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FREE COURSE CONTENT: ATTENTION PRACTICE

WHY STUDY ATTENTION?

We are in a Crisis of Attention

“Besides the benefits that improved management of attention brings to the individual, several social critics and philosophers argue that our society’s decreasing attention is leading us to a new ‘cultural dark age’ in which individuals no longer have the deep, sustained focus necessary for synthesizing and assessing information or expressing complex thoughts. Instead, we live in a world of ‘Present Shock’ in which everything happens now, information is conveyed via memes and tweets, and we no longer have the skill or wisdom to separate the signal from the noise. One could argue that the crises and general malaise we’ve experienced in the West during the past thirty years is, at its core, a crisis of attention. We’re either paying attention to the wrong problems or too distracted by the next “controversy” to solve the issues at hand.  Bottom line: If you want to improve yourself and the world around you, the first step is to learn how to harness your attention. It’s the locomotive of human progress.” — Art of Manliness

PRACTICE
PAYING ATTENTION TO ATTENTION

 In the following practices, you will observe and evaluate your own attention patterns to understand where you are putting your attention, both intentionally and unintentionally, throughout your moments, hours, days…well… your life.

By auditing your attention—playing with it and exercising its various forms, deliberately, using the activities below, you will build your attention “muscle” which will help you be a more conscious learner so you can know yourself better.

Sit still for a hot minute.
Reflect.
Write.

“Meditate” for 2-4 minutes or as long as you want. Focus your attention (selective attention) on your breath going in through the nose and out through the nose. Notice only that. If your attention shifts elsewhere, perhaps to your chest or to the noises in the room, or your feet, or an itch; if it shifts to thinking, or your mind wanders to the past or the future, just notice. Try to bring your attention back to the breath. (It helps to sit up straight or lie down if you want to– it doesn’t matter so much, especially if this is new to you. When people try to “do it the right way” when it comes to meditation, they usually just focus on outcomes rather than the process itself, just the trying. The trying and failing IS THE THING. If you are trying and failing– you’re doing everything perfectly!

AN IMPORTANT NOTE

If any of this causes feelings– anxiety, fatigue, hyper-arousal, sadness, muscular tension…whatever, just notice. Stop if you get to a point where you feel overwhelmed. Do what you need to to calm down. Later, when you are in an even space, reflect on the experience and write about it. Each time you attend to your attention, your experience may vary! You are different each time you try. People vary in the ways they react and respond to paying attention to attention— it only matters that you TRY it and later reflect and record what happens. NO RIGHT OR WRONG; NO JUDGMENT. JUST OBSERVATION TO LEARN.

Reflect, in writing, on your experience paying attention to your attention in step one above. Describe, in detail, exactly what happened with your attention. Don’t just reflect— Write about it! Did your attention remain focused on the breath coming in and out of your nose? Did it wander? Where did your attention shift towards? How many times did it shift and change?

JUST NOTICE

NOTICE and write about: Did you judge your “performance?” Did you get frustrated or disappointed when your attention fell away from the breath? Or did you remain neutral when your attention shifted? WHATEVER YOU EXPERIENCED (THOUGHT, FELT, BEHAVED) JUST WRITE IT DOWN. THIS IS THE PROCESS AND YOU MUST TRUST THAT JUST BY DOING THIS, YOU WILL LEARN AND GROW.

Reflect on this process of noticing your own attention. Free write about your attention, judgment, and the difference between the two. Any other thoughts related to this activity are welcome! This is your personal learning, so you can write about whatever you want for as long as you want. Even if you are frustrated, angry, confused, unsure of yourself, or think this self-study is a waste of time, write about it because this will help you understand the nature of your relationship to your attention (which is really just how you relate to yourself and your experiences in the present moment)!

If you made it this far….you’re building courage AND focus!
Good for you!

NO…LITERALLY— These things are good for your body and mind.

 JOIN US

FOR THE ENTIRE COURSE ON ATTENTION! 

 

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I Feel You, Teachers!

Most people just want to feel heard. Most people, when stressed or upset, just want someone to listen and empathize without judgement.

It’s hard to find a person who understands the special demands of teaching— someone who doesn’t have any stake in you or your status; someone who does not work with you or rely on you nor someone who will rat you out or make you paranoid or believe that you suck or are weak.

You need another person who understands the stresses and joys and challenges of teaching AND who is trained in empathic listening.

I am a former high school teacher, author, life coach and soon to be mental heath counselor. I want to counsel and coach teachers from now until forever because I think we get neglected and are severely misunderstood. This pandemic is surely twisting things even tighter for teachers, and I want to help!

If you are a parent and want to give your kids teachers a great gift, send them a nice note with a link to my site or my contact info below.

landscapesforlearning27@gmail.com

Tell them you don’t really understand what they must be going through but that you know someone who does and can be of service and genuine support.

I want to help as many people as I can during this pandemic using my unique skills.

Please teachers, don’t be shy. It’s totally confidential and you have my word on that! I’m on YOUR side!

Please feel free to reach out to chat if you want more information. Read my About page for a bit of my background, my blog to see the sort of things I write about, and listen to a podcast or two. Also check out my posts on Facebook. 

 

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Honesty & Wellness

RADICAL HONESTY

This little video captures my journey from lover of stories and storytelling as an English teacher and writer to becoming a yoga teacher and psychotherapist. It encapsulates wisdom curriculum and some things I convey in both of my books, especially the

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

SELF-STUDY FOR SELF-REALIZATION IS CLASSIC WISDOM 

STOPPING TO BE WITH OURSELVES, TO KNOW OURSELVES DEEPLY AND HONESTLY, IS SIMPLE, BUT NOT EASY…

AND BECAUSE IT IS NOT EASY, WE STRUGGLE TO DO IT…

MY BOOK OFFERS SIMPLE WAYS TO BEGIN TO TRAVEL THE LANDSCAPES FOR LEARNING TO DISCOVER YOUR TRUTH TO MAXIMIZE YOUR WELLNESS AND LIVE A MEANING-FILLED LIFE

I USE SIMPLE LANGUAGE AND TOOLS YOU CAN PICK AND CHOOSE FROM AND USE ANYTIME.

