Are you having a good day or a bad day?
This little video captures my journey from lover of stories and storytelling as an English teacher and writer to becoming a yoga teacher and psychotherapist. It encapsulates wisdom curriculum and some things I convey in both of my books, especially the
SELF-STUDY FOR SELF-REALIZATION IS CLASSIC WISDOM
STOPPING TO BE WITH OURSELVES, TO KNOW OURSELVES DEEPLY AND HONESTLY, IS SIMPLE, BUT NOT EASY…
AND BECAUSE IT IS NOT EASY, WE STRUGGLE TO DO IT…
MY BOOK OFFERS SIMPLE WAYS TO BEGIN TO TRAVEL THE LANDSCAPES FOR LEARNING TO DISCOVER YOUR TRUTH TO MAXIMIZE YOUR WELLNESS AND LIVE A MEANING-FILLED LIFE
I USE SIMPLE LANGUAGE AND TOOLS YOU CAN PICK AND CHOOSE FROM AND USE ANYTIME.
I EXPLAIN WHY AND HOW TO KNOW YOURSELF FOR WELLNESS
I WROTE THE BOOK FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AND PURPOSEFULLY AVOIDED USING THE TECHNICAL JARGON OF YOGA & MINDFULNESS, WOO-WOO SPIRITUALITY, ACADEMIC OR SCIENTIFIC EXPLANATIONS.
I AM HONEST ABOUT MY LIFE LEARNING IN THE BOOK AND SHARE IT WITH READERS. THAT WAS SIMPLE BUT NOT EASY FOR ME. IN FACT, IT CONJURED LOADS OF FEAR, SELF-DOUBT, AND RESISTANCE, WHICH IS EXACTLY WHY I DID IT.
The overwhelming problems resulting from loneliness and disconnection from ourselves and from one another in our modern world has motivated me to write a curriculum for self-directed learning for self realization to encourage more connection– within individuals and among people.
The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide is a curriculum designed for people to find out exactly who they are so they can be wise and well. The Guide was inspired by, based on, and part of my Bikram yoga practice.
Growing in Awareness
Bikram’s hatha yoga series and other forms of introspection, including writing and meditation, are my forms of self study. I also learn more about human nature by studying the stories of the Humanities, ancient and modern, East and West, as a way to learn more about myself and our collective human experience.
I noticed over many years as a high school teacher that the schooling process (institutionalized education) and modern parenting both lack an important focus on the individual person’s interior life. People don’t talk about the soul or the spiritual. Young people are anxious and depressed for a number of reasons, some of which are the result of cultural conditioning and its over emphasis on “the other,” the material, and the “externals” of the social and economic landscape. The need for interior work is critical to restore balance within individuals and within culture. Thus, my new purpose as a yoga teacher, writer, and mental health counselor is to bring awareness to this problem of a lack of attention to soul, spirit, and psyche and do whatever I can to help people find more balance in their lives. The first thing I must do is care for myself so that I am able to care for others.
Focusing Inward for Self-Realization & Wellness
My Bikram yoga practice has changed my understanding of myself and thus has changed my understanding of reality, human nature, and how I live. I have learned how to consciously learn about myself and that this is, in fact, my responsibility to attend to regularly for a life of quality and purpose.
Yoga is not only physical but psychological and spiritual therapy as well. I am hopeful others can experience such therapy through yoga practice for growth and transformation, hence my desire to share the details of my own story which led to creating this blog and the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide for Wellness.
One striking result of my continual practice of self study for which I am enormously grateful is that I have developed an attitude of openness to my life experiences which has improved and expanded my relationship with myself and with others. I feel more connected to life, to my own mind and body, to others, and to nature, thus more able to overcome fear, anxiety, and the enormous amount of rapid change and chaos of our modern style of living. Like many others, I had no idea that I would find the wisdom and wellness that comes from self realization when I initially tried Bikram yoga as a form of exercise. It would be an understatement to say it was a pleasant surprise.
The Mirror: Who am I?
Bikram yogis don’t go to the yoga studio to find happiness, ease, or the answers to all their problems. A Bikram yogi exercises reflection–literally, as he or she looks in the mirror during class and is thus directed to more consciously notice the process of learning more about oneself.
The practice of this form of hatha yoga teaches us to cultivate an open awareness to our limitations: to watch how we think and act; to notice how we respond to our individual limitations and the challenges of and within our environment. We can see how we behave under pressure, in the face of physical or mental challenge; how we calmly respond or irrationally react to fear, change, and pain. We watch how we suffer, resist, or alternately embrace our struggle and fear; how we talk about ourselves to ourselves and judge our own behavior– how we judge our self-critical nature instead of showing ourselves compassion and love.
We notice and observe how we stay stuck with particular thoughts (often negative or untrue upon further examination); how we might cling to and or release from the security of our rituals and habits we have created for ourselves as a way of comforting ourselves and have come to rely on as ways to avoid, deny, or to appease the ego’s desires and expectations. We observe what it is we are paying attention to and how the attention wanders, flits about, and sometimes settles…or not. It seems that attention has a mind of its own, and perhaps, indeed, there are two minds at work.
Because of my yoga practice, I see that I am both rational, self-conscious, and aware, and also fleshy and animal in my nature. I learn about what I am like and to accept whatever is without judgment and with compassion. Sometimes this process of self realization includes answers, ease, and happiness, but not always. It’s not magic. It’s challenging, a burden meant to be carried in order to grow in wellness and vitality. As the wise Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “No mud, no lotus.”
On further reflection upon my yoga practice, I can ask: Do I give myself compassion when I struggle? Can I feel the tightness of resistance in my body from fear? What’s going on within? Who is in the mirror looking back at me? Is that my greatest teacher, or do I shy away from her and over-depend on the wisdom of others instead? Do I trust the “experts” more than I trust and have faith in myself? What more can I learn from what’s happening rather than critically judge it? Where is the root of my suffering? What can I learn from pain?
Bikram yoga is not only a work out, stress reduction, or an opportunity to wear cute leggings. It’s not intended to be a social practice, though the collective works simultaneously in silent moving meditation together. The energy and love in the room is palpable, and it is encouraging to be in a space where people are becoming more human, more self-aware, struggling to accept and be more of their unique selves. Outsiders who might peek into a class will see bodies moving or lying in stillness, but they cannot see what’s going on inside each person, beneath the sweat and the physical posturing, as we yogis travel our inner landscapes.
I find out more and more about who I am every time I practice—which is the final destination– to learn, and to be fully present within this process of ongoing change that is “me.” The Bikram series of 26 poses and 2 breathing exercises as well as its dialogue delivered by a teacher don’t ever change, so that I can see how much and how often I change, for no other reason than to realize my own impermanence. I don’t keep track of progress or grade myself in our usual culturally prescribed sense of achievement. I simply show up to be present in the moment and experience myself– this changing energy, being, presence, and vitality.
Honest Practice is All
Yoga is so much more than positioning one’s physical body and balancing. Yoga is about developing more conscious awareness, and the discovery that it is our individual responsibility to continually learn more about who we are to grow and thrive. This is more than striving for and attaining happiness, zen, or tranquility after a day’s hard work; rather, it is engaging honestly in the process of self-realization and self-actualization, which includes the range of human experience, both pleasure and pain. It’s simple, but rarely easy. It is practice to fully experience one’s humanity and ongoing transformation, to actualize potential like a flower petal blooming.
