Posted on Leave a comment

Antidote to Disconnection

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.”

Reflection

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.

Self Discovery

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

Practicing Gratitude

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.

Acknowledgements

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. 

Posted on Leave a comment

95 Thousand Words

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

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

Perfectly Imperfect

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

No Answers

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

Another Kind of Currency

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

Weirdness and Woo-Woo

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

Lost & Found

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

Process & Product?

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

Let it Be & Be Led

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

Posted on Leave a comment

Self Realization

Over the past couple of years, I have written about everything I have directly experienced in my own life as well as the wisdom I have received from great mentors both ancient and modern, from East and West, about the interesting process of self realization, self actualization, and wellness.

Much of my personal evolution has come from direct experience practicing Bikram Yoga. When I discovered Bikram Yoga, or shall I say when it found me, I found the existentialism, spiritualism, mysticism, and theories about consciousness and the unconscious I had studied in one form or another in my formal education, what I had only ever experienced intellectually, embodied in a wholly physical experience.

I became far more aware of who I am and what it means to be human in a 90 minute heated yoga class. I fell into self realization by accident. I discovered my true self (in distinct contrast to the social roles I’d been conditioned to adopt and adhere to for a sense of belonging, approval, and currency– that is– who I thought I was). I became aware of awareness, the conscious witness, the observer of my “small” self, by chance, and without expectation, and without complicated academic preparation and study. I know exactly where my mat was in the room when I experienced more awareness and insight. It was not intellectual. Lucky me.

I continue to look in the mirror each day and face my suffering only to be with it, and for no other reason. That is a process. There’s no product, no goal, no achievement, no desire for a better waistline. The mirror is not about vanity, and I am not looking for answers. It’s a simple process, though not easy. It’s become my meditation, my inward bound journey to freedom.

So, I figure, why not share my experience of transformation through Bikram yoga in order to invite others to stumble into more conscious awareness of their truth too? Pay it forward. It is likely that Bikram Yoga, since it is less esoteric, makes self realization more accessible, as it is far more realistic for everyday Westerners to drop by a local studio to practice each day than it is for them to sojourn to India or do a 500 day silent meditation retreat or something stereotypically more “spiritually rigorous.” You don’t have to perform the rituals of a priest or monk to know who you really are. No, you can “be free where you are,” as Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn says, no matter who or where you are. The path to freedom is within the inner landscape, not on the outer one with specific conditions meant for your transformation.

Posted on 1 Comment

2018 In Hindsight

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

Adventures in Learning Familiar & Foreign

I have heard Joe Rogan interview Jordan Peterson many times, so often that I was reluctant to listen to them talk again.  As I plugged in my headphones and headed out the door on my usual morning walk with my fantastic dog, Finn, I asked myself, what else can I possibly learn from these guys? Should I get out of this rabbit hole? Are they going to talk about the same things they always do? It’s all so familiar to me. Then I started thinking about the nature of the word “familiar” and all its associations: family, sense of security, home, contentment, but also complacency and boredom.

I noticed that once I think I “know” a thing really well, I like to switch the focus of my attention elsewhere, to what’s novel. I like constant stimulation. I like newness and challenge. But, on further reflection, I also know I like and need stability, order, and sameness for a sense of security, a base from which I can take new risks, handle new stimulation, and build more insight and experience. I am describing the yin and yang of authentic learning (which is an entirely different thing from schooling and academic achievement.)  Broadly speaking, learning is a psychological balance between a sense of permanence and novelty.

Personally, I am conscious of the value of the learning process in my own life, and am working hard here at Landscapes for Learning to make this process available to others in the form of a more complete and ongoing education for personal development and wellness. My way of keeping my wheel of self-study turning and rolling forward is to share my love for learning with others.

Sometimes I cling too tightly to security and resist change; sometimes I roll to the other extreme and risk too much and fail a bunch. The process is a balancing act on the landscapes for learning, but as long as I am active and consciously aware of my own learning, that wheel rolls. I believe that if more people can become consciously aware of this process of learning and understand themselves better, they’ll manage the balance most effectively for a happier and more fulfilling human experience.

Landscapes for Learning’s Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide contains motivation, tools, and practices to help people become new kinds of learners for a modern world that requires balance and change management more than ever before. It’s my way of sharing my personal tools and practices for wellness developed through my life as a humanities teacher, writer, Bikram yogi, and student of many amazing teachers (including the two men in the podcast embedded in this post). Knowing thyself is the key to self-realization and unlocking one’s potential and therefore wellness and wellbeing, especially now, in modern times. An attitude of openness to learning, flexible mindset, and humility– the realization that there’s always more to learn to grow— is essential for thriving with vitality in this new age. We cannot afford to stay stuck clinging to security and permanence which aren’t real but rather we must learn to find the balance between the familiar and foreign.

The landscapes of life are for learning– always —because we (and everything else) are always changing. Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson are always changing and learning; the interaction between them will always give birth to something new and include what’s stable between them. I can learn from them. I can learn more about myself because I am different from the last time I heard their previous conversations. Because we are alternately familiar to ourselves and foreign to ourselves, as the yin and yang of who we are, we can always know and learn more.

There’s no such thing as mastery when it comes to learning. You can never know it all, ever.  Jordan Peterson would say the process of learning is to walk the edge between chaos and order, and he is only restating in his own terms what the greatest minds over the course of human history of the East and West have discovered and said already; it’s the wisdom of humanity.

Jordan Peterson is only one of many who articulates the wisdom of humanity in interesting ways that make it particularly accessible to people struggling to find meaning in their lives. He’s made ancient wisdom modern self help. I am trying to do the same  through my Landscapes for Learning mission and the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide. which is curriculum that empowers people to figure out who they are.

Lots of people inform others about the keys to wellness or the wisdom of the past; my work in the Self Study Guide is about “the how” to inspire people and give them the motivation, support, tools, and practices to implement today, in their everyday lives, for wellness.

The video above is purposely cued for you to begin at the end of their almost three hour conversation because it is when they talk about how finding meaning in life is more about ATTENTION than it is about INTELLIGENCE. A meaningful life is more about DISCOVERY than it is about CONTROL.  (Listen to them talk about the antidote to moral relativism and the danger of intelligence from 2:09-2:19…)

Around the 2:20 point in the podcast, JRE and JBP talk about how much we don’t know about who we are and how you have to watch yourself and learn as YOU and life are constantly coming into being, as a series of continual births and deaths, as JBP says. Reflection is key. That, and honesty, are the foundational principles of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide. Honest self reflection and writing go hand in hand to know what you think and feel in order to grow and learn, and to grow and learn is to be more alive and vital in the world. You provide yourself with your own therapy when you use the tools in the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide.

“Logos” is an interesting concept Jordan Peterson often talks about which is about how we articulate our selves through speech. Reading or observing ourselves and our experiences and articulating them by writing them down or talking about them is the crux of self-reflection and introspection that is necessary to know who we are. The Self-Study Guide I have created is designed for people to do just that– articulate who they are to themselves. Like my Bikram Yoga practice has been for me, introspective writing is another tool for self-realization, for unlocking one’s potential. As Peterson says in the interview with Rogan, personal reflection is essential for understanding how to get back into the place of FLOW, where you want to be– where meaning lives and where you are connected to the core of your being. Yes and Yes!

I have made it my job at Landscapes for Learning to help people discover themselves, who they really are to unlock their potential, find their “flow,” and be the best and most unique individual they were born to be. Through providing inspiring examples, motivation, various forms of education and curriculum, and coaching, I hope to empower people to self-actualize which is a lifetime process requiring tremendous honesty and effort. This is more than another self-help endeavor. Knowing who you are is your life’s work and totally worth the time and effort for the meaning and purpose it provides.

I didn’t think I could learn more from JRE and JBP because I am so familiar with them, but I always learn more both from what’s familiar or secure and from what’s novel or foreign. There’s always more potential waiting to be actualized if you intentionally engage with the path that lays itself out for you keeping that attitude of discovery Peterson talks about. Life is an adventure story and you are its hero.

Follow what you are drawn to as the way forward on your path, consciously choosing to approach all of your life as landscapes for learning. And if you pay careful attention to yourself to learn more about your own nature and who you are, that is– if you travel the inner landscapes with the attitude of a curious learner, you’ll never be stunted, bored, or complacent. The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide will show you how and give you concrete activities and exercises to do to learn to navigate the interior of you for a life of meaning and vitality.

Posted on Leave a comment

Classic Wisdom for Modern Humans: A WORK IN PROGRESS

The soon-to-be-completed Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide contains the why and how to “know thyself” for wellness. It is a collection of tools and practices for you to know yourself better so you can express your uniqueness for a lifetime of wellness and wellbeing. The ancient  dictum, “know thyself” from the Oracle at Delphi is the very definition of “classic” wisdom because it is archetypal, definitive, remarkable, and judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality. Living according the dictum can help you pursue truth and thereby wellness in our modern world.

 

LANDSCAPES FOR LEARNING

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 long career as a high school teacher to create Landscapes for Learning, this online classroom where my mission is to inspire, motivate, and foster the growth of individual uniqueness and encourage individual expression through a life time of learning.

BALANCE IS WELLNESS

I had been grappling with the increasing anxiety and unwellness among my students and observing it throughout the school’s culture, while at the same time I was helping people to grow in healthy self-realization as a Bikram yoga teacher. The principles and philosophy of Bikram’s brand of yoga seemed to be the exact antidote needed to address many of the problems pervading not only school culture but also the problems in modern American life in general. I wondered how I could possibly bring the principles and philosophy of the yoga into schools to improve  wellness and promote balance, if I could not get students (and their parents and my co-workers) to visit the studio to actually practice the physical postures of the hatha series. So, I did what I love to do most, I wrote curriculum and called it the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide. Its five central tenets (or learning units) are derived from my professional experiences teaching the Humanities and my personal Bikra yoga practice, a combination of the wisdom traditions of West and East, and are meant to help you– teens and adults– pursue optimal wellness through self study. 

FRIEND YOURSELF

Everyone needs to be their own best friend, parent, partner, counselor, and teacher– the person who knows you best, you can trust the most, and always has your back, no matter what. I became that person for myself by discovering the real value of following the classic advice to “know thyself” through my own deep self-study. By traveling the landscapes of my life– both inbound to my core through practicing yoga and writing and outbound across the outer landscapes of the world as a student, traveler, and teacher, I learned to express my uniqueness, to “do me,” with integrity and purpose. Becoming a better version of myself, overcoming fear and limits, and managing constant change took conscious effort and lots of trial and error, and it continues to be an ongoing journey toward wholeness. We should never stop learning, moving, or growing. 

I was inspired and motivated by prominent writers, podcasters, yoga enthusiasts, and many other teachers in various fields who were all both working to become whole and healthy individual human beings and promoting this same journey toward integration and wholeness through knowing oneself.

I heard over and over again that many of the problems and illnesses of our modern day are due to lack of knowing who we really are and that we are disconnected from our truth. I agreed because I was witnessing this reality in my own life- my own personal experience and in my role as mother, high school teacher, teacher of teachers, and yoga teacher.  I also knew that learning was the answer along with yoga and journal writing, as these were my practical, everyday tools for my own self study, growth, and wellness.

I am hopeful that the almost completed Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide, based on my insight gained from a deep work approach to self study, will improve your relationship with yourself (and others) as it did my own and continues to do. I am currently trying to walk the walk as I talk the talk, and this website is evidence of my own journey forward to expressing the truest me possible.  As you may have noticed, there are “WORK IN PROGRESS” images on almost every page! Our work to live as our truest selves is never done!

HONEST PRACTICE

The pursuit of classic wisdom, to “know thyself,” is to be a traveler with no final destination but the means to live authentically. In other words, the landscapes of your life are for learning– forever. Unlike schooling, learning is a journey of trial and error where trying and failing is the point— it’s the meaning and purpose of your one, unique life. So you ought to expect messy, to get a little bit dirty, and be bumped around a bit as you fail forward in your effort to know yourself and find your truest expression. As we say in the Bikram yoga community, when it comes to self-realization, there is no perfect— only practice. We are all, always, a work in progress!

Subscribe now to be first to receive the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide and discounts on products and services at LandscapesForLearning.com!

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Problems, Purpose, & Shitty First Drafts

“The meaning and design of a problem seem not to lie in its solution, but in our working at it incessantly. This alone preserves us from stultification and petrifaction.”
— C.G. Jung

Problems define us. Rather than ignoring them, pretending they don’t exist, or that they are someone else’s responsibility to solve, facing problems and taking on the challenge to solve them gives us something to do to define our (better) selves. 

