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Antidote to Disconnection

The overwhelming problems resulting from loneliness and disconnection from ourselves and from one another in our modern world has motivated me to write a curriculum for self-directed learning for self realization to encourage more connection– within individuals and among people.

The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide is a curriculum designed for people to find out exactly who they are so they can be wise and well. The Guide was inspired by, based on, and part of my Bikram yoga practice.

Growing in Awareness

Bikram’s hatha yoga series and other forms of introspection, including writing and meditation, are my forms of self study. I also learn more about human nature by studying the stories of the Humanities, ancient and modern, East and West, as a way to learn more about myself and our collective human experience.  

I noticed over many years as a high school teacher that the schooling process (institutionalized education) and modern parenting both lack an important focus on the individual person’s interior life.  People don’t talk about the soul or the spiritual. Young people are anxious and depressed for a number of reasons, some of which are the result of cultural conditioning and its over emphasis on “the other,” the material, and the “externals” of the social and economic landscape. The need for interior work is critical to restore balance within individuals and within culture.  Thus, my new purpose as a yoga teacher, writer, and mental health counselor is to bring awareness to this problem of a lack of attention to soul, spirit, and psyche and do whatever I can to help people find more balance in their lives. The first thing I must do is care for myself so that I am able to care for others. 

Focusing Inward for Self-Realization & Wellness

My Bikram yoga practice has changed my understanding of myself and thus has changed my understanding of reality, human nature, and how I live.  I have learned how to consciously learn about myself and that this is, in fact, my responsibility to attend to regularly for a life of quality and purpose.

Yoga is not only physical but psychological and spiritual therapy as well.  I am hopeful others can experience such therapy through yoga practice for growth and transformation, hence my desire to share the details of my own story which led to creating this blog and the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human  Self Study Guide for Wellness.

One striking result of my continual practice of self study for which I am enormously grateful is that I have developed an attitude of openness to my life experiences which has improved and expanded my relationship with myself and with others. I feel more connected to life, to my own mind and body, to others, and to nature, thus more able to overcome fear, anxiety, and the enormous amount of rapid change and chaos of our modern style of living.  Like many others, I had no idea that I would find the wisdom and wellness that comes from self realization when I initially tried Bikram yoga as a form of exercise.  It would be an understatement to say it was a pleasant surprise.

The Mirror: Who am I?

Bikram yogis don’t go to the yoga studio to find happiness, ease, or the answers to all their problems. A Bikram yogi exercises reflection–literally, as he or she looks in the mirror during class and is thus directed to more consciously notice the process of learning more about oneself.

The practice of this form of hatha yoga teaches us to cultivate an open awareness to our limitations: to watch how we think and act; to notice how we respond to our individual limitations and the challenges of and within our environment. We can see how we behave under pressure, in the face of physical or mental challenge; how we calmly respond or irrationally react to fear, change, and pain. We watch how we suffer, resist, or alternately embrace our struggle and fear; how we talk about ourselves to ourselves and judge our own behavior– how we judge our self-critical nature instead of showing ourselves compassion and love.

We notice and observe how we stay stuck with particular thoughts (often negative or untrue upon further examination); how we might cling to and or release from the security of our rituals and habits we have created for ourselves as a way of comforting ourselves and have come to rely on as ways to avoid, deny, or to appease the ego’s desires and expectations.  We observe what it is we are paying attention to and how the attention wanders, flits about, and sometimes settles…or not. It seems that attention has a mind of its own, and perhaps, indeed, there are two minds at work. 

Because of my yoga practice, I see that I am both rational, self-conscious, and aware, and also fleshy and animal in my nature. I learn about what I am like and to accept whatever is without judgment and with compassion.  Sometimes this process  of self realization includes answers, ease, and happiness, but not always. It’s not magic. It’s challenging, a burden meant to be carried in order to grow in wellness and vitality. As the wise Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “No mud, no lotus.”

Reflection

On further reflection upon my yoga practice, I can ask: Do I give myself compassion when I struggle? Can I feel the tightness of resistance in my body from fear? What’s going on within? Who is in the mirror looking back at me? Is that my greatest teacher, or do I shy away from her and over-depend on the wisdom of others instead? Do I trust the “experts” more than I trust and have faith in myself? What more can I learn from what’s happening rather than critically judge it? Where is the root of my suffering? What can I learn from pain? 

