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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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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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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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Know Thyself, Part I: Study Your Attention

Attention

“Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.”

–Jose Ortega y Gasset

 The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide is about disconnecting from the competing stimuli in your outer world to reconnect to your inner world. It’s about the fear of missing “in” rather than the fear of missing out (FOMO).

Paying attention to yourself and learning about what makes you, you will not be quick nor easy because it includes spending time alone, quietly, and reflectively which many people find intimidating or downright scary to consider.

For many others, attention to oneself is simply not a priority,  what with so many other interesting things that capture our attention outside of ourselves and how busy we like to be (usually to stave off anxiety and boredom).

“To be that self which one truly is”

–Soren Kierkegaard

Learning about oneself through focused attention inward is also challenging because it requires honesty and courage to accept unpleasant or uncomfortable discoveries, though one may also find  answers that free one from suffering and pain.

Many of our unhealthy habits are deeply ingrained, and important truths are buried without our conscious awareness, which is why Part I of Landscapes for Learning’s Classic Wisdom for the Modern Self Study Guide is about paying attention to attention.  Learning about the nature of attention and one’s own attention to better understand and manage it will bring optimal personal growth and wellness.

Paying Attention is Self-Defense

It’s downright frightening that artificial intelligence can control your attention: where you look, what you look at, and manipulate your perceptions and feelings about what you’re paying attention to, to nudge you in particular directions while fooling you that you made your own choice– if you allow it.

How can you make sure that you can choose who influences you?

What’s your best defense?

Begin with Part I of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide and learn how to examine your own attention to understand its value and thereby what you value which is what matters most in your life. Get offline, get with yourself, and study your human nature.

Values

When you understand the nature of attention and learn about your own you attention, you become more consciously aware of exactly what it is you are aiming at, focused on, believe in, and live by.

Attention is linked to your values, thereby directly linked to your priorities, goals, actions, and habits. When you own your attention consciously, you can take responsibility for it and better manage and control it for more wellness.

When you get to know yourself better from self study, inside and out, you will gain deeper understanding of your nature, becoming more likely to trust your own judgment, rather than helplessly relying on others, developing unhealthy and excessive external dependencies, or allowing yourself to become a victim of manipulation.

Learning more about your attention by paying attention to attention in Part I of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide will empower you to know who you are to be wise and well.

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Everybody Wants More Wisdom & Wellness

Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human  Self Study Guide Coming Soon!

I believe so strongly that dedicating more time and energy to understanding oneself is the foundation for balance and wellness in this day and age of speed and data overwhelm that I left the security of my career as a high school teacher to create Landscapes for Learning, an online classroom where my mission is to foster the growth of individual uniqueness and encourage individual expression through learning.

I had been grappling with the increasing anxiety and unwellness among my teenage students and observing it throughout the school’s culture (and our wider culture), while at the same time I was helping people to grow in healthy self-realization as a Bikram yoga teacher. The philosophy of Bikram yoga with its aim of self-realization seemed to be a viable antidote needed to address the problems pervading not only school culture but our American culture at large.

I wondered how I could possibly bring the principles of yoga into schools to improve wellness and balance. How could I marry the yoga with education for wholeness and wellness for individuals?

One answer is my soon-to-be-published Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide, curricula for promoting wisdom and wellness. 

The five central tenets of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide are based on what I learned both as a Humanities teacher and within my personal yoga practice, a combination of the wisdom traditions of both East and West, and are meant to help both teens and adults heal themselves through self-development for optimal health and quality lifestyle.  

The Self Study Guide directs you to (1) understand attention and it’s value and learn to manage your own, (2) gain self-awareness, (3) realize the value of embracing challenges and limits, (4) make intentional choices to respond to experiences rather than reacting unconsciously, and  (5) approach your life experiences with curiosity and as opportunities for learning.

Through this process of self-study, you will likely become your own best trusted friend, teacher, therapist, and parent capable of independently traveling the landscapes of your life as if on the most interesting adventure.

You can learn to “do you” and express your uniqueness which is exactly what you need to be well!

If each of us is well and expressing our uniqueness, then all of us are better off. 

Knowing thyself is about our individual humanity and our shared humanity. If you want to make the world a better place, it’s starts with knowing who you are and living the full expression of you!

The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide can show you how!

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Educating Human Beings or Human Doings?

