is podcasting again!

I took the year “off” from recording podcasts to write the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self-Study Guide for Wellness (2019, Amazon)!  Now I want to continue sharing the mission of LFL and teaching its self-study curriculum through podcasting and conversations online!

Since the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self-Study Guide for Wellness is a curriculum, the podcast will supplement, explain, enhance, and extend its contents and add to its already great collection of resources!! Yes, Bitches!! You’ll be able to learn about all things related to self-study and self-realization (yoga, learning, writing, challenges/ problems, etc) through listening AND consulting the practices and information in the book however you like, whenever you like, in a variety of formats you enjoy. ( e.g., Sitting in traffic or taking a walk are both great opportunities for listening in to learn more about YOURSELF!)

MY UPDATED LIVING WELL CHECK LIST 2018-2019

  1. Learned how to podcast (check!)
  2. Created a draft of an online course (check!)
  3. Turned online course into a self-directed learning curriculum: a Self Study Guide for people to use privately, in their own space (check!)
  4. Wrote and published said Self-Study Guide on Amazon. Sold (and selling) to Bikram Yoga studios and online! (check!)
  5. Incorporated as Landscapes for Learning, LLC! (check!)
  6. Having loads of ideas (about present book and for next books) and wanting to talk about them via podcast (check)

LFL’s Episodes 1-15 from 2018 helped me to flesh out ideas that ended up coming together quite nicely in book form. Now, I am shifting gears and going in a more deliberate direction by drawing on the CWFTMHSSG’s 5 main principles to create podcasts where  I will be inviting more guests to talk all things related to learning: yoga, self-study, mental health (all while I am learning Counseling Psychology to become a mental health counselor), self-realization, self-actualization, shared humanity, nature, and education!

Have a listen for an informative hour to

Podcast 016: How and Why to Self-Study for Self-Realization, Wisdom and Wellness.

Click and listen below or Download. Also listen via iTunes or Spotify.

 

Subscribe to LFL on iTunes & Share with those who you think may benefit from looking inside themselves for wellness!

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Connection Begins with Self-Study

“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self” —-the Bhagavad Gita

 

 

When you observe your self— your own life— to see where and how your attention and energy is being directed (or not), you may notice it’s either stolen, spent properly, conserved, or regularly replenished etc… You can assess the situation on your inner landscape, and make some choices: continue with what’s healthy and utilizing your assets; take responsibility for what’s not healthy and figure out how make change (rather than blaming, projecting, and staying stuck in your “comfort zone” or “safe space” ) and start to learn about the possibilities of becoming, instead of staying stuck in a fixed “static” identity. Pay attention to yourself; Listen within (to your gut, as Gabor Mate discusses) learn, and eventually, find that you are love—this is reconnection to self and it is how you recover trust within you. The more you can connect with your own sense of self and begin to trust yourself, your relationship with your self transforms, and relationships with others transform (some may wither and end because they need to, some may blossom more fully as they should).

My book, Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self Study Guide for Wellness (Amazon,2019) provides you with ideas to consider and practices/tools to begin your travels on your inner landscape for wellness.

Attending to yourself is a choice and your responsibility. No excuses.

Namaste.

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Wise Up!

Landscapes for Learning: Wisdom Curriculum for Modern Humans

“The function of education is to help you from childhood, not to imitate anybody, but to be yourself all the time.”
—Jiddu Krishnamurti

A self-study curriculum completes true education where you become a whole, fully integrated person, better prepared for life right now, in each moment, and able to ride the waves of the unpredictable future. In the modern world, taking on the challenge of knowing yourself to grow in wisdom is not only the answer, it will be, ironically, your oasis of calm in the sea of information overwhelm and rapid change.

Learning is the meaning and purpose of your one, unique life. You are always changing, so you’ll always have new things to learn about yourself. Unlike schooling, which is the sort of limited, conditional learning for earning approval from others in the form of grades or rewards and accolades, authentic life learning is a journey of trial and error where trying and failing is the point and connection to one’s inner wisdom is the result! By knowing yourself better, you’ll likely learn radical acceptance of your own humanity, coming to love all of who you are and appreciating all of life (not just the stuff you want). Imagine that? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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October Workshop!

Want to be better, kinder, and more understanding to yourself?

Come Learn About

Self-Study for Self-Realization

at

Bikram Yoga Danvers

October 19th, 2019

Noon-1:00 p.m.

Signed copies of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide (2019) will be available for purchase!

Hosted by

Landscapes for Learning, LLC

 

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Balance!

WHAT DO WE HAVE TOO MUCH OF? 

SPEED, CLUTTER, NOISE, INFORMATION & “EXPERTS”

WHAT DO WE LACK?

SLOWING DOWN & STILLNESS, INTROSPECTION & REFLECTION

WHAT DO WE HAVE TOO MUCH OF ?

KNOWLEDGE OF THE EXTERNAL LANDSCAPE; EXTRINSIC MOTIVATION

WHAT DO WE LACK ?

KNOWLEDGE OF THE INTERNAL; INTERNAL MOTIVATION & INSPIRATION 

 

WHAT TO DO for BALANCE ? 

