Coming Full Circle

  Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose Medical degree burningI recently returned from a week-long stay in Keystone, Colorado. I was there with a small group of physicians gathered to restore their voice to the practice of medicine.

How I got there was through a series of events I can only call synchronicity.

What I felt was a profound feeling of "coming home".

I showed up as all of me, in full color. My role was to listen deeply and expansively, and I chose to record what I heard in visual form.

It was as if everything I practiced was serving me in my service to this gathering. Each morning I woke early and rode my rented bike along the many trails around Keystone. I listened to the Snake River winding its way through the trees. I inhaled with awe each time I arrived at the vista of Lake Dillon. I clawed my way up a steep hill only to be rewarded with the jackpot of a stunning view of Breckenridge and beyond.

I had learned from these past few years of practicing self-care that these morning steps were my fuel for being present and thinking creatively. I knew what to do - even in an environment away from my familiar surroundings at home - because I had practiced them into new habits. I had my biking clothes, I was comfortable riding, and all I had to do was explore new roads and read new maps.

I also had my daily sketching and art journaling practice in place, something I started only within the last two years. I have experimented with many different formats and media, and I am comfortable drawing outside. On this trip, I brought a small Moleskine Japanese album with accordion pages. It fit in my small travel purse or pocket, and I carried a pouch with pen, markers, and water brushes.

On my morning rides, I often sketched a scene quickly in ink, filling in color later in the day or in the evening. I noticed what I noticed. I took note of the stories I wanted to tell. And by the time I got home, there were three or four panels that needed coloring, which I completed within a few days.

New experiences, new people, new places -- all of these fuel my creativity and keep me inspired.

I am grateful for the daily practices I cultivate at home, so I am well-prepared to stay open when I'm on the road.

For a frame-by-frame caption story of my Keystone travel journal, see my post here.

For an in-depth reflection on the contents of the physician meeting and its impact on me personally, stay tuned!

What Doctors Can Learn From Artists and Entrepreneurs

Since leaving medicine, I’ve been an entrepreneur and an independent artist. They are similar pursuits, and both have taught me about the experience of living in creative rather than reactive mode. In the moment you can claim your role in creating the experience you are having right now - as reflected to you by the external circumstances you find yourself in - you begin to take a creative stance. You begin to see yourself differently within the grand puzzle of your world. No longer can you point your finger and your attention outward at “them”, but now you must see the source within you that holds your power to create, choose, and act.

Every artist and every entrepreneur has had to touch this inner place in order to bring a never-before-seen vision into material reality. Whether you name it “imagination” or “vision” or “desire”, every human being has an inner source of creativity. Some of us have placed this in a box in the basement of our consciousness. Maybe we have given up on ever being able to use it in this lifetime. But as long as you are alive, you have this source within you, waiting for you to open the space for it to breathe.

Here are four creative mindsets you have within you, waiting to be awakened and remembered.

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Red Pill or Blue Pill?

MatrixBluePillRedPill There is a scene in the movie, The Matrix, in which the main character Neo is offered a choice between the “red pill” and the “blue pill”.

This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more.

Does it excite you to imagine discovering how deep the rabbit hole goes? Or do you notice a resistance toward leaving the comfort of your current reality?

In the movie, “truth” at first appears as a chilling image of the planet taken over by machines, living off the energy of human beings who are lying unconscious inside jars of gelatinous solvent. Towards the end of the film, it is love received from his beloved which finally wakes Neo up to the reality of his own illusion. That he has believed in everything within the Matrix, and through that belief he has created his own truth. With new eyes touched by love, he sees everything as it actually is: a construct of his own consciousness, where elements take on only the meaning he assigns to them.

Awakening to choice - realizing in any moment that you have a choice - is a moment of connecting to your creative power. Notice that your power to choose always resides inside you. You choose whether to activate your own power by choosing to choose.

No one, no thing, no place, no circumstance outside you can, without your consent, take your power away. You may have been taught to give your power away in the past. Forgive yourself and choose now to be your own power.

