Sample Classroom Talk ( Room 1)

A Personal Approach Works Best for "Experiential Knowing"

By John Bilby

In this class, I would like to address you as a person if you don't mind. To me, you are a person of almost undefineable characteristics. Yet there are a few things that I can guess about you with fair certainty because they are characteristics of ordinary human beingness. That is, they are identifiable characteristics that we all share.

It doesn't really matter if I know who you are. What matters here in this approach is whether *you* know who you are.

And so, this class is not about "me," the coach--or, "John," that is. I am only a coach. I am not what is important here. This class is all about you and who you are. There are many coaches who are far greater than me (and the Library will give you some links). But I know enough to do the job of coaching the kindergarten here.

And it's not my job to pin labels on you about anything. Yet it is, however, my job--if you'd like to be coached in this approach--to give you some coaching tips and hints about how you can catch on to the two subjects here: "The Awareness Game," in the kindergarten, and "Being Human: a Catalog of Insights," on the playground.

The first of these is an experiential training, full of experiential exercises that you can do at home, which will enable you to know and experience the natural state of human consciousness that is referred to as "mindfulness," or "aware presence."

This "awakened" state is known by a variety of names and terms in different centuries, different cultures, and different schools --both spiritual and humanistic, or secular--that have existed since the earliest of times, some of which, to this day, have continued teaching what has been, for millenia, the secret teachings of the inner circles of schools of esotericism. Although this may not seem like a proper subject for kindergarten, it is. Because it's all simply about catching on.

The awakened state is an experience, and there's no better place than kindergarten for catching on to that. (And parenthetically, the kindergartens that we all have attended previously in our lives, have most likely been the places where we lost our childhood enlightenment and joined up with the topsy-turvy world of the adults--a world in which experience has been all but thrust out of modern consciousness entirely in favor of the concepts and ideas of intelligent thinking).

So, this time, kindergarten may prove to be a good place for beginning to re-discover experience--and perhaps for beginning again without repeating a few of the same mistakes all over again. For that is one way of expressing what the awareness game is about: that is, having enough presence of mind not to be making the same mistakes all over again.

Mae West said if she had to make a mistake, she'd rather pick one that she hadn't tried already. And that will work, too. This is also about learning to make choices--conscious choices, for the things that you may like and love the most--like peace, and harmony with those you live with, and inspiration in the arts or skills that you like best. And don't forget about *love* --the feelings you share in the community of other people that you have close companionship with. (And if you don't have enough companionship in your life right now, and you would like to, there are lots of good suggestions in all the classes here for remedying that.)

Again, this is not about pinning any labels on you (how could I, since I can't see you there?). Yet this kind of training can provide many keys by which you can get to know who you are more intimately. I hope this won't mean rude surprises, but even if there might be a few, there are always good surprises that show up right underneath them--like clicking a key, and there you see the other side. This means learning to do certain things in a positive way that actually offers a possibility of really working in the long run, instead of in a negative way that may seem as if it works at first, yet actually doesn't work out when the end is seen.

This is not to say that you are learning to be a good boy or good girl in this kindergarten, in a moralizing way. This is about studying how to act powerfully and lovingly in the world in ways that work. And, as it turns out, these types of study--whether spiritual or secular--always traditionally involve the experience of love.

There is an alternative way of achieving peace and harmony among people than moralizing and punishing. And that is in the experience of love.

What is love? Yes, we have a class on that here, too, and we hope you will visit it. It allows for many views, of course. And cultivating your own view of love is "a pre-requisite," as they say, in learning the rest of what is to be found here. Yet you are free to choose to find it on your own if you would like to . . . or not.

That reminds me of the way the web works--all the choices and not-choices that we make as we are surfing through. I really like the inward-outward orientation of web pages, as compared to the linearity of books. Here you can go directly here or there as you'd like to go, and you don't have to go by anywhere that you don't care to go.

Believe it or not, this characteristic of operating web pages by pointing and clicking provides healing and even spiritual results. The ego works by getting us to do the same things over and over again in the ways the ego always wants us to. So the reciprocal counterpart of the ego, the "true self," works by making many, many free choices--free of those ego constraints.

Entering and browsing in web sites entails practicing making many free choices, again and again--choices for the things that you are curious about, or wonder about--the things that you are interested in, the things you *like*! That is very healthy! This is what I call the true self in action. By providing you with a vehicle for making many, many free choices for the things that you are interested in the most, the things you like and love, the web has built in a spiritual exercise that is actually strengthening who you are in your true self, and doing so everytime you do it.

All these spiritual approaches, all these teachings of enlightenment--they are all paths of *freedom.* They seek "liberation," "transcendence," "deliverance," "salvation." The freedom that they are teaching us is freedom from the constraints of this ego, freedom to choose something else, and to be who we would be then.

Note that this "true self" is also called "no self" by Buddhists. But don't let that throw you because they are functionally the same, and it is only two ways of looking at it. In either case, it is referring to the basic innate who you are--the strengths and qualities of the positive natural human traits that you were born with--without the overlaying of the ego that drives us humans so much of the time (that we have picked up by so many repetitions of self-ish acts as we have been growing up), and without the characteristic manipulations and defense mechanisms of our personalities (that we have built up in the very same way) . . . the "false self" that both "true-selfers" and "no-selfers" address.

For prolonged periods in our lives, this "false self" has absolutely no freedom of choice, because it is all dictated beforehand by the ego. This is why we have to learn to wake up . . . if we hope to make any change. And practice making lots of choices for the things you are interested in and like to do the most is good for you. It makes you more independent, and reliant on your own strengths. And best of all . . . what you're the most interested in and like to do the best is very likely to turn out to be what you're really good at!

If there are any surprises that are going to be unpleasant for you while you are attending this school, they will probably be among the following:

  • you will find that you have an ego;
  • you will find that you have emotional feelings that you have been avoiding (and thereby "bottling them up" as tensions in the body);
  • you will find that "I don't know" is much more valuable than your cherished opinions, more valuable even than beliefs;
  • and, you will find that you have a personality, a collection of habitual characteristic behaviors that others "on the outside" know you by . . . and that this personality you have is dishonest sometimes, and manipulative sometimes, and sometimes very defensive.

Or else, you won't be happy in general to find that you have a "shadow" side, when you are not always at your best, and a "light" side, where the harmonizing strengths and skills of competent masters lie. Catching on to this, and knowing this, makes being able to do something about it possible. One can become able to shift from being one's shadow side, because one can see it and understand it with awareness. One can shift over into being one's light side.

About this, the light side, only experiencing it, without words, theories, or explanations, can suffice. And that is what the experiential exercises here in kindergarten are for--simple instructions that you can follow at home, that will enable you to "wake up" and "see" what all these words here are talking about in your own direct experience.

With this awareness training, called the awareness game, you will learn to be able to wake up and have the presence of mind to see your shadow side, and be able to step right out of it into your light side, if you wish to, and into experiential knowing.

over to Sample Classroom Talk ( Room 2):
What awareness practice is like for me . . .

About Hawaiians, Buddhists, and Martin Buber
on a streetcar (and all of them with me in a small
crisis at the supermarket).

Site Map | Back to the Top | Home Page

©1999 Teaching Tools For Mindfulness Training