It’s freezing. All I know is it’s 11 miles out and back. The description on the website had said, “Participants must be in good cardiovascular condition. No single track/technical work. Climbing for sure.” I should have known when I saw the fat tires on everyone else’s bikes. Oh, how we wish that learning would take place in the comfort of our familiar homes! A cozy blanket, a warm cup of tea, our favorite music playing, and the knowing that everything as we have chosen and arranged it now surrounds us. Learning for me always looked like showing up in a classroom, or privately in front of a teacher, and demonstrating what I knew. I would then get feedback in the form of a critique, the next challenge chosen by the teacher, or a score on a test that told me how much what I thought I learned matched what I was expected to have learned. What I learned on my first mountain bike ride this weekend is that learning – the fresh, raw experience of aha!wow! that’s new! – can be extremely uncomfortable. It can happen when we are placed (or we find ourselves) in a situation we did not know we chose (but we did) and that every fiber of our being is wanting to fix, alter, escape, or resist. But there we are. In my case, “there” was a guided 11-mile ride on a closed access trail. Turning back was not an option without taking the entire group with me. Continue reading
I firmly believe everyone should have the experience - at least once in their life - of pooping in the wilderness. Of digging a hole at least six inches deep, dropping trou, and watching their own poop land in the hole. Then filling it with soil, packing it down, and returning the surrounding earth to its original state. Continue readingI believe this not just because pooping in holes has become second nature since I started backpacking, but because I experienced real compost in my friend Lydia's yard yesterday. From start to mulch. When you see one too many potted plants or cut flower arrangements in your life, you forget where it all really comes from. Not just the postcard pictures of a farm with a guy in overalls posed casually leaning on a fence that you see from the side of the road. Not the beautiful bins of colorful, washed produce (definitely not GMO and definitely organic) at the farmers' market. No, I'm talking about what dirt really is. How our bodies - the stuff of our skin and bones - are ultimately the same stuff as dirt. How the plants growing prettily or wildly in the ground are also the same stuff as dirt. How if you have the chance to take a shovel and pull up some plants, move them to the compost heap, then come back a few months later, you might see something that looks nothing like the original plant but a lot like dirt.
The stories from the E-Squared Book Club are just too good not to share! We discussed the results from Experiments 1 and 2 this week, and when we met at Quarry Park by the labyrinth, we did Experiment 3 together. And can I just say "WHOA!". Since I have the unique position of being with both in-person and phone groups, I just have to share what's happening with everyone. Continue reading
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
Tiger Cub" stuff being thrown around the web, here's something that might ease your suffering. Amy Chua wrote a column in USA TODAY entitled, "Here's how to reshape U.S. education." First of all, it's short and very readable in a few minutes, honoring our short American attention spans, a la USA Today. Second of all, Amy "follows the rules" and wears her academic hat here, citing historical geopolitical examples, statistics, and all those other techniques that make our rational brains feel taken care of. She sounds smart, succinct, and very put-together. To draw a wardrobe analogy, she would be wearing a navy blue suit and high heels in this article, while in Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother we saw her with no makeup, maybe some running shoes, and her "fat jeans". In other words, she wasn't so pretty and polished. Here, she only briefly hints at her own vulnerability, her own flawed human condition, by stating that she "learned her lesson the hard way" when her younger daughter (NB: the daughter who does not yet have a blog, and has not yet gotten into Harvard...she's only a freshman in high school) rebelled. She also hints at the vulnerabilities of her attackers - you know, the parenting bloggers and other self-righteous jumpers-on-the-bandwagon who feel the need to polarize every story into a right-versus-wrong debate - by saying this about parenting in particular, and why it's such a hot-button issue:
"We all desperately want to get it right and never know for sure whether we are. Perhaps it's because the stakes are so high, and it's terrifying to admit a mistake."Ultimately, in the final paragraphs, she boils down her point of view into a very tidy philosophical statement of "East Meets West", imagining an ideal borrowing from the "best of both worlds" - the structure and discipline required in early childhood to establish a foundation of learning, and a gradual opening in the later teenage years to allow ample exploration of individuality and creative self-expression:
The great virtue of America's system is that our kids learn to be leaders, to question authority, to think creatively. But there's one critical skill where our kids lag behind: learning how to learn. East meets West If in their early years we teach our children a strong work ethic, perseverance and the value of delayed gratification, they will be much better positioned to be self-motivated and self-reliant when they become young adults. This is a way to combine East and West: more structure when our children are little (and will still listen to us), followed by increasing self-direction in their teenage years.When I read these words, they sound familiar. I agree with them. They were the ingredients I intended to bring into fruition when I started a violin school for toddlers in Silicon Valley back in 2004. With starry eyes and the willingness to put everything on the line (including a partner-level job in venture capital) for the creation of this dream, I set out to provide the ultimate combination of Eastern and Western philosophies. This was to be "more than violin lessons". It was to be "lifelong learning", using the vehicle of violin to teach discipline, teamwork, leadership, collaboration, listening, sensitivity, confidence, and mastery. Everything I could think of could be taught through the journey of learning to play violin and performing around the world. I actually used the term "learning how to learn" in my parent seminars and recruiting presentations. Continue reading
"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
