Posted on Leave a comment

Simple Practice: Neutral Observation

Simple Practice on the Landscapes for Learning!

Neutral Observation

For one day, or one part of one day, or one hour of one day— look at your life as your classroom, a landscape for observation and nothing more. Consciously and intentionally decide that you will commit to trying to see your experiences (within a given period of time of your choosing, brief or throughout your day) as individual opportunities to simply observe, to notice, to watch from within your interior world–– without critical or value judgment. It’s simply an exercise in mindfulness meditation; it’s to observe reality/what’s happening non-judgmentally.

Imagine the above applied to one experience with a person, perhaps someone with whom you have conflict. Perhaps today is the day where instead of reacting per usual, you simply remain neutral and observe this person. Simple (not easy) practice. This is about learning about YOURSELF not the other person.

Practice process living to “be with” or “fully in” each moment as each one unfolds.

You will have to slow waaaaay down, relax (exhale slowwwwlllyyyy), and focus on what’s happening in the moment (rather than being lost in the past or “getting ahead of yourself,” or if it’s with another person, then not thinking about what your going to say next).

TRY to be present with a neutral attitude, an attitude toward whatever happens today in your day as merely fodder for dispassionate observation, for curiosity– what happens when I just observe?

JUST NOTICE and “be with” whatever is happening.

If you feel resistance,frustration, or disappointment, joy, relaxation, or whatever– just notice these, too, as moments to “be” with, non-judgmentally! It’s all OKAY!

Simple Practice isn’t perfect. It’s PLAY.

Later, you might like to write about your experiences of trying to be the curious, nonjudgmental observer, recording and reflecting on what you learned.

 

Posted on

Another Simple (not easy) Practice: Learning Mindset

What if you chose to believe or played with the notion that everything that happens to you happens for you instead?

How would such a shift in perspective to a “landscapes for learning” mindset change your life for just today while you try it?

Today’s Simple Practice invites you to try out a Landscapes for learning mindset—to practice it consciously throughout a day or so and write about your experiences.

Get curious about how the world might look, your reality, if you view every experience you have as an OPPORTUNITY for learning rather than reacting out of unconscious habit or per usual. This daily practice, as the others, encourages you to disrupt your own status quo for growth and wellness!

Just try!

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Anti-fragility Training

Bikram Yoga as Anti-fragility Training

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

Bikram yoga is EN–COURAGING.

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

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

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

QUIZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Podcast HERE

The answer is B.

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

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

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

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

Posted on Leave a comment

Podcast 17: LEARNING as OPPORTUNITY MINDSET

In this podcast, I read Part V: LEARNING from

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

The podcast includes subtopics like:

*Vulnerability as intrinsic to learning process and creating meaning

*Parenting without safe-space or victim mentality

*Schooling discourages failure and uniqueness

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

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

 

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

Posted on Leave a comment

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!

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

How to Use the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide for Wellness

“To know yourself you need not go to any book, to any priest, to any psychologist. The whole treasure is within yourself.”

— Jiddu Krishnamurti

Each of the five parts of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Bikram Yoga Teacher’s Self Study Guide for Wellness contains a rationale, helpful definitions, self-study exercises, and prompts for journal writing. (Additional information related to self study can be found in the Appendices & References at the end of the Guide.)

The activities contained within the self study program: self-observation and audits, introspection, writing, meditation, Bikram Yoga practice, and listening are meant to get you started on your journey to know yourself better. Some practices will be more useful or more comfortable than others. Most can be repeated, some can be modified to suit your needs and others entirely ignored. It’s up to you because it’s your personal curriculum, your individual education plan. There are no due dates or tests, as your personal learning is up to you. You are your own teacher. 

Self-Directed Learning 

Use the Self Study Guide constantly or intermittently over the course of your days, years, and life time. It’s up to you to learn by teaching yourself, using your own direct experience and by tailoring the resources and practices contained in the Self Study Guide to fit your needs as you continually grow and change. You have 100% control over the process and all of the responsibility. Like any exercise for better fitness, you will get out of it what you put into it!

Once you become adept with using the Self Study Guide and its practices, you’ll likely form good habits of reflection and introspection that will, over time, seem like second nature to you, and hopefully, the fruits of your labor will further inspire and motivate you to continue growing in wisdom and wellness.

When you use the Guide, you may focus on one, two, or all five of the aspects of it to improve your life. Or you can begin with any of the five parts you choose, although beginning with Part I: Attention and working your way around the wheel clockwise or in the order the parts are listed is recommended.

Since the wisdom of knowing oneself is timeless and classic, the Self-Study Guide will be useful both immediately and far into the future, repeatedly throughout your life at the times and places of your choosing. And once you become familiar with the five aspects of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self Study Guide, you can revisit any or all of them whenever you’ve lost your way and need to reconnect with your inner world.

Posted on Leave a comment

95 Thousand Words

I spent a large portion of the last twelve months writing. I wrote for many hours almost every day. It seemed natural and normal.

Waves of creative expression passed through me into written form, and I tried to not obstruct the process. I really don’t know what to do with the content that came out, but something tells me that it’s time to stop creating and start sharing (as intimidating and uncomfortable as this seems).

Perfectly Imperfect

Neither collection of words I created (or scribed?) —49K and 46K words respectively— qualifies as anything that would fit into a particular genre. One lump of words is sort-of-a-memoir-but-not- really, and the other is a sort of soft skills curriculum I call a Self Study Guide for self realization, but in its current form, it’s a beast inaccessible to even the most devout self analyst. Neither manuscript has a specifically defined audience. Neither are of publishable quality. Neither has been revised nor professionally edited.

No Answers

I am not an idiot. I have written and published a book before. I know how it works. But this past year’s writing marathon has been a different kind of creative experience. I was not in charge. I was not the leader who set the goals and disciplined herself to attain them. None of this was exactly my idea. The 95 thousand words just tumbled out and are here for some apparent reason, but I am not 100 % sure what that reason is. And that’s cool.

Another Kind of Currency

I felt confident writing both manuscripts. I felt creative and happy and enjoyed sitting for hours writing, thinking, reading, and re-reading for one full year. It was work I felt inspired and compelled to do, thus it wasn’t work in the usual sense at all. It’s what I was supposed to be doing. I felt grateful to be doing it. I still feel grateful that I got to do it. The process granted me many opportunities to face fear and be vulnerable. I wrote and shared intimate feelings and thoughts; I shared my writing style and my most authentic voice. I shared the truth about myself with myself and others. I think that this type of currency is enough– that such intrinsic payoff is enough– to have been so fully engaged in so many vital moments, remaining open to receiving rather than employing the usual control and manipulation for some urgent, self-indulgent end or achievement. For an identity.

