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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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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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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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What You Won’t Learn at School

Engage in Self-Study to
Prepare to Thrive in the Future

“What’s good for everybody is to get to know yourself better because we are now entering the era where we are hackable animals…and there are corporations and governments that are trying to hack you
whether you are a student or a billionaire…If you don’t get to know yourself better you become easy prey to all these organizations and governments that are hacking you as we speak… you have to run faster..
previously you had no competition, but now you do.” 
—Yuval Noah Harari*

Listen to and/or read the following interviews from Yuval Noah Harari for the reasons why self-study is the most important curriculum to engage in at this point in history.

YUVAL NOAH HARARI
Author of Sapiens,Homo Deus, and 21 Rules for the 21st Century

If you want to avoid being hacked, being irrelevant, or overwhelmed by constant, stressful change, then get ahead of the curve by knowing yourself for proper self-development now and for the future.

The five lessons or “practices” of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human self-study program are designed to help you learn to know yourself. In the program, you will learn:

  • How to understand and manage your own attention (Harari says “Your best skill is your focus to form a clear map and vision of reality.”)
  • How to become self-aware and know yourself better than anyone else
  • How to do what’s difficult, uncomfortable, and challenging to gain strength, grit, and resilience
  • How to respond rather than to react to challenges in the environment using self-control
  • How to approach life as landscapes for learning and see every experience as an opportunity for growth

KNOWING ONESELF IS THE ESSENTIAL WISDOM needed for the coming decades. Landscape for Learning’s Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self-Study for  Wellness Program can show you how to get to know yourself and the unique human that you are!

The workshops, resources, and wellness programs provide the tools and information you need to take 100% responsibility for your own life. This program will enable you to take the necessary action and develop the habits and character through direct experience to know yourself and become the best, strongest, wisest you possible.

There are no teachers in this program except you. You follow no guru, no generic prescription or step by step, magical, one-size-fits-all  program. Your experience with Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Human self-study program is specific and unique to you because you are one of a kind!

IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE, YOUR FREEDOM IS GONE!

WHEN TECH KNOWS YOU BETTER THAN YOURSELF
(INTERVIEW AND TRANSCRIPT)

Subscribe to be first to receive updates about the Wisdom and Wellness Programs online coming soon!

References:

*Waking Up Podcast #138 

When Tech Knows You Better Than Yourself

Yuval Noah Harari’s website

Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Human

Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Teen

THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION TALK

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Yuval Harari on the Value of Self-Study

“What’s good for everybody is to get to know yourself better because we are now entering the era where we are hackable animals…and there are corporations and governments that are trying to hack you whether you are a student or a billionaire…If you don’t get to know yourself, you become easy prey to all these organizations and governments that are hacking you as we speak… you have to run faster…previously you had no competition, but now you do.” 

—Yuval Noah Harari*

Listen to and/or read the following interviews from historian, Yuval Noah Harari for the reasons why self-study is the most important curriculum to engage in at this point in time.

WHEN TECH KNOWS YOU BETTER THAN YOURSELF
(INTERVIEW AND TRANSCRIPT)

YUVAL NOAH HARARI
Author of Sapiens, Homo Deus, and 21 Rules for the 21st Century

If you want to avoid being hacked, as Harari advises, then get ahead of the curve by starting to know yourself now for proper self-development.

The five lessons or “practices” of the Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Teen self-study for wisdom and wellness program are designed to help teens learn more about themselves by teaching them:

  • How to understand and manage your own attention (so nobody else can control you!)
  • How to become self-aware and know yourself better than anyone else (so nobody else can take advantage of your ignorance).
  • How to do what’s difficult, uncomfortable, and challenging to gain strength, grit, and resilience (so you are disciplined enough to do what’s necessary to thrive with a life of purpose and meaning).
  • How to respond rather than to react to challenges in the environment using self-control (with self-awareness and practiced control of one’s inner reserves, you can handle any sort of challenges calmly for good health)
  • How to approach life as landscapes for learning and see every experience as an opportunity for growth (instead of acting the dependent victim).

Knowing oneself IS the ESSENTIAL WISDOM needed for the coming decades.

Here’s more motivation:

IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE, YOUR FREEDOM IS GONE!

While everyone else is busy subscribing to learning the old skills and outdated curricula focused only on hard skills and content knowledge, students engaged in self-study using the Landscapes for Learning products and services will be gaining a hugely important edge in learning the new, most important life skills as the foundation for thriving in the coming decades of the 21st century.

We do ourselves and our future world a serious disservice if we continue to try to cram knowledge into our students’ heads within the same old industrial model of education, using outdated curricula and  testing. It’s simply not enough to be smart for the future. We must also be learning how to be wise. The first step is to focus inward to know oneself as best as one can. 

