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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What makes you unique?

IMG_4058 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.

Falling Down To Earth...Lessons from "Gravity"

gravity I saw Gravity this weekend. It was date night. Since we normally watch movies on Netflix in the luxury of our own living room, with the sunset and ocean behind our backs and the fire roaring in the fireplace, the trip through traffic and the ordeal of finding a parking space in a shopping mall made me expect a lot from this one.

We decided to splurge on the 3-D version. We got a big bag of popcorn, and settled into the theater, which we had mostly to ourselves.

I was already filled with gratitude for my life on the coast after we set foot inside the neon shopping mall that contained the movie theater. At that moment, seeing the names of the food court vendors – none of which were familiar to me, feeling the fluorescence of everything, squinting at the brightness of the SALE signs in every store window, hearing the echoes and reverberation of the cavernous container of the space, I realized how long it had been since I’d shopped in a mall. When had that shifted? I recalled a time in my childhood when the only place to shop for clothes and shoes was the mall. It was also one of the main “hangouts” for kids who went out after school (of which I was not one).

I won’t talk too much about plot points here, but I want to list several of the “messages from the universe” that I feel are embedded in the movie. I’ll scramble them up so as not to have to give too much of a spoiler alert. But if you must see the movie first, I’ll warn you that I refer to some scenes in the text below.

1. We’re hurtling at light speed toward our destiny at all times.

2. There are two ways to go through our brief moment of time called life – light and floating and free, with laughter, presence, and acceptance, or tethered, struggling, thinking hard, constantly driving somewhere, not knowing where in particular.

3. As unlikely and miraculous as it was for the protagonist to arrive back to earth, her journey is a metaphor for the set of unlikely circumstances that collide to create any individual life on earth, and both are equally miraculous.

4. There are two ways to meet our inevitable demise of death – in awe and wonder, with a light heart, and fully present, or with fear and regret. The way you die is the way you live. Start living.

5. To continue living, you must continuously jettison the parts that no longer serve you. Even though at one time in the past they were essential to your survival, these parts can be exactly what’s holding you back right now. Keep letting go.

6. Sometimes you find yourself on the end of a tether, getting whipped around, believing you’ve been rescued or saved. While you’re technically alive, the ride may feel nauseating, and you’re never permanently protected by what’s on the other end of the tether.

7. Use what you have, do what’s in front of you, remember what you know, and start from where you are.

8. Be grateful for your mind, and remember to use it to serve your heart’s desires, not replace them.

9. Everything can be blown to bits, and you can be one of those bits. You can experience your own rebirth by falling back down from (your head) space into the watery womb of mother earth. You can dive deep, find air, reach land, express gratitude, and then finally find your own legs. This is the story of human evolution…from star stuff to dirt, that’s what we all are: miracles.

10. Sometimes we need to journey far, far away in order to find our way back home.

How is your relationship with Not Knowing?

"Not Knowing is most intimate..." - Zen saying

Mavericks-Labyrinth-with-sky1-300x168.jpg

This is a note for you. You are such a good student, when there's a teacher standing in front of the class, and other students surrounding you, all learning to do the same things. You are a stellar worker, always taking responsibility for your job, above and beyond the call of duty. You take instructions quickly, correct your mistakes diligently, and do everything you can to get along with others. You are smart, capable, successful, but still feel there's something missing from your life, even though you can't quite name it.

So what is it? What is that missing thing?

I don't know.

But I'm willing to bet that your relationship with Not Knowing could use a little tune-up. A little checking in and refamiliarizing. You see, each of us was born in a state of perfect Not Knowing. The first several years of our lives were filled with the joy, awe, and wonder of discovering, playing, experimenting, failing, and doing it all over again every single moment. This is how we learned to walk, talk, and explore the world around us. There was tremendous accumulation during this time, but the overwhelming majority of space was occupied with Not Knowing, and being perfectly content with that.

Then we acquired language, and experience, and started going to school, where we learned to correct our mistakes diligently, take instructions quickly, and get along with others.

Those skills served us in advancing through lots more school, in getting a job, and then learning the ways of the business and professional worlds.