I EXPLAIN WHY AND HOW TO KNOW YOURSELF FOR WELLNESS

I WROTE THE BOOK FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AND PURPOSEFULLY AVOIDED USING THE TECHNICAL JARGON OF YOGA & MINDFULNESS, WOO-WOO SPIRITUALITY, ACADEMIC OR SCIENTIFIC EXPLANATIONS.

I AM HONEST ABOUT MY LIFE LEARNING IN THE BOOK AND SHARE IT WITH READERS. THAT WAS SIMPLE BUT NOT EASY FOR ME. IN FACT, IT CONJURED LOADS OF FEAR, SELF-DOUBT, AND RESISTANCE, WHICH IS EXACTLY WHY I DID IT.

EXPLORE THE BLOG  PODCAST, AND LFL’S FB PAGE FOR ADDED RESOURCES AND INTERESTING INFORMATION ABOUT SELF-STUDY, SELF-REALIZATION, WISDOM, LEARNING MINDSET, EDUCATION, BIKRAM YOGA, AND WELLNESS!

 

 

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The Meaning Crisis

I am currently watching “Awakening from the Meaning Crisis” which are lectures by University of Toronto assistant professor, John Vervaeke. (The man has “Know Thyself” tattooed on his back!) I highly recommend his work if you want to learn more about the difference between modern self-help/narcissism and classical self-examination for wisdom and fulfillment.

Like Vervaeke’s lectures, my book, the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self-Study Guide for Wellness (2019, Amazon) is about awakening and meaning, aka self-realization, but unlike Vervaeke’s lectures it is a layman’s tool for its simplicity in explaining why to know thyself for wellness and how to engage in that ongoing, meaningful process on a concrete moment-to-moment basis throughout your life. I wrote the book and designed it as a self-study curricula, chunking it into 5 easily digestible sections in non-academic language for people of average intelligence like me. I am not a scholar like Vervaeke, but only a keen observer of my own life experiences– my best teachers––and a writer willing to share my learning to help others.

I think a lot of modern people are being pulled (physically, emotionally, psychologically, from their heart-center, conscience, or intuition) toward more love, wisdom and meaning in their lives––to what TRULY MATTERS–– rather than merely chasing more knowledge, information, status, material just to compete or win or achieve.

If that sounds like you, then pair  watching Vervaeke’s lectures for a most panoramic academic explanation of the process of pursuing a life of meaning and wisdom and read my Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self-Study Guide for Wellness to put self-study for self-realization into daily practice for wellness!

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Simple (not easy) Practice: Walk Uphill without Complaining

This Simple (not easy) Practice is about understanding how meeting our responsibilities is an opportunity for wellness rather than something to complain about.

As much as we might complain, we all need the grind of responsibility to remain healthy, humble, happy, and purposeful. Shouldering responsibility helps us develop personal discipline, courage, and resilience, so it’s actually good for us and essential for wellness. 

Once most people get to the top or finish line, reach their goal of whatever endeavor or whatever problem they’re struggling to solve, they usually need another aim––more responsibility–– to keep them thriving. Often, people can feel lost after a graduation, winning a big race, or when they finish a career and enter retirement. Anxiety and depression can happen once the symbolic or actual mountain is summited.

So, why is it so common that people don’t know what to do with themselves or have an identity crisis at the summit? Because taking on responsibility, and facing and overcoming obstacles defines our lives as human beings. A comfort zone is only comfortable for so long before it begins to weaken us, and a life of only pleasure is not necessarily a healthy life. Do you want to be happy and fully alive only when life is pleasing and easy or all the time?

The obstacles and challenges that come along with responsibility are an expected part and parcel of the fulfillment and meaning of the journey! Engaging in this process of shouldering a load or trudging uphill is how we can get and stay strong to thrive both on the inner landscapes of our lives as well as the outer.

So, instead of dreading responsibility, avoiding the challenges that come with it, or expecting your days to be easy, practice looking at your responsibilities as opportunities, and be grateful, humble, and happy for the next mountain to climb— for the journey will keep you continually growing and feeling alive and well.

And today, try the simple (not easy) practice of changing your language from “I have to” to “I get to take on X challenge or chore,” and enjoy seeing how what you might have habitually considered dreaded tasks, to-dos, or burdens magically transform into opportunities for improved wellness, happiness, and vitality!

I get to walk my dog (uphill) in the freezing cold of New England, a daily responsibility that keeps us both fit and vital!

 

 

 

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Simple (not easy) Practice: Looking at Pain

Today’s Simple (not easy) Practice is about pain.

“The most hopeful result of analysis finds the patient suffering more of his pain than he was able to manage before. More of his pain is held in conscious awareness instead of being discharged into behavior that jumbles up his life, injuring his relationships or his work. A successful therapeutic venture leaves the patient’s outer life improved, perhaps dramatically. Ideally, the patient will find more satisfaction and pleasure than before. But instead of being tormented by meaningless pain, he will suffer pain constructively. Pain is always part of life, and the wounds that have molded the person into exactly this or that shape will continue to channel his responses to pain in his unique ways.”
— Barbara Sullivan

Look at your pain and try to be curious about it. You don’t have to DO anything about the pain. The practice is merely to look carefully and for some time. Perhaps you look at your pain at short bits of time, some number of times, throughout the day. Maybe you can only manage a few seconds; maybe longer. It doesn’t matter because you are building distress tolerance no matter where you start. Just try.

