Tag Archives: healing

Remember, Celebrate, and Acknowledge…YOU

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

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!

A Journey in Sketches

I recently returned from a week-long stay in Keystone, Colorado. I documented my journey in daily sketches created in a Moleskine Japanese album (small size). My tools were Pigma Micron ink pens, Faber Castell Pitt Artist pen, Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush markers, Derwent watercolour pencils, Sakura Koi field sketch watercolor set, and Kuretake waterbrushes. First, the SFO airport. There was an exhibit on Art Deco and I loved the patterns, colors, and shapes in it. Since I had a couple of hours to wait for my delayed flight, I started sketching and painting.DSC06899DSC06900I went back to photograph the original pieces that had inspired my memory. IMG_0857 IMG_0858 Then I looked over my shoulder to see that a large watercolor mural had been placed high up, near the ceiling. I copied the quote on the painting and general feeling of it. DSC06901 Then I noticed the number of billboards in this terminal devoted to issues of network security and cyber attacks. I captured this by placing three of the ones I remembered together.DSC06902 On my flight I read two magazines I never usually read. One had Amy Poehler on the cover as one of the "100 Most Creative People In Business". The other had a headline and article I will never forget (much as I would like to), entitled, "Why Die?". It describes the efforts of PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel's multi-billion-dollar venture fund's investments in biotech. He is focused on "eradicating death" from human experience, envisioning a future in which this "disturbing inconvenience" is made obsolete.DSC06903 I road Colorado Mountain Express shuttle from the Denver airport to Keystone. I captured a few quick sketches of what that ride is like. Flat flat flat, then you're in the Front Range, with walls on either side and endless ranges unfolding in front of you. I-70 from Denver Airport to the Front Range I-70 on the way to Keystone from Denver I-70 Eisenhower Tunnel from Denver to Silverthorne Colorado Continue reading

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.

The Gifts of Burnout: An Evolutionary Wake-Up Call for Doctors

IMG_4244 It has been fourteen years since I graduated from University of Michigan Medical School. I have journeyed far from the field of medicine, and yet my heart keeps hearing the call to return to my physician communities and share what I have learned. I simply cannot ignore my sense that the pain within our health care system - now felt at every level, including patients, physicians, and payors - is a resounding call to wake us up to our next stage of evolution. It takes only a cursory scanning of the headlines of medical blogs like this one to get a sense for the unrest, the frustration, and the abundance of innovative practices emerging as a result of the rising sense of powerlessness among doctors. I left medicine immediately after receiving my MD, moving into uncharted waters after the Dean of Career Development at Michigan told me, "You're on your own. We can't help you with that." This was when, as a fourth year student, I announced I would be pursuing a career in venture capital. I volunteered at a private equity investment firm - yes, I worked for no pay - and six weeks later, I was hired as an Associate. Within two years I was the youngest partner-level Investment Manager in the firm. No one told me this was possible. I simply would not accept anyone else's opinion of what I could or could not do. Especially after what I witnessed in my world of medical training. One of my most vivid memories was on my Vascular Surgery rotation, where I was absolutely loving the concept of what we were doing - as intellectual masturbation material. But in practice, what I saw was my future laid out in the following scenarios. The second year resident, sick as a dog, showed up to work anyway, and, too weak to stand, lay down on a gurney in the OR while a case was going on. The third year vascular surgery fellow, a gentile Southern man, was in the middle of a lower extremity bypass graft and stepped out of the room. He lifted his mask, vomited into the scrub sink, and then reentered the OR to continue the procedure. This happened two more times within the same procedure before he completed. Many of you reading this may be nodding and saying, "Yup. That's just the way it is. Suck it up or leave it." And my question is, "If you have trained yourself not to feel, what else might you be missing in your experience of other people?". Continue reading

Be Willing to Drop the F Bomb

IMG_3704 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

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

Beyond Knowing: Many Paths to the Present Moment

Oceanside Retreat with Dr. Lisa Chu

Supertide

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. 101_5812

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!

Trying To Squeeze Blood From A Turnip and The Power of No Force

Part of a series exploring each of the Breema Nine Principles of Harmony turnips001 Trying to squeeze blood from a turnip is a lot like being at war with reality. What are the ways we use force against what is, in an attempt to make things the way we think (and thought is the key word here) they should be? Does it ever really work? And at what price? When we use force, do we even know that our sanity, our inner peace, our body, exists? Or do we only see the blood we want so desperately to come from the turnip, or whatever we are applying force to? If we see clearly, we first begin to recognize that we are not getting the blood we want, despite all the effort. If we continue to look, we might be able to recognize that there's a turnip involved, a turnip that is quite innocent, being a turnip. It has no blood to give. It's just being squeezed, and squeezed some more, harder and harder. You (the one who is squeezing) keep getting more frustrated, but the turnip is not doing anything different. Surprise, surprise, it's still a turnip! Your squeezing, your effort, your frustration, your attempts, have done absolutely nothing to change that. Continue reading