This little video captures my journey from lover of stories and storytelling as an English teacher and writer to becoming a yoga teacher and psychotherapist. It encapsulates wisdom curriculum and some things I convey in both of my books, especially the
SELF-STUDY FOR SELF-REALIZATION IS CLASSIC WISDOM
STOPPING TO BE WITH OURSELVES, TO KNOW OURSELVES DEEPLY AND HONESTLY, IS SIMPLE, BUT NOT EASY…
AND BECAUSE IT IS NOT EASY, WE STRUGGLE TO DO IT…
MY BOOK OFFERS SIMPLE WAYS TO BEGIN TO TRAVEL THE LANDSCAPES FOR LEARNING TO DISCOVER YOUR TRUTH TO MAXIMIZE YOUR WELLNESS AND LIVE A MEANING-FILLED LIFE
I USE SIMPLE LANGUAGE AND TOOLS YOU CAN PICK AND CHOOSE FROM AND USE ANYTIME.
I EXPLAIN WHY AND HOW TO KNOW YOURSELF FOR WELLNESS
I WROTE THE BOOK FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AND PURPOSEFULLY AVOIDED USING THE TECHNICAL JARGON OF YOGA & MINDFULNESS, WOO-WOO SPIRITUALITY, ACADEMIC OR SCIENTIFIC EXPLANATIONS.
I AM HONEST ABOUT MY LIFE LEARNING IN THE BOOK AND SHARE IT WITH READERS. THAT WAS SIMPLE BUT NOT EASY FOR ME. IN FACT, IT CONJURED LOADS OF FEAR, SELF-DOUBT, AND RESISTANCE, WHICH IS EXACTLY WHY I DID IT.
“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.
(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.
“Landscapes for Learning’s Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide is a set of simple directions, tools, and practices to show you how to live by the classic maxim, “know thyself” for modern teens and adults. It was created for people to actively integrate the process of knowing themselves into their daily lives, and can be utilized by anyone, anywhere. No grades, no tests, only learning for the sake of gaining personal wisdom and wellness.”
“Know Thyself” —Oracle at Delphi
“Be true to yourself!”
“Express your uniqueness!”
Popular, inspirational memes like these are shared in self-help books and all over social media to inspire people to live well, but how can you possibly “do you,” be the best you possible, and express yourself uniquely if you don’t know who you are?
Answering the question “who am I?” is foundational to self improvement, and it is also the center of a truly complete education. A committed, ongoing pursuit of knowing oneself provides meaning for one’s life. The advice is ancient, classic, motivational and positive for sure, but simply reading about it isn’t enough. You have to act.
Landscapes for Learning’s Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide is a set of simple directions, tools, and practices to show you how to live by the classic maxim, “know thyself” for modern teens and adults. It was created for people to actively integrate the process of knowing themselves into their daily lives, and can be utilized by anyone, anywhere. No grades, no tests, only learning for the sake of gaining personal wisdom and wellness.
Self-study is foundational to all other kinds of learning. Any other strategies and motivational programs for achievement or success build upon the unique combination of directives in the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide.
Listen to your nudges, bitches. They’re never wrong. When you ignore them or you are too afraid to do what they ask, they usually show up as aches and pains in your body, or in your mind, or both. Denial, distraction, and ignorance will make you sick and suffer-– maybe not in the short term but definitely in the long term.
HOW TO LISTEN TO YOUR NUDGES
Practicing Bikram Yoga gives you the opportunity to listen to your nudges and to face them to find the truth. This is hard. Lots of people would rather live in denial, distracted, and avoid the challenge of the hot room which serves as a crucible of honesty.
If you practice Bikram Yoga consistently and study yourself, by turning your attention inward instead of focusing on the distractions around you, you will start to notice patterns: you’ll notice, with curiosity rather than judgment, those subtle aches and pains in your body and in your mind. Noticing and learning about your mind-body connection will enable you to take a step toward putting the pieces of the puzzle of your true self together.
The underlying truth of your life is the source of those nudges. The truth will surface with time and consistent practice as you courageously face the nudges and deal with them– explore them. If you ignore them, as Jo Simpson says in her TedTalk, (or you expect someone else to “fix” them for you and act as a victim) they’ll slap you across the face or steam roll you later in the form of greater suffering or poor health or tragedy. Best to listen now rather than later.
