Buck: Welcome back to the show everyone. Today my guest on Wealth Formula Podcast is Dr. Colleen Crowley. She’s been a licensed therapist for 20 years she’s helped individuals with a wide variety of issues as licensed therapist and she’s based in Santa Barbara here in a good friend of mine and and of our families and one of her niches is in the high paid professional High net worth entrepreneur area. She’s been on the show before it and she was a big hit and given my recent brush with mortality I thought Colleen would be the perfect person to discuss this and how we can apply this potentially to our life so welcome back Colleen! How are you?
Colleen: I’m great, Buck. Thanks for having me. Happy to be here. I’m sorry it’s under these circumstances where you…
Buck: Well we don’t need to be totally serious about it. Obviously I’m here I’m not being I’m not particularly I just came back from the YMCA actually if you can tell. You know you know my YMCA stories Colleen I often end up in battle with octogenarian naked men in the sauna and you know it was one of those days where I escaped that battle.
Colleen: That’s a success. There’s always tomorrow.
Buck: Theres always tomorrow. So let’s back up a little bit about you you’ve been on before but for you know it’s been a while and we always have a bunch of new listeners. So you know you obviously have been you know a therapist and licensed therapist to helping a lot of people for a long time. But one of the things we talked about is you do have this one of your niches is interesting and that it’s really with sort of highly successful professionals entrepreneurs, is that because you were in Santa Barbara or how did that end up being one of your areas.
Colleen: You know, what’s interesting is now midlife is a really rich time for self-examination. So I see a lot of people in that phase of life coming in to explore themselves which is really exciting so it’s just it’s a fertile time for self exploration and seeking out a therapist. I have talked to lots of corporations and CEOs and CFOs and heads of hospitals and guest lecturer there and so then that turns into sort of a them referring to their colleagues their peers and so it’s why like I treat a little bit of everything and I’ve been practicing long enough to yeah a lot of it there is there is that that group that’s sort of a prominent partner in my practice which I really enjoy.
Buck: Yeah and you know I think one of the nice things about having those kinds of niches is from the perspective of a patient you know you can you you know the more experience you have with a given cohort the more you can sort of you know add value. So yeah so I mean that’s great and you know I think we’ve talked a lot about these kinds of midlife issues and things like that sort of just as an interest of mine because you know I like to talk about holistic well sometimes too not just about the money part. So I want to focus kind of on what happened to me and sort of take this as a you know a potential learning thing for all of us. So you heard about what happened and you know it got me to think more and more about this topic of near-death experiences how to react to them etc of course people you know you you’ve been around people get sick earlier in life than expected. I think that we can learn a lot from these experiences. What are some of the takeaways from those kinds of patient experiences that you’ve witnessed or maybe that are common themes?
Colleen: You’re right I mean whether it’s a near-death experience similar to what you’ve had or you know a terminal illness a diagnosis where all of a sudden there’s a pretty radical shift in paradigm of how you sort of view life. As much as you’re gonna hate me saying this is I love oftentimes when people come in following those experiences because they’re really experiencing a pretty profound shift in their consciousness and their reality I often hear the same quote I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard it which is following either a near-death experience or a very scary diagnosis is it’s the best and the worst thing that’s happened to me yeah because it’s…
Buck: Like an awakening right it’s an awakening. Because a lot of us particularly in the you know who are high achievers especially those who are grinding it out you know like say in the hospital 50 hours a week or whatever there’s very little time for self-reflection and listen I’m not even one of those guys who grinds it out necessarily but I find myself all of a sudden like noticing that I’ve gotten older right.
Colleen: And I think those experiences do is it’s a radical shift in the illusion that we have time and what I deal with whether it’s a terminal diagnosis or a near-death experience is what’s interesting is in therapy I’m sort of dealing with this concept of shifting your relationship to that illusion right to be more present right to be more fulfilled in a daily sort of existence and reality because what the human condition does is it creates this sort of reality of happiness as outside of this given moment it’s when I achieved this when I reach this goal when this happens which so robs us of the moment at hand and our quality of life. So whether it’s a near-death experience or what I always say to people is it’s rarely ever the issue after 20 years of practicing as a therapist people walk through my door with every issue Under the Sun right and it’s rarely ever about the issue it’s it’s always about our relationship to it and so what you experienced was a little taste of that was how you’re getting to life and how that can profoundly shift how then in fact you begin to move through life differently.
