The Journey Inward and Beyond

by Lisa Tran Boinnard in

There are two worlds. At least. Simply put, there's the physical world we can all attest to, the one that is easy to touch, see, taste, hear, smell. And then there is the invisible, unspoken world. The one alive within each of us. The one swirling around us that most of us no longer have the ability to notice and understand.

I'm talking about the dreams you have at night. The thoughts, conscious and unconscious that swirl around your mind. The feelings that beat in your gut and heart. The energy that runs through the world. 

Unconscious, subconscious, mystical, ephemeral, existential...we give names to this second world that make it beyond reach, beyond access, foreign and alien. Perhaps a little terrifying. But what if it is simply a world we have forgotten to talk about, over the thousands of years of left brain domination?

I consider my university degrees and my consulting days at places like the New York Stock Exchange and tech companies in Silicon Valley. And I often wonder, what place does this second world have within a first world context? Yet, it's a time when I believe it is most critical for each of us to have a more intimate relationship with this other, yet ever-present world. It just may save us. 

The unseen may be unfamiliar and foreign, but it is not unreal. It is not inaccessible. Carlos Castaneda wrote about the second attention, a different level of awareness to be cultivated that provides us access to the unknown. A second attention for the second world, so that we stop living divided and asleep to the other realities of our existence. 


Presence Through Your Body

by Lisa Tran Boinnard

There is an intelligence that many of us have little awareness of – the wisdom that is constantly in communication with us from our bodies. Bodies speak the language of truth-telling. Unlike our trickster minds. 

In my coaching practice, I've come to notice how many of us are numb from the neck down. Sometimes illness or physical trauma has caused our attention to flee from our bodies. Sometimes painful emotions make us focus upward. But most of the time, I think it's because we live in a culture of headiness. We use "I feel" much less than "I think."

Culturally, bodies are also intended for the gym, the beach, the bedroom, but not the office, at dinner, in deep conversation. This separation causes deep rifts in the psyche, in moments when we need the truth and reality of our bodies the most. 

Emotions express within the body, and if left unfelt, they get trapped there. Instinct whispers from the gut. Desire and love emanate from the heart. Who knows how your knees reveal themselves, or what your hands have to say. 

We are a culture of body-objectification. But we are hardly ever in relationship with our bodies. I believe this is why so many of us get sick. We have forgotten how to listen, how to be in deep and intimate conversation with the wise animal-bodies that are so able to care for us.

Let Transformation Be an Act of Self Care

by Lisa Tran Boinnard in

When nature goes through transformations – caterpillar to butterfly, tadpole to frog – it is an act of creation and becoming. Too often, when humans engage in an effort of change, we make it an act of destruction and self-criticism. We want to change from a place of shame or guilt. I must change because who I am presently is not good enough.

If you notice shame or guilt within your motivation for change, then what needs to be transformed is not you, but the beliefs that hold you to these feelings.

Radical transformation has to come from a place of self care, for it to take you towards yourself. Otherwise, you end up changing for everyone else. This kind of change will not free you. It will have you waking up one day, wondering who you are, as I once did.

The pull to become more of yourself has a promise of freedom to it, a feeling of deep familiarity, it tastes of inspiration and joy. It may have a dash of fear, as the unknown often casts shadows, but it will not crush your sense of self. 

Get curious about why you yearn for change. If the feelings squeeze at your sense of self, then tend to this first. Let transformation safeguard, honor, and elevate your true nature.


Instead of a Crisis, It's a Mid-Life Summer

by Lisa Tran Boinnard in ,

Before we escaped from war torn Vietnam, my mother took me to a palm reader. This wise old sage looked into four year old hands and told my mother that everything would happen for me when I turned 40. Forty happened in 2014, and that palm reader evidently had some skills. 

Everything seems to have happened! All at once. But instead of the cultural predictions of mid-life crisis, I entered a mid-life summer, when the seeds of my passions and desires took root and Life became rich and heady with the scents of joy. 

This was all made possible by my early-life crisis, a decade earlier. I woke up soon after my thirtieth birthday, wondering whose life I was living. I had a vision that at 40, I would be sick and miserable if I continued in the marriage and career made for someone else. So I began to shed layers, layers of false commitments, family pressure, social obligations, cultural constructs. I had to dig deep and care for wounds and old traumas. It was a decade of much wax on, wax off. 

