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The Usman Institute 

Breathe Right Live Free

A Toolbox
On Teaching and Authority

I am not going to teach you anything. I can't.

Rather, I will give you tools so that you can teach yourself.

That is the only way for you to learn and empower yourself.

I am just a toolbox.

 

In each college course I have taught over the years, these are my first words.

Why? Why would a teacher professes he cannot teach anything to students at the very beginning of a course? The answer is that if I could teach anything to anyone, then every single one of my students over the years would learn every single thing I taught.

It is not the case. Not for me, not for any teacher. Every student learn, experience, and retain different things––if any at all.

It follows that learning does not emerge solely from being exposed to the material presented, however brilliant the content. Learning emerges first and foremost from the student's own engagement with the material, from the learning process one actively participates in. It is the process of engaging with the material that matters.

 

In other words, it is our will that defines the learning process and its impact on our life. 

In that regard, most of our schooling is upside down. The traditional view is the following: students sit down passively while the teacher actively spills knowledge unto them, which they will regurgitate later on tests. Yet it is known that we learn best the way we naturally learn: by committing, by being engaged and inquisitive, by experiencing, by playing, by doing it for the sake of doing it. We learn to stand, to walk, to speak that way; we learn behaviors, social moors, games, stories, meanings of all kind that way. The things we are passionate about, or the things we just enjoy doing, those are the ones we learn best. Learning and applying knowledge as a process comes naturally: by being and living in an environment, we process information and experiences, we learn and apply our knowledge and skills––like the rest of the universe. When we are engaged we learn more, we gain a deeper knowledge, and we naturally develop our skills.

All this points to the very heart of the practice we call "teaching": when one teaches something, one also teaches the process of teaching and learning something. 

With that in mind, the process of acquiring and using the lessons the Institute provides is aligned with the Institute's main priority: to empower yourself so that you can teach yourself, heal yourself, experience yourself. That's why the only requirement for taking courses is wanting to take it with an open mind. 

Empower yourself by acquiring the tools you need for your own quest, for your own self. 

I will share knowledge and practices as tools for your own practice. The rest, doing it, is up to you. 

So, I am a toolbox. 

I'll adapt the tools to you, the builder, but ultimately you're the one building yourself, cultivating yourself, being and becoming yourself, living yourself. You are your own authority.

In your life, my role with you is limited.

Yet, I guarantee you that the teachings I share contain life-altering knowledge and experiences.

Arguably the most damaging phenomenon for humanity has been the obedience to unjustified authorities. Someone above to tell us what to do, what to think, what to believe, what to know, who to hate, who to kill...

Obedience to––and dependence from––unjustified authorities is violence. Most of us know, instinctively or consciously, that a life controlled by an authority that dictates, subtly or grossly, what we can and cannot do, what we can and cannot be, is servitude, just like a mind who is deeply affected by criticism or praised is not free but bound by restrictive cords. Attachments to malevolent people, things, narratives, and places is mental slavery.

 

Despite the bottomless history of man's destruction and violence, we humans have an instinct for freedom and ethics (a.k.a. morality). The overwhelming majority of us want freedom, peace, love and a joyful, creative life for ourselves and our loved ones––and even for the rest of the world. But in these complex and somewhat gloomy times, many are confused. In this age of predatory quest for profits at all cost that's leading to the destruction of our planet and life, in this age of hyper-controlled marketing media, of systemic sexism and racism, of "followers" and "likes" and clicks and dollars as measures of someone's worth, of selfies and insecurities and structural violence, of extreme inequality, we look for means to overcome our pain, regain hope, experience joy and peace.

When looking for ways to evolve, to grow, to learn and to center ourselves, we face the question of authority. Will the teachings I seek produce and reproduce authoritarian patterns that tell people what to do, how to live, what to think?

How does a teacher avoid the inherent danger of authority? 

My answer is to address that question in the teaching process itself: I am only a toolbox offering tools for you to teach yourself. Take the tools and do it in your own terms, learn to teach yourself, learn to create yourself for yourself. Experience for yourself, use the tools for yourself, adapt the tools to yourself. 

Be your own authority.

The tools we offer at The Usman Institute are compatible with any religion or belief system that promotes peace, joy, love, wisdom, solidarity, compassion, gratitude, and all these common attributes to ethical living. The knowledge we share encourages self-exploration, self-empowerment, self-experience, freedom from control and unjustified authorities, freedom from our own conditioning and cultural bias, freedom to do, to be, to live. 

Therefore, embedded in the fabric of the Institute, is the equality of all humans regardless of background, cultural traditions, physical appearances, gender identity, etc. Moreover, we actively seek to empower those of us who come from marginalized communities or whose identity, for some reason, makes them a target of oppressive and cruel systems of power and wicked mentalities.   

Follow Your Self

Who am I? Who is the "I" that says "I"?

 

We all live with this existential question, one way or another. Even ignoring it is a way to answer it.

Let's call it the question of the Self. 

Simply put, each of us is an individual, a "self" (no capital) with a body, a mind, a consciousness that knows different states, and a part we'll call the "Self" (with a capital), or Soul, or Spirit. If these words rebuke you or bother your rational mind, it's okay, I get it. These words have been corrupted by many organized religions and carry a lot of baggage. One way to think about it is to consider that all the atoms in our body are much older than us, with nearly half of them coming from outside of our galaxy, carried by intergalactic winds. Science confirms it: we are made of stars. 

What we offer are tools to connect to that part of yourself, through your body and mind. Not because we wish it, but because there exists a whole body of knowledge and a whole set of universal experiences that are testimonies of it. 

Some common questions emerge in the quest to experience who we are beyond our mind and body.

What is the Self?

How do you get to "know thyself"?

What have prophets, saints, and mystics of all time shared about it?

How can we experience the Self?

How can this experience lead us to live healthier, more conscious, more peaceful lives? 

How can we control our thoughts and emotions, detach from toxic things, places, people, and narratives? 

How can we find peace?

How do we walk a path of higher purpose with real, practical tools that improve our Self?

Everyone able to think and live can do it without an authority telling them the answers to these questions.

All one may need is some time, some space and, perhaps, a toolbox. If that's the case, The Usman Institute is here. 

I personally know, and have used, the tools I share, while asking these very questions––and many more. They come from ancient civilizations and modern imaginations, through stories, symbols, and shared experiences. The unfortunate reality of our existential condition is that all the tools we need to find peace and power are always here, within ourselves. The tools I will give you depends on you, your needs, your will.

Who am I?

The question does not beg for the answer

The question begs for the experience.

 

Empower yourself. 

Heal yourself.

Experience your Self.

Do not follow them.

Do not follow me.

Follow your Self.

To know more about the concepts we use and what we mean by the Self, read this primer "Yourself: Mind, Body, and Soul."

 

Peace be upon you.

Dr. Usman
 

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