Posted on Leave a comment

Simple (not easy) Practice: Rewriting Challenge

Simple (not easy) Practice: Rewriting Challenge

Today’s Simple (not easy) Practice is taken from the “Challenge Audit” in Part III: Challenge of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self-Study Guide for Wellness. Challenge is at the heart of knowing who you are which is one reason why it is smack dab in the middle of the book. Challenge is at the heart, the crux, of self-study for self-realization!

In the “Challenge Audit,” I encourage you to slow down, to stop and reflect in writing about your challenges.  (Writing is a powerful therapeutic tool!) Most people are too busy or too afraid to stop and take stock. But, if people are in enough pain or their lives are unsatisfactory enough or completely falling apart in various ways, they may finally be more willing to slow down enough or stop long enough to take stock of the landscape (i.e. look at what the hell is going on) of their life and the things that are causing such pain and dissatisfaction. Those things may be external, internal, or both, and it takes honesty and study to discern the truth.

Of course, you don’t have to wait until you hit rock bottom to start paying attention to your challenges–– you can practice surveying the landscape of your life regularly, as a habit built into your moments of your days, through practices like this one, journaling, meditation , yoga or however else you can be quiet, introspective, and breathe easy. Introspection and reflection are always available as tools for wellness, but for many they, too, are challenges. Sometimes when we are searching frantically for answers or to calm down, we miss the solution, literally, right under our nose.

There are several writing prompts listed in the “Challenge Audit,” but here’s a few for today’s Simple (not easy) Practice:

“Specify and categorize your challenges using the List of Common Human Challenges categories. Merely listing or writing about them (however poorly) may be a step forward in facing them, understanding them more clearly by using specific language to define them, and creating a plan to cope with them.”

“Can you define your challenges as problems to suffer with or as opportunities to define yourself and grow–– to become more alive? In other words, what’s your mindset when it comes to your challenges?”

“Can you rewrite one or some of your challenges as opportunities for learning?”

(This is playing with the very notion of challenge, how you perceive and define it, how you relate to it, feel about it, and behave toward it.)

Try writing about how a/some/all of your challenges contribute to your personal wholeness (i.e. the ‘whole of you’ as a human person).

Notice the way you look at things….

Notice the language you use when writing about challenge…

There’s no wrong way to answer these prompts or to write about them or to think about them. They are meant to get you to pay attention to yourself, reflect on the notion of challenge and your personal challenges, and to notice and learn, a little bit at a time. The more you learn about your challenges and the role they play in how you construct your world (inner– how you see and relate to yourself, and outer–they way you see and relate to “what happens” out there), the more wisdom you’ll acquire for your wellness.

Rather than relating to this as a task to accomplish or as finding the answer to your challenges or to making pain disappear, try to relate to it as a process. Focus less on outcomes and more on experiencing the process of learning.

PODCAST #18 ON CHALLENGE

PODCAST #17 ON OPPORTUNITY MINDSET

Posted on Leave a comment

Classic Wisdom for Modern Humans: A WORK IN PROGRESS

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

 

LANDSCAPES FOR LEARNING

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

BALANCE IS WELLNESS

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

FRIEND YOURSELF

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

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

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

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

HONEST PRACTICE

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

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

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

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

 27 Take-Aways

from

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

Since everyone seems to be publishing books with rules for life and lists for “best” something or other, I thought I would make a list of possible take-aways from It’s Not About the Grades: Landscapes for Learning Beyond Schooling, my newest memoir of a life in school currently in progress. Truth be told, I am revising the manuscript and wondering what the heck it is I am trying to convey to readers, so I wrote a list for myself and so why not share it with you?

Here goes…

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

 

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

Posted on Leave a comment

Becoming a Teacher

On Becoming a Teacher

When you find out who you are, you find out you are limited: by rules, norms, laws, other people, physically, mentally, psychologically, intellectually. Your mind limits you as does your body; your birth limits you, as does your environment– all that is external to you, nature, and internal, by nature.