Weirdness and Woo-Woo

Despite all the weirdness and woo-woo that I am describing about my creative process, both manuscripts are entirely complete, share the common theme of expressing and living one’s truth, and their common purpose is that they were written to inspire and motivate people to actively pursue self realization, to know oneself and to actualize, because much of the illness pervading our modern world is rooted in ignorance about our selves– our true human nature and our uniqueness. We don’t know who we are. This truism is apparent to me, within my own experience, and I observe it and have been following other people who discuss it at length and address this phenomenon. So, what you’ll be getting in the future here at Landscapes for Learning will point you to those people and their work, as it is deeply embedded in mine.

Lost & Found

Like those I have learned from, in much of my writing, I urge people to become fully alive and well (before its too late) by engaging in the difficult process of becoming more of who they really are rather than who they are prescriptively taught to be by others. The not-really-a-memoir tells tries to tell about how we get lost (through our formal education system) and stay lost in our very own lives by disconnecting from ourselves, while the gargantuan and intimidating Self Study Guide provides ancient and modern wisdom to help us find ourselves, to reconnect to bring ourselves back to life, actual life, not a fake, conventionally prescribed one. As it turns out, it takes lots of time, willingness, courage, and attention to be alive and well as an actual human being, that is— to know who we are. It seems so simple to be oneself, yet it is not so easy at all.

Process & Product?

I don’t know if I am supposed to have merely had the experience of writing and creating for no other reason that to practice surrender, to practice not resisting, to do it as another step in the process of my personal development, or if I am supposed to make something else, some final product, out of the 95 thousand words that is silently resting in my Google Docs. I have no clear idea, but the same source that had me creating tells me I am supposed to give it all away now, as imperfect and as incomplete as it is, and to do so without any expectation of return. It also tells me that the 95 thousand words are not to become books, at least not now, so instead, you’ll find them here in this blog in various forms, perhaps within podcasts, and maybe even in the form of videos.

Let it Be & Be Led

As imperfect as my work surely is and as I surely am, I will let be what is meant to be. I’m going to stay with this process, trust intuition, and hope for the best, as I have been doing all along. I hope the 95 thousand words can do some good.

Posted on Leave a comment

Self Realization

Over the past couple of years, I have written about everything I have directly experienced in my own life as well as the wisdom I have received from great mentors both ancient and modern, from East and West, about the interesting process of self realization, self actualization, and wellness.

Much of my personal evolution has come from direct experience practicing Bikram Yoga. When I discovered Bikram Yoga, or shall I say when it found me, I found the existentialism, spiritualism, mysticism, and theories about consciousness and the unconscious I had studied in one form or another in my formal education, what I had only ever experienced intellectually, embodied in a wholly physical experience.

I became far more aware of who I am and what it means to be human in a 90 minute heated yoga class. I fell into self realization by accident. I discovered my true self (in distinct contrast to the social roles I’d been conditioned to adopt and adhere to for a sense of belonging, approval, and currency– that is– who I thought I was). I became aware of awareness, the conscious witness, the observer of my “small” self, by chance, and without expectation, and without complicated academic preparation and study. I know exactly where my mat was in the room when I experienced more awareness and insight. It was not intellectual. Lucky me.

I continue to look in the mirror each day and face my suffering only to be with it, and for no other reason. That is a process. There’s no product, no goal, no achievement, no desire for a better waistline. The mirror is not about vanity, and I am not looking for answers. It’s a simple process, though not easy. It’s become my meditation, my inward bound journey to freedom.

So, I figure, why not share my experience of transformation through Bikram yoga in order to invite others to stumble into more conscious awareness of their truth too? Pay it forward. It is likely that Bikram Yoga, since it is less esoteric, makes self realization more accessible, as it is far more realistic for everyday Westerners to drop by a local studio to practice each day than it is for them to sojourn to India or do a 500 day silent meditation retreat or something stereotypically more “spiritually rigorous.” You don’t have to perform the rituals of a priest or monk to know who you really are. No, you can “be free where you are,” as Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn says, no matter who or where you are. The path to freedom is within the inner landscape, not on the outer one with specific conditions meant for your transformation.

Posted on Leave a comment

Know Thyself, Part V: Learning

“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from.”
—Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Self study is authentic learning. It’s about self-realization. It’s about becoming more uniquely YOU, as a human being. It’s about continual growth, vitality, and wellness—the kind of wellness characterized by truth, uniqueness, and wholeness, as opposed to the narrowly defined conventional standards of strictly intellectual, material, and financial success.

“Real learning comes about when the competitive spirit has ceased.”
–Jiddu Krishnamurti

Schooling, or the acquisition of knowledge for social and economic achievement, is a limited kind of learning precisely because it is based on competition, measurement, and comparison. Although intellectual development is obviously very important, it is only one part of becoming a more integrated and whole human person. Broader, more authentic learning is a never ending process; it is steeped in direct personal experience, trial and error, careful reflection, deep introspection, and characterized by humility. There are no grades, no besting others, no winning or losing.

Part V, Learning, of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide for Wellness is about cultivating the perspective of an authentic learner, an individual who consciously and deliberately chooses to see life and all its experiences as landscapes for learning and for developing one’s unique nature.

Learning is both the impetus and  momentum for following the directions that guide you throughout your entire journey to know yourself. You might think of learning as the map of the landscape of you, while attention, self awareness, challenge and choice are directions to follow on that map.

Adopting learning as a lifestyle, as growth-mindset, is integral to the other four directions in the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self-Study Guide because without the attitude of the curious student, the wheel stops moving forward. As you learn, the wheel turns and gains momentum, further inspiring and motivating you to continue moving forward to steadily acquire wisdom and wellness.

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”
–Louisa May Alcott

The practices within the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide are designed to help you learn to regulate your body and mind and skillfully develop more focused attention, calm, and self control through deeper self-awareness, so you will be more apt to see the world and everything in it as a classroom—a lot less frightening, much more intriguing, and full of possibilities and opportunities for becoming more of who you are meant to be!

When you adopt the attitude of a curious learner, approaching yourself, people, events, and all your experiences as interesting phenomena to examine in order to learn, you’ll be less likely to react to life out of fear, defensiveness, or perceive yourself as victim.

“The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.”
― Carl R. Rogers

Many people tend to cling tightly to the need for answers and permanence and will fight hard to remain closed within their carefully curated comfort zone that provides the illusion of safety and righteousness. But you don’t grow if you don’t sustain a tolerance for ambiguity, stay open to life’s process, and move mindfully with the flow of change– that is, if you don’t learn. And if you don’t learn, you aren’t fully alive and well.

