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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Success 3.0 - Wake Up, Grow Up, Show Up

Success 3.0 It's been a BIG few weeks for me. I've been away from my desk, discovering more of my tribe, in places I never thought to look. Experiencing the feeling of coming home to myself, my story, and my place in the evolution of all that is. I trusted the feeling of just knowing (without knowing why or how), and I was rewarded beyond my wildest imagination.

Three weeks ago I attended a four-day event like no other in Boulder, Colorado. Called Success 3.0 Summit, this was a gathering of entrepreneurs, CEOs, authors, spiritual leaders, artists, musicians, doctors, coaches, healers, and other thought leaders for the purpose of rewriting the myth of success in our culture. Success 1.0 was survival. Physical survival at the most basic level. Success 2.0 was the accumulation of wealth, status, achievements, and symbols of power at any cost, even at the expense of health, relationships, and well-being.

Success 3.0, as we are co-creating it to be, is the awakening to the fact that we can no longer operate as if our individual actions have no effect on the collective. We must wake up to the reality that we are all interconnected, and that we have both the capacity to destroy ourselves as a species and the infinite possibility of expanding our consciousness to include the whole cosmos in our own evolution.

Summarized in six words, Success 3.0 is a call to "Wake Up, Grow Up, Show Up." Wake up to our true identities not as separate beings, but as expressions of the oneness of all that is. Grow up to take responsibility for our actions as part of a larger whole, beyond our egoic concerns, beyond even our immediate family or tribe or community, but to include the entire cosmos as an extension of our sphere of influence. Show up as a leader by expressing our own unique gifts, standing fully in the truth of our unique life experiences and stories.

For me, the conference was profoundly integrating of the many chapters of my life experience that had previously appeared separate or unrelated. I now see that every single world I have lived in - from the suburban middle class neighborhood of my hometown in Libertyville, Illinois, to the halls of the Ivy League, to the training of medical school, to the partnership track in a venture capital firm, to solo entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley, to the experience of burnout, to transitioning from classical music to improvisation, to performing acoustic rock violin, to training as a life coach, to traveling to Southeast Asia to study bodywork, to becoming an artist - informs my perspective wherever I show up. My ability to listen deeply across multiple disciplines, and my unrelenting vision of possibilities, is my unique gift to any situation I am in.

I am a weaver and collage maker, drawing threads from seemingly disparate elements and incorporating them into a new tapestry with every interaction I have. I am a living expression of the evolutionary impulse, coming through me, existing in me, and experienced by me. And so are you! Within your unique set of life experiences and stories is the unique expression of life as you - and only you - can express it. When you choose to wake up, grow up, show up, you enter into the process of co-creating, with the evolutionary impulse of all that is, your unique definition of Success 3.0.

I'm excited to continue showing up in new ways, to start conversations about what really matters, and to continue bringing my unique art into the world.

Is it time for you to upgrade and update your definition of Success? Join me in the conversation.

Leaning in…to what?

woman leaning illustration There's going to be some talk about leaning in. I’d like to speak about “leaning in” from the perspective of a woman who learned the men’s rules and did pretty well for awhile. I picked up all the cues about how I was supposed to behave, what I was supposed to do to play the game, how I could win. I earned a seat at the boardroom table, surrounded by men. I am grateful for the doors that were opened for me, when I behaved a lot like a successful man.

I rode the bus for a few rounds before I got off and started the process of sitting in front of the blank page, making up my own game, creating my own rules, and teaching myself a whole new way of "leaning in".

When we talk about “leaning in”, we have to talk about what that really means for individuals. To me, “leaning in” is about going toward the places that scare you. The real question is, “What scares you?” Most of us are living in remote places that are carefully designed to be far out of reach from what really scares us. We have concocted our plans based on meticulous avoidance of everything that really scares us.

We believe that this construction project actually spares us the feeling of being scared, but it follows us. It never leaves us. It camps out in dark corners inside us. We dart, we duck, we hide, we layer on coats of paint and makeup and accessories and postures that we think – hope – will cover it up. But it plagues us.