You can learn anything you want online or in school. But do you have the discipline to do it? Do you have the work ethic, focus, or control over your own attention to sustain the learning? Are you motivated intrinsically to grow and improve your skills and work on your weaknesses? Do you know your strengths and weaknesses? Do you know your own personality? Foundational to any kind of learning you do, from whatever source you access it, you must know who you are and what you are like to succeed in the endeavour to learn.

The Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Teen Self-Study for Wisdom and Wellness Program is what every student can use individually and independently to know themselves better, and  it’s what every teacher can implement in their classroom, and every school administrator can implement school-wide for more wisdom and wellness within a school’s community and culture.

The Landscapes for Learning simple yet powerful curricula can help high schools improve its culture and update its curriculum to prepare students more appropriately for optimally healthy lives in a world of rapid change, more pervasive AI, and a dramatically different future compared to any previous generations.

Complete the form below to subscribe for: more information about Landscape for Learning’s Self-Study programs,  resources, journaling program and curricula for students; to schedule a consultation for developing self-study for wisdom and wellness workshops and events at your school; and to get early access to the products and services that will be available online very soon!

References:

*Waking Up Podcast #138 

When Tech Knows You Better Than Yourself

Yuval Noah Harari’s website

Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Human

Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Teen

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Podcast 015: Future of Education: Learning Beyond Schooling

“I hope to help dismantle traditional schooling and its unhelpful,

outdated, damaging values and persuade teachers, school leaders, parents, and students

to focus their attention on better, more important ways of learning.

My goal is to support ALL parties in this transformation

with their humanity and a love for our shared humanity in tact.”

 

Reflections on Education, Yoga, Humanity and Change

This podcast episode is about my own learning about kids, yoga, and self-knowledge over my years teaching high school and raising my own kids. I talk about the future of constant change and how we need to radically alter education to help kids find and live their unique truth. I talk about interpreting images in a text, soft skills, values, the grading system, rescuing and preserving our humanity, and the differences between the usual business of traditional schooling and authentic learning, and much more.

 

The Landscapes for Learning Mission is to help kids thrive and flourish using tools they already own within them to navigate a future that will require them to surf the waves of change on novel landscapes.

I hope to help dismantle traditional schooling and its unhelpful, outdated, and damaging values and persuade teachers, schools, and students to focus their attention on better, more important ways of learning.  My goal is to support all parties in this transformation (and especially through loving and caring for our most valuable asset—our teachers) with their humanity and love for shared humanity in tact.

015 PODCAST DIRECT DOWNLOAD

Show Notes/References:

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

More Tough Love, Less Coddling

 

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

Please “Like” on Itunes.

Follow Landscapes for Learning: @ LandscapesforLearning.com

Twitter @Landscps4learn

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

Instagram: LandscapesforLearning27

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

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Podcast 014: On Trust

Here’s a short solo podcast about my thoughts about over-reliance on others rather than trusting oneself. This habit of excessive co-dependency is something that comes from the way we educate our kids.

Landscapes for Learning Podcast Episode #14 On Trust

Please “like” on iTunes and share with friends who might be interested in the future of American education.

 

 

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My Teachers

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

My students over the past 14 years

My four kids

My dog, Finn

My cat, Milo

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

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

Duncan Trussell Family podcast

Sam Harris, Waking Up with Sam Harris Podcast

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

Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art

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

Anne Lamott, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovery Mercy

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

Dr. Peter Gray & Self-Directed Education

Naval Ravikant (podcasts, videos)

Thomas Berry (interviews)

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

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

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

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

Mary Oliver: Upstream, and other poems

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

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

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

David Hawkins, Letting Go The Path to Surrender

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

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

Various writings in ecopsychology

Ruchard Louv, Nature Deficit Disorder

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

On the Ragged Edge of Silence John Francis

John Muir, writings

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

Shakti Gawain, Living in the Light

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

Joss Sheldon, The Little Voice: A rebellious novel

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

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

Zachary Slayback: The End of School: Reclaiming Education

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

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

Seth Godin, video interviews

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

Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Parker Palmer: The Courage to Teach, online videos

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

Tommy Rosen (online Recovery 2.0 Conferences)

The Mindfulness Summit Online Conference (the mindfulnesssummit.com)

Gabor Mate (videos, and podcast with Tim Ferriss)

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

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

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

Tony Robbins, I am Not Your Guru netflix special

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

George Carlin (standup acts online, youtube)

The Rich Roll podcast

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

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

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

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

Bikram and Rajashree Choudhury,  Emmy Cleaves (Bikram Yoga)

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, War and Peace

Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Leo Babauta (Zenhabits.org)

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

Wayne Dyer, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Mind

Bryan Caplan, The Case Against Education

Paramahansa Yogananda, Journey to Self-Realization

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

and many, many more…

 

 

 

 

 

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Know Thyself & Save the World

We need to stop subscribing to traditional, outdated schooling and

attitudes about conventional education

and instead engage in authentic learning for psychological

health and wellbeing, balance,

 to preserve our shared humanity,

and

prepare for a radically different future.