Humans are conscious animals who are aware that nothing is certain and that much of life is a mystery which causes great anxiety. As a result of such underlying existential fear, we have a tendency to resist change, and so try to control our environment, other people, and master all unpredictables; progress in this pursuit of manipulation, domination, and desire for a lasting legacy gives us a sense of great pride and self-esteem (Becker).

We work hard at this false sense of security and the illusion of permanence in order to make ourselves feel less vulnerable. We frantically search for “the answers” and lasting order, but such drives for ultimate knowledge and immortality distract us from the truth of our own humanity as limited, mortal animals. Our fear-fueled expectation that we must always have solid ground to stand on, answers that are indisputable, and consistent order for total security causes us great suffering.


Man can learn nothing except by going from the known to the unknown. — Claude Bernard

The particular disposition of a learner is one who can courageously enter into the unknown to learn and grow. A heroic learner must sustain a tolerance for ambiguity and be like water; that is—be fluid and flexible, flowing with what is and what unfolds and responding as well as one is able through deliberate self control and mindful choice, all of which can be cultivated through practice. For many, to flow with constant change and to learn from it is scary because of how they have been taught to cling to permanence or have been socially conditioned by distraction from the truth of their own human condition.


“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”
–Confucius

We don’t know all there is to be known, even about ourselves, and likely never will, but our ignorance should incentivize us to be humble and ever open to learning and change rather than cause us despair. If you adopt the mindset and attitude that life is for learning, for making yourself vulnerable in order to explore and know more, and for taking risks and incurring lots of trial and error, then “failing forward” with enthusiasm and the attitude of an adventurer will give your life meaning and purpose.

To learn that you are never a stable, unchanging, permanent self is to know your true nature. All is change, including you, so there will always be more to learn, and more meaning to create.

Rather than clinging to socially approved masks, copying others, or dogmatically subscribing to ideology that offers the illusory feeling of safety and security, authentic learners live life with the mindset of an adventurer who is ever-open to discovery. And people who are open, flexible, humble, and view their own life as a landscape for learning with its ups and downs, gains and losses, births and deaths will be more apt to cope successfully with the rapid and ubiquitous change that characterizes modern life.

Learn from experience, hold your beliefs and opinions about what is known, but be open-minded, tolerant of other possibilities, and willing to change because this is the kind of flexible person the modern world needs now more than ever to lessen the political polarity pervading our culture as well as to address the overwhelming disconnection from ourselves and from one another that appears to be causing so much unnecessary suffering.

Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting?” 
– Marcus Aurelius

Living with the mindset that all experience is meant for learning, growth, and becoming more uniquely you isn’t easy, and it requires courage, but it helps you open up to whatever life gives you (whether positive or negative, pleasant or painful) and trains you to accept your fate with less resistance and unnecessary suffering. Less resistance, letting go of fear, and accepting reality as it is rather than how we would prefer it or like to control it is true wisdom.

And more wisdom means more wellness.

References:

Becker, Ernest. The Denial of Death. The Free Press, 1973.

Posted on 1 Comment

2018 In Hindsight

If 2017 was a year of travel for me, then 2018 was the year of writing about my various journeys across the landscapes for learning, inside and out.

Much of what I have written in my life is based on observation and reflection about learning—my own, or others’, as well as learning in the broadest sense.

Sometimes I share my “professional” learning with others publicly as I did when I published The Graphic Novel Classroom (Corwin Press, 2011) for educators. Most times I don’t share my “personal” learning that I’ve been recording almost daily in paper-bound journals over the last two and one half decades. A hybrid of both professional and personal writing is this blog and the soon-to- be-completed Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide. 

In hindsight, I am glad I have consistently written about my life both professionally and personally because I can revisit my history and see its value, especially in terms of learning. I can see how far I have come and how I have grown. I can see “mistakes” and “wrong” turns that were responsible for such growth and now inform my future direction. I know where some of the potholes are and am better at avoiding them. As Louise May Alcott wrote, “I am less afraid because I am learning how to steer my ship.”

Because I have recorded my learning in writing, I can see the personal strength and flexibility I’ve built over time through the trial and error process and this motivates and inspires me to keep struggling forward. It reminds me that the current pain will be worth the health, integrity, and satisfaction of my future self.

I can rely on myself in the future as a result of my attention to the work of being me in the past, and for taking on the responsibility for knowing who I am. Without self-study, without writing about my learning experiences throughout my life, I’d be useless to others, unable to connect with them, serve, or teach.

By looking back on my personally recorded history, I can have faith that life will happen for me exactly as it should because it always has, and that I don’t need to try to force things to happen or control the future. I can see how my attempts at control merely postponed acceptance of truth. I can also stay more open to the mysteries that will inevitably unfold (like a flower petal blooming) and cultivate an attitude of curiosity about the unknown– the potential that will actualize– instead of being afraid of it or resisting it. Surrender is powerful.

I have also learned that my current pain and suffering, whatever it may be whether self-induced anxiety or from external “accidents” beyond my control, shall pass, as these always have and always will. I have the stories of my past, in writing, as proof of the truths of what it means to be human and what it means to be specifically and uniquely me.

If I continue to approach all of my experiences as opportunities to learn, to observe my life as it unfolds organically, then I can enjoy it, be grateful and appreciative, and use what I have already learned to continue to be healthy, secure, and well and help others do the same.

I am not a Pollyanna nor am I wearing rose-colored glasses.

It’s not that everything works out the way I want it to or that everything always turns out well; it’s not that I don’t make the same mistakes twice (or more). It’s simply that, for me, using writing for reflection has been an incredibly useful tool for becoming more wise over time and more well. And as I keep becoming more of who I am, well, it just so happens that that’s the meaning and joy of my one, short, precious life. If I am reflective and continually witness the unfolding of my true self, and accept that truth, especially when it’s difficult, I can love my life even more and resist its discomforts less!

As I age and become even more experienced, more keenly reflective, and more honest in my writing, the more alive and robust I feel, yet at the same time, I feel less rigid, less anxious, and more humble about all there is still yet to be discovered. I continue to see how much I really don’t know. Now, at almost 50, I am surely not the same person as I was at 40 or 20. Who will I be at 60 or 80?

My life, as I record it through writing, has taught me that a sense of security is not the same thing as permanence, and trying to control and cling to safety is not the way to live well. Just because my life has been constant change, that the world is constantly changing (faster and faster most recently), it doesn’t mean I am not secure and safe. The one thing that has remained consistent is the entity called “me”– the experiencer, this reflective, evolving being who writes. Writing has been a critical tool for my self-knowledge. And knowing myself better is foundational for my good health and wellbeing.