WRITING FOR PROBLEM-SOLVING

Writing is a tool that helps me define my problems and work to solve them. Writer, Anne Lemott, famously promotes the “shitty first draft” as a way to begin to articulate oneself without concern for a final product. You just write with the reassurance that you’ll shape something out of your shittiness later. Usually, the process of shittily drafting will lead you closer to articulating a problem more clearly, sometimes by bringing the unconscious to the conscious level, and thus, in the general direction of a possible solution. As you might imagine, this is quite a messy process. It requires vulnerability, willingness to remain in a temporary state of ambiguity and confusion, and trust in yourself that the trash that’s being drafted might eventually turn into treasure…or not. When writing, one is continually tip-toeing along the line of security and insecurity– that is, learning. I actually enjoy the process, as uncomfortable as it can be.

Since pregnant with my first child who is now almost 25 years old, I have written almost daily in a journal. I did not deliberately set out to use journaling as the therapeutic tool it turned into, rather I only wanted to record my son’s life for him and his three siblings that followed. But, over the years, my journal has been the friend, therapist, and doctor I needed to know myself better and make sense of my experiences. Problem-solving and truth-seeking can be done through writing because it allows the writer to, among other things, sort through, organize, and assess one’s thoughts and emotions honestly, honesty being the key. And here’s another bonus, telling the truth in writing is linked to wellness (Pennebaker).

YOGA FOR PROBLEM-SOLVING

In addition to journaling, I have always found physical activity, including athletics, physical labor, and exercise helpful for the same reasons– to solve problems and manage the crazy, that is, to find balance between the rational and irrational for wellness. Body and mind are intimately connected, so working the body is essential for clear reasoning as well as exercising the imagination and for regulating emotions. If we are functioning predominantly from the strictly rational and neglect the body, our health is less than optimal. We might say we are out of balance. Similarly, when we function predominantly from our emotional base or rely too much on feelings, we experience imbalance as well. Like writing, yoga has been an important modality for balance and wellness, where more integration and wholeness can be realized.

Because I had begun a yoga practice in 2012, where I learned to pay careful attention to what was happening within my mind and body, and I was writing about my everyday  experiences in a journal, I discovered the very problem I am currently working to solve, a problem that’s been transformative in great ways and small, thus continually defining who I am. The problem has provided me with the challenge I need to feel vibrant and purposeful!

THE PROBLEM

I became a teacher because I love learning and cultivating growth, but over the many years teaching high school English, I saw how the school’s values and culture had become too much about grades and not enough about authentic learning, wholeness, and wellness. The time, energy, and attention that schools, students and parents dedicate to grades whether implementing a school wide electronic grading system and everything that requires, communicating about grades, complaining about them, comparing them and using them to compete, students burning out trying to achieve them, losing friendships and integrity because of them, feeling continually disappointed in oneself because of them, and on and on and on—is excessive and unhealthy. Everyone seemed to be playing the game of “jumping through the hoops” to meet expectations for the college application, an empty, disingenuous race to some top as if this would guarantee some future “happy” life full of economic gain, while I was playing the “love for authentic learning for wellness” and “life in the present moment” game. My integrity as an educator was challenged too often due to the differences in my values and the values that were lived out within the school culture and our contradicting definitions of learning, and this is what ultimately drove me out of my job, but not away from my passion for learning and teaching the humanities.

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE GRADES

Many good schools like the one I worked for over-promote academic excellence in the form of high achievement and grades to compete for college admission to the detriment of overall balance, health, and wellness of its students. The grading system itself is a problematic feature of all schooling, but even more problematic is how grading is used and to what ends, what grades have come to signify within a school’s culture, and parents’ skewed understanding of the purpose of genuine assessment, and thus, the damaging effects on students’ developing identities– who they think they are and who they think they might become– and their perception of their own human potential and abilities to actualize. I found all of this particularly disturbing. I observed over more than a decade of teaching that the values that are tied to the grading system and lived out in school culture stunted students’ individual growth and severely compromised their mental health as well as limited my own professional growth, creativity, and wellness.

CULTURAL VALUES

I believe that many parents are likely motivated by fear rather than love to push their children to adopt the values of competition and comparison to the extreme, which is, sadly, likely representative of our American culture in general. A lot of times, people approach reality, or parent, or make decisions from a place of lack rather than abundance– the fear of not being enough or having enough. Our irrational fear often drives us and clouds our vision so much that we lose sight of what really matters– which I believe is health. Most people agree that without good health, you’ve got nothing. It broke my heart to see kids suffer unnecessarily and struggle to know themselves and love themselves for exactly who they were as human beings, unconditionally, not for their GPA, not for how they compared to others, not in light of how their parents or teachers valued their performances academically or athletically or whatever other things you put on a college application to gain acceptance.

Because so much attention is dedicated to grading and its value for competing and comparing, less attention, time, energy, and resources are dedicated to valuing, promoting, and developing psychologically, physically, and spiritually whole human beings. I observed excessive anxiety and depression among teens, but also a lack of spirituality, moral character, and resilience, all of which related not only to the grading and identity-development problem but also likely correlate with the continuous and rapid change in our culture, socio-economics, and other related factors like social media, information overload, lack of time spent playing, a disconnection from nature and thus disconnection from oneself. The lack of wellness among teens is not all about the over-valuation of grades, but it factors greatly into one’s developing sense of identity and has an incredibly huge impact on one’s mindset and attitude toward learning. I could be mistaken about my conclusions, but I am sure enough to have walked away from personal financial security to find a solution.

MY SOLUTION

My solution began with quitting my job. To use a surfing analogy, I started paddling and looking for “the” next big wave to ride. When you start in a new direction, even if you don’t know the ultimate end or you can’t visualize the finish line, you just start where you are and take a step forward. You start paddling. So after writing blog posts for no apparent specific purpose except to write more, this led to trying my hand at podcasting, and that led to writing my shitty first draft of a book called, It’s Not About the Grades: Landscapes for Learning Beyond Schooling. The book writing process helped me to articulate the problem more clearly, leading me to answering the question that the title begs, “If it’s not about the grades, then what is “it” about?”  

My answer is that “It” is learning in a much more encompassing sense beyond merely schooling which has become hoop-jumping for grades for transcripts for college acceptance. “It” is the kinds of learning available for the full health and wellness of a human being beyond merely academic achievement or some fixed, content-heavy curriculum. “It”  is about soft skills like emotional intelligence, understanding the mind-body connection, character development, morality and ethics, and intuition; ‘it’s” about what’s unconscious, subconscious, and other ways of knowing to become but more wise as opposed to smart in the conventional sense. “It’s” about paying more attention to our uniqueness and our human nature. “It’s” about human being, not just human doing or productivity and progress. “It’s” about our shared humanity, not just status, signaling, and power, or comparing and excessively competing. “It’s” about knowing who we really are, deep down inside, rather than what culture tells us we should be because we are so much more than the surface role-playing or masks we wear.  I am not disregarding the value of hard, practical skills, academic knowledge, achievement, or progress as long as balance and wellness accompany them. My goal is to inspire people and promote more attention, time, and energy to gaining wisdom, balance, and wellness—three interchangeable terms.

Shitty first drafts are indispensable precisely because they are a form of failure, thus learning.  By  fleshing out as many of my thoughts and feelings as possible in that drafting process, I was able to move beyond criticism and the unpleasant process of hyper-focusing on the problem with all its inherent negativity to create a positive, simple and effective solution that benefits me and those its intended to serve.

I thought that writing the book would be “the” wave, the answer to the problem and my ultimate purpose, but it turns out, it was merely the precursor, another step forward in the process. It’s all process, if you are willing and open to seeing it that way, if you are willing to see yourself as traveling on the landscapes for learning… forever. So, rather than being too terribly disappointed for too long by the book’s “failure” to become a book, I am delighted that the shitty draft propelled me forward closer to the truth. I am sharing my process with you because it is the foundation of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self-Study Wellness Program I have created. 

 

I am continuing to do what I have always done as parent, school teacher and yoga teacher which is to teach people about humanity and personal expression by enabling them with tools for self-study, so they can each become the exact person they are meant to be, live out their passion and purpose with integrity and a sense of meaning that will benefit themselves and the world. This is the journey, each person’s unique journey– to become more of who they are each and every moment.

To this end, I have created this online classroom open to all which includes the blog you are reading, a podcast, a Youtube channel, as well as various Wisdom & Wellness products and services. Two self-study programs: the  Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self-Study Guide and the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Teen Self-Study Guide will be available both online and in print.  Additionally, workshops, speaking events, online courses, journaling programs, and other resources will provide people with simple, straightforward information, tools, and practices to embark on their personal life-long journey on the landscapes for learning for self-knowledge, wisdom, and wellness.

 

CLASSIC WISDOM FOR THE MODERN HUMAN: SELF STUDY

Through my own journal writing and yoga practice, I continue to know myself as well as I can. The process is always about problem-solving and transformation. I am always changing, so I am always learning new things about myself, and you can too– this is the meaning of traveling the landscapes for learning.

I have learned through writing and yoga to (1) carefully manage my own attention, (2) direct it inward to gain more and more self-awareness and self-knowledge, (3) face the problems and challenges in my life— my limitations and the limitations of others— and grapple with them to build strength and vitality and to realize my potential, despite it being alternately uncomfortable and risky. I use my hard-won discipline and resilience from facing my fears and challenges to (4) respond to experiences rather than reacting unconsciously or irrationally, making better, more mindful choices from a central locus of control. Because I understand my own nature better, I can better understand others and use empathy and compassion in how I relate to people. My mindset is to (5) continuously respond to every experience in my life as an opportunity to learn which means I stay open to making loads of mistakes with a sense of humility because there will always be more for me to learn about myself and the world. These are the five aspects of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Programs I have created drawn from twenty five years of my own experiences with self-study. They are the directions for my travels on the landscapes for learning. If they work for me, I am certain they’ll work for you too!

YOUR PROBLEM & YOUR PURPOSE

Rather than fearing problems or challenges, wishing they didn’t exist, or trying to ignore them, instead, be curious about them, reflect on them, write about them, grapple with them, learn from them, for these practices and this process will not only give your life a sense of purpose, but you’ll grow in wisdom and wellness and come to know who you really are.

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Return to Uniqueness

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.

Return to Uniqueness

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.

Stay tuned…

*Check out Rich Roll’s conversations with Noah Harari about meditation, AI, and education, and John Joseph on Bhakti yoga and PMA, transcending labels and transforming lives.

Also Joe Rogan’s conversation with Henry Rollins

And Cathy Heller’s conversation with Martha Beck

Posted on Leave a comment

Podcast 015: Future of Education: Learning Beyond Schooling

“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.

015 PODCAST DIRECT DOWNLOAD

Show Notes/References:

Johnathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff’s The Coddling of the American Mind

More Tough Love, Less Coddling

 

Help the Landscapes for Learning Mission catch fire! Please share!

Please “Like” on Itunes.

Follow Landscapes for Learning: @ LandscapesforLearning.com

Twitter @Landscps4learn

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/landscapesforlearning/

Instagram: LandscapesforLearning27

Podcast Music: Creative Commons License for “Political Lunatics” by Earthling (intro and outro music)
“Political Lunatics” by Earthling

Posted on Leave a comment

My Teachers

Some of the people (and animals) who have educated me and influenced the creation of my book, It’s Not About the Grades: Landscapes for Learning Beyond Schooling, as well as this blog and Landscapes for Learning mission / project, in no particular order:

My students over the past 14 years

My four kids

My dog, Finn

My cat, Milo

Alan Watts,  lectures, The Way of Zen, The Wisdom of Insecurity, In my Own way: an autobiography

B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, inner peace and ultimate freedom

Duncan Trussell Family podcast

Sam Harris, Waking Up with Sam Harris Podcast

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: 25th Anniversary Edition

Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art

Jon Kabat-Zinn: Full Catastrophe Living, Coming to Our Senses:Healing Ourselves and Our World through Mindfulness

Anne Lamott, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovery Mercy

Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff “The Coddling of the American Mind” (Atlantic Monthly) and book of same title.