Empower Individuals with Wisdom for Wellness

Visit Amazon.com for a copy of the

Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self-Study Guide for Wellness

A Wisdom Curriculum For Authentic Learning Beyond Schooling and for Fostering Our Shared Humanity!

 

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A Reading List for Hannah

A few months ago, a yoga student at my studio asked me what I read. She wanted a list of recommendations. So, Hannah, this is a visual of what’s on my Kindle App and the few books in my living room at the moment! This list is incomplete because, well, I am old and I have read a lot throughout my life. And, a few years ago, I was too attached to who my library told me I was, so in a minimalist-inspired moment, I donated MOST of my books. (I wrote a blog post about that experience called “Real Teaching is Risky Business”) More recently, I moved, and so many of the books I did keep are packed away in boxes. Their wisdom is in my heart and manifest in my behavior (for good I hope more than for ill) because I am not very good at keeping information in my mind for very long. If it really matters and impacts me deeply, then I internalize it. Oh, and just so you know, some of the books below were for my continuing professional education as well as others that belong to my kids! e.g. The Hunger Games, Sarah’s Key 🙂 Yes, my AAA card is there too. I highly recommend AAA as they have rescued me from many a flat tire. LOL.

Many more books also live in my Audible Library, as I have begun to listen to books while I walk my dog, Finn. I also listen to a boatload of podcasts (find a short list of those in the blog post called “Practicing Gratitude”) which in a way, I consider part of my library for learning.

In addition to the books below, many more titles, online articles, podcasts, and videos also live in the References pages at the end of my most recent book, Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self-Study Guide for Wellness available in Kindle and Paperback versions at Amazon.com.   The Kindle version is cool because you can click on the many resources I used to write the book and travel down the same rabbit holes I did to learn more about yourself.

So, for Hannah and anyone else interested….here’s a short, visual reading list below.

I bought this last book in Kauai, Hawaii, while waiting in line to pay for my groceries. It’s called MORE: Do More of What Makes You Feel Alive written by Kobi Yamada and designed by Jill Labieniec.

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A Self Study Guide for Wellness

The unexamined life is not worth living.”— Socrates

The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self Study Guide for Wellness is designed to inspire and motivate you to live an “examined” life and give you simple, pragmatic tools for everyday use. It’s about the why and how to “know thyself,” so you can express your uniqueness for a lifetime of wellness and wellbeing. This five part process of self study will enable you to specifically articulate yourself to yourself and empower you to more deliberately author your own life story.

The purpose of the Self Study Guide is to encourage you to look inward at least as often as you look outward which is why it begins with attention. Look up from your screens, away from teachers, friends, experts, and yes, even your parents, to look inward at your own human nature because that’s where your integrity and passion reside as well as all the answers about who you are and how to live well.

The Self Study Guide is a five part program will teach you why and how to:

(1) manage your attention and understand its relationship to your values, 

(2) increase your self-awareness

(3) realize the value of embracing challenge to build character, discipline, and resilience, 

(4) make more intentional choices to respond to life experiences rather than reacting to them mindlessly or unconsciously, and

(5) approach life with the attitude of a lifelong learner to cultivate growth mindset and an openness to experience.

Self study is about reflection, introspection, and radical honesty to improve your human experience. We aren’t here for very long, so get started living your best life today!

Get your copy of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self-Study Guide for Wellness Available for only $9.99 at Amazon.com.

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Vulnerability

An excerpt from “Part V: Learning” in the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Bikram Yoga Teacher’s Self Study Guide for Wellness (available June 1 at Amazon.com)

Vulnerability

“Vulnerability is not weakness. I define vulnerability as emotional risk, exposure, uncertainty. It fuels our daily lives.”
Brene Brown

To be human is to be vulnerable. Allowing yourself to be open to experience and vulnerable is how one learns, grows, and thrives, but being vulnerable also invites the potential for pain and suffering, even death. Vulnerability is a double-edged sword. Vulnerability is a challenge, and how you accept, respond, and cope with it defines who you are. To know oneself is to understand one’s own vulnerability.

Bikram Yoga & Vulnerability

Many people question the level of challenge of Bikram Yoga, wondering why it’s not more relaxing and peaceful. Why is Bikram Yoga so hard? Why the high heat and strict discipline? Why can’t I close my eyes? Why do I feel so exposed and vulnerable to emotional and physical discomfort? Why must I labor through the poses for ninety minutes? There’s lots of resistance to Bikram Yoga practice—- and that is the point. The practice is about paying attention to the nature of your resistance and emotional reactivity to vulnerability. Learning to be with one’s vulnerability and practicing ways to transform it for wellness is an important part of the process of self-realization and self-actualization. 

In Bikram Yoga, the poses test a person’s response to their own feelings of vulnerability, whether physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. These asanas are an opportunity to experience what vulnerability feels like in one’s body and mind repeatedly in small doses within a safe environment (as exposure therapy). The class is like a laboratory to observe oneself and one’s stress. Through this practice of staying open to one’s own vulnerability, or learning through exposure therapy, vulnerability becomes less frightening over time. The practice and exposure teaches people to be open-minded about feeling their own stress, anxiety, and other fears and challenging sensations in one’s body and mind.

