Tag Archives: journey

All About Love – Unpacking the L Word

Heart of Imagery Painting

“Heart Shines On”, acrylic on canvas, 16″x20″ by Lisa Chu

Why is “love” such a hot button word for so many of us? It seems we remain as divided with respect to this word as we are on so many other issues. There are “hopeless romantics” and there are “anti-Valentine’s” party hosts. There are those who sprinkle the word “love” over every communication with strangers or friends, and there are those who use it sparingly, like precious strands of saffron reserved only for the finest occasion.

 

We never said the word “love” in our house, so during my childhood, I formed the belief that something was missing from my experience compared to the outer world of suburban midwestern America I lived in. We didn’t talk like the characters on The Brady Bunch. The emotions expressed in my family were much more raw, more volatile, so close to the surface and not easily contained. The love I experienced was unrelenting, filled with the need to protect me from constant imminent danger, and would never let me off the hook.

Over a lifetime of accumulating ideas of what love is – from what I was told, from what I experienced, and from what I imagined – I decided, other-than-consciously, that it was not safe to love fully. Continue reading

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

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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

Falling Down To Earth…Lessons from “Gravity”

gravity

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

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

How is your relationship with Not Knowing?

Not Knowing is most intimate…” – Zen saying
Mavericks Labyrinth with sky

This is a note for you. You are such a good student, when there’s a teacher standing in front of the class, and other students surrounding you, all learning to do the same things. You are a stellar worker, always taking responsibility for your job, above and beyond the call of duty. You take instructions quickly, correct your mistakes diligently, and do everything you can to get along with others. You are smart, capable, successful, but still feel there’s something missing from your life, even though you can’t quite name it.

So what is it? What is that missing thing?

I don’t know.

But I’m willing to bet that your relationship with Not Knowing could use a little tune-up. A little checking in and refamiliarizing. 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

Empowering Your Self With Vision

Red yellow heart CROPPED

“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

You are not alone…the power of women gathering at TEDxSandHillRdWomen

Last Saturday I attended a program called TEDxSandHillRdWomen in Menlo Park, California. You may already be familiar with the TED talks series. This was one of 130 events of its kind around the world on the same day, gathering women together to hear “ideas worth sharing.” I had an intuition about attending, and synchronicity brought me the opportunity to take the place of a friend’s friend who could not attend at the last minute.

All kinds of insecurities ran through my mind in the hours and days approaching the event. I was not a speaker, “only” an attendee. Yet all of the connotations in my mind about “Sand Hill Road” – the home of venture capitalists and attorneys for all of Silicon Valley, the allure of which had once drawn me into the role of venture capitalist, and eventually drew me to live in this zip code when I first chose to move to California – now haunted me. I wondered what I would wear. I no longer even own any high heeled shoes or suits, and I didn’t feel like dressing up to “be like” what my mind believed a “Sand Hill Rd woman” should look like. I watched my mind mull over this question, knowing from my higher awareness that it didn’t matter at all what I wore, but also curiously observing as my thoughts popped up anyway.

A few days before, a friend heard me describe this and said, “The question you should be asking is, what do YOU want out of this?”

I immediately replied, “I want to be comfortable as myself. I want to show up as myself.”

She smiled and her eyes sparkled as she nodded. “And I’m looking at you right now. I see you, right in front of me now. Are you comfortable?”

We were sitting cross-legged on the hardwood floor of my home, getting ready to sing and make music together. I had met with this woman every two weeks for the last two years. I was totally comfortable.

And now, nearly a week after attending the amazing TEDx event, I can say that I felt totally comfortable there as well. I was surprised in the most delightful of ways at everything – the diversity of women there, the inspiring speakers offering so many different perspectives, the serendipitous interactions I experienced throughout every moment of the day – and most of all, I was delighted to experience myself as me, fully inhabiting my body and my mind and my spirit exactly where I am today. 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

What the Bike Taught Me

About two weeks ago I bought a bike. Brand new, cute as can be, even with a name, “Fiona”. I also got the cutest panier ever, with a lime green flower and orange straps.

On my very first ride, I got a flat tire. A complete blow out, requiring me to walk it home for about two miles. Luckily it was a particularly beautiful sunset on the ocean, and I got to look up, twisting my head slowly to savor the powder blue sky and cotton candy pink clouds spreading in all directions around me.

Still, I was a little shaken by the fact that the road looked so innocent – no broken glass or bed of nails in sight. Just smooth blacktop for as far as the eye could see. Except for whatever jumped into my back tire that evening.

It turned into a perfect opportunity to have one of my coworkers show me how to change a flat. Somewhere around step 9 of the process, my eyes started to glaze over, but I kept taking notes as he explained and demonstrated patiently. He taught me about tire protectors and now I own some. If you don’t have them, go get some!

I’ve been riding almost every day since. On the sunny ones, I’m riding chin up, smiling from ear to ear, and taking in the sounds of the rolling waves and the expansiveness of the ocean stretching out to the horizon. I note the particular shade of blue in the sky and on the water each day, because they are never repeated exactly.

Riding my bike has transformed a routine errand – hopping in my car to drive two miles to the local market for food each day – into a celebration of life. I breathe in the scent of cypress, I feel the warm sunshine on my cheeks, and I experience my own body propelling this amazing machine beneath me.

I wonder, “How the bicycle must have transformed human experience when it first appeared on this planet!”

And then I think, “What made us dream of a bigger machine that would multiply our speed of transit even more, but not require us to move our bodies at all?”

When I’m sitting on my bike, gliding along the paved path near the ocean, I think about these things. I am relaxed and confident, because this is a bike’s territory. Pedestrians and dogs must yield.

A different story begins the minute I cross from the path to the road. The very last stretch of ride between my house and the market involves crossing a major intersection with a stoplight. Four lanes of traffic, three strip malls, a gas station, a high school, all converge at one point. I have two streets to cross each time I reach this intersection. I walk across one way, and ride across the other, my body often tense with resolve to “get through” without any close encounters with cars or mishaps with my own machine beneath me.

One day last week, I was feeling particularly vulnerable. It was drizzling lightly. I liked being alone on the path, feeling the cool breeze in my ears, and the tiny fuzzy droplets of mist gathering on my eyelashes. I was cautious, using the brakes a bit more on the turns, controlling my speed, as I had no idea how Fiona would respond in wet conditions. Continue reading