The most powerful choice you have is to awaken to the love that you are. Survival and “getting through life” may have hardened you to this truth. You may have learned to protect your core from fully receiving what you feel. By protecting yourself from what you feel, you have denied yourself love. You have refused to shine the light of love on certain aspects of your experience, while insisting on exposing only the so-called acceptable parts. When you encounter a situation that brings you close to touching what you feel, do you stay or do you run?

My experience is I had a strategy of keeping intensely felt experiences at an arm’s length, making it about “them” or “those people” over “there”. I thought I was dealing with these experiences in a "professional" manner by detaching myself, seeing “objectively”, and disconnecting from what I feel. I experienced burnout in a caring profession as a result of the very pattern I had been taught was “professional” and proper.

Only when I was guided, with love and no judgment, to receive what I feel inside me — reversing the pattern of distancing myself from what I feel — did I wake up to the magnitude of the love that I am. I cannot describe in words or quantify this magnitude because it is not a measurable “amount of something”. I can only say that I felt my love, as me, come through me, in a moment of complete awe and flow of both humility and security. I simultaneously felt the smallness of my human self and my human thought forms, and the vastness of my true self as an expression of the love of all-that-is.

I have a vision for the evolution of medicine being led by those physicians who, through burnout, have come to the point where they are no longer able to play the game of denying what they feel. Physicians whose old strategies for survival have run their course. Physicians who have reached a recognition that their visceral knowing contains a truth which, despite being unexplainable, is worthy of their attention and love. Physicians who are prepared to choose the red pill.

I have no plans to teach doctors how to run their practices, or how to define their professional roles. I wish only to point to a door within you, which opens in. Perhaps you have been living your life trying to push outward, when all along you simply never knew that the door opens in. Any true resolution to the current pain in health care lies beyond that door within you. Will you open it?

If your heart says YES, join me on my next free telephone introduction to Live Your Medicine.

Exercise Your Write To Be Free

Photo by Jeffrey James Pacres https://www.flickr.com/photos/jjpacres/ I rarely share client stories, but a recent experience is birthing a whole new way of working for me. I just finished a 30-day writing experiment with a physician client who is just starting out on a brand new path. Having already found the courage to leave his medical practice and head into the open space of the unknown, we worked on rekindling a secret dream he's held for a long time, maybe his whole life: writing.

He always wanted to try writing, but never did because he had a belief it was too impractical and was no way to make a living. Yet he knew he had stories to share, and ones that would help others if he did.

I wanted to hear these stories myself. I was curious what touched him so deeply about his experiences in medicine. I knew that in hearing these stories, we could both experience a healing journey.

So I came up with this idea, which I had never done with a client before: a writing experiment. The assignment was to write daily for ten minutes a day, thirty days in a row. Then send that writing to me, which I read every day. Mostly we let the process run itself, but we had two phone conversations during the month, once to check in and then again to review the entire process.

I knew that a small, daily commitment done over a sustained period of time would lead to something. A new habit at the very least. An awakened sense of hope and creativity I envisioned as possible.

What I didn't expect was the vast territory we would cover in those ten minutes of daily writing each day. Not only did I learn from my client's deep minings that occurred from this type of reflection, but I heard accounts of key moments, important feelings, and long-held beliefs that it might have taken months to get to with traditional weekly phone coaching calls. In timed writing, you get to the heart of the matter quickly. You can try to dance around, squirm a bit, but the hand keeps moving and the clock keeps ticking, and something gets said that has juice to it, even if at the very end.

And when you have a curious, compassionate witness, who wants to hear more, and will ask you questions and deliver you the next prompt to inspire more writing, it unfolds with surprising beauty.

It was so beautiful that we are continuing the process for another thirty days, this time including a few additional daily and weekly practices like meditation and art-making (yes! eek! art!). And now, I want to offer this powerful experience to you.

First, here is the practice, which you can do entirely for free on your own. Form a group of friends and do this together. It could, in my client's words, be a "life-altering experience".

