One way to define love is "sustained, compassionate attention". These words came from John Muir Laws, a naturalist, educator, and artist who inspires stewardship of the land by sharing his practice of nature sketching. When I read these words, I began to see the importance of my own art practice in developing sustained, compassionate attention for myself.Read More
Fear has been up for me lately. I'm stepping into new unknowns and therefore a new level of courage is required. And in order to function, I've woken up to a new way of greeting fear. Instead of trying to beat it down, or conquer it, which both contain the quality of resistance, I practiced this: "It's OK, fear. Come on in. You are welcome here. Sit down at my table."Read More
Why is "love" such a hot button word for so many of us? It seems we remain as divided with respect to this word as we are on so many other issues. There are "hopeless romantics" and there are "anti-Valentine's" party hosts. There are those who sprinkle the word "love" over every communication with strangers or friends, and there are those who use it sparingly, like precious strands of saffron reserved only for the finest occasion.
We never said the word "love" in our house, so during my childhood, I formed the belief that something was missing from my experience compared to the outer world of suburban midwestern America I lived in. We didn't talk like the characters on The Brady Bunch. The emotions expressed in my family were much more raw, more volatile, so close to the surface and not easily contained. The love I experienced was unrelenting, filled with the need to protect me from constant imminent danger, and would never let me off the hook.
Over a lifetime of accumulating ideas of what love is - from what I was told, from what I experienced, and from what I imagined - I decided, other-than-consciously, that it was not safe to love fully.
So I made up a definition of love that suited me, protected me, and preserved my belief in what was possible. I chose different outer images to imitate. I tried on many different outfits in my attempts to recreate safety in love. First, it was a white coat in medical school. Then, it was a pant suit that placed me at the negotiating table, equal to men. Next, it was high heels and feminine-looking skirt suits that projected a combination of power and approachability. Finally, I went barefoot and wore "spiritual" clothes (whatever that means).
These were symbols of the stories I made up about love. I believed I had to earn love by being a skilled professional, by being accepted by a prestigious institution, by measuring up to someone else's standard, by performing above all the rest, or by joining in special rituals. I believed, other-than-consciously, that how I chose to present myself on the outside actually represented how much I loved myself on the inside. So I placed my attention on my outer presentation, believing I could come up with the "right" thoughts or do the "right" things to create the outer world I desired, while continuing to avoid the depths I feared most.
The bigger experience of love I have recently awakened to, through the precise application of language, love and presence, has truly gone to the root of all - and that is consciousness. I finally touched and stayed in places I had avoided for so long. I was shown, by experience and not any concept, how to love my fear, love my pain, love my anger, and love even what I had given up on ever loving again. And to allow "loving what I feel" to transform each emotion into a petal of my heart's desires blooming in action. This was an experience of love bigger than my imagination could accommodate. It was beyond the box of my known reality.
Any thought pattern I chose in the past as a way to survive is no match for the power of being fully present and allowing the love contained in presence itself to shine its unrelenting light on my anger, pain, grief, and even apathy. I had believed that by not touching these feelings, I would somehow rise above them. In fact, I was unaware of the energy required to keep them suppressed and avoided. My buoyancy returned only after being willing to touch, stay, and love exactly what I had believed to be untouchable, unworthy of my attention, and unloveable. In the light of love, which I experienced as pure nonjudgmental and unflinching presence, everything I once thought I was not safe to feel became my love, expanded. I found myself forgiving people I was once convinced had really "damaged" me. I found myself spontaneously making lists of the things I love about my mom (how she never let me off the hook, how she unrelentingly saw my highest self already expressed in the world, and how she did it even though it was hard for her so much of the time).
I am now excited when I experience uncomfortable feelings, as they are a chance to expand my capacity for love. I get to love what I feel, and let my love grow. I now reclaim my love as the life force which has loved me into existence, expressing itself in every experience, feeling, and desire that has come through me. I AM my love. And I love my love.
I facilitate this awakening in my Eye Reading sessions and this is the level at which all of my work is offered. It is time to play a bigger game.
This month, you can join me in awakening to your greater depths of love in a free teleclass, "Renegotiating Love", a free Friday talk at Prajna Center in Belmont, "Receiving The Love That You Are", and my ongoing introduction to my program for physicians, "Live Your Medicine: Responding To The Evolutionary Wake-Up Call to Remember Your Love, Your Art, and Your Medicine".
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.Read More
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.
We live in a world of outrageous pain. In order to get through most days, we have learned to choose numbness. Even though we have great capacity to feel, we have chosen, consciously or unconsciously, to "not feel", in an attempt to survive.
And we have survived. If you are reading this line right now, you have survived.
But does your heart know that there is more to your life than what you have previously accepted as survival? Have you been searching, asking, running, sitting, and "trying" to move beyond getting by, making do, and struggling?