Beyond the Studio a.k.a. Yoga Off the Mat
So, as a result of all I have learned and experienced in Bikram Yoga, I wrote the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide for Wellness based on its principles and philosophy of self-realization. I wrote it to help people transfer what they are learning in their yoga practice within the studio to their lives beyond the studio, as a collection of tools for introspection, including self auditing activities, meditation, yoga practice, and writing. People who already engage in yoga or meditation practice already can benefit too, particularly from the unique 5-Part Self Study Wheel and the many self-auditing activities and resources included.
The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide is meant to invite people into authentic learning and the process of self realization so that they can connect more deeply with their truest selves so that they can connect more deeply with others. The antidote to disconnection from others is connection with oneself. When each of us knows ourselves better and cares for ourselves with love and compassion, the world will be a better place.
Simple Practice on the Landscapes for Learning!
For one day, or one part of one day, or one hour of one day— look at your life as your classroom, a landscape for observation and nothing more. Consciously and intentionally decide that you will commit to trying to see your experiences (within a given period of time of your choosing, brief or throughout your day) as individual opportunities to simply observe, to notice, to watch from within your interior world–– without critical or value judgment. It’s simply an exercise in mindfulness meditation; it’s to observe reality/what’s happening non-judgmentally.
Imagine the above applied to one experience with a person, perhaps someone with whom you have conflict. Perhaps today is the day where instead of reacting per usual, you simply remain neutral and observe this person. Simple (not easy) practice. This is about learning about YOURSELF not the other person.
Practice process living to “be with” or “fully in” each moment as each one unfolds.
You will have to slow waaaaay down, relax (exhale slowwwwlllyyyy), and focus on what’s happening in the moment (rather than being lost in the past or “getting ahead of yourself,” or if it’s with another person, then not thinking about what your going to say next).
TRY to be present with a neutral attitude, an attitude toward whatever happens today in your day as merely fodder for dispassionate observation, for curiosity– what happens when I just observe?
JUST NOTICE and “be with” whatever is happening.
If you feel resistance,frustration, or disappointment, joy, relaxation, or whatever– just notice these, too, as moments to “be” with, non-judgmentally! It’s all OKAY!
Simple Practice isn’t perfect. It’s PLAY.
Later, you might like to write about your experiences of trying to be the curious, nonjudgmental observer, recording and reflecting on what you learned.
This podcast is a reading of a couple of excerpts from Part III of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self-Study Guide for Wellness (2019, Amazon) called “Challenge.” To know oneself deeply, to express oneself authentically, to be fully present for yourself, even in your pain, is a difficult path, but it is the way to a meaning-filled life of wisdom and wellness.
Grappling with our unique forms of suffering and problems, whatever that entails or however it manifests uniquely within each person, directly opposes our modern cultural values that are about promoting happiness, getting people to literally buy into the story that they need comfort and pleasure (permanently) and encouraging a dependence on everything outside of themselves rather than within. Guess what? You are enough and you can “fill” your life by getting to know who you REALLY are through facing your fears and challenges. It requires honesty as well as building courage and personal discipline, and that’s exactly why most people take pills, develop unhealthy dependencies on others, retreat to or stay forever in their comfort zones, and live lives of “quiet desperation” in the words of HD Thoreau.
Our sources of pain are diverse, but we are all flawed and we all suffer– in our own ways, great and small– because we are human. It’s scary and challenging to face our insecurities and vulnerabilities, but doing so is exactly the path to freedom. You can learn tools and practices to get better at suffering and to suffer less and live with more joy in this very struggle.
“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.
This little gem below attempts to give answers to the questions in detail and provides you with directions and activities to get your started knowing yourself better, but you can take a look at my answers below while you wait for your book to be delivered to your home or your Kindle!
1A. Self-study is slowing down enough to look inside yourself and answer: who am I? What am I like? What’s my body like? How does my mind work? What’s my personality? Disposition? What are my interests? What sort of choices do I make? What do I pay attention to on a daily/monthly/yearly basis and are those things good for me? What’s my relationship to learning? Do I see opportunities for growth or complain that life is unfair?
*I learned about attention through Bikram Yoga and through reflective journal writing. Perhaps these might also work for you. You will have to study yourself to know what will work for you and what will not. It’s your life.
1B. Self-realization: is ongoing realizations about who you are; seeing yourself as an ever-changing being full of limits and possibilities for becoming. A realization isn’t always in your control. Often having an “ah-ha” moment or making a crazy-amazing discovery about yourself “just happens” for you from beyond your control. A realization can come from “the other side” and outside your comfort zone.
*When I stopped forcing myself to achieve; when I stopped focusing on outcomes and started enjoying the process of being me; when I let go of expectations (mostly of others) and trying to control everything and everyone outside myself all the time; and when I started observing myself with curiosity, love, compassion, understanding, and acceptance (through yoga, reflective writing, introspection), I started taking the best care of myself because I saw my own value (despite all my horrible flaws) and that, still, my life is a gift. I am responsible for expressing the best of myself and for managing the worst. The lies I had been telling myself about who I thought I was (“my identity” as this type of person or that) burned away and the truth, through realizations, start pouring in! Inspiration and creativity rushed through me, thus this blog and book etc…
2. Each person should study themselves (what I call the “inner landscape”) at least as often as they study the world around them (what I call the “external landscape”) to continually grow in wisdom which I am convinced is what makes a person healthy and thrive. The problem is that our modern culture conditions us to focus our attention on what’s on the “external landscape” to the detriment and neglect of the “inner landscape.” Why do you think people are trying to get more people to meditate? Why do you think mental health counselors are in such demand? Modern life is so overwhelmingly full of noise, material clutter, busyness, and excessive stress that most people are entirely distracted away from their interior life. They are disconnected from the inner place of wisdom and peace. It’s simple: SLOW THE FUCK DOWN and give yourself the loving attention and care that you deserve and are responsible for doing FOR YOURSELF throughout your life. That’s an opportunity and a responsibility. The dangers and challenges of the world aren’t going anywhere– you need to make yourself courageous enough, flexible enough, and strong enough to surf the waves of your life. When you study yourself and realize your whole self, you’ll be well and you’ll make others well in the process.
*I slowed my life down by practicing stopping and living in the moment in my yoga classes; I started practicing yoga outside the studio in my everyday life. Loads of those moments were painful and uncomfortable (in and out of the studio), but when I explored my pain and suffering to understand it (not judge it), I learned to let it come (without pushing it away) and let it go. I got used to suffering and learned how to suffer better. I also learned how to fully savor all the joyful moments that I had rarely taken time to “be with” before I had slowed down. I cry more, laugh more, am more intimately connected to what and whom I value. Life is fucking good, not because I am rich materially (I am not), but because I am grounded in the truth of my own presence. I am in love with life. I am lively!
3. I propose that five things comprise a helpful self-study program for self-realization: 1. ATTENTION: start understanding what attention is, its value for health and wellness, practice strengthening your attention. You can do this in various ways that I explain in my book. 2. SELF-AWARENESS: Turn your attention inward to knowing who you are and becoming more aware of yourself. Study the workings of your mind and body so can provide optimal care for them. 3. CHALLENGE: Practice facing fear rather than running from it or distracting yourself from it; learn about pain and suffering– they aren’t going anywhere so you may as well learn to make friends with them. Part 3 of the Self-Study Guide can show you how. 4. CHOICE: Study your choices and learn more about the empowerment that comes from choice and mindful response to stress in your environment and within you. We life to blame things in the “external landscape” rather than taking personal responsibility for managing our responses to those stresses from the “inner landscape”or a central locus of control. You can practice getting better at making conscious choices for your wellness. 5. LEARNING: School-learning lives under the umbrella and a much broader definition of learning as a way of living. Learning is embracing a landscapes for learning mindset– to choose to see your life experiences (all of them) as opportunities for growing, expanding who you are, and to expressing your uniqueness. Learning is about the walking the line between what is known (mastery) and what is unknown– and the unknown is both scary and exciting. Get curious about what’s on the other side of your comfort zone and remain open to the possibilities of transcending your limits to thrive.
