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!

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.

Being Open to Outcomes

The view from Higgins Canyon Road
The view from Higgins Canyon Road
I packed water, an apple, and an orange, but no extra layers of clothing. This was Christmas Day. A leisure ride, nothing that was going to kill me. I knew the hill on Higgins Canyon Road from having come down it once by car. Winding and barely wide enough for one car and a bike to pass. Spectacular views of Sky Moon Ranch, the sheep and cattle grazing next to large water reservoirs on steep hillsides. The route we had chosen would not, we decided in advance, include riding up that part of the road. We would turn off and make a loop back to town, way before that steep ascent. After all, this was Christmas Day. No need to kill ourselves. The turnoff was, according to the map, just after Burleigh Murray Ranch and off to the right. All we passed were private roads with mailboxes and No Trespassing signs on the right. We kept riding because it was a gorgeous day and it was fun. Next thing I knew, we were headed up the hill. Continue reading "Being Open to Outcomes"

How To Practice True Self-Confidence

Inviting Mystery
Inviting Mystery
Here’s my definition of true self-confidence. I’m so over the days of being in a classroom and each of us painting our own “version” of what the teacher wants us to paint. We are told that this kind of imitation – producing something that looks “as good as” what we are told is a “masterpiece” – is what we should be striving for. That we should practice for mastery as it is defined by the experts. I disagree. I’m interested in the kind of self-confidence that comes from facing the blank page, the open space, the silence, the void. Where there is no map. Only your body, your breath, your instincts, and your wild-eyed awareness. Only by choosing to “go there” – to show up in territory that is uncharted for you – can you experience what I’m talking about here. For me, it requires venturing outside my zones of mastery and wondering what it’s like to be a novice. I never sang, so I explored what my voice could do with sound. I never painted, so I played with brushes and paper and colors. I bring back the lessons of these experiences to the areas of my life where I may be stagnating in my attachment to being “good at it”. When was the last time you stood at the edge of your comfort zone, and faced the open space? When was the last time you took a step into that open space, truly not knowing where it would lead? Each time you give yourself this kind of opportunity, you discover your relationship with fear, and you have the chance to see and accept yourself as you are. Continue reading "How To Practice True Self-Confidence"

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 "Live Your Medicine"

No Hurry, No Pause: The Rhythm of Life

*Part of a series exploring Breema's Nine Principles of Harmony

play buttons

The beauty of the present moment is that there is fast forward, no rewind, no pause, no stop. Only continuous play. The continuous supply of fresh moments, unlike any other that has occurred in the past, or any that will ever occur in the future. Even when we repeat something we think we have done in the past, we are no longer the same in that new moment. We may want to relive an old memory again and again, try to freeze it, or reproduce it by carefully recreating the conditions surrounding it in our mind’s image. But a copy is a copy, having an original life of its own in the present moment when it is experienced. We may want to fast forward through something unpleasant, uncomfortable, or confusing, wishing that it would pass through more quickly, so that we don’t have to experience what we fear or avoid habitually. We may wish to dictate the speed of life, the pace which is appropriate for experiences to happen. But what if we were to rest in a state of “No Hurry, No Pause” – neither dwelling on pleasantness nor fleeing from unpleasantness? What if we maintained this tempo of “No Hurry, No Pause”, as we experienced each present moment in our lives? How might we experience it differently? How might we change our attitude toward circumstances, if we practiced “No Hurry, No Pause”, becoming a little more resilient with ourselves when it comes to what we avoid, and a little less attached to what we consider pleasurable or ideal? What might we discover at the intersection of “No Hurry" and "No Pause”? Breema in a tent I get to experience myself at this intersection each time I do bodywork, whether it is Breema or traditional Thai massage. In that space of "No Hurry, No Pause", I find my natural rhythm, the rhythm of my body in relationship to the other body, the rhythm of being in harmony with all that is. I connect with my own body's breath, I feel the other body's breath, and somehow the breath of the universe begins to breathe us. I notice my mind sometimes wanting to hurry things along, other times checking my progress by wondering how much time is left, and even sometimes wondering if I should even try to do the next sequence. When I remember "No Hurry, No Pause" at these moments, all thoughts dissolve and my entire being becomes one with the natural rhythm that is always present....the rhythm of the music within us. The music that is always playing. No rewind, no fast forward, no pause, no stop.
Photo credit: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/playback-lamps-your-missing-re-60728

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 "Touching The Place of Enough"

The Journey of Yoga and Healing Sounds – Class at Prajna Center in Belmont

The air is thick with the scent of lavender, heavy with the warmth of bodies at rest. A single strand of white lights twists, dances, curls along the floor where it meets the rising wall, hinting at the outer boundary of the otherwise darkened room. I rise from a state of complete rest, quiet inside my body, after a Restorative Yoga class with John. I am curious about what sounds I will invite into the already perfect silence and stillness enveloping me. I set up my sacred space, an altar to my joy, my circle of support, my ability to love and to transform, to play and to create. I settle in to the energy of these objects on my altar, which bring me peace and freedom even as I step closer to the edge of vulnerability in the open space. The sound of the shruti box calms me, grounds me with a gentle yet firm foundation. It is both undulating and constant, a launching pad into the infinite as well as a soft place to land and be nurtured. I invite sounds from all who are in the room. Immediately we are one – a chorus. Singers who don’t need to know the song, who simply listen and offer what comes naturally from within. A sigh, an exhale, a melodious note – it doesn’t matter. We are in this space together, experiencing this magic together. We enter the practice as one. Continue reading "The Journey of Yoga and Healing Sounds – Class at Prajna Center in Belmont"

Be Careful What You Wish For…

Last year I made a vision board for who I am and how I feel when I express my creativity. I had devoted 2010 to my Core of Peace, and I was setting a new intention for 2011. I didn't know exactly HOW my creativity would be expressed. But by making the vision board I connected with images and words that captured how I knew it would FEEL to be in that place of expression. I let go of the HOW, because I didn't - and couldn't - know at the time what the exact steps would be. I breathed deeply into the feelings of my own creativity, and allowed images to attract me without needing an explanation or a meaning or a concept. They were just images that I loved, for no "reason" at all. Here is the vision board I made: I have it as the wallpaper image on my laptop, so every time I open my computer, the images enter my consciousness. Most days, I don't sit and deliberately stare at every image on my screen, but I know they are there. I haven't thought about that vision board in many months. I have gone about the business of living, of staying in my Core of Peace, of letting some things go, and picking up other things, of planting seeds and watching them grow, all the while noticing that I cannot force growth to happen any faster than it already is. Last night I looked at it again. It was with a sense of amazement that I noticed how many of the images had actually come into my reality during 2011. In other words, my visions had come true! Continue reading "Be Careful What You Wish For…"