Your pain could be something as simple as a nagging bruise on your shin from banging into a chair in your room; it could be a difficult diagnosis you just received; it could be an unsolved puzzle that’s causing you stress; it could be your annoying sister who bitches and whines to you incessantly about her weight problem but you’ve got your own; it could be the bitterly cold or excessively hot (rainy, snowy whatever you don’t want nor like) weather; it could be the tweak to your lower back from your workout yesterday. Whatever causes you some sort of distress qualifies as pain. You pick. It really doesn’t matter what you choose because all you need to do once you choose is the following:

  1. Describe how this pain makes you feel.
  2. Reflect on how you define and describe this “pain” to yourself. Why and how does it qualify as “pain?” (nobody else’s opinion of what qualifies as pain matters, only your own)
  3. Notice your relationship to this “pain.” How do you relate to this particular pain? Notice, do you want to push it away? Do you resent having this pain in your life? Does it cause anxiety? Does it make you happy? Do you find it useful or necessary? Are you excessively or obsessively thinking about it or hyper-focused on it throughout the day? (Be honest and don’t judge your behavior negatively, as this exercise is only to gather information to learn)
  4. List ways this pain can possibly benefit you.  List as many possibilities as you are able (honestly).
  5. After you complete the above, notice, has your attention to pain changed the way you see your pain and how you feel about it?

Pain is powerful and it can easily be a drama we get swept away with or something we react to mindlessly and habitually, but in this practice, you have looked at your pain, paying more careful attention to it, and perhaps learned a bit more about it.

You have been with your pain more consciously and intentionally than usual, perhaps now also seeing it more objectively while “at a distance” from it. (Visualize holding up a glass of water to the light, seeing it swirl and settle.)

Perhaps you see that you have feelings and thoughts about your pain, and those thoughts and feelings make the pain more or less painful or more or less persistent?

Try to repeat this practice whenever you get a chance (God knows there will always be pain to work with in life!), continually observing yourself and the ways you interact with and relate to the pain that happens in your life (whether it comes from your inner landscape or from the world outside you).

Hold your pain up to the light for observation!

Practicing this often will help you become more and more familiar with pain, and over time, perhaps you will begin to see pain as your greatest teacher, as something to be welcomed rather than pushed away, something to be with as a part of you rather than something to reject, run from, or resist.

You might like the following story about how pain can be a gift and a great teacher: https://tinybuddha.com/blog/my-pain-was-a-gift-and-a-catalyst-for-growth/

*Quote excerpted from Bakis, M. (2019). Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self Study Guide for Wellness. Amazon (paperback and Kindle)

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Simple (not easy) Practice: Becoming Response-able

Becoming “Response-able” for Wisdom & Wellness

For Simple Practice today, observe the way(s) you RESPOND to your experiences.

Hopefully, if you slow down enough and pay attention as outlined below, you can learn something important about yourself and how you are responding to life.

When you learn more about your thoughts and feelings (mind/body), you are becoming more response-able, that is “able to take responsibility” for what’s happening with you, blaming less, and coping better. You have to notice your habits first in order to create optimal, more mindful ones for your wellness. This takes willingness, practice, and commitment to knowing yourself to become more wise and well. Enjoy this challenge!

Choose from any of the options below, and you may like to write about what you learned from this practice after its complete.

A. Pick some thought you think today and notice how you RESPOND to that thought.

Maybe you meditate for like 10 seconds or 10 minutes to notice a thought and the response to a specific thought. Or, just try to sit (or stand/walk/practice a yoga posture) and notice a thought and your response to that thought.

Simple, right? not so easy! Wondering why it’s not so easy?
Read this book for more information about how the mind works.

B. Pick a conversation (with one other person face-to-face) that you will likely be involved in at some point today (in your job or personal life or at the gym, etc…).

Notice how you RESPOND to this person. Focus on the process of stimulus and response that is happening with you, not getting carried away with the other person. This is an exercise to know yourself better, not about the other person. You are being response-able for you, not them.

C. Pick any feeling or emotion you have today and notice how you respond to that emotion.

For example, when you feel hungry, notice how you respond to that feeling. Try to carefully notice exactly what happens in the moment when you notice you are hungry Don’t skip over the thoughts and feelings too quickly, noticing only that you ate food as the sole response. It takes time to feel the sensation, notice you are experiencing it, and then…what comes next, before “doing something” about it. Try to slow way down to notice what’s happening between stimulus and response. Is there a thought or thought pattern (perhaps a usual story) that immediately follows the physical sensation of hunger, feelings associated with hunger?

Another example is anger. Notice how you respond to feeling angry. Notice what happens (without judgment– only to learn about yourself).

Another is anxiety, maybe social anxiety. Notice exactly what is happening with you, in you (body and mind) when you feel anxious.

*Maybe it’s not the thoughts or the feelings or the people that are problematic, but how you are responding to them. Perhaps you need to continue to learn more to become more response-able.

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Simple (not easy) Practice: Choice

A Moment, A Pause… & Conscious Choice

 
 

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of drama (your own internal drama or one happening with others/around you) and realizing,  “I don’t want to spend my moments in this state over this topic. It’s not a priority. It’s not aligned with my values. It’s unwise and it’s contributing to my unwellness.”  GREAT. That sudden moment of realization is HUGE! 

I have found that if I am suddenly aware, especially in such “heat of the moment” situations, I can make the choice either to suffer more, engage in unnecessary drama and stress more, or less. But the point is—I discover that I have a choice.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Viktor Frankl

I have found through daily reflections in writing and building self-awareness through my yoga practice that I can catch myself far more often while in some heated moments or stressful situations, and I am able to pause, evaluate whether this “drama” is an internal problem or an external problem, whether or not I can respond to it or control it somehow or not, whether I am wasting unnecessary stress on it or not. Because of the noticing and a pause, I can respond mindfully: I can take responsibility for my part in the drama, remain engaged in it or let go; show myself or someone else compassion; and respond to do what I can, if anything, and learn something from the entire experience. Spending my moments this way– attentive and responsible–has dramatically improved the quality of my life. 

How will you spend your moments?