What kind of learning do you value and why?

I value the kind of learning that helps people live qualitatively well as authentic “human beings” not just as skilful and knowledgeable “human doings.”

Unfortunately, our current American public schooling system continues to dedicate most of its attention, time, choices, actions, deeply-ingrained habits, and resources to raising a.k.a inculcating kids to become “human doings”– performers, accomplishers, achievers, competitors.

It is no wonder there’s no room for wandering attention (you’ve got ADHD), day-dreaming (you’ve got ADD), imagination, entrepreneurial thinking or attitudes (you’re disrespectful because you won’t do what you’re told; you don’t get the freedom to try it your way because I am grading you and comparing you to your peers), failure (you’re a low achiever), risky behavior (you’re a discipline problem- probably your parents’ fault), uncensored speech (you can’t make mistakes when trying to learn new concepts or experiment with new vocabulary when it may possibly offend or “oppress” others who feel victimized by your trial and error process), or love and affection (you’re too human, and not business-like enough, scientific/robotic enough) in a typical high school classroom. All of these characteristics of a genuine learner are unwelcome challenges to the status quo and fear-inducing to those who tow the party line as cogs in the wheel of the established institutional tradition.

You are just waaaay too human if you are an authentic learner.  Not to mention that the whole project of schooling takes place inside, where everyone is routinely disconnected from fresh air and open spaces (hence Nature Deficit Disorder), protected within the institution, using square, little desks in rows within square, little rooms that kids get four minutes to travel between for 8 hours per day for 180 days per year with few exceptions. And we wonder why kids are literally losing their minds? Could the current mental health crisis among adolescents and teens (and everyone else) possibly be related to what we value? to what we pay attention to? to how we define learning? to the kind of learning we actually value? to how we raise and school our kids?

We do schooling really well. We just need to decide whether or not we want to balance schooling with learning. Are we willing to rethink our priorities? I don’t think these two things– schooling and learning– are mutually exclusive.  A conversation about more balance seems necessary, but such a conversation requires open minds and hearts, rationality, and humility among all of us.

Psychoanalyst, Carl Jung once said, “Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.” I ask, What are you paying attention to, superintendents? school committees? students? teachers? parents? Can each of us stop with the unconscious, habitual day-to-day to reflect for a moment or so about what we are paying attention to each moment, each class, each day, each year? Might we stop the same old same old busyness of schooling to do an honest self-evaluation of where we actually put our attention? How much attention? How much time spent? Why? Are we happy amidst the school shootings and mental health crises in our schools? Are we going to continue to hire more special education staff, more social workers, more nurses to bandaid the problems with our kids, or will we self-reflect on our values and priorities? What kind of an education do our children need today, in this new and very different world?

Part of my mission at Landscapes for Learning is to revitalize a love of authentic forms of learning among young people who may be disillusioned with, bored by, or being made sick (emotionally, psychologically, physically) by the traditional structures and forms of public high schooling in America with its inherent over-emphasis on inculcation (what to study and how to think about selected studies) achievement, testing, grading, and competition.  Simultaneously, the stories recorded in the podcast are a celebration of the quality lives of ordinary individuals who are healthy and personally fulfilled as they pursue their life-long process of self-actualization.  Many of my guests’ authentic learning and teaching experiences differ from their schooling experiences and/or place their formal educational experiences within a broader and more appropriate context of life-learning. This is a good thing to know– not just for kids so they don’t get discouraged by school but for their parents who might broaden their understanding of the purpose of education for their children, and for schools to keep their role in the learning process in perspective as well.

I’d like to ask parents of adolescents to become more conscious about about what kind of learning they value for themselves first of all and subsequently for their children. What is your definition of learning? Is it the same as schooling? Do you want your child to learn how to learn and to love learning, or do you want them to behave, do what they are told, get As or better scores than the next kid, and get into Harvard? You don’t have to go along with the traditional modes of schooling (that are too familiar to your own) because everyone else is! If you feel that your child is stuck in the system, that you are powerless, I am here to tell you that there are things you can do and choices you can make to optimize your child’s schooling experience without having to home-school or un-school them. Don’t play the grade game; don’t make your child do unnecessary homework that is a waste of time that may be better spent (perhaps outdoors or socializing with peers without adult supervision). De-emphasize “getting your schoolwork done” and emphasize learning when talking to your kids. Start journaling; teach your kids to journal about their personal learning rather than making time for only academic learning. Write your values. Answer, “why am I educating my son or daughter?” To what end is your child being educated? To be “X” or to do “Y?” What’s your “why?” You can also model self-inquiry, share your own journey to self-awareness and self-knowledge and discuss its connection to other forms of learning in your life. Make the distinction between schooling and learning clear to your children and live a life of learning while keeping schooling in its proper place.