Bikram yoga is not only a work out, stress reduction, or an opportunity to wear cute leggings. It’s not intended to be a social practice, though the collective works simultaneously in silent moving meditation together. The energy and love in the room is palpable, and it is encouraging to be in a space where people are becoming more human, more self-aware, struggling to accept and be more of their unique selves. Outsiders who might peek into a class will see bodies moving or lying in stillness, but they cannot see what’s going on inside each person, beneath the sweat and the physical posturing, as we yogis travel our inner landscapes.

Self Discovery

I find out more and more about who I am every time I practice—which is the final destination– to learn, and to be fully present within this process of ongoing change that is “me.” The Bikram series of 26 poses and 2 breathing exercises as well as its dialogue delivered by a teacher don’t ever change, so that I can see how much and how often I change, for no other reason than to realize my own impermanence. I don’t keep track of progress or grade myself in our usual culturally prescribed sense of achievement. I simply show up to be present in the moment and experience myself– this changing energy, being, presence, and vitality. 

Honest Practice is All

Yoga is so much more than positioning one’s physical body and balancing. Yoga is about developing more conscious awareness, and the discovery that it is our individual responsibility to continually learn more about who we are to grow and thrive. This is more than striving for and attaining happiness, zen, or tranquility after a day’s hard work; rather, it is engaging honestly in the process of self-realization and self-actualization, which includes the range of human experience, both pleasure and pain. It’s simple, but rarely easy. It is practice to fully experience one’s humanity and ongoing transformation, to actualize potential like a flower petal blooming.

Beyond the Studio a.k.a. Yoga Off the Mat

So, as a result of all I have learned and experienced in Bikram Yoga, I wrote the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide for Wellness based on its principles and philosophy of self-realization. I wrote it to help people transfer what they are learning in their yoga practice within the studio to their lives beyond the studio, as a collection of tools for introspection, including self auditing activities, meditation, yoga practice, and writing. People who already engage in yoga or meditation practice already can benefit too, particularly from the unique 5-Part Self Study Wheel and the many self-auditing activities and resources included.

The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide is meant to invite people into authentic learning and the process of self realization so that they can connect more deeply with their truest selves so that they can connect more deeply with others. The antidote to disconnection from others is connection with oneself. When each of us knows ourselves better and cares for ourselves with love and compassion, the world will be a better place.

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October Workshop!

Want to be better, kinder, and more understanding to yourself?

Come Learn About

Self-Study for Self-Realization

at

Bikram Yoga Danvers

October 19th, 2019

Noon-1:00 p.m.

Signed copies of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide (2019) will be available for purchase!

Hosted by

Landscapes for Learning, LLC

 

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WHAT is Self-Study for Self-Realization?

Q & A

WHAT the hell is Self-Study for Self-Realization?

WHY to Self-Study to Self-Realize?

HOW to Self-Study to Self-Realize?

 

This little gem below attempts to give answers to the questions in detail and provides you with directions and activities to get your started knowing yourself better, but you can take a look at my answers below while you wait for your book to be delivered to your home or your Kindle!

Here are MY answers (not necessarily “the” answers):

1A. Self-study is slowing down enough to look inside yourself and answer: who am I? What am I like? What’s my body like? How does my mind work? What’s my personality? Disposition? What are my interests? What sort of choices do I make? What do I pay attention to on a daily/monthly/yearly basis and are those things good for me? What’s my relationship to learning? Do I see opportunities for growth or complain that life is unfair?

*I learned about attention through Bikram Yoga and through reflective journal writing. Perhaps these might also work for you. You will have to study yourself to know what will work for you and what will not. It’s your life.

1B. Self-realization: is ongoing realizations about who you are; seeing yourself as an ever-changing being full of limits and possibilities for becoming. A realization isn’t always in your control. Often having an “ah-ha” moment or making a crazy-amazing discovery about yourself “just happens” for you from beyond your control. A realization can come from “the other side” and outside your comfort zone.

