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.
[singlepic id=444 w=320 h=240 float=center]
I was reading the website of a prominent life coach the other day, and was feeling myself getting seduced by the promise of change. For me, this feeling is a little tug in my chest, accompanied by a little voice that says, "You could be like her! Why don't you just try harder? You could be successful like that! You can have everything you want in your life! Just try harder!"
I was getting pulled in by her clarity, and her certainty, and her artfully written course descriptions and "How I Work With You" page. I was dreaming of what my life would like if only I were “as on top of things as she was”. I was reading through her punchy blog posts, which boiled everything down into three simple categories, a numerical scale, and a "toolkit" for achieving the state of bliss that she has apparently created for herself.
In her "About" page, where she introduces herself and tells her story of why she became a coach, she talks about "having been there". Having been broke, miserable, in a rocky marriage, and not living her best life.
Later, she talks about how she finally hit "rock bottom" in her life and made a slow, messy climb out to attain her current dream life that includes financial freedom, working in her pajamas, and answering to no one except her fabulous, perfectly-happy-to-pay clients who just blow her away on a daily basis.
She says that the reason she's put together her current offerings is to "save us the trip" to our own rock bottom, a place she's sure we'd rather skip over and prevent from happening to us. So, sign up before the early bird registration deadline of TONIGHT at midnight, or stay stuck on your path toward rock bottom!
OK, so that last sentence wasn't actually on her website. But this is at least the second time that I've read the words "rock bottom" in a coach's story, and heard a similar sales pitch saying, "The reason I'm offering this program to clients like you is so you don't have to go through the hell I went through! You can just shift right into your own fabulousness without all the hassle!"
I fell for that pitch once.
Twice, actually. I was wholeheartedly seduced into paying thousands of dollars for a program that promised I would "triple my income" and "quadruple my happiness" if I enrolled. It was an “upsell”, meaning I had purchased a lower-priced program from this coach and then was offered a free informational call about the next level program. There was such power, such clarity, and such a personal success story wrapped into the pitch that I fell for it. Hook, line, and sinker.
I actually dropped out of the program five weeks into the ten week curriculum.
The allure of having a weekly set of assignments, worksheets to fill out, boxes to check (literally), and papers to print out and put in a binder (I was obsessed with binders! I was a Staples and OfficeMax junkie!) lasted about three weeks. Then I started to realize that all this work and structure was speaking to the A-plus student in me, the one who for 21 straight years of my life (from kindergarten through medical school) sat in some sort of classroom environment, where there were grades, tests, papers, projects, reports, and things to finish on time and turn in. Her approach (at that particular time in my life, and given my particular history) fed into the part of me that wanted someone to tell me what to do, when in fact what I needed to practice was my self-trust and intuition.
Having her move from one to-do list to another each week gave me the illusion of control, but what I really needed for me to grow was to trust more in letting go and allowing.
And that program - with all of its promises and success stories (as defined by multiples of income achieved within months of completing the program) - was exactly what I did NOT need at this point in my life. I did not need an authority figure (this coach who, I believed, had everything I did not have, including the answers) to tell me "how to" achieve an assumed outcome of "more money” as the route to greater worthiness, peace, and happiness.
I realized that what I needed was real-life experience in the process of seeing that worthiness, peace, and happiness come from inner work, expression, and practice, which may or may not result in "more money", but will lead to the feeling of having a life of everything I've always wanted. No matter what it is I actually have.
So I learned a HUGELY valuable lesson from the experience, it just wasn't what I thought I had been investing in.
[singlepic id=446 w=320 h=240 float=center]
My journey right now is all about recovery. Recovery of a sense of peace. Recovery of creativity. Recovery of my self-trust. Recovery of my self-love. Recovery of a sense of acceptance. Recovery of my voice. Recovery of worthiness. Recovery of my sense of possibilities. Recovery of my ability to play.
What I’ve learned is that recovery happens gradually. At its own pace.
No one can “save you the trip” of walking on the path of your own recovery.
So what would I like to tell people about the kind of coach I am, the kind of coach I would like to be?
I'm not trying to save anyone from hitting their rock bottom.
I'm not even sure if I've hit my own rock bottom! That's not for me to say. I don't get to decide how long I'm here on earth, or what I get the chance to do, or whom I get to influence. I only get to decide how I show up for myself in this moment. And then the next. And then the next. And if I'm lucky, there's a next. And another, and so on.
After everything I have been through so far - in my 35 short years of living on this planet - I would not trade any of it for anything. It is mine. It is perhaps the only thing I truly have - my own experiences of this miracle and mystery called life. I'm sitting here on a warm, sunny day in March, typing on my own computer, using my own wireless connection, and that is no small miracle. I'm not attached to it, I just notice and acknowledge it for the brief time that these circumstances will be true. In another moment, the sun will change position, the light will change, and I may not be able to continue typing here.
So I keep typing, from a place of gratitude.
I have learned, in my zealous love affair with the idea of "changing my life", that the only effective way to truly change anything is to become more fully present, more fully aware, and more deeply accepting of exactly how things are right now. In this particular moment. Which is gone in an instant, replaced by another.
Once you fully accept, everything begins to change automatically.
This may sound trivial if you haven't tried it. But it's no small task at all to practice being with all aspects of your own life, exactly as they are in this moment. It also doesn’t mean “resigning yourself to the way things are”.
Acceptance is about full acknowledgment. Without the editing and rehearsing that typically goes on in our minds, as we disconnect from our bodies in the present moment.
We all have these escape modes, when we’re not fully accepting our experience.