Somewhere along the way, all of that accumulation began to take up much more space than Not Knowing. In fact, we may not even remember the last time we did something for the first time.

So right now you may be wondering, "How does Not Knowing actually solve a problem I'm experiencing in my life?".

Consider how your life might be different if you reclaimed the fun of it. Not having a reason, but just doing it - you know, whatever that thing is that you've always wanted to do or try. Letting go of what experience tells you, and embracing the fresh innocence of the present moment.  Better yet, just existing without judgment.

If any of these sound scary or crazy, it may just be that you've been out of practice at Not Knowing.

And how do you practice Not Knowing? Well, not by fixing it or solving it. Not by hunting for an answer, or coming up with a plan.

But by consciously being there. And watching attentively while you are there.

Last night I went to my first ever hula dancing class. I had never dreamt of hula before, but I saw a performance locally that really inspired me, and then I found out there was a community class offered right in my town.

So I showed up.

There was a lot to learn. The teacher started out slowly, showing us the basic steps, then putting a few of them together into a simple first dance. Then we newbies were sent to the back of the classroom and were told to fake our way along with the more experienced dancers as they rehearsed songs they already knew.

I got to experience myself in the moment of Not Knowing, and to see how I stayed with myself. Now I am at a point where I can see this as a precious gift. But I also know that not so long ago, this was an edge I very carefully avoided, constructing my life so that I would never be in that position of Not Knowing.

How do you react when you are put in the space of Not Knowing?

Do you ask for more information?

Do you look around for someone who looks like they know what they're doing, then copy?

Do you sit out and wait until next time, when you'll definitely know more and do better?

Do you just keep moving, doing what you can, trusting that this is exactly where you should be?

Do you compare what you can do now to what others around you are doing, trying to figure out what's wrong?

All of these are possible ways to relate to Not Knowing.

And all of these responses - if we are able to observe them in ourselves - hold the possibility to bring us closer to knowing ourselves. Closer to becoming intimate with Not Knowing. And more grateful for being exactly where we are in any given moment.

So that is the gift of any brand new experience, whether you enter it by choice, opportunity, or crisis.

In one form or another, all of my work is an opportunity for you to experience yourself in relationship with Not Knowing. I hold open the space for you to experience how you are as you navigate this unfamiliar territory.

This fall, I'm offering you an expansive yet gentle way to become more intimate with your own space of Not Knowing. It's an oceanside retreat with me and a circle of 6 participants, called "Beyond Knowing: Many Paths to the Present Moment."

We will learn from the teachers in nature - the ocean, the sky, the birds, the trees, the sand. We will also learn from approaching and entering various portals to the present moment, which is always fresh and alive with Not Knowing. We will discover what arises when we clear our attachments to thoughts, align our mind-body-soul, and allow our innate expressions to find a voice. We will create a safe space together where we can touch the space of Not Knowing, with gentleness and firmness, full participation, mutual support, no judgment, no force, and no extra.

You will take home tools that you can continue to practice in your daily life, each time you come in contact with the beauty and terror of Not Knowing. You will also take home artifacts from your unique expressions created in the setting of the circle of support provided during the retreat, reminding you of your heart's truth, and your magical reserves of resilience. You will also have the experience - carried in every cell of your body - of having become more familiar, more intimate with Not Knowing.

You can learn all the details about the retreat here.

Living With A Perfectionist In Your House

I am a recovering perfectionist. I’ve been practicing various antidotes to perfectionism quite consciously for about three years now. That makes me – the real me, the innocently imperfect me – about three years old. I’m walking, I’m talking, I’m eating with my plastic miniature utensils, insisting that I’m a big girl now. But the real big girl in the house – the house of my mind, my body, and my soul – is Miss Perfectionist. She is the one who grew up inside my house, the house of me. She became the big one without my knowing it. She got all the praise, all the money, all the polite smiling conversations at cocktail parties, all the “wow”s and “ooh”s and “aah”s, all the framed diplomas and plaques on the wall. She was surrounded by people she kept at an arm’s length distance, so they wouldn’t touch anything close to her.