I write to articulate my life to myself, not as self indulgence, not as self-obsessive or selfish, but as self-care, as therapy. I also can share who I am with others, if I choose, certainly not to give prescriptive advice about how to be or do life (I don’t recommend anyone be like me! and I don’t have the answers for you!) but to let others know they aren’t alone on this journey of figuring out how to become a person (Rogers). I can share my struggles and successes with others, but like any diet or recipe, what “works” for me may not apply to others’ unique constitutions. We are all so specific which is why we have to understand ourselves as well as possible to apply the exact prescriptions for our individual selves.

The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide is my newest way of publicly sharing my learning from a life of writing, teaching, and yoga practice. I outline a few insights, practices, and techniques I have learned along my travels, both professionally and personally, on the outer and inner landscapes of life, to help me be wiser and more well.

These insights, practices, and techniques are not a secret, nor are they original. They’ve been in the toolbox of humanity for a very long time. They are recorded in the literature and history of the ages, rooted in the wisdom traditions from both East and West. I’ve discovered them, applied and tested them over time, and found they work very well for a meaningful trek to knowing oneself in our modern world. I hope you discover that they can work for you as well, in your own way, to meet your own individual and unique needs to know who you are and express that truth.

I hope next year when I reflect in writing about 2019 that I will be able to report that the personal learning I chose to share publicly in the form of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide has helped propel my life and others’ lives in the direction it’s meant to go. I trust that it will.

Posted on Leave a comment

Adventures in Learning Familiar & Foreign

I have heard Joe Rogan interview Jordan Peterson many times, so often that I was reluctant to listen to them talk again.  As I plugged in my headphones and headed out the door on my usual morning walk with my fantastic dog, Finn, I asked myself, what else can I possibly learn from these guys? Should I get out of this rabbit hole? Are they going to talk about the same things they always do? It’s all so familiar to me. Then I started thinking about the nature of the word “familiar” and all its associations: family, sense of security, home, contentment, but also complacency and boredom.

I noticed that once I think I “know” a thing really well, I like to switch the focus of my attention elsewhere, to what’s novel. I like constant stimulation. I like newness and challenge. But, on further reflection, I also know I like and need stability, order, and sameness for a sense of security, a base from which I can take new risks, handle new stimulation, and build more insight and experience. I am describing the yin and yang of authentic learning (which is an entirely different thing from schooling and academic achievement.)  Broadly speaking, learning is a psychological balance between a sense of permanence and novelty.

Personally, I am conscious of the value of the learning process in my own life, and am working hard here at Landscapes for Learning to make this process available to others in the form of a more complete and ongoing education for personal development and wellness. My way of keeping my wheel of self-study turning and rolling forward is to share my love for learning with others.

Sometimes I cling too tightly to security and resist change; sometimes I roll to the other extreme and risk too much and fail a bunch. The process is a balancing act on the landscapes for learning, but as long as I am active and consciously aware of my own learning, that wheel rolls. I believe that if more people can become consciously aware of this process of learning and understand themselves better, they’ll manage the balance most effectively for a happier and more fulfilling human experience.

Landscapes for Learning’s Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide contains motivation, tools, and practices to help people become new kinds of learners for a modern world that requires balance and change management more than ever before. It’s my way of sharing my personal tools and practices for wellness developed through my life as a humanities teacher, writer, Bikram yogi, and student of many amazing teachers (including the two men in the podcast embedded in this post). Knowing thyself is the key to self-realization and unlocking one’s potential and therefore wellness and wellbeing, especially now, in modern times. An attitude of openness to learning, flexible mindset, and humility– the realization that there’s always more to learn to grow— is essential for thriving with vitality in this new age. We cannot afford to stay stuck clinging to security and permanence which aren’t real but rather we must learn to find the balance between the familiar and foreign.

The landscapes of life are for learning– always —because we (and everything else) are always changing. Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson are always changing and learning; the interaction between them will always give birth to something new and include what’s stable between them. I can learn from them. I can learn more about myself because I am different from the last time I heard their previous conversations. Because we are alternately familiar to ourselves and foreign to ourselves, as the yin and yang of who we are, we can always know and learn more.

There’s no such thing as mastery when it comes to learning. You can never know it all, ever.  Jordan Peterson would say the process of learning is to walk the edge between chaos and order, and he is only restating in his own terms what the greatest minds over the course of human history of the East and West have discovered and said already; it’s the wisdom of humanity.

Jordan Peterson is only one of many who articulates the wisdom of humanity in interesting ways that make it particularly accessible to people struggling to find meaning in their lives. He’s made ancient wisdom modern self help. I am trying to do the same  through my Landscapes for Learning mission and the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide. which is curriculum that empowers people to figure out who they are.

Lots of people inform others about the keys to wellness or the wisdom of the past; my work in the Self Study Guide is about “the how” to inspire people and give them the motivation, support, tools, and practices to implement today, in their everyday lives, for wellness.

The video above is purposely cued for you to begin at the end of their almost three hour conversation because it is when they talk about how finding meaning in life is more about ATTENTION than it is about INTELLIGENCE. A meaningful life is more about DISCOVERY than it is about CONTROL.  (Listen to them talk about the antidote to moral relativism and the danger of intelligence from 2:09-2:19…)

Around the 2:20 point in the podcast, JRE and JBP talk about how much we don’t know about who we are and how you have to watch yourself and learn as YOU and life are constantly coming into being, as a series of continual births and deaths, as JBP says. Reflection is key. That, and honesty, are the foundational principles of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide. Honest self reflection and writing go hand in hand to know what you think and feel in order to grow and learn, and to grow and learn is to be more alive and vital in the world. You provide yourself with your own therapy when you use the tools in the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide.

“Logos” is an interesting concept Jordan Peterson often talks about which is about how we articulate our selves through speech. Reading or observing ourselves and our experiences and articulating them by writing them down or talking about them is the crux of self-reflection and introspection that is necessary to know who we are. The Self-Study Guide I have created is designed for people to do just that– articulate who they are to themselves. Like my Bikram Yoga practice has been for me, introspective writing is another tool for self-realization, for unlocking one’s potential. As Peterson says in the interview with Rogan, personal reflection is essential for understanding how to get back into the place of FLOW, where you want to be– where meaning lives and where you are connected to the core of your being. Yes and Yes!

I have made it my job at Landscapes for Learning to help people discover themselves, who they really are to unlock their potential, find their “flow,” and be the best and most unique individual they were born to be. Through providing inspiring examples, motivation, various forms of education and curriculum, and coaching, I hope to empower people to self-actualize which is a lifetime process requiring tremendous honesty and effort. This is more than another self-help endeavor. Knowing who you are is your life’s work and totally worth the time and effort for the meaning and purpose it provides.