Rather than trying to avoid these postures, compromise them in order to control them for more comfort and less vulnerability, or to “perform” them for the sake of achieving physical prowess or perfection, we encourage our yogis to “trust” the process of the posture– to be with it– to do one step at a time, the best they are able and breathe. To fully experience the attempt to do what one is able in order to understand oneself better is the goal.

Again, this is how Bikram yoga is not about achieving the full expression of any pose, but it’s about living with how you are in each moment — exploring and observing the way one may refuse to experience and cope with vulnerability or the ways one becomes more willing to stay open and flexible in response to challenge to learn and grow.

It might hurt a little bit

As teachers, we are instructed in our Bikram Yoga Dialogue to alert practitioners that parts of some postures “might hurt a little bit” as a loving warning that they may and should experience some therapeutic discomfort that comes from vulnerability and opening themselves up more than they are likely to do otherwise because of their trepidation or reluctance to “be present” with discomfort and stress. In fact, in this way we are inviting them to cultivate being more comfortable with being uncomfortable and to get to know the pain and suffering associated with vulnerability rather than to fear it or run from it. Most people don’t understand their own bodies, thoughts, feelings, pain, or vulnerability, but when they come to Bikram Yoga class, they can learn more about these things. When people begin to discover more about themselves and develop more awareness, anxiety and stress lessens and wisdom and wellness result.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”
–Brene Brown

Just as some Bikram yogis try to modify and control their practice rather than following the commands of the teacher’s Dialogue during class as a way to avoid vulnerability and discomfort, many people, in general, strive continually for permanence in their lives and in their environment because this gives them a perceived feeling of safety and security; this is a way out of feeling vulnerable, but permanence is an illusion. Being human means being subject to constant change, relative security and insecurity, and vulnerability on an ongoing basis, but such fear, change, insecurity, and vulnerability can be motivation, inspiration and potential opportunities to grow, create, and fully self-actualize. It’s very challenging for people to accept this truth and gain the courage to trust this process. It is common for people to take one look at the Bikram Yoga series and say, “No, thanks. Who wants to voluntarily suffer? And to what end? I refuse to expose myself to that and face my fear.” We assure you that the environment you will enter is a compassionate, safe place to do what’s difficult to grow wiser and more well.

Letting Go of Control: Trust the Process

Also common is rather than taking personal responsibility and ownership over oneself — one’s particular emotional sensitivities, buttons, and triggers (the aspects of ourselves that can be discovered in Part II Self-awareness), some people often try to manipulate their environment or influence, overpower, and otherwise control other people and their environment to prevent their own feelings of insecurity or to protect themselves from the potential discomfort or loss that may come from such vulnerability. This is a very common human tendency, because we are wired biologically to react to threat and danger and in previous times needed such reactivity for our survival. In a more progressive modern world, sometimes we hang onto that reactivity and fear unnecessarily.

To an extent, a degree of reactivity and defensiveness is self-preservation and self-protection, but in many cases, people avoid personal responsibility because they don’t know they have choices about how to respond, have never been taught or trained to, or because it’s become socially common to blame, distract, or avoid challenge. They avoid doing the difficult work within themselves and instead put their attention and energy toward manipulating the external world, including other people, to suit them or give themselves a sense of security. This can cause a lot of unnecessary stress for oneself and for others.

Vulnerability & Overprotection

I observed in my high school teaching career how many parents try to change an environment or attempt to manipulate and regulate other people’s behavior in order to protect their kids from from uncertainty, discomfort, or loss because they perceive such things as “dangerous.” They do their children a great disservice by trying to create “safe spaces” in the world and over-protection that is beyond trying to ensure their physical wellbeing (Lukianoff & Haidt, 2018). Rather than teaching children to stay open to understand the important role of vulnerability in learning and creativity and developing healthy responses to stress and coping skills within themselves, children are conditioned instead to turn to find comfort outside of themselves (running to authorities, drugs, or developing other unhealthy dependencies).

Since we will be tested by truly threatening external stimuli and because much of life is beyond our control, it is better preparation and protection to build up our ability to respond to what life gives us than struggle to control the world or hide defensively in our comfort and security zones where no change or growth can possibly happen.

Learning & Tough Love

If our attention and effort is overly-focused on controlling and manipulating what is outside of ourselves to make the world conform to our desires—to make it conform to just how we’d like it (whether in a yoga class or in our “real” lives when we are uncomfortable), then we not only create more disappointment for ourselves and unnecessary suffering, but we also neglect using and thereby strengthening our inner resources to grow. We miss the opportunities to learn more about ourselves and who we really are. This is why a central tenet of teaching the original Bikram Yoga practice is to encourage people to refrain from “adjusting” things to comfort themselves, to make a posture more accessible, or to make their experiences easier or more enjoyable.