I myself have found that I spend inordinate amounts of time looking around and noticing what's missing, what I've done wrong, what I should do differently in the future, or what I could be doing instead of what I'm actually doing right now.
Knowing this about myself is no longer a harsh criticism or indictment of my character, but is beginning to take on the lightness of simply being "good to know". That has taken practice.
Which brings me back to that seductive website I was reading the other day. When I caught myself seizing up in the chest, being drawn in, almost clicking on the "Buy Now" button on one of those products, I was able to breathe and watch myself.
I didn't say, "There you go again, Lisa! Falling for the old lines. Won't you ever get over your approval issues??"
I also didn't say, "A lot of nerve that person has for selling those promises! How dare she collect money for the illusion of a temporary fix!"
(Both of these would have been playing the blame game – one of my old favorites.)
Instead, I realized this was a chance to give a voice to what I am about, what is true for me (and perhaps ONLY for me...I'm prepared for that too, though I suspect this will resonate with some).
[singlepic id=445 w=320 h=240 float=center]
I realized that the truth is, I would never deprive anyone of their own journey in life, whether it takes them to "rock bottom" or the moon.
What I've found so helpful - and what I hope to put back into the world - is just witnessing, and creating safe space for myself and others to just be.
I don't need to tell anyone what to do, or how to do it. It's enough for me to pay attention to my own openness, my own self-compassion (so that I can truly say that I feel compassion for others), my own softness, and my own inner freedom.
It’s enough for me to offer myself in this way to whomever I encounter, whether they are a client or not, and whatever I do, whether it is work or not.
It’s enough for me to watch my experience of life completely change when I pay attention to these things.
These, in and of themselves, are precious gifts. They have worked magic in my own life and process, and I remember each and every one of the people who showed these qualities to me when I had forgotten how to recognize them in myself.
Change can be hard. But acceptance may be even harder.
Change can be easy to sell, because we all think we want it. But acceptance - the necessary ingredient for all change - is what we really need.
[singlepic id=431 w=320 h=240 float=center]
One of my blog readers took the liberty of sending my video on Amy Chua's book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother", to Amy Chua herself! I never would have done this on my own, but that's why I put my stuff out there for others to read!
Here's Amy's email which was sent to that reader, Denise.
Date: Wed, 2 Mar 2011 08:36:51 -0500
From: Amy Chua
Subject: Re: FW: The Music Within Us
Dear Denise: Thank you SO MUCH for sending this to me -- and yep, Lisa totally got my book and yep, she is totally right that no one else has!! (Only correction is that I never choose or even saw and never would have approved the awful WSJ headline..)
I think Lisa is BRILLIANT, and I love what she says and the passages and moments she singles out. She even gets it about my dogs!!!
I am setting up a website for my book, partly because to try to correct misunderstandings, and I will post this video. Please feel free to share all this with Lisa!
I am not posting this so that you can read something written by a published author calling me "BRILLIANT". Although that's nice and all, the reason I am posting this is to encourage you to GET INFORMED before you form judgments and opinions and join in the fun of media-generated controversies. Form your own thoughts and opinions, reflect on your own life, and learn your own lessons. Do not stop at what the journalists and media or others are telling you. Do not believe what others say until you have questioned it with your own body, mind, and heart. Know that you are always free to create your own story.
[singlepic id=433 w=320 h=240 float=center]
News or Entertainment?
The "awful" Wall Street Journal headline Amy's referring to, which drew so much attention to the book, was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it generated huge amounts of controversy, and therefore discussion. On the other hand, it was a misleading excerpt that did not reflect what the book was actually about. After I read it, I laughed at the overwhelming number of "news" reports that interviewed Amy solely to ask the question, "So, are Chinese mothers really superior?" Anyone who has read the book would know that this is not what it's about. A more informed journalist might have said, "Amy, your book actually had nothing to do with arguing for or against the superiority of Chinese parenting. So why the misleading headline in the Wall Street Journal?"
But that would require a journalist whose incentives were actually aligned with informing people of the truth.
It reminds me of something I learned a few days ago on a call with a news producer for one of the morning shows on a national television network (hint: not "yesterday", and not "tomorrow"). She was teaching a group of life coaches how to pitch a news story and try to get more exposure for ourselves and our businesses. The summary of the call was, "Keep in mind that on television news, we are not trying to inform people, we are trying to entertain. Our objective is to produce television that will keep audiences from changing the channel so that we earn dollars from our advertisers. We want something controversial, and we want something that everyone is talking about. If you can't package your story to meet those criteria, we're not going to be interested."
I appreciated this very candid look into the mind of a "news" producer. It's not often that someone from within the corporate ranks of the entertainment industry will share information like this so openly. Maybe I expect "dirty little secrets" like this to be kept behind closed doors, so that we'll keep tuning in and watching television and generating advertising dollars to pay the bills for the national networks.
But think about what she said for a minute. Isn't she saying that everything created for television news is motivated by entertainment value, controversy, and popular opinion? And weren't we taught at some point (in those halcyon days of our youth) that news was supposed to be objective, fact-based, and devoid of personal opinion?
Our world has changed. We have collectively created an environment in which there is no respite from sources of entertainment. It takes even more self-discipline in this kind of world to think clearly, independently, and creatively. At the very least it requires a heightened awareness to realize what we are consuming, when we're told something under the guise of "news", when we're being entertained versus being informed.
Is it news, or is it entertainment? Can you tell the difference? It's up to you.
Tiger and cub photo by Keven Law, used under a Creative Commons license
Amy Chua book photo by the author
Copyright Lisa Chu, The Music Within Us, 2009-2019.