Looking at everyday experiences with stress or difficulties as opportunities to face challenge, I ask myself, “Do I really wanna be “that guy?” and “Am I really caring for myself by allowing myself to experience unnecessary stress or causing more stress for myself?” I can do better than that for myself! If I don’t, who will? My life is my own, and I take responsibility for being both a whiny little bitch or a courageous, mother-fucking ass-kicker. I fail continuously in this endeavor, but it’s still a great way to spend my time and energy, for wisdom and wellness are the results (not perfection or achievement).

Choose better, for wellness. 

So, how to have more of these moments of awareness?  Practice through mindfulness meditation or yoga (moving meditation), or even try to keep awareness on your radar as something that is important to you to practice– it’s something of value. Write about it. Make it a priority. Make it a “thing” you do and who you are. Make it your “why” so you can bear the “hows” to get ‘er done. And, guess what, falling in love with this process means falling in love with your life –– i.e. the moments. Who knows how many we have?

––Viktor Frankl

For more, Read Part IV: Choice
from the
Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self-Study Guide for Wellness (2019, Amazon)

 

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A Video Message from LFL!

LFL’s Simple Practices: Listening

So Simple. So Powerful. So Healthy.

Make time to PRACTICE listening!

NEW FEATURE: Simple Practices on the Landscape for Learning for Wisdom & Wellness

SUBSCRIBE BELOW FOR SIMPLE PRACTICES FROM LFL

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018: Podcast on CHALLENGE

This podcast is a reading of a couple of excerpts from Part III of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self-Study Guide for Wellness (2019, Amazon) called “Challenge.” To know oneself deeply, to express oneself authentically, to be fully present for yourself, even in your pain, is a difficult path, but it is the way to a meaning-filled life of wisdom and wellness.

Grappling with our unique forms of suffering and problems, whatever that entails or however it manifests uniquely within each person, directly opposes our modern cultural values that are about promoting happiness, getting people to literally buy into the story that they need comfort and pleasure (permanently) and encouraging a dependence on everything outside of themselves rather than within. Guess what? You are enough and you can “fill” your life by getting to know who you REALLY are through facing your fears and challenges. It requires honesty as well as building courage and personal discipline, and that’s exactly why most people take pills, develop unhealthy dependencies on others, retreat to or stay forever in their comfort zones, and live lives of “quiet desperation” in the words of HD Thoreau.

Our sources of pain are diverse, but we are all flawed and we all suffer– in our own ways, great and small– because we are human. It’s scary and challenging to face our insecurities and vulnerabilities, but doing so is exactly the path to freedom. You can learn tools and practices to get better at suffering and to suffer less and live with more joy in this very struggle.

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COLLEGE SCANDAL, VALUES & VITALITY

 REAL Priorities or Surface Concerns?

I read this article from Education Week this morning, confirming the need for what my LFL mission can deliver to students and their parents (who don’t have to get the wisdom curriculum IN school necessarily– they can access my book and online workshops!) to help them be wise and well, not merely to become well-educated in an academic sense/setting. I am trying to sell the idea that a quality life as a healthy and ethical and compassionate human being is the foundational education that underlies all other kinds of success. In fact, I would love to redefine success entirely. I don’t care about “performing well academically in college” as much as I care about nurturing healthy, whole, and fully-integrated human BEINGS (not just human DOERS). I left education to focus on teaching people HOW TO BE IN LIFE rather than only focusing on WHAT TO DO with their lives.

The article below is a classic example of how we talk about wholeness and wellness related to young people only as it relates to our current over-valuation of college success. Can we reverse this article’s priorities? Can we educate our kids for wisdom and wellness FIRST and then talk about college success as one of the many results of a healthy and meaningful human experience?

In There’s More to College Prep Than Academics b (Education Week 

Colleges place significant weight on a student’s grade point average, class rank, and standardized test scores in the admissions process. For decades, these measures have informed how K-12 schools design curricula and counsel students on college readiness.

Yet grades and SAT results alone are ineffective predictors of students’ college success. Other factors come into play when understanding why some students positively transition to college and persist, while others drop out. In fact, more than a quarter of first-year students who started college in the fall of 2016 failed to return to college the following year.

A wealth of additional skills is needed to thrive—not just survive—in college, including conscientiousness and effective study habits. A 2012 study on college success by Larry A. Sparkman, Wanda S. Maulding, Jalynn Roberts, and colleagues suggested that students who demonstrated stronger emotional intelligence were better able to handle the rigors of college.

School counselors are well-positioned to offer meaningful support that could lead to lower college dropout rates and stronger retention rates. Everything from sound mental health to social inclusion affects students’ experience on campus. Beyond just academics, school counselors and college advisers should also address the soft skills needed to flourish in college, including social skills, an appreciation for diversity, personal health care, financial literacy, time management, and organizational skills.

Conversations between counselors and students about mental health is especially vital, as evidenced by the prevalence of college students battling anxiety, depression, substance abuse, or thoughts and acts of self-harm. [Could it be that our priorities are inverted?]

It’s time to take college prep beyond grades, FAFSA applications, and test scores—the academic, financial, logistical, and competitive aspects of the process. Going forward, school counselors must consider the following steps to prepare students for all that college entails:

1. Revamp curricula. Preparing students for the academic, social, and emotional rigor of college requires a comprehensive curriculum implemented by school counselors. San Francisco State University researcher Patricia Van Velsor encourages school counselors to reimagine their curricula to include developing social-emotional learning, executive functioning, and social skills as part of college readiness. According to Van Velsor, this model of counseling students on the college-going process is just as important as academics to their mental health, adjustment, and persistence when they transition to higher education.

2. Encourage extracurricular involvement. Numerous studies conducted over the years by several researchers have demonstrated that students who physically get involved with their campus perform better academically and graduate at higher rates. Students need to be encouraged at the K-12 levels to join clubs, sports, faith-based events, volunteer groups, and other activities outside of school. These extracurriculars can help students be more outgoing, have more friends, feel a stronger sense of belonging, and demonstrate better attachment and positive adjustment to their schools and community. Students already engaged in activities in the years prior to college are better positioned to continue during college.