In Bikram Yoga, we don’t modify poses to suit people. We don’t use props. We don’t turn the heat down if people are uncomfortable or struggling to breathe. The conditions of the environment are specifically designed to challenge people to rely on themselves only— to turn inward, study their own mental  and physical habits, reactivity and responses to vulnerability and stress; to face their limits; to observe their specific kind of suffering, and practice coping skills rather than denial or running from such challenge. To know your vulnerability and suffering is to empower yourself to cope and thrive. That’s why Bikram says, “hard way is right way”–tough love, to allow space for people to grapple with their challenges. We stay in the here and now, with eyes wide open, to learn how to suffer as best we can for wellness. Ironically, there is a tremendous amount of freedom that comes from building such courage through personal discipline.

Explore Your Vulnerability

Sometimes people think Bikram Yoga teachers are unsympathetic or lack compassion when we encourage you to do what is uncomfortable or to refrain from relying on externals beyond yourself, but the opposite is true. We won’t spare you your suffering because to do so would rob you of what you need to become the best and most authentic person possible. Some people develop habits of relying on drinking water, wiping sweat with a towel, using straps or other props, or they develop other rituals (ways they try to control rather than letting go and trusting the process) that “help” discharge their discomfort. They do asanas their way rather than according to the teacher’s Dialogue, as a way to feel “in control.”

Bikram Yoga is designed specifically to encourage people to face their limitations and break attachments (or “let go”) to external dependencies. When we continually turn outside ourselves for answers, comfort, or to deny our suffering and vulnerability, we remain ignorant to ourselves, and we stop learning, growing and thriving. Imbalance results because we are focused too much on the external and not enough on the internal, where our true self resides. 

Freedom isn’t conditional on the environment or other people behaving “just so.” If you are waiting to be happy when everything is just as you want it to be, you’ll likely be waiting a long time or disappointed and frustrated. Perhaps you will call yourself unlucky. Through Bikram Yoga practice, you can learn how to be free and peaceful no matter the circumstances—and perhaps even learn to love your experiences (your life, other people, “what happens,” reality) unconditionally– that means without required conditions. This kind of freedom that comes from practicing and building discipline is possible and can be cultivated through Bikram Yoga. All you have to do is show up and be vulnerable.

HONEST PRACTICE

Writing About Vulnerability

In Bikram Yoga class, one has a wonderful opportunity to see how one handles their own vulnerability. The poses are opportunities to notice one’s reactions to discomfort and insecure feelings. How do you manage your anxiety and stress, whether physical, mental, or both?

Notice during your Bikram Yoga practice when you felt most vulnerable. Write about those experiences.

Notice during your Bikram Yoga practice how you responded or reacted to feelings of vulnerability. Write about those reactions and/or responses.

Notice during your Bikram Yoga practice how much of your thinking related to your own feelings of vulnerability caused you to feel stress compared to the physical feelings in your body from the movements of the asana.

Answer the three prompts above but replace the term “uncertainty” for “vulnerability.”

Think and write about times and situations where you have felt vulnerable. Be specific about when, where, why, and how vulnerability occurred. Write about your feelings of vulnerability and exposure to risk or potential or real danger.

Think and write about the various times and situations where you have been in a state of uncertainty. How long did it last? How did you feel while in this state of unknowing? What, if anything, did you do to cope with such feelings of uncertainty or unknowing?

Think and write about life experiences where you were protected unnecessarily (either self-protection or from others) and missed valuable opportunity to grow or learn more about yourself and the world. Were you “too sheltered” or not protected enough?

Think and write about various situations wherein you tried to manipulate the environment and/or others in an attempt to achieve safety, a sense of security, or personal gain. What motivated such behavior? What might you have learned from a bit more exposure or risk as opposed to over protection?

What can you learn from observing and reflecting on your own specific insecurities, uncertainty, fears, and vulnerability?

When, where, why, and how or with whom do you feel most vulnerable? Try to sit with the feeling of vulnerability to know it better. Write about your experience and what you learned.

*Excerpted from Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Bikram Yoga Teacher’s Self Study Guide for Wellness (available June 1 at Amazon.com)

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Writing for Self Realization

“I write to understand as much as to be understood.”
–Elie Wiesel

Write to know yourself.

Writing is a proven method for identifying, clarifying, organizing, and processing thoughts and emotions (Faber, 2016; Pennebaker & Smyth, 2016), and it’s an extremely useful modality for improving health and wellness (Pennebaker & Smyth, 2016). Your writing is essential to the process of discovering who you are and a critical tool for self study. Writing will help you analyze and evaluate the results of some of the activities contained in the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide.

pennebakerbook

Writing as a Ritual for Self-Care

Disconnecting from distractions to reconnect to your inner self is powerful act for learning. It’s unrealistic to never use electronic devices as part of self study, but creating a ritual for writing with paper and pen is a good idea to make it a special, intentional and intimate event, rather than just another task on your “to-do” list. In other words, make writing for self understanding distinct and different from other routines and communication habits.

The more you know yourself, the more clarity there is. Self-knowledge has no end–you don’t come to an achievement, you don’t come to a conclusion. It is an endless river.”
——Jiddu Krishnamurti

Sitting still, focusing your attention on writing, and slowing down to move your hand across the page can be meditative, and thus highly beneficial for your overall health and wellbeing. As well, understanding language and consciously attending to how you use it will help you see when the words you use make you suffer and when they make you well. Language is a key part of how we relate to ourselves and the world. We ought to spend time observing how our language defines us– how what we think and say (or write) defines our experiences (or contributes to avoidance of experiences). The more you play with language and practice using it, the more insight you will gain about yourself, especially your mind. 

artistsway

I recommend reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (2016) to learn more about why daily journal writing can be so powerful for your self study and personal development because writing isn’t just for “creative types” but a way for all modern humans to articulate their uniqueness and truth.

