“The unexamined life is not worth living.”— Socrates
The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: ASelf Study Guidefor Wellnessis 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 Guideis 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 Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guidewill help you learn to manage your attention, become more self-aware, and develop resilience in the face of challenge, so you’ll inevitably make better, more mindful choices from a central locus of control.
“It is not external events themselves that cause us distress, but the way in which we think about them. It is our attitudes and reactions that give us trouble. We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.”
When you are more aware of the way you behave under pressure, understand your habits, and know your strengths, weaknesses and triggers from working your way through the Self Study Guide, you’ll be able to make better decisions and choices from a central locus of control.
Rather than trying to manipulate the world and your experiences to be as you’d prefer, you’ll learn to accept what happens that is beyond your control and respond mindfully in the best way possible for your personal growth and wellness.
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how”
As you work your way through the Self Study Guide, you will become more centered and more grounded in the truth of who you are because you will discover your values, that is— what you’re aiming your attention and effort at. When you know what you focus on that is good for you and that matters most, you can choose more of what’s good for you and what is in line with your healthiest values. Your choices will be informed.
Are you Responding Rationally or Mindlessly Reacting?
Reactivity that creates additional suffering is not worth compromising your wellness. Instead, you can make better and more deliberate choices, cultivated through direct experience, introspection, and reflection– practices you can find throughout the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide.
With honest practice and self-compassion, you can learn to accept insecurity and vulnerability as part of being human. You can figure out how to “let go” more quickly of your internal resistance as well as your reactive, negative habits rooted in fear and cause “bad” stress in your body.
For example, when that person cuts you off in traffic, you’ll choose not to react irrationally toward the offender in order to keep your stress-levels in check to keep yourself well.
Instinctively reacting to the danger of potential physical harm is built in to human beings, of course, but the extra mental suffering that comes from the anger you decide to hang on to or project onto others will wreak havoc on your body unnecessarily. That sort of stress and suffering is a choice. Unnecessary struggle and suffering is preventable. By tapping into the higher levels of attention to your values and the self-awareness you’ve gained in Parts I and II of the Self Study Guide, you’ll be empowered with self knowledge for more self control which means better, more mindful choices for your wellness.
“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Because you will learn throughout your own self study process that your flawed thinking patterns, projection, and irrationality is common human behavior, you’ll be far less likely to take things personally or reactively blame others for behaving in the ways that you can recognize in yourself and in all other human beings. Your honest self study of your own nature will teach you empathy and compassion for others who also act as human, thus flawed, struggling along and suffering just like you.
It is true that when you know better, you can choose better, but when you know who you are, nobody and nothing can steal your peace— at least not without your conscious consent.
The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guidehas been designed to help you look inside– to travel inward bound and make self-inquiry and self-discovery priorities in your life. It’s intended to help you learn how to collect and mine the data from your own life, encouraging you, like Dr. Gabor Mate suggests in the video below, to look inward at least as often as you look outward to understand yourself for wisdom and wellness.
It is easy to get distracted or lost on the outer landscapes for learning by being overly enamored with a guru or teacher or wrapped up in trendy new strategies, apps, and resources rather than spending more time studying yourself and your own direct experiences.
Sometimes we get too focused on the “help” in “self help” when it becomes just another way to distract ourselves or avoid focusing on the hard work of studying the “self.”
If 2017 was a year of travel for me, then 2018 was the year of writing about my various journeys across the landscapes for learning, inside and out.
Much of what I have written in my life is based on observation and reflection about learning—my own, or others’, as well as learning in the broadest sense.
Sometimes I share my “professional” learning with others publicly as I did when I published The Graphic Novel Classroom (Corwin Press, 2011) for educators. Most times I don’t share my “personal” learning that I’ve been recording almost daily in paper-bound journals over the last two and one half decades. A hybrid of both professional and personal writing is this blog and the soon-to- be-completed Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide.
In hindsight, I am glad I have consistently written about my life both professionally and personally because I can revisit my history and see its value, especially in terms of learning. I can see how far I have come and how I have grown. I can see “mistakes” and “wrong” turns that were responsible for such growth and now inform my future direction. I know where some of the potholes are and am better at avoiding them. As Louise May Alcott wrote, “I am less afraid because I am learning how to steer my ship.”