Dr. Peter Gray & Self-Directed Education

Naval Ravikant (podcasts, videos)

Thomas Berry (interviews)

Ken Robinson, Ph.D. The Element: How Finding your passion changes everything, videos about education system

Pema Chodron, Meditation: How to Meditate: A practical Guide, The Places that Scare you, 

Jack Kornfield, interview with Tim Ferriss; audio meditations and talks, The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings

Carl Jung: Modern Man in Search of Soul and other writings

Mary Oliver: Upstream, and other poems

Ally Hamilton,  Yoga’s Healing Power: Looking Inward for Change, Growth, and Peace

Bill Plotkin Nature and The Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World

Steven Pinker, videos and interviews with Sam Harris, Joe Rogan; A Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st century, The Blank Slate, and Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

David Hawkins, Letting Go The Path to Surrender

Rumi: The Book of Love (Coleman Barks); the essential Rumi

Rilks’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God (Anita Barrows)

Various writings in ecopsychology

Ruchard Louv, Nature Deficit Disorder

Writings of the Transcendentalists (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance, Henry David Thoreau, Walden, other writings)

On the Ragged Edge of Silence John Francis

John Muir, writings

Daniel Goleman, A force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World

Shakti Gawain, Living in the Light

Thich Naht Hahn, Silence. The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise, list other books

Joss Sheldon, The Little Voice: A rebellious novel

John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

Wayne Dyer, Change your thoughts, change you life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

Zachary Slayback: The End of School: Reclaiming Education

Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, blog articles and posts

Various guests on Don’t Keep Your Day Job poscast with Cathy Heller

Seth Godin, video interviews

Mary Karr, The Liars’ Club:A Memoir, Lit, The Art of Memoir

Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Parker Palmer: The Courage to Teach, online videos

Kevin Griffin, Recovering Joy: A mindful life after addiction, One Breath at a time: Buddhism and the 12 steps

Tommy Rosen (online Recovery 2.0 Conferences)

The Mindfulness Summit Online Conference (the mindfulnesssummit.com)

Gabor Mate (videos, and podcast with Tim Ferriss)

Chade-Meng Tan and Dan Goleman, Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to

Tim Ferriss, Tribe of Mentors, blog, The Tim Ferriss Show (podcast)

Behave, Robert Sapolsky and other online appearances and speeches; lectures on Youtube

Tony Robbins, I am Not Your Guru netflix special

Dr. Susan Davis, her Ted Talk, appearance on Rich Roll Podcast, Emotional Agility

George Carlin (standup acts online, youtube)

The Rich Roll podcast

Rich Roll, Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, becoming one of the world’s most fittest men and discovering myself

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Lectures, Interviews, Maps of Meaning, podcasts

The Joe Rogan Experience (podcast); personal conversation with Joe Rogan; Netflix comedy special

Bret Weinstein & Heather Heying (interviews with Dave Rubin and Joe Rogan)

Bikram and Rajashree Choudhury,  Emmy Cleaves (Bikram Yoga)

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, War and Peace

Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Leo Babauta (Zenhabits.org)

Yuval Harari, Homo Sapiens, Homo Deus, and many interviews (see my youtube channel)

Wayne Dyer, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Mind

Bryan Caplan, The Case Against Education

Paramahansa Yogananda, Journey to Self-Realization

James Pennebaker & Joshua Smyth, Opening Up by Writing it Down: How Expressive Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain

and many, many more…

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

List for Learning: 27 Take-Aways from It’s Not About the Grades

 27 Take-Aways

from

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?

Here goes…

  1. The landscapes of our lives are for learning. Experiences are opportunities for change and growth.
  2. Schooling: content knowledge, prestige, and degrees aren’t the key to happy life. Keep the value of schooling in proper perspective, especially if you consider the potential demands of the future.
  3. A “successful” or meaning-filled, healthy life of wellbeing isn’t pain-free and it isn’t about the grades.
  4. Know thyself. This will be the way to self-realize, self-actualize, leverage schooling AND meaning for wholeness and continual growth throughout your entire life.
  5. Connecting with your inner landscape requires more time alone and more attention for introspection and less time traveling the external landscape of social media, screens, distraction, noise of society and culture.
  6. The values of culture in the extreme (competition, comparison, consumerism) will fuck you up if you stay asleep/ignorant to the influences upon you and don’t know who you really are.
  7. Passion happens for you; you need to practice listening and pay regular attention to your inner guide.
  8. Disconnect and reconnect to one’s truth: more mirrors (through writing or yoga) and fewer screens (see #5 and #6)
  9. FOMI instead of FOMO will better serve us for the unknown future.
  10. PAUSE: Pursue An Understanding of Self by detaching from Externals.(see # 5)
  11. Yoga is union and self-realization. Connection to one’s inner truth and divinity can get lost or watered down substantially, but can be recovered with attention, compassion, and hard work over time. If I can do it, anyone can.
  12. The answer to “who am I?” is right under your nose (your breath).
  13. Life is suffering.  Don’t run away. Pick the better poison, instead.
  14. Pain and fear are your best teachers. Face them with an attitude of interest and as lessons for learning. (A crack or a canyon is also an opening– peer into it and see what you can find.)
  15. Put your oxygen mask on first. The world needs more heroes and fewer martyrs.
  16. Good teachers aren’t models to copy but witnesses who walk alongside you on your journey. They have no real authority over you. You can learn from them but you aren’t them and never will be.
  17. Humanity, shared humanity, and one’s own humanity should be the center of every curriculum.
  18. Education for the future should be more about soft skills than hard skills and take place in person with moral and ethical teachers who know their own truth. (see #17)
  19. A lack of integrity causes illness of all forms within individuals and institutions.
  20. Be authentic from inside out. Be loyal to truth, not merely social roles and identities. Avoid labels.
  21. Travel all the landscapes beyond schooling.
  22. Wake up. Express your truth with your unique voice, without shame. Be vulnerable to learn. Tell yourself the truth. DO YOU.
  23. Love yourself unconditionally so you can do the same for others. That’s foundational to social justice.
  24. Learn about the nature of limits. Test all limits (internally and externally). See forks in the road and obstacles as endless possibilities for change and growth.
  25. Teaching discipline is the most important part of parenting.
  26. Live with the desire for balance. Keep trying to achieve it. Avoid extremes.
  27. It’s amazing how much we don’t know.  Reason to keep learning…forever and to be humble.

 

27 is my favorite number, so I will stop there.

Posted on Leave a comment

Building Curriculum

“It’s not about the “A” I may or may not get on this “paper” I am writing, this new life I am building. It’s about allowing the creativity to come and work its way through me, participating in the building without total control or clinging, and observing myself on the journey, noticing that I am a merely a conduit of something way bigger than I could ever conjure on my own with all my limitations. Indeed, I am only part of the story.”

Reflection on Building: Going the Distance

As I await critical feedback and help from friends who are reading my book draft It’s Not About the Grades: Landscapes for Learning Beyond Schooling, I am continuing to create professional development curricula for teachers and motivational speaking content for high school students that I hope to launch in the future. This Landscapes for Learning mission is all very slow-going which is great because the process is teaching me to practice slowing down, patience, and self-compassion. The old Field of Dreams mantra, “If you build it, they will come” is something I’ve been repeating to myself often.

I am checking myself (before I wreck myself) to see whether or not I am trying to “fill uncomfortable space” by “staying busy” with more work (just another form of distraction or avoidance) or engaging in creating from a place of love rather than fear. Awareness of my motivations and intentions is a regular practice each day to observe whether I am running away or running towards or a little of both. I am definitely uncomfortable with having let go of the draft to be read by friends and awaiting their honest response.

I am aware of my self-doubt and its accompanying anxiety, and I am taking time to be with it. I am watching myself repeat old scripts: “you aren’t totally stupid but maybe you aren’t as good as you think you are” and “why can’t you just live like a normal person and get a normal job” and “you know how much money you are losing?” and “you are being so irresponsible” and more; however, I watch these thought patterns spoken by “The Judge” come and go. They come and they go and I don’t attach. I notice. I try to notice how my body feels while these thoughts are happening. I acknowledge them, pay some attention to them but only to let them go. I don’t fight or resist their presence. They’ll be back again and again.

Awareness, discernment, and intentional response is something I’ve learned through yoga practice and personal writing. These are two healing modalities that involve self-study that have shown me that awareness is the opposite of insecurity. Shedding light on my inner landscape, although a challenging and difficult process that requires time, energy, and grit, beats floundering around helplessly ignorant on the road of darkness which usually ends up being more painful.

My manuscript took five months to complete and it isn’t even close to reader-friendly, so I anticipate it will take even longer to learn how to revise and reshape it before finally polishing it and, ultimately publishing. I’ve been through this process before, so I understand some of what lies ahead.  I’ve got to take the best possible care of myself so that my mission continues to manifest. It would be irresponsible to do otherwise if I want to “go the distance.”

Watching the process unfold for me rather than trying to control it enables me to see more clearly what part I need to play along each step of the way. Writing is total control that gives me a sense of security. But, if I resist, if I fail to let go of the control, or insist readers see my story my way rather than listening carefully to how they see it, their way, and accepting their insight, I am screwed.

Also, if I fail to see any or all of this process as my own landscape for learning, that too would be a travesty. If I treat this creation process as just a bunch of tasks to complete before I can enjoy the results or “cash in” on all the hard work sometime in the future, then I am going to miss the joy of the present moment.

It’s not about the “A” I may or may not get on this “paper” I am writing, this new life I am building. It’s about allowing the creativity to come and work its way through me, participating in the building without total control or clinging, and observing myself on the journey, noticing that I am a merely a conduit of something way bigger than I could ever conjure on my own with all my limitations. Indeed, I am only part of the story.

 

Posted on Leave a comment

It’s Not About the Grades: Landscapes for Learning Beyond Schooling

The heart of my story, “It’s Not About the Grades: Landscapes for Learning Beyond Schooling” is about living with integrity, authentically, as the true me who I was born to be. It’s about how my essential nature was co-opted by society’s values of competition and comparison. It’s about my long journey of loss and recovery. It’s about living from my soul, from love, from the inside-out, not from the outside-in in order to please the world and its egocentric values (Plotkin). It’s about my story being common, maybe a little too familiar.

“Doing You” is the best and most efficient and effective way to truly serve others. When you know who you are, you can understand how to take care of yourself. It’s an ongoing process of awakening and awareness. You are your own best teacher for life across the landscapes that are here for your trials and errors, transformation, and transcendence– your learning.

If we look at our life experiences as opportunities for learning, we are empowered rather than victims.  Ironically, by exposing ourselves and being vulnerable and afraid we become courageous, strong, and flexible. We learn and change and grow. And that is who we are– constant change, growth, becoming, like a flower-petal blooming (Choudhury). Beneath that gorgeous blossom is all of the hard work of waking up–the mud: the practice of brutal honesty required, the struggle, the doubt, the resistance, and the failure that is intrinsic to the beautiful reality of being human and being truly alive,flourishing. What is flourishing? It’s meaning, purpose, passion, and vitality. No mud, no lotus (Hahn).

My story is unique, but not unusual. I see lots of others traveling the same path I was on– unaware, disconnected from their core self, and not knowing how or where they might find the tools to awaken and live truthfully, despite appearing “normal” and “successful.”  The details differ but the journey is the same. I see that we are educating and raising kids the same way I was raised–to the detriment of the true self and the unnecessary suffering that results from such disconnection.

Teachers (including parents), by explicitly promoting approaching life as a learner, not just an academic achieverwill provide kids with a more complete education–one of character not just career, wisdom not just knowledge and information, in order to live, love, and appreciate (gratefully) each moment– the present moment, instead of focusing so much on what kids are going to be “when they grow up”. Kids need to be here, now (Ram Dass). We all do.

I wish I had such an education earlier in my life, awoken to this truth about building the courage to stay connected to my essential self and gaining the tools to practice living my truth.

I wish someone told me there was this thing–” truth,” that existed within my inner landscape waiting as potential to be actualized and that it was my responsibility to “do the real me” instead of merely copying models or crafting myself into something valid and legitimate in the estimation and judgement of others.

I wish I had a warning that I would suffer because I am human, and then also be taught that to lean into, explore, and learn from that suffering would be the exact antidote to the type of worse suffering that would persist if I ran away– which I did and so many of us do without even realizing it.

Is learning by direct experience about one’s own human nature and character too spiritual? Is becoming authentic, truthful, and true the humanities education for the 21st century we need to quell the postmodern relativism that prevails?

We should encourage students to trust teachers less and trust themselves more.

We should guide them to go inward to travel their inner landscape, beyond the eyes and judgment of schooling, to see clearly their pure essence which is love, allow it to unfold as their witness, and then stay out of the way of such unfolding. Instead, we interfere with narrow expectations and an obsession with grades, measurement, comparison, and competition. We co-opt authentic learning with too much schooling.

We should not steal their suffering, but rather show them how suffering is done better so they can suffer less or at least not unnecessarily.

We should educate them such that unconditional love of oneself is the norm rather than the exception.

We should teach them more yoga.

References

Dass, Ram. Be Here Now. (1971).

Choudhury, Bikram. Bikram Yoga Teacher Dialogue. (2002).

Hahn, Thich Naht. No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering. (2014).

Plotkin, Bill. Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World. (2007).

Definitions

Self-realization (Wikipedia, Merriam Webster’s Dictionary)

Self-realization is an expression used in Western psychologyphilosophy, and spirituality; and in Indian religions. In the Western, psychological understanding it may be defined as the “fulfillment by oneself of the possibilities of one’s character or personality.” In the Indian understanding, Self-realization is liberating knowledge of the true Self, either as the permanent undying Atman, or as the absence (sunyata) of such a permanent Self.

Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines self-realization as: Fulfillment by oneself of the possibilities of one’s character or personality.In the Western world “self-realization” has gained great popularity. Influential in this popularity were psycho-analysis, humanistic psychology, the growing acquaintance with Eastern religions, and the growing popularity of Western esotericism.

In Hinduism, self-realization (atma-jnana or atmabodha) is knowledge of the true self beyond both delusion and identification with material phenomena. It refers to self-identification and not mere ego identification

Posted on Leave a comment

Podcast 013: It’s Not About the Grades: INTRODUCTION

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.

INTRODUCTION 

Download Episode HERE

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!)

 

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Podcast 010: Nick Filth

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 podcast: http://www.nickfilthtattoos.com/polishingtheblackstone/

His record label: https://deafeningassembly.com/

*blog post black and white photo credit: Ryan Eyestone
Take-Aways: Learning by Doing (Podcasting)
1. I learned from participation in the dialogue that you learn about yourself and your limited understanding through talking with others.
2. I still need to work on better listening.
3. Listen with my heart and my head. It is the nature of the beast to want to finish your thoughts and express earnestly, in a quest for understanding, but I ought to really be more centered on a quest for connection through the heart than acquiring more insight through knowing/knowledge. Listening with my heart, as Nick said, not so much with the ears. This is a non-intellectual approach to connection and love which is how I want to “be” in the world, not just “know” everything.
4. I’m happy to continually be learning and share this example with people— to face my fears and be vulnerable and open hearted to the world, to my guests and by publishing it, all people. I continue to stop comparing and judging, and I am okay with being judged by others. It’s “no big deal” as Pema Chodron might say, as long as I check my aims and they are good– focused on learning and love and truth.
5. Be authentic. This includes being limited and flawed and searching and floundering  around in the dark, in ambiguity because this is the learning process and the nature of being human (brains trying to order chaos as Nick said)
6. I am getting more and more comfortable with my discomfort and exposure of my true self and my limitations.
Posted on Leave a comment

Podcast w/ Myozen Joan Amaral on Zen, Zazen, Practice and Social Life

“The best way is to understand yourself, and then you will understand everything.

So when you try hard to make your own way, you will help others, and you will be helped by others.

Before you make your own way you cannot help anyone, and no one can help you.”

Shunryu Suzuki

 

 

Myozen Joan Amaral moved to the Boston area in 2012 from the San Francisco Zen Center to serve as guiding teacher for the Zen Center North Shore. She is delightful, funny, a ray of light, and a calming force to be around. There’s a positive and loving attractiveness about her that, as she says at the end of the podcast, impacts others more than anything she could say using words. As a Zen priest living back out in the world, her primary focus is on the dynamic relationship between formal meditation practice and everyday, messy human life.

JoanAmaral

I met Joan years ago when I went on a World Religions class field trip to the Zen Center and again when she was invited to implement a meditation program for students and teachers at the school where I worked as a high school humanities teacher.

In this podcast, Joan talks with me about the interplay of the inner landscape and life on the outer landscape in terms of zazen and the precepts of Zen Buddhism. She talks about the Zen Center and her role as Priest within the local community and individual mindful meditation practice as well as its relationship to community, activism, and social justice.  We also talk about the definition of mindfulness and how it is popularly perceived as a tool for stress reduction, how it’s been limited in some ways because of such perceptions and definition, and the possible barriers to its acceptance as a valued practice in a school setting.

Influencing the world and serving others is intimately tied to individual practice, and honing one’s practice is a form of social activism benefitting not only the practitioner but all else.

Interested in inviting Joan to your school or local organization? Feel free to contact her at the Zen Center!

For more about the North Shore Zen Center:
https://zencenternorthshore.org/

For more information about Zen Buddhism:
http://www.zen-buddhism.net/

*A Meta-reflection on this post:
I am continuing to hone my podcast interviewing skills, which based on this conversation still need lots of work. This podcasting experience is showing where I have gaps in my understanding (which means I am still learning, so I am happy about that!) and that I have to continue to listen more. My god, I can talk! I am also still very uncomfortable with hearing my own voice and remaining positive about this endeavour. Frankly, it all still makes me cringe. Oh, and also, I am still learning to edit and publish effectively using Audacity which is a frustrating sound editor indeed, as I have been unable to save some projects after several hours of work. I wanted to be tested, and that is surely happening.

I learn a lot about the way I communicate from podcasting– how I listen or fail to, and I also learn about my own understanding and misunderstanding when I am able to re-listen to the conversations and edit them before publishing. This is an excellent way to learn about your own thinking and communication of ideas. I am a work in progress!

Posted on Leave a comment

Meta: Reflection on The Artist’s Way

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron beautifully combines my interests in creativity, spirituality, and writing all in one little awesome guidebook for the responsible rationalists like me who have paid homage to the Inner Critic for most of our lives for one good reason or another. I have lived my life responsible for my children and my job and my home, yet to do this effectively, I have had to hush my inner creative voice or, rather, put it on hold, until the most “appropriate” time where I could finally become a conduit or channel for the divine force within me that has just been pounding to get out all along. I plan to ping back to my childhood self who loved to spend time outdoors, curious about the natural world and the expanse of the universe and express her feelings in letter writing and poetry. Cameron articulates for me exactly what I need to hear and speak and live out now at this point in my life, as I embark on an adventure to live a life of learning beyond schooling and leave my conventional life behind.

Posted on Leave a comment

Education: Busy-Work or Authentic Learning?

“Authentic learning, inner wisdom, ought to be developed as soon as possible and it ought to be part of education for young people. Currently, it is missing from the public school curricula, or if it does exist, it’s drowned out by the noise of achievement and grades, or buried under the heavy list of more important priorities like the status quo of competition, socialization, and indoctrination.” 

 

When I got quiet in yoga, silently, consciously breathing and moving for 90 minutes in the heat, when I repeatedly faced myself in the mirror and was directed to look into my own eyes and to concentrate and meditate, to attend to myself, I couldn’t help but become more consciously aware of and curious about the person staring back at me.

I never made the time, or had the time and attention, to do this with myself. Life was busy, and I didn’t have the luxury of focusing attention on me in any consistent way. And, it simply never occurred to me that such a process existed or that studying myself in this way was an important activity to do to be more me, to be more alive and well (not just to feel better and be happier). It wasn’t something I learned about in school. 

Like so many other middle-class Americans, I was busy: surviving– working a job, raising children, navigating relationships, earning my way in a world that was expensive and costly.

I thought yoga was exercise –stretching for old ladies. I knew nothing of ancient yogis or Eastern philosophy. Why would anyone spend time “being” for the sake of being when all of our time is spent on doing— producing, creating, striving, competing? I did not know what I did not know! I was not unique in my ignorance.

I was conditioned, in my education (formal and informal) and by society and culture, like so many of us Westerners are, to think of knowledge as something to amass about the world– science and math and language and health and law and so forth– useful, concrete, practical forms of knowledge and skills to help me survive and properly function in the economic world so that I might feed and clothe and house myself.

I loved knowing more and more, and education was something I valued. A big part of that education was about being trained to compete– survival of the fittest and all that jazz.

Contemplation, intuition, compassionate listening –how could such things be of any economic value? Useless privileges for the wealthy. Unless you were raised with formal religious education (or raised with religion that was prescriptive and heavily dogmatic or otherwise perverted) such “spiritual” things were simply never part of any curriculum, at least not for me.

Since religion seems to be culturally passe in the West (whether it has self-destructed or is misinterpreted or misapplied is irrelevant), what fills the void for learning about what it means to be human or how to be human?

At first, when this path laid itself out for me, by sheer accident, (there are no mistakes), I was overwhelmed by the process of getting to know myself through practicing Bikram yoga. The process was challenging and disturbing and rewarding and freeing and joyful and scary all at once. I am not referring only to the physical asanas, or the hatha yoga. I am talking about the entire process of self-realization, which necessarily includes the body and mind.

It took persistence and courage to be honest– to see myself honestly, and to do this alone. (It still does.) It was/is hard.

The reward? The payoff? The practical and concrete outcomes?

Vitality.

I am simply more alive, authentic, and well. I don’t need anything to fill me up fuller than I already am simply being me. I don’t need to consume more because I am enough. I have enough, and I have my integrity and my truth. I trust my intuition, my heart, to guide me to not only live in the real world and survive, but to thrive.

Most people, I think, if they even know such wisdom exists within them waiting to be discovered, are still too afraid to trust and leap without the usual nets they’ve been conditioned to rely on. Perhaps they need more mentors and models (more stories!), guides to show them the journey exists and they ought not neglect a trip through their inner landscape. I am lucky I had good mentors and models who understood the experiences I was realizing on my journey inward.

The result of the process of self-realization is that that stranger in the mirror I saw more than six years ago is now my best friend– the being I trust and love and rely on more than anyone or anything. I regret that I didn’t know her sooner. I understand her capabilities, her limits, and that endless possibilities and unlimited potential exist beyond those very limits and capabilities.

She is always changing and growing, often in a one-step-back and two-step-forward way. I have learned to be compassionate with myself during this type of learning. There’s still so much more that I don’t know (certainly more compared to what I do know), but I know her better than I know anyone or anything else. I know this intuitively, not only psychologically or emotionally or rationally.

On a deep level, I am connected to myself more than ever. I am rarely lonely. Many people have asked me how ever did I travel for nine months alone, by myself; “weren’t you scared?” they’d ask, which was a question  more about the danger of my own company rather than the potential danger of the external world.

Because of Bikram yoga, a way of being through which I was able to travel extensively within my inner landscape (and there are certainly lots of other ways inward), I have the intimate relationship with myself that is foundational and absolutely necessary and required to connect with others. I can be me AND function in the world.

Yoga is about balance, after all. Connecting and being intimate with any other beings, maintaining any other bond, friendship, or interaction with other beings in the world requires self-knowledge, self-understanding, and self-realization.

Blaise Pascal famously said that “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Man is, indeed, a social animal, but we are born alone and die alone and must learn to be who we are first before we can be with another or others.

Sure, you can be afraid of your own company, but you can also be courageous and make friends with yourself. The first step is to simply show up. 

To live well, to live with integrity, all I had to do was show up– do my yoga; be there, alone, on my solo mission with myself, for myself.

Now, in my current work as a writer, podcaster, and coach, I’d like to share my experience with people so that they know a thing called self-realization and self-actualization exists. I was half way through my life before I stumbled down this path that, as a teacher, I believe can be made explicit for people sooner in life so they can live healthier and wiser, rather than missing out on their own authenticity. 

Authentic learning, inner wisdom, ought to be developed as soon as possible and it ought to be part of education for young people. Currently, it is missing from the public school curricula, or if it does exist, it’s drowned out by the noise of achievement and grades, or buried under the heavy list of more important priorities like the status quo of competition, socialization, and indoctrination.

Parents don’t demand human literacies or they innocently don’t know what they don’t know.

Teachers are over-burdened with the requirements of the schooling process and administrators are accountable to, well, the accountability movement and its institutional demands. All they’ve got is their own humanity which is why the moral quality of each individual educator is absolutely paramount to the development of the students they can influence, even if no explicit “inner landscapes” curriculum exists. 

My discovery and road home to myself, my yoga story, has transformed my perceptions of myself and the world. I am changed, but the world has not. The nature of formal education has become ever more clearer to me since I stepped outside of it, since I understand the meaning and value of my own life, and life in general.

I see much more clearly the distinction that exists between authentic learning and the process of schooling.

I understand my previous frustrations I experienced as a high school teacher where I was focused on learning rather than the process of schooling, and that was an uphill battle; one of conflict and difficulty.

I see now that an obvious dearth of authentic forms of learning, including any explicit instruction or curriculum about the process of self-realization is missing in the education of young people.

Our schooling process  simply reflects the imbalances of our society, culture, our world. I am not interested in improving the current system schooling, for perhaps it isn’t even the business of schools to implement a curriculum of connection to the self.

But who shall, if parents aren’t?

If religion can’t?

If schools shouldn’t?

If there aren’t enough therapists to go around or can be afforded?

The rising lack of wellness, the increase in illness and addiction of all kinds among all kinds of kids (and adults) can be addressed by at least starting a conversation about ways to alert people to and promote more authentic learning.  A conversation to shift our values in education (and cultural values), re-balance our priorities, and redefine and refine the definition of a complete education and its ultimate purpose for human beings, not merely for human doings.

I believe that right now, the best I can do, as one individual person, is share my stories, my experiences and my beliefs.

I believe it is important for kids (and adults) to start spending time on their inner landscapes at least as much as they spend time on social media. And I am trying to figure out ways to help them find the path to self-realize and self-actualize: to deal with their fears, isolation, disconnection, inability to pay attention, and their varied illnesses which are symptoms of the current cultural health crisis. My first step is the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide.