PRACTICE PAYING ATTENTION
Bikram Yoga is an incredibly helpful tool for strengthening your attention, practicing listening, and gaining the strength of character and grit to take responsibility for the hard truths of your life when they come. You will be prepared to face whatever life throws at you because you will have learned how to manage your suffering. You’ll have prepared through disciplined PRACTICE. (And here you are thinking yoga is about posing in spandex and posting self-indulgent photos on Instagram!)
If you build your strength and flexibility by doing what’s difficult in your practice, of staying in the room and trying, you’ll be right there, open enough, paying attention enough to receive your TRUTH!
STAY OPEN & VULNERABLE
That’s why I always include the line in the dialogue, “Mama, give me money!” when I am teaching. That’s why I reinforce keeping your eyes OPEN and your palms open in savasana– just in case that truth arrives, you’ll be ready to receive it. Show up, focus inward, and listen– to the nudges that will guide you to truth.
You may not like the nudges or understand them because usually they aren’t rational, and vulnerability is uncomfortable and scary, but you’ll be building the courage to accept the nudges as important signs to do as you should to be healthy.
And those pains in your mind and body will magically dissolve, not really by magic at all, but rather through your attention and hard work, that is– discipline. This is why it’s YOUR practice and we ask you to look at yourself in the mirror, not at your teacher. There’s nothing special about us on the podium. We give you the conditions of the room and the words; you do the rest. It’s not about the teacher and how much “energy” or “entertainment” they bring to the class– if the teacher and their antics are your focus, then you won’t hear what your inner world needs to tell you. You might not notice the nudges. Your yoga isn’t about anybody else but YOU.
BE YOUR OWN BEST WINGMAN
Knowing yourself by listening, paying yourself some loving, compassionate, and honest attention for 90 minutes– as if you came to spend some time with someone you really want to be with, someone you really care about— is your homemade, unique prescription for wellness.
As Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink always says, freedom comes from DISCIPLINE. Bikram yoga is a form of very effective discipline– of showing up on your mat and PAYING ATTENTION— of heading inward bound to know the real you, to your truth and its source.
You want more answers about what the hell is happening for you in your life? Want more wisdom? More wellness? Listen to the nudges, bitches.
SEE YOU IN THE HOT ROOM!❤️🔥
STAY TUNED FOR SELF STUDY for WISDOM AND WELLNESSWORKSHOPS COMING SOON TO A BIKRAM YOGA STUDIO
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.
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).
Self-realization (Wikipedia, Merriam Webster’s Dictionary)
Self-realization is an expression used in Western psychology, philosophy, 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
“To Err is human; to forgive, divine”—Alexander Pope
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.”
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.
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!
“It turns out that when you stop clinging to the safety and security that you think you have found in a particular lifestyle, other people, your carefully constructed identities, or material things, you find your way home to your truth.”
The original title for this piece was “Meta: Choosing or Clinging.” I wrote it more than a year ago, but only now finding the courage to share it. This content includes a central theme of the book I am currently writing about life and learning called, Like a Flower Petal Blooming.
I was too afraid to post this reflection last year, probably because the content was far too personal, I doubted myself, and I was uncertain about my writing abilities. I am certain I shamed myself for being an idealist rather than practical (I have always been accused of being too idealistic!). I was at the very beginning of what would be a major change, so naturally, I felt insecure, vulnerable, uncomfortable. But, now, one year later, because I trusted my inner voice rather than trying to control my own destiny through pure logic, the world looks like an entirely new and amazing place.
…….About a year and a half ago, in June, 2015, I returned home from a yoga training in Thailand where I studied Bikram yoga for nine weeks and made more than 175 friends from around the world. Life was never the same after training. Before I attended, I was told the experience would “rock my world,” but I wasn’t sure what that really meant. I suppose I thought that just being there and training for many hours per day and suffering through the intensity would make me stronger physically, emotionally, and psychologically. I knew it would be hard. I also assumed that being immersed in the yoga system I love with its original creator would be a wonderful affair, full immersion. It would be about living out my passion for this yoga and sharing it with so many other enthusiastic people who all had their own stories and reasons for landing at training. And, certainly, it did rock my world in all of these ways while I was there, but the real changes, the real “world-rocking” happened after training.