Limits are twofold: they can be restraints that save your life and nurture you, or they can be obstacles to overcome.They can preserve your life or keep you from flourishing. Limits can be imposed from the external landscape or from within your own inner landscape. They’re everywhere, always.

Limits are the teachers in your life who will always be ready with lessons. If you approach life as if you were perennial a student, then you will continually learn from limits. This won’t be an easy curriculum, but the more engaged you are with this kind of learning, the more you participate, ask thoughtful and sincere questions, and work hard with honesty and integrity to understand, the more you’ll grow and flourish as a the best you possible. You will be alive and well.

You will be a teacher.

Posted on Leave a comment

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

This is a hypothetical letter to high school students that I am using for the opening of my book-in-progress, It’s Not About the Grades: Love for Learning Beyond Schooling. I am under no illusion that a high school student, a 14-18 year old, would likely be engaged in actually reading such a lengthy “text” such as this, nor would I write with this voice and style if I was honestly trying to engage a high school student. The “Dear John” is merely a tool created to engage the primary audience which is parents, mainly, or others with any casual or serious interest in the world of learning, school, or education.  Partly, I imagine that parents may be concerned about a teacher who is attempting to influence (or otherwise inculcate) their child and so be interested in reading. They ought to pay attention if they aren’t already.

Dear High School Students,

There are landscapes for learning which extend far beyond school, one of which is an inner landscape that is waiting for you– waiting to be explored in order for you to know your truest, most essential self– your authentic self. You will acquire knowledge on the external landscapes that will certainly help you navigate the social world, the world outside yourself, that one clamouring for your attention all the time, but you will also gain wisdom from time spent learning on your inner landscape– the landscape that you might have an intuition exists but perhaps you haven’t been able to access properly or effectively. You need both landscapes for learning, where you can acquire both knowledge about the external world and deep, important wisdom within to be 100% authentically you– the truest you that the world needs– who you are in each and every moment and destined and meant to be as you continually change and grow.

After a long career in education—as a student on many levels of school, as a softball coach, high school English teacher, and teacher-educator, and single-mom of four college-educated young adults, I finally discovered, at midlife, that being “educated” in the traditional academic sense is not the key to a meaningful, quality, healthy life. I wished someone had taught me about the landscapes for learning sooner, especially the untapped inner landscape, which is why I am writing to you. I was limited in my understanding of learning and I discovered that my “education” was, indeed, incomplete, in the same way I believe formal education, especially high school, still is today. I’d like to offer you insight to possibly improve your experiences at school, to value the process of schooling in a new way, and challenge you to do something difficult that will afford you the great payoffs of fulfilment and meaning for your life: spend time alone, quietly, reflectively, through introspection getting to know yourself–your truest, most authentic self, as often as possible, every day. If you can manage to eat each day, then you also can feed yourself daily, regularly, repeatedly with your own attention— which, like good, nutritious food, is life-sustaining and necessary for vitality, wholeness, and wellness.

In order to be a successful social creature, you need to know who you are, as an individual—before you can consciously agree to identify with or define yourself as a member of a particular group or groups in the external world. If you do not gain the courage or the ability to spend time focused on your own inner landscape– the world of you, and value this lifelong quest as critical to becoming the fullest and truest you possible, then the social world: your parents, your friends, your society, the media and the market will shape you relentlessly without your consent, as you remain blissfully unaware, a product of your environment unbeknownst to yourself, childlike, and immature. Growing up, being an adult and “joining” society at large is not about going to college, getting a career, gaining prestige and money; rather, it’s knowing who you are at your core– it’s an understanding of how your body, mind, and spirit works; it’s about understanding human nature and your own specific human nature– all of it: good, bad, and continually changing, and taking 100% responsibility for this person that you ought to know (and love) better than you know anyone or anything else in the world. I learned most of this when I left the world of formal education to become a yoga teacher.