She thought she liked it that way. She thought she preferred it that way, because her attention could be focused on making her hair perfect, her face perfect, her nails perfect, her shoes perfect, her outfits perfect, anything that would attract the attention of perfection praisers, which seemed to be everywhere.

Miss Perfectionist was so busy doing the things she defined as perfection – which always involved something other than the way things were – that she ignored the real me, who by the way, happened to own the house the whole time.

Haunted House

As I write this, I’m fresh from peeling away another layer of awareness of how Miss Perfectionist still lurks, like a creepy roommate, in the house of me. I’m also more aware of the real me, that three-year-old who has just gotten her legs, who has registered  the definite feeling of walking, moving one foot in front of another, exploring this amazing thing called existence.

And I’m not willing to ignore that three-year-old, at this magical time of her life. I’m not willing to yell at her, throw her out on the porch in her nightgown, telling her she is wrong and worthless as she is. I’m not willing to have her mentored by Miss Perfectionist.

You see, Miss Perfectionist is not very supportive in moments that require vulnerability, moments that require the raw courage to step into unknown, unfelt territory. Miss Perfectionist, in fact, hates those kinds of moments. Miss Perfectionist much prefers the mind’s activity of projecting into the future, comparing the present moment to the imagined future, and listing how it doesn’t measure up: "It’s not good enough, it’s not important enough, it’s not professional enough". The list is usually much longer than three items. The list of “not”s can take over an entire conversation, an entire house, an entire life.

I see today that Miss Perfectionist is simply afraid. She is frozen with fear that someone might actually see the whole house she lives in. That there are little tiny children in there, still crawling around, learning to walk, falling down all the time in the process. That would be so humiliating to Miss Perfectionist! And she doesn’t believe she can survive that humiliation.

I see her – I see me. I see the real me beginning to live life, in the tender state of being three, being open to all possibilities and ripe with the potential of one whole life, surrendered to the present moment.

I see me, and I choose to be gentle with me. I choose to take the small steps of a three-year-old, knowing with total confidence that these steps are the only ones I – the real me - can take right now. And it’s enough.

Miss Perfectionist can have her own room in this house, but she does not own it. We are living here together, and there is space for both of us to exist in harmony. For now.

Photo credit: http://doubtfulnews.com/2012/10/buying-a-haunted-house-there-may-be-logical-reasons-why-thats-not-a-good-idea/

On the other side of beautiful

P1310482 Lisa Matty 1 CROPPED THIS was not a photo on my vision board. I was perfectly content to be performing, showing what I was able to do comfortably, easily, and predictably. I thought I was getting "good" at playing freely, improvising, and creating in the moment. The sound of Chinese Melodrama that matches the stacks of CDs we bring to every gig.

Then THIS had to happen.

By "THIS" I mean: We are at LunarBurn, a three-day outdoor festival and experiment in community living. In my mind, it's a chance to show up and spread the love. We play our first set at the PermaPub, an intimate venue with couches, a bar, and all the impromptu live music one could ask for. We aren’t even finished with a song (Led Zeppelin’s “Over the Hills and Far Away”) near the end of our set, and a guy appears onstage. He has furry white chaps over his jeans, and a grey hoody. He appears to be maybe under the influence of some substances. But what do I even know about these things? I just thought he was a jerk for interrupting our set.

Lisa saying really

Here’s my, “Get off the stage, jerk!” look:

Lisa judging

Yep, what you're seeing is a whole lotta judgment flowing freely from me in that moment. First he wanted to play my violin. I’d rehearsed this response before, so it was easy to say, “Sorry, I don’t let anyone touch my violin.”

He wasn’t looking like he was going to leave the stage, and this being an open, community-driven atmosphere, I said, “You can play yours, and I’ll play mine.”

Then he wanted me to help him tune the thing.

Lisa still figuring out

Seriously??? Suddenly I was flung back to my violin school, “Doctor Chu” days, tuning other people’s violins. Spooky.

My partner Randy was way too far away on the other end of the stage, separated from me by a drumset. I was alone to deal with this. But when it was clear that The Guy – Adam, I would later learn, was his name - was there to stay and play, Randy pulled out the right song – like he always does -- and that was all it took.