 

Q. How should we be educating people for the future? What should we study?

Some answers:

-How to change (often) and reinvent ourselves over and over again.

-Forget about hoping to stay in one profession for your entire life!

-Self-study, contemplation, and philosophy (for its practical applications)

-Study our shared humanity and the history of story-telling and its functions (to be able to decipher the difference between fiction and reality).

-Focus on the practice of physical and psychological balance and wellness.

-Understand suffering. It’s our greatest gauge of what’s real.

 

In the context of Harari’s talk and the above Q &A, it’s more obvious than ever that our methods of schooling are totally antiquated and in need of rapid, radical change. Landscapes for Learning will play a part in that transformation through consulting, coaching and support to prevent unnecessary suffering, and to help educators, parents and kids manage continual change and thrive.

We need to stop subscribing to traditional, outdated schooling and attitudes about conventional education (because it’s what we know and rely on and so comfortable, and it’s probably easier) and gain more understanding and execution of authentic learning (which won’t be easy)! We have the tools built into us!

As Harari says in this interview, social-emotional learning and psychological balance isn’t something that you can learn from a book. Self-study is the way. Landscapes for Learning can give you information and tools to get started on the road to self-knowledge so that you can discover and nurture a strong foundation of stability within.

*Stay tuned for my Landscapes for Learning Udemy courses that will provide people with tools, resources, and support to get started on this radical shift in how we learn, what and why we learn, attention and values for living in the present moment as well as preparing for an unpredictable future.

 

 

 

 

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Out with Grades, In with Soft Skills

 

If It’s Not About the Grades, then what kind of Learning Beyond Schooling?

Modern schooling still subscribes to the notion that “If it [skills/learning] isn’t measurable, it doesn’t matter,” but this is totally outdated!  According to Seth Godin, real work that matters, that is purposeful and fulfilling, relies more on “soft skills” than “hard skills.”

I believe that knowing oneself deeply by practicing tools for self awareness (introspection, writing, yoga, meditation, et al) and developing more soft skills is what parents and educators should be focusing on instead of the achievement and quest for grades for (overpriced/over-valued) college that merely shows the ability to play the game of traditional schooling well (temporary ingestion and synthesis of information and limited hard skills).

Educators need to let go of the content-coverage-curriculum mindset and make education about authentic learning: problem-solving, cooperation (rather than competition), an open exchange of ideas (crazy ones especially), character-building practices (honesty, integrity, patience, resilience, determination, self-control), mistakes, more mistakes, and play, as well as healthy dialogue.

Valuing balance, adapting to rapid change, and building our sense of security in a foundational sense of authentic humanity (our own and others’) is the education necessary for the future.  AI and robots will take care of the “hard skills,” so perhaps we humans should spend more time “being human.” Each of us will be healthier, better prepared, and empowered for an unpredictable future in both measurable and immeasurable ways.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We should teach them more yoga.

References

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

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

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

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

Definitions

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Not About the Grades: Love for Learning Beyond Schooling is very close to completion, so I am recording a reading of a few chapters for feedback, as a faster way of getting “peer review” before I write proposals for publishing the final manuscript.

INTRODUCTION 

Download Episode HERE

I would LOVE your input, insight, constructive criticism and HONEST feedback to improve this manuscript draft. And, of course, please share with teachers, parents, yogis, friends on your social network so I can get lots of good input! I would appreciate it!

I am days away from putting the final touches on the manuscript and readying it for readers for review. Enjoy (I hope!)

 

 

 

 

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Podcast 012: Preface, It’s Not About the Grades

It’s Not About the Grades: Love for Learning Beyond Schooling is very close to completion, so I am recording a reading of a few chapters for feedback, as a faster way of getting “peer review” before I write proposals for publishing the final manuscript.

THIS PODCAST IS A READING OF THE PREFACE, A LETTER TO STUDENTS

DOWNLOAD MP3

I would LOVE your input, insight, constructive criticism and HONEST feedback to improve this manuscript draft. And, of course, please share with teachers, parents, yogis, friends on your social network so I can get lots of good input! I would appreciate it!

I am days away from putting the final touches on the manuscript and readying it for readers for review. Enjoy (I hope!)

 

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Podcast 010: Nick Filth

Nick Filth grew up in an abusive home, dropped out of high school after ninth grade, was homeless for a time, and addicted to drugs, but ironically his experiences with THC and psychedelics sent him out of this world then back to his own life– his truth, which is a place and point of view way more expansive and stunningly beautiful and loving than ever. As soon as I connected with Nick at the Bikram yoga studio where I teach and he practices, we engaged in rich, interesting conversation right away, so naturally we had to record this podcast.

So what could a middle-aged, suburban mom, yoga teacher, and former high school teacher share in common with a tattoo artist with a 9th grade education and a proclivity for psychoactive experiences? Find out by listening to a long and winding conversation, and perhaps you’ll learn what you, too, share in common with both of us!

