Tag Archives: freedom

Be Willing to Drop the F Bomb

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When I was a senior in high school applying to college, I remember one university had as its essay question, “What was your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?”. I remember considering not applying to that school because I couldn’t think of a failure to write about.

At the time, I was on the receiving end of a lot of attention and praise for never having failed (publicly at least). But now as an adult, I know the trap of living a life based on avoidance of failure. It’s no success to have reached all the goals that have been set for you, to have checked all the boxes other people have laid out as important for you, and then to look in the mirror and not recognize yourself. Or to have your body screaming in pain or exhaustion.

Having been there and done that, I have rediscovered the vital importance of failure. Not “achieving” failure as an identity, but being willing to fail. I gave a workshop on Friday to a group of engineers, coaches, consultants, startup founders, and other change agents interested in how groups of people grow and learn. It was based entirely around sound, voice, and music improvisation – in other words, the most common fears of about ninety-nine percent of the population.

The name of the workshop was, “Play the Wrong Note: Daring Adventures in Learning, Failure, and Creativity“. The title actually refers to a specific moment in my life when everything changed for me. Those four words – “Play the wrong note” – were the four most compassionate words ever spoken to me by a teacher. No one in a position of authority had ever said, “Lisa, I want to see you break the rules. And I’ll help you.” It turned out to be the most loving instructions I ever received, and the framework for an entire body of work. Continue reading

Exercise Your Write To Be Free

Photo by Jeffrey James Pacres https://www.flickr.com/photos/jjpacres/

Photo by Jeffrey James Pacres https://www.flickr.com/photos/jjpacres/

I rarely share client stories, but a recent experience is birthing a whole new way of working for me. I just finished a 30-day writing experiment with a physician client who is just starting out on a brand new path. Having already found the courage to leave his medical practice and head into the open space of the unknown, we worked on rekindling a secret dream he’s held for a long time, maybe his whole life: writing.

He always wanted to try writing, but never did because he had a belief it was too impractical and was no way to make a living. Yet he knew he had stories to share, and ones that would help others if he did.

I wanted to hear these stories myself. I was curious what touched him so deeply about his experiences in medicine. I knew that in hearing these stories, we could both experience a healing journey.

So I came up with this idea, which I had never done with a client before: a writing experiment. The assignment was to write daily for ten minutes a day, thirty days in a row. Then send that writing to me, which I read every day. Mostly we let the process run itself, but we had two phone conversations during the month, once to check in and then again to review the entire process.

I knew that a small, daily commitment done over a sustained period of time would lead to something. A new habit at the very least. An awakened sense of hope and creativity I envisioned as possible.

What I didn’t expect was the vast territory we would cover in those ten minutes of daily writing each day. Not only did I learn from my client’s deep minings that occurred from this type of reflection, but I heard accounts of key moments, important feelings, and long-held beliefs that it might have taken months to get to with traditional weekly phone coaching calls. In timed writing, you get to the heart of the matter quickly. You can try to dance around, squirm a bit, but the hand keeps moving and the clock keeps ticking, and something gets said that has juice to it, even if at the very end.

And when you have a curious, compassionate witness, who wants to hear more, and will ask you questions and deliver you the next prompt to inspire more writing, it unfolds with surprising beauty. Continue reading

Surrender and Loving It ‘Til You Know What It Is

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I am in a large group of women artists who have driven up to the ridge of a mountain range and then down a very windy road to a secluded artists retreat program in northern California. All I want to do is stare at the dreamy landscape, watching how the golden green hills go back and back and back, disappearing finally into a fog bank which hovers just above the sea in the distance. I want to watch as the wind blows, the fog clears, and the misty outlines of the hilltops begin to glisten in the midday sunlight. I want to sit and sketch it, and fill in the colors I am seeing, and try to capture the dreaminess, the haziness of it all, the lack of precise outlines which gives it that quality of mystery that makes me want to keep staring.

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But we have a schedule. There are ranchers and herders moving us along in this schedule, ensuring that we are on time. I help myself to a large lunch – two servings each of lentil soup and kale salad with some fruit on the side. My idea of a perfect meal. But my stomach feels slightly full after all that, and I am ready to rest and digest.

Having forgotten the schedule momentarily, I’m jarred when it is announced that we now need to move into another room for a “movement activity”. Continue reading

Falling Down To Earth…Lessons from “Gravity”

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I saw Gravity this weekend. It was date night. Since we normally watch movies on Netflix in the luxury of our own living room, with the sunset and ocean behind our backs and the fire roaring in the fireplace, the trip through traffic and the ordeal of finding a parking space in a shopping mall made me expect a lot from this one.

