Episode 51: Lissa Rankin – The Fear Cure
Is there a cure for fear? According to Dr. Lissa Rankin, author of The Fear Cure, it’s more likely the case that fear can cure us. Lissa offers us a totally novel way to understand and overcome fear so we can make better decisions, live happier, and accomplish more. Discover her Four Fearful Assumptions and Four Courage-Cultivating Truths, and take part in a powerful five-minute guided meditation.
- “It’s not about curing #fear, it’s about letting fear cure you.” @lissarankin
- You CAN handle it – even when you think you can’t #courage #fearless @lissarankin shows us how
Book: The Fear Cure
Bio: Lissa Rankin, MD, New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine, The Fear Cure, and The Anatomy of a Calling is a physician, speaker, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute, and mystic. Passionate about what makes people optimally healthy and what predisposes them to illness, she is on a mission to merge science and spirituality in a way that not only facilitates the health of the individual, but also uplifts the health of the collective. Bridging between seemingly disparate worlds, Lissa is a connector, collaborator, curator, and amplifier, broadcasting not only her unique visionary ideas, but also those of cutting edge visionaries she discerns and trusts, especially in the field of her latest research into “Sacred Medicine.” Lissa has starred in two National Public Television specials and also leads workshops, both online and at retreat centers like Esalen and Kripalu. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her daughter.
Peter: Welcome to the Bregman Leadership Podcast. I’m Peter Bregman, your host and CEO of Bregman Partners. This podcast is part of my mission to help you get massive traction on the things that matter most. I’m here with Lissa Rankin, MD. She is the author of the book, The Fear Cure: Cultivating courage as medicine for the body, mind and soul. She’s written 5 books, and the one that you might know also, it’s a New York Times Best Seller, Mind Over Medicine. We’re moving in a slightly different direction for this podcast. I loved this book. I found it so full of power and energy and I think it’s a really important book for us as leaders. I think Lissa is an important person for us as leaders to connect with. I’m going to ask you to listen now and learn what you can just as I will. Lissa welcome to the Bregman Leadership Podcast.
Lissa: Thank you, I’m so happy to be here with all of you.
Peter: Let’s start by describing your story with fear. Why did you write this book?
Lissa: Actually this book was in response to writing Mind Over Medicine, which as you said it was a New York Times Best Seller. It became a PDF special. It got a great deal of exposure and we had … It’s published in over 30 languages. It really got out there and I didn’t realize until other people really started experiencing the work in Mind Over Medicine. That there was kind of a piece missing from that book. The process that I teach in Mind Over Medicine is called the 6 steps to healing yourself. It’s a scientifically-based, completely evidence-based process for facilitating the body’s natural self-healing capacities. In these 6 steps, the 5th step is about what I call writing the prescription for yourself.
It’s based on a kind of intuitively guided patient-centered process of getting to the root cause of what might have flipped off the body’s natural self-healing mechanisms in order to make the body susceptible to an illness like cancer or heart disease, or an infection or whatever because we all are exposed to all kinds of pathogens. We make cancer cells every day. A lot of what that is teaching is that if we wind up with an illness, it’s often because the body’s homeostatic process has broken down. Why might we have been susceptible to that, and it’s a really beautiful process. People are incredibly intuitive when we walk them through this process. When we got to step 5, and I really started seeing this when I was teaching workshops about Mind Over Medicine.
People would go through and they would write a list of their intuitively guided sense of what needed to change in their lives. In order to … We call it making the body ripe for miracles. It would include things like, I need to get out of these toxic relationship. I need to quit my so fucking job. I need to move to Santa Fe, because all my symptoms go away when I’m there. I need to finally go to art school because I’ve been suppressing this childhood dream my whole life, or whatever. What I hadn’t really taken into account because I had only done this work one-on-one with my patients, and I hadn’t really seen the scale of how this lands on people collectively. What I realized is that when I was doing workshops for example and we would get to the point, where people would have their prescription.
