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
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
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.
In the weeks since returning from Boulder, I've been spending more time with the idea of the Unique Self teaching of Marc Gafni and the Center for Integral Wisdom. For me it was deeply integrating to hear a story that finally enabled me to bring together both the parts of me I had discovered and cultivated during the last five years - namely, wordless presence, connection with the Oneness, and recognition of egoless identity - and the parts of myself I had "divorced" from - namely, the rules of classical training, the linear reductionist thinking of mechanical science, and the ignoring of subjective experience.
How refreshing to hear someone say, "You can't meditate your ego away. You can't meditate your story away." This was part of my experience as a meditation practitioner! I wanted to put certain chapters in the past, as "the way I used to be", believing that in order to become who I knew myself to be - both creative and spiritual - I needed to forget who I once was. No matter how many relationships I walked away from, no matter how many new practices I adopted, no matter how many new communities I joined, I could not completely ignore my prior experience and stories, and the curiosity I felt about bringing my new learning back to my old communities. I could not pretend they were not in me. Oh, I tried. But I never felt complete in my expression, or full in my generosity of sharing. It was as if there were problems I knew existed, in distant parts of the world, that I was deliberately ignoring for the sake of elevating myself beyond them, transcending them by trying not to pay attention to them anymore. I kept my eyes forward, visioning my ideal life over and over again. And still I felt there was a connection I was not making.
The image of my Unique Self "plugging in" to the infinite mesh of the One via a radically unique shape - not just a generic plug into a generic outlet, but a unique contour fitting in like a puzzle piece perfectly matching in every subtle turn of form - is supporting me to integrate all of my stories, all of my prior and current experiences, and to show up as me. I am now opening my vision to include all the parts of me I would rather hide and avoid, the parts I would rather not have you see, AND embracing my brilliance and light and infinite creativity at a level previously unrecognized....not as opposing sides of a coin, but as different and equally essential points on the same sphere of my wholeness.
So what makes YOU unique? What are the points that constitute the unique shape of your piece of the mighty jigsaw puzzle of all that is?
The invitation of our times is to hold this paradox: what you think you are is not who you really are, and exactly who you are is all you need to be.
When you show up as all of exactly who you are, you heal, transform, and create a world in the way that only you can.
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.
A few weeks ago, on August 20, I read the news that BKS Iyengar, the renowned Indian yoga teacher and founder of the Iyengar Yoga tradition, had died at age 95. Immediately I was brought back to the many memories I have as a result of his teachings. My first California yoga teachers were trained in the Iyengar tradition. In their classes I was exposed for the first time to silent meditation and chanting. I remember as a student just managing to tolerate these first few minutes of ritual as I waited for "the real yoga class" to begin. What could these Sanskrit sounds possibly have to do with my physical strength, flexibility, and fitness, which is why I did yoga (or so I thought)? As soon as I read the news, I went to my bookshelf and pulled off my well-worn copy of Iyengar's book, Light on Life. Nearly every page is marked and notated, evidence of the way I used to read as if every book were homework that I would have to write a paper on someday.
The pages that the book fell open to were about extension and expansion in yoga poses. How when we reach and stretch, we often only think about the point to which we are trying to reach, but we forget about where we are reaching from. And as I pondered this, I realized that no matter how far we are trying to stretch, we are always reaching from where we are now. From the center of our being.
How often do we check in with how we are as we are doing something?
With the completeness of our focus on the outward gaze, how skilled are we at really seeing the inner place we are always reaching from? Do we know this place? Do we know how it feels? Do we really know it as it is NOW, or do we know it as a memory, a snapshot of some previous moment in time, or some interpretation created by our judging mind? Do we only see what we think other people are seeing - some image of how we're supposed to look?
Developing clear inner vision, and the capacity to really see where we are reaching from, is the core practice of being present. In the years since I started yoga practice, I have been exposed to many more forms that give the body, mind, and soul the opportunity to be together in harmony - improvisational music, whole body listening, Breema bodywork, to name a few. When this harmony is happening, we have the opportunity to see the world within our true selves. When we practice seeing into our true selves, we begin to know more and more where we are reaching from in any moment, even as we continue to reach toward something else.
Each day since Iyengar's death, I have read a few pages of the book again. I am grateful for the life he lived that enabled him to write those words on the page. And I feel gratitude for the life I am living that enables me to understand the meaning of those words beyond the page.