3. Integrate psychoeducational groups. Incorporate certain types of group therapy into school counseling and college advising curricula to help students develop the interpersonal skills needed for successful peer-to-peer interactions. In their 2007 book, Evidence-Based School Counseling, Carey Dimmitt, John C. Carey, and Trish Hatch argue that school counselors trained on group development and group facilitation are better suited to support students’ mental-health needs and offer strategies that encourage personal-emotional growth. 

4. Bring soft skills into the conversation. Connect with college-bound students about the soft skills needed to persist in college, including budgeting, establishing academic and personal efficacy and resilience, maintaining mental health, and knowing where to seek support if needed. Discussions about nutrition, hygiene, and physical activity are key, too.

Living with roommates, overcoming homesickness, effectively managing one’s time, and developing self-identity are often part of the college experience, too. For instance, making friends and developing the ability to network can make a large campus feel more accessible, while a circle of friends establishes a community, all of which can help ensure students remain in school. Researcher Janice McCabe studied the formation of college friendships, concluding that the friend networks students build during college can have discernible academic benefits—and even shape social and work lives after college.

Research also suggests that individuals with a good sense of executive function, including being able to read the emotions of others and regulate one’s own emotions, are better equipped for college and a career.

5. Think differently about the right “fit.” The College Board recommends that selecting a college with the right “fit” should be based on location, size, type of college (e.g., two-year or four-year), and majors. It neglects to mention how the college represents students culturally, racially, and ethnically in its demographic makeup. College campuses lacking diversity may cause psychological and emotional distress for students of color. Counselors need to advise students to be intentional in choosing colleges based on whether the campus reflects their racial and cultural needs, offers leadership opportunities, and is located in a community that demographically reflects their personality and identity.[Do young people know who they are?]

College-bound students with high test scores but poor social skills are not necessarily well-equipped to handle the nuances of college beyond the classroom. Far more benefit would come from actively developing high school students’ emotional intelligence, mental health, and organization skills, along with racial and cultural identity.

EYES ALWAYS ON EXTERNAL PRIZES

(and the nefarious and corrupt who will do anything to achieve them!)

Ultimately what I am trying to promote HERE AT LANDSCAPES FOR LEARNING is slowing down enough to be present in one’s own life (body and mind) and to look within to learn more about who one is. Rather than predominantly focusing on achievement, I am encouraging more attention to intrinsic understanding, acceptance, and love of one self. I  am encouraging and teaching about why and how to observe one’s own moment-to-moment experiences and reflect on them continually to learn more about what one’s own life teaches.

When I was teaching yoga and high school students, I could see clearly, when on the frontline with high school seniors, how much they (and their parents) would have benefitted from yoga, which I define as self-study for self-realization: this includes stillness, present-moment awareness, introspection and reflection, and it is practiced not MERELY to accomplish or achieve or reach goals on the timeline of their lives (horizontal landscape), but because of how much more fulfilled they’d be and how deeply engaged they’d be in their vertical landscape of their own being. This deeper connection, awareness, and awakening to one’s own truth and integrity is the foundation of “outward success” whatever that looks like for each unique person. This type of “success” in knowing oneself is wisdom that provides people with “enough” and a “feeling of fullness” so that chasing goals to fill one’s socially constructed, competitive and compared self becomes far less urgent, thus more balance ensues.

Of course, it is great to learn about what works for others and to gain information that could be helpful which is what self-help and standardized curriculum is typically comprised of, but what works for some does not always apply to each individual person. We are all the same to a degree, yet so unique in personality and physical, mental, intellectual, and psychological constitution.

At LFL, my aim is to encourage you to make the time to point your attention inward, at least more often or as often as you point your attention to others and the future and the external world that’s constantly demanding your attention.  Read the book of you in addition to what you can read and learn from the “outside” world. Experience in education and in the world of yoga showed me how much the balance is off because the outside world has got a death grip on our attention (thus our values– where we spend most of our time and energy, thus stress) without us really being aware of it!  I TRULY BELIEVE THAT EACH ONE OF US CAN BE OUR OWN BEST TEACHER, AUTHORITY, AUTHOR, AND WELLNESS EXPERT IF WE COULD SLOW DOWN ENOUGH TO PAY ATTENTION TO OUR INNER LANDSCAPES!

LFL’S MISSION IS TO INSPIRE  & MOTIVATE YOUNG PEOPLE TO PAY MORE ATTENTION TO THEIR INTRINSIC SENSE OF SELF  RATHER THAN ONE’S SOCIAL IMAGE!

To this end, I don’t love formal education’s over-emphasis on group identity or focusing predominantly on social-interpersonal skills (how to be nice to other people etc..) because I happen to believe (and feel free to criticize me and disagree) that if people knew, accepted, loved, and attended to their inner landscapes that they’d be far more compassionate and socially adept on the external landscapes of life. It’s no coincidence that a Mindfulness Movement has erupted yet SADLY I see how schools co-opt this by USING it as a tool to serve their utilitarian values which are outcomes and results-focused—that is, for kids to “do better” in measurable ways, to be more productive, competitive, higher achievers, and…umm… “successful.”

So yes, of course college students will be more successful in their endeavors by developing persistence and other “soft skills” that are related to their integrity— that is—of knowing on a deep, intimate level who they REALLY are. This is self realization that can come from self-study. And self-actualization (unlocking one’s potential) is the result of this ongoing process!  That’s BEING FULLY ALIVE AND WELL. Being a successful college student pales in comparison.

My LFL curriculum  (my self-directed wisdom curriculum for modern humans or self-study for self-realization guide and workshops and resources) is not social-emotional curricula; is not character-education, is not mindfulness meditation (but includes all 3). I never wanted what I am doing to get co-opted by the institution of school, and so that’s why I left education to create my own space online where learning, real inner and personal learning can be done on one’s own, privately, quietly, intrinsically motivated, without grading, and encouraging only self-assessment– authentic, real assessment that has value for the learner and is practically applicable to one’s own unique life!

