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!

A Journey in Sketches

I recently returned from a week-long stay in Keystone, Colorado. I documented my journey in daily sketches created in a Moleskine Japanese album (small size). My tools were Pigma Micron ink pens, Faber Castell Pitt Artist pen, Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush markers, Derwent watercolour pencils, Sakura Koi field sketch watercolor set, and Kuretake waterbrushes.

First, the SFO airport. There was an exhibit on Art Deco and I loved the patterns, colors, and shapes in it. Since I had a couple of hours to wait for my delayed flight, I started sketching and painting.DSC06899DSC06900I went back to photograph the original pieces that had inspired my memory.

IMG_0857 IMG_0858

Then I looked over my shoulder to see that a large watercolor mural had been placed high up, near the ceiling. I copied the quote on the painting and general feeling of it.

DSC06901

Then I noticed the number of billboards in this terminal devoted to issues of network security and cyber attacks. I captured this by placing three of the ones I remembered together.DSC06902

On my flight I read two magazines I never usually read. One had Amy Poehler on the cover as one of the “100 Most Creative People In Business”. The other had a headline and article I will never forget (much as I would like to), entitled, “Why Die?”. It describes the efforts of PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel’s multi-billion-dollar venture fund’s investments in biotech. He is focused on “eradicating death” from human experience, envisioning a future in which this “disturbing inconvenience” is made obsolete.DSC06903

I road Colorado Mountain Express shuttle from the Denver airport to Keystone. I captured a few quick sketches of what that ride is like. Flat flat flat, then you’re in the Front Range, with walls on either side and endless ranges unfolding in front of you.

I-70 from Denver Airport to the Front Range I-70 on the way to Keystone from Denver I-70 Eisenhower Tunnel from Denver to Silverthorne Colorado

Continue reading

What Feeds You?

Circle of Life

“We are the soil” ink and watercolor on paper, 9″x12″.

“When you touch one thing with awareness,
you touch everything.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Since moving to the coastside community of Half Moon Bay three years ago, I’ve become more and more inspired by farmers. Specifically, local organic farmers and the ecosystems they steward. I am not sure how this evolution happened, but somewhere along the way, in the age of industrial farming and processed foods, in the trance of busyness that convinced me to prioritize my “job” over taking the time to feed myself well, I woke up to the way farmers are actually key players in the health care ecosystem.

For me, the past few weeks have included the following. On the first Saturday of May, my acoustic rock duo provided the live music for our local farmers’ market. Our evolution from being loyal customers to becoming more active participants in the ecosystem providing this precious resource for our community has been a dream come true for the kind of musicians we desire to be. We play for tips, lettuce, strawberries, olive oil, bread, chocolate, a bit of cash, and a big dose of the love that comes from knowing we are feeding the community with our art and joy.

Two weeks ago, I became a member of my first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). This means I signed up to get a box of locally grown, organic produce delivered to my door by a farm collective every two weeks. In each box is a note from Farmer Paul, with a poetic missive on his observations in the field, followed by some bullet points on “how to be a great and green member of the farm family”. These two lines really hit home for me:

“Remember, you are not a customer; you are a shareholder in our farm.

Paying your bill is not enough. Owning a share means doing your share.”

The “aha” for me was that I do have a responsibility. I was not just “buying” a box of food delivered to my door each week. I am now responsible for holding a piece of the thread. I am now a weaver of our local ecosystem. I am adding my voice to the chorus saying “Yes!” to locally grown organic produce, picked by hand, delivered by hand, and gifted to us all by the land. Do you feel that? We are gifted our food from the land. The land is not a factory. It is a generous donor and partner. And what we give to the land it gives back to us in multiples.

Several days later, I attended a lecture by Daphne Miller, MD, a family physician and author of the book, Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing. Her curiosity about the relationship between her patients’ health and the health of our soil led her on a global odyssey to visit small family-owned farms, as well as agricultural scientists and ecologists studying organic farming practices. The one-sentence summary of her talk was, “We are the soil.” What we put into the earth, we put into ourselves. And what we put into ourselves, we also put back into the earth.

All of this has gotten me thinking more about both how we feed our world, and how we are fed by our world.

