Remember, Celebrate, and Acknowledge…YOU

One way to define love is “sustained, compassionate attention”. These words came from John Muir Laws, a naturalist, educator, and artist who inspires stewardship of the land by sharing his practice of nature sketching. When I read these words, I began to see the importance of my own art practice in developing sustained, compassionate attention for myself.

Snake River sketch, July 2015.
A sketch from my bike ride through Vail Pass in July 2015. Illustration by Lisa Chu.
One way to define love is "sustained, compassionate attention". These words came from John Muir Laws, a naturalist, educator, and artist who inspires stewardship of the land by sharing his practice of nature sketching. When I read these words, I began to see the importance of my own art practice in developing sustained, compassionate attention for myself. I have noticed, in just a few years of deliberately making art daily, that my well of self-compassion has grown wider and deeper. And gradually, my capacity for compassion toward others -- even the ones it would be easy to judge or dismiss quickly -- has become more of a habit. Continue reading "Remember, Celebrate, and Acknowledge…YOU"

What Doctors Can Learn From Artists and Entrepreneurs

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.

In the moment you can claim your role in creating the experience you are having right now – as reflected to you by the external circumstances you find yourself in – you begin to take a creative stance. You begin to see yourself differently within the grand puzzle of your world. No longer can you point your finger and your attention outward at “them”, but now you must see the source within you that holds your power to create, choose, and act.

Every artist and every entrepreneur has had to touch this inner place in order to bring a never-before-seen vision into material reality. Whether you name it “imagination” or “vision” or “desire”, every human being has an inner source of creativity. Some of us have placed this in a box in the basement of our consciousness. Maybe we have given up on ever being able to use it in this lifetime. But as long as you are alive, you have this source within you, waiting for you to open the space for it to breathe.

Here are four creative mindsets you have within you, waiting to be awakened and remembered.

IMG_0073_2 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 "What Doctors Can Learn From Artists and Entrepreneurs"

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 "Living With A Perfectionist In Your House"

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 "Leaning in…to what?"

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

My Read On What Tiger Mother Amy Chua Learned From Her Tiger Cub — SPOILER ALERT!

Are you wondering what Amy Chua's book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother", is all about? Me too...so I actually read it. SPOILER ALERT: I actually talk about parts of the book that are NOT MENTIONED in any of the myriad "book reviews" published in major news outlets, such as the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, the BBC, and others. And this video is more than five minutes long. But since so few reviewers have actually demonstrated that they have read the whole book rather than a conveniently spliced excerpt, I felt compelled to record these impressions. This is MY read on the story.

Creating Your Vision for 2011

What's your theme for the new year?

I've never been a New Year's Resolution person, but every year on December 31, I take time to reflect on the previous year and write down what I remember. I focus on things like what I learned, how I grew, and the events that were most meaningful for me. This past year was a particularly abundant year of growth and change for me. Last December 31, I finally felt clear and took the step of writing a letter to the thirty families in my violin school, announcing to them that within two weeks, the school would come to an end. While I had no idea what would unfold as a result of that action, I was absolutely clear about my intention of letting go in order to move into the next phase of my life and accept whatever it would bring me. It was an act of trust. My self-proclaimed commitment, or theme, for 2010, was to live from my Core of Peace. To experience life, perhaps for the first time, from a new, unfamiliar place called Peace. Continue reading "Creating Your Vision for 2011"

Diagnosis: Human

One of the best pieces of feedback I received from a student in my recent online course was that she felt safe and open to learn from me because I am also a work-in-progress, like her. So much of our unhappiness, self-doubt, and fear come from the concept that we "need to know". I am beginning to see that my violin school was built upon the false concept that I needed to know how to fix everyone's problems. I can also see how the path of medical training and the system of health care delivery reinforces ideas that doctors "should know" what to do in every situation. I spent my whole life as the "A student", the "winner", the "leader", the one who was supposed to "know more". We're conditioned to "look up" to people like this, to aspire to be in their position someday. But the truth is that we all share one diagnosis - being human. Continue reading "Diagnosis: Human"

Or Else What? Finding Your Own Answer To Holiday Overwhelm

It seems to me that there's this game we play around the holidays. We somehow feel obligated to replay the old tapes of the past, gathering together in the same ways, repeating the same "traditions", whether or not they still work for us. The result? A clenching of the jaw, a tensing of our shoulders, a knotted up feeling in our stomach, as we enter this "joyous" holiday season. Some of us might even roll our eyes without knowing it when we say the word "family". Since all the messages around us are shouting, "Peace! Joy! Love! Thankfulness! Giving!" we feel downright guilty about our deepest truth: we just don't want to do the holidays the same way anymore. That guilt gnaws at our energy for a good two months. We conduct our surface actions under the weight of the thought, "This is what I have to do." So we suck it up. We buy our plane tickets, or get in our cars, battling the crowds of people who all seem to be happily going to visit family, but very well could be gnawing away inside too. Or we buy the new sparkly red dress, the high heels, the purse, the whole deal. We show up at the party with all the people we don't even like. We do it anyway. Why? Not exactly by choice, but because we think "we have to".

Or else what?

When was the last time you questioned your own holiday patterns of action and so-called "traditions"? When was the last time you gave yourself permission to even ask the question, "What do I want to do for the holidays?" Continue reading "Or Else What? Finding Your Own Answer To Holiday Overwhelm"

Being Your Own Hero

OK, I admit it. I was disappointed. I was disappointed when Tiger Woods, just a few short months after the "SUV incident" outside his home in Florida, staged a press conference, stood behind a podium, and recited a canned apology written in corporate-speak by the damage-control PR spin doctors at Nike. Like a dutiful boy, he was dressed in a suit, clean-shaven, looking humble and respectful to the corporate sponsors who made his public career that much more lucrative. But beneath the surface was a whole story waiting to be uncovered, spoken, and shared. I secretly (and not so secretly) cheered Tiger on when he hit the apparent depths of his personal crisis - the extent of his adultery revealed, the intensity of the pain he has kept hidden beneath the socially acceptable, corporate endorsement-worthy veneer of relentless competitiveness and focus. I saw this as an opportunity for Tiger to deliver his real "medicine" to the world, and to show us how a hero falls, journeys through the abyss of his own self-discovery, and emerges whole in a different way. With a different message about heroicism, with a more solid foundation on which to stand, with a deeper message than can be conveyed merely by counting wins and trophies. Continue reading "Being Your Own Hero"