Lately I have found that the best "medicine" I can give myself during the course of a day is to get out of my chair and go on a hike. I am fortunate to live within a few minutes' drive of several open space preserves, so there are no excuses! Except the voices in my head saying that I "should" be "working"...a very narrowly defined version of working indeed. I've found that every time I actually take the action of going on the hike - against the more prudent advice of the thoughts in my heads saying things like, "Breaks are for the weak", and, "Working hard is the only way to survive in life" - I experience a burst of creative ideas and energetic opening, which makes me grateful for every breath and every step I can take. It's not like "working out" at the gym, which I did for many years and with much gusto. Recently I took a hike and recorded two videos - one before and one afterwards. I set an intention (or actually a "goal") of practicing self-acknowledgment during the hike, since I had spent the better part of the day flogging myself to work harder, falling into the old thought pattern of, "It's never enough." About halfway through the hike, I realized that in the effort and concentration of pursuing my goal of self-acknowledgment, I had not acknowledged anything that was going on in my immediate surroundings! I had not taken in the particular sights, sounds, and other physical sensations of being on a walk outdoors surrounded by open space and natural vistas. My head was down for most of the first half of the hike. But once I realized this halfway through, and opened myself to experience the present moment, I softened my gaze. I was not working so hard to be on this hike and accomplish rejuvenation as if it were another homework assignment by a teacher. I was shifting into receptivity and noticing everything gently, in real time. I started to look UP at the sky, notice the sounds of the birds, appreciate how the outline of the mountains against the sky, on this particular day, were barely visible because of the misty haze. I started to listen to the sound of my own footsteps on the trail, and how they provided a steady, soft rhythm over which the birds occasionally improvised their solos. During the second half of my hike, there was a shift into musicality from what had started out mechanically. This was my experience of coming into the present moment. You hear Eckhart Tolle and Oprah and other teachers talking about "being in the present moment", but what is your own experience of it, in your own body? I post this as a reminder that we may spend lots of time trying to learn something, or pay someone to teach us "how to" do something, or read blog after blog in search of the answer to the questions in our heart. I believe that learning and growth are the ultimate purpose of our lives here on earth. However, keep in mind that the most important thing to do while learning is to notice yourself as you learn. By developing the ability to notice what is going on inside you, how you are applying the lessons specifically in your life, and honoring your experience as you respond to being taught, you are giving yourself the true gift of learning...and healing. I encourage you to find the energy of openness and receptivity in your daily life through your own practice....maybe it's a hike, or maybe it's something else. Discover what restores YOU! Video before the hike (where I set my intention): Video after the hike (which felt like two different hikes based on a mind shift halfway through):
I had an Energy Release Ritual this morning. Spur of the moment, totally unplanned, but absolutely inspired. I've been reading a few mind-body healing books ever since attending Dr. Mitchell Gaynor's workshop at CIIS this weekend. Dr. Gaynor is an integrative oncologist based at Cornell Medical Center in New York City and is the embodiment of physician-healer, embracing all of his life experiences and learning from diverse traditions in order to create healing partnerships with his patients. I don't see myself working with disease, but still find myself fascinated by healing stories. Disease is merely one form of communication, through the vehicle of our bodies, to help us become more aware of ourselves. Some people experience healing through a financial crisis, or a job loss, or the death of a loved one. Any time our expectations about life are challenged or even shattered, we are being handed the gift of an opportunity to heal and grow. Somehow this morning I was inspired to let go of some of the energies that I am still carrying and am no longer in need of. I knew that I wanted to have a total body experience of this letting go - not just writing it, or saying it, but experiencing it with all of my senses. I created an altar, which incorporated items representing the five elements - earth, fire, air, water, and ether. Continue reading
For most of the years of my adult life, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas has felt like a race. "A race to where?" you might ask. Great question! Instead of racing through your list of "to do"s, try something new this holiday. Try adding some restorative practices to your days, and checking in with yourself to ensure that you are sharing and giving your best self to the people you care most about. Don't know what restores you? Well, here's a great place to start: STOP. Yes, that's right. STOP doing for even one whole minute each day. For those of us who thrive on the thrill of accomplishment, fitting in, doing more, working harder, and making things look good, this might be as big of a challenge as anything you've put on your "to do" list. That's why you need to do it now. STOP. Just sit still with yourself for ONE ENTIRE MINUTE each day, and watch what happens. Feel everything that comes up. Feel your resistance. Feel your annoyance. Feel your jitters. Feel your desire to be anywhere but right here, right now. Give yourself this gift every day during the month of December, and you'll be on your way to being able to give to others what they truly desire - your full presence and peace with yourself. Want more inspiration and instructions on how to create restorative practices and restore sanity to your holiday season? Enroll in my online course starting December 13th. Register here>>
Have you ever tried actually doing one thing at a time? I've found that it takes a tremendous amount of trust - an amount I often don't have - to truly do one thing at a time. Somehow my brain prefers that high-anxiety mode of doing many things at once, having many irons in the fire, keeping many options open, so to speak. But the reality of that mode is nothing ever gets done, and I never feel totally complete. In other words, I set myself up to prove the belief that underlies this kind of behavior: "I am not enough." To turn this behavior around, I first choose a new thought to believe: "I am complete, as I am, in this moment." At first, I repeat it as a mantra that sounds ridiculous because my brain has never practiced focusing attention on all the ways that I am, in fact, complete, as I am, in this moment. I have trained my brain, for many years and quite intensively, to find all the ways that "I am not enough" - all the ways that I "should be" doing more than what I am doing right now. But since I have made the choice to be and do in a different way, to connect with a different energy as the source of my actions, I keep repeating that mantra. I allow myself some stillness and some time to find one example of how I am really complete, as I am, in this moment. I find some gentleness toward myself as I learn a new way. I remember that I am like a toddler, about to take my first steps, and joyfully falling and getting up more times than I will be able to count.