They had written their prescription for themselves. I would say okay, obviously this isn’t the case, but if I could guarantee all your symptoms would go away if you did everything on that list, how many of you would do it? About half of the people in the room would raise their hands. I realized oh-oh, we’re missing a step, because when I would ask them, “Why … I want to talk to the other half of you, stand up, tell me why you wouldn’t do this.” They said I’m afraid.
Peter: This is really foundational for what I want to do on the show, and it’s such a powerful story. I teach a lot about emotional courage in our leadership programs. The willingness to feel everything. I think that emotional courage is at the root of powerful action. That if I don’t do something, if I don’t have a hard conversation, if I don’t take a risk, if I get defensive when you criticize me, it’s because there’s something I don’t want to feel. If I’m willing to feel everything, then I can do anything. Ultimately when we don’t want to feel something, it’s because there’s something we fear. If I’m afraid of taking an action, if I’m afraid of leaving Santa Fe or moving to Santa Fe, whatever it is, I’m afraid of feeling something. It’s so powerful to say at the root of all our inaction is ultimately fear.
Lissa: That’s right and writing the book was really … I mean man, if you arrogant enough to write a book called the Fear Cure, like what watch out, because all of your own fears are going to come rising up in your face to make sure that you are in integrity with your work.
Peter: Are you willing to share some of that with us? What kind of fears came up for you?
Lissa: Yeah, absolutely. The first half of writing the Fear Cure was actually quite easy. It was kind of like writing Mind over Medicine Part II. It’s all about scientific proof that fear isn’t just a painful emotion that holds us back from living in alignment with our truth, but it’s actually causing heart disease and cancer, and autoimmune disorders and any number of chronic pain disorders or whatever. That was easy, there’s tons of evidence. There’s zero question in the medical literature that fear and disease are linked. After I wrote that part, I was like, “Oh no, now I’ve just made them worse. Now they’re afraid …”
Peter: You’ve created more fear.
Lissa: I’ve created more fear, and my biggest fear about this book was that it would harm people. My soul intention was to write a book that would serve love in the world. I was really afraid that I didn’t want to make them more afraid of their fear, and I didn’t want to demonize their fear. As you said, we have to be willing to feel everything, and fear is included. We have to be willing to feel fear and so the title of the book is kind of a misnomer. It’s not about curing fear, it’s about letting fear cure you. That fear essentially is the finger pointing to everything in need of healing in your life, or everything in need of feeling in your life, to use your language.
Peter: I thought you did a good job in making that clear in the book that the Fear Cure, it’s kind of a double entendre. Can you explain more about that? In what way does fear point the finger and help us to find our cures.
Lissa: I think the minute … Let’s go back to the example of the people in the workshop, who are … They’ve raised their hand and they’ve said, “Okay, even if I had a guarantee that my symptoms would all go away, if I did these things, I’m too afraid to actually do them.” Then this is actually an incredible blessing because in that sacred space of the workshop space where they can actually look at what are you afraid of? Let’s feel the fear, let’s examine the fear, let’s put it in the room. Let’s give it a safe space where it’s welcomed. They would say things like, “Well if my symptoms went away, I’m living off my disability check, and I’d have to go back to my job and I hated that job.”
Peter: They were fearing their actual disabilities going away. They were fearing that if they cured themselves that that in and of itself would be a bad outcome?
Lissa: Exactly, somebody else was like, “Well my husband used to beat me, but once I got sick he stopped beating me. If I got cured, then he might beat me again.” Essentially what would happen is that they would start to actually have to peel away the layers of what’s underneath all of that. Often what people come to, is they find that there’s like a superficial fear and underneath the fear of not getting the disability check, is a fear of having to face the truth that they hate their job. What’s underneath that? If I have to face the truth of that, then I might have to get a different job. What’s the fear underneath that? Well, now I’m afraid that I’m actually not good enough to do the thing that I want to do. What’s underneath that? There’s series of inquiries that often will lead people to their most core wound. For many people for example, it’s a not enough wound. It’s they were raised, they were abandoned by their mother in childhood.