I am grateful to Nick for this podcast because his real and raw story about his life’s journey helped me re-think my current memoir about growing up with typical suburban American values of social comparison, competition, and where my pure, essential self, my true nature, was overpowered by and neglected because of the conditions and demands of my environment.

photo credit: Jenna Antonageli

I am also indebted to him as my teacher because I learned a ton, not only about him and his perspective but also because through the opportunity to dialogue, I can learn more about my own thinking and the ways I connect and communicate with other living beings who are so much more than just bodies controlled by brains. (See list of take-aways below).

In this podcast, we discuss psychedelics, the contrast between schooling and authentic learning; conditional and unconditional love; nature versus nurture; truth and expression; the value of balance as it applies to limits and structure and change; Nick’s visit to an ashram, his music, tattoos, meditation & yoga, my writing, and much more. My favourite part is near the end when Nick talks about how he responds to novelty and discomfort. He lives as if the landscapes are FOR his personal learning!  Yes!!

This is our contribution to the new long form media and podcasting trend. Please Enjoy! If you could “like” the podcast on iTunes, that’d be helpful and much appreciated.

You can find out more about Nick here:

His webpage:  http://www.nickfilthtattoos.com/

His Tattoo Shop: http://www.hiddenhistorytattoos.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shunryu Suzuki

 

 

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

JoanAmaral

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About LFL Podcast

In this first podcast, I introduce myself and my purpose for the Landscapes for Learning podcast.

I was motivated to create the Landscapes for Learning project to counter students’ and parents’ and schools’ over-valuation of grades and competition for college acceptance as the key to “the good life.” As a long-time educator, I saw this value and its related goals derail kids from exploring their inner lives and cause major anxiety and negative attitudes and mindsets about real learning. Students who failed to achieve hated learning because they defined learning and schooling as the same thing, which they are not. We have to teach our children by living out values each and every day that are more informed and healthy based on the true purpose of a whole and complete education for a human being in the 21st century.

I would like to create a new narrative about schooling– that it ought to be in service to the more important and broader umbrella of authentic learning, which includes real risk-taking, and the important trial and error process that fosters self-awareness, self-love, confidence, grit, patience, entrepreneurial spirit, and the conscious and deliberate self-actualization of each individual.

Every kid has potential that deserves to be actualized so they can become the truest and best version of the person they were born to be!

A wisdom curriculum and promotion of a love of learning beyond schooling must be an essential part of the curriculum in secondary education (grades 8-12) especially if the system continues in its current (nearly outdated) form.

I hope the stories of ordinary people traveling the landscapes both inner and outer inspire and support a love of authentic learning among all listeners.

 

 

 

 

 

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Podcast: A Parent-Teacher Conference

Solo Podcast: A Parent-Teacher Conference

“A Parent-Teacher Conference about Values” is a solo episode about my book-in-progress It’s Not About The Grades: Love for Learning Beyond Schooling which I hope to revise and publish in the coming months.

I provide a brief, yet incomplete, overview of the book in progress and read an excerpt from a chapter that is about the parent-teacher conference I wanted to have while a high school teacher but never really could. Now that I have resigned from my position, I am able to discuss what I see as the critical piece missing from a complete education for high school students and how it is severely overshadowed and almost drowned out completely by the over-valuing of grades.

I invite parents (and schools) into a conversation about a serious reflection on their values and our culture’s values and the mental health of teens, not merely to help kids to be successful students and achievers but rather to be whole, healthy, individual human beings who are able to self-actualize and blossom throughout their lives. This is the process of yoga, an exploration of the inner landscape!

I welcome your comments on the podcast in iTunes or feel free to share your thoughts by emailing me at landscapesforlearning27@gmail.com or leave a comment on this post.

Thanks!

Image credit: https://www.geeksaresexy.net/2011/02/12/bad-grades-1960-vs-2010-cartoon/

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Podcast: The Value of Silent Meditation with Allen Gaskell

ITunes Podcast: 006: The Value of Silent Meditation with Allen Gaskell

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone”

— Blaise Pascal

One of my goals with the Landscapes for Learning project is to draw more attention to the need for an explicitly taught wisdom curriculum for high schoolers as a counter balance to all the demands of the external landscape put upon kids today.

To become wise is to know oneself– one’s essential or fundamental self which is always in a state of becoming and might be creatively developed throughout life. This essential self is foundational to the more social self—roles we play in the practical world, the expectations of others we try to meet. If we can help kids live from the inside out early on in their young lives, they may just be able to stay true to themselves– to their authentic selves so that they always have shelter, a home, to which they can return when life on the external landscapes get challenging.

One way to travel one’s inner landscape is through meditation. Meditation and mindfulness practice has become trendy recently, and it is useful as a relaxation tool, but it’s also an avenue to something deeper– to enter into the world of the essential self.