Adam started to play. All kinds of sounds were flying out of his instrument, no holds barred. Absolutely no judgment.

I’d never heard such sounds before, let alone play with them, try to create with them. But there I was, on a stage, with captive audience, and microphones on. I started to play too. The interplay of sound and listening began to work its magic. Then moments emerged from the chaos that felt like oneness.

Really? With THIS jerk? Yes.

Lisa and Adam

I was listening to all the sounds, noticing, admiring, perhaps sometimes even envying, the beauty that can arise from NOT CARING AT ALL, in other words, no judgment.

You must understand how deeply ingrained it is for me to take GREAT CARE of every sound from my violin. I’ll never forget sitting in a huge auditorium in Chicago watching one of the “big kids” – a high-schooler at the time – in my violin school, receiving a master class with Russian violinist Viktoria Mullova. I was about 10 years old.

“You don’t CARE!”, she said, in a thoroughly Russian, loving way. It was the kind of icy cold Russian love so commonly doled out in violin training. Meanwhile my classmate’s lips trembled, tears beginning to well up behind her eyes. Tears that represented a lifetime, from the age of three, trying so hard to prove that she cared. She was one of the stars, one of the protected ones in the group. No one had ever spoken to her like that. At least not in public. On a stage. In front of other people.

I vowed never to play like I didn’t care, if only to avoid the stinging feeling I felt that day.

So to stand on my stage with this guy – Adam – who had the audacity to walk in on us and just PLAY like he doesn’t CARE was a big moment. A moment either to shut down or to wake up and say yes to life. Shutting down occurred to me for a few moments. Remember this face?

Lisa judging

Yeah, I was ready to shut it down. But then I remembered that I could just relax into my own place that doesn’t care so much. The place that knows I can play anything with anyone and I will be OK. The place of trust and surrender.

Because when you don’t care, you really are trusting in something greater than personalities and performances. Somewhere along the way, in our journey of recording and performing and trying to “build” something with Chinese Melodrama, I got caught up (again) in making things beautiful and perfect and acceptable and nice. I got caught up in my idea of what “good” sounds like. What I had to measure up to (in my own mind) in order to be worthy of appreciation, applause, presence, whatever. My idea of what I needed to be in order to be liked and accepted.

What I experienced by not caring so much was another layer of freedom peeled away and revealed to me. The discovery of something workable – beautiful – within the basket of sounds I’d call “dirty”. The sounds I don’t choose automatically because of the depth of my conditioning to play only beautifully. The discovery that he will never sound like me, and I will never sound like him, so there is nothing to fear. We can meet in the oneness of our combined sounds and play. Dance. Listen. See what happens.

“Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing there is a field. I’ll  meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.” – Rumi

The next day, I returned to the stage with Randy. No Adam this time. Yet I still had the taste of the experience in my body, my ears, my whole being. I carried the permission of those “dirty” notes with me. They gave me wings to be less careful, more adventurous, more willing to be curious without worrying I would hurt or disappoint anyone. I had fun. I moved more. I felt my own joy. I invited it in. I was inspired by "no judgment".

I noticed that as I became more playful, my entire body began to participate. My feet were not firmly planted on the floor with my legs stable. My knees began to bend. My spine began to twist and turn. My feet were walking (sometimes stomping). My head was leaning. The feelings of the music flowed through my entire being, when my mind was no longer involved in saying, “Now what can I play that will be really beautiful?”.

Lisa B&W at PermaPub

When the music becomes a dance, when I am truly playing, then it’s not about what the notes are, but what is going on inside me as I am playing them. Even if I play every single note “beautifully”, correctly, in tune, like I was taught, it may not connect with a feeling. Because I may actually be trying very hard to create this state of “beautiful” and “correct”. Within me, I am not playful. I am controlling myself. When I am controlling myself, I radiate the energy of control.

When I lose control, anything can happen. Scary, yes. But on the other side of scary, there is beauty. Not “beautiful”, but beauty. The beauty of anything and everything. The beauty of what is.

P.S. Thank you so much to Adam, Matty, and everyone at LunarBurn who played and listened!

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.