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. –Albert Camus

It's taken countless hours of self-work and a cadre of teachers and guides, but I had fallen in love with this particular kind of self care. My process has been about learning who I am, or rather, who I choose to be when I am free to choose. This self exploration led me to exploring who we are, what life is – a grand adventure. I now can only identify myself within the larger reality of our kinship and that of life on Earth. Otherwise, who am I without the rest?

Even though I began my coaching practice 5 years ago, I must say that now, I feel and experience the resonance of my own heartbeat much more clearly, and thus, I have a much deeper desire and ability to share what I have learned. My life has congruence with my inner self, within my work, my loving relationship, my budding family, my dear friends and community.

It's not to say things aren't at times messy and downright difficult. I am always learning, always growing. And in all growth, there are cycles of winter to summer, and the gifts of imperfection. But the overall theme is now one of true love, of a life that is aligned with who I feel myself to be. Now, I am better equipped to navigate the waters of this journey.

If you are not living within the rhythms of your own essence, no matter what decade of life it is, then I encourage you to begin. To begin the inner journey that will bring you home to yourself. The scents of summer are worth the efforts.


Wonder and Awe

by Lisa Tran Boinnard

Remembering how to be curious about the world is a practice of cultivating exuberance and creativity.

Not questioning the reality of our existence, the meaning of why we are here, the vastness of the universe and the microcosm, not facing any of these questions by pretending we know exactly what this life and reality are all about – this is a condition that creates anxiety and low-grade malaise in all of us. 

It's not about finding answers. To understand everything is not possible. Reality is too vast. But to question. To wonder. To be in a state of awe. It's the way we came into the world as children. To retain, to cultivate this innocent state is to stay connected to the beauty and mystery of our reality. It is how we can live life with a sense of openness.

To ignore existential questioning is to pretend to be in control. To isolate our lives from the greater mysteries and focus entirely on our immediate needs, desires, worries, our individual selves, is to be cut off from the grand ecosystem of life that sustains us. I believe this causes neuroses because a part of the self thirsts and starves from being so cut off.

Wonder, awe, and appreciation of beauty allow us to stay in a state of heightened creative potential. These feeling states are the access point to creating, innovating, making...from a place of belonging and connectedness. 

Life Outside of the Cave (a.k.a. Everyday Reality and Dirty Laundry)

by Lisa Tran Boinnard

Recently at a dinner party, I was being intensely irreverent as I said something challenging about monks, or the monastic life. I think it was, "I'm so over monks. It's so much easier in a cave. They should try sex and kids." It was in the midst of talking about my new life as an "insta-mom". My fiancé's three kids entered my life this past year and out went my ivory tower spiritual idealism. Shit just got real.

Before going on, I want to point out that I have family members who've chosen the monastic life, and like any path we choose, the only thing that seems to matter is whether the path has heart. My irreverence can hold broad perspectives. As in, I'm not truly over monks! And yes, I'm aware that my generalization of monastic life was facetious. Time spent deep in contemplation, free from the world, can be beautiful and full of awareness.

Prior to meeting my fiancé, I spent a few years single. I lived in a tiny little cottage by the ocean, with my tiny little dog. We had long walks on the beach. We had luxurious evenings curled up with personal growth and spirituality books. I meditated all the time. I could choose social time or quiet time. I had broad expanses of time to integrate life and to be with myself. 

I look upon these years as important "cave years." I tasted the nature of myself without much influence. I wandered shadowlands and dreamlands. I came to know myself without the other. And that is one part of knowing the self. The inward path.

The outer path is to come to know yourself through the other. Through your love for them, and your resistances. Four new beings in my life has been quite the initiation. I can say that they each represent different age ranges, different aspects of the masculine and feminine, different gifts and shadows. This family has offered me a deep engagement with the Self, as I've come to experience myself through my interactions with each of them.

I have come to understand that you can only truly learn through direct experience. During my time in the Cave Years, I explored concepts and theories. I dreamt of what I yearned for. But direct experience takes you, forces you into the present moment, if you are willing. And it's in this present moment reality that you come to truly see how you show up in the world. What you hold as beliefs, truths, fears – these will surface in the direct experience of your life, especially through relationship with others.