In Walden, Henry David Thoreau observed that Most men lead lives of quiet desperation” and I believe this is still true today. Radical in their day, he and the other transcendentalists believed humans ought to be spending more time focused on learning from personal, direct experience rather than blind acceptance of dogma. They understood the value of exploring one’s interior world as well as its interconnection to the natural world.

Yet, still, our attention these days is focused externally far more than internally; we are more interested in and attuned to outer landscapes than inner ones.

He also predicted that man enjoyed riding upon his railroad but that one day the railroad would ride upon him; also true. Just substitute information technologies or the internet for railroad, and I would question whether or not we have made any “progress” being humans at all. 

What do we want the future to have that we cannot already find and be with in the present moment?

What are we searching for?

What needs met, outside our ourselves that cannot be found and met within?

Can we teach our kids to make time for themselves to get to know themselves rather than focusing on external tasks and social connectivity? To not allow the railroad to ride upon them?

Can we teach them not to miss out on what’s happening within, rather than consoling them or attempting to control the external environment for them?

Stories are powerful agents of change. If we want to make the world better, if we want to make the people we love better and strangers and friends better, then we all ought to share stories and tell our stories.

My individual journey home to myself through yoga is one small, simple individual story among many that may encourage others about the value of focusing inward. I am sharing mine through my writing here, and in my books, and inviting others who have traveled the path of self-realization, self-awareness, self-love, and self-actualization to tell their stories on my Landscapes for Learning podcast.

The hero’s journey, the archetypal story of mankind, is the story each of us can take and it is the way home for each human being to fulfillment and joy, a life worth living, a life worth enduring pain and suffering that is the inevitable reality for each and all of us. 

Sharing stories is one way we can think critically about and discuss the way we educate our kids, because the way we spend our time and attention in the educational process will determine the future of what it means to be a human being and how we determine what is the meaning and value of life, our lives– each and every one. 

Posted on Leave a comment

Like a Flower Petal Blooming

“My book is  a story of the process of self-actualization, me as the central real-life character to whom others might also relate. It’s about how yoga provided me this portal to enter to deeper consciousness of my own life, my self and therefore my purpose, my identity, my existence. It’s also about how this portal is available to all of us, to individuals, to make our lives more meaningful through fostering our own growth, our own individual process of nurturing ourselves and our own vitality, to embark upon the hero’s journey consciously and most deliberately.”

 

I participated in two extensive, insightful, inspiring, and concretely practical and helpful conversations with my fellow Bikram Yoga Teacher Training buddies (a.k.a my “litter mates,”) this week– one by phone and one via FaceTime. Neither one of my fellow teachers are writers or authors, but they are yogis rooting for me to express myself — and are supporting me in my effort to be the change I want to see in the world. After hours of great dialogue with these extraordinarily ordinary wise sages, I am one tiny step nearer to birthing a book. The writing process isn’t only about sitting at the computer and writing as I am doing at this very moment, it’s about listening to other people, connecting with people, connecting with self, and observing and learning more and more and more. In the end, my book will have been a collaborative effort, despite me being its sole author.

Anyway, funny thing was that yesterday I listened to a wild and weirdly interesting conversation between Duncan Trussell and Paul Selig, a well-known “channeler” who hears voices that he calls the “The Guides.”  These Guides speak through him and he has written five books dictating what they say. He called himself, not so much an author of the books but a stenographer or recorder. I have no idea whether or not the guy is a highly-skilled manipulator or a conduit of truth! And I know! I know! — this is a bizarre comparison, but I believe my book will be a similar sort of compilation of wisdom gained from the conversations I’ve been blessed to have with people, whether in person or through engaging with their work (books, videos, podcasts, etc) and all my shared experiences with others. I cannot possibly take all the credit for the final product. I was worried that being a writer would be a lonely endeavour (and although technically I am alone a lot if you don’t count my dog as company) but it’s anything but! I have my Guides to help.

My book, Like a Flower Petal Blooming, is still in its first trimester, I would say, but the seed is a definite being and is growing, slowly but surely. And to feel like you are going forward when creating a work of art is very encouraging, especially when those very few moments of inspiration and confidence are buried beneath loads of self-doubt and resistance, or squished in between days where I am feeling entirely disillusioned by the project, myself, other people, the state of the world.

But, at this point in the book gestation process, I believe I have written all of the words necessary for it to come into complete fullness– all of the content has been created already (I have a gazillion separate Google docs and thousands of journal pages from years of writing). So, I am currently, today, working on a central organizing principle/strategy, a central theme. And, maybe I am procrastinating a little bit by writing this blog post or maybe this is part of the book drafting process.

So, using a tip from one of these friends with whom I spoke with this week, I created the following word wall using post-it notes. Such an English-teachery thing to use a graphic organizer, isn’t it? My son called it “so cliche.”

img_2540-e1523987947456.jpg

After arranging and consciously ordering the various ideas and motifs on my wall, I noticed that the sticky note, “DIALOGUE” landed exactly in the middle. The foundation of my book, it’s central ordering principle and theme, finally, came into clear focus, in a concrete, useful way. I now have an anchor around which I can order all my other ideas. I have a structure into which chapters can live and be strung together– “the beads of a pearl necklace.” I have real, dependable guidance to navigate forward. Now I can work on one chapter at a time, building brick by brick until it’s done– “like a flower petal blooming.”

For me, “Dialogue” has multiple literal and symbolic meanings as will be revealed and discussed throughout my memoir (I can’t give it all away here), but it’s primary meaning is a reference to  Bikram Yoga and how it’s taught, that is, through delivery of a Dialogue which is the yoga series’ foundation, its organizing principle, and most honest expression.  It is the thing that differentiates it from other forms of yoga. It is what makes Bikram yoga, Bikram yoga.

Actualizing one’s possibilities and potential as a human being is an ongoing process, and  the degree of actualizing that is possible through becoming more flexible and strong by doing what is HARD and doing what is RIGHT/HONEST defines what it means to be fully alive— it’s dealing with suffering—and this is what is written in the Dialogue. In my small, insignificant opinion, I believe this so happens to be the meaning of life.

The purpose of Bikram yoga, what gets expressed in individuals who act out the dialogue, or who actualize, is: Vitality. It is a process of continual death and rebirth. A constant coming-into-being or becoming. It is blossoming. Hence, my book title, “Like a Flower Petal Blooming.” My book is  a story of the process of self-actualization, me as the central real-life character to whom others might also relate. It’s about how yoga provided me this portal to enter to deeper consciousness of my own life, my self and therefore my purpose, my identity, my existence. It’s also about how this portal is available to all of us, to individuals, to make our lives more meaningful through fostering our own growth, our own individual process of nurturing ourselves and our own vitality, to embark upon the hero’s journey consciously and most deliberately. My landscapes for learning blog is about creating conversation, a dialogue, in the realm of education about this process of self-actualization, the hero’s journey, and how to help young people (and their parents) develop skills to embark upon such a journey early in life rather than later.

The practice of Bikram yoga is meant to be physically and psychologically hard; it is difficult, challenging. It requires “tremendous focus and concentration.” It is a discipline requiring you to be still, focusing on oneself in a mirror, concentrating and meditating. It requires honesty and it demands commitment to self— it’s about trying, honestly, to discover your limitations and push beyond them (“beyond your flexibility”) and realize your strengths in order to fully actualize as an individual person. But ultimately YOU decide whether or not you want to make that commitment to yourself and to do  what is hard. You decide to try. You have all the responsibility to try or not try, to do or not do, to cheat and cut corners or give your honest effort, whether that means you end up doing 1% of the posture or 99% on any given day. Only YOU can hold yourself accountable. The yoga isn’t about the postures– the yoga is about YOU.

This is why Bikram teaches his teachers to emphasize trying the right way, the hard way. There is no other way. It’s this philosophy that is rooted in the words of the Dialogue. And it’s also what makes this yoga less appealing, to some people, who don’t want to be uncomfortable or have to face themselves and their limitations. The truth can be difficult.

This yoga was designed and written to be forceful-–a force for good—a force for healing and growth and self-actualization. It was not intended to invite people to merely go through the motions to get a little workout and go home unchanged as the same limited, sick, and crazy person they were when they walked into the studio (and we are all these things to some degree or another because we are human). As Bikram says, “We don’t sell cheesecake.”

Growth is change. Change is hard. There is no other way—- and this is the truth.  You are born alone and you die alone, so it’s a solo mission to become stronger, wiser, reach your untapped potential, find your limits, explore possibilities that are uncertain, and to face your fear and to face yourself and what you might learn about yourself– it is the unknown and the unknown is scary. The unknown about yourself is unchartered territory and you might not think you are capable of handling it. But you just might find what you’re made of and your strengths and capabilities also can become clear. It’s up to you how you want to be you– how you want to be in this world, how you want to live and be alive. Nobody can be you. Nobody can make you healthy. Nobody can make you come try Bikram Yoga. Nobody can make you stay. The yoga cannot cure you without your voluntary entry into the conversation and your honest participation in the Dialogue. Only you can do that, and you must do it alone through your own honest effort. Your teachers will be there to invite you into the discussion, the conversation, to Dialogue.

If you were to analyze the Teacher’s Dialogue as a text, that is, closely examining the diction, syntax, and tone, you would discover its meaning and the Bikram Yoga philosophy becomes crystal clear. Bolded words or phrases are almost entirely adjectives, adverbs, and verbs— all of which are terms of either ACTION or refer to QUALITY AND DEGREE.  This is about you and how you are– the degree and quality of how you act, behave, do, or do not. You can see yourself for who you are or you can continue to avoid or lie to yourself usually in the form of excuses and justifications and elaborate, well-spun stories, or through blaming. As I said, it’s a forceful practice, most times a hard, healing process of slow and difficult transformation.

The purpose and meaning– the forcefulness and the healing, growth process of self-actualization gets muted and nullified if teachers merely parrot the words of the Dialogue to students.  If a reader dispassionately read the words and repeated them aloud without proper emphasis– that is louder for bolded terms— or without the proper tone (Tone is the author’s attitude toward the subject) or without inflection and clear articulation of the specific words given, in their intended order, the philosophy and the meaning of Bikram Yoga gets lost, compromised, lessened, improperly applied, and weakened and watered-down.  It loses its force. Fewer people change, fewer flower petals blooming, less vitality.

The meaning of Bikram Yoga is the Dialogue and a teacher’s role is integral, essential to its delivery.  A Bikram yoga teacher must be an experienced student of the Bikram yoga practice rooted in Dialogue and its inherent philosophy to properly understand the degree and quality of energy required to implement it effectively with students.

Proper understanding of the meaning of the Dialogue with all of its emphasis on action words as well as the essential nature of its energetic delivery– including tone– and not just tone of voice but the teacher’s attitude toward the subject and Bikram’s original intent as the author–is essential to its integrity, to its existence and its essence. The text is alive and a teacher’s proper understanding and delivery are crucial to its continued existence, degree of liveliness, its effectiveness for students, and its potentcy to foster individual change, growth, and self-actualization. Teachers must embody the Bikram philosophy, which IS the Dialogue, to maintain their own integrity as well as the integrity of the yoga and to preserve it for the future.

It’s hard to care about the details in life– the seemingly little things that take effort to preserve and care for. It’s hard to preserve integrity (your own or something that matters ) when many people think what you care about is insignificant or unimportant, or they are passive due to fear or ignorance or apathy. It is hard to stand up for what matters. It is so much easier not to care or be honest or stand up and do what’s hard, what’s right. It’s easier to stay home on the couch and zone out eating Twinkies than it is to go practice yoga or do something that is hard. It’s also so very easy to become nihilistic, as I sometimes do. I have moments and days when I wonder why I even care about yoga at all, or writing, or people (all of which are full of complexity and details and challenge!)– and I begin to slide down the slope of “nothing really matters” (I actually start humming Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody). But then I know that doing something hard makes me feel more alive. I come alive when I move and breathe and exert my energy with purposeful focus and concentration to nurture my own growth. And I am here, so why not try to be as alive as possible— be vital rather than just take up space, and do what is honest and difficult to the highest degree and quality possible?  Why not do my yoga? I know it will make me better, stronger, and that will certainly improve the quality of my life now and in the future and more likely the lives of everyone around me.

My friends who I spoke with this week told me how inspired they feel each time they step onto the podium to teach a Bikram Yoga Class– to lead people through their practice, and I share those feelings of inspiration. It’s overwhelming to be part of people’s individual journeys. It is actually a physical rush of energy in my body that arises when I acknowledge the individual energy of each body in the room and their honest commitment and effort. This is what I witness as I ask people to look into the mirror to begin the Pranayama Breathing.  It is not coincidental that the definition of “inspiration” means the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative, and the drawing in of breath; inhalation. We are literally, intentionally, filling our lungs, our bodies, our inner worlds, with life and the life force. Each person’s individual promise, their commitment to themselves, the sacrifices they make on behalf of themselves, their willingness to enter into the space of discomfort that is necessary for change, and to participate, honestly, in the yoga— which is a Dialogue– is a good faith conversation— an entryway into themselves to become more alive, to blossom–just like a flower petal blooming.