After the months away in a tropical paradise, returning to previous routines and relationships was a difficult transition, and I slowly realized that I was different–very different from the person who had left months ago. This took more and more time to fully realize. More evident things, like my diet, had changed as well as my tolerance for certain behaviors. My priorities shifted a bit too. But this was only the beginning of a longer, more gradual transformation that is still in progress.
Do you know that inner voice? Call it your intuition or your authentic, most honest and pure Self? God? Consciousness? Life Force? Well, after training, that voice wouldn’t be ignored like it had been previously. That voice, so faint throughout my life, always there but barely recognizable, had become more prominent when I began practicing yoga, and more recently it has become much louder and clearer.
After I returned from training, it felt like a tidal wave of intuition was rolling through my heart, my soul, and definitely through my body, pushing me in very specific directions that I had no choice but to follow.
My inner voice was prodding me, quite loudly, to change—- first, my career, which had been perfectly gratifying and financially secure, and also some of my important relationships; basically, I was being told to make one important choice: to focus on a deeper part of myself– a place where I hadn’t had the courage to go to yet. I had to rescue myself– a deeper part of me that was struggling to be born, and I think that because I had learned self-compassion at training, I was ready to care for myself in a way I had been providing for others for so many years throughout my life. Training prepared me to embrace change, stay with the discomfort and instability that would naturally ensue from change, and trust the unknown and my inner compass.
The inner guide was insisting that I “let go” within the important areas of my life– my job and my relationships– the places where I was putting much of my energy and my heart on a consistent basis– to stop clinging to these identities. (And, by the way, clinging is MUCH different than choosing to be in a job or in a relationship.) I mean, I wasn’t hearing actual voices or anything, but it was just like, I had to do these things, even when my logical mind was screaming, “No!”
How can you just simply “go with” a feeling or intuition when it doesn’t seem to make any sense?
As it turns out, the big decisions I was being pushed to make weren’t so much about the relationships themselves or the job of teaching per se; they were about the practice of letting go; it was about ME no longer clinging to those pieces of my identity and all the beliefs I had about myself in these roles. It wasn’t about love. It wasn’t about living with dysfunction. It was about how I needed to take time and space to attend to myself. I had to suspend each of them temporarily, to stand outside my conventional life, to take a much deeper look inside. I had to choose that voice, that core— me, and do its bidding.
Maybe THIS was the “rocking my world” part that people talked about who had been to this yoga training before me?
The suffering involved with these changes was real. It scared me. It was destabilizing. To think of myself as anything other than a teacher? Impossible! To not parent? To focus solely on myself and be autonomous and not be in a romantic relationship? I believed for many years that I was born to teach; how could something be telling me that I need to leave teaching behind? What about job security? My income? The students? My colleagues? Who would I be, if not a mom? And, such a directive without any guidance about where I was to go next! It’s not like I had all this passion for a new project or career just waiting to be followed. Why would I quit? I was not heading toward anything, only away from, well… “security.”
It is interesting to look back now, in hindsight, at how I reeled against this flood of intuition, pushed back against that tidal wave that was absolutely relentless. Once the idea of these changes entered into my body, my psyche, my heart, I couldn’t ignore them. They were there to stay, at least until I followed through with making decisions and taking action toward their fulfillment. I literally knew I had no choice, though that did not stop me from whining, complaining, doubting, struggling, and resisting. Did I mention I was scared? How the ego wrestles with itself! How the logic mind battles against the creative heart! Courage, not confidence, was necessary.
Once I changed my relationships with others by choosing to listen to myself, I knew this voice, this intuition, this tidal wave of change (and what felt a little like tough love), was worth trusting, despite the fact that I was really sad and still a little confused about the decisions I was making.
Nothing is ever cut and dry, especially when it comes to difficult decisions– that’s why they are so difficult! I also worked on allowing my title of teacher to change. I dipped my toe into the water of radical career change by applying for a leave of absence which I thought was doable and would buy me some time to explore new possibilities….but which ones?
