Educationally, I place the highest value on knowing yourself. The better you are at knowing yourself – not in a static, dogmatic way, but by paying attention to the unfolding events in your experience and to how you organize in that moment around those events – the more life, itself, provides meaningful learning experiences. This type of knowing yourself is where education overlaps with spiritual inquiry. I teach ways to know yourself. The skills I teach fit into an area that is, today, called emotional intelligence. Whereas intelligence is the ability to understand and use information, emotional intelligence is the ability to know, process, and understand what is happening in your cognitive, emotional, and behavioral experience, and the ability to use that knowledge to adapt to inner and outer circumstances as well as to use all experience as a vehicle for further growth.
First, some of my background… Even though I went through the traditional educational system, I was able to design my own curriculum in my senior year in high school and get permission to travel along the Mississippi River where I could explore the roots of American music. I enjoyed that, and, possibly for the first time, learned what I wanted to learn. From that successful experience, I saw there were other things I really wanted to learn. I spent my college years studying with teachers whom I researched, contacted at a variety of schools and research institutions around the east coast, and with whom I negotiated relationships and curriculums independent of the constraints of the educational system.
This approach has served me well. I have been successful in my work of helping people take responsibility for their experience for close to 35 years. I teach, supervise, and mentor psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychotherapists, while concurrently being their own therapist. My clients also include business consultants and corporate trainers, college professors, inventors, authors, celebrities of various sorts, and children. I’ve run educational institutions with a staff of 250 employees, been the technical supervisor of a medical clinic, lectured on both coasts and in other countries, taught in colleges, and been an advisor to college undergraduates. I also flunked 9th grade, never got above a D in math, and do not have a college degree. I’ve been dyslexic my whole life yet, ironically, I have been the ghost writer of such things as health legislation, medical articles, successful applications to medical school, and books published on such subjects as psychology and Buddhism.
Through my own experience, I’ve come to see that education is a natural, and often transparent, byproduct of having a meaningfully interactive relationship with your world that is responsive to your interests. Education can be that simple; not dependent on institutions or on reading the “right stuff”. If you can develop a good awareness of what turns you on and has meaning for you, and can organize your time and efforts to explore ways to get more involved in those interests, something organic happens that is very rich.
In my thinking, teaching emotional intelligence skills is like oiling the tracks we travel through life on. Regardless of your interests and what learnings you pursue, having the strength of character to stay bigger than your experience will help you understand, integrate and reflect in your personality, personal vision, and actions what you are learning.
Emotional intelligence is a set of skills, integrated and applied responsively, which enable you to maintain perspective on what happens in your experience, moment to moment. In my approach, these are those fundamental skills which focus young people onto developing a clarity of values and purpose, with an emphasis on responding to that clarity and on integrating a practical understanding of the way they create their experience of reality. When children learn at an early age that they are the creators of their experience, and learn just how this is true, they stand to become very empowered and creative people. What I am teaching is self-discovery. My approach teaches kids how to deal with the fundamental questions about meaning in life, and how to have a conscious relationship with these questions through out their lives.
One of the things I was required to do to graduate from high school was give a presentation to the whole school. I surprised my teachers by talking about education. I was surprised, myself, when teachers who actually showed little respect to me in my high school years came to me and told me how inspired they were by my ideas of alternatives to traditional education, and by what I had described as the underlying principles of education. In one way or another, I have been working with those principles all these years, as a teacher, therapist, and educational administrator.
When I work individually with kids, I am responsive to their personal needs, concerns, and experience, while helping them progress developmentally in their ability to have a more conscious relationship with their thoughts and feelings. I help them become better friends with their experience as well as better managers of it. I teach with a focus on empowering leadership in the kids and my group activities are designed to encourage creative thinking and constructively deepening interaction. Children learn how to know what has meaning for them. And, most of all, children learn to connect to the richness that exists in each moment of existence.