They were told that they weren’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, rich enough, whatever. They might get all the way down to that not enough wound, or somebody else might get all the way down. I’ve had this happen, where underneath all the other fears, is one wound and it’s that original wound of separation. That original wound of coming from the invisible realm of oneness and separating into this human body and separating from God, and separating from nature and separating from one another, and creating this pain of separation that we see on our planet in such an absurd level. With climate change, with the political arena. With of all the othering, all of the enemy making and villainizing and demonizing of each other. It’s those kinds of things that if we’re actually willing to use our fear, as a portal, to transformation, to awakening.
Peter: What did you do with that person when the fear is that deep and that elemental? Is feeling it enough?
Lissa: This is why I was so afraid to write this book, because I’m like I’m not a therapist, I’m not a spiritual counselor. I’m a OBGYN, what business do I have writing this book. I started really investigating … I interviewed a whole lot of people, and I started really investigating what lies at the root of all of our fears. I realized, I started coming into an awareness of a certain level of … it’s almost like our cultural world view is a fear inducing world view. I had the opportunity when I was writing this book, to get the opportunity to see a completely different world view because I spent some time living in a Village at 16,000 feet in the Andes in Peru, with an indigenous tribe that until 20 years ago, they had been completely isolated from colonialization. From western civilization.
An anthropologist found them and they had been completely isolated for 500 years. It’s one of the few pretty uncontaminated indigenous cultures, and I got to go live there in a hut with 10 people. All of us sleeping in a room the size of my bathroom. I got to see what it was like fore people to live in a culture where the world view is completely the opposite of the conventional western medical world view. Essentially the second half of the Fear Cure, is about what I called the 4 Fearful Assumptions, and the 4 Courage Cultivating truths. That’s what sort of the second half of the book is all about.
Peter: Can you run through those for us. What are the 4 cultivating truths?
Lissa: Yeah, absolutely and you can sense as I say this. It’s no wonder we in our culture are afraid. The 4 fearful assumptions are uncertainty is unsafe. We have to avoid uncertainty at all costs. I can’t handle losing what I cherish. I have to grasp that everything I cherish to make sure I don’t lose it. It’s a hostile universe. I have to be in protection mode because the universe is hostile and survival of the fittest, and I’m all alone. Uncertainty is unsafe, I can’t handle losing what I cherish, it’s a hostile universe and I’m all alone in this place. Like no wonder we’re scared. I have been doing a lot of work with my fearful teacher, around how do we shift belief. I was investigating what’s my world view, because I have become much less afraid over a 10-year journey on my own spiritual path. I was really investigating what worked, what helped?
I realized that life itself had transformed those beliefs in me because I absolutely held those beliefs for 35 years through my life. I had adopted a new world view for a number of reasons. I want to read you the 4 courage cultivating truths, just so that you can see the distinction and they are uncertainty is the gateway to possibility. In other words when we don’t know what the future holds, anything could happen. Loss is natural and can lead to growth. Instead of I can’t handle losing what I cherish, coming into acceptance of recognizing that everything is actually in permanent, and that we won’t be able to keep everything that we love. That loss can actually be a gateway to breaking open the heart and to that kind of ecstatic grief that can … The only reason that it hurt so much lose what we love is because we love so much.
If we can actually accept that that is just a human condition, and stop resisting loss, with such intensity, then something really begins to shift. The third one is, instead if it’s a hostile universe, it’s a purposeful universe. I wanted to say it’s a friendly universe because I was quoting Albert Einstein who says, “The most important decision we’ll ever make is whether you live in a hostile or friendly universe.” My publishers wouldn’t let me. They said, “You can’t say it’s a friendly universe, when there’s holocausts and when there’s terrorists an when there’s just atrocities on the globe. I actually could spend an hour making a case for why I think those things could possibly still fit into the world view of a friendly universe, but I won’t. Instead I’ll comprise, with it’s a purposeful universe that what if everything that happens, even the things that we don’t like.
Even the things that we feel like atrocities, are happening for a reason and as humans we’re not necessarily prevue to understanding the great mystery. We don’t necessarily always know what the purpose is but that we can trust that there is a purpose. Then the fourth of the turnarounds, is instead of I’m all alone, we are all one and this is a teaching that is taught in the … At least in the assertoric branches of the mystical traditions of all of the world’s religions. That we are, and now science is catching up to be able to prove that we live in this quantum universe, where there is quantum entanglement. Where we are actually not separate from one another. That everything that I do to harm you, harms me, and that everything that I do to harm the biosphere, harms all of the other species.