I was headed toward nothing in particular! I was merely trusting what that little voice inside was telling me. For all the times I hadn’t listened and been miserable, I figured I ought to really go for it and make the leap this time. I mean, life isn’t really an adventure if there’s no real risk at stake.
As I began to review my finances, my future, retirement, etc…this assessment turned out to be a review of my values and the way I was spending my time. We only have a limited amount of time and I want to be sure I am using it intentionally. All of this ruminating and planning felt a little like making a decision to have a baby…is there really ever a “right time” to begin a whole new life, a new career, new relationships?
So, I decided to see what others did when facing such change and risk. I read all sorts of encouraging articles about quitting and true stories about people leaving their uber-rich lifestyles built on corporate financial success to go live in Fiji or to surf all day in some tropical paradise. Or, humorously and ironically, successful entrepreneurs leaving their millions to go teach– to give back; Where would I, public school teacher, go? Who would this one-time teacher become instead? I certainly don’t have any ambition to pursue a life of wealth and leisure. I am pretty happy with what I have already earned. So, why couldn’t I just be content with security like everyone else, I asked my inner voice. But, the voice didn’t drop an answer or a new passion to pursue into my lap. That’s the thing with passion and inspiration– you can’t call it; it calls you. You just have to be listening and ready.
So, months later I found the courage to allow myself to let go of being codependent in all of my relationships (with money, with jobs, with people, with places) and I am learning to let go of defining myself in such limited and limiting ways.
To me, too much security means stagnation.
I had been shutting off all of my potential to be different and to continue to change and grow, and my body and heart could sense this which is why that Voice began to object! As I listen to it and trust it, it is allowing me to redefine myself and to see myself and the world in new ways. To let go of clinging to the particular identities that grew stale and had become prohibitive to growth, I had to embrace change for the sake of change, even if my mind told me it was unreasonable. Sometimes unreasonable is the most reasonable thing to be.
So, since I made this decision, this leap, I have been spending time living as anything but a high-school-teacher-suburban-mom-responsible-for-everyone-else girl. I don’t know yet who I am becoming, but maybe that’s just the point— to “become,” without any expectations, without any specific goals in mind for myself, and without a to-do list for my life. Maybe the “accomplishing” will be not accomplishing anything at all but to follow my inner compass, be true to myself, and take care of me.
END NOTE: It’s humorous to me that some friends and family thought I just needed a vacation from work and parenting; that I wanted to travel and relax. I know that some people thought I was miserable and merely running away from the burden of my responsibilities. That isn’t the case and never was. This sabbatical has been an exploration of my inner landscape just as much as I have explored the external and natural landscapes of the world. I haven’t been taking a break from “real life,” I have been living it more than ever. And for that, I am grateful.
As I write my memoir-in-progress, working title, “Like a Flower Petal Blooming,” I am going to post excerpts from time to time to keep myself fighting Resistance with the capital “R.” Who knew writing a book is like wrestling with satan? LOL This one is a brief excerpt on the theme of honesty and truth.
“Someone asked me today, “How do you like teaching yoga?” I answered as if she asked, “why do you teach yoga,” because the answer is the same. I teach yoga because I love yoga and I love teaching. Both are ME. I love being part of people’s efforts to be better– to be alive, to learn, to be on their journey of self-discovery– to share a small part of that journey. I respect the effort of the people who show up in the hot room (or torture chamber, as Bikram refers to it) and do the very best they can. They show up in that room and are forced to get honest– I respect honesty. I respect hard work. (I hate lazy people, as Bikram would say.) I love to see people rise to the occasion to do what sometimes seems impossible, for each individual in their own individual ways. I love seeing them grapple with the worst parts of themselves and the best and accept both with equanimity. I love to see people grapple with their suffering. If they can’t get radically honest in a Bikram yoga class, under the bright lights, in front of those mirrors, then they don’t come back. This yoga is hard. Making excuses is easy, justifiable even. You have to be tough to stick with it. Yes. True, physically, but even truer for trying to get honest with yourself and stay honest, like, forever. Bikram yoga reminds me that every time I step on the podium to teach or in front of the mirror to face myself and practice, and I give the honest effort it requires to be alive and well, I am living my truth.