* Self-Study for Self-Realization is about slowing down, attending to yourself, and discovering what’s true about you and what’s false. It’s an ongoing life-time journey to live the truth to thrive! My book suggests looking at life as a landscape for learning and offers directions to follow to explore the landscape of you!
My Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self Study Guide for Wellness (now on sale in the Kindle Store and in paperback at Amazon.com) is the result of so many other people’s work and their unique service to others. The content within the Self Study Guide I have created isn’t anything new–it’s classic wisdom– to know thyself—but the way I divide self study into five parts, each with tools and practices that work for me in my life and hopefully might work for yours, is original.
My perspective of classic wisdom in the context of my unique experiences as a mother, high school teacher, and Bikram Yoga teacher, and student of counseling psychology is also unique. Still, people might ask, why bother writing about what so many others already teach? My answer is this: more help for wellness is always needed in the world; the reputation of Bikram Yoga could use some redemption by sharing more detailed information about the psycho-therapeutic value of the practice; and although I definitely don’t think I can deliver this important information any better than others, (I give my writing a B) I can do it differently which may make the same information (know thyself for wellness) more accessible to some folks, compared to the way others might also be conveying it. You never know how your work may resonate with people, so you should share it! It won’t have any chance of doing anyone any good if I don’t– that is for certain.
Anyway…everything I read, watched, and listened to over the past several years spoke directly to what I had been learning in my personal Bikram yoga practice, through my travels, in my teaching, while parenting, and writing. Lots of what I was discovering through my own introspection and reflection, what I call traveling my inner landscape, was being articulated in various ways by the many people listed below. I thank them for speaking their truth in their own ways, using their own means and talents, within their own spheres of influence. Such connection with others– whether family, friends, strangers, or the long since deceased through their classic work is an amazing part of being human. I am grateful. The Acknowledgements section from the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human follows below.
I’d like to thank my son for our many conversations and his referrals to podcasts and book titles, philosophical, historical, psychological and otherwise. Jack introduced me to The Joe Rogan Experience which, in turn, led me to many other interesting, informative teachers and entertaining guests, like podcaster Rich Roll. Both Roll’s life story (Finding Ultra) and Rogan’s most recommended book, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield motivated me to identify and conquer my own “ inner bitch” otherwise known as “Resistance” (with a capital “R”) and radically change my life, at midlife. I quit my job as a high school teacher, packed one small bag, and traveled the world to teach Bikram Yoga, write, and promote self-realization “process living” —my own and others’ for wellness.
Rich Roll’s personal story of transformation and his work in new media exemplifies the results of all five tenets of this Self Study Guide. His life story illustrates that redemption is possible when we discover our truest most authentic selves and live its fullest expression. It takes audacity, courage, and grit to not “live a life of quiet desperation” in the words of H.D.Thoreau, a line Roll often references. We are all in need of recovery and redemption, and we do have what it takes deep inside of us to become our truest most human selves, if we could only tap into it through quiet introspection to awaken and undo our cultural conditioning. Roll and his wife, Julie often say, “We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” If each of us can realize this, and drop our masks, it would radically transform us enough to collectively heal ourselves and our planet.
Another guest I heard on the Joe Rogan Experience and need to thank is Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. Bowled over at how he articulated so much of what I had intuitively learned from my yoga practice and from having studied and taught the great stories and philosophers of the Western humanities tradition, I like many thousands of people, immersed myself in learning from his lectures online, completing the Self Authoring Suite and personality tests at Understandmyself.com. All of this helped me with my own personal self study and my continual transformation. Through Dr. Peterson’s work, I discovered the connections between psychoanalysis, archetypal stories from the Humanities traditions both East and West, and yoga in a broader sense. He introduced me to Carl Jung and Carl Rogers, which helped me realize that I was interested in pursuing a more therapeutic relationship with students as human beings who are trying to “become people” (Rogers, 1961) and away from a strictly academic relationship that is more about delivering curriculum and judging and assessing “hard” academic skills. Readers will recognize the influences of these psychologists throughout the Self Study Guide. Studying human nature (as a concept, as an intellectual exercise, through teaching world literature) in the classroom led me to studying actual individuals’ natures and, of course, my own.
Thanks, again, to my son, I found the Tim Ferriss podcast which led me to so many other wise teachers and great learning resources. Ferriss gave me access to Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way— her “morning pages” and so much more about identity and discovery of the true self through writing. Cameron’s work is about human nature and spirituality which is why it is a book for everyone, not just writers and creative types. As well, I traveled solo for almost a year inspired by Ferriss’ example and Rolf Potts’ Vagabonding. I learned more about integrity and relationship building as well as modern education’s need for teaching more “soft skills” from Seth Godin a regular Ferriss podcast guest. Finally, two of the most interesting and genuinely personal conversations happened between Ferriss and Buddhist teacher and psychologist, Jack Kornfield, as well as his talk with addiction and recovery specialist, Dr. Gabor Mate. Tim Ferriss was learning about himself, becoming more awakened I think, in those conversations and it was profound to hear. Like Rogan and Roll’s conversations with a variety of amazing human beings, that sort of rich, deep and authentic dialogue about pain, love, humanity, integration, wholeness and meaning is the therapy we need to immerse ourselves in, especially in our modern culture.
Along with these wise mentors, Cathy Heller’s “Don’t Keep Your Day Job” podcast provided the enthusiasm, concrete reasons, and practical examples of how I could actually become exactly who I was meant to be and why I’d be inauthentic and unhappy if I didn’t! Cathy just seemed to keep saying everything I needed to hear at exactly the right times. I owe her much gratitude for being herself and expressing herself boldly and bravely without giving a fu*k, as Mark Manson, another important influence would say. Manson’s audacious writing voice and style encouraged me to unabashedly exercise my own, publicly, and inspired me to start blogging. He is candid and courageous to write about the subject of values, especially honesty, which is sorely needed right now.
I also discovered The Minimalists and Leo Babauta (Zenhabits.net), who I credit for teaching me that it is possible to live out of one bag, with nothing but my own core values, not only for a year of travel as a Bikram Yoga teacher but for the rest of my days at home. In a world of excess, The Minimalists’ message echoes that of Henry David Thoreau— the classic wisdom of living simply and deliberately— for modern times. Simplifying encouraged me to make more mindful choices in my daily life and shaped my perspective about what really matters.
Most of all I need to thank Bikram Choudhury, the rogue of the American yoga world– the controversial guru modern yogis love to reject. Bikram is a great teacher both in spite of and because of his flaws and mostly for his brutal honesty. He taught me about how much we reject the truth when it hurts the most and how we are keen to run from pain and vulnerability. I see him as a wonderful example of what we humans Resist (with a capital R) about our own human nature. His yoga system and his Teacher Training changed my life which, in turn, has (hopefully) positively impacted more students of mine than I can count. This Self Study Guide is my attempt to bring the message of Bikram’s yoga, which is about self realization, to as many people as possible.
Practicing Bikram Yoga is about facing fear, finding truth, and becoming more vital and alive. It’s a present moment laboratory for observing one’s own human struggle between the animal and rational. I am more real, congruent as famed psychologist Carl Rogers (1980) would say, and authentically me in all ways mental, physical, and spiritual because of this embodied practice of self study.