Allen Gaskell has been practicing meditation regularly for many decades, as well as practicing yoga, forest-bathing (which he didn’t know had that name until recently!), white-water rafting, and other outdoor immersion activities. He is a former Mental Health Counselor who worked in prisons, within the court system, and created a counseling center at Salem State University. He also worked for many years with Veterans with PTSD. A Vietnam Veteran (3 Tours of duty in reconnaissance and wounded in action), Allen enthusiastically enlisted in the military after high school in N.Y. and later attended college to study comparative religion at the University of Vermont. Shortly after, he stumbled across a book about Vipassana and the rest is meditation and mindfulness history.

He recently completed a 90-day silent retreat this past fall, so I was curious about what that experience was like and thought others might be interested as well. He talks with me about the value of meditation in his life, especially today in a very noisy and busy external landscape.

We talk about the workings of our minds when we observe it through meditation or yoga practice, thoughts about why, how, and who ought to be teaching about the inner landscapes, how to “sell” suffering to others or invite them into self-reflection and self-awareness, and how to learn more about our own humanity to recover it from a life in a technological-consumerist culture.

I loved our almost entirely unedited two-hour conversation! Enjoy.

Click Here for ITunes Podcast: 006: The Value of Silent Meditation with Allen Gaskell

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Love for Learning Beyond Schooling

A love for learning is much different than a love for school.

My greatest concern during my tenure as a high school English teacher was kids’ lack of understanding of and appreciation for learning. I don’t mean that they did not appreciate or love my lessons (some did, some did not). I mean, they thought they didn’t love learning because they didn’t love school. And I heard too many kids say, I am never going to school again once I am outta here! Most kids, likely subconsciously or unconsciously, associate learning with schooling and think they are the same thing. If that is true, then,  “I am never going to learn again” is a scary prospect. Yikes!

Students have been conditioned with an overly-utilitarian attitude toward “learning” (that takes place in school) which by nature of its very definition does not encourage them to learn for the sake of learning, for its sheer joy and love, nor see how learning would automatically water their seeds for personal growth even without their conscious effort.

My students’ perception of learning was that it was the same exact thing as schooling: a set of requirements done in a particular manner toward a particular end. For some, the end was college entrance and preparedness for more academic forms of learning. This narrative of competition for college acceptance (as if it was the guaranteed key to a happy life) was implanted in their minds from a young age by their parents and reinforced by school. “Learning” thereby became a job, a duty, an obligation, something weighing upon kids and causing tremendous amounts of stress for many. For many others, “getting good grades” shaped their identity– their job defined them! (I will not describe the nature or degree of the stress here or the conflict and suffering involved with developing identity among teens, though these problems are the result of over-valuing of schooling rather than learning.)For others, “learning” was about gaining the diploma to enable them to qualify for the world of employment. Again, a hoop to jump through to get to “the next thing,” and a requirement imposed by an external force, the state (that basically needs daycare until kids can become productive workers and contribute to the economy. A holding place.)

Notice that for both types of students described above, neither were living in the present moment in terms of their learning, but rather living for their future selves– people they could not possibly know but only make guesses about. There’s nothing wrong with setting goals for the future, for additional academic training or work in the world, or duty, or managing responsibility, or being asked to meet expectations for performance or preparedness to live in a reality that is economic. I only argue that a definition of learning that is limited only to school and utilitarian ends is counter to fostering a genuine love for learning, all forms of learning, beyond school, and that it neglects the developmental needs of a fully-actualizing individual human being. It also makes it extraordinarily difficult for the learner to live in the present, to appreciate life, learning, as it unfolds in each moment. Perhaps this is also why some students don’t seem as alive as they might be.

I worry that young people will leave high school believing that schooling is the same thing as learning and that that narrow understanding will prohibit them from realizing their own possibilities on the many landscapes for learning. I worry that they will miss out on knowing what a love for learning as a lifestyle would do for their growth and their potential as human beings, not just human achievers, accomplishers, competitors, or doers.

Learning isn’t the same thing as schooling; it’s much more than acquiring useful information and skills laid out in a curriculum that couldn’t possibly cover everything that is “essential” to know for life. School is bounded learning whereas the landscapes for learning are limitless, and that is exciting– just like love is exciting. Similarly, as they say about finding love, “There’s someone for everyone,” there’s also  learning for everyone, beyond school, across the landscapes, no matter what level of academic or formal schooling anyone has attempted or completed. And whereas you can fail at school, you can never fail at learning. I want kids to know this.

Schooling is definitely a very important part of the equation of self-realization, but it isn’t the whole story, and I know most people know this. But the confines of school prohibits us in many ways from enacting what we know to be true and right. I do hope to invite people, especially parents, educators, and students to join me in putting school in its proper perspective, not just intellectually, but by taking action— focusing attention, resources, and effort on learning beyond schooling.  Literally, schooling needs to be minimized and frankly, valued less or at least properly understood for what it provides for overall learning. Schooling ought to be nested under the umbrella of authentic learning which is much more broad and wide, full of possibility, love, and potential for individual people.  Ironic–yes, but less would definitely be more in terms of a complete education.