References

Bakis, M. (2019). Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self-Study Guide for Wellness. Amazon.

Cameron, J. (2016). The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, 25th Anniversary Edition. New York, NY: Penguin Random House.

Faber, S.K. (2016, March). Expressive Writing for Physical and Mental Health. PsychologyToday. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mind-body-connection/201603/expressiv-writing-physical-and-mental-health 

Pennebaker, J. & Smyth, J. (2016). Opening Up by Writing it Down, Third Edition: How Expressive Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain. New York:The Guilford Press.

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How to Use the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide for Wellness

“To know yourself you need not go to any book, to any priest, to any psychologist. The whole treasure is within yourself.”

— Jiddu Krishnamurti

Each of the five parts of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Bikram Yoga Teacher’s Self Study Guide for Wellness contains a rationale, helpful definitions, self-study exercises, and prompts for journal writing. (Additional information related to self study can be found in the Appendices & References at the end of the Guide.)

The activities contained within the self study program: self-observation and audits, introspection, writing, meditation, Bikram Yoga practice, and listening are meant to get you started on your journey to know yourself better. Some practices will be more useful or more comfortable than others. Most can be repeated, some can be modified to suit your needs and others entirely ignored. It’s up to you because it’s your personal curriculum, your individual education plan. There are no due dates or tests, as your personal learning is up to you. You are your own teacher. 

Self-Directed Learning 

Use the Self Study Guide constantly or intermittently over the course of your days, years, and life time. It’s up to you to learn by teaching yourself, using your own direct experience and by tailoring the resources and practices contained in the Self Study Guide to fit your needs as you continually grow and change. You have 100% control over the process and all of the responsibility. Like any exercise for better fitness, you will get out of it what you put into it!

Once you become adept with using the Self Study Guide and its practices, you’ll likely form good habits of reflection and introspection that will, over time, seem like second nature to you, and hopefully, the fruits of your labor will further inspire and motivate you to continue growing in wisdom and wellness.

When you use the Guide, you may focus on one, two, or all five of the aspects of it to improve your life. Or you can begin with any of the five parts you choose, although beginning with Part I: Attention and working your way around the wheel clockwise or in the order the parts are listed is recommended.

Since the wisdom of knowing oneself is timeless and classic, the Self-Study Guide will be useful both immediately and far into the future, repeatedly throughout your life at the times and places of your choosing. And once you become familiar with the five aspects of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self Study Guide, you can revisit any or all of them whenever you’ve lost your way and need to reconnect with your inner world.

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Yoga is Union

“You don’t know who you are!”

When Bikram Choudhury, the author of the specific type of yoga I practice, said, “You don’t know who you are” to me and my fellow prospective Bikram Yoga Teachers on our first day of Teacher Training, I immediately got defensive. I balked, “What does he mean that I don’t know who I am? Of course I do! I know exactly who I am!” And then I silently recited to myself  a reassuring list of labels and titles: mother, divorcée, girlfriend, college graduate, professional educator, published author, in addition to an endless list of personal preferences, skills, physical descriptors, and other mental images I lived according to and that I believed defined “me.” Soon, I would add Bikram Yoga Teacher to this list which would make me… who exactly? 

Self Image or Truth?

I had heard the many criticisms about this controversial guru and his antics, so I chalked up his statement to his notorious reputation. I focused on psyching myself up for “getting through” the physical challenge his rigorous nine-week training would bring, yet my own resistance to long held notions about who I thought I was would become the real challenge. Studying my long held conception of my “self” would be the impetus for major transformation of my perspective of reality and about the meaning of my very own life. Bikram was 100% right, of course: I had no clue about who I really was. But I was about to learn, continuously, without interruption and without intermission, that this yoga I was practicing and hoping to teach wasn’t only about physical fitness and wellness. For me, Bikram Yoga is about the wisdom that comes from self study for self realization. The toughest part of it, for me, is that it requires radical honesty. It is about facing and accepting reality as it is, not abandoning suffering or pain, learning, and change. Funny to look back now at my fairly random choice to just try a little yoga for a good workout. 

Values & Wellness

Understandably, it seems a bit crazy for anyone to suggest that you don’t know who you are. But the truth is, most people really don’t know who they are, likely because they have been raised in a fast and furious Western culture with values and priorities that not only fail to include introspection and self understanding but that in many ways condition us for un-wellness.  Yes, our values are directly related to our health and wellbeing. 

Time on Learning

In addition to my own lifelong, personal educational experiences, I saw while working as public school teacher how American students are taught to focus primarily on and value what is external—by that, I mean, we value “time on learning” practical skills and content knowledge in order to compete in an economic landscape, one filled with comparison and a race to some “top” or “end” where we are told we will find our happiness and fulfillment— the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We are schooled to achieve— to find happiness and satisfaction once the prize, award, grade, salary, acceptance, or fame is gotten…and then the next and the next and the next, and if we die too soon, the tragedy is that we did not achieve our full potential. Although hard skills and economic survival are critically important, of course, it isn’t the entire preparation required for being a good, healthy, whole human being and living a fulfilling and meaningful life— no matter how short or long we are fated to be here.