*When I stopped forcing myself to achieve; when I stopped focusing on outcomes and started enjoying the process of being me; when I let go of expectations (mostly of others) and trying to control everything and everyone outside myself all the time; and when I started observing myself with curiosity, love, compassion, understanding, and acceptance (through yoga, reflective writing, introspection), I started taking the best care of myself because I saw my own value (despite all my horrible flaws) and that, still, my life is a gift. I am responsible for expressing the best of myself and for managing the worst.  The lies I had been telling myself about who I thought I was (“my identity” as this type of person or that) burned away and the truth, through realizations, start pouring in! Inspiration and creativity rushed through me, thus this blog and book etc…

2. Each person should study themselves (what I call the “inner landscape”) at least as often as they study the world around them (what I call the “external landscape”) to continually grow in wisdom which I am convinced is what makes a person healthy and thrive. The problem is that our modern culture conditions us to focus our attention on what’s on the “external landscape” to the detriment and neglect of the “inner landscape.” Why do you think people are trying to get more people to meditate? Why do you think mental health counselors are in such demand? Modern life is so overwhelmingly full of noise, material clutter, busyness, and excessive stress that most people are entirely distracted away from their interior life. They are disconnected from the inner place of wisdom and peace. It’s simple: SLOW THE FUCK DOWN and give yourself the loving attention and care that you deserve and are responsible for doing FOR YOURSELF throughout your life. That’s an opportunity and a responsibility. The dangers and challenges of the world aren’t going anywhere– you need to make yourself courageous enough, flexible enough, and strong enough to surf the waves of your life. When you study yourself and realize your whole self, you’ll be well and you’ll make others well in the process.

*I slowed my life down by practicing stopping and living in the moment in my yoga classes; I started practicing yoga outside the studio in my everyday life.  Loads of those moments were painful and uncomfortable (in and out of the studio), but when I explored my pain and suffering to understand it (not judge it), I learned to let it come (without pushing it away) and let it go. I got used to suffering and learned how to suffer better. I also learned how to fully savor all the joyful moments that I had rarely taken time to “be with” before I had slowed down. I cry more, laugh more, am more intimately connected to what and whom I value. Life is fucking good, not because I am rich materially (I am not), but because I am grounded in the truth of my own presence. I am in love with life. I am lively!

3. I propose that five things comprise a helpful self-study program for self-realization: 1. ATTENTION: start understanding what attention is, its value for health and wellness, practice strengthening your attention. You can do this in various ways that I explain in my book. 2. SELF-AWARENESS: Turn your attention inward to knowing who you are and becoming more aware of yourself. Study the workings of your mind and body so can provide optimal care for them. 3. CHALLENGE: Practice facing fear rather than running from it or distracting yourself from it; learn about pain and suffering– they aren’t going anywhere so you may as well learn to make friends with them. Part 3 of the Self-Study Guide can show you how. 4. CHOICE: Study your choices and learn more about the empowerment that comes from choice and mindful response to stress in your environment and within you. We life to blame things in the “external landscape” rather than taking personal responsibility for managing our responses to those stresses from the “inner landscape”or a central locus of control. You can practice getting better at making conscious choices for your wellness. 5. LEARNING: School-learning lives under the umbrella and a much broader definition of learning as a way of living. Learning is embracing a landscapes for learning mindset– to choose to see your life experiences (all of them) as opportunities for growing, expanding who you are, and to expressing your uniqueness. Learning is about the walking the line between what is known (mastery) and what is unknown– and the unknown is both scary and exciting. Get curious about what’s on the other side of your comfort zone and remain open to the possibilities of transcending your limits to thrive.

* Self-Study for Self-Realization is about slowing down, attending to yourself, and discovering what’s true about you and what’s false. It’s an ongoing life-time journey to live the truth to thrive! My book suggests looking at life as a landscape for learning and offers directions to follow to explore the landscape of you!

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Limits & Possibilities

Understanding your own human nature through paying attention to learn about yourself in particular ways using the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self-Study Guide for Wellness will teach you (among other things) about your limitations, your amazing potential, and the myriad of possibilities for transcending those limits to fully self-realize and self-actualize.

You are pure potential

You have incredible potential just waiting to be actualized, passions to be uncovered, and many weaknesses that are likely suppressed that could surface at any time and cause unwanted or unintended damage.

Consider: How many times have you been alternately either pleasantly surprised by your own talents or prowess and horrified at your own weakness and unintended bad behavior?

Make your daily life better

Rather than deny our weaknesses and animal nature, pretend they don’t exist, or repress them, we ought to study them, understand them, and manage them as productively as possible.