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The Pain and Hurt of Yoga

One fine morning after teaching a Bikram yoga class, a student charged out into the lobby to ask me why I used the word “pain” and “hurt” repeatedly throughout class with regard to the postures.  She clearly didn’t like it.

You know how sometimes some people begin an oncoming verbal attack with a seemingly polite question? You know, they’re “just curious” about something? This was one of those times. I wasn’t surprised by the question as much as I was shocked by her obvious fury, though I shouldn’t have been, as I have dealt with similar people and complaints in my job as a high school teacher.

“…push your head back until your neck hurts a little bit…”

“…you’re back is going to hurt don’t be scared…”

“…creating a tremendous stretching feeling, pain sensation…”

“…your back is supposed to hurt…”

“…elbows are supposed to hurt…”

“…make sure your back hurt…”

“…make sure your shoulders hurt…”

“…neck might hurt a little bit…”

Clearly, she wanted to engage me in an argument. She wanted justice done — for me to eliminate saying the words “pain” and “hurt,” as she believed the terms were misleading at best and flat out wrong at worst; to be telling people they should feel pain during a yoga posture seemed heretical to her. The notion of feeling pain, hurt, or any sort of discomfort seemed counter to her notions about yoga as healing and serene, among her other perhaps stereotypical perceptions about yoga practice— you know, namaste and all that shit.

This interaction presented me with a wonderful opportunity to think about the role of pain and hurt in the process of yoga practice, and more generally, to life and learning. Such thinking has led me to articulate for myself what makes my life as a teacher meaningful.

I don’t recall providing her with a fully articulated response at the time, but upon reflection, this is what I would have liked to have said. The first answer about pain comes from B.K.S. Iyengar who writes in Light on Life:

“…pain is an unavoidable part of asana practice…The pain is there as a teacher, because life is filled with pain. In the struggle alone, there is knowledge. Only when there is pain will you see the light. Pain is your guru. As we experience pleasures happily, we must also learn not to lose our happiness when pain comes. As we see good in pleasure, we should learn to see good in pain. Learn to find comfort even in discomfort. We must not try to run from the pain but to move through and beyond it. This is the cultivation of tenacity and perseverance, which is a spiritual attitude toward yoga. This is also the spiritual attitude toward life. Just as the ethical codes of yoga purify our actions in the world, the asanas and pranayama purify our inner world. We use these practices to help us learn to bear and overcome the inevitable pains and afflictions of life.”  (Iyengar, 871-877)

Iyengar’s words suggest that we remain humble and curious, respectful toward pain, as it is our teacher, our guru. This takes discipline and practice to learn, to get better at, to master, so the repeated reminders about “hurt” and “pain” within the Bikram yoga dialogue seem not only merely warranted or justified but appropriate and absolutely necessary.

Perhaps some yoga teachers will disagree with me (or Iyengar) on this point about pain, and that’s to be expected, but as a high school teacher, I have additional experience with resistance to such assertions.

I have many students and parents (and ,occasionally, other educators) who, like the questioning woman in my yoga class, object quite vociferously to the appropriate and necessary pain involved in the learning process that typically results from failure not only to learn but to achieve desired grades (and, by the way, yes, there’s a very important distinction between the two- a post for another day.)

The pain my students might experience and the variety of suffering they learn to cope with and manage in my classroom is healthy and paramount to their success and authentic growth as human beings, just as it is among the yogis within the asanas in the hot room. However, in today’s cultural climate of “everybody is a winner!” and “snowflake” parenting, such proclamations about pain are considered subversive.

People don’t like pain. They run from it, avoid it, and believe everyone else does the same which justifies such behavior and group think. Nevertheless, as a yogi who has developed an unconventional relationship with pain, I often seem to walk on thin ice, as my attitudes and approach to teaching and learning run counter to local cultural norms and expectations. I do not encourage risk-aversion, and that makes people uncomfortable– which is the point and the thing to practice.  

Adherence to the notion that real learning involves pain and sometimes hurt and a little to a lot of suffering is grounded in what it means to be human. I know this to be true through study of human nature and as witness to the amazing success of my colleagues over many years teaching and being a student of great teachers myself. This boldness and bravery is what enables me to be a perennial learner and therefore to walk the walk,  as teacher, without becoming completely discouraged. Such an attitude and disposition is exactly what is required to be effective within the institution of education today– that is, to get people to actually learn about themselves and their own humanity rather than merely achieve high grades or other unrelated objectives that have become fashionable. 

I am with Iyengar, all the way, on pain being the guru, whether it comes to learning math, writing, chemistry, dealing with romantic breakups, social phobias or anxiety, or whatever other dragons people or potential heroes may need to slay in their individual lives. No true growth and change happen without the presence of pain. The sooner you change your mind about it and make friends with it, the better. 