Buck: Two of the you know two of the main concerns you know I had in that ambulance ride one of them we don’t need to really talk about is really mostly financial and I think that’s a show in and of itself it’s how you how you make sure that you wrap things up and put a bow on them for any period of time you know and I was talking about insurance and things like that the other thing I think is an incredibly common theme I would think which is the disappointment that I didn’t you know really have enough fun right? Like the ultimately what it comes down to so there’s this and you could you could probably tell us that experiment you know the experiment with highly successful you know people as children and they get tested on delayed gratification and those who excel aid gratification tend to become higher achievers right? I mean you want it you and tell that do you know that story offhand?
Colleen: I’m familiar with what you’re talking about when you your experience was you’re in that ambulance ride and you’re thinking to yourself as an overachiever right why didn’t I buy like the car real time that would have provided me oh boy and I can’t tell you how frequently I see that in those experiences right which is and yes in a subset of the population that’s really good at you know working hard and putting her head down and deferring some gratification right and there you were realizing man I’m not so sure I should have done that right. And I think that’s what I see so much right is this this breaking down of today is all I have this moment is all I have and
you have to embody moving through the world in in that way and I think you’re referring to the marshmallow test?
Buck: That’s right. Can you remind us what that was?
Colleen: You know measuring this we do it in children and they easily I want to sort of as accurately as possible get it right you can look it up it’s hilarious okay. I think if kiddos alone in a room with a marshmallow sometimes alone sometimes with a friend possibly and they tell them to not eat the marshmallow and I can’t remember…
Buck: I think it basically it’s like if they don’t eat the marshmallow they get two marshmallows later right?
Colleen: And so you know variation and what people do you know I like to think it’s sort of a one slice of an examination but you know why in the heck don’t you just eat the marshmallow?
Buck: I think is sort of the metaphor here or the concept I think that the net result of that what I was getting at was that and again we’re talking about this esoteric test but the idea was what they what they measured was the kids who ultimately waited and for that you know delayed gratification you know fast forward 10 20 years were more successful financially then than the kids who did not express delayed gratification the ones who went straight for the marshmallow and so so I think the I think we’re a as a as a cohort of you know successful professionals particularly you know doctors engineers etc these sort of people who have been in school for a long time we’re all kind of we’re those different were those people who wanted the two marshmallows right and so we’ve been we’ve shown ourselves as success the real question in my mind goes back to the idea of those kids and saying okay well the the kids who waited for the extra marshmallows they were more successful. But who is more happy?
Colleen: Exactly! And what’s so interesting is that I’m treating the kids who waited for the two marshmallows and they’re coming in looking for so much of their life goals have been achieved whether its financial or professionally rate than they’re they’re lacking a huge component of just joy or meaning right or levity right and I think that that’s again you know what I see so much in people who had this paradigm shift through a life-changing event similar to what you have right so and it’s so important to examine that like I said because when I start to see is a lot of pretty intense levels of depression in this sort of midlife category what is really exciting is you know thirty years ago and you and I have talked about this it used to be an affair and a Corvette or a Porsche right and now it’s exciting to see people doing you know a little bit sort of more existential and consciousness-raising to find meaning in a different way. And I also want to go back to you sort of brushed by the first thing that you kept thinking about which was did you prepare your wife and your family for your ultimate demise and that’s also by and large the biggest thing I see is not so much the preparing but what I think you were thinking about buck was your relationship right and and people you love most and are they okay. And that is without question probably the biggest thing I see is meaning, right? What does my life mean is it what I have wanted to cultivate for myself and also how are my relationships, who do I need to forgive, who do I need to reach out to, who should I have gotten rid of a long time ago.
Buck: Yeah I think that almost you know it’s interesting to me is that like I think there’s there’s probably a difference in terms of the types of things you’d think about when you’re in an acute situation like where you’re literally in my situation it was not like you know chronic illness blah blah blah you know I have lots of time to think about this stuff but for me it was like more like okay you know my it this is funny but my I was talking to my brother, my brother is uh my brother’s like 51 and you know we were joking around about this afterwards I mean he was he thought I was you know something’s going on too and we were both worried and I told him on the phone I said you know yeah I really thought I was toast I mean I thought it was history and he was like yeah like and he goes it’s like Sanford and Son when the game but Mr. Sanford says oh this is the big one
Colleen: But you’re right. It’s funny because it’s true, right?