We all need to intentionally and very deliberately learn more about who we are and understand what it means to be human—both rational and animal— so we can express our very best and manage our very worst.  

Putting our truth under a spotlight is the path to freedom, and it is the most responsible work a person can do for themselves and for others (which is also why so many people don’t want to do it! Freedom requires responsibility and that’s work!)

Warning:

The process may not be pretty, for self realization is not about happiness per se but the struggle to be the fully-expressed YOU, and it is exactly how the meaning of your life is to be found.

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A Self Study Guide for Wellness

The unexamined life is not worth living.”— Socrates

The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self Study Guide for Wellness is designed to inspire and motivate you to live an “examined” life and give you simple, pragmatic tools for everyday use. It’s about the why and how to “know thyself,” so you can express your uniqueness for a lifetime of wellness and wellbeing. This five part process of self study will enable you to specifically articulate yourself to yourself and empower you to more deliberately author your own life story.

The purpose of the Self Study Guide is to encourage you to look inward at least as often as you look outward which is why it begins with attention. Look up from your screens, away from teachers, friends, experts, and yes, even your parents, to look inward at your own human nature because that’s where your integrity and passion reside as well as all the answers about who you are and how to live well.

The Self Study Guide is a five part program will teach you why and how to:

(1) manage your attention and understand its relationship to your values, 

(2) increase your self-awareness

(3) realize the value of embracing challenge to build character, discipline, and resilience, 

(4) make more intentional choices to respond to life experiences rather than reacting to them mindlessly or unconsciously, and

(5) approach life with the attitude of a lifelong learner to cultivate growth mindset and an openness to experience.

Self study is about reflection, introspection, and radical honesty to improve your human experience. We aren’t here for very long, so get started living your best life today!

Get your copy of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self-Study Guide for Wellness Available for only $9.99 at Amazon.com.

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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.

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Subscribe to Self Study

Why Know Thyself? Why Now?

A prescription for personal wellness in our ultra busy, information-laden modern world is what great sages have recommended since ancient times: “know thyself.” To learn about human nature and one’s own specific, individual nature through deliberate self study is the foundation for a high quality life of meaning and purpose. But we rarely take time to do it, or we don’t know where to start, or we don’t exactly know how to go about knowing ourselves. Landscapes for Learning can help!

The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide is a pragmatic tool for discovering one’s true identity through deliberate self examination. The Guide is a simple, five-part, process-oriented program specifically designed to promote deep, authentic learning about oneself for wellness throughout one’s life.

It combines resources, tools, and practices for reflection and introspection– a self-discovery program and kind of humanities curriculum created to promote wellness and wholeness for modern people. It has been designed to inspire and continually motivate people to deliberately develop their ‘human literacies’ to self-realize and self-actualize for optimal health and vitality.

It is a mistake to assume that we already know how to be our best and most complete human selves; perhaps we knew who we were once, in our innocence, but have forgotten. But if we are willing to travel inward and engage in honest, compassionate practice we can rediscover our authenticity, our truest nature.

The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide will be available to you for free over the next many days, weeks, and months ahead right here in this blog, so SUBSCRIBE below to get started on the journey of self study to become your best, most authentic and unique self!



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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We should teach them more yoga.

References

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

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

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

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

Definitions

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

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

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

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

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Education: Busy-Work or Authentic Learning?

“Authentic learning, inner wisdom, ought to be developed as soon as possible and it ought to be part of education for young people. Currently, it is missing from the public school curricula, or if it does exist, it’s drowned out by the noise of achievement and grades, or buried under the heavy list of more important priorities like the status quo of competition, socialization, and indoctrination.” 

 

When I got quiet in yoga, silently, consciously breathing and moving for 90 minutes in the heat, when I repeatedly faced myself in the mirror and was directed to look into my own eyes and to concentrate and meditate, to attend to myself, I couldn’t help but become more consciously aware of and curious about the person staring back at me.

I never made the time, or had the time and attention, to do this with myself. Life was busy, and I didn’t have the luxury of focusing attention on me in any consistent way. And, it simply never occurred to me that such a process existed or that studying myself in this way was an important activity to do to be more me, to be more alive and well (not just to feel better and be happier). It wasn’t something I learned about in school. 