The thought seeds that take root in our consciousness create feelings which course through the cells of our body as chemical signals and are digested in each cell, creating our experience of life.

Imagine the gut – our digestive system – as the place where our feelings about the world are taken in, broken down and digested into the elements that fuel our entire being system of Soul+Body+Mind, driving our decisions and actions in the world.

Each of us is a mini ecosystem living within a sphere of progressively larger ecosystems – our bodies, our relationships, our homes, our families, our communities, our nations, our planet, and our cosmos. Mindfulness of food – what we put into our mouths – equals mindfulness of what we take in from our experience of life and what we perceive through our consciousness.

When we touch the essence of “WE ARE THE SOIL”, we see that what we feed our consciousness we also feed to our world.

What are some things you can do now, in your world, to live more from this awareness?

  • walk outside and breathe fresh air…imagine and feel the air feeding every cell of your body
  • notice the products you choose that wash down the drain — this eventually becomes part of our soil
  • plant a garden
  • walk barefoot in or touch actual soil or living earth
  • vote with your dollars and support a local organic farmer in your area
  • receive the sounds in your environment and notice how they are feeding you
  • clean up your thinking…junk thoughts equals junk food
  • love what you feel and trust your gut

Your mind may react to this list as being too simple to have an impact. But I believe we can each find our own way of remembering the ecosystems we are already part of. And when we remember, we touch everything in our world in a new way.

We can reclaim our position as owners again…not just customers, but holders of our own share in this web of life.

Greeting Fear with Love

IMG_4563

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.” The subtle practice here is being with, but not believing in, or becoming consumed by, the guest at my table. Just loving my guest – fear – exactly as it is. Not “falling in love with” it, but being OK with it. More importantly, feeling OK with it being there. Not trying to change it in any way.

This is entirely new for me. Only when I actually heard the words “it’s OK” did I realize how much resistance I had felt towards fear. I never said to my fear, “It’s OK.” Two simple, comforting words that were not an automatic response in my internal dialog.

I like to “get over” things, conquer them, put them behind me, become better at them. But simply and sincerely saying, “It’s OK”, had never occurred to me.

I played with “It’s OK” two nights ago before going to bed. Instead of trying to talk myself out of the fear I was feeling, I repeated, “It’s OK.” I made it OK that I couldn’t get rid of my fear. I made it OK that fear was what I felt. I made everything about me in that moment OK. And I really meant it. I woke up the next morning feeling noticeably different. More relaxed. More at ease. Without effort.

Later that day I saw three new books being released by bestselling authors with “Fear” in the title. Martha Beck and Deepak Chopra are doing an event called, “Turning Fear into Fuel”. Lissa Rankin’s new book is called “The Fear Cure”. And Elizabeth Gilbert’s fall release is subtitled, “Creative Living Beyond Fear”.

Apparently I am not the only one for whom “fear is up”. It’s the subject of a larger conversation. It seems the collective call is to look at our relationship with fear, and create a new way to dance. When we choose to step into new territory, or when life hands us an unknown, fear will come knocking on our door. We can respond with the automatic arsenal of fight, freeze, or avoid. We can fight fear with fear. Or we can greet fear with love.

Whichever we choose, “It’s OK.”

All About Love – Unpacking the L Word

Heart of Imagery Painting

“Heart Shines On”, acrylic on canvas, 16″x20″ by Lisa Chu

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. Continue reading

What Doctors Can Learn From Artists and Entrepreneurs

IMG_0073_2

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.

How do you know if you’re living in reactive mode? If you define and measure yourself based on external circumstances, and you believe you really are limited by what’s happening outside yourself, you are in reactive mode. Most of our institutions, including the education system, government, mass media, and the medical training system, are based on the reactive mode. These systems teach you to believe that your success is measured by your ability to manipulate external circumstances, so your attention and efforts should be focused on external metrics. You compare your performance to others on a so-called objective scale, and you rely on statistics to know how you are doing. There is nothing “wrong” with reactive mode. It is the way most of the systems in our society operate.

Creative mode requires a 180-degree shift in this perspective. Continue reading

Red Pill or Blue Pill?

MatrixBluePillRedPill

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? Continue reading

When did you last choose numbness?