Because I have recorded my learning in writing, I can see the personal strength and flexibility I’ve built over time through the trial and error process and this motivates and inspires me to keep struggling forward. It reminds me that the current pain will be worth the health, integrity, and satisfaction of my future self.
I can rely on myself in the future as a result of my attention to the work of being me in the past, and for taking on the responsibility for knowing who I am. Without self-study, without writing about my learning experiences throughout my life, I’d be useless to others, unable to connect with them, serve, or teach.
By looking back on my personally recorded history, I can have faith that life will happen for me exactly as it should because it always has, and that I don’t need to try to force things to happen or control the future. I can see how my attempts at control merely postponed acceptance of truth. I can also stay more open to the mysteries that will inevitably unfold (like a flower petal blooming) and cultivate an attitude of curiosity about the unknown– the potential that will actualize– instead of being afraid of it or resisting it. Surrender is powerful.
I have also learned that my current pain and suffering, whatever it may be whether self-induced anxiety or from external “accidents” beyond my control, shall pass, as these always have and always will. I have the stories of my past, in writing, as proof of the truths of what it means to be human and what it means to be specifically and uniquely me.
If I continue to approach all of my experiences as opportunities to learn, to observe my life as it unfolds organically, then I can enjoy it, be grateful and appreciative, and use what I have already learned to continue to be healthy, secure, and well and help others do the same.
I am not a Pollyanna nor am I wearing rose-colored glasses.
It’s not that everything works out the way I want it to or that everything always turns out well; it’s not that I don’t make the same mistakes twice (or more). It’s simply that, for me, using writing for reflection has been an incredibly useful tool for becoming more wise over time and more well. And as I keep becoming more of who I am, well, it just so happens that that’s the meaning and joy of my one, short, precious life. If I am reflective and continually witness the unfolding of my true self, and accept that truth, especially when it’s difficult, I can love my life even more and resist its discomforts less!
As I age and become even more experienced, more keenly reflective, and more honest in my writing, the more alive and robust I feel, yet at the same time, I feel less rigid, less anxious, and more humble about all there is still yet to be discovered. I continue to see how much I really don’t know. Now, at almost 50, I am surely not the same person as I was at 40 or 20. Who will I be at 60 or 80?
My life, as I record it through writing, has taught me that a sense of security is not the same thing as permanence, and trying to control and cling to safety is not the way to live well. Just because my life has been constant change, that the world is constantly changing (faster and faster most recently), it doesn’t mean I am not secure and safe. The one thing that has remained consistent is the entity called “me”– the experiencer, this reflective, evolving being who writes. Writing has been a critical tool for my self-knowledge. And knowing myself better is foundational for my good health and wellbeing.
I write to articulate my life to myself, not as self indulgence, not as self-obsessive or selfish, but as self-care, as therapy. I also can share who I am with others, if I choose, certainly not to give prescriptive advice about how to be or do life (I don’t recommend anyone be like me! and I don’t have the answers for you!) but to let others know they aren’t alone on this journey of figuring out how to become a person (Rogers). I can share my struggles and successes with others, but like any diet or recipe, what “works” for me may not apply to others’ unique constitutions. We are all so specific which is why we have to understand ourselves as well as possible to apply the exact prescriptions for our individual selves.
The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide is my newest way of publicly sharing my learning from a life of writing, teaching, and yoga practice. I outline a few insights, practices, and techniques I have learned along my travels, both professionally and personally, on the outer and inner landscapes of life, to help me be wiser and more well.
These insights, practices, and techniques are not a secret, nor are they original. They’ve been in the toolbox of humanity for a very long time. They are recorded in the literature and history of the ages, rooted in the wisdom traditions from both East and West. I’ve discovered them, applied and tested them over time, and found they work very well for a meaningful trek to knowing oneself in our modern world. I hope you discover that they can work for you as well, in your own way, to meet your own individual and unique needs to know who you are and express that truth.
I hope next year when I reflect in writing about 2019 that I will be able to report that the personal learning I chose to share publicly in the form of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide has helped propel my life and others’ lives in the direction it’s meant to go. I trust that it will.