By breaking attachment and dependencies on externals and struggling with self understanding to change and heal through yoga, I learn to accept life as it is rather than how I want it to be. I don’t do any of this consistently or with ease, but I try, consciously and deliberately to suffer better. I try more courageously to express my creativity and truth, because I understand it, deeply and intuitively, as a life force that flows through me, rather than thinking I could possibly conjure anything like it on my own.
Learning to love and accept my whole self and my limited, challenging human condition empowers me to love all living things, fiercely and with great empathy and compassion. The world needs such love and compassion now, more than ever; it needs more dialogue too, especially more mindful listening to ourselves, our intuition, and to others. I hope the Self Study Guide can inch people closer to knowing themselves by slowing, quieting, and listening to discover, express, and share their uniqueness and their truth with others.
If each of us struggles to follow the classic wisdom to “know thyself,” and love and accept ourselves, truly, not the roles we play or the masks we wear but the true being that we each are: animal thus limited, yet conscious and perhaps even divine, we can minimize unnecessary suffering and suffer better, together.
The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self Study Guide for Wellness is the result of everything I’ve learned from these people noted above and many other very wise people below who encouraged me to “do my yoga”— in other words, to study myself to know the real me and live my truth.
Additional love and gratitude to: Rob Donovan, Ryan Quinn, Grace Tempany, Myozen Joan Amaral, Hector Lopez, Pierre Ratte, Frank Murray, Brandy Keevan, Shannon Englehardt, Teri Almquist, Rachel Horwitz, Polly Edwards, Jason Destasio, all my Bikram Yoga Teacher Training mates, fellow Bikram Yoga teachers and traveling teacher mates, especially Changu, Claire, Sarah, & Kiran. Thank you to my children: Jack, Shea, Regan and Riley, and all my past and present students– you’ve always been my best and most valued teachers.
“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.
(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.
“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.
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:
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.
Your Choices Define You.
The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide will help you learn to manage your attention, become more self-aware, and develop resilience in the face of challenge, so you’ll inevitably make better, more mindful choices from a central locus of control.
More self knowledge from self study will help you learn to respond to reality in the present moment, mindfully, rather than reacting irrationally or unconsciously.
“It is not external events themselves that cause us distress, but the way in which we think about them. It is our attitudes and reactions that give us trouble. We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.”
When you are more aware of the way you behave under pressure, understand your habits, and know your strengths, weaknesses and triggers from working your way through the Self Study Guide, you’ll be able to make better decisions and choices from a central locus of control.
Rather than trying to manipulate the world and your experiences to be as you’d prefer, you’ll learn to accept what happens that is beyond your control and respond mindfully in the best way possible for your personal growth and wellness.
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how”
As you work your way through the Self Study Guide, you will become more centered and more grounded in the truth of who you are because you will discover your values, that is— what you’re aiming your attention and effort at. When you know what you focus on that is good for you and that matters most, you can choose more of what’s good for you and what is in line with your healthiest values. Your choices will be informed.
Are you Responding Rationally or Mindlessly Reacting?
Reactivity that creates additional suffering is not worth compromising your wellness. Instead, you can make better and more deliberate choices, cultivated through direct experience, introspection, and reflection– practices you can find throughout the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide.
With honest practice and self-compassion, you can learn to accept insecurity and vulnerability as part of being human. You can figure out how to “let go” more quickly of your internal resistance as well as your reactive, negative habits rooted in fear and cause “bad” stress in your body.
For example, when that person cuts you off in traffic, you’ll choose not to react irrationally toward the offender in order to keep your stress-levels in check to keep yourself well.
Instinctively reacting to the danger of potential physical harm is built in to human beings, of course, but the extra mental suffering that comes from the anger you decide to hang on to or project onto others will wreak havoc on your body unnecessarily. That sort of stress and suffering is a choice. Unnecessary struggle and suffering is preventable. By tapping into the higher levels of attention to your values and the self-awareness you’ve gained in Parts I and II of the Self Study Guide, you’ll be empowered with self knowledge for more self control which means better, more mindful choices for your wellness.
“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Because you will learn throughout your own self study process that your flawed thinking patterns, projection, and irrationality is common human behavior, you’ll be far less likely to take things personally or reactively blame others for behaving in the ways that you can recognize in yourself and in all other human beings. Your honest self study of your own nature will teach you empathy and compassion for others who also act as human, thus flawed, struggling along and suffering just like you.
It is true that when you know better, you can choose better, but when you know who you are, nobody and nothing can steal your peace— at least not without your conscious consent.
The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide has been designed to help you look inside– to travel inward bound and make self-inquiry and self-discovery priorities in your life. It’s intended to help you learn how to collect and mine the data from your own life, encouraging you, like Dr. Gabor Mate suggests in the video below, to look inward at least as often as you look outward to understand yourself for wisdom and wellness.
The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide is a foundational program that can be used in concert with other self-help resources, many of which I include in the Resources and References sections of the Guide, (like the clip below of Dr. Gabor Mate interviewed on London Real), but ultimately you have to trust your judgment to do what is best for you based on your own self knowledge.
It is easy to get distracted or lost on the outer landscapes for learning by being overly enamored with a guru or teacher or wrapped up in trendy new strategies, apps, and resources rather than spending more time studying yourself and your own direct experiences.
Sometimes we get too focused on the “help” in “self help” when it becomes just another way to distract ourselves or avoid focusing on the hard work of studying the “self.”
Dr. Gabor Mate’s advice to his younger self is what the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide asks you to do:
“Look inside and pay as much attention to the inside, if not more, as you are paying to the outside.”
Indeed, wise advice from the good Doctor and Classic Wisdom especially relevant for our Modern times.
If 2017 was a year of travel for me, then 2018 was the year of writing about my various journeys across the landscapes for learning, inside and out.
Much of what I have written in my life is based on observation and reflection about learning—my own, or others’, as well as learning in the broadest sense.
Sometimes I share my “professional” learning with others publicly as I did when I published The Graphic Novel Classroom (Corwin Press, 2011) for educators. Most times I don’t share my “personal” learning that I’ve been recording almost daily in paper-bound journals over the last two and one half decades. A hybrid of both professional and personal writing is this blog and the soon-to- be-completed Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide.
In hindsight, I am glad I have consistently written about my life both professionally and personally because I can revisit my history and see its value, especially in terms of learning. I can see how far I have come and how I have grown. I can see “mistakes” and “wrong” turns that were responsible for such growth and now inform my future direction. I know where some of the potholes are and am better at avoiding them. As Louise May Alcott wrote, “I am less afraid because I am learning how to steer my ship.”
Because I have recorded my learning in writing, I can see the personal strength and flexibility I’ve built over time through the trial and error process and this motivates and inspires me to keep struggling forward. It reminds me that the current pain will be worth the health, integrity, and satisfaction of my future self.
I can rely on myself in the future as a result of my attention to the work of being me in the past, and for taking on the responsibility for knowing who I am. Without self-study, without writing about my learning experiences throughout my life, I’d be useless to others, unable to connect with them, serve, or teach.
By looking back on my personally recorded history, I can have faith that life will happen for me exactly as it should because it always has, and that I don’t need to try to force things to happen or control the future. I can see how my attempts at control merely postponed acceptance of truth. I can also stay more open to the mysteries that will inevitably unfold (like a flower petal blooming) and cultivate an attitude of curiosity about the unknown– the potential that will actualize– instead of being afraid of it or resisting it. Surrender is powerful.
I have also learned that my current pain and suffering, whatever it may be whether self-induced anxiety or from external “accidents” beyond my control, shall pass, as these always have and always will. I have the stories of my past, in writing, as proof of the truths of what it means to be human and what it means to be specifically and uniquely me.