 

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Who am I?

My previous “Calling a Spade a Spade” post is about telling the truth– something our world desperately needs at this exact moment in time. Each of us has to talk about the truth, within our seemingly small and insignificant spheres of life, however uncomfortable or however much it may threaten our reputations.  Our integrity and identity need to be taken seriously.  It matters. But apparently there was a bit of confusion over the topic of that post, so I would like to clarify what in the world yoga has to do with the problems I am seeing within education today.

Who Am I?

The central topic of this post, then, is about the question, Who am I? or even perhaps more specifically, Who am I trying to be in my life vs. What am I trying to do in my life? One is about values, meaning and purpose, while the other is about practical goals to achieve “success.” Figuring out the answer to this question over the past two years in my own life generated this very Landscapes for Learning project. It turns out that I discovered my goals weren’t in line with my values, so I chose authentic living over and above expedience. YOLO, and I could no longer compromise my own values about learning which conflicted too often with my employer’s. If I cannot teach with integrity then who am I?

My Bikram yoga practice has led me, and continues to lead me, to the truth of who I am through a continual rediscovery of self, a continuous reconnection with authenticity.  I am trying to express myself here, on this blog, honestly and candidly  as part of  an ongoing, life-long process of learning across the landscapes. I am not necessarily trying to make friends here (although that would be great!) nor am I trying to make enemies or alienate people! I am simply trying to voice my truth and invite people into a dialogue about the things I care about.

At home with my four grown children, in high school, and in the Bikram yoga community– these are the spaces in which I live; this is my tiny sphere of influence; this is where my reputation matters. Because these places are where I both learn and teach,  obviously they shape my perspective. I have also been influenced by a number of intellectuals, writers, poets, psychologists, yogis, and podcasters from whom I have learned a tremendous amount about the nature of what it means to be human, therefore informing what it means to be me (see list below). Writers write about what they know. I am simply sharing the overlaps and interplay between both worlds of learning, which I discovered in my observations, experiences, and personal research. I am writing about what matters to me.

Jungquote1

It turns out that the principles I learned for myself, by myself, through my Bikram yoga practice are the very same principles that I believe are needed in contemporary parenting and public schooling. If we applied such character-building principles to the education process, it might help parents to parent better and kids to learn more authentically. Schools might be able to create a more balanced curriculum based on an updated value system that focuses on exploring inner landscapes as well as the external landscapes for learning.  And perhaps, I hope, this shift and rebalancing, would help address some part of the mental health crisis among teens. Bikram yoga is, afterall, a healing process. Although a focus on self-understanding, wisdom, and self-actualization is missing in lots of other areas throughout our culture, my focus is on my own limited range of experience which is within the world of teaching high school English, parenting, and Bikram yoga. This is my unique path, my niche, my angle.

The Landscapes for Learning mission is to revive authentic forms of learning and rebalance it with the aims of schooling– “balance” being the key term. Like yoga, my writing is about integration, connection to self, wholeness, and the kind of learning that comes from traveling both inward and across the varied landscapes of life, not just limited to within school or the academic realm.

Facing Discomfort as the New Normal 

passionsjung

To understand oneself, to answer “who am I?” requires a deep and consistent exploration of one’s inner landscape.  This question arises (sometimes subconsciously and later may or may not surface to consciousness) when a person steps into the Bikram yoga room and looks into their own eyes in the mirror in front of them, under very bright lights. The mirror and lights are a spotlight on the self, and the conditions for the practice are meant to challenge the practitioner with discomfort. This crucial experience is what we have stolen away from kids by overly-focusing on achievement. Individuals in the yoga room are confronted with the question, Who is that person looking back at me? It is a very difficult question for many people to grapple with; some who try Bikram yoga might not come back because the discomfort is too much– it’s simply too hard. Those who remain learn to face their own pain and suffering. Over time, with effort and grit, they become more agile and flexible in body and mind. They wrestle with their inner world- their emotional bodies and their monkey-minds. They learn through an often difficult and painful process of trial and error. They grow. Adolescents and teenagers are asking this same “who am I,” question often– whether subconsciously or intentionally. They begin to grapple with the notion of identity and experiment with their own. Their bodies are changing, hormones are raging, the limbic system is still trying to figure out how to work better with the pre-frontal cortex that continues to grow into their early twenties (Sapolsky). They likely spend lots of time either in front of mirrors or avoiding them. They need teachers and parents to guide them through this very important period of their development, but not take away their struggles— their opportunities for authentic growth however painful. We damage them through over-protection.

This deep and difficult exploration of one’s inner landscape to answer the question of who am I should be something we teach our children early on, at home and in school, so they can become more consciously aware of the existence of their inner world rather than carried away entirely or unconsciously manipulated by the outer world that will most certainly define their identity without their conscious consent. They don’t have to practice the physical asanas of yoga per se (but they could and should because the body and mind work together), but they really ought to embrace raja yoga in combination with exercise and a commitment to physical health.

Search Inside Yourself

terrorjung

Unfortunately we can never be another person, no matter how close we are or how much we love them; we can empathize with them, but only to the degree that we first understand ourselves; everyone has to travel their own path and shoulder the responsibility of knowing oneself. Talking about identity as a theme in English class can help; great stories, especially archetypal or universally applicable ones can be great models; however, an academic exercise isn’t the only kind of learning kids need. They need explicit instruction, including regular practice and failure, to learn how to become the hero of their own lives which has to take place in their real, live journey to the self, not just within some artificially constructed simulation.  It’s a solo mission for each of us, but parents and teachers have to be competent examples and guides through their own deep, inner work. And they can’t help kids too much. Less is more.

Attention, Concentration, Meditation

payattention

The external world is a enormous sea of information that contains messages about who kids should be, how they should feel and act, what they should think or buy— a level of manipulation and influence like nothing we have ever seen in our world before. The world online is persistent, relentless, insidious–that is,  if we allow it to dominate our attention. Is it really no wonder the levels of depression and anxiety are out of control? Is it really so surprising that so many undergraduates get swept away with identity politics? One of the more positive attempts to address this phenomenon is the Mindfulness movement which has arrived in many schools. I am glad to see this happening, unfortunately I witnessed how such attempts at teaching kids meditation get co-opted in service to external goals rather than values rooted within the inner landscape. If a teen is using meditation to relax and escape their thoughts, clear their minds so that they can perform better on a quiz the next period, that isn’t really helpful. I know we can do better in guiding kids to be connected to themselves, to become grounded in being, not merely in service to doing. Maybe kids will learn that they are “enough” and loved just as they are, not just for what they can appear to be, complete, do, or achieve.

Schools don’t focus enough, in my estimation, on the inner world of kids; perhaps because parents don’t demand it. For whatever the reasons, it does not appear to be an important value that is lived out on a daily basis. What is the focus of attention, what is at the forefront for parents and schools are grades-–the symbol of academic achievement, mastery of content knowledge and skills which is revered over and above any notion of developing inner wisdom or nurturing the process of self-actualization. But if kids can easily acquire content knowledge and skills online, a new discussion about values and answering the “why” of mandatory public education are in order.  Should we take a closer look at exploring the inner landscapes and discovering the value of and within that landscape? Or should we continue with the status quo of schooling? Perhaps we can create a balance.

Love, not Fear

Unfortunately, it seems as though some schools and parents create their values from a place of fear rather than love– afraid their kids won’t survive in a knowledge-economy; fear they’ll suffer from a life of hard work; fear of losing to the competition. Fear their children will not recover from failure. Such motives seem to crowd out the desperate need for more love– a love of self, a love of authentic forms of learning.

If we, adults, continue our over-emphasis on conducting school as a business, encouraging kids to focus their attention primarily on the external landscapes; if we continue to over-value such focus on and attention to achieving goals that lack foundation in real values built within the inner landscapes; if we continue to neglect teaching kids that an inner world exists within them that is ripe for discovery and that is essential to attend to for their vitality, wholeness, and wellness, then we will continue to see our kids suffer with mental health problems like anxiety, depression, addiction, suicide, eating disorders, and senseless violence.

insideawakesjung

Too Good, No Good

Kids are malleable and easily manipulated. Most kids are good kids! But what does “good” in this context of school mean? Our definition of “good” in formal schooling appears to be limited to academic achievement and performance. Nobody gets a trophy or an A for noticing that they have an inner guide or that they developed courage because they faced a fear. They don’t get a reward for taking time for themselves to just “be.” It’s all about the “doing”– the resume building; the homework completion and consistency; the degree to which they are able to find answers; how well they score on tests, rather than to muse, reflect inward or meta-cognitively; rather than to imagine, play, or focus on observing and understanding emotions and thoughts in order to know what it means to be a human being not just a human-doing. We don’t celebrate or talk about those things– they are private, unspoken victories (if one even recognizes that this is a good thing!). Inner landscapes are none of our school business; they’re too intimate–  too emotional, messy, tangled in confusion– too human. For every STEM lab there ought also be a Humanities Lab, each being valued equally! Students and teachers are in the business of school, not in the business of raising human beings. Such inner-world accomplishments and authentic growth and development aren’t tangible or measurable– so therefore within the narrow confines of school, they don’t hold real value. If they aren’t on the transcript, they just don’t count.

As well, because we adults jump in and do everything for our kids and over-protect, because we manipulate their environments and pad them for safety and sanitize them, because we insist kids remain within the safety of the indoors, because we hardly ever leave them to their own devices among their peers (because we are, again, working from fear) without constant adult supervision or cheerleading from the sidelines, we ultimately rob kids of the crucial and necessary opportunities to explore their inner landscapes in authentic ways (Haidt). We don’t afford them the opportunity to learn authentically—that is, to be uncomfortable through the process of trial and error so that they can develop self-knowledge, wisdom, deep trust and faith in themselves and their personalities and abilities, along with the coping skills to thrive— to feel physically and be psychologically alive and well. Instead, we are raising half-dead zombies addicted to their phones or whatever else they decide to pay attention to rather than themselves.

mostfearjung

Teenagers who are disengaged, those who are disconnected from their inner lives are weak, which makes them far more vulnerable to manipulation. They remain unaware of the existence of their Jungian shadow or what to make of it or how to respond to it when it rears its ugly head. They develop addictions to phones, to porn, and drugs and alcohol and develop co-dependencies on authority, needing protection and rescuing from the smallest of micro-aggressions that invade their safe spaces. Their narrative becomes one of victimhood and they find others who live the same story. The world within and without appear to be places to fear rather than to love and engage with. These are kids with serious problems; these are kids who are more vulnerable to manipulation by extreme ideas and violent people.

Disconnection and Reconnection 

Another problematic observation about the kids I taught in my fourteen-year tenure as a high school teacher was how many of them were passive, did as they were told, and copied the models they saw in their school culture. And many of them wound up sick. We are responsible for teaching kids where to put their attention– and it has to stop being overly-focused on external achievement. They need to value their inner lives as much as, or if not more than, they value the life of the external world. I am not arguing for no grades or no accountability or no skills and knowledge growth. I am lobbying for correcting what I see as an imbalance resulting from skewed values. Once kids are focused on everything outside of themselves, they  can very easily remain disconnected from their inner guide, their inner sense of themselves. If they aren’t taught earlier about how their bodies and minds work (how to recognize, feel, and manage emotions and thoughts), if they remain unaware that they can be an active and conscious participant in their own becoming, or that a self-actualization process exists for them, tragedy will continue in the form of addiction and illness.

Friend Yourself

Exploring the inner landscape is akin to becoming your own best friend– getting to know what makes you tick, your human nature, and discovering that you are a story-teller. These are the same things we learn as we practice Bikram yoga. You have thoughts and feelings that exist that are data to mine, not necessarily directives to live by (Davis). Kids will remain unaware of their own inner landscapes unless we reinforce their own discovery of it. Some kids are more intuitive than others– so we need to encourage these intuitive kids to honor their inner-knowing and actively, consciously, and consistently develop it.  An active transfer from receiving guidance from adults in their environment about their inner landscape to them taking full responsibility for it should happen throughout adolescence and adulthood. We all need to mentor children by exemplifying such attention to the inner landscapes of our own lives. An exploration of the inner landscape will help inform and re-contextualize kids understanding of the gazillion influences from the external world that are upon them. Just think of the simple notion of comparing oneself to another that teens have the tendency to do. Perhaps more enlightened, self-grounded, and inner-connected teens can say, “well that’s nice for that person, but that’s not what I am all about.” You cannot say that if you don’t actually know what you are all about! We must all do our own yoga practice. More conscious  judgement, discrimination, and therefore wise, informed choices can be made if a person has a better understanding of who they are at their core.