We seek relief, but we also secretly believe we’ll never find it. We think this is as good as it gets, so we keep pointing in the same direction.

So what are we leaning into?

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Are we leaning into the things we think will make our fears go away? Will “ambition” lead us to a place where we will finally be safe? Will “success” in the workplace, attaining a title of power, actually make us feel empowered? Will “winning” at the men’s game finally make us feel like we’ve won our battle with fear?

Maybe.

But until we do the work of facing what really scares us, looking at it, pointing toward it, touching it, getting close to it, we won’t know. We will only be leaning toward some collective crusade that starts from outer appearances and tries to solve those problems cosmetically.

We won’t be looking inside ourselves to ask, “Where do I need to lean in?” Is it really ambition to step up in the workplace? Maybe. But it could be just as ambitious for me to do exactly the thing I think I cannot do – which may be giving up “ambition” of a certain kind, and going toward a whole different flavor of success, which looks a lot like failure to some people.

Ambition might look like a lot of different things, but we can’t know just by looking. We need to feel our own experience in order to know.

To me, leaning in feels like courage. Leaning in feels like facing the thing that you’ve avoided for so long. Leaning in feels like following the path of courage no matter what it may look like on the outside, no matter what rules need to be followed or broken. Leaning in feels like building strength that does not come from what other people say, or what titles I am granted. Leaning in is really leaning inward, to fill up the well of knowing without needing systems to change, or other people to change. Leaning in is true power.

But please don’t take my word for it. Lean in for yourself and find out.

Image credits: Woman - http://illustrationsource.com. Man - http://liberadio.com

You are not alone...the power of women gathering at TEDxSandHillRdWomen

Last Saturday I attended a program called TEDxSandHillRdWomen in Menlo Park, California. You may already be familiar with the TED talks series. This was one of 130 events of its kind around the world on the same day, gathering women together to hear "ideas worth sharing." I had an intuition about attending, and synchronicity brought me the opportunity to take the place of a friend's friend who could not attend at the last minute. All kinds of insecurities ran through my mind in the hours and days approaching the event. I was not a speaker, "only" an attendee. Yet all of the connotations in my mind about "Sand Hill Road" - the home of venture capitalists and attorneys for all of Silicon Valley, the allure of which had once drawn me into the role of venture capitalist, and eventually drew me to live in this zip code when I first chose to move to California - now haunted me. I wondered what I would wear. I no longer even own any high heeled shoes or suits, and I didn't feel like dressing up to "be like" what my mind believed a "Sand Hill Rd woman" should look like. I watched my mind mull over this question, knowing from my higher awareness that it didn't matter at all what I wore, but also curiously observing as my thoughts popped up anyway.

A few days before, a friend heard me describe this and said, "The question you should be asking is, what do YOU want out of this?"

I immediately replied, "I want to be comfortable as myself. I want to show up as myself."

She smiled and her eyes sparkled as she nodded. "And I'm looking at you right now. I see you, right in front of me now. Are you comfortable?"

We were sitting cross-legged on the hardwood floor of my home, getting ready to sing and make music together. I had met with this woman every two weeks for the last two years. I was totally comfortable.

And now, nearly a week after attending the amazing TEDx event, I can say that I felt totally comfortable there as well. I was surprised in the most delightful of ways at everything - the diversity of women there, the inspiring speakers offering so many different perspectives, the serendipitous interactions I experienced throughout every moment of the day - and most of all, I was delighted to experience myself as me, fully inhabiting my body and my mind and my spirit exactly where I am today.

I felt the sense of "home" that one feels when we are surrounded by people who make us feel that we are not alone, that we are seen and accepted for exactly who we are, that we share more in common - our fears, our grief, our insecurities, our hopes, our ambitions, our courage - than we are different or separate from one another.