The practice:

  1. Choose a start date. Why not tomorrow?
  2. Choose a time and place you will do your writing every day for the next thirty days. Yes, you need to think about this in advance, or it will not happen.
  3. Choose a pen and notebook that you LOVE, and that you will use only for this writing practice. You can use the computer too if you must, but I highly encourage the use of pen and paper for this. There are enough reasons we are called to the computer, and not enough good reasons to go manual these days. Here's one.
  4. Get a timer. Most phones have a timer app. Or use a good old-fashioned egg timer or stopwatch or alarm.
  5. Set the timer for 10 minutes. When you sit down to write, you start the timer. When the timer starts, your hand starts moving across the page. You don't stop. You don't pick the pen up off the paper. You are not thinking. You are letting your hand move, letting it lead the process. You don't edit grammatical or spelling errors. Don't cross anything out. Just keep writing. Lose control. See what happens. Don't have a plan.
  6. When the timer goes off, you stop. That's it. Pick your hand up off the paper. Close your notebook. Go do something else. This is important, too. Give yourself an endpoint that is defined.
  7. The next day, repeat.
  8. And repeat again and again for thirty days.

The page serves as a mirror to our present state, in a beautifully unedited and raw form. We get to see inside ourselves in a way we probably don't look for on our own. Our minds are too busy arranging things. Or we're reacting or responding to something outside ourselves.

With this form of writing (which is influenced and inspired by several of my favorite creativity teachers), we come into contact with the reality of the present moment, and how raw and fresh and changing it is. With practice, we also begin to create a space for ourselves to witness what is. To be OK with whatever shows up on the page. To not always be meeting some idea of an expectation. To let go of an agenda and trust, even if only for ten minutes a day.

And all of this, again in my client's words, could lead to "a whole new world opening up".

You can totally do this effectively on your own as a practice. There are great books that speak to the depth of what this can uncover, and provide you with pages and pages of prompts to go far and wild.

But if you want to work one-on-one with me, receive weekly written responses to your writing (I am not an editor or a coach or a critic, but a supportive, curious listener who tells you when I want to hear more), and have two phone conversations during your thirty-day process (one brief check-in after week one, and another full-length conversation at the end), then I am offering the opportunity for a limited number of individual clients, starting October 15th.

I've learned this about myself during the past few years: I don't do online forums, and I don't do auto-responder emails. I thrive in one-on-one interactions. According to the online marketing experts, this breaks all the rules of becoming a rock-star millionaire business owner. But that doesn't faze me. I'm following the bliss of what I know to be an extremely potent process, which is in alignment with everything I know from experience to be valuable to the recovery of the soul.

Here's how to join me in October.

Can you really take a day off?

[singlepic id=410 w=320 h=240 float=center] There was a time when I believed - when I was totally convinced - that I could not take a day off.

Maybe it was the example of my parents, whom I saw work tirelessly every single day, never letting go of the responsibilities of their jobs, and never taking a day off unless they were absolutely required to (and by that I mean, being so sick they had to be admitted to the hospital).

Or maybe it was medical school, where I learned by working alongside residents and fellows who would regularly show up to work sick, because they "couldn't take a day off". On one rotation, I recall the vascular surgery fellow being so rundown from flu-like symptoms that he had to dash out of the operating room to throw up in the scrub sink during a procedure he was performing. I watched wide-eyed and took everything in, my mind drawing the conclusion that "people with important jobs can never take a day off".

I became determined to find work that would enable me to take a day off, and still be considered important.

The problem was, I really had no idea what was truly important to me. I had many concepts that had been implanted by messages from my family, from images in movies and advertisements, and from the culture in which I was living. "What's important" was a moving target, a reaction to whatever "everyone else" appeared to be doing.

Meanwhile, in my heart I knew that I wanted to make a difference in this world, to care about something genuinely, and to share my story somehow in this life.

But the only way I knew - based on what I had seen, learned, and been taught - was to put my head down and work.

I worked hard at everything I did. I didn't take many days off. When I did, I remember feeling an odd combination of freedom and loss.

"Who am I without my email inbox full of requests and my voicemail full of messages?"