So how do you figure out who you are at your core? Well, when, in yoga, you stay with your discomfort, whether physical or mental or both, you create a space (the same one Victor Frankl is so famous for describing in his, Man’s Search for Meaning) — the space between stimulus and response, rather than automatic, unaware reactivity. You notice how you think and how you feel. You identify and name such thoughts and feelings and become familiar with them. You notice that some of the labels you apply to your thoughts and feelings may not be true! You recognize that not all the stories you tell yourself are true! You learn why you may have told those stories and that they no longer serve you,  and then you have the glorious opportunity to change them.  With repetition and regular practice, you become friends with your self and the inner world isn’t so foreign or scary as it once was. You know your own suffering and you develop responses to cope. This is not happiness, or high self-esteem, this is wholeness and wellness. This is a prescription for good health. It’s often a painful journey requiring lots of attention and honesty and grit, but one that is absolutely foundational to real happiness. This is the hero’s journey! (Campbell; Peterson)

jungdarkness

Values can be and should be rooted in such self-understanding that you have actively culled with attention, time, and great effort whether through yoga, journal writing, mindfulness practices, meditation, or other therapeutic techniques that are uniquely helpful to you. This must be an honest process, a difficult, uncomfortable process at times, and it is challenging for most. But there is so much value in doing something hard; in facing your fears — doing the exact thing you do not want to do (Jung; Peterson; Davis; Haidt). Once you begin to know yourself in a really deep, intimate, and loving way, you are better suited to realize the highest good for yourself and what promotes your best and highest self (Peterson). This will benefit the world. This is the path to social justice.

Strength, Flexibility, and Balance

My mission with Landscapes for Learning is to draw attention to and start a conversation with parents, kids, and schools about how this exploration of inner landscapes is the foundational value to better navigating the external landscapes (content knowledge, skills, practical forms of education, achievement and goal-setting that schools and parents over-value in my estimation) and seeing how the interplay and interconnectedness between the internal and external is essential for being with purpose and authenticity in the world. Rather than a teenager’s self-development focused primarily on ego-driven goals (Plotkin) he or she must achieve according to social norms, set by parents, schools, other institutions of influence and authority— external achievement and financial success, the focus should be on the intrinsic values that motivate a person to be their authentic selves.  In the process of self-actualization, the Bikram principles apply: balance between strength and flexibility,  proper alignment, and trying the right way— which is the hard way.

Setting Intentions for Your Practice

I don’t believe the problems we are seeing among kids today in schools result  from malicious intent— far from it. If anything, I think parents and schools are trying too hard and are too present and too helpful to the detriment of their kids’ independence and level of engagement with their own lives. Less might be more. I also don’t believe parents and schools are fully conscious about how their values and goals are so terribly misaligned. I think we’ve all simply lost our way in a sea of information, misinformation, and complete overwhelm and busy-ness due to economic, technological, and other forces that have happened upon us in the past few decades. Understandably, with so much rapid change, we struggle to find our balance, and this is exactly why yoga may be the antidote in shepherding us back home to ourselves.

 

Here is A Terribly Disorganized and Incomplete List of Influences, Resources, References, and inspirations cited improperly and according to no style manual. (I will professionalize it shortly…)

Tony Robbins, I am Not Your Guru netflix special

Dr. Susan Davis, her Ted Talk, appearance on Rich Roll Podcast, Emotional Agility

George Carlin (standup acts online, youtube)

The Rich Roll podcast

Rich Roll, Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, becoming one of the world’s most fittest men and discovering myself

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Lectures, Interviews, Maps of Meaning, podcasts

The Joe Rogan Experience (podcast); personal conversation with Joe Rogan

Bret Weinstein (interviews with Dave Rubin and Joe Rogan)

Eric Weinstein (interviews with Sam Harris, Joe Rogan, Dave Rubin on The Rubin Report)

Alan Watts,  lectures, The Way of Zen, The Wisdom of Insecurity, In my Own way: an autobiography

B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, inner peace and ultimate freedom

Duncan Trussell Family podcast

Sam Harris, Waking Up with Sam Harris Podcast (#121, telling the truth)

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: 25th Anniversary Edition

Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art

Jon Kabat-Zinn: Full Catastrophe Living, Coming to Our Senses:Healing Ourselves and Our World through Mindfulness

Anne Lamott, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovery Mercy

Ken Robinson, Ph.D. The Element: How Finding your passion changes everything, videos about education system

Pema Chodron, Meditation: How to Meditate: A practical Guide, The Places that Scare you, 

Jack Kornfield, interview with Tim Ferriss; audio meditations and talks, The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings

Carl Jung: Modern Man in Search of Soul and other writings

Mary Oliver: Upstream, and other poems

Ally Hamilton,  Yoga’s Healing Power: Looking Inward for Change, Growth, and Peace

Bill Plotkin Nature and The Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World

Steven Pinker, videos and interviews with Sam Harris, Joe Rogan; A Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st century, The Blank Slate, and Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

David Hawkins, Letting Go The Path to Surrender

Tori Hicks-Glogowski (Views from the Podium blog)

Rumi: The Book of Love (Coleman Barks); the essential Rumi

Rilks’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God (Anita Barrows)

Writings in ecopsychology.

Writings of the Transcendentalists (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance, Henry David Thoreau, Walden, other writings)

On the Ragged Edge of Silence John Francis

John Muir, writings

Daniel Goleman, A force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World

Shakti Gawain, Living in the Light

Thich Naht Hahn, Silence. The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise, list other books

Joss Sheldon, The Little Voice: A rebellious novel

John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

Wayne Dyer, Change your thoughts, change you life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

Zachary Slayback: The End of School: Reclaiming Education

Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

Mary Karr, The Liars’ Club:A Memoir, Lit, The Art of Memoir

Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Parker Palmer: The Courage to Teach, online videos

Kevin Griffin, Recovering Joy: A mindful life after addiction, One Breath at a time: Buddhism and the 12 steps

Tommy Rosen (online Recovery 2.0)

The Mindfulness Summit Online Conference (the mindfulnesssummit.com)

Gabor Mate (videos, and podcasts with Tim Ferriss)

Benjamin Lorr, Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for???

Chade-Meng Tan and Dan Goleman, Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to

Tim Ferriss, Tribe of Mentors, blog, The Tim Ferriss Show (podcast)

Behave, Robert Sapolsky and other online appearances and speeches; lectures on Youtube

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

The Call to Insecurity

“It turns out that when you stop clinging to the safety and security that you think you have found in a particular lifestyle, other people, your carefully constructed identities, or material things, you find your way home to your truth.”

cartoon me

The original title for this piece was “Meta: Choosing or Clinging.” I wrote it more than a year ago, but only now finding the courage to share it. This content includes a central theme of the book I am currently writing about life and learning called, Like a Flower Petal Blooming.

I was too afraid to post this reflection last year, probably because the content was far too personal, I doubted myself, and I was uncertain about my writing abilities. I am certain I shamed myself for being an idealist rather than practical (I have always been accused of being too idealistic!). I was at the very beginning of what would be a major change, so naturally, I felt insecure, vulnerable, uncomfortable. But, now, one year later, because I trusted my inner voice rather than trying to control my own destiny through pure logic, the world looks like an entirely new and amazing place.

bikram-pic

…….About a year and a half ago, in June, 2015, I returned home from a yoga training in Thailand where I studied Bikram yoga for nine weeks and made more than 175 friends from around the world. Life was never the same after training. Before I attended, I was told the experience would “rock my world,” but I wasn’t sure what that really meant. I suppose I thought that just being there and training for many hours per day and suffering through the intensity would make me stronger physically, emotionally, and psychologically. I knew it would be hard. I also assumed that being immersed in the yoga system I love with its original creator would be a wonderful affair, full immersion. It would be about living out my passion for this yoga and sharing it with so many other enthusiastic people who all had their own stories and reasons for landing at training. And, certainly, it did rock my world in all of these ways while I was there, but the real changes, the real “world-rocking” happened after training.

After the months away in a tropical paradise, returning to previous routines and relationships was a difficult transition, and I slowly realized that I was different–very different from the person who had left months ago. This took more and more time to fully realize. More evident things, like my diet, had changed as well as my tolerance for certain behaviors. My priorities shifted a bit too. But this was only the beginning of a longer, more gradual transformation that is still in progress.

universe

Do you know that inner voice? Call it your intuition or your authentic, most honest and pure Self? God? Consciousness? Life Force? Well, after training, that voice wouldn’t be ignored like it had been previously. That voice, so faint throughout my life, always there but barely recognizable, had become more prominent when I began practicing yoga, and more recently it has become much louder and clearer.

After I returned from training, it felt like a tidal wave of intuition was rolling through my heart, my soul, and definitely through my body, pushing me in very specific directions that I had no choice but to follow.

the_customer_experience_tidal_wave

My inner voice was prodding me, quite loudly, to change—- first, my career, which had been perfectly gratifying and financially secure, and also some of my important relationships; basically, I was being told to make one important choice: to focus on a deeper part of myself– a place where I hadn’t had the courage to go to yet.  I had to rescue myself– a deeper part of me that was struggling to be born, and I think that because I had learned self-compassion at training, I was ready to care for myself in a way I had been providing for others for so many years throughout my life. Training prepared me to embrace change, stay with the discomfort and instability that would naturally ensue from change, and trust the unknown and my inner compass.

The inner guide was insisting that I “let go” within the important areas of my life– my job and my relationships– the places where I was putting much of my energy and my heart on a consistent basis– to stop clinging to these identities. (And, by the way, clinging is MUCH different than choosing to be in a job or in a relationship.) I mean, I wasn’t hearing actual voices or anything, but it was just like, I had to do these things, even when my logical mind was screaming, “No!”

hertahead.jpeg

How can you just simply “go with” a feeling or intuition when it doesn’t seem to make any sense?

As it turns out, the big decisions I was being pushed to make weren’t so much about the relationships themselves or the job of teaching per se; they were about the practice of letting go; it was about ME no longer clinging to those pieces of my identity and all the beliefs I had about myself in these roles. It wasn’t about love. It wasn’t about living with dysfunction. It was about how I needed to take time and space to attend to myself. I had to suspend each of them temporarily, to stand outside my conventional life, to take a much deeper look inside. I had to choose that voice, that core— me, and do its bidding.

Maybe THIS was the “rocking my world” part that people talked about who had been to this yoga training before me?

The suffering involved with these changes was real. It scared me. It was destabilizing. To think of myself as anything other than a teacher? Impossible! To not parent? To focus solely on myself and be autonomous and not be in a romantic relationship? I believed for many years that I was born to teach; how could something be telling me that I need to leave teaching behind? What about job security? My income? The students? My colleagues? Who would I be, if not a mom? And, such a directive without any guidance about where I was to go next! It’s not like I had all this passion for a new project or career just waiting to be followed. Why would I quit? I was not heading toward anything, only away from, well… “security.”

It is interesting to look back now, in hindsight, at how I reeled against this flood of intuition, pushed back against that tidal wave that was absolutely relentless. Once the idea of these changes entered into my body, my psyche, my heart, I couldn’t ignore them. They were there to stay, at least until I followed through with making decisions and taking action toward their fulfillment. I literally knew I had no choice, though that did not stop me from whining, complaining, doubting, struggling, and resisting. Did I mention I was scared? How the ego wrestles with itself! How the logic mind battles against the creative heart!  Courage, not confidence, was necessary.

Once I changed my relationships with others by choosing to listen to myself, I knew this voice, this intuition, this tidal wave of change (and what felt a little like tough love), was worth trusting, despite the fact that I was really sad and still a little confused about the decisions I was making.

surfing-in-fiji1

Nothing is ever cut and dry, especially when it comes to difficult decisions– that’s why they are so difficult! I also worked on allowing my title of teacher to change. I dipped my toe into the water of radical career change by applying for a leave of absence which I thought was doable and would buy me some time to  explore new possibilities….but which ones?

I was headed toward nothing in particular! I was merely trusting what that little voice inside was telling me. For all the times I hadn’t listened and been miserable, I figured I ought to really go for it and make the leap this time. I mean, life isn’t really an adventure if there’s no real risk at stake.

As I began to review my finances, my future, retirement, etc…this assessment turned out to be a review of my values and the way I was spending my time. We only have a limited amount of time and I want to be sure I am using it intentionally. All of this ruminating and planning felt a little like making a decision to have a baby…is there really ever a “right time” to begin a whole new life, a new career, new relationships?

So, I decided to see what others did when facing such change and risk. I read all sorts of encouraging articles about quitting and true stories about people leaving their uber-rich lifestyles built on corporate financial success to go live in Fiji or to surf all day in some tropical paradise. Or, humorously and ironically, successful entrepreneurs leaving their millions to go teach– to give back; Where would I, public school teacher, go?  Who would this one-time teacher become instead? I certainly don’t have any ambition to pursue a life of wealth and leisure. I am pretty happy with what I have already earned. So, why couldn’t I just be content with security like everyone else, I asked my inner voice. But, the voice didn’t drop an answer or a new passion to pursue into my lap. That’s the thing with passion and inspiration– you can’t call it; it calls you. You just have to be listening and ready.

noise

So, months later I found the courage to allow myself to let go of being codependent in all of my relationships (with money, with jobs, with people, with places) and I am learning to let go of defining myself in such limited and limiting ways.