Like so many other middle-class Americans, I was busy: surviving– working a job, raising children, navigating relationships, earning my way in a world that was expensive and costly.

I thought yoga was exercise –stretching for old ladies. I knew nothing of ancient yogis or Eastern philosophy. Why would anyone spend time “being” for the sake of being when all of our time is spent on doing— producing, creating, striving, competing? I did not know what I did not know! I was not unique in my ignorance.

I was conditioned, in my education (formal and informal) and by society and culture, like so many of us Westerners are, to think of knowledge as something to amass about the world– science and math and language and health and law and so forth– useful, concrete, practical forms of knowledge and skills to help me survive and properly function in the economic world so that I might feed and clothe and house myself.

I loved knowing more and more, and education was something I valued. A big part of that education was about being trained to compete– survival of the fittest and all that jazz.

Contemplation, intuition, compassionate listening –how could such things be of any economic value? Useless privileges for the wealthy. Unless you were raised with formal religious education (or raised with religion that was prescriptive and heavily dogmatic or otherwise perverted) such “spiritual” things were simply never part of any curriculum, at least not for me.

Since religion seems to be culturally passe in the West (whether it has self-destructed or is misinterpreted or misapplied is irrelevant), what fills the void for learning about what it means to be human or how to be human?

At first, when this path laid itself out for me, by sheer accident, (there are no mistakes), I was overwhelmed by the process of getting to know myself through practicing Bikram yoga. The process was challenging and disturbing and rewarding and freeing and joyful and scary all at once. I am not referring only to the physical asanas, or the hatha yoga. I am talking about the entire process of self-realization, which necessarily includes the body and mind.

It took persistence and courage to be honest– to see myself honestly, and to do this alone. (It still does.) It was/is hard.

The reward? The payoff? The practical and concrete outcomes?

Vitality.

I am simply more alive, authentic, and well. I don’t need anything to fill me up fuller than I already am simply being me. I don’t need to consume more because I am enough. I have enough, and I have my integrity and my truth. I trust my intuition, my heart, to guide me to not only live in the real world and survive, but to thrive.

Most people, I think, if they even know such wisdom exists within them waiting to be discovered, are still too afraid to trust and leap without the usual nets they’ve been conditioned to rely on. Perhaps they need more mentors and models (more stories!), guides to show them the journey exists and they ought not neglect a trip through their inner landscape. I am lucky I had good mentors and models who understood the experiences I was realizing on my journey inward.

The result of the process of self-realization is that that stranger in the mirror I saw more than six years ago is now my best friend– the being I trust and love and rely on more than anyone or anything. I regret that I didn’t know her sooner. I understand her capabilities, her limits, and that endless possibilities and unlimited potential exist beyond those very limits and capabilities.

She is always changing and growing, often in a one-step-back and two-step-forward way. I have learned to be compassionate with myself during this type of learning. There’s still so much more that I don’t know (certainly more compared to what I do know), but I know her better than I know anyone or anything else. I know this intuitively, not only psychologically or emotionally or rationally.

On a deep level, I am connected to myself more than ever. I am rarely lonely. Many people have asked me how ever did I travel for nine months alone, by myself; “weren’t you scared?” they’d ask, which was a question  more about the danger of my own company rather than the potential danger of the external world.

Because of Bikram yoga, a way of being through which I was able to travel extensively within my inner landscape (and there are certainly lots of other ways inward), I have the intimate relationship with myself that is foundational and absolutely necessary and required to connect with others. I can be me AND function in the world.

Yoga is about balance, after all. Connecting and being intimate with any other beings, maintaining any other bond, friendship, or interaction with other beings in the world requires self-knowledge, self-understanding, and self-realization.

Blaise Pascal famously said that “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Man is, indeed, a social animal, but we are born alone and die alone and must learn to be who we are first before we can be with another or others.

Sure, you can be afraid of your own company, but you can also be courageous and make friends with yourself. The first step is to simply show up. 

To live well, to live with integrity, all I had to do was show up– do my yoga; be there, alone, on my solo mission with myself, for myself.

Now, in my current work as a writer, podcaster, and coach, I’d like to share my experience with people so that they know a thing called self-realization and self-actualization exists. I was half way through my life before I stumbled down this path that, as a teacher, I believe can be made explicit for people sooner in life so they can live healthier and wiser, rather than missing out on their own authenticity. 

