A thing I like to call Fear-Play…

Many people in my network said “no, not my thing” when I inquired if they were interested in investing an evening at a haunted house. While I have a side of me that loves “cheesy” things, I also understand the line of questioning… “Why go to a haunted house?”

I understand it becasue I was asking myself the same thing this past Saturday night, as I was lost in a maze of creative gruesome pointless chaos.

I wasn’t ever really scared, except maybe at the moment upon entering.

But I could feel the energy of fear being created around me, despite the reality of safety.

The funny thing is that haunted houses are a lot more like life than we think…

There are so many ways in which we fear aspects of life because that is the design, but in essence, there is actually nothing to fear and/or there is more to the story.

As Neuropsychologist Risk Hanson said, “To become happier, wiser, and more loving, sometimes you have to swim against ancient currents within your nervous system.”

Haunted houses, scary movies, and other creative outlets for fear-play allow me to build the muscle of “swimming against” ancient ingrained patterns of fear that are not actually based in the present moment reality.

Ironically, I also taught a class yesterday on #Neurosculpting, an evidence-based meditation format used to consciously rewire the nervous system. One of the key take-aways is that feeling safe is an inside job.

For example, if someone jumps out at you in a dimly lit maze and you know they won’t actually hurt you, but you still jump—whose job is it to help you feel safe?

Life doesn’t give us the same assurance as a haunted house, but when there are real threats in our environment, our creative ability to problem solve is a more productive evolutionary response than freezing.

And there are also a lot of things that seem threatening, that are actually not scary at all–like actors doing seasonal work at a haunted house.

Leadership begins…

Why do we care about leadership?

When the word leadership is inserted into anything, it seems to draw attention and motivate behavior.  When you stop and contemplate about the ways in which you are a leader in your life or the ways in which you see yourself growing into a leader, how does your prospective or state-of-mind shift?  What are you motivated to do as a leader?

Perceiving ourselves as a leader does multiple things to the brain.There is an archaic or more primitive part of the brain that hears the world leadership and associates it with status and a sense of social empowerment.  This sense of power is associated with the same part of our brain which desires control over the unknown.  Leadership, as a self-concept, may in fact soothe or down-regulate this primitive part of us because of the social status and power that is associated with the word “leader”. There is the second part the brain; one that is the “new edition” evolutionarily.  This newer part of the brain provides us with many gifts  the “higher mind” or “higher self”.  My “higher self” sees the word leadership and asks: “what is useful about this concept?”; “If I am to lead, what is the impact that I can make?”; and “For the sake of what?”.  In short, when my PFC joins the conversation, I find myself first getting curious about the concept of “leadership” and then how I can align my role as a leader with my highest values (i.e., human potential and autonomy).  My goals as a leader as to share information with people that empowers exploration of human potential and reinstalls a sense autonomy and self-compassion in someones daily life (including my own).  From this place awareness, a journey of self-exploration can begins and will continue generating feedback loops for your development.  I seem to plan-do-study-act my way to becoming a highly competent leader.  However, I have found that I can’t get rid of the safety-hungry part of myself, and that would be missing the point.  The part of me that seeks safety is the part of me that is seeking life over death.  Unfortunately, this part of us is not as needed as it once was so we are stuck “making up” life or death situations and this causes chronic stress and inflammation in the body.  If you don’t surf these waves of stress, you may also find yourself drowning in crisis-mode thinking versus allowing yourself to be the brilliant problem solver that you are hardwired to be.  And this is where leadership truly begins…

Being a true leader starts with leading your own physiology.  Its starts with down-regulating your limbic/stress response so you can lead from a state of curiosity and not fear.  From this place, you can then begin to align with you values and begin to unfold your true potential as a leader.



What is Fear?

How can you face your fear of the unknown?

Child:  I am afraid.  I am afraid that someone will come hurt me at night.  That is why I sleep with my legs curled up and not stretched long to the end of the bed.  Once the room is dark, I get scared.  I am afraid of the dark.

Adult:  Yes I understand the unknown is scary and that there are some bad people in this world, but you can’t limit yourself because of things that are scary.  There are some beautiful things about darkness and wonderful people in the world—Lets go outside and look up at the stars for a moment…

Child:  I am scared.

Adult:  Hold my hand, I will show you that although the path is shrouded in darkness, it is the path you were meant to travel and will carry you.  This is your room, the room you play in the light.  That dark closet is where all your toys are.  What if the room were always dark and you were afraid to see what was there?  You would never discover all the toys you love to play with.  One day you will see life in a new way.  One day the darkness that will scare you will not be nighttime, it will be the unknown of the future.  What if you were too afraid of the unknown, so you never discovered the treasures you were meant to discover because you were limiting yourself with fear?  Come now let’s go see the stars.

Child: (thinking) what is fear?  Now I am confused.  I thought only bad things would happen if I ventured into the dark and away from my bed.

Once outside under the stars

Adult:  Look up.  What does the darkness allow us to see?

Child: The light of the stars and planets!

Adult:  Thats correct.  The darkness allows us to know the light.  How much do we know about what we are seeing?

Child:  Um…. Not sure… Infinity confuses me but I know we are looking at infinity says scientists.

Adult: Excellent yes! We are looking at infinite mystery.  We know those lights are burning balls of gas that are too large to even imagine.  We know there are plants that orbit like the earth around these balls of gas.  But we don’t know much more than that. We continue to learn, to reach out into this infinite darkness to discover small clues—only to find these smalls clues lead to even more mystery.  What if NASA was afraid of the dark? or mystery?  What if astronauts were afraid of the dark?

Child:  That would be silly.  But I see your point.  They wouldn’t be able to explore space.

What is one thing today you can do to face a fear that is limiting exploration?  How can you face a fear of the unknown today?

Inspired by one of my wonderful teachers, Coby Kozlowski



The Sanskrit word for the heart center or chakra is anahata and can be translated as the “unbroken” or “unhurt.”  The meaning of the word suggests that although our “hearts” can be broken, they are never truly broken; our hearts our limitlessly resilient.  We strengthen our resilience by learning to listen more deeply to our hearts and mindfully honoring our emotional experience.  Exercising the mind-body through movement can help support embodied emotional process and stress reduction.  Through “mining” somatic intelligence, you can enhance your capacity to embrace the challenges of real life.

Practice: Stand tall on the earth, begin to breathe into your heart.  Let your heart’s radius expand and contract with each breath.  Envision the light of compassion emanating from your heart center.  Let the light fill your entire body.  As you feel your body fill with light,     shine light on your thoughts and emotions.  Welcome all facets of your experience.  Allow any thought or feeling to soak in as much light as needed and then float on like clouds in the sky.


“Who we are is the process of learning to align thoughts, words and actions with our highest intentions [1].”

The “self-critic” does it best, but imprisons us and inhibits change.  Self-compassion is the antidote.  Self-Compassion allows us to move forward in alignment with purpose and our values.  Self-Compassion, not criticism, is the catalyst for change.

The three components of self-compassion

  • Emotional mindfulness (grow curious about the depth of your emotional experience)
  • Connection with Collective (shared human experience)
  • True Kindness & Big Picture Perspective (the voice that points you back in the direction of what you really want)

Practice:  Write a letter to yourself expressing compassion to yourself.  Try to include all three components.  Notice when your self-critic is talking.  Invite your self-compassion voice to join the dialogue.


[1] Kelly McGonigal, Neuroscience of Change