It’s Not About The Grades: Love for Learning Beyond Schooling is one product of my larger Landscapes for Learning project, which is my way of escaping the narrow confines of the high school classroom to begin a serious conversation with you and your parents and teachers about what I see missing from a truly complete education for teenagers— that is, teaching and learning about the wholeness and vitality of the individual human being, from the inside out. I hope to show you that a more conscious application of the principles of yoga can change your life, as they did my own.

Ironically, I quit my job to dedicate myself to yoga, writing, and more authentic forms of learning– that is, to continue to teach unencumbered by the inherent problems of a formal schooling environment.  My personal story about what I learned about myself from the experience of teaching inside high school and getting outside the confines of the classroom is meant to make you and other people think, mainly your parents, about the definition of education and its purpose and challenge them to rethink the “why” of educating you. I hope to encourage reflection from educators about their identity as teacher and the role they play in schooling as well as more authentic forms of learning. It’s also meant to positively influence you to be the best possible individual you can be which begins with encouraging you to look up from your phone and inward. Rather than aiming at a narrow definition of achievement in school prescribed by tradition or following the contemporary cultural narratives about material success continuously and relentlessly vying for and dominating your attention, which appears to be in ever shorter supply and severely limited, you need to focus more attention on what it means to simply be— be who you are, in each moment, rather than overly-anxious or “stressed out” about “finding your passion” or what you are supposed to do based on what everyone else thinks you should when you grow up. You have no idea who your future self will be if you don’t get to know the you of now!

The story of my travels both in the classroom and beyond school is about the journey of self-actualization that took place both geographically, around the world and back during my brief absences from teaching high school, and within my own inner landscapes through yoga. As an escaped teacher freely roaming the landscapes for learning, my story contains observations about what I learned about my own humanity and our shared humanity. Ultimately storytelling is about empathy, a shared experience between the storyteller and the listener, so in this respect, I hope that your experience with my story will inspire you (and your parents and your school) to find more balance upon the landscapes for learning, that is, to do more yoga in order to become more vital, more alive, and more healthy and well throughout your life. I will help you do just that, by example and through explicit instruction, as I lay out my experiences in the pages ahead.

Namaste,

Your Yoga Teacher

Posted on Leave a comment

Who am I?

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

Who Am I?

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

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

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

Jungquote1

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

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

Facing Discomfort as the New Normal 

passionsjung

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

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

Search Inside Yourself

terrorjung

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

Attention, Concentration, Meditation

payattention

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

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

Love, not Fear

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

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

insideawakesjung

Too Good, No Good

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

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

mostfearjung

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

Disconnection and Reconnection 

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

Friend Yourself

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

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

jungdarkness

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

Strength, Flexibility, and Balance

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

Setting Intentions for Your Practice

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

 

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

Tony Robbins, I am Not Your Guru netflix special

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

George Carlin (standup acts online, youtube)

The Rich Roll podcast

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

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

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

Bret Weinstein (interviews with Dave Rubin and Joe Rogan)

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

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

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

Duncan Trussell Family podcast

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

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

Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art

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

Anne Lamott, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovery Mercy

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

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

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

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

Mary Oliver: Upstream, and other poems

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

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

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

David Hawkins, Letting Go The Path to Surrender

Tori Hicks-Glogowski (Views from the Podium blog)

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

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

Writings in ecopsychology.

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

On the Ragged Edge of Silence John Francis

John Muir, writings

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

Shakti Gawain, Living in the Light

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

Joss Sheldon, The Little Voice: A rebellious novel

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

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

Zachary Slayback: The End of School: Reclaiming Education

Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

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

Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Parker Palmer: The Courage to Teach, online videos

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

Tommy Rosen (online Recovery 2.0)

The Mindfulness Summit Online Conference (the mindfulnesssummit.com)

Gabor Mate (videos, and podcasts with Tim Ferriss)

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

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

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

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