One of my favorites of the many amazing speakers at the Success 3.0 Summit last October was John Gray. He was hilarious, truthful, profound, and practical. And he said this: "The more conscious you are, the more pain you will feel. When you can actually feel pain, you should receive its gift of telling you that your heart is open to feeling."
We are now able to directly witness, through instantaneous video images, so much pain in our world. We are able to invite it into our homes, our living rooms, our workstations, in living color. What do we do with it all? Where do we put it, between our ten o'clock meeting, our eleven thirty lunch appointment, and picking up the groceries after work?
When, in our daily lives, do we permit ourselves to feel?
What I'm learning in my own experience is there is no such thing as thriving above the line of suppressed feelings. I've tried. I've got my masters' degree at least - and perhaps another doctorate - in trying to live above it all, only feeling so-called positive emotions.
And the result of this, in the past, was I only offered a tiny fraction of my true shining self to my world. I only allowed myself to experience a tiny sliver of my brilliance.
Just this week I had an experience of profound awakening to this. I was walking out my front door in order to film a video for an upcoming new offering. I was taking a big step into "feeling my fear and doing it anyway". I was committed and resolved to do it finally.
Just as I stepped out the door, a young black woman walked up my driveway toward me. I did not have the option to hide in the back of the house, pretending I was not home, which is my standard response to unannounced solicitors. I was now looking directly at her, standing face to face outside my house. So I breathed and looked her in the eyes. I listened to her story. She was walking door-to-door selling magazine subscriptions and a story of hope and empowerment for her formerly incarcerated self and her three children, two of whom she had left in Delaware and the youngest of whom now lived in her care. In her sales training, she had learned to make eye contact, to speak with confidence, and to ask directly for support of her dreams.
I asked her what her dream was. She said she wanted to open an education center to help people like her get back on their feet and have a second chance at life, without relying on a system for handouts or charity.
What I heard was a human being seeking to know her own power, to follow her own vision and to serve as a leader.
And yet, as she went on with the explanation of what she was offering me, things started to get murky. The "points" program she presented was vague, and I began to get the sense that any amount of money I gave her that day would make only a small dent in her overall "goal" of getting promoted within the sales system she was seeking to master.
I began to feel uncomfortable. I felt trapped, unable to hide, and began making plans to "make this situation go away." I decided to negotiate the quickest way to get a transaction done and over with. I mentally decided on an amount of money that I thought would be "enough" to make her go away. I went inside the house, pulled a twenty dollar bill out of my wallet, and came back out. I felt safe because I had not given her my credit card information. If the money was embezzled, I figured "it was only twenty dollars".
I went numb.
She did go away. And yet the feeling of dissatisfaction that I sensed in both of us stayed with me after she left. I made my video and I sat with my feelings about the experience. What had I done?
It was not until the next day that I realized what had happened. As I listened to her story, I was drawn in by her desire for self-empowerment. Yet, the system she was in, as she spoke the words of "wanting" empowerment, was actually disempowering to her. I could not consent wholeheartedly to supporting her in that system. And yet, because I went numb, I also went numb to the true offering I did have to give her in that moment. Sitting inside my house was a stack of flyers for my upcoming New Year New Vision workshop. I teach men and women how to empower themselves through imagination, creation, and action from their hearts' desires. I could have given her a flyer and invited her to come to the workshop, as my gift to her.
Also, the very next day, I was to offer a telephone class - free of charge and open to anyone in the world with access to a phone line - teaching about imagination activation.
I am a facilitator of self-empowerment, and yet I was able to go numb to the very highest of my own offerings in that moment.
How much of a difference would it have made for this young woman to receive these invitations to participate in actively being empowered, rather than remaining in a system that teaches her that she must earn her power by rising up the ranks determined by others?
I don't know if she would have come to the events even if I had offered her the invitation. That's not the point. The point is observing how I hide, when I am not fully feeling my own fears of rejection. By denying and suppressing my own feelings, I consented to this woman's own fears of rejection. I kept the status quo alive, because it seemed easier. And twenty dollars seemed a small price to pay.
How many times a day do we do something similar? How many times a day do we trade "doing what's easier" to "make this situation go away" over fully loving what we feel, and offering our highest gifts in service to what we see, hear, or experience?
How would our world be different if we activated the awareness to make a different choice?
It's important to point out that I am not saying I did the "wrong" thing by choosing the twenty dollars. Transcending ideas of "right and wrong" is one of the most profound teachings I am putting into practice now in my life. I love myself for what I was able to do in the moment and it's OK. However, now that I see my highest self and who I AM when my highest self is fully present, I recommit to choosing from my I AM presence, now and continuously.
If you remember when you last chose numbness, it means you are awakening to your feeling. You are remembering what you feel again. Congratulations.
It's a brand new day.