If I continue to approach all of my experiences as opportunities to learn, to observe my life as it unfolds organically, then I can enjoy it, be grateful and appreciative, and use what I have already learned to continue to be healthy, secure, and well and help others do the same.
I am not a Pollyanna nor am I wearing rose-colored glasses.
It’s not that everything works out the way I want it to or that everything always turns out well; it’s not that I don’t make the same mistakes twice (or more). It’s simply that, for me, using writing for reflection has been an incredibly useful tool for becoming more wise over time and more well. And as I keep becoming more of who I am, well, it just so happens that that’s the meaning and joy of my one, short, precious life. If I am reflective and continually witness the unfolding of my true self, and accept that truth, especially when it’s difficult, I can love my life even more and resist its discomforts less!
As I age and become even more experienced, more keenly reflective, and more honest in my writing, the more alive and robust I feel, yet at the same time, I feel less rigid, less anxious, and more humble about all there is still yet to be discovered. I continue to see how much I really don’t know. Now, at almost 50, I am surely not the same person as I was at 40 or 20. Who will I be at 60 or 80?
My life, as I record it through writing, has taught me that a sense of security is not the same thing as permanence, and trying to control and cling to safety is not the way to live well. Just because my life has been constant change, that the world is constantly changing (faster and faster most recently), it doesn’t mean I am not secure and safe. The one thing that has remained consistent is the entity called “me”– the experiencer, this reflective, evolving being who writes. Writing has been a critical tool for my self-knowledge. And knowing myself better is foundational for my good health and wellbeing.
I write to articulate my life to myself, not as self indulgence, not as self-obsessive or selfish, but as self-care, as therapy. I also can share who I am with others, if I choose, certainly not to give prescriptive advice about how to be or do life (I don’t recommend anyone be like me! and I don’t have the answers for you!) but to let others know they aren’t alone on this journey of figuring out how to become a person (Rogers). I can share my struggles and successes with others, but like any diet or recipe, what “works” for me may not apply to others’ unique constitutions. We are all so specific which is why we have to understand ourselves as well as possible to apply the exact prescriptions for our individual selves.
The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide is my newest way of publicly sharing my learning from a life of writing, teaching, and yoga practice. I outline a few insights, practices, and techniques I have learned along my travels, both professionally and personally, on the outer and inner landscapes of life, to help me be wiser and more well.
These insights, practices, and techniques are not a secret, nor are they original. They’ve been in the toolbox of humanity for a very long time. They are recorded in the literature and history of the ages, rooted in the wisdom traditions from both East and West. I’ve discovered them, applied and tested them over time, and found they work very well for a meaningful trek to knowing oneself in our modern world. I hope you discover that they can work for you as well, in your own way, to meet your own individual and unique needs to know who you are and express that truth.
I hope next year when I reflect in writing about 2019 that I will be able to report that the personal learning I chose to share publicly in the form of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide has helped propel my life and others’ lives in the direction it’s meant to go. I trust that it will.
Although the classic wisdom, “know thyself” sounds simple, it’s not easy. It’s not easy being human and it’s certainly not easy learning the truth about yourself, so challenge is part and parcel of gaining wisdom and wellness. Challenge is Part III of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide.
As the wise Eastern sage, the Buddha said, life is suffering, and this is the reality most people would rather not accept nor grapple with. The problem of facing our own anxieties, depression and pain, and the truth that life is hard and that we are limited directly opposes our modern cultural values that promote only happiness, comfort, and pleasure.
“What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.”
In the first-world, we are educated to avoid voluntarily challenging ourselves or confronting our dis-eases head on. We are encouraged to use hacks and short cuts to avoid the deep learning approach that requires real challenge and real change.
We are given pills and “easy,” quick ways out and away from facing any discomfort rather than nourishing and nurturing our own bodies and minds which takes attention, time, sacrifice and effort to cultivate. Prevention is hard work and sometimes without immediate payoff, so we are conditioned instead to live a life of pleasure without sacrifice. We stay ignorant about the negative effects of our choices and actions because they exist in some far off future that doesn’t seem immediately threatening. (Think Global Warming)
Materialist and consumerist values coupled with technological progress aggressively sell an intentional avoidance of difficulty. The messages of advertisers are to feel no pain, or to pretend, or that we are not good enough as we are. The system is designed as a race— to hurry up and acquire the latest and greatest, playing on our deepest fears of feeling left out of the group or alienated. We are not taught that to grapple with problems and work persistently to solve them defines the best in us. We miss out on the fulfillment and meaningfulness of building our character and spirit. And we wonder why we are sick.
Through technological and other forms of manipulation, advertisers, politicians, media and other organizations steal our attention away from our inner worlds, capitalize on our lack of self-mastery, and divert us from knowing ourselves and our truth. All of this blocks our ability to grow stronger, develop grit and resilience, and invite failure as a way to learn, evolve, and thrive.
We are continually seduced by constant distractions that play on our irrationality, desires, and emotions, and we are socially conditioned to pay attention to those who are “in the know” to tell us how to live our lives, rather than turning inward to trust ourselves. It’s time to stop listening to others and listen to ourselves through intentional and deliberate introspection. We have to stop and make time to know who we really are rather than who we have allowed ourselves to be conditioned to be.
The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide encourages you to face challenges and limits to grow wiser and more well, enabling you to be your own best authority and trusted advocate of yourself. In the modern world, facing challenge to know thyself is both an act of self-defense against cultural conditioning and necessary for positive self actualization.
What only seems ironic in this modern world of constant dopamine hits from excessive immersion in gaming or social media, moving beyond one’s comfort zone to voluntarily face fear and challenge is the antidote to suffering more and suffering unnecessarily. It’s simple. If we humans don’t use our muscles, they atrophy. By paying close attention to fear and exercising courage, we become both brave and more confident about exercising it in our future endeavors. Helicopter parents rob their children of actualizing when they create safe spaces, hover, and prevent failure. Again, we wonder why anxiety and illness continue to rise among young people.
If we take a small risk, succeed, and we survive the trauma, we are more likely to try and try again. If we burn ourselves once, if we fail and fall, we learn quickly to figure out other paths and possibilities for succeeding the next time. Our fear and weakness lessen, our confidence and faith in our own good judgment and abilities grow. We find out what we are like and what we are made of.
When we make sacrifices that may hurt today, we are more likely to be rewarded with more freedom tomorrow. Such small and great character-building actions using one’s carefully directed attention and self-awareness developed in the first two parts of the Self-Study Guide program are practices that lead to developing discipline and grit in the third part.
None of this: developing courage, discipline, and seeking the truth of you is easy. It requires hard work, pain, and struggle but discipline leads to freedom-— and just think about the amount of freedom and independence that comes from good health and wellness.
“Always do what you are afraid to do.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Taking “baby steps” through the trial and error of learning is growing, and growing is thriving, and thriving is wellness. Modern psychologists have used the technique of exposure therapy to effectively treat severe phobias, but it is a tool available to all of us for developing wellness regardless of the severity or scale of our fears.
If we remain hidden in our self-constructed safe spaces, buffered from danger or risk and other opportunities for learning more about ourselves and the world, protected from oppression all the while maintaining the mentality of the vulnerable, helpless victim, we become dependent on others to shield us and thus remain weak and static. We can’t be certain of whether or not what comes from the external is good for us because we don’t really know what we are made of.
Because we haven’t risen to the challenges that enable us to build our character and our constitution, we really don’t know who we are and that causes even more doubt and trepidation. We lack trust and confidence in ourselves, so our personal growth, wellness, and well-being remains in the hands of others, and we are forced to trust their power and their moral character instead of our own. Thus, we are more likely to be oppressed, manipulated, and victimized.