We decided to splurge on the 3-D version. We got a big bag of popcorn, and settled into the theater, which we had mostly to ourselves.

I was already filled with gratitude for my life on the coast after we set foot inside the neon shopping mall that contained the movie theater. At that moment, seeing the names of the food court vendors – none of which were familiar to me, feeling the fluorescence of everything, squinting at the brightness of the SALE signs in every store window, hearing the echoes and reverberation of the cavernous container of the space, I realized how long it had been since I’d shopped in a mall. When had that shifted? I recalled a time in my childhood when the only place to shop for clothes and shoes was the mall. It was also one of the main “hangouts” for kids who went out after school (of which I was not one).

I won’t talk too much about plot points here, but I want to list several of the “messages from the universe” that I feel are embedded in the movie. I’ll scramble them up so as not to have to give too much of a spoiler alert. But if you must see the movie first, I’ll warn you that I refer to some scenes in the text below. 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

Beyond Knowing: Many Paths to the Present Moment

Oceanside Retreat with Dr. Lisa Chu

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A note from Lisa:

Lisa beach portrait PhotoshopedWalking the path of creativity – shining the light on how you can create the life you truly desire – is the work I am honored to do with my life coaching clients. I have found that there are many dimensions to this work, many layers to explore as we cultivate the courage to walk again and again through the doorway of Not Knowing and into the realm of joy.

While conversation is the centerpiece of the coaching relationship, I cannot help but notice that my work with clients feels incomplete without including the body, the soul, and the mind together in one place, as one unified expression of harmony. I have longed for a way to bring together and share the many elements and practices that have truly supported my journey of discovering that each of us is an artist – yes, that means you, too. Your art is your particular life, and you are here to weave together the many strands that keep arriving in your experience to create the life that only you can live.

This retreat is my offering to you, my clients and those who are curious about experiencing, in three-dimensional reality, this magical realm I call “Beyond Knowing”.

I welcome you to my home, and there I will invite you to come home to yourself. To experience casual comfort, peace, freedom, intimate connection to yourself + nature + others, awe, and wonder. To discover a new kind of luxury – the luxury of being YOU.

The intention

You will take home from this retreat:

  • at least 5 new ideas for starting your day differently….to infuse qualities of inspiration and vision into each day, from the first moment you wake up
  • a list of potent self-care practices you discover for yourself…how to spend “down-time” in a way that rejuvenates, nourishes, and allows your SoulBodyMind the space it requires for wholeness
  • writing prompts and exercises to reconnect you rapidly with the truth of the present moment
  • ARTifacts of your own creation that will remind you of your inner vision and true nature
  • whole body experience and tools to begin practicing present moment awareness in your daily life
  • powerful, simple self-coaching methods to release old stories fearlessly and stand compassionately in the gift of “now”
  • engagement with the natural world as your teacher, and concrete ways to bring this into your daily life

When

Friday, November 1, 2013 through Sunday, November 3, 2013

(Begin at 3pm Friday; end at noon on Sunday)

Where

Half Moon Bay, California – our epicenter will be my home, just fifty steps from the beach.

Beach with clouds

Yes, this is the beach, just fifty steps from my front door. We will be working here.

House

This is my house. We will be gathering here also.

We will be working both indoors and in various outdoor locations for our activities. All of the photos on this page are locations in Half Moon Bay, and many of them will serve as the powerful teachers and messengers for our work together. Details on our starting location will be provided when you register.

Sample Activities

Enchanted Forest Miramar

Creating a sacred circle of support

Stillness and silence

Movement and sound

Reflection and self-expression (writing, speaking, art-making)

Deep listening and sound healing

Walking and sitting in natural outdoor spaces

Mindful eating

Individual and group engagement

Rest and play

Sample Schedule (subject to change)

Friday, November 1, 2013

3pm to 5pm Opening Session

Casting the sacred circle of support

Setting intentions for the weekend

Evening on your own

Fitzgerald cypress grove

One of several enchanted forests in Half Moon Bay.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

*optional 6:30am Beach meditation

*optional 7:00am-7:45am Breath and energy work on the beach

Breakfast on your own

9:00am to 12:00pm Morning Session

Inward reflection and grounding of the circle

Activities will include reflection, some form of expression, and sharing of experience

Lunch provided (organic, locally sourced)

1:30pm to 4:30pm Afternoon Session

Playful exploration of nature, the body’s expressions, and enlivening the senses

Practices to engage with the doorway of Not Knowing

Farm-to-Table Dinner provided

Evening – New Moon Ceremony

Sunset Pillar Point 3.25.12

Sunday, November 3, 2013

*optional 7:30am Meditation

*optional 8:00am – 8:45am Breath and energy work at the beach

10:00am to 12:00pm Closing Session

Holding intentions and dreams from this weekend

Completing and closing of the circle

How to Register

REGISTRATION IS NOW CLOSED.