"Who am I when I am not answering to anyone else?"

"What would I choose to do if I had an entire day with no obligations, no one telling me where to be or what I had to do?"

Questions like these would pop up in the few instances I let myself off the hook and took a break. The questions themselves brought up feelings of fear and confusion, because no one had ever asked them of me before. I had never dared take the time to find out what the questions might reveal, if I invited them into my life.

So I pushed them away, filling my time with work instead.

It was easier than grappling with the questions.

And yet I know now, looking back, that the times when I felt the courage - the imperative - to take time away from my routine and give myself a change of place, a change of pace, and a piece of open space to allow these questions to surface, have been food for transformation in my life. Had I not followed the instinct to "Just do it", I would not have been given the chance to watch my true story unfold, and so many of my genuine desires come into reality.

These days I am often approached by people for advice on career transition, achieving happiness or fulfillment, healing from chronic medical diagnoses, and how to get "unstuck" in life.

I listen, and I am always deeply humbled by the courage required to put our struggles into words and share them with another person.

I know that, being another human being, I never have the answers for another human being. To say that I do would only feed that part of our minds with an insatiable appetite for certainty and control - the same part that tells us we can never take a day off.

The coaching or healing or help or support I provide - whichever word you choose to describe the energy of being in the presence of divine acceptance of what is - is a practice of opening space, of giving permission to ask the questions that come up (no matter how much fear accompanies them), and celebrating the miracle of the unique journey we each take in this life.

So, can you really take a day off?

I don't know the answer for you.

But if the question interests you, why not try it and see where the answer takes you?

Here's an opportunity to join me and my friend Mary Bartnikowski - photographer, author, kundalini yoga instructor, and world traveler - for a May Day ReTREAT at the beach in Half Moon Bay: Spring Cleaning For Your Soul

News news news

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"One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began"

- Mary Oliver, "The Journey"

Today is that day for me.

Maybe it was the flyer announcing my talk at Stanford Medical School in a few weeks (finally making it feel real...and making me feel proud of the creative thinking I've been doing on this subject).

Maybe it was seeing the pile of STUFF in my house, moved out of the Cradle of Manifestation, prompting me to revisit what's really taking up the space in my drawers and closets.

Maybe it was the invitation to have dinner this Friday with a couple of doctors who have transitioned out of medicine themselves (making me feel one step closer to finding My People).

Maybe it was finally telling the truth out loud to myself and to a compassionate witness about what I feel in my heart (and experiencing the expansion that came with it).

Maybe it was all of the above.

Whatever it was, I finally know what I need to do, even though I have no idea how it's going to play out or if anyone will even care. But I know enough to trust this particular feeling of knowing. It's not a rational linear mind kind of knowing. It's a whole body energy clearing kind of knowing.

And I can't wait to share the news with you!

So what IS new?

- My monthly meetup in Silicon Valley, "Find Your Own Song" - the first Tuesday of every month at 7pm, at rotating locations. Join the meetup group to get updates>>

- My physician burnout and wellness resources page - I'll be adding to this, but it's a great place to start if you're curious about the problem, the stories of real physicians, and what people are doing about it. Visit the resource page here>>

- All new Name Your Price coaching - I'm most giddy and excited about this brand new experiment, launching next week. I just want to get more coaching love out there. I remember when I had no idea what coaching was, and didn't believe it could do anything for me, until I actually experienced it myself. So I want to pass on that gift to you! For two hours a week, I'll be offering my services on a first-come, first-served basis, and you get to name your own price. Perfect for those of you who are curious about coaching and open to it, but just not ready to make the commitment to one of my other individual coaching options right now. Learn more about it here>>

- The Whole Person Retreat for Women - Saturday April 9th at Stillheart Institute in Woodside, CA. I'm guest facilitating music improvisation and sound healing as part of an enriching day with the wonderful women Eliska Meyers and Johanna Beyer. Find out more details here>>

That's all for now. After some good time and space appreciating the openness, it's nice to witness the arrival of what's next. Hope to see and hear from you soon!