 

 

 

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Anti-fragility Training

Bikram Yoga as Anti-fragility Training

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

Bikram yoga is EN–COURAGING.

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

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

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

QUIZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Podcast HERE

The answer is B.

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

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

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

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

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Podcast 17: LEARNING as OPPORTUNITY MINDSET

In this podcast, I read Part V: LEARNING from

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

The podcast includes subtopics like:

*Vulnerability as intrinsic to learning process and creating meaning

*Parenting without safe-space or victim mentality

*Schooling discourages failure and uniqueness

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

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

 

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

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Same Song, Slightly Different Lyrics

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

 

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Opportunity Mindset = Meaning & Wellness

Q. What is Landscapes for Learning?

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

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

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

Just like Will in Goodwill Hunting,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Self-Study for Wellness Workshop, October 19!

Get a “lay of the landscape” of YOU!

Why has there been an onslaught of advice to meditate and “do yoga”?

Why all the meditation apps?

Why all the meditation programs in schools? Why is yoga part of the P.E. curriculum?

Why the “mindfulness” movement? Why here (in the West)? Why now?

Our “Modern” Problems

  1. attending to self for acceptance, care, love, connection
  2. trouble slowing down, being still, staying in the moment
  3. problems with attention (scattered, divided, distraction)
  4. difficulty concentrating, especially on one’s inner world (introspection and reflection)
  5. speed of modern life (competition; survival of fittest mentality; kill or be killed; race to the top; speed=efficiency)
  6. continuous media/information overwhelm 24/7 (trouble disconnecting; excessive consumerism of data/info)
  7. overly dependent on external “goods and services” to “make us X” (x= “more” than we are because we are taught we are inadequate)
  8. fear of pain and challenge (safe space mentality; dependencies on others for answers in the form of authority, pills, and hokey panaceas for happiness and pleasure rather than real meaning and fulfillment)
  9. fear of seeing, accepting, telling, and expressing the truth (we are liars and believe our own bullshit to the point of illness and suboptimal health)
  10. seeking knowledge more than wisdom; fear of failure causing a lack of living in the truth!

LFL’s BOOK, WORKSHOPS, AND PODCASTS  ARE ABOUT

WHY & HOW TO BE A HEALTHY HUMAN IN A MODERN LANDSCAPE!

COME GAIN A BIT OF WISDOM FOR WELLNESS!!!

 

Workshop 1: October 19, 2019

@

Bikram Yoga Danvers

12-1 p.m.

In the upcoming October Workshop I will be prompting you to learn how to learn

about yourself

and

expose you to some tools and practices

to develop coping skills for managing YOUR unique life experiences in a modern world!

 

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How and Why Self-Study, Podcast #16

Landscapes for Learning is podcasting again!

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

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

MY UPDATED LIVING WELL CHECK LIST 2018-2019

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

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

Have a listen for an informative hour to

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

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

 

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

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Connection Begins with Self-Study

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

 

 

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

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

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

Namaste.

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Wise Up!

Landscapes for Learning: Wisdom Curriculum for Modern Humans

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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October Workshop!

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

Come Learn About

Self-Study for Self-Realization

at

Bikram Yoga Danvers

October 19th, 2019

Noon-1:00 p.m.

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

Hosted by

Landscapes for Learning, LLC

 

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WHAT is Self-Study for Self-Realization?

Q & A

WHAT the hell is Self-Study for Self-Realization?

WHY to Self-Study to Self-Realize?

HOW to Self-Study to Self-Realize?

 

This little gem below attempts to give answers to the questions in detail and provides you with directions and activities to get your started knowing yourself better, but you can take a look at my answers below while you wait for your book to be delivered to your home or your Kindle!

Here are MY answers (not necessarily “the” answers):

1A. Self-study is slowing down enough to look inside yourself and answer: who am I? What am I like? What’s my body like? How does my mind work? What’s my personality? Disposition? What are my interests? What sort of choices do I make? What do I pay attention to on a daily/monthly/yearly basis and are those things good for me? What’s my relationship to learning? Do I see opportunities for growth or complain that life is unfair?

*I learned about attention through Bikram Yoga and through reflective journal writing. Perhaps these might also work for you. You will have to study yourself to know what will work for you and what will not. It’s your life.

1B. Self-realization: is ongoing realizations about who you are; seeing yourself as an ever-changing being full of limits and possibilities for becoming. A realization isn’t always in your control. Often having an “ah-ha” moment or making a crazy-amazing discovery about yourself “just happens” for you from beyond your control. A realization can come from “the other side” and outside your comfort zone.

*When I stopped forcing myself to achieve; when I stopped focusing on outcomes and started enjoying the process of being me; when I let go of expectations (mostly of others) and trying to control everything and everyone outside myself all the time; and when I started observing myself with curiosity, love, compassion, understanding, and acceptance (through yoga, reflective writing, introspection), I started taking the best care of myself because I saw my own value (despite all my horrible flaws) and that, still, my life is a gift. I am responsible for expressing the best of myself and for managing the worst.  The lies I had been telling myself about who I thought I was (“my identity” as this type of person or that) burned away and the truth, through realizations, start pouring in! Inspiration and creativity rushed through me, thus this blog and book etc…

2. Each person should study themselves (what I call the “inner landscape”) at least as often as they study the world around them (what I call the “external landscape”) to continually grow in wisdom which I am convinced is what makes a person healthy and thrive. The problem is that our modern culture conditions us to focus our attention on what’s on the “external landscape” to the detriment and neglect of the “inner landscape.” Why do you think people are trying to get more people to meditate? Why do you think mental health counselors are in such demand? Modern life is so overwhelmingly full of noise, material clutter, busyness, and excessive stress that most people are entirely distracted away from their interior life. They are disconnected from the inner place of wisdom and peace. It’s simple: SLOW THE FUCK DOWN and give yourself the loving attention and care that you deserve and are responsible for doing FOR YOURSELF throughout your life. That’s an opportunity and a responsibility. The dangers and challenges of the world aren’t going anywhere– you need to make yourself courageous enough, flexible enough, and strong enough to surf the waves of your life. When you study yourself and realize your whole self, you’ll be well and you’ll make others well in the process.

