Greeting Fear with Love

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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

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“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

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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?

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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?

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“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

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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

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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.

What’s it like to discover your unique voice?

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When you hear the word “discovery”, do you think of the headlines announcing the latest scientific breakthrough, proclaiming that on this particular day, something was finally proven? Do you imagine discovery to be an event?

The emergence of my unique voice has shown me that discovery is an unfolding, like the process of a seed becoming a tree. That slow, that gradual, and that relentless. Somehow I’ve gotten so accustomed to the two extreme ideas of a thing being either finished (in the past) or somehow out of reach (existing only in the future). Perhaps it’s the heavily material focus of our existence, or the way we have woven in consuming, purchasing, and owning things as the foundation of our daily lives.

The process of making has brought me closer to the experience of the true unfolding nature of existence. That I may have an idea or an image within me, and I may show up to the blank page with materials available to start making, but only in the act of making do I get to see what “it” becomes.

We buy so many things as products. Finished, we are told they are, just because they are presented to us and someone has decided they are finished. We wouldn’t dream of altering them, either because we don’t know how or we don’t have the imagination to see them as anything other than how they were presented to us. We take instructions well as consumers. We believe messages about what we need, and we follow directions about when we need them. We are dictated a value system, and we adopt the belief that we have no choice but to live within it.

We are saturated with images of performances. People rehearsing a neat and tidy presentation, hiring stylists, graphic designers, and other specialists to bring a theatrical level of polish to the images we consume at higher and higher frequency.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we are also fed gawdy, rakish displays – also theatrical – of the most unconscious of human behaviors, representing us in our basest moments of turmoil and reactive patterns.

Yet what we hunger for is an image that connects us with the truth of our own unfolding process. A story that resonates with our own making and discovering, and everything that the process entails. Not merely the “finished product”. After all, what is a “finished” human being?

Last week I had a birthday. I celebrated by taking myself to the museum, leading a sound meditation journey for a women’s group, and seeing Bobby McFerrin in concert with the San Francisco Symphony (not all on the same day!). I was inspired by this quote by him: “I try to not to ‘perform’ onstage. I try to sing like I sing when I am in my kitchen. I want to invite audiences to feel the incredible joy and freedom I get when I sing.” And in fact, we witnessed that in a delightful way during his performance, when, onstage, he missed a page turn and made up lyrics describing his own mistake and telling the conductor to move on. It was a perfect moment illustrating his motto that there are no mistakes, only opportunities to choose again and keep moving. All of it is simply the same process of creating and unfolding.

In the past week or so I have been exploring a new process with my video blogging. My own version of “TED talk”, only so not a TED talk. The only resemblance may be the approximate length of the talks (usually around 18 minutes, but sometimes more). I have previously made videos when I “knew” I had something to say. I could record them quickly and I used my camera as a kind of note-taking system to jot down the thoughts I had heard in my head and worked out, usually on long hikes in nature.

This time, I am just starting with an impulse to observe something about myself that is coming to the surface. And then keeping the camera on as I talk and discover for myself something that is only revealed to me in the process of making the video. Like the blank canvas process of making I described above, the making of these videos supports an emergence. They are not the product but rather an artifact of a discovery process. You can watch the videos here (in blog form) or here (as a playlist).

I hope that in sharing the unfolding of my unique voice that you are inspired to find your own and allow it to be born in its own unique way.

What makes you unique?

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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.

Success 3.0 – Wake Up, Grow Up, Show Up

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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.