Authentic learning, inner wisdom, ought to be developed as soon as possible and it ought to be part of education for young people. Currently, it is missing from the public school curricula, or if it does exist, it’s drowned out by the noise of achievement and grades, or buried under the heavy list of more important priorities like the status quo of competition, socialization, and indoctrination.

Parents don’t demand human literacies or they innocently don’t know what they don’t know.

Teachers are over-burdened with the requirements of the schooling process and administrators are accountable to, well, the accountability movement and its institutional demands. All they’ve got is their own humanity which is why the moral quality of each individual educator is absolutely paramount to the development of the students they can influence, even if no explicit “inner landscapes” curriculum exists. 

My discovery and road home to myself, my yoga story, has transformed my perceptions of myself and the world. I am changed, but the world has not. The nature of formal education has become ever more clearer to me since I stepped outside of it, since I understand the meaning and value of my own life, and life in general.

I see much more clearly the distinction that exists between authentic learning and the process of schooling.

I understand my previous frustrations I experienced as a high school teacher where I was focused on learning rather than the process of schooling, and that was an uphill battle; one of conflict and difficulty.

I see now that an obvious dearth of authentic forms of learning, including any explicit instruction or curriculum about the process of self-realization is missing in the education of young people.

Our schooling process  simply reflects the imbalances of our society, culture, our world. I am not interested in improving the current system schooling, for perhaps it isn’t even the business of schools to implement a curriculum of connection to the self.

But who shall, if parents aren’t?

If religion can’t?

If schools shouldn’t?

If there aren’t enough therapists to go around or can be afforded?

The rising lack of wellness, the increase in illness and addiction of all kinds among all kinds of kids (and adults) can be addressed by at least starting a conversation about ways to alert people to and promote more authentic learning.  A conversation to shift our values in education (and cultural values), re-balance our priorities, and redefine and refine the definition of a complete education and its ultimate purpose for human beings, not merely for human doings.

I believe that right now, the best I can do, as one individual person, is share my stories, my experiences and my beliefs.

I believe it is important for kids (and adults) to start spending time on their inner landscapes at least as much as they spend time on social media. And I am trying to figure out ways to help them find the path to self-realize and self-actualize: to deal with their fears, isolation, disconnection, inability to pay attention, and their varied illnesses which are symptoms of the current cultural health crisis. My first step is the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide.

In Walden, Henry David Thoreau observed that Most men lead lives of quiet desperation” and I believe this is still true today. Radical in their day, he and the other transcendentalists believed humans ought to be spending more time focused on learning from personal, direct experience rather than blind acceptance of dogma. They understood the value of exploring one’s interior world as well as its interconnection to the natural world.

Yet, still, our attention these days is focused externally far more than internally; we are more interested in and attuned to outer landscapes than inner ones.

He also predicted that man enjoyed riding upon his railroad but that one day the railroad would ride upon him; also true. Just substitute information technologies or the internet for railroad, and I would question whether or not we have made any “progress” being humans at all. 

What do we want the future to have that we cannot already find and be with in the present moment?

What are we searching for?

What needs met, outside our ourselves that cannot be found and met within?

Can we teach our kids to make time for themselves to get to know themselves rather than focusing on external tasks and social connectivity? To not allow the railroad to ride upon them?

Can we teach them not to miss out on what’s happening within, rather than consoling them or attempting to control the external environment for them?

Stories are powerful agents of change. If we want to make the world better, if we want to make the people we love better and strangers and friends better, then we all ought to share stories and tell our stories.

My individual journey home to myself through yoga is one small, simple individual story among many that may encourage others about the value of focusing inward. I am sharing mine through my writing here, and in my books, and inviting others who have traveled the path of self-realization, self-awareness, self-love, and self-actualization to tell their stories on my Landscapes for Learning podcast.

The hero’s journey, the archetypal story of mankind, is the story each of us can take and it is the way home for each human being to fulfillment and joy, a life worth living, a life worth enduring pain and suffering that is the inevitable reality for each and all of us. 

Sharing stories is one way we can think critically about and discuss the way we educate our kids, because the way we spend our time and attention in the educational process will determine the future of what it means to be a human being and how we determine what is the meaning and value of life, our lives– each and every one.