To me, too much security means stagnation.

I had been shutting off all of my potential to be different and to continue to change and grow, and my body and heart could sense this which is why that Voice began to object! As I listen to it and trust it, it is allowing me to redefine myself and to see myself and the world in new ways. To let go of clinging to the particular identities that grew stale and had become prohibitive to growth, I had to embrace change for the sake of change, even if my mind told me it was unreasonable. Sometimes unreasonable is the most reasonable thing to be.

So, since I made this decision, this leap, I have been spending time living as anything but a high-school-teacher-suburban-mom-responsible-for-everyone-else girl. I don’t know yet who I am becoming, but maybe that’s just the point— to “become,” without any expectations, without any specific goals in mind for myself, and without a to-do list for my life. Maybe the “accomplishing” will be not accomplishing anything at all but to follow my inner compass, be true to myself, and take care of me.

END NOTE: It’s humorous to me that some friends and family thought I just needed a vacation  from work and parenting; that I wanted to travel and relax. I know that some people thought I was miserable and merely running away from the burden of my responsibilities. That isn’t the case and never was.  This sabbatical has been an exploration of my inner landscape just as much as I have explored the external and natural landscapes of the world.  I haven’t been taking a break from “real life,” I have been living it more than ever. And for that, I am grateful.

Posted on Leave a comment

Teaching and Truth

As I write my memoir-in-progress, working title, “Like a Flower Petal Blooming,” I am going to post excerpts from time to time to keep myself fighting Resistance with the capital “R.” Who knew writing a book is like wrestling with satan? LOL This one is a brief excerpt on the theme of honesty and truth.

“Someone asked me today, “How do you like teaching yoga?” I answered as if she asked, “why do you teach yoga,” because the answer is the same. I teach yoga because I love yoga and I love teaching. Both are ME. I love being part of people’s efforts to be better– to be alive, to learn, to be on their journey of self-discovery– to share a small part of that journey.  I respect the effort of the people who show up in the hot room (or torture chamber, as Bikram refers to it) and do the very best they can. They show up in that room and are forced to get honest– I respect honesty. I respect hard work. (I hate lazy people, as Bikram would say.) I love to see people rise to the occasion to do what sometimes seems impossible, for each individual in their own individual ways. I love seeing them grapple with the worst parts of themselves and the best and accept both with equanimity. I love to see people grapple with their suffering. If they can’t get radically honest in a Bikram yoga class, under the bright lights, in front of those mirrors, then they don’t come back. This yoga is hard. Making excuses is easy, justifiable even. You have to be tough to stick with it. Yes. True, physically, but even truer for trying to get honest with yourself and stay honest, like, forever.  Bikram yoga reminds me that every time I step on the podium to teach or in front of the mirror to face myself and practice, and I give the honest effort it requires to be alive and well, I am living my truth.

Posted on Leave a comment

Meta: Why Learning? Why Landscapes?

Some of the most amazing learning happens beyond academia, and many of the best teachers positively affect lives outside of strictly academic environments. I hope to find  lifelong students and teachers of all sorts, in various domains, to explore the exciting and valuable learning that occurs everywhere and deliver these stories to the world.

In this meta post, I share a little bit about where my ideas come from and my thought process behind creating a blog and podcast called Landscapes for Learning. 

I want to create something new— a project that reflects my most important values and embodies my everyday living. Basically, I want to have fun doing something that doesn’t require me to work very hard–a worthwhile, constructive endeavor and something that’s valuable and beneficial for others, not another obligation. I want to make the world a better place (cliche, maybe), and the best way I know how to do that is through learning. So, I guess you could call this Landscapes for Learning platform a “lived creative project,” and its measurement of success is how meaningful it is for me and others who are impacted. It isn’t going to be a job. The second it does, I am quitting.

I am leaving the formal classroom where I earn my living to learn more about learning. I want to learn something new and be the perennial student, so I am going to try my hand at online publishing in various forms: books, tutorials, podcasting, and blogging. I have been frustrated for many years that the learning done at school is not as valued as it should be by parents, students, and definitely not the state nor the many professional development programs I have attended that reinforce a data-driven, utilitarian form of schooling. It seems that in school, learning is not the most important thing—-grades are.

I hope to step outside a narrowly defined learning environment and reclaim an authentic love of learning that exists beyond the institution. Disillusionment often leads to change, and I hope wherever this little project goes that it will lead me to positive growth. If I can grow as a person, I will improve as a teacher, thereby positively impacting my future students, whomever and wherever they are. 

Even though my primary aim is to learn new things for myself, I imagine the stories I collect from people about their learning will instruct and guide others by default, so in that way, I suppose I am still providing a classroom of sorts where people can come to learn about learning. I will be providing space in which others might learn alongside me.

I have a feeling the stories I find will be inspiring, entertaining, interesting, and helpful for people. My hope is that they motivate people to become more consciously aware of learning and the important role it plays in life, whether it involves going to “school” or not. I’m not so concerned about assessing my own performance in this endeavor; I only want to share incredible stories of ordinary folks who embrace learning in their lives.  I can’t wait to see all the learning that occurs outside the restrictions of formal education on my personal journey to reclaim the authenticity of learning– learning that is unmeasured, done for its own sake, and full of ambiguity, creativity, and originality.

So the reason I came up with the “landscapes” part of the title, Landscapes for Learning is that I love studying nature– its geographical landscapes, and human nature, which includes the landscapes of psychology, philosophy, history, and narrative. I was also teaching American Studies with another teacher and we called our first unit, “The American Landscape” which was focused on the settlement of the West. In the unit, we explored the clash between white settlers and native people while also closely following the contemporary politics and protests of the Water Protectors and the North Dakota Access Pipeline. We studied the transcendentalists as well as John Muir. We were deeply engrossed in studying the American people and their relationship to nature, our earth, and ecopsychology. Also, at this same time, the American presidential election filled the political landscape with horribly divisive rhetoric and behavior. This word, “landscape” kept appearing– not coincidentally. As a result of these various experiences, I internalized the curriculum while simultaneously becoming more creative through my personal writing, and this is going to be utilized to add something positive to the world rather than more social media noise. I am hoping my work appeals to the folks who expect a bit more from their online experience.

The “learning” part of the Landscapes for Learning title resulted from a bit of an identity crisis. If I left the classroom, who would I be, if not a teacher? Well, I realized that I will always be in love with learning and probably still teaching in some capacity, even if outside of the formal environment of academia; even if I am unpaid. And, the thought also occurred to me that many people think they are finished with learning once they leave high school or university, and that when they are in school, it is the primary and superior form of learning. It’s simply not true. Great learning happens all the time whether people know it or not; and, see, that’s the point– I want to draw attention to that kind of everyday learning and make people aware of just how valuable it is and how it’s constantly happening throughout our lives. It’s also what connects us. And, in my humble opinion, learning is what makes life meaningful. We are always trying to make sense of our lives and figure out how to make them meaningful!

Some of the most important people in my life were my best teachers: my parents and siblings; coaches and pastors; lovers and friends; roommates and professors; authors (both contemporary and from antiquity) and podcasters; yoga teachers and fellow practitioners; my students and children; and, of course, my enemies. Most of these people are ordinary people living ordinary lives, but the value of having learned from them, in one form or another, has had extraordinary impact on me and as a consequence for many others too.

I sincerely believe that broadening people’s idea about learning is an important and worthwhile endeavor, especially during this time when formal schooling is quickly becoming antiquated and the moral and ethical demands on our children will be far greater if we want to have a sustainable future on this planet. The world needs more authentic learning, more humanity, more stories about learning and our shared humanity.

So, there it is. I got an idea and I have begun. It’s sort of a simple thing, really, to look closely at all forms of learning, but I do believe it will not only be interesting to hear stories from ordinary people but inspiring and beneficial to many listeners. I know I will enjoy learning from people about learning! Perhaps the stories I collect will be useful in transforming the current culture of schooling somehow.

I am clueless about how to make a blog and podcast and all the other things I hope to create, but I am going to try to figure it all out. I am learning about how all of this publishing online works from others who have ventured to the internet to share their lives, their insights, their questions, or their passions. I have a long way to go to figure out how the Google thing works and how to get an audience and all of that, but I just decided to start anyway– to write poorly and publish—to get used to exposing my thoughts in a limited way, to a limited audience of friends. Hopefully, as I improve, I will also figure out the aspects involved in gaining a broader audience.  Perhaps I will make new friends. I am also figuring out how to podcast, and I have a bunch of interviews lined up. I’ll be bringing lots of humility and vulnerability along on my journey, as these will be necessities for learning.

I like the name, Landscapes for Learning, because I think it captures exactly how I am trying to live my life— continuously learning all that I can across as many landscapes as I can. Learning about how other people feel about learning and the role learning plays in their lives will be fun, and sharing those experiences and stories will challenge me in new ways.

I have already discovered through shifting my focus to places beyond the classroom and through writing here that my life is most meaningful when I am intentional about learning. Because I am always learning, I am always changing. Rather than resist change, I am trying to embrace it, even when painful (as the best kind of change usually is). Surely, I am full of fear about what the future will bring, leaving my job and my conventional routines, but I am also hopeful about approaching the unknown and the risks ahead of me. 

I am excited about what I will learn from all the people I will meet across the various landscapes, the landscapes themselves, and all the inspiring stories I hope to gather and share with you, my future audience. 

Posted on Leave a comment

Podcast 000: About Me

cartoon me

In this, the inaugural podcast, I introduce myself, the purpose of the Landscapes for Learning platform and the LFL Podcast Features.

I look forward to sharing the inspiring stories and conversations I’ll be having with extraordinary “ordinary” people from around the world.

I hope you’ll tune in and enjoy the journey with me!

Posted on Leave a comment

A Soul’s Calling.

What does it mean to follow your path, your soul’s calling?

I am learning that finding my purpose doesn’t have a whole lot to do with thinking, as if a problem needs solving or something  needs “figuring out.” If anything, my rational mind very often seems to get in the way. (See Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and The War of Art by Steven Pressfield)

So far, this adventure seems to be more about trusting the process, using my intuition, and listening to my inner voice. I am trying to remain true to what my heart is telling me, and to remain open to what is in store from a source that exists in the universe and deep within me. I am deliberately refraining from trying too hard to find my way, but instead trying to be led. I am afraid, uncertain, excited, and hopeful. The struggle has been anything but boring.

I believe this website is a part of my calling, part of my path. The call to share everything I learn about myself, my life, and my process with you is real, so I have created Landscapes for Learning to be my place of expression, of vulnerability, of learning, and growth. The “Meta” feature of my blog will be where I share the ins and outs of my creative journey with you. Many days I have no idea what I am doing. Other days, it seems completely clear. I presume this pattern will continue.

I always thought teaching high school English was my life’s purpose, as I know in my heart that teaching and learning is in my bones, but perhaps my career has been a training ground for what’s next. I don’t know if a creative life (writing) is my ultimate purpose, but it is a step forward on the path. I am taking a leave of absence from my job to listen to my muse and see where it takes me. I plan to take you along. Please, share your adventures with me too!

Oprah asked Caroline Myss, a guest on her show, SuperSoul Sunday, “How do you know when you’ve found your purpose in life?” I find her insight valuable. I hope you will too.

Watch more of the interview between Oprah and Caroline Myss. LOTS of great discussion about the inner voice and intuition and trusting the process!

Also, check out “The Journey,” one of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver

Posted on Leave a comment

Waiting to be exposed, I mean, publish.

shakespeare-inner-critic-2
Rationalizing voice: I have to wait to share this site with friends until I can produce enough perfectly awesome perfectly revised and perfectly edited content that can withstand criticism and ridicule.
Fear/ Inner Critic: (My ego isn’t ready! I can’t be that vulnerable!)
Rationalizing voice: I will have to wait until I figure out what this project is supposed to be. There needs to be a single point of focus. I have to establish my audience and purpose. You are an English teacher for Christ’s sake! All you have is a domain name.
Fear/Inner Critic: (I am interested in too many things! It’s a collection of uninspiring disconnected ideas! It’s too soon! I have no idea what I am doing!)
burden-of-inner-critic-2
Soul Speaking: Stop rationalizing. Stop making excuses. Fuck Fear. Drown out the Inner Critic. Do my bidding. Trust the process.
(To find the courage to follow your heart and excavate your buried creativity, please read, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, referred to me by Joe Rogan; and The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, referred to me by Tim Ferriss).