*I slowed my life down by practicing stopping and living in the moment in my yoga classes; I started practicing yoga outside the studio in my everyday life.  Loads of those moments were painful and uncomfortable (in and out of the studio), but when I explored my pain and suffering to understand it (not judge it), I learned to let it come (without pushing it away) and let it go. I got used to suffering and learned how to suffer better. I also learned how to fully savor all the joyful moments that I had rarely taken time to “be with” before I had slowed down. I cry more, laugh more, am more intimately connected to what and whom I value. Life is fucking good, not because I am rich materially (I am not), but because I am grounded in the truth of my own presence. I am in love with life. I am lively!

3. I propose that five things comprise a helpful self-study program for self-realization: 1. ATTENTION: start understanding what attention is, its value for health and wellness, practice strengthening your attention. You can do this in various ways that I explain in my book. 2. SELF-AWARENESS: Turn your attention inward to knowing who you are and becoming more aware of yourself. Study the workings of your mind and body so can provide optimal care for them. 3. CHALLENGE: Practice facing fear rather than running from it or distracting yourself from it; learn about pain and suffering– they aren’t going anywhere so you may as well learn to make friends with them. Part 3 of the Self-Study Guide can show you how. 4. CHOICE: Study your choices and learn more about the empowerment that comes from choice and mindful response to stress in your environment and within you. We life to blame things in the “external landscape” rather than taking personal responsibility for managing our responses to those stresses from the “inner landscape”or a central locus of control. You can practice getting better at making conscious choices for your wellness. 5. LEARNING: School-learning lives under the umbrella and a much broader definition of learning as a way of living. Learning is embracing a landscapes for learning mindset– to choose to see your life experiences (all of them) as opportunities for growing, expanding who you are, and to expressing your uniqueness. Learning is about the walking the line between what is known (mastery) and what is unknown– and the unknown is both scary and exciting. Get curious about what’s on the other side of your comfort zone and remain open to the possibilities of transcending your limits to thrive.

* Self-Study for Self-Realization is about slowing down, attending to yourself, and discovering what’s true about you and what’s false. It’s an ongoing life-time journey to live the truth to thrive! My book suggests looking at life as a landscape for learning and offers directions to follow to explore the landscape of you!

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Balance!

WHAT DO WE HAVE TOO MUCH OF? 

SPEED, CLUTTER, NOISE, INFORMATION & “EXPERTS”

WHAT DO WE LACK?

SLOWING DOWN & STILLNESS, INTROSPECTION & REFLECTION

WHAT DO WE HAVE TOO MUCH OF ?

KNOWLEDGE OF THE EXTERNAL LANDSCAPE; EXTRINSIC MOTIVATION

WHAT DO WE LACK ?

KNOWLEDGE OF THE INTERNAL; INTERNAL MOTIVATION & INSPIRATION 

 

WHAT TO DO for BALANCE ? 

Empower Individuals with Wisdom for Wellness

Visit Amazon.com for a copy of the

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

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

 

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A Reading List for Hannah

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

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

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

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

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

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Limits & Possibilities

Understanding your own human nature through paying attention to learn about yourself in particular ways using the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self-Study Guide for Wellness will teach you (among other things) about your limitations, your amazing potential, and the myriad of possibilities for transcending those limits to fully self-realize and self-actualize.

You are pure potential

You have incredible potential just waiting to be actualized, passions to be uncovered, and many weaknesses that are likely suppressed that could surface at any time and cause unwanted or unintended damage.

Consider: How many times have you been alternately either pleasantly surprised by your own talents or prowess and horrified at your own weakness and unintended bad behavior?

Make your daily life better

Rather than deny our weaknesses and animal nature, pretend they don’t exist, or repress them, we ought to study them, understand them, and manage them as productively as possible.

We all need to intentionally and very deliberately learn more about who we are and understand what it means to be human—both rational and animal— so we can express our very best and manage our very worst.  

Putting our truth under a spotlight is the path to freedom, and it is the most responsible work a person can do for themselves and for others (which is also why so many people don’t want to do it! Freedom requires responsibility and that’s work!)

Warning:

The process may not be pretty, for self realization is not about happiness per se but the struggle to be the fully-expressed YOU, and it is exactly how the meaning of your life is to be found.

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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. 

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A Self Study Guide for Wellness

The unexamined life is not worth living.”— Socrates

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

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

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

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

(2) increase your self-awareness

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

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

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

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

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

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Vulnerability

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

Vulnerability

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

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

Bikram Yoga & Vulnerability

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

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

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

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

It might hurt a little bit

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

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

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

Letting Go of Control: Trust the Process

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

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

Vulnerability & Overprotection

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

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

Learning & Tough Love

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

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

Explore Your Vulnerability

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

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

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

HONEST PRACTICE

Writing About Vulnerability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Writing for Self Realization

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

Write to know yourself.

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

pennebakerbook

Writing as a Ritual for Self-Care

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

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

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

artistsway

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

References

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

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

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

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

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Yoga is Union

“You don’t know who you are!”

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

Self Image or Truth?

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

Values & Wellness

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

Time on Learning

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

Wholeness

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

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

It’s Not About the Grades

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

Yoga is Union: Antidote to Disconnection

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

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

Classic Wisdom for Modern Humans: “Know Thyself”

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

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

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

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

Be Your Own Guru

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

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

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

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

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

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A Bikram Yoga Teacher’s Tools for Wellness

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Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self Study Guide for Wellness contains a few tools and practices for knowing your mind and body better, so you can connect with your interior world to love yourself and love others. That’s pretty much it, in a nutshell.

Bottom Line? The world will be well if each of us are well.