I didn’t think I could learn more from JRE and JBP because I am so familiar with them, but I always learn more both from what’s familiar or secure and from what’s novel or foreign. There’s always more potential waiting to be actualized if you intentionally engage with the path that lays itself out for you keeping that attitude of discovery Peterson talks about. Life is an adventure story and you are its hero.

Follow what you are drawn to as the way forward on your path, consciously choosing to approach all of your life as landscapes for learning. And if you pay careful attention to yourself to learn more about your own nature and who you are, that is– if you travel the inner landscapes with the attitude of a curious learner, you’ll never be stunted, bored, or complacent. The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide will show you how and give you concrete activities and exercises to do to learn to navigate the interior of you for a life of meaning and vitality.

Posted on Leave a comment

Everybody Wants More Wisdom & Wellness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on Leave a comment

Self-Study for Wisdom & Wellness

The answers aren’t outside ourselves. Travel the inner landscape to find out how the mind works and you’ll find out who you are and who you can be if you control your thoughts.

“Build the image in your mind of what you want. Be specific. Write it down. Reject negative thoughts. Think of how you can achieve your goal and not why you can’t.”

“To develop from within is the definition of education. Learning never ends when we draw on an infinite source from the deep reservoir within us.”

“Attitude should be taught as a subject in school”

“We have an exterior image and an interior image of ourselves (self-image). Too many people don’t know enough about themselves so they have a poor self-image. We can all improve our self-image.”

“Relax. Visualize how you want to see yourself and how you’d like to live your life. (Dream your painting and then paint your dream) Build the image in your mind. Describe it and write it out. Read it repeatedly.”

“We become what we think about. Believe and your belief will create the fact (William James)”

“Thoughts control our feelings; feelings control our actions. We can control our thoughts.”

“Respond, don’t react. Ask yourself, Will that idea help me get to where I want to go?”

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

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

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

 

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

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

Posted on Leave a comment

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!)

 

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Podcast 011: Teri Almquist

 

“Every student deserves a good teacher,

every teacher deserves the opportunity to be a great teacher” 

-Teri Almquist

 

 

Building an inner connection with yourself isn’t easy. This union, or yoga, is hard work. It’s about  trust–first in a teacher when you don’t yet know how to trust yourself and you are overwhelmed by pain, fear, or self-doubt, and then little by little you begin to believe in yourself, then you begin to trust yourself, then you have genuine faith in yourself. You become stronger and more flexible, more balanced through this process. Your teacher is your trusted witness on your unique journey into your inner landscape. It’s important that every student has a good teacher and that every teacher has the opportunity to become a great teacher.

This enormously important teacher-student relationship built on trust can be transformative, life-changing. Teri’s first teacher, Diane Duscharme believed in her and supported her from the very first moment she entered the yoga studio with a badly injured neck and a pack a day smoking habit, and since then Teri has been paying her transformation forward– first by becoming a Bikram Yoga Teacher, then opening her own studio, and now providing continuing education for Bikram yoga teachers around the world.

A Bikram yoga class is an opportunity to focus in the mirror and concentrate on oneself– to travel one’s inner landscape. It’s practicing over and over again, consistently, in order to learn more about oneself.  It’s a chance to find that quiet space within us where our truest, most loving self lives— that place from which we can learn how to mindfully respond to life and all its challenges. It’s a landscape for learning.

Please enjoy my conversation with Teri Almquist, “Like” the podcast on iTunes, and feel free to comment!  You can find Teri and her work using the links below:

The Toolbox: Tools for Teaching Bikram Yoga by Teri Almquist available HERE (Amazon)

Visit Teri’s Studio at Bikram Yoga Merrimack Valley, North Andover, Massachusetts at https://www.bikramyogamv.com/

For more information about teaching seminars, webinars, and professional development visit: https://www.teachfromlove.yoga/

Webinars for teaching yoga at http://webinars.teachfromlove.yoga/

Posted on Leave a comment

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.
Posted on Leave a comment

Tools FOR Inner Landscape Learning

I write a lot about how we need to encourage young people to travel the inner landscape FOR learning.

Here’s one way (Vipassana/meditation)

And another way: 

 

And, of course, my favourite way: 

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

Podcast Redux with Grace Tempany

Traveling Landscapes for Learning, Inside and Out, with Grace Tempany

“One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end.”

—-Jiddu Krishnamurti

Traveling the landscapes for learning is a challenge for so many of us human beings, but Grace Tempany’s personality, disposition, and training in self-inquiry makes her unusually well-suited for riding the waves of change and challenge. She fluidly balances between both the comfort of home and job and the security and order they provide as well as following her restlessness and desire for exploring new landscapes– the novelty of new people, places, and cultures. She is a dynamic warrior-yogini on the hero’s journey! 

Grace is self-described “full of contradictions”– equally at home with one foot in such formal, structured academic settings like education as well as the other foot in the Yin Yoga and Bikram Yoga communities. Grace refers to both Jiddhu Krishnamurti about holding opposing ideas simultaneously rather than feverishly defending an idea and Pema Chodron who teaches about staying with pain and discomfort rather than running from it and to not give up on this struggle. Grace believes that the people who shy away from discomfort will not only die with regret but miss out on their very own life. She urges people to become aware that an important life-learning process exists, and with methods and practices like meditation and yoga you can become fully alive and present for your own life.

In this podcast episode, she talks with me about her tools for introspection and contemplation as well as how understanding the ways that her mind works is a key component in her increased self-awareness and therefore indispensable to being fully awake which enables her to live with vitality and appreciation.

Grace also talks with me about traveling beyond one’s literal geographical and internally-prescribed boundaries and limits and being comfortable with that very often uncomfortable process, and how this type of travel is the journey of authentic learning which is going from the known, familiar, and secure to the unknown, unfamiliar, and disorienting place beyond, a process that is anxiety-provoking for many people and requires training. Alas, there are ways to make yourself more open and vulnerable to the unknown, one step at a time!

I hope you enjoy this discussion about landscapes, learning, and our shared humanity.

Visit: http://www.gracetempany.com

To Listen to Previous Podcast with Grace 

Grace Tempany Podcast #1 Below:

Posted on Leave a comment

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!

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

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/

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

Learning is Life

 

“To see young people come alive is the reward of teaching”

—Joseph Cambell

According to Joseph Cambell, famed author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), Myths to Live by (1972), and The Hero’s Journey (1990),  the goal of maturity is to know oneself —to understand the inner landscape– to be the hero of one’s own life. He says in this brief clip (below) from his famed interview with Bill Moyers:

the influence of a vital person, vitalizes. There’s no doubt about it… he says, people have the notion of saving the world by shifting it around and changing the rules…No…to bring [the world] alive is to find in your own case where your life is and be alive yourself….[and so] in saving yourself you save the world.