Living out the belief about teaching and learning as painful is difficult, as I am sure many teachers can understand. It would be easier to eliminate the words from the yoga dialogue to appease that woman and anyone else like her, or tell my students’ parents what they want to hear about their child, or inflate a grade to avoid problems with a supervisor. I have to defend my practical philosophy with steadfastness, on a regular basis, and that takes rationality, discipline, energy, and confidence; I am consistently making critical judgments and trusting my gut about when to spare the rod, apply tough love, or witness additional struggling of students. I am always trying to figure out whether to listen or speak, jump in and help, or allow the person to flounder and suffer more to reach their ultimate destination. Sometimes teaching is like sitting next to a terminally ill person and watching them die— because, in fact, sometimes people have to burn up and destroy themselves altogether before they can put themselves back together or be reborn. It’s painful to do, and painful to watch. 

It’s physically and emotionally challenging to be a part of so many people’s pain-filled journeys each day, over the course of many years, in the classroom and in the yoga studio. There’s a lot of energy that a teacher both gives and receives from collections of students each day, each class. There’s a lot of resistance. But, just like our students, we continue to engage with our own pain, learn how to resist it less, and try to be the model of learning our students need. 

Setting limits that cause a student to “hurt a little bit,” like saying no as a parent, or rejecting one good cause to enact a great and far more beneficial cause is something for which teachers need understanding. They don’t necessarily need your blessing or agreement, but fewer obstacles and objections would be nice, so they can continue to “be there” for students, to remain present as the steady witness to the learner on their unique, individual journey. Empathy is all. Suffering, as best we can, together is compassion.

Explaining this process to teenagers (and their parents and other staff) who struggle with the notion of the inevitable pain and hurt of learning— stewarding them through their “school yoga” is an enormous challenge, but one I still believe is worth taking on, even though on many days, the resistance to this process seems overwhelming. 

Life is a series of continual states of brief comfort alternating with disruption, disorientation, and discomfort, yes, including pain and hurt. We are constantly mapping out our lives, and re-mapping when obstacles arise, as they inevitably will. In this constant tooling and re-tooling process, theorizing, or what others have called mental masturbation, does nothing to prepare you for the real, practical challenges you will face in your life.

So the yoga practice? the life learning? Yes, it has to hurt a little bit, it has to be real, it has to be acted out, and even cause a “pain sensation,” because “tremendous stretching” hurts, whether you like it or not, think it’s unfair or not. Bikram’s dialogue is precise and accurate, carefully construed. Eliminating the words of “pain” or “supposed to hurt” robs students of important learning and the potential for authentic mental physical and spiritual growth.

As Iyengar says, “…the practices of yoga show us how much pain the body can bear and how much affliction the mind can tolerate. Since pain is inevitable, asana is a laboratory in which we discover how to tolerate the pain that cannot be avoided and how to transform the pain that can.”

Gaining such wisdom might hurt a little bit, but there’s no better process to dedicate yourself to than mining your own suffering for meaning and truth. And there is no better profession than teaching to witness such beautiful transformation.

*Bikram Yoga Beginning Yoga Practice, Teacher’s Dialogue

**Iyengar, B.K.S.. Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom (Kindle Locations 877-879). Rodale. Kindle Edition.

 

 

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Meta: Why Learning? Why Landscapes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I am here. Now what?

 

A meditation on learning and brief defense of the humanities.

Life is suffering.

Life is one big problem; it’s problem after problem after problem after problem, isn’t it? I am not trying to be Debbie Downer here, but this is the fundamental truth of human life–it involves suffering. Nobody denies that pain is true. If you haven’t figured this out for yourself based on your own experience, stories from religious tradition and classic myths from around the planet have made this clear since as far back as we can recall. So has the story of human history. And, again, if you didn’t already realize this in your own life, human beings suffer to greater and lesser degrees, depending on circumstances. If you were born Jewish at the turn of the 20th century in Germany or Russia, for instance, well then, your particular brand of suffering was likely immense– practically beyond rational comprehension. Yet, if you are as lucky as me to be a college-educated, middle-class, professionally employed, white American woman with a fairly high IQ and good physical health, then your suffering is of a different sort. Though such difference exists, pain and suffering is real for all human beings, one way or another.

 

burden sysiphus

 

So what do we do when we become consciously aware that we suffer? Well, we either learn to accept and deal with the suffering, or we don’t. And if we don’t, we either run, remain in a constant state of anxiety that compromises our health, or we settle for an identity as helpless victim at the whim of a threatening universe. We will suffer continually whether we deal with it or not; we may also cause additional suffering for ourselves and others and the planet if we remain capable victims! So who or what teaches us to accept our suffering and problem-solve?