A 5-Part Guide for Wellness

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Wellness that comes from authenticity— of being the real you– takes attention, self awareness, grit, mindful choice, and a willingness to learn. These are the five parts of the Self Study Guide.

Self Realization

Answering, Who am I? is a lifetime process; it is a journey with no final destination. The Self Study Guide gives you several tools and practices for this journey to self realization, one of which is Bikram Yoga.

Breaking External Dependency

Bikram Yoga helped me realize that caring for my body is essential for a healthy mind and vice versa. I learned about how my very busy thinking mind has everything to do with how I feel, my stress levels, and my mood. I learned with consistent practice how an open-eyed 90 minute moving meditation is superior to my formal education, self help reading, and the various forms of dependence on things outside of myself I had unconsciously relied on for my wellness through my life. Bikram Yoga taught me that the key to wellness is self realization– an entirely interior process.

“To Thine Own Self Be True”
–William Shakespeare

I share my learning experiences in this Self StudyGuide to invite others to learn not about me or Bikram Yoga per se, but more about what it means to be a human person— and most important, to inspire and motivate you to find out what it means to be the real, authentic you. Self study for self realization is about honesty. It is that simple, but definitely not very easy.

Healing Modalities

My personal tools for wisdom and wellness are Bikram Yoga practice and daily journal writing, both of which work as therapeutic modalities. Both practices have led me to deeper, more conscious awareness; more humility; more openness to experience (flexibility); more love and compassion for myself and others; and more balance in my daily life. Neither has led me to perfection nor financial windfall, but I will admit that I am far more honest with myself and others, and I believe this is why I am healthy and happy.

Once you learn to confront “what is” without trying to push it away (aversion) or grip it too tightly (clinging), you understand more and more about the nature of your own suffering. If you can learn to stay in the space of experience, without judgment or reactivity, then you may be able to create more mindful responses to whatever life brings. You’ll likely appreciate the freedom such meditation brings. Can you say, game changer?

Wellness for Modern Humans

I’ve created this Self Study Guide for readers to learn more about one’s own unique, specific human nature through deliberate self study, as I have found this to be the foundation for a high quality life of meaning and purpose, especially in our modern world of rapid change. To “know thyself” is classic wisdom, so self study for self realization is critical for living well within a modern world full of information, distraction, noise, and unwellness stemming mostly from cultural values that don’t foster vitality. That is why throughout each part of the Self Study Guide I write about why and how each of the five parts of the self study wheel matters for both personal and social wellness. My work in the Self Study Guide also adds to what many others already understand about the state of unwellness in our modern world and are trying to address with their wonderful work. You will notice their influence throughout the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self Study Guide for Wellness.

I also wrote the Self Study Guide as an answer to the people who continually ask me to explain the connection between my Bikram yoga series practice and my “life outside the studio” which includes my level of vitality, physical and psychological transformation, and the resulting wellness and happiness from such ongoing growth.

Practical Tools for Wellness

In the past, I have written about my passion for yoga and about my passion for writing as ways of expressing who I am on my blog, but I wanted to give readers something tangible, some practical tools they could have and use for themselves, in their own personal way, for their own personal development, beyond just reading an inspiring or motivating testimonial. As well, I am always inviting people I meet to the studio to try a hot yoga class, but many are intimidated by the perceptions of what Bikram Hot Yoga is, the negativity surrounding its founder, and the presumed vanity associated with looking at oneself in a mirror with little clothing on for ninety minutes each day.

It is difficult to explain how looking at yourself in a mirror and stretching in a hot room leads to self realization in a few minutes of casual conversation. Hence— this Self Study Guide.

Appearance vs Reality

I hope this Self StudyGuide offers a bit of insight about how it is that so many Bikram yogis have been so utterly transformed (inside and out) despite Bikram Choudhury’s reputation, the criticism of our strict Dialogue method of instruction, and all of his and the yoga’s perceived flaws and controversy. I hope it helps people understand what profusely sweating in 105/40 heated room half naked with strangers (who become friends bound by compassion) is more than what it seems.

There is more to Bikram Yoga than meets the eye, so many more positives than people know or talk about beyond our Bikram Community. Perhaps more information to educate more people is due. And, of course, I’d like to invite more people to come try the practice by informing them about the personal development that may be possible for them by beginning, like I did, an ignorant but semi-willing, slightly open-minded person looking to try a physical, body-based yoga practice as a form of exercise.

Surface vs. Deep Learning

I started looking in the mirror during my early practice out of vanity, a desire to achieve, and as a performance because that was my previous, socially- conditioned, conventional mindset. The challenge of the workout drew me in, (I wanted to conquer it, not let it beat me), the practice itself magically got me to stay for reasons I could not explain, then to become a teacher to share my love for the practice, and then to write this Guide to spread that love further beyond just my local studio. Loads of other Bikram yogis have their stories of self realization too.

But if you want a spiritual treatise, this Self Study Guide is not that book. I am mute when it comes to enlightenment or theology or the soul. There are books about the limbs of yoga. There are books about yoga as medicine. I can only report in my Self Study Guide about the tools and practices I use to find out more about who I really am, my truth, with the hope that they benefit you to know yourself and express your uniqueness for a meaningful life of purpose and wellness.

Pay it Forward

Bikram Yoga was a gift of fate I was lucky enough to receive. I didn’t seek it; it found me, so I’m hoping this little book pays my gift forward by finding its way to you– to more people who don’t know Bikram Yoga exists or to people who thought they understood it (and themselves), but do not. In that sense, I hope it promotes more learning and thus, awakening. Perhaps when combining Bikram Yoga practice with other self study techniques I have included in the Self Study Guide like introspection, meditation, self-audits, and daily journal writing, readers can transform their lives for more wisdom and wellness as I and so many others have and continue to do.

Head to your local studio and try a few original, hot, 90-minute Bikram Yoga classes. And if it helps, read the Classic Wisdom for Modern Humans: A Self Study Guide to Wellness for additional tools useful for engaging in the process of self realization!

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