Teachers (this can be any of us, not just school teachers) have to focus more on helping young people find their life. We can teach them what it is to be alive and vital. It’s less about making them knowledgeable about the external world or outer landscapes, and more about making them knowledgeable about the world within each one of them.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Calling a Spade a Spade

“To Err is human; to forgive, divine”—Alexander Pope

Softening, or “pussification,” as the late, great comedian George Carlin defined it, is destroying the integrity of authentic learning.

When people fuck with the integrity of the learning process, when they weaken it and make it soft, it corrupts individuals and society far more than we know or are willing to admit. Maybe, it’s that the can of worms is open and nobody knows how to get them all back in, or the culprits, kind people with likely decent intentions are afraid or embarrassed to admit their mistake and try to fix it. Maybe they feel too guilty to deal with the negative results that they just could not have predicted? Maybe they’re just weak and undisciplined. Maybe they are evil. I cannot talk in exact terms of correlation and causation. I am not a scientist, but after years working as a teacher in more than one field, my gut tells me that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

A former Facebook executive came out publicly to admit that Facebook contributed to corruption in the form of addictive feedback loops among users of social media. That’s an honest admission of guilt. Most people respect honesty, even from someone who is corrupt. At the time, the people at Facebook may have been unaware of the negative outcomes of their choices, decisions, or creations; maybe the consequences were intended or not; perhaps the creators did not understand the scope of the potential negative consequences at the time, but at least this one executive admitted to having erred and learned a terrible lesson. A big game of trial and error, where there’s now one score for that exec in the integrity category. Yes, people can still earn our respect (for these people can be our best teachers) even when they do terrible things, pre-meditated or accidentally with the best intentions. It’s really okay to admit an error; it’s okay to fail. It’s even better to be honest about it.

If we could only stop judging and communicating about complicated human issues using black and white approaches, reductionist thinking, and all-or-nothing terminology, perhaps more people would admit their mistakes and even work to correct them– ya know, stay humble, keep learning, make amends?

We are ALL flawed– each one of us. Everyone makes mistakes, which is actually the tragic irony here– because learning, by its very definition, is a simple process of trial and error. When you alter that very process, as many K-12 schools and universities seem to be doing, whether by “softening” or eliminating the “error” part, or by perhaps making the “trial” part too easy to guarantee success and avoid failure, or by substituting a safe space where no trials are allowed to happen at all (not sure what actually does happen in those spaces), you corrupt real learning; you weaken the learner. You alter the very definition of the term when you falsely manipulate or eliminate the necessary, usually painful or difficult, experiences a learner needs—er—to learn.

Yes, it might hurt a little bit.

We can already see the damage that weakening the authentic learning process contributes to in the form of skyrocketing levels of anxiety and depression, a lack of independence and coping skills, an increasingly longer list of “learning” disabilities, and lack of self-control and personal responsibility among young people; it’s also part of the equation of lack of consistent and effective discipline and safe-space-micro-aggression mentality and pedagogy in schools. The balance has been lost.

I cannot emphasize enough the degree to which the consequences of such alterations to the learning and teaching process will contribute to damaging young people and weakening the teaching profession and therefore damage and weaken the rest of our society. This cannot be blamed on a cultural shift, or increasing technology use, or the “kids are different these days” assumptions— the people in charge are fucking up, with wonderful, heartfelt intentions (sometimes, but I often wonder), but fucking up nonetheless.

Can we become responsible for our errors?

Can we stop ignoring morality or any discussion of right and wrong in this world simply because we are all deeply flawed and immoral?

Can we reinstate the integrity of learning?

When we mess with the learning process: slightly changing it here, and then a little bit there, and oh, just cut this seemingly small corner here, and make this tiny little exception there– just this once, for this one person only, I swear! When we alter a philosophy, even the little applications of that philosophy—and we don’t allow authentic learning to be what it is—often difficult and uncomfortable, maybe painful, at what point is it no longer learning? At what point, to what degree does it lose its identity as itself? Where is the line? How do you know your crossing it? When is it entirely corrupt and transformed into something else, beyond recognition? How far down the road have we traveled, and can we turn back? Balance needs to be restored.

I see this sad phenomenon of imbalance and compromising integrity happening within public education and  similarly within the now-fragmented Bikram yoga community.

Bikram yoga is a series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises assembled in a particular order, using precise, detailed commands to be recited in a specific order (called a dialogue) over the span of ninety minutes to achieve specific results and designed for beginners and every body type. This school of beginners yoga requires dialogue to be delivered orally by a Bikram yoga certified teacher who stands in a specific location in a “hotroom” (on a podium) which is a specifically designed environment with specific temperature and humidity levels.The students take their place in this environment in a specific way as well, on yoga mats, facing mirrors and under specific kinds of lighting. Bikram yoga teachers are trained by Bikram himself at a Bikram-certified training.

So, I ask you…

If a teacher who has not been trained and certified by Bikram walks around the room observing students from various angles while teaching and using words that differ from the commands of the dialogue, is that a Bikram yoga class? Can we call that teacher a Bikram yoga teacher? Can we call a studio with such teachers a Bikram yoga studio, or a hot yoga studio using the Bikram yoga method?

What percentage of Bikram yoga makes Bikram yoga, Bikram yoga? Do we need math to solve this obvious corruption? Where’s the line where the integrity of something is gone? If we are talking about school— a place where the learning process happens, then the degree to which this happens the right way matters— a lot! It doesn’t take much to alter the integrity of the process for the detriment of students. The same goes for Bikram yoga.

A popular argument espoused by some people who have corrupted Bikram yoga—-pussified, weakened, and softened it—-those who use the Bikram name to brand their own ripped-off versions, use a clever and believable sleight of hand argument to hide their own corruption. Because Bikram Choudhury himself, the man and creator of this yoga series and dialogue, has committed corruption in his personal and professional dealings, the people who stole his yoga use Bikram’s lack of integrity to mask or hide their own. And it stinks of hypocrisy. Justifying theft and dishonesty by pointing a finger at a weak, corrupt person—and away from one’s own weaknesses and corruption— how cliche. It’s exactly like a child’s emotional reaction when accused by his parent of bad behavior to spew, “Yeah, but he did it too!”

Another popular argument is based on a few former-Bikram teachers’ anger, frustration, and disappointment over Bikram’s stubborn foolishness– his stupidity as a businessman because he will not allow these people to take over or change his Bikram Teacher Training model and methods. Bikram has surely shot himself in the foot. These former Bikram-loyalists, those who love this yoga and understand its power and beauty and its value (which is why they want to spread it and be part of its success and benefit from it, exploit it for gain, personal and professional) wanted the ability to train teachers themselves, in locations of their choosing and convenience. Perhaps they also wanted to correct what they deemed flawed about the series or the dialogue, or the philosophy of strict discipline, or add their own flare, or unfranchise it, if you will.