Harms all of us. When we actually can come into that awareness of the true oneness of all things, it’s actually quite comforting. You can imagine when you actually believe, and it’s not just a belief. Maybe I should use the word trust. When you trust that uncertainty can be the gateway to possibility, that loss is natural and can lead to growth, that it’s a purposeful universe, and that we are all one. You realize that you actually don’t have anything to be afraid of. Not even death.
Peter: This is very powerful Lissa, and it’s at the heart of your book, these 4 things. Uncertainty is a gateway to possibility, loss is natural and can lead to growth, it’s a purposeful universe and we are all one. It’s at the heart of the book, it’s also at the heart of the challenge.
From my mind to your mind, I could say it makes sense. It make sense we’re all one. Every single spiritual tradition has some version of we’re all one. I can absolutely understand that loss is natural, and can lead to growth, and I see it in tons of situations. How do I go from understanding that intellectually and maybe even conceptually to trusting it? I’m Jewish and my mother was in the holocaust.
Your example of saying it’s a purposeful universe or even a friendly universe, in the context of the holocaust, I also find hard. I would like to think that way or feel that way. But thinking and feeling are very different things – it’s easier for me to think that way, than it is for me to feel that way. How do we cross that chasm between understanding that loss is natural and can lead to growth and not fearing it – or even trusting it?
Lissa: Well I warned you that I don’t soundbite well and this is going to be one of those answers that I’m not going to be able to do briefly, but I’ll try to at least touch upon it because it’s a great question, and I could talk for an hour about this, just this topic. Like I said, I’ll try to address it briefly. First of all, what we’re talking about is the journey from the head to the heart, which is the longest journey you’ll ever take. This is not something we can … Thinking this doesn’t work. It has to be an experience of the heart. The heart has to know it. The heart has to not believe it. The heart doesn’t believe it. The heart just is it. It is a state of beingness.
There is no shortcut essentially from the head to the heart. There is nothing that I can tell you in the next 5 minutes that’s going to cut through the thickness of the mind that’s going to argue with the 4 courage cultivating truths. This is why people go and spend 10 years working with a guru in India, or spend 20 years meditating in an Ashram, because that journey from the head to the heart is the work of a lifetime.
Peter: To get into an intellectual discussion about is it a purposeful universe could be interesting. It’s actually something I would love to do with you at some point, just so that I can increase my understanding of it. But I don’t think it’s particularly useful to what you’re describing which is to develop that trust. To step through the mind, or over the mind or around the mind to get to that path to the heart. Loss is natural and can lead to growth – I’m intellectually there with you 100%, and yet I don’t want to lose anything.
I don’t want to lose the things that I love. I fear losing the things that I love, and I actually can trust in that place that it’s natural. I know that. I know that it will lead to growth, and I fear that I will go kicking and screaming to every loss, because I do love and I don’t want to lose the things that I love. The thing I’m most interested in, is how do we cultivate that trust that almost overshadows the fear?
Lissa: Well, there’s 3 things I want to say to that. The first is I’m really sensitive to anybody who uses spiritual principles to teach people how to bypass painful emotions. That spiritual bypass is all over the spirituality world and it’s dangerous. There’s nothing about what I’m teaching that suggests that we shouldn’t feel the painful feeling of fearing what we love. Fearing loss, fearing that I’m going to lose my daughter. That’s real, and no amount of intellectualizing that fear of losing my daughter is going to make it go away.
Peter: I’m with you 100%.
Lissa: That’s the first thing I want to say is, this is not some spiritual bypass technique. The second thing I want to say is that in the great book Feel The Fear and do it anyway, she essentially says that there’s 3 levels of fear and that underneath every fear is the same fear. The same fear is I can’t handle it. I think that’s helpful, I think that’s a helpful thing to recognize. That really what we’re saying, if I say I’m afraid I’m going to lose my daughter. What I’m really saying is, I’m afraid I can’t handle losing my daughter. Then what. What will happen if that actually happens? I’m I going to crumble into … I’m I going to kill myself? I’m going to get cancer and die? What’s going to happen? That level of uncertainty of what would I do. Brené Brown writes about this beautifully in her work as well. Talking about what she calls dress rehearing tragedy.