I am in a large group of women artists who have driven up to the ridge of a mountain range and then down a very windy road to a secluded artists retreat program in northern California. All I want to do is stare at the dreamy landscape, watching how the golden green hills go back and back and back, disappearing finally into a fog bank which hovers just above the sea in the distance. I want to watch as the wind blows, the fog clears, and the misty outlines of the hilltops begin to glisten in the midday sunlight. I want to sit and sketch it, and fill in the colors I am seeing, and try to capture the dreaminess, the haziness of it all, the lack of precise outlines which gives it that quality of mystery that makes me want to keep staring.
But we have a schedule. There are ranchers and herders moving us along in this schedule, ensuring that we are on time. I help myself to a large lunch - two servings each of lentil soup and kale salad with some fruit on the side. My idea of a perfect meal. But my stomach feels slightly full after all that, and I am ready to rest and digest.
Having forgotten the schedule momentarily, I’m jarred when it is announced that we now need to move into another room for a “movement activity”.
I take my time walking there, hoping those extra few seconds will give my digestive system time to bring the food down a little more.
By the time I join, the circle has been formed and all the women are bouncing lightly on their bare or socked feet. This being one of only 14% of artist residency programs in the country who have a fully spring loaded dance floor, shoes are not allowed.
Ann Swanberg is the leader. I had experienced her work once before in a large church, where she presented her improvisational approach to life in a humorous show. We kept bouncing - this was Ann’s method for keeping us out of our thinking minds and in some other realm governed by the moving, breathing body - and we did a whole host of games designed to get us to drop our personalities by acting silly and free.
What I noticed is that my recent experiences with becoming present were done in the stillness and silent meditative movement of the Breema Center. Somehow in that setting, where I was truly not a personality and there was absolutely no imperative to show up as entertaining in any way, I could feel my own bodily presence. In this setting where everyone was asked to do something silly, there was slight pressure to be “silly enough”. As if stillness would not have been accepted there. But I don’t know because I just flowed with the energy of the room.
One of the more silent and inward-turning exercises of the day did capture my attention. She called it “The Infinity Box” or “Loving It ‘Til You Know What It Is”. The instructions went something like this: Reaching into an imaginary box from which anything is possible, allowing the “Body First” to lead the improvisation, follow the shape your hands spontaneously take as you reach in. As they emerge from the imaginary box, just be with them. Don’t change them or manipulate them into what you think they might be. Just breathe with the shape, feel it.
"Love it ’til you know what it is."
It was fascinating to watch the different shapes my hands took on when I allowed them to. Fingers apart and curved, palms facing up. Fingers together, joined at the thumbs and index fingers. Palms cupped, joined together, facing up. And then waiting. Breathing. Feeling. An answer or image always emerged. But sometimes I had to stay with it longer than expected. The final one I ran out of time on. So I sketched it, and it is permanently imprinted in my bodily memory. I am still wondering what it is.
It reminded me of painting. How the creative practice for me is staying with something long enough to find out what it is. Not to give up. Not to decide in advance that something’s “never going to work”. So often when I have mustered the courage or audacity or love to stay with it, to keep going, to keep loving it, something else so beautiful and magical emerges right on top of it all.
Chris Zydel sent out her newsletter yesterday too, and I happened to read all the way to the bottom. The article was about "Surrender". How surrender is not giving up or weakness or defeat. But rather a form of full presence. That in order to fully participate, there is surrender involved. As I write this, it occurs to me that the four “No…” principles from Breema touch on what kinds of surrender are involved - No Judgment, No Force, No Extra, No Hurry No Pause. Well that’s a lot to give up in order to get to presence! How often are we drowning in judgment, doing more than is needed, rushing around, or not acting because we feel stuck in hesitation.
Surrender is the sweetness of letting life lead. Of loving whatever life gives you until you know what it is. I am attempting to apply it to my body, my relationships, my work decisions, all of which I apply a certain amount of control, changing, and fixing to. I don’t really know the state of full surrender into acceptance. I am pointing towards it sometimes, but I haven’t sunk to the depths of that pool to say, “Huh. So this is it. I’d like to know how this feels. Really.”
Here’s what Chris had to say about surrender:
When a sunflower turns its face to follow the sun, that is surrender. When a seed planted in a rich soil breaks free of its encasement and pushes its way up to the light of day, that is surrender. When a wild mustang gallops wildly and joyfully across a meadow, that is surrender. When a baby tries to grasp a beam of light, laughing delightedly, that is surrender. When you look at a sunset and feel the peace of simply breathing in and out, that is surrender. When you enjoy a delicious meal, letting the flavors tickle your tongue, that is surrender. When you feel drowsy and begin to fall asleep, that is surrender.
In all these experiences you, or the horse or the sunflower are completely giving into what's right there in front of you. You are simply being in the present moment with what you feel drawn to do.
So in other words, surrender is something that happens daily, hourly, minute by minute in our lives. It's so very common and down-to-earth. It's in the most intimate fabric of our existence. And includes everything from the mundane to the ecstatic.
And tomorrow, with the start of the final Energy Gardeners' Club of the year, I am ready to apply the principle of Surrender. Making things happen is not about controlling in order to get what you want. Making is allowing.