Avoiding difficulty, whether difficult truths, discomfort, or exposure to risk by making ourselves vulnerableresults in a failure to cope. Poor health is far more threatening and damaging than facing challenge in the first place.
Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone
When you avoid discomfort, distract yourself, pretend, or run away from pain– one of your greatest teachers, you lose the opportunity to actualize your potential and build your resilience. Like unused muscles, your mind, body, and spirit remain static and weak thus causing additional unnecessary suffering.
When you learn to grapple with challenge, voluntarily through practice, you’ll build character and confidence. You will learn more about what you are made of and who you really are, so that when the unexpected tragedies of life hit, as they inevitably will, you will be the stability and comfort for yourself and others, thus minimizing any unnecessary, additional suffering. You’ll be the hero of your own life story.
“If you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”
Self Awareness is Part II of Landscapes for Learning’s Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self-Study Guide.The Guide provides tools and techniques for learning to turn your attention inward to become consciously more self-aware so that you can make informed, intentional decisions for your well-being and develop the discipline it takes to avoid being distracted or blown off course by powerful influences in the external environment ever vying for your precious attention.
Aside from owning and managing your own attention (learned in Part I), another important “soft skill” in our modern age of artificial intelligence is trust– that is, trusting yourself. But you can’t trust yourself until you know yourself well. And you can’t develop self-awareness and self-understanding if you don’t pay careful attention to yourself.
Focusing attention inward to gain self-knowledge and self awareness is what it means to travel the inner landscape for learning. Part II of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide empowers you with practical activities to become more self aware– to know thyself to be the best you possible.
Turning your attention inward is like shining a spotlight on yourself to understand who you are, and this is the beginning of becoming more self-aware and conscious that you are a human ‘self’ with a specific nature.
If you study your personality, habits, patterns of thinking and emotions, and learn about your mind-body connection, you will know more about who you are, how much of you is under your own control, how much is not, and the qualities of human nature that you share with other human beings.
You will discover that you have limitations and challenges and so does everyone else. This knowledge will positively transform your relationship with yourself and others.
Your increased self awareness may motivate you to welcome new challenges in your life, motivate you to use your strengths to thrive, inspire you to face your fears and insecurities, and provide you with more concrete information about yourself to make better, more informed choices from a locus of control, all of which leads to more wisdom and wellness.
Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide Coming Soon!
I believe so strongly that dedicating more time and energy to understanding oneself is the foundation for balance and wellness in this day and age of speed and data overwhelm that I left the security of my career as a high school teacher to create Landscapes for Learning, an online classroom where my mission is to foster the growth of individual uniqueness and encourage individual expression through learning.
I had been grappling with the increasing anxiety and unwellness among my teenage students and observing it throughout the school’s culture (and our wider culture), while at the same time I was helping people to grow in healthy self-realization as a Bikram yoga teacher. The philosophy of Bikram yoga with its aim of self-realization seemed to be a viable antidote needed to address the problems pervading not only school culture but our American culture at large.
I wondered how I could possibly bring the principles of yoga into schools to improve wellness and balance. How could I marry the yoga with education for wholeness and wellness for individuals?
One answer is my soon-to-be-published Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide, curricula for promoting wisdom and wellness.
The five central tenets of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide are based on what I learned both as a Humanities teacher and within my personal yoga practice, a combination of the wisdom traditions of both East and West, and are meant to help both teens and adults heal themselves through self-development for optimal health and quality lifestyle.
The Self Study Guide directs you to (1) understand attention and it’s value and learn to manage your own, (2) gain self-awareness, (3) realize the value of embracing challenges and limits, (4) make intentional choices to respond to experiences rather than reacting unconsciously, and (5) approach your life experiences with curiosity and as opportunities for learning.
Through this process of self-study, you will likely become your own best trusted friend, teacher, therapist, and parent capable of independently traveling the landscapes of your life as if on the most interesting adventure.
You can learn to “do you” and express your uniqueness which is exactly what you need to be well!
If each of us is well and expressing our uniqueness, then all of us are better off.
Knowing thyself is about our individual humanity and our shared humanity. If you want to make the world a better place, it’s starts with knowing who you are and living the full expression of you!
The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide can show you how!
As knowing thyself is the classic, foundational wisdom to all other kinds of growth, learning, achievement, and success, the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide is the platform upon which you can build, adding other advice, self-help programs, formal education, workplace training and more for ongoing personal and professional self-development.
Self study is your foundation because if you don’t know who you are, how can you know what help is truly beneficial for you? How can you know what career or life coaching advice suits you, or which prescriptions for wellness are most appropriate for you, or whose advice to seek, if you haven’t studied yourself carefully? You must do your inner landscape work, your part to know yourself, in order to assess, accept and integrate additional help, insight, advice, and information from external sources.
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 Self-Study Guide, you can revisit any or all of them whenever you’ve lost your way. You can focus on one, two, or all five of the aspects of the guide to improve your life.
This foundational guide for wellness is applicable to all modern humans, yet super-specific for each individual since each of us is so unique. Once you own this program, it’s yours to adapt to your needs. When you embark on traveling the landscape of you using the Self-Study Guide, your life is in your own hands– literally.
Landscapes for Learning’s Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self-Study Guide is designed to inspire and motivate individuals of all ages to live an “examined” life and give people simple, pragmatic tools for everyday use to begin their journey to know themselves better than anyone else ever could. The process of self study enables each person to specifically articulate him or herself and author their own personal destiny.
By engaging in self-study, you will learn why and how exploring your inner landscape to know who you really are will improve your relationship with yourself and as a result, with others. And relationships are everything!
You will realize more about your potential and how to actualize when you know what you are like through observing, analyzing, and reflecting on yourself. The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide gives you directions that you can use constantly or intermittently over the course of your days, years, and life time! You will learn by teaching yourself, using your own direct experience and by tailoring the resources, tools, and practices contained in the Self-Study Guide to fit your needs. You have 100% control over the process once the Guide is yours and you learn how it works.
“Landscapes for Learning’s Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide is a set of simple directions, tools, and practices to show you how to live by the classic maxim, “know thyself” for modern teens and adults. It was created for people to actively integrate the process of knowing themselves into their daily lives, and can be utilized by anyone, anywhere. No grades, no tests, only learning for the sake of gaining personal wisdom and wellness.”
“Be true to yourself!”
“Express your uniqueness!”
Popular, inspirational memes like these are shared in self-help books and all over social media to inspire people to live well, but how can you possibly “do you,” be the best you possible, and express yourself uniquely if you don’t know who you are?
Answering the question “who am I?” is foundational to self improvement, and it is also the center of a truly complete education. A committed, ongoing pursuit of knowing oneself provides meaning for one’s life. The advice is ancient, classic, motivational and positive for sure, but simply reading about it isn’t enough. You have to act.
Landscapes for Learning’s Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide is a set of simple directions, tools, and practices to show you how to live by the classic maxim, “know thyself” for modern teens and adults. It was created for people to actively integrate the process of knowing themselves into their daily lives, and can be utilized by anyone, anywhere. No grades, no tests, only learning for the sake of gaining personal wisdom and wellness.
Self-study is foundational to all other kinds of learning. Any other strategies and motivational programs for achievement or success build upon the unique combination of directives in the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide.
The answers aren’t outside ourselves. Travel the inner landscape to find out how the mind works and you’ll find out who you are and who you can be if you control your thoughts.
“Build the image in your mind of what you want. Be specific. Write it down. Reject negative thoughts. Think of how you can achieve your goal and not why you can’t.”
“To develop from within is the definition of education. Learning never ends when we draw on an infinite source from the deep reservoir within us.”
“Attitude should be taught as a subject in school”
“We have an exterior image and an interior image of ourselves (self-image). Too many people don’t know enough about themselves so they have a poor self-image. We can all improve our self-image.”
“Relax. Visualize how you want to see yourself and how you’d like to live your life. (Dream your painting and then paint your dream) Build the image in your mind. Describe it and write it out. Read it repeatedly.”
“We become what we think about. Believe and your belief will create the fact (William James)”
“Thoughts control our feelings; feelings control our actions. We can control our thoughts.”
“Respond, don’t react. Ask yourself, Will that idea help me get to where I want to go?”
“What’s good for everybody is to get to know yourself better because we are now entering the era where we are hackable animals…and there are corporations and governments that are trying to hack you
whether you are a student or a billionaire…If you don’t get to know yourself better you become easy prey to all these organizations and governments that are hacking you as we speak… you have to run faster..
previously you had no competition, but now you do.”
—Yuval Noah Harari*
Listen to and/or read the following interviews from Yuval Noah Harari for the reasons why self-study is the most important curriculum to engage in at this point in history.
If you want to avoid being hacked, being irrelevant, or overwhelmed by constant, stressful change, then get ahead of the curve by knowing yourself for proper self-development now and for the future.
The five lessons or “practices” of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human self-study program are designed to help you learn to know yourself. In the program, you will learn:
KNOWING ONESELF IS THE ESSENTIAL WISDOM needed for the coming decades. Landscape for Learning’s Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self-Study for Wellness Program can show you how to get to know yourself and the unique human that you are!
The workshops, resources, and wellness programs provide the tools and information you need to take 100% responsibility for your own life. This program will enable you to take the necessary action and develop the habits and character through direct experience to know yourself and become the best, strongest, wisest you possible.
There are no teachers in this program except you. You follow no guru, no generic prescription or step by step, magical, one-size-fits-all program. Your experience with Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Human self-study program is specific and unique to you because you are one of a kind!
WHEN TECH KNOWS YOU BETTER THAN YOURSELF
(INTERVIEW AND TRANSCRIPT)
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Listen to your nudges, bitches. They’re never wrong. When you ignore them or you are too afraid to do what they ask, they usually show up as aches and pains in your body, or in your mind, or both. Denial, distraction, and ignorance will make you sick and suffer-– maybe not in the short term but definitely in the long term.
HOW TO LISTEN TO YOUR NUDGES
Practicing Bikram Yoga gives you the opportunity to listen to your nudges and to face them to find the truth. This is hard. Lots of people would rather live in denial, distracted, and avoid the challenge of the hot room which serves as a crucible of honesty.
If you practice Bikram Yoga consistently and study yourself, by turning your attention inward instead of focusing on the distractions around you, you will start to notice patterns: you’ll notice, with curiosity rather than judgment, those subtle aches and pains in your body and in your mind. Noticing and learning about your mind-body connection will enable you to take a step toward putting the pieces of the puzzle of your true self together.
The underlying truth of your life is the source of those nudges. The truth will surface with time and consistent practice as you courageously face the nudges and deal with them– explore them. If you ignore them, as Jo Simpson says in her TedTalk, (or you expect someone else to “fix” them for you and act as a victim) they’ll slap you across the face or steam roll you later in the form of greater suffering or poor health or tragedy. Best to listen now rather than later.
Bikram Yoga is an incredibly helpful tool for strengthening your attention, practicing listening, and gaining the strength of character and grit to take responsibility for the hard truths of your life when they come. You will be prepared to face whatever life throws at you because you will have learned how to manage your suffering. You’ll have prepared through disciplined PRACTICE. (And here you are thinking yoga is about posing in spandex and posting self-indulgent photos on Instagram!)
If you build your strength and flexibility by doing what’s difficult in your practice, of staying in the room and trying, you’ll be right there, open enough, paying attention enough to receive your TRUTH!
That’s why I always include the line in the dialogue, “Mama, give me money!” when I am teaching. That’s why I reinforce keeping your eyes OPEN and your palms open in savasana– just in case that truth arrives, you’ll be ready to receive it. Show up, focus inward, and listen– to the nudges that will guide you to truth.
You may not like the nudges or understand them because usually they aren’t rational, and vulnerability is uncomfortable and scary, but you’ll be building the courage to accept the nudges as important signs to do as you should to be healthy.
And those pains in your mind and body will magically dissolve, not really by magic at all, but rather through your attention and hard work, that is– discipline. This is why it’s YOUR practice and we ask you to look at yourself in the mirror, not at your teacher. There’s nothing special about us on the podium. We give you the conditions of the room and the words; you do the rest. It’s not about the teacher and how much “energy” or “entertainment” they bring to the class– if the teacher and their antics are your focus, then you won’t hear what your inner world needs to tell you. You might not notice the nudges. Your yoga isn’t about anybody else but YOU.
Knowing yourself by listening, paying yourself some loving, compassionate, and honest attention for 90 minutes– as if you came to spend some time with someone you really want to be with, someone you really care about— is your homemade, unique prescription for wellness.
As Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink always says, freedom comes from DISCIPLINE. Bikram yoga is a form of very effective discipline– of showing up on your mat and PAYING ATTENTION— of heading inward bound to know the real you, to your truth and its source.
You want more answers about what the hell is happening for you in your life? Want more wisdom? More wellness? Listen to the nudges, bitches.
STAY TUNED FOR SELF STUDY for WISDOM AND WELLNESSWORKSHOPS COMING SOON TO A BIKRAM YOGA STUDIO
Why can’t we inform people that they can be their truest selves sooner, encourage them to slow down to practice stillness, to listen to their inner guide, and give them the loving support and tools to do so? That’s a question I ask in my book and am answering with the creation of my coaching workshops, curriculum, and journal program.
In “The Key to Transforming Yourself” Ted Talk below, Robert Greene articulates better and more concisely what I attempted rather poorly to convey in my first book draft of, It’s Not About the Grades: Landscapes for Learning Beyond Schooling. I won’t bore you with the details about the failures of the draft, except to say that I am back to the proverbial drawing board. (Revision is writing, after all according to Stephen King)
Greene talks about a “return to uniqueness.” He talks about how each of us are exactly who we are, different from everyone and everything else in the universe, but how we lose our sense of this uniqueness when we are socialized. He says when we listen to other people tell us what is good or bad about ourselves (and believe it) we often become strangers to ourselves. It is a crisis of identity when we know ourselves to be who others say we are or when we define ourselves according to what’s conventional or “normal” rather than according to our own inner wisdom.
He also talks about “primal inclinations,” our desires and interests, which he says are beyond rational. These are the activities and subjects we are simply drawn to as children. He claims that it is our path in life to return to our uniqueness and those primal inclinations that define the true self in order to be the person we were actually born to be, a one-of-a-kind individual.
In my book draft, I tried to convey how I came to understand this disconnection and reconnection that Greene describes. I explain how my identity as a child had been co-opted when I went to school and was shaped by its norms and the inherent cultural values of competition and comparison transmitted by parents, teachers, and friends. The inculcation from my environment thoroughly influenced how I understood myself. My interpretation of who I was lacked depth and authenticity because I had become too distant from my inner world, not entirely but enough to do some damage. Though compared to everyone else, I was “normal.” Because my typical, American, middle-class, suburban life was so busy, fast, and competitive in the drive for wealth and achievement, (you are productive and successful if that calendar is jam-packed, yes?) I had very little time to find stillness, meditation, or introspection, even if I had known those would be helpful habits to cultivate for my health and wellbeing. Nobody filled me in.
I established a relationship with myself based on who the world told me I should be, which was inauthentic, but who is conscious that this process is happening to them when they are young? I recognized the same development pattern and process of co-opting identity while teaching high school students. I saw teenagers suffer with a lack of self-understanding, integrity, and self-compassion. They consistently defined themselves according to the values of competition and comparison, never felt good enough, were forced to “find their passion” on the external landscape which really should come from the primal inclinations that school or parents likely squashed out of them long before. I saw them frantically completing their to-do lists and packing their resumes with activities and awards to gain college admission. I saw them hustle through the hoops of schooling rather than authentically enjoy learning. I saw their mental and physical health decline. I saw them suffer–and in my opinion, unnecessarily.
Greene seems to believe this phenomenon of disconnection from our unique selves happens to a lot of people. It’s something I’ve also heard podcasters, Joe Rogan, Cathy Heller, and Rich Roll talk about often. Roll wrote a book about his “midlife crisis” of sorts when he realized he only went to law school because it was expected of him and he didn’t know who he was enough to decide for himself. His awakening came initially when he found sobriety and later, more earnestly after a health scare in his late forties shocked him into reconnecting with his truth. I hope these stories of recovery are more common than not. I feel lucky to have found yoga and journal writing as my tools for my eventual “return to uniqueness.”
So I say, why can’t we inform people that they can be their truest selves sooner, encourage them to slow down to practice stillness, to listen to their inner guide, and give them the loving support and tools to do so? That’s a question I ask in my book and am answering with the creation of my coaching program, curriculum, and journal program.
“I hope to help dismantle traditional schooling and its unhelpful,
outdated, damaging values and persuade teachers, school leaders, parents, and students
to focus their attention on better, more important ways of learning.
My goal is to support ALL parties in this transformation
with their humanity and a love for our shared humanity in tact.”
Reflections on Education, Yoga, Humanity and Change
This podcast episode is about my own learning about kids, yoga, and self-knowledge over my years teaching high school and raising my own kids. I talk about the future of constant change and how we need to radically alter education to help kids find and live their unique truth. I talk about interpreting images in a text, soft skills, values, the grading system, rescuing and preserving our humanity, and the differences between the usual business of traditional schooling and authentic learning, and much more.
The Landscapes for Learning Mission is to help kids thrive and flourish using tools they already own within them to navigate a future that will require them to surf the waves of change on novel landscapes.
I hope to help dismantle traditional schooling and its unhelpful, outdated, and damaging values and persuade teachers, schools, and students to focus their attention on better, more important ways of learning. My goal is to support all parties in this transformation (and especially through loving and caring for our most valuable asset—our teachers) with their humanity and love for shared humanity in tact.
Johnathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff’s The Coddling of the American Mind
Help the Landscapes for Learning Mission catch fire! Please share!
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Follow Landscapes for Learning: @ LandscapesforLearning.com
Podcast Music: Creative Commons License for “Political Lunatics” by Earthling (intro and outro music)
“Political Lunatics” by Earthling
It’s Not About the Grades: Landscapes for Learning Beyond Schooling
Since everyone seems to be publishing books with rules for life and lists for “best” something or other, I thought I would make a list of possible take-aways from It’s Not About the Grades: Landscapes for Learning Beyond Schooling, my newest memoir of a life in school currently in progress. Truth be told, I am revising the manuscript and wondering what the heck it is I am trying to convey to readers, so I wrote a list for myself and so why not share it with you?
27 is my favorite number, so I will stop there.
It’s Not About the Grades: Love for Learning Beyond Schooling is very close to completion, so I am recording a reading of a few chapters for feedback, as a faster way of getting “peer review” before I write proposals for publishing the final manuscript.
I would LOVE your input, insight, constructive criticism and HONEST feedback to improve this manuscript draft. And, of course, please share with teachers, parents, yogis, friends on your social network so I can get lots of good input! I would appreciate it!
I am days away from putting the final touches on the manuscript and readying it for readers for review. Enjoy (I hope!)
It’s Not About the Grades: Love for Learning Beyond Schooling is very close to completion, so I am recording a reading of a few chapters for feedback, as a faster way of getting “peer review” before I write proposals for publishing the final manuscript.
I would LOVE your input, insight, constructive criticism and HONEST feedback to improve this manuscript draft. And, of course, please share with teachers, parents, yogis, friends on your social network so I can get lots of good input! I would appreciate it!
I am days away from putting the final touches on the manuscript and readying it for readers for review. Enjoy (I hope!)
Nick Filth grew up in an abusive home, dropped out of high school after ninth grade, was homeless for a time, and addicted to drugs, but ironically his experiences with THC and psychedelics sent him out of this world then back to his own life– his truth, which is a place and point of view way more expansive and stunningly beautiful and loving than ever. As soon as I connected with Nick at the Bikram yoga studio where I teach and he practices, we engaged in rich, interesting conversation right away, so naturally we had to record this podcast.
So what could a middle-aged, suburban mom, yoga teacher, and former high school teacher share in common with a tattoo artist with a 9th grade education and a proclivity for psychoactive experiences? Find out by listening to a long and winding conversation, and perhaps you’ll learn what you, too, share in common with both of us!
I am grateful to Nick for this podcast because his real and raw story about his life’s journey helped me re-think my current memoir about growing up with typical suburban American values of social comparison, competition, and where my pure, essential self, my true nature, was overpowered by and neglected because of the conditions and demands of my environment.
photo credit: Jenna Antonageli
I am also indebted to him as my teacher because I learned a ton, not only about him and his perspective but also because through the opportunity to dialogue, I can learn more about my own thinking and the ways I connect and communicate with other living beings who are so much more than just bodies controlled by brains. (See list of take-aways below).
In this podcast, we discuss psychedelics, the contrast between schooling and authentic learning; conditional and unconditional love; nature versus nurture; truth and expression; the value of balance as it applies to limits and structure and change; Nick’s visit to an ashram, his music, tattoos, meditation & yoga, my writing, and much more. My favourite part is near the end when Nick talks about how he responds to novelty and discomfort. He lives as if the landscapes are FOR his personal learning! Yes!!
This is our contribution to the new long form media and podcasting trend. Please Enjoy! If you could “like” the podcast on iTunes, that’d be helpful and much appreciated.
You can find out more about Nick here:
His webpage: http://www.nickfilthtattoos.com/
His Tattoo Shop: http://www.hiddenhistorytattoos.com/
His record label: https://deafeningassembly.com/
If you don’t take responsibility for designing your own life by figuring out who you really are, then people will forever be telling you what to do and who to be, and you’ll be miserable.
I used Dr. Jordan B. Peterson’s Self Authoring Program and the Big 5 Personality Test he recommended a while back, which enabled me to understand why I was craving change– in my career, in some of my relationships, and my personal mental and physical habits. I recommend both tools to find out more about who you are. They are incredibly helpful, as long as you are honest about what you’ll learn about yourself.
Practicing yoga, writing, meditation and other activities that foster introspection and self-awareness and understanding are the key to deeper, more true and honest connection to your “self.” These are ways to know yourself better than anyone else, and will qualify you to be the authority of your own life! No more unhealthy co-dependence on anything outside of you– people, money, self-help articles!
When you understand MORE about who you really are on the inner landscape, it guides your successful travel on the outer landscape where you can design your life as you see fit.
For more information and insight, listen to Joe Rogan and Dr. Peterson’s excerpted conversation from the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. And once you are done, disconnect from the internet and connect to yourself in one of the ways suggested above!
The episode clip above is excerpted from the JREpodcast #877 with Jordan Peterson