She says the vulnerability like awareness and recognition of the intense vulnerability that comes with actually really loving is so uncomfortable that we use all these techniques to not actually feel that vulnerability. Of like I love my daughter so much but I’m afraid I can’t handle losing her. That’s really what I’m saying. The more we actually experience loss, and we realize like, “Oh, I handled it.” I lost 6 people I love this year. 5 of them were within 6 weeks of each other. I was like, “Holy crap, I can handle it,” and it was awful, and it’s still awful, but I went to 5 funeral in 6 weeks, and guess what? I handled it. Part of what we learn through loss is we learn resilience. We learn, “Look, I can fail … I have failed much in my life. I have been divorced 3 times. “Look, I can get divorced 3 times and I handled it. I can lose 6 people I love in a year and I handled it.” The more we go through difficult things and we use our tools and we become resourceful, we grow in our resilience and it actually makes us brave.
Peter: What you’re saying is that it’s not that we want difficult things – we don’t want difficult things. We know that we don’t want those things and that we could be very upfront and honest about that, but we also know that we have the resilience to bounce back from them, so that it’s less about a constant nagging fear that drives us to avoid having a difficult conversation for fear of getting divorced. Then we don’t have the hard conversation that we would need to have and we live in the state of fear of doing anything that might disrupt the relationship, the fragile bond of the relationship.
Instead, we move forward and have that conversation with some courage, knowing that there is a risk and that we don’t want the dark side of that risk, but we also recognize that we can handle it. If we can handle it, then we’re willing to have the conversation that holds the possibility of a much stronger relationship?
Lissa: That’s right, and it’s not about being reckless. Of course we don’t want to lose what we love and of course we want to protect those relationships and of course we want to be responsible at work and all of that. I think people have a sense that “Well, if I let go of my fear … They think fear is protecting them and they don’t realize that intuition protects you much better. I write a lot in the Fear Cure about diving into that, intuition does protect us better. That’s what we don’t realize, is that intuition is far wiser, far more protective, and far more magical than fear.
Coming back to that trust, I joke that in the beginning I had blind faith, and now I have evidence-based faith. When I say it’s a purpose for universe, I could tell you a hundred stories that would give you goose bumps, and many of them are in my latest book, the Anatomy of a Calling, which is filled with magic stories, like real life miracles. I didn’t think such things were possible and the practice for me, the move towards that … Actually can I do something with those who are listening? Can we do something interactive for a minute?
Lissa: Because I want to demonstrate what this can be like. I just want to lead a little guided meditation for a minute. For those of you who are listening, who can close your eyes, if you are not driving, go ahead and just close your eyes for a moment. I want you to focus on your breath just to come home to your body for a moment. Just notice that moment of peace at the end of each out breath. Just recognizing the wisdom of the body, to breathe in that which is fresh and life giving, to breathe out that which no longer serves us. I want to invite you for just a moment to take a risk and make a brave move to call forth into your awareness, something that you are really afraid of. Maybe there is a leap of faith that you are wanting to take, but you are hesitant.
Maybe you are confused, you’re trying to make a decision and you are not sure what the right decision is. Maybe there is something you really want like this heartfelt yearning, and you feel yourself grasping for that and it hasn’t happen so it’s this unmet longing and you are afraid you’re never going to get it. Maybe you are resisting something, something that you are afraid it’s going to happen that you don’t want to happen. Maybe you’re sick and you’re afraid your illness isn’t going to go away or you’re afraid you’re going to die, or you are afraid somebody else is going to die.