The enlightened life is probably somewhere between the intensity of doing and the emptiness of nothing. It is a place where you can be yourself in the midst of doing, in the midst of others. It is being able to hold presence, a sense of openness and relaxation, as life revolves around you. A place where you can observe as you interact, so that you can act with conscious choice instead of react. A place with broad expanses of space, even as you share this space with others.

I am nowhere near this nirvana! But as I jump into the wild terrain of learning how to be with younger souls, I can use my years of inner work and contemplation to track myself, to track how I show up, where I lose my presence, where I am triggered, what is easy and what is not. This is my deep practice, to track how I am being, to develop awareness. Then to do the work of balancing the self, mapping out new territories of my inner world. 

The ideal life is probably made up of caves, sex, work, partners, people, kids, whatever you want to create. It is in the balance of things. Let experience in to help you gain self awareness and growth. And seek out cave time to breathe, to see. 

Transitions Are Doorways to the Self

by Lisa Tran Boinnard

Change is the single absolute in our impermanent reality. But when change comes, especially the shifts that alter your sense of identity and day-to-day life, it can feel final rather than a transition into something else. In fact, if you resist the change, you miss the transition entirely and wind up stuck in the deep end.

I've been in a deep phase of change in many facets of my life, including becoming an "insta-mom" to my fiancé's three children. A life that I've dreamed of and longed for is coming to fruition. And with all the good, I was also lost in the seas of change. I've had moments where I couldn't find myself. Because the part of myself I was looking for was changing. And I was trying to live my new reality with old rules. Whoops.

Someone I dearly respect told me that in this time of great transitions, I am learning to see myself as I've never experienced before. Oh! That turned on a great lightbulb. Change gives us new experiences, and new ways of coming to know ourselves. It requires an "I don't know" mind, and the willingness to lean into fears and anxieties that arise. 

The gold in change is actually fear. Most change will deliver a healthy dose of fear, because the ego prefers stasis and generally dislikes the unknown. This is why our reactive response is usually resistance to change, even in the best of times. But if during change cycles, we welcome fear and simply sit with it, and learn to name the fear, then we find the key to transitioning through the change. Releasing your fear is the key to letting you flow through change.

Developing presence in the wake of fear is the practice. Don't try to fix your fear. Ask yourself to sit with the fear, feel the emotions, and in time, more and more space will wrap itself around your fear. And within this space, clarity will often deliver itself. If the fear is truly a humdinger, then have someone else hold space for you. I have many people in my life who can do this, and their help has been the true grace that has helped me embrace change.

The Imagination Experiment

by Lisa Tran Boinnard

I’m in the deep midst of an imagination experiment. I’m doing this to see how big I can really let myself play. How much do I hold back? How much am I letting myself have what I want? Where are my mental limits?

Start by listing a couple of things you deeply yearn for. Then start letting yourself have it in your imagination. Commit to daydreaming everyday for seven days.

It’s funny. Initially, you think, well since I’m just imagining, it’s easy. I can make up whatever I want. But really see what you can pull up in your mind’s eye. Can you fully let yourself have what you want? Do you feel safe enough, even with yourself, to admit your heart’s desires? How crystal clear is your envisioning?

I found that I was definitely holding back. Only giving myself tiny little snippets in the beginning. I was a shy director, embarrassed even! I have been practicing every day, deeply, for weeks now. And finally, the visions are getting more rich, more fun and playful, bolder.

In the practice of making dream movies in your mind, you are learning how to open up to what your heart desires. You might run into limits initially, where you try to dream up something and an inner critic starts to throw tomatoes on your screen, or tell you that you are being silly and can’t have what you want. Learn to observe this critic, love him and make him feel safe, and then tell him to shut the f*** up. Quiet on the set.

Learn to envision with all of your senses: see, hear, taste, feel, smell it. Really, truly let yourself have it. Heart desires want to be known like this. And let loose. Tell the judge to go away and just play. It doesn’t matter if it feels frivolous, play IS supposed to be carefree. Once you unleash yourself, once you stop holding back, your heart’s desires will show you how much fuel they have. They will pull at your imagination, pluck you into a daydream in the midst of your days.

The stories tell us to dream…so start practicing.