Category Archives: Self Care

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.

Where are you reaching FROM?

IMG_3415A 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)? Continue reading

Live Your Medicine

Lisa Pillar Point FB profile reverse warrior The Native American tradition speaks of each person's Original Medicine - that set of gifts that only you can offer the world with your particular life. I've always felt there was such a finality to the phrase "Original Medicine" - like I had to define the one thing I was here to do, or it would be lost forever. No pressure! This feeling would ignite the achiever in me, who would scramble to come up with a name, a brand, a package, a business, something very "put-together" that would create an image of how well I knew my Life's Purpose. I've been doing some version of that for most of my life. But recently I've begun to discover a process I find much more alive, much more healing, much more in alignment with my own sense of unconditional wholeness. I call it "Live Your Medicine." It is the practice of asking, "What time is it now, for me?". It involves listening for what holds the most fear for me in this moment. And then summoning the courage to take action toward that in one small way. Again and again, revisiting and refreshing with each present moment. Continue reading

Trying To Squeeze Blood From A Turnip and The Power of No Force

Part of a series exploring each of the Breema Nine Principles of Harmony turnips001 Trying to squeeze blood from a turnip is a lot like being at war with reality. What are the ways we use force against what is, in an attempt to make things the way we think (and thought is the key word here) they should be? Does it ever really work? And at what price? When we use force, do we even know that our sanity, our inner peace, our body, exists? Or do we only see the blood we want so desperately to come from the turnip, or whatever we are applying force to? If we see clearly, we first begin to recognize that we are not getting the blood we want, despite all the effort. If we continue to look, we might be able to recognize that there's a turnip involved, a turnip that is quite innocent, being a turnip. It has no blood to give. It's just being squeezed, and squeezed some more, harder and harder. You (the one who is squeezing) keep getting more frustrated, but the turnip is not doing anything different. Surprise, surprise, it's still a turnip! Your squeezing, your effort, your frustration, your attempts, have done absolutely nothing to change that. Continue reading

Touching The Place of Enough

My friend Lydia Puhak, coach and creator of The Sensitive Idealist, recently interviewed me as part of her series on Self-Care. You can listen to our sweet conversation here. Funny how sometimes the most important lessons we learn are the quiet, gradual processes that unfold out of necessity. That would be the case with me and my learning about self-care. Back in late 2010, I burst on to the scene with my "5 Principles of Self-Care for Caring Professionals". I wrote a blog post, hosted a series of calls, then turned the material into an online course. And then I left it at that. I got "busy" with the work of living these principles in my own life. I came face-to-face with my own version of workaholism, and started on the path of recovery. I unplugged from the computer and went outside. A lot. I got back in touch with a slower way of doing things - growing a garden, cooking meals instead of heating up trays of food, forming more real relationships in the real world. The biggest (and smallest) change I've remained committed to during this entire almost-three-year period is how I start my day. Continue reading

Can you really take a day off?

There was a time when I believed - when I was totally convinced - that I could not take a day off. Maybe it was the example of my parents, whom I saw work tirelessly every single day, never letting go of the responsibilities of their jobs, and never taking a day off unless they were absolutely required to (and by that I mean, being so sick they had to be admitted to the hospital). Or maybe it was medical school, where I learned by working alongside residents and fellows who would regularly show up to work sick, because they "couldn't take a day off". On one rotation, I recall the vascular surgery fellow being so rundown from flu-like symptoms that he had to dash out of the operating room to throw up in the scrub sink during a procedure he was performing. I watched wide-eyed and took everything in, my mind drawing the conclusion that "people with important jobs can never take a day off". I became determined to find work that would enable me to take a day off, and still be considered important. The problem was, I really had no idea what was truly important to me. I had many concepts that had been implanted by messages from my family, from images in movies and advertisements, and from the culture in which I was living. "What's important" was a moving target, a reaction to whatever "everyone else" appeared to be doing. Meanwhile, in my heart I knew that I wanted to make a difference in this world, to care about something genuinely, and to share my story somehow in this life. But the only way I knew - based on what I had seen, learned, and been taught - was to put my head down and work. I worked hard at everything I did. I didn't take many days off. When I did, I remember feeling an odd combination of freedom and loss.
"Who am I without my email inbox full of requests and my voicemail full of messages?" "Who am I when I am not answering to anyone else?" "What would I choose to do if I had an entire day with no obligations, no one telling me where to be or what I had to do?"
Continue reading

How to Kill Your Creativity…And Bring It Back To Life

Is your creativity dead? I honestly believe that few of us – regardless of whether we work as “creatives” or not – intentionally set out to kill our own creativity. We may just gently turn our backs on it, dismissing it as something reserved for children, or as something only “irresponsible” adults indulge in, or as a waste of time that could never serve a purpose in society (ie, getting paid money for it), or as something only “talented people” get to do. I’m here to say that none of those is absolutely true.

Creativity is not limited to art…

So, let’s say you’re longing for a more creative life. That could mean anything from having more freedom and flexibility in your current job, to finding a way to support yourself while expressing your own creativity. I don’t define creativity as being limited to “artistic” activities like painting, dancing, singing, or sculpting pottery. I define creativity as our innate human ability to connect with the unseen. By this definition, I see every human being as creative, by virtue of our brain’s ability to spontaneously form images that are only seen in our mind’s eye. How you choose to use your creativity is a different story. And this is where many of us have killed our own creativity, or least left it for dead. Continue reading

News news news

"One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began" - Mary Oliver, "The Journey"
Today is that day for me. Maybe it was the flyer announcing my talk at Stanford Medical School in a few weeks (finally making it feel real...and making me feel proud of the creative thinking I've been doing on this subject). Maybe it was seeing the pile of STUFF in my house, moved out of the Cradle of Manifestation, prompting me to revisit what's really taking up the space in my drawers and closets. Maybe it was the invitation to have dinner this Friday with a couple of doctors who have transitioned out of medicine themselves (making me feel one step closer to finding My People). Maybe it was finally telling the truth out loud to myself and to a compassionate witness about what I feel in my heart (and experiencing the expansion that came with it). Maybe it was all of the above. Whatever it was, I finally know what I need to do, even though I have no idea how it's going to play out or if anyone will even care. But I know enough to trust this particular feeling of knowing. It's not a rational linear mind kind of knowing. It's a whole body energy clearing kind of knowing. And I can't wait to share the news with you!

So what IS new? Continue reading