Whatever it is, just call it into your awareness and allow yourself to actually be with it for a moment. Just feel the wake of that uncomfortable feeling without running away from it, knowing that it’s safe here, that we can hold it here, together. I want you to just feel that weight on your heart as this 100ton sparks weighing down your heart. I want you to pretend for just a minute, you don’t have to believe this; we’re just going to suspend belief and just trust for a moment, pretend that we live in a world where there are these invisible arms of love and you can call it whatever works for you. Maybe it’s God, maybe it’s an angel, maybe it’s a red wood tree reaching up its branches.
Maybe there is some other spirit, someone who died, a grandmother who can hold you, but just pretend for a moment that there are these invincible arms of love and all they want to do is take that burden off of your heart. They just … these arms of love want you cast the burden of this fear into this great arms of love and trust that you don’t have to handle it, that you don’t have to figure it out all by yourself. That these great arms of love will show you if there is an action that needs to be taken or something that needs to be done in order to protect you or someone you love.
Just see yourself letting this 100ton of weight be taken off of your heart into these great arms of love. Just surrender this burden to these arms of love and trust for just a minute that it’s all handled now, you don’t have to worry about it anymore, you don’t have to keep circling it in your mind or surfing around, because something is going to happen and you are going to recognize if there is action that needs to be taken. That you will be shown and it may show up in a dream, it may show up as an inner knowing. It may show up as a synchronicity, as something just shows up in your inbox or somebody who says something to you and it may feel quite magical because it’s unexpected. It’s in that realm of uncertainty and it’s not something you can force or control or predict.
Just feel for a moment what it feels like on your heart to image that you don’t have to figure that out or make it happen or force it into being or prevent it. Let’s see what that feels like for a minute. Just notice if you feel any lighter. Go ahead and open your eyes again, and you may hear the voice of the skeptic, it may be saying “No, I don’t believe any of this, this is impossible, this is woo-woo crap or whatever.” In experience of 10 years of this kind of practice, what I have found and this is when I say I used to have blind faith, and now I have evidence based faith.
What I have found is that when I practice that practice, when I notice that I’m afraid and that I’m trying to grasp at something that I want or resist something that I don’t want, and my mind is trying to figure it out, I go into a tell spin and I don’t feel good, I get very anxious. When I actually trust that I do live in a universe that is purposeful and benevolent and that there are these great arms of love that are supporting me … That I don’t live in this world alone and that uncertainty is the gateway to possibility. When I don’t know what the future holds, mystical things could happen, synchronicities could show up, unexpected surprises could meet me.
I actually realized that I can lose things and still survive, that I can go to 6 funerals in a year and it can actually make me even more loving and even more compassionate and even more brave to keep loving, to keep giving people permission to break my heart even when they keep dying. When I can actually trust that all of these things are happening as a way to help me grow as a soul to become deeper and wiser and more at one with all that is in the universe. That yes, that hurts, yes, that means having to having to have some uncomfortable feelings, then I start to relax more and more.
My mantra this year on New Year’s Eve, right at midnight, my spiritual teacher is a doctor Rachel Naomi Remen, right at midnight, I said, Okay, my mantra for this year is I am in agreement with life and I resist nothing. Man, that is one hell of a mantra to try to actually live and practice with, because I have to call myself on it constantly. I notice, “Wow, I’m not in agreement with life, I’m fighting life, I don’t think those 6 people should have died. They were all young, the tragic, violent, accident’s awful.
I notice my resistance and when I come back to that place of “I believe it’s a purposeful universe and all things happen for a reason. I still feel what I feel when I’m not resisting my pain, I’m not resisting my grief, I’m just letting it move through me like contractions of the heart. Something starts to shift.
Peter: I love what you did here Lissa, which is you shifted the conversation from the intellectual to the heartfelt. It’s what you are talking about in your book and you just did it with us here. I’m excited to see what comes up for me in what I heard in my mind.
We don’t just sit back and let the universe do its thing and we don’t believe that everything is up to us and we have to drive through and make everything happen in a hostile universe. It’s a partnership and it’s that we have to show up in a certain way and we have access in our hearts and our openness and we have to connect in ways that create space and openness for the universe to do its thing.