“The problem with creating the habit of lying, especially to yourself, is that after a while, you lose your bearings— you can’t trust yourself and you suffer even more. Your identity is compromised, making you less likely to be able to connect with yourself– your inner wisdom– or others. We need good, healthy relationships based on the truth, by being truthful with ourselves first and foremost, otherwise we slowly die.”
Why is it so hard to be truthful?
Has your life been one long battle of figuring out what’s true, struggling to accept inconvenient truth or living out said truths through deliberate action?
Sometimes living truthfully conflicts with living happily. There’s usually a bit (or more) of suffering involved. So, then why bother tell the truth, face it, or live according to it? Why not just do what’s expedient and not give it so much attention? Why does telling the truth or discovering and living your truth matter?
The way I see it, after years of trial and error, living an honest life is a life that’s respectable, ethical, scary, challenging, burdensome, yet full of meaning and satisfaction.
I am exhausted from my pursuit of the truth and trying to live a truthful life. I have to build myself up in every way to be fit enough to face the challenge of living a truth-filled life. I mean, actual time, energy, and attention. Commitment! Sacrifice! And I still kinda suck at it! Why do I continue to pursue truth and live according to the truth if it’s much easier and more pleasurable not to? Why should I continue if I’m not even good at it? Why should I continue to make truth-telling rather than happiness as a priority in my life?
Because I feel stronger more alive and more authentically me when I follow the truth and feel weaker and suffer when I don’t. Like I said, I have gathered this through trial and error. I guess it’s about choosing which kind of suffering you’d rather endure. Pick your poison.
Ironically, when I was a college student studying philosophy, I learned a lot about the pursuit of knowledge and truth. It all seemed so idealistic and honourable to pursue the truth– you know, in an academic way, and through being inspired by great mythical hero stories and such, but damn, real life has taught me that aiming at the truth is incredibly difficult. It’s a total bitch, actually. Studying human nature is one thing. Actually being a human being is another! The ideal gets real and the philosophical gets personal. It’s so much easier to hide in studying phenomena than being a phenomenon!
I have found, through hindsight, that when I weaken or tire of pursuing or telling the truth to myself and to others, and when I thereby let my guard down, when I ignore or dismiss truth, I feel absolutely miserable: emotionally, psychologically, physically. And, when I lie to myself, I fail and fall hard and then am forced to pick up the pieces which involves even more, painstaking work. In my experience, it is more expedient to tell the truth, face the truth, and live the truth and live with the consequences. Let the chips fall where they may– which is so much easier said than done– and it surely is unnerving to be at the whim of the unknown future. This process is a grind, never easy, but always the best choice. That’s just my experience.
I have no idea what the point of my life is. I don’t have the answer to why I exist, but I can control the quality of my life through the type of person I am and become– through character, and the foundation of my character rests on truth. I don’t believe this is a result of cultural conditioning, my upbringing, my genetics. I believe morality is far more deeply rooted than that.
When denying truth, ignoring my inner voice, dismissing a gut-feeling, or lying, especially to myself, I have found that the results are consistently disastrous, whether the disaster strikes immediately or days or months or even years after the fact. Not telling the truth or living according to what I know to be true causes plenty of suffering– almost always my own and very often, others’. Lying sounds so harsh, seems so visible, even childish, but really, it’s a super-smart, sneaky bastard who slinks and skulks around—sometimes it lands in your shoulders or your scapula; sometimes, lower back. It sort of lounges around, hanging out lazily inside your guts. It taunts your brain to analyze it, justify its existence, tell stories about it that sound convincing. Maybe some people become good at ignoring all of this chaos within caused from lying, but I’m not. As often and as much as I try, those lies get me every time.
The tension that results from intentional lying, misrepresenting the truth, failing to tell the truth, or ignoring what I know to be true, persists in my body, but thankfully, yoga practice has taught me to pay attention to what’s happening within, not only when I am in the room performing the asanas or relaxing in savasana, but in daily life, outside the yoga studio. I’ve become acutely aware of how much my body can tell me about the decisions I am making and whether or not I am being honest with myself and with others.