Wholeness

Our education system pays lip service to the development of the “whole child,” while in reality, the  institutionalized approach to teaching and learning neglects character development, creative expression, and soft skills. The imbalance in where we pay our attention—outward more often than inward is clear when we look at the results: increasing mental illness, anxiety, obesity, addiction, and other forms of unnecessary suffering that permeate our society. We really don’t know who we are. 

We teach kids about what to do with their “outer lives” and how to shape their “self” image rather than showing them how to cultivate who they are as human beings by exploring their “inner lives.” 

It’s Not About the Grades

I saw firsthand as a teacher and parent of four how school administrators, guidance counselors, and parents were more interested in the achievement of grades and prestigious college admission than time spent learning what it means to become oneself as a human being– it’s simply not our priority. We don’t value integration and wholeness perhaps because pain, problems, suffering, and sacrifice are involved with the process of becoming a true person— a person of integrity, authenticity and uniqueness. And we wonder why even the most successful and highest achievers in our society are unfulfilled or ill. We’ve simply not dedicated enough attention and energy to wholeness, being rather than doing, truth, and love. Instead, we have conditioned our children to live by primarily relying on their thinking minds and the frantic acquisition of knowledge for material gain rather than remaining open to listening to and following their heart and soul for wisdom and wellness. 

Yoga is Union: Antidote to Disconnection

We are, indeed, products of our environment, our modern lives defined by information overwhelm, artificial intelligence, excess, avoiding discomfort and pain at all costs, loneliness and disconnection, and illness rooted in chronic stress. It’s more challenging than ever to find balance, connection, peace, and wellbeing in a place where we are continually bombarded to consume empty values, treated for symptoms rather than causes, and continually manipulated to look outside of ourselves (to diets, fitness regimens, the Self Help industry, and other perceived authorities) for answers rather than within—one’s own body, mind, and spirit— for loving acceptance and connection.   

We’ve been conditioned to not know ourselves by being taught to play roles, wear masks, and pretend rather than to be who we truly are (Singh, 2019). Thus, we become alien to ourselves because we are so distracted and manipulated to focus our attention on everything and everyone else but our true inner being. As a result, many of us fail to observe and understand our own feelings, behaviors, and thoughts, (there’s simply no time in the day to meditate!) never mind learn how to accept, cope with, and leverage them for wellness and a good life. Because we are so busy competing on the external landscapes of life, we simply aren’t taught how to travel our inner landscapes to learn about who we really are and express our true nature and uniqueness.

Classic Wisdom for Modern Humans: “Know Thyself”

I, too, am a product of such cultural conditioning, living most of my life according to and amidst comparison and competition to achieve goals I was encouraged to pursue by others. Because I was “a good kid” for the most part doing as I was expected, avoiding mistakes, and was successful in “my” endeavors, such outward focus and attention to external pursuits kept me disconnected from following my heart, loving myself, and living according to my true nature. Thankfully, two forms of introspection, or self study, guided me inward towards a reconnection and reunion: Bikram Yoga and daily journal writing. I’ve decided to share my personal tools for “knowing thyself” in the form of a Self Study Guide. 

           When I discovered Bikram Yoga, or should I say, when Bikram’s yoga found me, by accident, I found a prescription for personal transformation and wellness that I think all modern people could use, and, as it turns out, it’s the same wisdom the great sages have recommended since ancient times: “know thyself.” 

If you could use a little help answering the question, who am I, to become the person you really are and thus become more wise and well, this Self Study Guidefor Wellness can show you how to engage with reflective practices and healing modalities including Bikram Yoga, meditation, journal writing, and more. You can teach yourself: 

  1. about your own attention and how to turn it inward 
  2. to become more introspective to increase your self awareness; 
  3. about the purpose and value of facing challenges and fear (a little bit at a time!);
  4. about how making more informed and mindful choices from a central locus of control are keys to wellness; and 
  5. about how adopting a landscapes for learning mindset will help you become far more open to experience, curious, humble, and flexible.

Be Your Own Guru

No guru or guide can provide answers, cure you, give you self realization, awaken you, define your identity, or give you a secret for lasting contentment– not me, not Bikram Choudhury, nobody. A teacher can certainly open a door for learning for you, but only you, the student, can learn through your own conscious and deliberate application of the knowledge gained through learning and through your own direct experience of yourself and your life. You have to be your own guru. Only you can answer who you are and become the person you are meant to be.

“Look in the Mirror, Concentrate, Meditate and Begin…”

My most important teacher in my Bikram Yoga class is not the individual on the podium supplying me with the words to move and pose for ninety minutes. My teacher is in the mirror looking back at me— applying the prescription for wisdom and wellness, struggling to be honest, as she continually changes and reveals that she is always more than who she may think she is. 