Lissa: That’s right. it’s a dance between the principles of the divine feminine and the principles of sacred masculine. It’s a balance between will and surrender. The process that we just did, that surrender is very divine feminine and we live in a culture that is primarily influenced by the masculine principles. We are seeing the out of balance masculine principle gone create a havoc on the planet. We have climate change; we have global disasters as a result of what happens when the masculine principle is out of balance. Most of us, when we’re talking about leadership, most of us don’t need help with the sacred masculine.
I went to medical school, I was in 12 years of medical education, taught me masculine principles. I was more man than any man in my medical school class and I graduated second in my class. I know how to employ the beautiful principles of the sacred masculine, but that restoration of the balance of the feminine, regardless of gender, this is not about gender, is something that’s surely needed in us as individuals and in us a culture. What you are saying I think people misunderstand surrender as passivity, but it’s not passive at all, what I’m saying is that when we can trust to let go, then we will actually get motivated, something else moves us.
We are moved with this Shakti, this life force energy that will leap you out of your chair to go do the right thing. To go do the thing that will protect you. To go do the thing that will bring you into alignment with your calling or to go do the thing that will restore love to your marriage or to go do the thing that will improve your health. It’s not like you are going to sit back and wait for the universe to come feed you bon-bons. That’s not the teaching at all; it’s about that balance between will and surrender. I have some awesome stories I don’t have the time to tell them, but I have some awesome stories of when I’ve actually gotten out of balance in the feminine and needed to call forth my will. Where I actually needed to draw a line in the sand as say, “No.”
Like it’s often that sort of Kali ask fierce goddess energy of saying “No, this is where I’m drawing the line in the sand and using my will to protect myself or someone else.” It’s that mama bear energy. I think our relationship to action, we have a cultural belief that says that all good things happen through effort and force and trying and pushing ourselves until we’re exhausted. Like I said I could give you 100 stories of times when I did nothing other than the practice that we just did, I just did this a couple of weeks ago, I did that practice around … because I couldn’t figure out how I was going to pay an unexpected very large bill. I’m not kidding, within 24 hours, I got a phone call from a lawyer that he had just closed the class action suit against a gallery owner that I showed my art with 15 years ago I had long ago given up on this crook who had stolen my art and stolen my money.
Apparently the other artist had a class action suit and they just settled it and he’s sending me a $50,000 check. I was like it was within 24 hours of surrendering the burden of that bill and not knowing how I was going to come up with that money, that I got a $50,000 checks on my way. I was like, “Wow, it looks like a miracle.” I don’t understand that, I can’t give you an intellectual answer. You could say its total coincidence, but when it happens over and over and over again, it starts to look like magic and it starts to give me trust that there are forces in the universe that I don’t understand, that my brain can’t explain. I’m not going to be able to convince anybody and I don’t actually care to convince anybody.
I’m not interested in dogma or belief or even religion, I just can say personally that I have evidence-based faith because I could tell you 100 stories like that of what’s happened when I have been willing to let go of thinking that I am in charge and I am the sole creator of my reality. I believe I have a say in my reality. I participate, I co-create, but there is another … As you said, I’m in partnership with something I don’t understand that loves me. My gratitude for that is so extreme that the more I actually inhabit that space of gratitude, the more the dance seems continual, I think it’s happening all day. It feels like I’m dancing with magic and I just feel really excited to have the opportunity to invite other people to experiment with that for themselves.
I don’t care if anybody believes what I’m saying, because that’s not important to me. I just feel really grateful that I get to have this experience and I want other people to be curious with me about whether that’s possible.
Peter: Maintaining a state of curiosity. It’s very easy coming from, a mind based system to argue, in any number of ways. In fact, it’s very easy; I wrote an article once for Harvard. I can’t remember what the title was, but the concept behind it was the heart is a very easy target of the head. It’s not hard to disapprove intellectually the heart-based ideas and emotions, it’s just not hard. A whip, smart mind can break down just about anything, but it takes not only trust but I think you just nailed it, the journey between the head and the heart is travelled through the mode of curiosity. If we are able to be curious and to keep that curiosity open, then we are able to walk that path.
Lissa: That’s right, and this is not been an easy journey for me, actually it’s interesting because my roommate is autistic and she didn’t finish high school, so she does not have a strong cognitive mind. I was top of my class and everything. I have a very strong cognitive mind, a very smart mind. Her spiritual journey has been so much easier than mine because she doesn’t resist it; she’s not constantly fighting it. She is just existing with what is. I have fought it tooth and nail every step of the way and this is the reason that my spiritual teacher is a medical doctors, because it’s only somebody like that that I can trust.
She will say to me things like, “The mind makes the wonderful servant and a terrible master.” I’ll start asking her questions and she’ll say, “Lissa, maybe how and why and booby price.” My mind goes nuts over that, I’m like, “No, no, the how and why are everything.” She’s going, “What if it just is?” I’ve had to really struggle with that and had … the mantra she gave in the very beginning was “Be curious.” I am curious, because I have a mind that’s curious, so it’s almost like we can use the curiosity to enlist the mind to be like, “Hey, there is a rabbit hole down there, do you want to go look and see what’s down the rabbit hole? If we don’t like it, we can come back.”
Peter: That’s very powerful, and I understand that your next book, the book that’s out now, Anatomy of a Calling has an element of memoir in it. I’m very excited to read it because I imagine that it’s going to be a very interesting journey from the male orientation and very mind-based orientation to where you are now, which is not exclusive of the mind, but inclusive of more. It must have been a difficult journey, because I share with you propensity and a focus and a reward system that’s been very, very focused on my mind.
I personally am leaving this conversation with a real commitment to that curiosity. To say, “Let’s see, let’s look at it, let’s be open and see what we see with holding the rational defenses at bay for some period of time to connect with something deeper and see what shows up”.
The book that we’re talking about now is the Fear Cure Cultivating Courage as Medicine for the Body, Mind and Soul. Lissa Rankin, that you so much for being on the Bregman Leadership Podcast.
Lissa: Peter, can I say one more thing?
Lissa: I just want to speak to the resistance for a minute, if there is a part of you that wants to dismiss what I’m saying or that’s arguing or wants proof or any of that, I just want to acknowledge that the resistance is welcomed too. One of the other teachings that my teacher gave me is that you can’t force a rosebud to blossom by beating it with a hammer. That’s really true and I know that that was very important for me to be able to acknowledge and welcome my resistance, to say, “Okay resistance, I hear you, you are part of this system of Lissa, you are welcome here, I’m listening.” At some point, the resistance had the will of Lissa for a long time and was making the decisions from that place.
At some point the resistance just relaxed enough to let another part of me start to take the wheel. The resistance is still in the car, you don’t have to demonize the resistance either, just like we’re not demonizing fear, it’s welcomed. I just wanted to speak to that because I know that part, sometimes we can go into self judgment or other judgment. When we actually make spaciousness for like “Oh, it’s all welcomed and everybody is entitled to their won journey and we are all at our own pace and it’s all okay.”
Peter: Thank you Lissa and the idea that the journey from the head to the heart doesn’t mean that you are leaving your head and now living in your heart without your head. We’ve got both the head and the heart and they are both very useful and we don’t need to get rid of one.
Lissa: I give my mind lots of tasks when it’s time to do the taxes, mind, I need you, when it’s time to research a new book, “Mind, I need you to do some research its great. It’s also useful to have rational thought be part of our decision making. It’s just that there are all kinds of other ways to make our decisions that can inform that and the mind is one of them, I love that, it’s just under a larger umbrella.
Peter: Lissa thank you so much for being on the podcast.
Lissa: Thank you, it’s my pleasure.
Peter: If you enjoy this episode of the Bregman Leadership Podcast, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes. For more information about the Bregman Leadership Intensive as well as access to my articles, videos and podcasts, visit Peterbregman.com. Thank you to Claire Marshall for producing this episode and to Brian Wood who created our music. Thanks for listening and stay tuned for the next great conversation.
Peter Bregman is CEO of Bregman Partners, a company that strengthens leadership in people and in organizations through programs (including the Bregman Leadership Intensive), coaching, and as a consultant to CEOs and their leadership teams. Best-selling author of 18 Minutes, his most recent book is Four Seconds. To receive an email when he posts, click here.