One example of a challenge related to living a truthful life has come from choosing other’s happiness or stability over my own. When your truth conflicts with how others perceive the world, this presents a big problem. Rather than living according to what I know to be true in both my heart and my mind, I fail to live my truth because it might negatively affect another person, usually someone I care about. Mostly, I compromise and negotiate, but when the pendulum swings too far away from being true to myself, I know it. Often, I choose to live a lie because I don’t want someone else’s feelings to be hurt. Martyr syndrome? Probably. Take one for the team? Sure. Take one for the team every single time to the point where it makes you sick and you don’t recognize yourself? No. If people in your life love you, they’ll support you in living your truth.
Here’s another example: Should you avoid pursuing a passion that others’ deem unacceptable (Maybe, like, becoming an artist?) Should you avoid making a choice for yourself that is based on what you know, 100%, to be true for you but that causes someone else to have to make a sacrifice or compromise their understanding of reality or their own identity? The answer is No and No. Does any other this sound familiar? I am pretty certain I am not alone in this failure-to-live-according-to-one’s-truth scenario.
Another example involves denial. This happens when my inner voice and my body tells me the truth and I don’t like it— the truth is like scary, disgusting medicine I don’t want to take, even though I know, on some other level, that it’s exactly what I need. It’s gonna hurt if I accept it and act on it. It’s gonna hurt a lot. Who likes pain? Most of the time, my little mind rationalizes in every way possible, jumping into buttress my emotional resistance by providing a million and one arguments that are really only justification for denial or ignoring the truth or telling myself outright lies, usually in the form of rather elaborate well-spun stories. The perception of the truth happens, and immediately, my talented storytelling mind layers it with all sorts of crazy scenarios and stories that are a cover for the truth I’m afraid to face. And, man, am I a great story-teller! I fall for those damn stories every time! Do you?
Another simple scenario where I wrestle with truth is through yoga. The truth is that, when practicing, I should do the posture and work as hard as I can in it, but I tell myself the lie that it’s not that important. This is my inner battle. It’s like I have two little mini-personalities fighting against one another. Live the truth- do the posture and work hard versus live a lie and believe the story about why you should take it easy. “It’s not that important, Maureen. It doesn’t matter” one voice says. But my values do matter; they have to matter! Otherwise, nothing matters and that’s a path that leads straight to anxiety, depression, and a whole lot of mental, physical, psychological, and spiritual suffering. Seemingly, a small thing to try hard in a yoga posture, but if you meditate on this, maybe you’ll see its greater significance. Add up all these “little” cheats and over a lifetime—have you really lived an honest life? Practicing the right way matters.
Another infamous lie I tell myself is related to sacrifice and martyrdom. Our social and cultural norms encourage and celebrate sacrificing for others as a noble act, especially if you are a mother, but mostly, I make up stories to justify denying my own truth, mostly because it’s easier to choose helping someone else instead of facing my own truth that may be more challenging or because I am avoiding fear of living according to that truth. Busying yourself on “fixing” and “helping” is an inauthentic distraction. Most of the time, I am not brave. I am scared and weak and cling to what’s familiar and safe. It’s easier to run away from the fire rather than towards it. Making excuses is another way to describe this phenomenon. You are rewarded for being helpful and kind but to the detriment of denying who you really are. You’re living a lie.
Everyone knows that lying destroys relationships. If there is no trust, there is no real relationship. The problem with creating the habit of lying, especially to yourself, is that after a while, you lose your bearings— you can’t trust yourself and you suffer even more. Your identity is compromised, making you less likely to be able to connect with yourself– your inner wisdom– or others. We need good, healthy relationships based on the truth, by being truthful with ourselves first and foremost, otherwise we slowly die. Being honest with oneself is the foundation for being in honest relationships with others. It really is a matter of life or death.
One of the most important tenets I try to live by is to alleviate suffering, and if I cannot alleviate it, I will, at best, try not to create more suffering for myself or for others. Therefore, I must be brutally honest with myself and others. Always. Consistently. If I pay careful attention and dig deep to find the courage to be honest, well then, that’s a quality life worth living.