Tag Archives: Listening

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!

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


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

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


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


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

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


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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

Advice Versus Coaching

Have you ever sought someone’s advice, and then realized halfway into the conversation that you really didn’t want them to tell you what to do?

Or have you ever followed someone’s advice, which never quite felt right to you, but they were in a position of authority or had done it themselves before, and you didn’t know how to get out of it?

Have you ever wished you had more trust in yourself, and didn’t need to rely so much on advice from other people?

It’s been ten years now since I’ve set foot in a traditional academic institution. Yesterday I stood inside the walls of a venerable one right here in my own backyard.

And it struck me that there is A LOT of “advising” going on at the formative stages of a lot of smart people’s lives. A lot of people who are very curious, very bright, very capable, and very imaginative. But who just don’t know. So they ask. They seek advice.

And what do they get? Continue reading

How To Be Exactly Where You Are

I love blog posts that start with “How To…”. They are always so promising, and hold the anticipation of a wrapped present under the Christmas tree, or a package arriving on your doorstep after your recent online purchase.

“Oh I can’t wait to open this! And finally SEE what’s inside!”

And, just like Christmas, just like opening that package that you ordered online, there’s that moment of not knowing, the moment of unveiling, the moment where your expectation rises to greet the present moment unfolding.

When it’s unveiled, we deal with the match between our heart’s desire – the image of what we hoped to see in that opening – and the reality right before our eyes. Is it everything you imagined? Is it “perfect” (meaning, does it match your idea of what you wanted)?

Or is it a letdown? An unfulfilled promise? A shattered dream? Continue reading

Are you fighting with reality or appreciating it?

I  recently noticed that I’ve been fighting against a lot lately. Fighting against complaining, fighting against frustration, fighting against fear.

How’s that been workin’ for me? Not so great.

Today I went on a hike and happened upon a field of daffodils…in February! Now isn’t that amazing?

I stopped to appreciate the surprise of unexpected beauty. And I realized that by sending out the energy of “fighting against”, I am actually becoming the very thing I wish to avoid or resist. Continue reading

Studying Creativity Scientifically: A Surgeon Studies The Brain On Improv

Special thanks to my fellow life coach Amy Williams for sharing this with me.

A very cool TEDx talk by a surgeon combining his passions for music and the brain:

Wake-Up Call From Jay-Z And A Chinese Mother: You Have The Choice To Be Victim Or Master Of Your Life

I happened to be awake and watching television last night when the hip-hop artist and entrepreneur Jay-Z appeared on the new Oprah Winfrey Network show, “Master Class.”

He was speaking about everything he had learned so far in his life. His childhood roots of living in urban housing projects, and having a father who abandoned the family when Jay-Z was 11 years old, were completely foreign to me, as a child of married, Chinese immigrant, PhD-educated parents in the upper middle-class suburbs of the Midwest.

He told the story of a typical day, being on the playground with friends, and having to run and take cover whenever gang members would drive by, shooting automatic weapons at random. After fifteen minutes or so, he and his friends would re-emerge and start playing again.

As I held my breath and imagined a story of how “horrible” it must have been to grow up under such dangerous and uncertain conditions, I heard Jay-Z say this: “It was truly a remarkable upbringing.” Continue reading