Greeting Fear with Love

Fear has been up for me lately. I’m stepping into new unknowns and therefore a new level of courage is required. And in order to function, I’ve woken up to a new way of greeting fear. Instead of trying to beat it down, or conquer it, which both contain the quality of resistance, I practiced this: “It’s OK, fear. Come on in. You are welcome here. Sit down at my table.”

IMG_4563 Fear has been up for me lately. I'm stepping into new unknowns and therefore a new level of courage is required. And in order to function, I've woken up to a new way of greeting fear. Instead of trying to beat it down, or conquer it, which both contain the quality of resistance, I practiced this: "It's OK, fear. Come on in. You are welcome here. Sit down at my table." The subtle practice here is being with, but not believing in, or becoming consumed by, the guest at my table. Just loving my guest - fear - exactly as it is. Not "falling in love with" it, but being OK with it. More importantly, feeling OK with it being there. Not trying to change it in any way. This is entirely new for me. Only when I actually heard the words "it's OK" did I realize how much resistance I had felt towards fear. I never said to my fear, "It's OK." Two simple, comforting words that were not an automatic response in my internal dialog. I like to "get over" things, conquer them, put them behind me, become better at them. But simply and sincerely saying, "It's OK", had never occurred to me. I played with "It's OK" two nights ago before going to bed. Instead of trying to talk myself out of the fear I was feeling, I repeated, "It's OK." I made it OK that I couldn't get rid of my fear. I made it OK that fear was what I felt. I made everything about me in that moment OK. And I really meant it. I woke up the next morning feeling noticeably different. More relaxed. More at ease. Without effort. Later that day I saw three new books being released by bestselling authors with "Fear" in the title. Martha Beck and Deepak Chopra are doing an event called, "Turning Fear into Fuel". Lissa Rankin's new book is called "The Fear Cure". And Elizabeth Gilbert's fall release is subtitled, "Creative Living Beyond Fear". Apparently I am not the only one for whom "fear is up". It's the subject of a larger conversation. It seems the collective call is to look at our relationship with fear, and create a new way to dance. When we choose to step into new territory, or when life hands us an unknown, fear will come knocking on our door. We can respond with the automatic arsenal of fight, freeze, or avoid. We can fight fear with fear. Or we can greet fear with love. Whichever we choose, "It's OK."

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 "Can you really take a day off?"

Be Careful What You Wish For…

Last year I made a vision board for who I am and how I feel when I express my creativity. I had devoted 2010 to my Core of Peace, and I was setting a new intention for 2011. I didn't know exactly HOW my creativity would be expressed. But by making the vision board I connected with images and words that captured how I knew it would FEEL to be in that place of expression. I let go of the HOW, because I didn't - and couldn't - know at the time what the exact steps would be. I breathed deeply into the feelings of my own creativity, and allowed images to attract me without needing an explanation or a meaning or a concept. They were just images that I loved, for no "reason" at all. Here is the vision board I made: I have it as the wallpaper image on my laptop, so every time I open my computer, the images enter my consciousness. Most days, I don't sit and deliberately stare at every image on my screen, but I know they are there. I haven't thought about that vision board in many months. I have gone about the business of living, of staying in my Core of Peace, of letting some things go, and picking up other things, of planting seeds and watching them grow, all the while noticing that I cannot force growth to happen any faster than it already is. Last night I looked at it again. It was with a sense of amazement that I noticed how many of the images had actually come into my reality during 2011. In other words, my visions had come true! Continue reading "Be Careful What You Wish For…"

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"

What I just won’t buy anymore

I was reading the website of a prominent life coach the other day, and was feeling myself getting seduced by the promise of change. For me, this feeling is a little tug in my chest, accompanied by a little voice that says, "You could be like her! Why don't you just try harder? You could be successful like that! You can have everything you want in your life! Just try harder!" I was getting pulled in by her clarity, and her certainty, and her artfully written course descriptions and "How I Work With You" page. I was dreaming of what my life would like if only I were “as on top of things as she was”. I was reading through her punchy blog posts, which boiled everything down into three simple categories, a numerical scale, and a "toolkit" for achieving the state of bliss that she has apparently created for herself. In her "About" page, where she introduces herself and tells her story of why she became a coach, she talks about "having been there". Having been broke, miserable, in a rocky marriage, and not living her best life. Continue reading "What I just won’t buy anymore"

Tiger Mother Amy Chua Speaks…To Me!