Here are two problems most humans face: How do I live or act in the world? Is my life meaningful? Another way to put this is, “I am here. Now what?” I mean, What do we do? The survival of humanity literally depends on our capacity and willingness to face problems and learn how to solve or at least somewhat effectively address them rather than pretending they don’t exist or otherwise ignoring them out of fear or laziness or entitlement (and ignoring is so easy with all the many delicious distractions that we choose in order to stay oblivious, busy, or continually satiated; perhaps we get fat and happy, but is that meaningful?)

It’s no surprise that all sorts of addiction, anxiety, violence, and terrorism, pervade contemporary life. How well are we bearing our burden? What are we doing to cope? Are we running, hiding, numbing out, pretending? Are parents and educational institutions properly preparing young people to bear the burden of a life of suffering? Do we teach them the knowledge and arm them with the tools they’ll need to problem-solve? Do we teach them their responsibility to themselves and their community? Do we warn them that none of this will be easy? Are we honest, or do we shield and protect them from the harsh truth of reality by spoiling, coddling, or desensitizing them, effectively reducing their chances of a meaningful life and sentencing them to permanent victimhood? 

 

suffering

 

There are a lot of factors involved with how we learn or not, and cope or not, how we find the bravery and courage needed to deal with our problems or not. Human beings are very, very, very complicated, seemingly beyond measure. Because we are each unique, our learning should be primarily about self-understanding. We must ask the question and find the answer to “What makes me tick?” Each individual must know what it means to be a human being, intimately and thoroughly, so as to become aware and responsible for one’s place in the world and one’s relationship to others and the natural environment. We also must understand how other people tick. Perhaps all of this seems a terrible reality, a tremendously difficult obligation that also causes us to suffer. It doesn’t sound like fun. It sounds like work. Yes. You have a choice to pick up this burden or not. If you don’t, the burden will fall to others, in one way or another, and, even then, you will suffer along with everyone else anyway, one way or another. 

We are social animals. We live in groups. We can be vicious and cruel beyond comprehension and creative, imaginative, and loving beyond belief. We are a complicated web of synapses and chemicals; we are bodies that function optimally and minimally, sometimes abysmally. There’s a lot to learn.  And it isn’t easy, even for the most intelligent. So what shall be the purpose of education? And what about those less fortunate, those born with fewer capacities or personality disorder, chemical imbalances, low IQs? Again, the responsibility falls to the able, willing, and courageous in the group. Ugh, more work! More suffering! More meaning. More relief. More love and appreciation. More survival.

And, by the way, formal “schooling” isn’t necessarily the only route to learning. (In fact, unschooling may be equally effective as the most effective types of schooling.) One of the most accessible (and efficient) ways to understand human nature and human suffering is to immerse yourself in stories, the stories of your own life and of others’ lives. You can also explore the myths and great narratives from around the world and study history—these are the stories that embody the life experiences of humans since the beginning of their conscious awareness of their own existence and its inherent problems. These works of art are available through multiple media formats today, and many of the archetypal stories from antiquity are retold in ways accessible to millions of people all over the world. Stories bind us, always have, and always will. Check some of them out. They will speak directly to you. They are about you. They have been created for you. See what you can learn.

 

humnaities

 

I doubt very much that science can solve every single problem for every single person in this world. I doubt that any sort of government can alleviate the oppression of every single oppressed individual (and it does come down to each individual because we are each uniquely oppressed). I doubt that blaming and finger-pointing or ramming an ideological stance down someone else’s throat will be productive either. I doubt that remaining ignorant and dependent is helpful. History shows otherwise.

It might be useful to learn how best to deal with human suffering and problems in our world, in our individual lives, each one of us, through an understanding of our own humanity. We have a responsibility, a moral obligation, to continue our education throughout our lives, not just when school ends.  We can always, at any time, both turn inward to get to know ourselves better (and we change continually!) and look to our ancestors and the stories they told about what they learned, how they coped, to instruct us on how we might cope too. Find good teachers.

There’s much to learn about yourself, the world, the unknown, and the best way to start educating yourself is to become immersed in a study of the humanities and therefore your own humanity. Continuing your education — learning— should be the focus of your life. You should be striving to learn everyday, not only learning about yourself and the world, all the unknowns of your life, but also learning how learning works, learning how to learn, and learning to learn better. All of your effort will not only make the world a better place but the quality of your life will be immeasurably richer and more meaningful.

 

art humanity

 

Humans have made civilization possible and we have made life infinitely better in a number of ways because of our voracious desire to learn. And, even more importantly, we have survived because we have learned to act according to moral truths– that is, in appropriate ways that prevent us from using all our brilliance to self-destruct and destroy the planet. We haven’t allowed the evil that resides in all of us to completely destroy our race or our humanity….yet.  A lot has had to go right for us to continue to exist at all. Let’s continue to teach our kids to look to the stories from our past to guide us in constructing meaningful lives and ensure our survival. Let’s revisit those stories ourselves, again and again. Let’s support the arts and the humanities,  not as an interesting relic of a classical education, but because it is urgent for our continued survival and the exact type of education the world needs most, right now.