Be an Expert at Living life

posted in: Recent, Stage 4, Stage 4: Step 2

This post is the introduction for the last leg of the updated DOC Journey course. The main course is presented in four levels with the metaphor of learning how to snow ski. The focus is on skill acquisition to regulate your body’s physiology and also reprogram your brain in the direction of your choice. At this point, developing a “working relationship” with stress physiology should be almost automatic. This final level is about nurturing joy using a metaphor of designing and building your new home (life). As your attention shifts from fixing problems to creating solutions, new neurological circuits are formed away from the unpleasant ones.

At some tipping point, this becomes the new trajectory of your life. Life’s challenges continue to come at all of us. As life becomes easier to navigate, your body is exposed to less threat (stress) physiology and more to safety. Safety is where fuel moves into cells, and your body regenerates and heals.

The metaphor for this navigated course is the ski slope. No matter what your skill level, you must get down the hill. If the ski run is above your skill level, you may not be only stressed, it can be terrifying. The goal is become an expert at life skills and learn to feel safe a higher percent of the time. Here are the prerequisites.

  • Have a working knowledge of The DOC Journey course.
  • Understand the natural resistance to change.
  • Review the “circle of life” with the “ring of fire.”
  • Begin to connect to your vision of what is possible.
  • Your healing emanates from feeling safe and creative.
  • Constructing your new home (life) is the final focus of the journey. Enjoy!!


First of all, congratulations for reaching this level. The key to healing is persistence and you have already shown a willingness to fully engage in learning to create and live the life you want. Before you began this journey, that may not have seemed possible. But to be clear, your journey is not about completing a course or believing in David Hanscom. It is about connecting your own capacity to heal. Healing of any part of the body is nothing short of miraculous, but so is the gift of life.

Many people arrive at this point of their journey and they feel better. So, being back to their baseline, they quit. “I am good enough,” and they move on with their life. I think that it is tragic to stop now. Your creative brain is coming alive and the potential for future learning and growth is unlimited. Why would you want to stop?

There are actually a few reasons why this happens so often.

  • Humans are programmed by every second of their lives. Our brains unconsciously memorize everything. Familiar patterns are not noticed since not only are they embedded in our brains, but they are our version of reality. Any new or unusual data catches our attention and stimulates some level of threat physiology. We feel anxious and instinctively resist change. So, maybe you are back to a comfortable baseline state. Why would you wish to continue?
  • There is a lot of anxiety with success, if you are used to simply trying to survive. When is the shoe going to drop? A classic example is golf. It is remarkably predictable that when you have shot well for three or four holes that your anxiety levels rise. Of course your muscle tension increases, and suddenly it seems like you don’t which end of the club to hold. The same scenario holds true in any performance arena at home, work, or even relaxing.
  • Examples are present in every kind of performance. Maybe you have been promoted and have a higher profile in your sphere of influence. More eyes are on you, and many people might jealous of your success. They may look for any opportunity to cut you down. There is a term for this phenomenon called “Tall Poppy Syndrome.” It is easier to just blend in with the crowd.
  • Understand that the shoe will always drop. That is life. If your goal is to be in an endless state of bliss, you’ll fail. Life presents an endless number of daily challenges and at some level of stress, your body will respond with threat physiology. Maybe it will last for an hour or even days. It is what your body is supposed to do – protect you. But you now have choices regarding how long you wish to remain there.
  • A different problem arises in that now you have tasted what it is like to be in the green center, and you don’t want to leave. Additionally, when you are triggered and in the red, the contrast is sharp and you may get more frustrated about what is possible compared what you are experiencing in the moment. I call this, “the curse of awareness.” What you want to do is nuture emotional flexibilty, be present with whatever state you are in, and move in the direction of your choice.
  • I experienced a common scenario in that I had no idea that there were other possibilities about the way I negotiated my life. All I ever knew was anger and chaos. Although, I attended workshops, read self-help books, and underwent extensive counseling. I did not connect with how angry I was until I was 50 years old. It was an incredibly unpleasant experience and I did not have the tools to deal with it. Healing happens with connection – to yourself and then to those around you. Not wanting to experience unpleasant emotions may be a major reason why people don’t engage in this process or pull up short of really moving forward. One of my friends has often quoted the phrase, “you have to feel to heal.”

The ”circle of life” containing the “ring of fire” is the signature tool of this journey. A version of it was created by Dr. Paul Gilbert, who was the founder of compassion-based therapy. Compassion (love) as defined by Anthony DeMello in his book, The Way to Love, is awareness. Anxiety blocks awareness. But as you nurture awareness, you’ll actually feel more anxiety, and it requires tools to tolerate it. This is a bidirectional interaction. So, this final level is focused on not only learning to nurture joy, but also to better tolerate anxiety.

The metaphor is building and decorating a new house. Each room represents an aspect of your life that must be addressed. Use it daily as a quick mental checklist as you go from room to room in your own home. The “lot” is the green center of the circle of life. With repetition, you’ll create the life you want. “To have a good life, you must live a good life.”

Books to read

Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness

Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible. The Stoic philosopher Epictetus was born on the eastern edges of the Roman Empire in A.D. 55, but The Art of Living is still perfectly suited for any contemporary self-help or recovery program.

The healing journey progresses from “reaCtive to Creative”. You must first see where you are at before you can change direction. You can’t heal by focusing on problems. Healing occurs with creativity and moving away from unpleasant neurological circuits. The wisdom of the Stoics is remarkable in that it is as, or more, relevant as it was 2000 years ago. Regaining a healthy life perspective is the definitive solution to decreasing your suffering.

On the slopes

A world class skier can ski anything humanly possible if the conditions are reasonable. I used to think I was a double black diamond skier until I was exposed to US Ski Team skiers who were far above a level than I ever imagined. They not only possess a high level of skill, but they are supremely confident as a result of putting in thousands of hours of practice.

Many years ago a group of us where on the back side of mountain at Alta Utah. It was a gorgeus day with a lot of new soft powder. We were all “expert” skiers. We were standing in a narrow line waiting to head down the hill and my son, who is a US Ski team level mogul skier was on another transverse about 30 feet above us. We wondered what he wanted us to do. What he wanted was fresh untracked powder and he took off and jumped over all of us. It must have been a 40-foot drop and he landed about 50 feet down the hill. There was no hesitation. He kept going until the bottom skiing at a high speed. I realized that his was a reality I was not familiar with.

But consider any performance from art, music, dance, athletics, mechanics, business, and work. Every endeavor can be manifested at the highest level. You might be thinking, “I could never accomplish this level of expertise, and in a given field, you probably won’t. Or maybe you already have. However, life skills are accessible to everyone and anyone who wants to commit the living an excellent life. All that is required is a willingness to continue to learn and practice. The DOC Journey presents a foundational set of concepts and tools and there are endless additonal ways to enhance your journey.

The only “goal” of this course is to allow you to connect to the moment you are in and with awareness can be in any color of the “circle of life” on your terms. You have the choice to remain there or move in any direction.

Why not attain the highest level of expertise in living your life? The focus is on attaining skills and not reaching for perfect, where you beat yourself up for “failing.” It is about just learning to execute what you know regardless of the circumstances. Outcomes are usually beyond our control, but you can up the odds of success.

This level is a jumping off point for living the rest of your life. Let yourself think big and enjoy your day.