 It’s not selfishness to study yourself to know who you are. It’s a process of self acceptance and self love so you can love others. People often talk about radical empathy as the impetus for creativity and healing (Heller, 2019), but our empathy and compassion for others must begin with showing ourselves empathy and compassion first. To truly serve others and share one’s gifts with the world is to be whole as oneself— to discover and live one’s truth. The entire process is a tremendous challenge which is exactly why you should do it. 

So, if you are curious about what it means to become the real you; if you are open and willing to learn about living in this time of rapid change as the true being that you are; and if you are interested in expressing your unique nature to live with more love, integrity, and vitality, then the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A (Bikram Yoga Teacher’s) Self Study Guide for Wellness provides five directions and tools you might find useful to access your own wisdom as you travel your own unique path of self discovery for self realization.

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95 Thousand Words

I spent a large portion of the last twelve months writing. I wrote for many hours almost every day. It seemed natural and normal.

Waves of creative expression passed through me into written form, and I tried to not obstruct the process. I really don’t know what to do with the content that came out, but something tells me that it’s time to stop creating and start sharing (as intimidating and uncomfortable as this seems).

Perfectly Imperfect

Neither collection of words I created (or scribed?) —49K and 46K words respectively— qualifies as anything that would fit into a particular genre. One lump of words is sort-of-a-memoir-but-not- really, and the other is a sort of soft skills curriculum I call a Self Study Guide for self realization, but in its current form, it’s a beast inaccessible to even the most devout self analyst. Neither manuscript has a specifically defined audience. Neither are of publishable quality. Neither has been revised nor professionally edited.

No Answers

I am not an idiot. I have written and published a book before. I know how it works. But this past year’s writing marathon has been a different kind of creative experience. I was not in charge. I was not the leader who set the goals and disciplined herself to attain them. None of this was exactly my idea. The 95 thousand words just tumbled out and are here for some apparent reason, but I am not 100 % sure what that reason is. And that’s cool.

Another Kind of Currency

I felt confident writing both manuscripts. I felt creative and happy and enjoyed sitting for hours writing, thinking, reading, and re-reading for one full year. It was work I felt inspired and compelled to do, thus it wasn’t work in the usual sense at all. It’s what I was supposed to be doing. I felt grateful to be doing it. I still feel grateful that I got to do it. The process granted me many opportunities to face fear and be vulnerable. I wrote and shared intimate feelings and thoughts; I shared my writing style and my most authentic voice. I shared the truth about myself with myself and others. I think that this type of currency is enough– that such intrinsic payoff is enough– to have been so fully engaged in so many vital moments, remaining open to receiving rather than employing the usual control and manipulation for some urgent, self-indulgent end or achievement. For an identity.

Weirdness and Woo-Woo

Despite all the weirdness and woo-woo that I am describing about my creative process, both manuscripts are entirely complete, share the common theme of expressing and living one’s truth, and their common purpose is that they were written to inspire and motivate people to actively pursue self realization, to know oneself and to actualize, because much of the illness pervading our modern world is rooted in ignorance about our selves– our true human nature and our uniqueness. We don’t know who we are. This truism is apparent to me, within my own experience, and I observe it and have been following other people who discuss it at length and address this phenomenon. So, what you’ll be getting in the future here at Landscapes for Learning will point you to those people and their work, as it is deeply embedded in mine.

Lost & Found

Like those I have learned from, in much of my writing, I urge people to become fully alive and well (before its too late) by engaging in the difficult process of becoming more of who they really are rather than who they are prescriptively taught to be by others. The not-really-a-memoir tells tries to tell about how we get lost (through our formal education system) and stay lost in our very own lives by disconnecting from ourselves, while the gargantuan and intimidating Self Study Guide provides ancient and modern wisdom to help us find ourselves, to reconnect to bring ourselves back to life, actual life, not a fake, conventionally prescribed one. As it turns out, it takes lots of time, willingness, courage, and attention to be alive and well as an actual human being, that is— to know who we are. It seems so simple to be oneself, yet it is not so easy at all.

Process & Product?

I don’t know if I am supposed to have merely had the experience of writing and creating for no other reason that to practice surrender, to practice not resisting, to do it as another step in the process of my personal development, or if I am supposed to make something else, some final product, out of the 95 thousand words that is silently resting in my Google Docs. I have no clear idea, but the same source that had me creating tells me I am supposed to give it all away now, as imperfect and as incomplete as it is, and to do so without any expectation of return. It also tells me that the 95 thousand words are not to become books, at least not now, so instead, you’ll find them here in this blog in various forms, perhaps within podcasts, and maybe even in the form of videos.

Let it Be & Be Led

As imperfect as my work surely is and as I surely am, I will let be what is meant to be. I’m going to stay with this process, trust intuition, and hope for the best, as I have been doing all along. I hope the 95 thousand words can do some good.

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Know Thyself, Part V: Learning

“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from.”
—Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Self study is authentic learning. It’s about self-realization. It’s about becoming more uniquely YOU, as a human being. It’s about continual growth, vitality, and wellness—the kind of wellness characterized by truth, uniqueness, and wholeness, as opposed to the narrowly defined conventional standards of strictly intellectual, material, and financial success.

