DAVID P. GARDNER
The real teacher of life is not experience. It's not overheard conversations or lines from songs or what you read in books (or the people who wrote the books).
The real teacher is you . You're the one who must decide, of all that comes your way, what is true and what is not, what applies to you and what does not, what you learn now and what you promise yourself you'll learn later.
Have you noticed that two people can read the same book or see the same movie or be in the same relationship and remember entirely different things? The best that life can do is present lessons to you. The learning is up to you.
I can't do any better than life. All I can do is present certain points of view, possible explanations, and whatever I have learned from certain experiences.
From what I present, it's up to you say, "Yes, that fits," "No, that doesn't," or "Let me consider it for a while and see." If it fits, take it: it's yours. I just put words around something you already knew.
If you listen carefully, you'll hear (or sense) a voice inside you. It's the voice of your inner teacher. (I'll use the word voice, but for you it may be an image or a feeling or a sensation or any combination of these.) It may not be the loudest voice "in there," but it's often the most consistent, patient, and persistent one.
What does your inner teacher sound like? It's the one that just said, "I sound like this."
If you're like me, you probably had other voices answering that question, too. "No, no, I sound like this." "There is no inner voice." "More than one voice? Do they think I'm crazy?" "Inner teacher. How stupid!"
But, through the din--lovingly, calmly, and perhaps a little amused by all the commotion caused by a simple question--the inner teacher reminds you,
"I am here. I have always been here. I'm on your side. I love you."
What are all those other voices? Who's saying all that stuff? And why? And which "you" do I mean when I say, "You are the real teacher"?
Try a brief experiment. Take a moment and be aware of your body. Quickly "scan" it from your feet to your head. How does it feel? Are there any areas of tightness or tension? Do any parts feel particularly good? Is there any soreness or stiffness? Do you feel tired or alert?
Now, take a look at your emotions. (Or perhaps I should say, "Take a feel of your emotions.") What are you feeling? Excitement? Fear? Contentment? Irritability? Calmness? Emotions are often felt in and around the heart (the center of the chest) and the stomach. What are you feeling there?
One more bit of observation: notice your thoughts. What are you thinking? Listen to your mind as it goes through its thought process. A study once said we think at 1,200 words per minute. How they counted the words, I don't know. How they translated the visual and sensory thinking we do into words, I also don't know. That figure does, however, give a sense of the continual chatter going on in our brains. (Some Eastern traditions call this the "monkeymind.") Listen to the chatter for a moment.
Now, one question: Who did that? Who noticed the body? Who felt the feelings? Who observed the mind?
Maybe it was something other than the body, greater than the emotions, more magnificent than the mind.
Maybe it was you .
THOMAS ALVA EDISON
The body has enormous wisdom: it circulates blood, digests food, and performs thousands of necessary functions every second--all without your even having to "think" about them.
The body keeps itself from getting ill and heals itself when it does. It sees, hears, feels, tastes, smells--and has the sense to do that without ever being taught how. It performs the amazing feat of balancing itself on two legs, something--considering its size, proportions, and center of gravity--it has no business doing.
Alas, the body doesn't have much "smarts." Instincts, absolutely. Other animals have bodies, too--complete with wisdom and instincts. But something, whatever it is--reason, intelligence, awareness, soul, or "smarts"--separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom.
Ask yourself: are you (the you you) located in the body, or located in the "Something extra"? That's a loaded question, of course. Who can resist the temptation to associate themselves with "something extra" (especially a mysterious something extra)?
Even if we unload the question ("Are you more than your physical body?"), I think you see the point:
As remarkable as our bodies are, we somehow know that we are more remarkable than that.
Roseanne: That much, huh?
This is a difficult concept for thinkers to think about and for comprehenders to comprehend. "That which separates humans from beasts is the human being's superior intellect," they say, "its well-developed mind."
Perhaps, perhaps not. Let's explore.
The mind is often too full of opinions and "facts" about the way things were to accurately evaluate the way things are. For many people, the mind's job is to prove what it already knows is enough--there's no need to learn anything new.
As John Kenneth Galbraith pointed out, "Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof."
Firmness of mind, to a point, is a good thing. It keeps us from being wishy-washy, swayed by every new tidbit of information that comes our way. If firmness is carried to an extreme, however, the mind becomes closed to new information from any source. The closed mind is, obviously, not open to learning. Learning is the assimilation and integration of new ideas, concepts, and behaviors.
You may be wondering, "Is my mind closed?" If you asked yourself that, it probably isn't. The closed mind, when faced with the concept that the mind is not the "It" of "Its," disregards the information--often vehemently. (As Dorothy Parker said, "This book is not to be tossed lightly aside, but to be hurled with great force.")
RICHARD M. NIXON
If you're still reading this book and actively exploring the option that the mind might not be "you," then your mind is obviously open enough to accept the idea that it is not necessarily the It of Its, and therefore open to learning.
Books such as LIFE 101 have filters built in--not into the book, but into the people who might read the book. Those not open to new ideas seldom read books that contain new ideas. These people don't even pick up such books--whose titles are often reason enough to disregard them. Their minds dismiss any book threatening to teach them something with, "It's one of those books."
Even certain sections in the bookstore are taboo. Some people never visit any of those sections. For some, the mere fact that it's a book is reason not to be bothered.
I don't mean to belittle the mind. (I make my living with mine.) The mind is an essential tool for sorting, organizing, conceptualizing, and replaying information.
My point is that the mind is a marvelous servant; it just makes a poor master.
Feelings are good things to have--when you're feeling good. There's nothing that feels quite so good as good feelings. On the other hand, when feelings feel bad, we often wish we didn't feel at all.
Emotions are like the vibrations on the strings of a violin: they're essential to the song, but they're not the essence of the violin.
We experience life's pains and pleasures through our emotions. Because of this, some people decide they are their feelings--"I feel, therefore I am." The problem is, emotions are too often too wrong to be who we truly are.
Did you ever feel you could trust somebody and you couldn't? Did you ever feel something bad was going to happen and it didn't? Did you ever feel you could spend the rest of your life loving someone, and, well, you know what happened to that one. (or, more likely, you don't know what happened to that one.)
Our emotions are like yo-yo's: sometimes they're up, sometimes they're down. We can walk the dog, go 'round the world, or practice "sleeping." Yo-yo's are fun, but who's holding the string?
If someone's holding the string, then "you" must be more than the string--be it the string of a violin, the strings of your heart, or the string of a yo-yo.
If you're not your body, your mind, or your emotions, who are you?
Some might say our sense of self is simply an amalgam of the three; that the interplay of the body, mind, and emotions makes a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts, and that greater whole we call self.
This definition is fine with me--as are any religious, spiritual, or metaphysical views of self you may have. (I'll get to all those--yes, all of them--in just a moment.)
I'm not here to answer the question, "Who Are You?" I'm here to suggest that there is a "You" to be discovered. The discovery of that "You" is entirely your own--although the entire world is willing to help.
Copyright © 1991-1996 Prelude Press & Peter McWilliams site credits