Full payment of $550 is due at the time of registration.

The price above includes the Retreat experience, and lunch and dinner on Saturday.

Price does not include airfare, lodging, ground transportation, or other meals.

Retreat is limited to six participants.

Policies

Because of the small size of the Retreat, and because travel arrangements are necessary for most participants, there will be no refunds once you have made the commitment to attend. If you must cancel for an emergency, your fee (minus the non-refundable deposit) may be applied to a future coaching package. You may gift or sell your seat to another participant, but please be sure to let me know if you do this. Thank you for your understanding regarding this policy. Contact me directly with any questions you have.

Lodging

There is a full range of accommodation options in Half Moon Bay, from ocean blufftop camping at the Francis Beach State Park Campground, to the inexpensive and casual Montara Lighthouse Hostel (in one of the most beautiful, peaceful locations on our coastside), to many local bed-and-breakfast inns such as the Cypress Inn Miramar Beach (within walking distance of my house), to the upscale Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay.101_5808

Contact me if you would like a list of recommendations.

Transportation

The nearest airport is San Francisco International (SFO), which is 40 minutes by car.

You will need a car to get around Half Moon Bay. Contact me if you would like to arrange carpooling or ridesharing with other Retreat participants.

Who Should Attend

I dreamed and designed this Retreat with the intention of serving those who resonate with my life coaching work. I wish to offer a more “three-dimensional” experience, one which brings together the Soul, Body, and Mind into one – the SoulBodyMind experience. The activities we will share during the Retreat represent the best practices I know for tasting this experience of harmony and presence, the originating energy of healing, transformation, and creativity.

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What You Will Receive

This is of course up to you! My intention is for this weekend to be a natural extension of having coached with me and explored the areas of self-care, creativity, walking into the territory of the unknown, finding courage, and learning to recognize and trust the distinctive sound of your own voice. Once you have tasted these in your own body, you may experience the freedom and luxury to be yourself, without fear or apology. What happens when you repeat this process, even in a small way, every day, is what some might call magic.

Quarry Park labyrinth

What to Bring

layers for outdoor gathering – a warm layer plus a rain layer

scarf, hat, gloves for morning and evening gatherings

sturdy shoes or boots for hiking and walking on sand/dirt

comfortable, casual clothing that you can move in

refillable water bottle

notebook or sketchbook

your favorite pen or other writing instrument

3 to 5 magazines that inspire you

open heart

curious mind

your body as it is

your intention – to heal, to transform, to create the life you truly desire

Note: we will be gathering and walking in a variety of natural outdoor settings that involve uneven surfaces such as sand, rocks, and dirt. Please bring extra layers and sturdy shoes that you will be comfortable hiking in, and walking on sand.

QUESTIONS?

Please email me directly with any questions you have about this retreat. I would love to hear from you!

Leaning in…to what?

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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

Empowering Your Self With Vision

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“How you see determines what you see, and what you feel.” – Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with vision boards since the very beginning. My very first one was an assignment for the very first personal development workshop I attended. End of Day One, before we were to break for dinner, we had a few hours to make a board of what makes our heart come alive.

First vision board - Real Speaking

The second one I made was later that year with an ex-boyfriend on a retreat in Santa Cruz. It was my first beach weekend retreat since moving to California five years before. What had taken me so long?

Second vision board - Santa Cruz

Then I made another one that made me feel like crap, but I didn’t quite know why.

I kept up with vision boards for some reason. Maybe it was my determination to see if they would really work for me in my life. I was a total skeptic in the beginning, going through the motions like a good student, but not truly expecting anything to happen.

After several years of practice, now I know that when I approach them from a certain place within me, vision boards can invite in some real magic into my life.

I haven’t yet written about the latest example of how a vision board changed my life, and since I’m leading a vision board workshop next week, this seems like a good time to really tell the story in completeness. 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