“Real learning comes about when the competitive spirit has ceased.”
–Jiddu Krishnamurti

Schooling, or the acquisition of knowledge for social and economic achievement, is a limited kind of learning precisely because it is based on competition, measurement, and comparison. Although intellectual development is obviously very important, it is only one part of becoming a more integrated and whole human person. Broader, more authentic learning is a never ending process; it is steeped in direct personal experience, trial and error, careful reflection, deep introspection, and characterized by humility. There are no grades, no besting others, no winning or losing.

Part V, Learning, of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide for Wellness is about cultivating the perspective of an authentic learner, an individual who consciously and deliberately chooses to see life and all its experiences as landscapes for learning and for developing one’s unique nature.

Learning is both the impetus and  momentum for following the directions that guide you throughout your entire journey to know yourself. You might think of learning as the map of the landscape of you, while attention, self awareness, challenge and choice are directions to follow on that map.

Adopting learning as a lifestyle, as growth-mindset, is integral to the other four directions in the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self-Study Guide because without the attitude of the curious student, the wheel stops moving forward. As you learn, the wheel turns and gains momentum, further inspiring and motivating you to continue moving forward to steadily acquire wisdom and wellness.

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”
–Louisa May Alcott

The practices within the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide are designed to help you learn to regulate your body and mind and skillfully develop more focused attention, calm, and self control through deeper self-awareness, so you will be more apt to see the world and everything in it as a classroom—a lot less frightening, much more intriguing, and full of possibilities and opportunities for becoming more of who you are meant to be!

When you adopt the attitude of a curious learner, approaching yourself, people, events, and all your experiences as interesting phenomena to examine in order to learn, you’ll be less likely to react to life out of fear, defensiveness, or perceive yourself as victim.

“The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.”
― Carl R. Rogers

Many people tend to cling tightly to the need for answers and permanence and will fight hard to remain closed within their carefully curated comfort zone that provides the illusion of safety and righteousness. But you don’t grow if you don’t sustain a tolerance for ambiguity, stay open to life’s process, and move mindfully with the flow of change– that is, if you don’t learn. And if you don’t learn, you aren’t fully alive and well.

Humans are conscious animals who are aware that nothing is certain and that much of life is a mystery which causes great anxiety. As a result of such underlying existential fear, we have a tendency to resist change, and so try to control our environment, other people, and master all unpredictables; progress in this pursuit of manipulation, domination, and desire for a lasting legacy gives us a sense of great pride and self-esteem (Becker).

We work hard at this false sense of security and the illusion of permanence in order to make ourselves feel less vulnerable. We frantically search for “the answers” and lasting order, but such drives for ultimate knowledge and immortality distract us from the truth of our own humanity as limited, mortal animals. Our fear-fueled expectation that we must always have solid ground to stand on, answers that are indisputable, and consistent order for total security causes us great suffering.


Man can learn nothing except by going from the known to the unknown. — Claude Bernard

The particular disposition of a learner is one who can courageously enter into the unknown to learn and grow. A heroic learner must sustain a tolerance for ambiguity and be like water; that is—be fluid and flexible, flowing with what is and what unfolds and responding as well as one is able through deliberate self control and mindful choice, all of which can be cultivated through practice. For many, to flow with constant change and to learn from it is scary because of how they have been taught to cling to permanence or have been socially conditioned by distraction from the truth of their own human condition.


“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”
–Confucius

We don’t know all there is to be known, even about ourselves, and likely never will, but our ignorance should incentivize us to be humble and ever open to learning and change rather than cause us despair. If you adopt the mindset and attitude that life is for learning, for making yourself vulnerable in order to explore and know more, and for taking risks and incurring lots of trial and error, then “failing forward” with enthusiasm and the attitude of an adventurer will give your life meaning and purpose.

To learn that you are never a stable, unchanging, permanent self is to know your true nature. All is change, including you, so there will always be more to learn, and more meaning to create.

Rather than clinging to socially approved masks, copying others, or dogmatically subscribing to ideology that offers the illusory feeling of safety and security, authentic learners live life with the mindset of an adventurer who is ever-open to discovery. And people who are open, flexible, humble, and view their own life as a landscape for learning with its ups and downs, gains and losses, births and deaths will be more apt to cope successfully with the rapid and ubiquitous change that characterizes modern life.

Learn from experience, hold your beliefs and opinions about what is known, but be open-minded, tolerant of other possibilities, and willing to change because this is the kind of flexible person the modern world needs now more than ever to lessen the political polarity pervading our culture as well as to address the overwhelming disconnection from ourselves and from one another that appears to be causing so much unnecessary suffering.

Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting?” 
– Marcus Aurelius

Living with the mindset that all experience is meant for learning, growth, and becoming more uniquely you isn’t easy, and it requires courage, but it helps you open up to whatever life gives you (whether positive or negative, pleasant or painful) and trains you to accept your fate with less resistance and unnecessary suffering. Less resistance, letting go of fear, and accepting reality as it is rather than how we would prefer it or like to control it is true wisdom.

And more wisdom means more wellness.

References:

Becker, Ernest. The Denial of Death. The Free Press, 1973.