Where are you reaching FROM? And how can you practice seeing your true self with inward-looking eyes?
Join me in the Energy Gardeners' Club for some practice with the support of nature, sound, art, and a circle of safety and encouragement. Starting next Tuesday, September 9th in Half Moon Bay.
I packed water, an apple, and an orange, but no extra layers of clothing. This was Christmas Day. A leisure ride, nothing that was going to kill me. I knew the hill on Higgins Canyon Road from having come down it once by car. Winding and barely wide enough for one car and a bike to pass. Spectacular views of Sky Moon Ranch, the sheep and cattle grazing next to large water reservoirs on steep hillsides.
The route we had chosen would not, we decided in advance, include riding up that part of the road. We would turn off and make a loop back to town, way before that steep ascent. After all, this was Christmas Day. No need to kill ourselves.
The turnoff was, according to the map, just after Burleigh Murray Ranch and off to the right. All we passed were private roads with mailboxes and No Trespassing signs on the right. We kept riding because it was a gorgeous day and it was fun.
Next thing I knew, we were headed up the hill.
I was winded, already climbing, when I began to get the words out about checking the GPS. By the time we found a safe area to pull off the road, we had already climbed several hundred feet. I was already in one of the lower gears. The winding road was laid out in front of us, one short section at a time, only revealing the very next turn, not telling us whether this was the last, or second to last, or how many there would be ahead. No tacit reassurance of “one more to go”, like a personal trainer or aerobics class instructors might provide.
Only the half loop spiraling up and disappearing behind the next bend. So in the moment of riding, there is only the decision to make it around the very next bend. Or not. There is no gratification of “knowing” that if you just do one more of these, you’ll be a rock star. Only the decision, between you and your body, whether to take the bike up one more section of the spiral.
It’s the “Do what’s in front of you” part of going toward your vision. Your bike is pointed in the direction of the top of the hill. Your job, in any given moment, is to pedal up this particular section. Your job is not to “get to the top”. Getting to the top is what happens when you make the decision to see what’s around the next bend, over and over again, and then you look up from what you're doing to discover that you’re at the top.
I remember exactly that moment from this Christmas Day ride, actually. I had just powered up about three sections without rest, after a man twice my age wearing blue jeans had passed us. He was sincere and kind when he said, “Merry Christmas! You guys are doin’ ter-RIF-fic!” I thought to myself, “Not as terrific as YOU are!” and kept pedaling because I couldn’t talk. I bore down a little harder, figuring I wasn’t going to rest my way to being in that kind of shape when I am his age (I guessed 80).
But by the end of the third spiral, I had it in my head that this was it. My limit. If the next climb didn’t bring us to the top, I would turn around. It was Christmas. Why was I killing myself?
I stopped and, panting, leaned on the handle bars of my bike, sucking down water from my CamelBak straw between breaths.
“Is this it?” my riding partner Randy asked.
I couldn’t talk just then. I was feeling the simultaneous sensation that my body was being pushed to a limit, and the sense that I wanted to feel more of this. There was a kind of curiosity and delight about seeing what a little bit more right now would feel like. Even though it was pretty uncomfortable.
So I said, “Go!”, motioning for him to start climbing the next portion. To see what was around the next bend.
I didn’t wait for my heartrate to slow down more or my breathing to recover to normal pace. I started climbing, choosing to go deeper into the “zone beyond comfort” and see where it took me. I didn’t care about the top, I just wanted to keep going and feeling this sensation.
The rhythm of my pedal strokes was slow and steady. My lungs were getting accustomed to the slight burning that accompanied each breath. It took focus ot keep the handlebars in line with the edge of the pavement as I climbed like this. I looked only directly ahead of me. Not toward the top.
And around the next bend, we saw the 80-year-old man come coasting toward us, having reached the top and turned around already. I had no focus left to smile, comment, or register this fact but had to keep pedaling. The last piece of road was a bit of straightaway and the top was marked by an old gate at the base of a eucalyptus tree, with an expanse of downward rolling hills stretched out beyond it.
We were there. The top. It wasn’t something we set out to do. In fact, I had strictly planned otherwise. It was something that happened as a result of deciding, one stretch of road at a time, to keep climbing and see what’s around the next bend.