Tag Archives: facing your fears

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

Learning to Ride

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.

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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.

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A map of the terrain, which can’t really tell us what it’s going to feel like.

Continue reading

Why everyone should poop in the woods…at least once

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.

sunflower

What we’d rather imagine than pooping in holes.

I 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. 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

Living With A Perfectionist In Your House

I am a recovering perfectionist.

I’ve been practicing various antidotes to perfectionism quite consciously for about three years now. That makes me – the real me, the innocently imperfect me – about three years old. I’m walking, I’m talking, I’m eating with my plastic miniature utensils, insisting that I’m a big girl now. But the real big girl in the house – the house of my mind, my body, and my soul – is Miss Perfectionist. She is the one who grew up inside my house, the house of me. She became the big one without my knowing it. She got all the praise, all the money, all the polite smiling conversations at cocktail parties, all the “wow”s and “ooh”s and “aah”s, all the framed diplomas and plaques on the wall. She was surrounded by people she kept at an arm’s length distance, so they wouldn’t touch anything close to her.

She thought she liked it that way. She thought she preferred it that way, because her attention could be focused on making her hair perfect, her face perfect, her nails perfect, her shoes perfect, her outfits perfect, anything that would attract the attention of perfection praisers, which seemed to be everywhere.

Miss Perfectionist was so busy doing the things she defined as perfection – which always involved something other than the way things were – that she ignored the real me, who by the way, happened to own the house the whole time. Continue reading

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

Leaning in…to what?

woman leaning illustration

There’s going to be some talk about leaning in. I’d like to speak about “leaning in” from the perspective of a woman who learned the men’s rules and did pretty well for awhile. I picked up all the cues about how I was supposed to behave, what I was supposed to do to play the game, how I could win. I earned a seat at the boardroom table, surrounded by men. I am grateful for the doors that were opened for me, when I behaved a lot like a successful man.

I rode the bus for a few rounds before I got off and started the process of sitting in front of the blank page, making up my own game, creating my own rules, and teaching myself a whole new way of “leaning in”.

When we talk about “leaning in”, we have to talk about what that really means for individuals. To me, “leaning in” is about going toward the places that scare you. The real question is, “What scares you?” Most of us are living in remote places that are carefully designed to be far out of reach from what really scares us. We have concocted our plans based on meticulous avoidance of everything that really scares us.

We believe that this construction project actually spares us the feeling of being scared, but it follows us. It never leaves us. It camps out in dark corners inside us. We dart, we duck, we hide, we layer on coats of paint and makeup and accessories and postures that we think – hope – will cover it up. But it plagues us.

We seek relief, but we also secretly believe we’ll never find it. We think this is as good as it gets, so we keep pointing in the same direction.

So what are we leaning into? 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

Tiger Mother Amy Chua Sets the Record Straight

So, for those of you who still haven’t read the whole book, and may even find yourself getting sick and tired of all the “Tiger Mom” and “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

The many ways to say, “You CAN do it!” – reprint from Truth Love Beauty

Today I’m reprinting a blog post I wrote over a year ago, on my Truth Love Beauty blog. It resonates with me right now, which is comforting. The truth has a way of standing the test of time. It also reminds me of a topic I have not talked about on this blog – the observations and lessons I learned from teaching violin to more than 30 toddlers in the Silicon Valley for five and a half years. These descriptions bring me back to a time that was filled with joys and challenges, and ultimately catalyzed a whole new way of being and learning for me.

Here it is:

Does all the woo-woo, positive psychology, self-help talk make you feel a little queasy or, at best, skeptical? Does an email with the subject line, “You can do it!”, make you want to “Report spam” faster than you can hit “Delete”?

When I worked with parents and their children in a coaching/teaching environment, I learned that there are many ways we adults try to encourage our kids. We all have a default style of communication that is a product of the various influences in our lives – our own parents, our many teachers, our older siblings, our bosses, our mentors, or even a conglomeration of all the ways we DON’T want to be like any of those people. What I’ve learned about effective coaching I first saw by watching children who were actually allowed to learn. It’s simple: all a kid wants is to know what it feels like to try, and to know that they’ll be OK if they fail. If you give them those two things, they’ll try over and over again with great enthusiasm, and pretty soon (or maybe a lot later) they will succeed. Continue reading