But because Bikram did not give them his blessing or whatever it was they wanted, because he was unrelenting or uncooperative or just a downright dumb asshole and said no, which was his prerogative and it doesn’t matter his reasons or lack of rationality or rationale, these very nice, smart, capable lovers-of-Bikram yoga went ahead anyway and started their own teacher trainings. Some other of these very awesome yogis (I am not being sarcastic) were studio owners or became studio owners and began training their own teachers, using Bikram’s dialogue or slightly altered versions they created. Next, the dishonest actions of a few justified the dishonest actions of many, the floodgates opened, and now we have an almost entirely weakened, confused, and less-than-optimal Bikram yoga community, it’s identity and integrity not-entirely-ruined by diluted methods, changed philosophy, and dishonesty. But, I am confident that the truth shall prevail.

Studio owners who promote or define themselves, in one way or another, as a Bikram Yoga studio (even if the business name does not contain “Bikram”) and work to preserve the integrity of Bikram yoga– its philosophies, methods of instruction, conditions and environment, as well as its certification of it teaching staff—- is a true Bikram studio, 100%. It’s a studio with integrity. Most people appreciate integrity and honesty. And Bikram yoga, properly, is undeniably one of the most healing, transformative forms of yoga around and has been for almost 60 years. Integrity and truth will always prevail.

But is it right for studios that only do 75% of what’s required to call the yoga and their studio, “Bikram?” What if only slightly more than 50%? What about 85%?

Fake-Bikram teacher trainings that now “certify” teachers to teach Bikram yoga and studios who claim to be Bikram but are not, dishonestly capitalize, financially and otherwise, by hiring these unofficial Bikram teachers. Sorry, but that’s just wrong. Why can’t people object to bad behavior anymore? Will I be attacked for even writing about this?

Many of these unofficially trained teachers refer to themselves as “Bikram Yoga Teachers,” and that compromises my integrity as a genuine Bikram yoga teacher, something I worked hard to earn and something I believe in very deeply, something uniquely meaningful to me, as it is to so many of the other official Bikram teachers from all over the world who have shared this concern with me over my previous year of travel. Just because a few students had severely negative experiences and resent their trainings and hate Bikram, doesn’t mean that the entire training was corrupt. It simply is not true, yet an illogical conclusion that many consistently claim and use to justify their own bad behavior.

Fake-Bikram teachers use parts of the Bikram method, compromise the series of postures in various ways (for the express and other hybrid classes, for example), and alter the original Bikram dialogue by changing words and order of words, diction and syntax–which the last time I checked in my English teacher manual are key parts of the grammatical structure of our language. It’s how we understand one another and make meaning– specific meaning. There’s no such thing as, “well, close enough” when you are trying to help people be the best they can be by following a prescription to heal and be well. Would you use that logic with your sick dog? “Eh, it’s okay if Rover only gets bits and pieces of his medication. Close enough.”

The Bikram series is a disciplined practice where you do what you’re told, not what your ego wants. You take your medicine exactly as prescribed, like it or not. Yes, it’s hard, and people don’t like that. They resist, or they don’t come back. Adults can be just as bratty as kids and they make excuses all the time, but weak teachers contribute to this monkey mind phenomenon among students by being afraid to hold the line with them– by administering tough love.  Just like overly-indulgent parents, the helicopter kind, this kind of teaching spoils students, thus making them weaker, rather than stronger, both emotionally, psychologically, or physically. Hence— pussification.

I know, I know. I say something that might be true, and it hurts, so surely I’ll be criticized for lacking compassion, because in the make-believe world where fake-Bikram yoga teachers live, apparently people cannot be truthful and compassionate at the same time. I believe we call that tough love, in the real world. I was also accused of being “mean” when I told the truth about an underperforming student at an IEP meeting at my former high school job. How dare I share honest observations about a child with disabilities! How insensitive to use the truth to reach accurate conclusions and diagnoses!

Spare the rod, spoil the child is happening all over our society and in our yoga studios. It’s why I see more and more yogis using towels, guzzling water every posture, and rolling around acting crazy in savasana, asking out-loud for more fan or please open the door, coming in to the classroom late, leaving early, insisting on cell phones because they have to, they have special circumstances. It’s the same “exceptionalism” happening in K-12 public schools and universities all over this country. It all sounds suspiciously snowflakish to me.

To intentionally violate Bikram yoga’s integrity, calling the alterations to the dialogue “improvements,” calling alterations to its purpose “necessary” or “safer” or whatever else works to justify such corruption is the same thing as manipulating an unsuspecting victim as follows:

“This [corruption] is for your own good, my Darling. Don’t listen to the conservatives who don’t welcome change. Don’t listen to the dialogue nazi’s who believe that individual words, sentences, syntax of language have specific meaning. We should all welcome change! Change is growth! Change makes us better! New! and improved! These people need to get with the times. They must not know how to deal with their fear and their clinging. They don’t understand “yoga.” We are just only slightly “different” that’s all; and Darling, these defenders of the integrity of the Bikram yoga and its dialogue that defines it– they don’t accept “differences,” they are what you call “intolerant.” And Darling, precision means uptight, over-bearing, too structured, and who likes that? Any old words that are close-enough will do– they  have to just relax and let go of their expectations; Go with the flow; there is no such thing as “good” or “bad”; it’s all how you choose to look at it.”

Ummm. No.

Oh, I would laugh if this wasn’t so sad and exactly what is ruining our society today in the realm of politics and education. It’s our post-truth world! It’s frightening that people think they can just change language because they cannot handle the truth, yet they do, and unsuspecting or stupid people go along with it.  An appreciation for the necessary existence of and interaction between left and right, liberal and conservative, order and chaos is missing.  But I digress.

All of these “harmless” alterations, yet, these thieves still refer to what they teach as BIKRAM YOGA. They have indisputably changed Bikram yoga, yet still use the Bikram name and brand, whether through marketing and promotion which includes Google search terms, word-of-mouth referrals, or other means. They not only violate the integrity of Bikram yoga, yet want to capitalize on the amazing value they know it holds! How is this individual corruption and dishonesty different from Bikram Choudhury’s? Oh– it’s a matter of degree, is it? Ironic. And tragic. All of it disgusting.