I’d also like to prompt schools to self-reflect on the type of learning they value– this is not the same thing as having a mission statement or school mantra written in the handbook or posted in the entryway to the school, but whether they are consciously living out the kind of learning they purport to value each and every day, in each choice and decision they make, for each child for whom it affects. I hope to begin a discussion with schools and parents about the “why” of educating kids– their specific intentions for their children/students and to where they put their attention on a daily basis, class by class, moment by moment. Is learning really the focus, the value that’s being lived out day in and day out, or is more time, effort, energy, attention, and reflection focused on  schooling– that is, but not limited to– grading, coverage of curriculum, and achievement (college acceptance rates, drop-out rates)? What are the priorities? How much professional development time is dedicated to using new grading systems, new administrative technologies, new methodologies for implementing the same curriculum, assessment, analysis of data? How much time is dedicated to teachers for them to implement real change and personal growth and creativity? How much time is given to the “who” of teaching? Observe your institution for a day, a week, a month, write down what you see happening among students, teachers, support staff, and administrators. Notice (without judgment) what your organization is spending its time doing and talking about. Then sort through how much time is spent on schooling and how much on learning. Confirm what your institution actually values– that is, what it lives out, in action, on a day to day basis.

If we fail to value self-knowledge and exploration of the inner landscape and all we do is over-focus on the externals– grades, achievement, administration, controlling our environment to solve the problems that live within each of us, how will kids learn how to learn about themselves? How will they understand anyone else if they don’t know their own human nature? How will they do any of this essential interior work if they are over-scheduled with building their resume for college entrance or held after school to complete work that is entirely irrelevant to them but required curricular content aimed at the imaginary “average” student? How will they learn how to be decent, healthy human beings if they are consistently directed toward and overwhelmed by human doing?

It’s crucial for us as a society that each one us know ourselves as deeply as possible and take individual responsibility for our own lives, as a priority above and beyond any sense of belonging to a group we might also naturally feel. “Us and Theming” is one of the problematic paradigms of our time, that through which we interpret the world and that which informs our notions of tribalism, identity politics, political correctness, free-speech, mental health, addiction, education, parenting and much more. How can you know you belong to a group if you don’t know, firstly, who YOU are as an individual? How can you “know” that you “know” who you are if you don’t understand the nature of “knowing” or what forms of “knowing” exist?  How can you understand human nature if you don’t understand your own human experiences? How can you answer, What is the “right” relationship of the individual to society if you don’t understand what it means to be an “individual?” How do you figure out what “right” means? Perhaps we need to shift our focus from developing intellectuals to developing ethical and wise human beings.

Through real life stories of ordinary people, the Landscapes for Learning podcast is meant to illustrate and concretely demonstrate the value of many other forms of learning and teaching that happen outside of school environments– across the landscapes beyond formal education. The podcast also places special emphasis on discussing with guests how they explore and travel their inner landscapes, which is learning about oneself throughout life. Learning about one’s inner life, about one self, finding and living according to wisdom and one’s moral compass is also a lesson in what it means to be human and therefore how to understand and connect with other humans, other individuals who are like you, but not exactly you.

In addition to the podcast, the coaching curricula and support I am creating and plan to offer on the site soon is meant to assist parents and students in designing individual education plans to better balance the aims of schooling with the more authentic value of learning, including more curriculum focused on teaching individuals how to explore their inner landscapes through journaling, employing the principles of yoga, metacognitive reflection, and other techniques.

If you are interested in finding ways to help your student, your son or daughter, or an educator you know engage in an important and ongoing conversations about learning, the need for a shift in values, and a re-balancing of priorities between schooling and learning, or if you would like to contribute to the development of this site and its mission, please subscribe to LandscapesForLearning.com below where you will receive regular updates in your in-box (not too many!).

Sincerely Yours in Learning,

Maureen