One of my blog readers took the liberty of sending my video on Amy Chua's book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother", to Amy Chua herself! I never would have done this on my own, but that's why I put my stuff out there for others to read! Here's Amy's email which was sent to that reader, Denise.
Date: Wed, 2 Mar 2011 08:36:51 -0500 From: Amy Chua Subject: Re: FW: The Music Within Us Dear Denise:  Thank you SO MUCH for sending this to me -- and yep, Lisa totally got my book and yep, she is totally right that no one else has!!  (Only correction is that I never choose or even saw and never would have approved the awful WSJ headline..) I think Lisa is BRILLIANT, and I love what she says and the passages and moments she singles out.  She even gets it about my dogs!!! I am setting up a website for my book, partly because to try to correct misunderstandings, and I will post this video.  Please feel free to share all this with Lisa! Best, Amy
I am not posting this so that you can read something written by a published author calling me "BRILLIANT". Although that's nice and all, the reason I am posting this is to encourage you to GET INFORMED before you form judgments and opinions and join in the fun of media-generated controversies. Form your own thoughts and opinions, reflect on your own life, and learn your own lessons. Do not stop at what the journalists and media or others are telling you. Do not believe what others say until you have questioned it with your own body, mind, and heart. Know that you are always free to create your own story. Continue reading "Tiger Mother Amy Chua Speaks…To Me!"

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 "Advice Versus Coaching"

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

12 Days of Holiday Sanity: How To Stay Sane In The Midst of Holiday Craziness

FRAZZLED, rather than dazzled, by the holidays?

This course delivers 12 daily doses of practical wisdom to help you reclaim your own joy during the holiday season, no matter how crazy it gets. It's like having a daily coaching session to help you maintain your peace and clarity through the holidays, within the privacy and convenience of your own computer, iPad, or web-enabled smart phone, and at an INSANELY affordable price. If you have ever experienced overwhelm, dread, emotional volatility, and high levels of stress around the holidays, this course is for you!

Receive 12 daily lessons about how to deal with common stressful holiday scenarios such as:

  • being triggered by family members
  • feeling pressured to keep up with holiday rituals and activities (cards, decorations, parties, gifts)
  • not honoring your own needs and ending up exhausted, instead of joyful, by year's end
  • dreading or avoiding holiday family gatherings altogether
  • feeling obligated rather than grateful
  • annual "replay" of old familiar patterns of behavior and conversations
  • handling "difficult" people and awkward situations with greater ease

Format:

Online course, with 12 lessons, each link delivered daily to your inbox. Lessons are completed at your own pace, so no worries about "falling behind" or showing up for class on time! Media include written materials, a daily audio MP3 podcast, downloadable worksheets, and videos. Utilize these lessons throughout the year, whenever you need a dose of sanity in your life! You will retain unlimited access to the course website and lessons. Discussion forum and real-time online feedback from classmates and instructor for the duration of the 12-day course. If you, like me, have suffered from overwhelm and joyless holiday seasons in the past, try this course! I will share with you some new ways of thinking, and new ways of taking action, that will give you tools to transform stress into greater harmony with yourself, during the holidays and beyond! - Dr. Lisa Chu

Starts Monday, December 13th!

Register for 12 Days of Holiday Sanity: How To Stay Sane In The Midst Of Holiday Craziness on Eventbrite

Ornaments Photo by David Zellaby, used under a Creative Commons License.