I felt this in every cell of my body. And I wore no makeup. I wore comfortable shoes. I wore jeans. I wore beautiful colors and fabrics in which I physically felt at ease. I was confident in a way that is different from the ways I have "dressed up" to "perform" for others in the past. And I was seen by so many women for who I am. I was able to see into the hearts and the lives of these women and feel the confidence that I am absolutely not alone in my human journey, in my deep desire to speak about the values I hold in my heart, the issues in this world that I know are important, and how we must all transform - no matter where we are today - in order to sustain and support life on this earth.

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From the women onstage I learned that I am not alone in my challenges, my thinking, or my passion to make a difference based on what I have experienced in my life. I also learned that as women, we have a tendency to criticize each other when we see another women step up into her own power. That we as women also tend to shut down and hide when we feel there is the slightest possibility of dissent or resistance (or even silence) in response to our ideas. That we as women must learn how to support one another as we each take the risk of bringing our ideas into the world.

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It is no longer a question of building résumés, or putting women into positions of leadership and decision-making where men currently dominate, or getting equal access. It is a question of supporting life itself on this planet. This is vital not only to women, but to everyone who inhabits the earth. It is a question of bringing the truth in women's hearts - what we know so deeply to be true - into our way of life, creating communities that are based on our real values. Not the ones we have imitated in order to be accepted. Not the ones we have gradually adopted in order to fit in. Not the ones we have been trained by advertising and media to believe. Not the ones we have reluctantly accepted as “just the way it is”. [singlepic id=493 w=320 h=240 float=center] In summary, I heard the voices of extraordinary women - a serial entrepreneur who has built billion-dollar businesses, a venture capitalist, a founder of an environmental alliance, a global fundraiser/author/activist, a redheaded Chinese-speaking songwriting banjo player....the list goes on, and these titles do little to describe the power of the heart and mind that each of them conveyed in their own totally unique way. How they have each followed their own path and have taken action on their intuition's whispers in service of a more heartfelt world, a greater depth of connection, with life.

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My point in all of this is to share my passion that the future of our earth depends on women and girls adding our voices to the conversation of life. We women are in a position to bring balance to the conversation, to influence everyone - men and women - in our families, communities, and workplaces, by expressing ourselves more authentically, more truthfully, by honoring who we truly are, in every moment.

What that means - to be "authentic" and to be "truthful" - is the heart of each woman's own journey. To discover this by way of living. To ask. To know that she is not alone.

 

Are you fighting with reality or appreciating it?

I  recently noticed that I've been fighting against a lot lately. Fighting against complaining, fighting against frustration, fighting against fear. How's that been workin' for me? Not so great.

Today I went on a hike and happened upon a field of daffodils...in February! Now isn't that amazing?

I stopped to appreciate the surprise of unexpected beauty. And I realized that by sending out the energy of "fighting against", I am actually becoming the very thing I wish to avoid or resist.

A few quotes come to mind. First, from Iyanla Vanzant, "If you want peace, be peace." In other words, don't walk into a room and shout at the top of your lungs, "BE QUIET!!"

Second, from good ol' Gandhi, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." In other words, don't fight fighting by fighting.

Third, from the Tao, "The softest of all things overrides the hardest of all things." In other words, don't try to overcome something powerful with more force. Soften your attitude towards it, practice observing and accepting it, receiving it without fear or need to defend yourself.

If you can actually get that far, you might notice that you already feel better, and the things you've been fighting against don't bother you so much after all. Try it today!

Identify something you've been fighting against. Name it. Say it out loud or write it down.

Now, get very still and breathe. It helps to be in a place that inspires your inner calm and allows you to listen only to the sound of your own silence.

And practice getting very, very soft toward that thing you identified. With each breath, see if you can get softer, gentler. See if you can experience the energy of appreciation toward that thing. Remember that all you are doing is sitting right there, breathing. Nothing has to change right now.

Here's my video blog while sitting in that field of daffodils earlier today. Appreciate your reality! Don't fight it....

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXaNXizxBxg']