Tuesday was the birthday of my new book The Fear Cure: Cultivating Courage As Medicine For The Body, Mind & Soul. To celebrate the book’s birth, Tosha Silver and I hosted a workshop about transforming fear with spiritual surrender for 100 people live in the Bay area and 1000 people streaming in from around the globe. Given how fear-based our culture is and how much unnecessary suffering results from our belief that we have to control life, spiritual surrender is a core part of letting fear cure YOU.
Essentially, the process of spiritual surrender is about taking that thing you're afraid of or that problem you think you have to solve or that unmet longing in your heart for that thing you want but don't yet have—and making it an offering to the Divine. It's about taking all of it—your fears, your desires, your need for control—and turning it over to the arms of Love, trusting that you will be protected and guided to take any inspired action necessary, either by internal intuition, your body's compass, or external Signs from the Universe. Then, having offered this with deep trust, you wait. The part that requires courage is the part that asks you to follow the guidance, even if you don't like it.
In Part 1 of this blog, I told the story of my cheetah encounter during the Africa STAR retreat with Martha Beck at Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa. What I hadn’t realized at the time, because we weren’t being intentional about it, is that those of us in the Land Rover who were blessed to have our sacred moment with the cheetah had been doing exactly what Martha teaches about how to bring into being what you desire.
Let me be clear here. You are not about to get a lesson in The Secret. This is not about how to manifest a Ferrari or cast a spell that suddenly makes the guy you’re lusting over fall head over heels for you. What we’re talking about is not about giving God a shopping list of what your ego desires. This is about how to “call in” that which is aligned with the highest good. In Finding Your Way In A Wild New World, Martha teaches what she calls the Four Technologies of Magic. Tosha Silver also teaches a similar process in Outrageous Openness, which I wrote about here. How I call in cheetahs is informed by the process of both of these spiritual teachers, so what I’m about to share with you is an amalgam of both that reflects my own process of bringing into being that which I desire.
Whether your cheetah is an animal you wish to see on safari, the Divine Beloved you wish to call in, clarity about your soul’s work, the perfect client who will be uplifted by your service, or the money to fund your dream, this process applies to it all. The following steps are not necessarily linear. Some will happen simultaneously. Some happen out of order. But they give you a guideline about how to bring your cheetah one step closer to you.
Step One: Set The Intention
It all starts with desire. In spite of what you might have been taught in Sunday School, desire is never wrong. It’s a signpost pointing towards what lights you up, feeds your soul, sparks your enthusiasm, and makes you feel alive. Sometimes we’re misguided in what we think we desire. You might think you want your best friend’s husband, but what you really want is the kind of soulful connection you feel when you’re with him—which you’re likely to find in someone else in a way that doesn’t threaten your integrity and leave you betraying your best friend. Desire is information. It’s feedback about what sparks your Inner Pilot Light, and it’s often a marker of what wants to become in what Martha calls the “Everywhen.”
You are a hero. I am a hero. We are all, every single one of us, on what Joseph Campbell calls “a hero’s journey.” We all have within us a Nelson Mandela or Joan of Arc or Luke Skywalker or Mother Teresa or Harry Potter. Like all of these classic heroes, we are all little sparks of divinity on a mission to step into our true nature and fulfill the Divine assignment our souls were sent here to earth in order to fulfill.
Who Will Save The World?
But if you’re like most of us, you may not realize yet what a hero you really are. In Finding Your Way In A Wild New World, Martha Beck describes us heroes as “wayfinders,” who possess a set of characteristics that distinguishes us. Most of us feel a sense of mission involving a major transformation in human experience, a strong sense that whatever that mission is, it’s getting closer in time, a compulsion to master certain skills in preparation for this half-understood personal mission, high levels of empathy, an urgent desire to lessen the suffering for humans, animals, and plants, and a loneliness stemming from a sense of difference, despite being generally social. According to Martha, other common characteristics that typify us include high levels of creativity, an intense love of animals, a difficult, often abusive or traumatic early life, an intense connection to the natural world, resistance to religion accompanied by a strong sense of the spiritual, high levels of emotional sensitivity accompanied by a predilection for anxiety, addiction, or eating disorders, a sense of connection with particular cultures, languages, or geographic regions, a brain-centered disability like dyslexia, retardation, or autism, a gregarious personality contrasting with the need for periods of solitude, a persistent or recurring physical illness, and a tendency to dream about healing others. Martha calls us superheroes “the Team,” and I can tell already that you are one of us.
The Dysfunction Of The “Ordinary World”
We only discover we are heroes when we get disillusioned enough with the dysfunction of our present circumstances. When we feel sad enough and lost enough and hopeless enough, something deep within us has the opportunity to emerge, something stronger and wiser than we may ever have known existed within us. We all have this heroic spark that never dies, even when we’re in our darkest moments. I call this part of you your “Inner Pilot Light,” which is your inner superhero. This spark within you is fueled by a pressing sense that there is adventure out there, that your life has purpose, that you’re on a quest you may not understand yet, that your small little existence on this very big planet could mean something, that there is more to life than the ordinary, dysfunctional world, and that perhaps all it takes is a cape and a mask and some really cool boots in order to save the world.
The Phone Rings
Right when you might start to question your inner superhero and feel tempted to lose hope that your little blip of existence in this great, big world could really make a world-changing difference, you’re likely to hear the phone ring. It usually rings very softly at first, perhaps so softly that, like your cell phone with the ringer off, you miss it altogether. But when you fail to pick up, the phone is likely to ring louder. Some Divine force turns the ringer on.
When this happens, this is your calling ringing you, just like that, with a loud BRRRRRIIIIIIING that you can’t help noticing. It’s your life’s purpose calling, complete with instructions not just for how you can change the world in your own precious way, but with the Prescription for how you can lead a wholly healthy life that will prepare you to fulfill this calling.
We usually refer to “finding your calling” as getting in touch with your life purpose. But you may be called to do any number of things that may have nothing to do with your professional life. These types of callings tend to come up whenever you find yourself unable to make a decision.
Should you stay or should you go?
Should you follow your intuition or play it safe?
Should you take a leap of faith or stay on the cliff?
Decisions can be beastly, especially when the stakes are high. But you don’t have to make these decisions alone. I believe The Universe calls to us, guiding us to where we’re meant to be. In the beginning, this guidance will show up in subtle ways, like a thought or an idea that feels like a crazy idea. Then you might read something that feels like it was meant just for you, something that reinforces the crazy idea. Then that perfect book- the one you were SO supposed to read right now- falls off the shelf in front of you. Then you have a dream full of instructions, or you see a vision of something, or you hear a voice telling you what you need to do.
How You Know When You’re Being Guided
You may not recognize the guidance at first. You might not even notice it, and if you do, you might write it off as mere coincidence. But if you don’t pay attention to the first whisperings, then the signs from the Universe get more obvious. You may get physical symptoms because you’re not listening to the whispers. Things might start happening to rock you out of your comfort zone.
Things might even start to get really trippy. You bump into the person you need to be talking with in the middle of Central Park when neither of you even live in New York City. You’re talking on the telephone, confessing what you know you must do to a dear friend, and right when you share how scared you are, a walkie talkie voice interferes with the phone line and tells you you’re not alone. You find out that you and your mentor are being guided by a spirit guide who calls himself by the same name.
This is when you know you are being called. You’ve been given clear instructions. But you may not like the instructions you’re being given.
You Still Have Choice
Free will is a funny thing when it comes to spiritual guidance. I believe we are guided with "signs from the Universe," and these signs are suggestions, recommendations even. But we don't have to follow the guidance. We have free will, and we may either fail to observe the signs or ignore the signs.
I think we're given a lot of leeway when we first become aware of something we're being called to do. We're given a sort of grace period, a Divine time out, during which we have the opportunity to make peace with what is being asked of us. The Universe gives us a break and understands why we're not doing what we know we must. So there are no immediate consequences to failing to heed the guidance. The Universe understand that we're only human.
It all started when I was seven years old and the chimney sweep found a nest of newborn baby squirrels in our chimney. Mom wanted to leave them - to let nature take it’s course, but I was having none of that. I insisted she take me to the vet so I could learn how to rescue the baby squirrels. I wound up being a squirrel healer over the course of the next 15 years. They called me the “Squirrel Girl.” My picture was in the papers. I tended squirrels until I was finally old enough to go to medical school and practice on people. My calling was clear.
And then it got corrupted with my medical education - and I pretty much forgot what I was called to do when I was a child. I’ll apologize in advance for how long this will be - but in case you’re curious, here is the story of how I remembered what I am here on this earth to do.
April 2, 2005
It’s my wedding day, and I’m at Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur. While scanning the list of activities at the ranch, I see yoga, meditation, and “shamanic journey” on the schedule. Having no clue what a shamanic journey is, I decide, on a lark, to embark upon one, with no clue that the next hour would mark the beginning of a journey I am still on.
During the guided meditation led by shaman Jon Rasmussen, I enter the interior realms of my own heart and am given a gift by my subconscious - a stethoscope with a paintbrush on the diaphragm. As both a doctor and a professional artist, it sort of makes sense. But what was the deeper meaning of the gift? Was I supposed to paint my patients? Teach my patients how to paint? Paint stethoscopes? With no clue how to interpret this gift, I file it away in my mind under “unexplained woo woo phenomena” and forget about it… until a few months later.
On my wedding night, Matt and I stay up until 1am, when a nearby hot springs resort opens to the public in the early morning hours, and you can soak in the natural thermal springs. We’d never heard of Esalen Institute, but it sounds wild and crazy, so we go, not realizing at the time that Esalen will wind up playing a major role in my life years later.