Buck: But the the bottom line is the issue is that like it was like okay I thought two hours you know I thought if I fell asleep I wouldn’t wake up like if I felt like if I let myself go I wouldn’t wake up so in that moment very much I was like my my thing was gosh alright the finances alright I’m thinking about my kids and family but very practical standpoint what did I do where were they gonna be and so that’s probably different from necessarily if you had somebody said you have you know you get a year or something like that.
Colleen: Yesterday I had a patient who has a diagnosis that’s dramatically affecting his cognition right with no cure and no real treatment and so what he wants to be doing right now is conveying thoughts to his wife and his two sons and his three granddaughters everything that he feels because while he’s young in his body and healthy it’s clear that he’s gonna be compromised going forward and so he’s doing this sort of systematic evaluation of conveying everything that he wants to and he has more time right. You didn’t feel like you had that time in an ambulance so I think you’re right it just it depends on where you are or how dire it feels but the real question is how do you and maybe you’re gonna get to this is how do you embody that without a near-death experience right or a terrifying diagnosis.
Buck: Yeah and I think that is so a couple things even when I when I told you about this one of your questions for me was well you know how do you feel now? And this was you know we I think we talked like it was like two weeks after it happened and I told you the first few days I was like super you know I don’t know I felt enlightened you know like it felt like everything was everything was better everything was just you know gratitude for everything. But then I think probably because of the acute nature of the whole thing my brain just went back into the same old thing and then you know I was convinced it was any good you know that I was gonna grab one of those cars and I came home and I’m like I don’t know about that you know the tax implications and all the stuff came back immediately and sadly in my case I think I kind of just regressed back and so you know part of it is trying to understand how do you bring that out in yourself to you know because I know like I said before in the intro the advantage I had is something that very few people get which is to stress test your own imminent demise right like if that happens and you truly believe it’s happening then you will getting in tremendous clarity on your situation how you make that happen without without the drama.
Colleen: If only we could bottle what you felt. You were more present in that ambulance albeit terrifying sort of rides in the hospital and that is in fact I mean you know what we’re all striving for right it’s consciousness-raising right across the planet individually and you had it for a second. And even though it sort of has quickly you know left you I would argue that you still had a taste of it which is extremely valuable and look enlightenment takes practice right so what I what I tell people is everyone wants to sort of come into therapy and feel better right feeling better requires a practice and a dedication right and feeling better generally comes from being more embodied right anxiety is caused by chronically living in the future right what if this happens what if I don’t do this what if I you know this happens and depression is often sort of living in the past right is why did things not go as planned why did I do that which again of the current moments in that ambulance right you had a very sort of clear moment of being in the present and the work is to get back to that as much as you possibly can and that’s a practice right so you can’t sort of say I want to be really good at tennis and then not practice tennis right you can’t say I want to be more mindful right or more enlightened or more conscious and then not practice it. And so I think you have to sort of commit yourself to achieving what you felt in that ambulance ride because you’re as you know your neural pathways are well-formed and so we’re trying to create new ones for you but it’s been easier for you to just go back to the familiar ones.
Buck: Yeah and you know there’s two things obviously one is you could practice by you know trying to recreate that situation, I don’t know how you do that but I mean I think it’s probably at least from a financial perspective it’s a good exercise to put yourself in that situation and see you know have you prepared everybody are you satisfied if you know if today was your last day that’s a it’s a very wise thing to do because I think when you look at all of these you know things that just happen and you know I interviewed a guy a couple times even the last month I had him on or month or two and he died suddenly you know Tyler Jenks and then you look at these mass shootings that are happening and things happen right and so there’s an illusion I think for all of us otherwise we would go crazy that that today or tomorrow is not the last day. And eventually it will be the last day and so you have to make that kind of thing. Now from the long-term perspective psychologically I’m guessing and I know that it’s for a fact though you’re big the advocate of meditation and which I have to admit I am a huge advocate for but it has been just terrifically difficult for me to figure out when to do it at this point talk about the benefits talk about you know it’s the worst you know it’s just completely ironic when you say you know what I’d love to meditate but I just don’t have the time.
Colleen: How I like to think of it is that meditation is just sir sighs to prepare and reinforce the practice of being mindful. Does that make sense? And all all being mindful means is being in your body and in the present moment which is the single most life-changing thing any of us can do to increase a sense of well-being consciousness and quality of life.