IMG_4283

“Listening to the womb of the eye” – Lisa Chu, 12″x16″ mixed media on paper

 

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. Continue reading

The Gifts of Burnout: An Evolutionary Wake-Up Call for Doctors

IMG_4244

It has been fourteen years since I graduated from University of Michigan Medical School. I have journeyed far from the field of medicine, and yet my heart keeps hearing the call to return to my physician communities and share what I have learned. I simply cannot ignore my sense that the pain within our health care system – now felt at every level, including patients, physicians, and payors – is a resounding call to wake us up to our next stage of evolution.

It takes only a cursory scanning of the headlines of medical blogs like this one to get a sense for the unrest, the frustration, and the abundance of innovative practices emerging as a result of the rising sense of powerlessness among doctors. I left medicine immediately after receiving my MD, moving into uncharted waters after the Dean of Career Development at Michigan told me, “You’re on your own. We can’t help you with that.” This was when, as a fourth year student, I announced I would be pursuing a career in venture capital.

I volunteered at a private equity investment firm – yes, I worked for no pay – and six weeks later, I was hired as an Associate. Within two years I was the youngest partner-level Investment Manager in the firm. No one told me this was possible. I simply would not accept anyone else’s opinion of what I could or could not do. Especially after what I witnessed in my world of medical training.

One of my most vivid memories was on my Vascular Surgery rotation, where I was absolutely loving the concept of what we were doing – as intellectual masturbation material. But in practice, what I saw was my future laid out in the following scenarios. The second year resident, sick as a dog, showed up to work anyway, and, too weak to stand, lay down on a gurney in the OR while a case was going on. The third year vascular surgery fellow, a gentile Southern man, was in the middle of a lower extremity bypass graft and stepped out of the room. He lifted his mask, vomited into the scrub sink, and then reentered the OR to continue the procedure. This happened two more times within the same procedure before he completed.

Many of you reading this may be nodding and saying, “Yup. That’s just the way it is. Suck it up or leave it.” And my question is, “If you have trained yourself not to feel, what else might you be missing in your experience of other people?”. Continue reading

Waking Up To A New World

IMG_4215

As the new year begins to unfold, I am waking up to a brand new world. I am aware of a bigger love within me than I ever knew before. And I came to this awareness not through reading but by acting on my heart’s desires. I returned last night from a week-long immersion in Asheville, North Carolina, where I was trained in a beautifully powerful suite of modalities based on reading the map of the eyes.

I could tell you about the iris being a map of our thoughts, words, and feelings believed in our other-than-conscious world. I could describe the role of our words and language in creating states of consciousness. I could share that we have a sacred body language that speaks when our mind has not yet found the words.

What I choose to share is my experience of receiving true love.

In the presence of true love, I was able to touch and love and feel a place within me I had preferred to avoid. A place that was easier to relate to when it was “over there” happening to “those people”, many miles or many generations away from my “here and now” reality. However, I know from my experience that trying live above our suppressed emotions, trying to get by with a comfortable material existence, at some point gets old. We grow out of the tiring routine. We know in our hearts something is calling for us to see, touch, feel, and love in a way we have never been able to before.

With guidance and great love, we can touch what we feel, and love what we feel, and experience healing beyond the box of what seems possible, reasonable, or explainable. I know I was raised with an intensity and commitment of unrelenting love, which sometimes felt overwhelming. I now love my parents for their intensity and their commitment, and for never letting me off the hook, even when it was hard for them. I love what I feel when it is hard for me, and I love myself as I do it anyway. This unrelenting love is the depth of love our world is created from, moment by moment by moment.

And this unrelenting love is the love that will heal our own hearts, moment by moment by moment. I am grateful to have the experience and the tools required to touch the experiences in all of us that we did not, in the past, understand how to love. With true love received specifically in the present moment, we begin a new trajectory in fulfillment of our greater mission in life.

If you are ready to wake up to your new world, please get in touch with me for an exploration of how we can partner in your process. I also invite you to join me for a free teleclass on Tuesday, January 20th, entitled, “All About Imagination”. Expand your current container and discover a new activation of your imagination from the realm of true potential. Details and registration are here.