A Note to Readers– It might help to know that this post is an expansion of my thoughts from an article posted 2/18/22 on Chip Conley’s wonderful website, The Modern Elder Academy in his Wisdom Well blog. If you have come from that post or have arrived here by intention or accident, “Welcome!”  You will find the additional content in bold below. 

I’m Still Learning
Expanded Thoughts

As I look at my tattered, 1969 copy of “Man’s Search for Meaning,” I am reminded of Dr. Viktor Frankl’s influence on my life these past 50 plus years.

One of Dr. Frankl’s noted insights:

“Between stimulus and response is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. And, in our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

It’s surprising that I still have my original copy of “Man’s Search for Meaning,” from freshman year at Lewis & Clark College, Portland, OR.

Learning is a life-long endeavor and one that never stops. For me, one of the most meaningful parts of the journey is becoming more self-aware. How can I become my own witness? How often do I engage as an observer? What is it like to be with my own thoughts? How can I sit in an emotional state, especially an unpleasant one…be it anger, jealousy, regret, grief, shame, or sadness?

Learning is a life-long endeavor and one that never stops. For me, one of the most meaningful parts of the journey is becoming more self-aware. How can I become my own witness? How often do I engage as an observer? What is it like to be with my own thoughts? How can I sit in an emotional state, especially an unpleasant one…be it anger, jealousy, regret, grief, shame, or sadness?

It wasn’t until I found yoga, meditation and breathwork that I truly began this inner journey with greater regularity and focus. I had therapy in the 1980’s and 1990’s which inspired a tremendous amount of introspection. Somehow the movement of the body, combined with breathwork and with sitting alone with one thoughts, for me anyway, creates a sense of integration and connects more of the dots.

The answer to these questions starts with stillness, sitting or standing in one place long enough to let my body, my emotions and my thoughts settle, unplugged from all devices and digital distractions. In this stillness, I am with my own thoughts and feelings.

Digital distractions. I am grateful for Steve Jobs and all “smart” things created by Apple and Silicon Valley. This access to abundant information has created an unintended consequence, for some, an addiction to our digital devices. I know something is not quite right when I pick up my phone for no apparent reason. I often just like holding it.

Am I present in my own body? What am I feeling? What is the nature of my thoughts? What thoughts might I associate with my ego-mind, and what thoughts may be coming from my higher self, what I call my best self?

As children and young adults, at least in western cultures, we’re rarely taught to listen to our bodies. We weren’t even taught to pay attention to our intuitive nature. This sixth chakra, this seat of intuition, is our internal GPS, and it is always operating for our highest and best good. However, if I can’t be still enough, will I ever hear the messages?

I am still learning to respond rather than react. This is accomplished through  self-awareness, the ability to step outside of myself and be conscious of an internal reaction. I may feel my heart rate increase. I may feel thirsty with a dry mouth, or a feeling in my gut signaling a lack of well-being. These bodily receptors lead to a perception of sensations from inside the body called interoception.

Interoception. Wow. What is that?

Can you teach younger people in your life to experience interoception? I didn’t know about it until it emerged in a “yoga for healthy aging” teacher training.

I think of interoception as an aspect of my emotional intelligence. We develop this skill through practice. If you avoid finding yourself alone with your thoughts and or feelings, this may be a signal to look deeper within.

How can I choose to be an observational learner?

How am I the witness of my own consciousness? 

For me, this is the most important aspect of being mindful. During a conversation, can I be fully present? Listening with one hundred percent focus. Do I have anything meaningful to add to the conversation? And if not, stay silent. Witness. Observe. Learn.

This photo was taken during my senior year at Lewis & Clark College in the overseas study program in West Berlin. This photo, taken 1973 in front of the Brandenburg Gate, “no man’s land” at the time. Today, the US Embassy sits to the left of the gate along with the famous Jewish Holocaust Museum. At the time of this photo, the wide boulevard, Unter den Linden street stretched behind me in to East Germany. This particular photo seemed fitting, especially in light of the quote:

“Between stimulus and response is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. And, in our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
– Dr. Viktor Frankl

If you are a person who finds themselves talking more than listening…
try being silent and observe yourself closely.

When do I experience these precious moments of greater consciousness?
When does my own consciousness meld with the mind of another person?
What does it feel like?
Is it quantifiable?

As a yoga teacher, I call this experience integration. The ability to be aware of my thoughts, my emotions, my physical body, and the sense of a greater consciousness. My truth is my intention: to integrate all these aspects of my conscious experience so I am a fully functioning human.

No one can do this work for us. This is an individual effort. One that requires a daily intention to practice and observe.

Yes, I am still learning, conscious of the pause, the magical space between the inhale and exhale…the moment that can dramatically change an outcome. May we never stop learning, being curious about ourselves and this ever changing school of life.

An Invitation to Self-exploration

Questions to ponder…

How are you still learning?

How do you know when you are responding rather than reacting?

Ready for other topics of self-exploration?

You may find this post of interest:
Seven Chakras, Seven Decades, Seven Ages of Sexual Discovery – FULL LENGTH – It includes my expanded thoughts from an article originally posted on Chip Conley’s Wisdom Well; the blog for The Modern Elder Academy.

If you wish to further a discussion about your own process of aging, you are welcome to be in touch: Contact Page

A special and very heart-felt note of appreciation to Chip Conley of The Modern Elder Academy for inviting me to share  an excerpt of this post on his Wisdom Well blog. Spending much of his time at MEA retreat center in Todo Santos, Mexico, Chip is an entrepreneur and advocate for the value of wisdom that comes with age. He is an American hotelier, foundation builder, grant maker, author and speaker, who is also on the board of Burning Man. 

Rocky Blumhagen is a Stanford University DCI (Distinguished Careers Institute) Fellow/partner Class of ’19 and a yoga teacher and mindfulness practitioner. To read more about Rocky – Click Here

Read more of Rocky’s posts on Chip Conely’s Wisdom Well blog.