I don’t know if I am more disappointed and angry with Bikram— for not having had better business sense, better foresight for the survival and continuation of an authentic Bikram training– or those thieves who have meddled with the integrity of Bikram yoga. Both parties have contributed to create the mess that currently exists (see bulleted list below). This isn’t a question about the degree to which some party is more or less at fault, more or less corrupt, because the answer about integrity is clear—making a poor business decision is mere stupidity, but stealing and lying are stealing and lying. One is a violation of integrity, and the other, well just plain old stupid. And, obviously, people who lie don’t exactly like the truth or talking about the truth; usually they just use more lies, sleights-of-hands and semantics, to bolster their own corruption.

I enjoy listening people try to talk their way out of things, believe their own bullshit. I am familiar with it within myself, and I’ve spent my career observing it in others. Do we, or do we not, encourage yogis to discover their limits, both physical and mental, including their mental masturbation, during class through honest attention?

Bikram’s lack of personal integrity is an absolute fact, one his detractors and admirers definitely would not dispute, but his personal failures have nothing to do with stealing his yoga and calling it your own. You can be both, simultaneously, a perpetrator and a victim; nasty people can do good things; good people can do nasty things. This is our nature; this is our world.

  • When people looking for Bikram yoga google “Bikram yoga” they might find the following:
  • A Bikram studio called a hot yoga studio.
  • A Bikram studio called a hot yoga studio or some derivation or something else that may or may not include yoga.
  • A Bikram studio called a hot yoga studio AND has Bikram in its name.
  • A Bikram studio that is an actual (as in, self-actualization) Bikram yoga studio.
  • A Bikram studio that calls itself a Bikram yoga studio, but there are no Bikram certified teachers who teach Bikram yoga there.
  • A Bikram studio that calls itself a Bikram yoga studio, but there is some combination of Bikram certified teachers and non-certified or illegitimately certified teachers who teach Bikram yoga there.
  • A Bikram studio that calls itself a Bikram yoga studio, but there is some combination of Bikram certified teachers and non-certified or illegitimately certified teachers who teach something akin to Bikram yoga or a derivation (because of new training, illegitimate training, or lack of ability) there, and still call it Bikram yoga.
  • A Bikram studio that calls itself a Bikram yoga studio, but there is some combination of Bikram certified teachers and non-certified or illegitimately certified teachers who teach something akin to Bikram yoga or a derivation there (as in, a 60 minute or otherwise altered classes and environments) and, still, call it Bikram yoga.

Maybe there are more but I cannot continue to enumerate the seemingly endless permutations of how a pure and simple form of yoga has been watered down, pussified, and weakened. Seriously.

Here’s the good news, folks. ALL kinds of studios can survive, if they conduct their business with integrity. And, please, my friends who are reading this, especially my actual friends, my description of the current state of affairs within the yoga community is not personal. I truly mean that. I love the people I work with who don’t teach a lick of dialogue. I love my friends who are excellent 26 & 2 teachers or whatever non-Bikram label they should be calling themselves. I love the studio owners who ask me to teach the express class and to whom I politely refuse; the owners who employed me and treated me well while running their own trainings with their own altered-dialogue. The studio owners who turn a blind eye to students who are confused because they are getting conflicting information in class due to the differences between Bikram and non-Bikram teachers. I am not waging a personal attack– I am shining a spotlight on the current state of affairs, based on my personal experiences and observations.

What I know about the non-Bikram trainings and their staff is impressive, competent, dynamic, life-affirming. Awesome, but technically, you’re existence no matter how talented and kind, is still rooted in inauthenticity. The people who run illegitimate studios and trainings, those who are known and unknown to me who have ripped-off, watered-down, or otherwise pussified the integrity of Bikram yoga– I would guess that probably, most likely, maybe nearly everyone is a lovely, kind, human being, with the best of intentions, but can we just call a spade a spade?

Can we make the distinction clear for everyone? Can we tell the truth to be clear to the public, to current students and potential students, and potential teachers?

The engineers at Facebook manned-up, so I think redemption can happen within the Bikram yoga community too. Each individual involved with this yoga can start defending its integrity, to name it properly, accurately and specifically, teach it the right way, try to practice it the right way, even if it’s the hard way.

If our still-loyal, dialogue-driven, Bikram Yoga community can be clear about its identity and its integrity, then it should clear up a lot of confusion and more people can thrive– especially the clients, who are the future of Bikram yoga and the people we are trying to serve with this yoga in the first place.

“It’s never too late, you’re never too old, never too sick, too bad, to start from scratch once again” as Bikram likes to say. And, since he gave us this yoga, maybe, just maybe, his detractors could even begin to forgive him for his limitations, his errors, his ugliness– the human qualities we loathe about him— the same ones we fear and struggle to manage within ourselves—-with the help of mirrors, under the bright lights, in the torture chamber– because that is our yoga, after all.

External Links:

Call a spade a spade

In case anyone thinks my title is racist.

https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=pussification

George Carlin’s bit on pussification.

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/something-is-rotten-in-the-state-of-denmark

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/dec/11/facebook-former-executive-ripping-society-apart

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/12/12/former-facebook-vp-says-social-media-is-destroying-society-with-dopamine-driven-feedback-loops/?utm_term=.e2dd6e57a0c7

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/canine-corner/201711/why-people-sometimes-care-more-about-dogs-humans

 

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Podcast: Meet World Traveling Yoga Teacher, Changu Changezi

003: Podcast with Changu Changezi

Changu Changezi is an ordinary guy with an inspiring story about learning and landscapes. He is a traveling Bikram yoga teacher who lives his life with integrity, authenticity, and an unshakeable sense of self.

He has been traveling the world teaching Bikram yoga for the past four years, approaching learning with an open heart and an open mind all along his journey.

Whether meditating, practicing or teaching yoga, biking across Canada for charity, being bullied as a young boy in Pakistan, coming unglued from his chair in the corporate world, or dancing,  Changu sees the beauty in everything– every experience, every person he meets, good and bad. Trusting the process of life as ever-unfolding allows him to live deeply connected to himself, others, and the world around him. Ever grateful for all of his life-long learning, Changu consistently lives and speaks his truth.

Our conversation about landscapes for learning includes Changu’s immigration to Canada, transformation, compassion, integrity, Bikram Yoga Teacher Training, world travel, “trusting the process,” teaching, yoga, faith, and more.

Changu and I will chat again in the future, delving more deeply into his traveling and teaching adventures, so enjoy his first podcast and come back for another!

Please check out Changu’s Facebook pages, Tulandandasana Everywhere and Humans of Bikram Yoga for stunning photos from Changu’s yoga postures on gorgeous landscapes around the world and inspirational stories about individual transformation resulting from the practice of Bikram Yoga. 

Watch this incredibly beautiful slow-motion video of Changu below….and his balancing stick poses from around the world!

 

External Links:

https://www.facebook.com/tuladandasanaeverywhere/

https://www.facebook.com/bikramyogaeverywhere/