Buck: So explain how that works I mean you’re not I think what you’re saying you’re differentiating from saying okay listen and it doesn’t have to be a you know a type of meditation but you know it may be you know impractical purpose how do you practice that is that like you know multiple times a day you just you try to just stop for a moment and think hey I’m here and I see this and this is this book is green and I touch this book and this is how it feels in this food tastes the way it does I mean how do you do that?
Colleen: Just listening to you I love it Buck because it’s so cerebral. The work is always to get sort of in your body and so they explain how what I always say is is meditation is just sort of teaching you how to get out of your head and into your body. And then you know when you sit in the lotus position and say ohm’s right but then the work is to not get out of that 50 minute yoga class and go be totally unconscious through the rest of your life it’s to remember how it was like you were in that ambulance like you were possibly in the yoga class of being in your body so I’ve been practicing this with people for so long but I don’t really meditate anymore but what I do do is encourage people to be vigilant about their breaths right because like while I’m talking to you buck I’m vigilant about being in my body and paying attention to my breath and that in turn grounds me into the present moment and doesn’t let me spin off into did I do that what do I have to do what if that doesn’t happen what if my you know kiddo this that does that make sense? For someone like you I hear it so often it’s so hard it’s so hard to meditate I’m like you’re you’re attempting to do it in perhaps the wrong way what I say is it should feel good it should feel like you have less to do right. It’s just a process of slowing down and becoming embodied which all ties into this concept that we’re talking about kind of living in the present moment like there’s not a tomorrow right and that radically shifts like I said one’s well-being and quality of life.
Buck: You talk about like how it feels to be present and stuff and I know what you’re talking about and you tell me if if this is kind of what the way you think of it too but I always think about like when I was a kid right I wasn’t really thinking about you know when I was like 10 years old or 12 years old or 11 or whatever I wasn’t thinking about you know where I was gonna invest or how I was gonna defer to I was I was just thinking about playing right who’s who’s gonna play and who’s you know who wants who’s up for a game of you know of hockey and then while you’re playing that game to be just engrossed in that game nothing else really matters and that is a that’s a feeling that is very difficult to I think for some people as they get older and they become professionals and they you know they’re in this other world now to recreate I get it when I watch football games now I get that when I’m watching like football games and I can’t fast-forward it if it’s live I get it I get that kind of sensation
Colleen: Because what’s going on for you when you’re watching that football game and yoe’re so engrossed.
Buck: I’m in the moment because I can’t fast forward. And I need to know what’s happening next and it’s all a drama or my eyes I can’t like and I’m living it right at that minute.
Colleen: Can you think of one minute in your life or when you most consistently feel that kind of feeling right a lot of times it’s a physical activity yeah because people can’t afford to be sort of living in the past or in the future they’re right in the moment and they you know we live in California right oh it’s when I’m surfing right oh it’s you know when I’m on a run on the cliffs or a hike whatever that looks like and it’s because you’re so radically in that moment and I want to be clear because people you know come back with well how can you always live in the moment I mean you have to plan for your future and I realize you’re you know your podcast listeners are are doers and achievers but you can plan and goal set so long as you’re conscious right and we get disconnected and live in our heads and ignore our bodies right and so you can be really grounded while your goal setting or achieving if that makes sense right it’s not that that goes away it’s just shifting how you move through the world which is as I said I mean where where there’s the biggest hope press shift in well-being and what people who have near-death experiences or a terminal illness have a really sort of intense dose of that shift consciously.
Buck: Right. What do you what would you say I mean a aside from you know these relationships and delayed gratitude like what are some of the other takeaways just so that you know people can maybe start to think about the things that you know maybe they’re not thinking about right now but what are some of the other themes that come up with people who are in this situation or who have certain chronic illness or something like that?
Colleen: So obviously health is one of the biggest right want to hear about so much is this you know human body we were given I didn’t either appreciate it I hear a lot about not appreciating it right and valuing it I hear a lot about mistreating it right you know treat it as well as I should have appreciate it as well as I should have. I also want to encourage people that you know your body is the biggest informant about your well-being right so dis-ease right that that word comes from you know your body being imbalanced so to pay attention to what it’s saying if you have back pain if there’s tension in your shoulders if you have chronic headaches I mean these are oftentimes things that bring people into my office and the work is to try to figure out you know what the psychological underpinnings of those are that are causing that. So health is a huge one meaning right you know there’s been a lot of research on it’s people are looking for happiness that ultimately what sort of people report brings them the greatest quality of life is finding meaning and so that’s what I see a lot and these high paid midlife individuals is okay I kind of did everything for parent approval or cultural approval but now I’m finding myself sort of examining what I want life to look like and where I’m gonna find value and meaning relationships are a huge one. Are they healthy having said everything you want to say are there things you need to clear up are there things you need to initiate. And worry I think worry is you know I see people walk in after these events just saying like I cannot believe the hours I have spent worrying about either what I did or what’s gonna happen because it’s such a waste of time. Those are probably some of the some of the biggest.
Buck: Yeah absolutely well so I am quite sure that there are people out there who are listening to sing cash some of the things I would talk to somebody about but I have no idea where to turn you know if there’s somebody out there is a professional who’s used to people like me and obviously you’re one of them so if they want to get in touch with you how would they do that?
Colleen: So I have a website, www.drcolleencrowley.com and I think all my contacts on there. And you know I just encouraged everybody enlightenment or consciousness-raising is a really personal process yeah I hesitate even telling people how to get mindful cuz I think it’s really individual just get curious about it right sort of pick up a book look at a podcast listen to a meditation app and just sort of see how you can sort of begin to wake up to this process. The single biggest thing you can do is just keep getting in your body right. Check in with your breath. And there’s a lot of professionals out there as well that can help you.
Buck: Not as good as you though.
Colleen: You’re just biased coz we’re friends.
Buck: okay well listen we’re gonna put the website it’ll be in the show notes obviously and please I think you know there’s a lot of people out there I know who struggle with these issues we just you know it’s it’s not a sickness it’s like a guidance right at some point or another you know it’s good to have something to talk to you so Colleen would be a fantastic person to check out.
Colleen: Hey Buck before we wrap up, I’m going to ask you, what are you going to do to try to cultivate the feeling you had in the ambulance and integrate it more in your daily life?
Buck: Well it’s a good question because like I said there’s a there’s a few things that I’ve sort of one is that I’m having trouble kind of getting back to you know trying trying to bring the urgency back but um there’s a couple things that are going on I think one is like I am a little bit paranoid right now about like any little things that are going on and I’m like I gotta eat better and you know I do this I mean even though none of what happened to me was related to you know an actual real health problem it was a reaction right but so now like and then like I’m a little paranoid whenever I feel like a little twinge II or something like that I’m like what is that yeah so so I’m a little paranoid hopefully that’ll go away. But then the other thing is though I mean for me I have been thinking a lot about you know there is something lacking for me in terms of that you know I used to be a surgeon right so I am a surgeon and one of the times when I used to get that feeling of being present was when I was operating. So I you know when I’d operate you know you can’t really be anywhere else and I enjoyed it and I was there in the minute it was almost sort of like I was I hate to make it seem like this but it was like a video game or something right I mean I was doing in time would fly by and then I would finish when I’d finish like a case and even you know back in residency it would be like seven or eight or nine hours or whatever and doing in this case it would fly by and then at the end you’d get the sense of completion and satisfaction. And in what I do now as much as I love the you know process of picking things apart and looking at them analytically there is not a start and finish and I think that that creates a void for me of feeling like that sense of accomplishment you know I don’t know if that makes any sense?
Colleen: A hundred percent. There’s a clear beginning and end in surgery, right?
Buck: And then I did something that was very clear for that day right it was very clear for that day it had a beginning and ending it was a problem I fixed the problem right yeah and I don’t want to practice because of a lot of other baggage that goes along with being a surgeon but to find something to replace that void is probably something that I need to that I’d like to do it and I just haven’t figured out what that is yet.
Colleen: Yeah and to really start pushing you on this. The fantasy is that you begin to move through life like you’re always in surgery right yeah of being that radically present all the time that’s the challenge right because again you’re sort of looking for an activity to allow you to be present do you see as opposed to like oh wait I’m present right now.
Buck: Yeah and I think I think the activity though is that is a tool to sharpen that and I think because what it is but I think it’s very you know like for some people who are meditating and they can get into that state I think the state for me if I’m doing something like that it continues you know it has a lasting thing.
Colleen: Yeah and I think you have this sort of challenge of sort of cultivating that in the absence of is a good thing to strive for.
Buck: Yeah and you know like with sports and stuff I was a big athlete and that I mean that’s something else too but the I’ve also got ulcers like orthopedic you know like my back is it you know psychic constant challenge you know.
Colleen: You know what you should do Buck is you should just watch football games 24/7.
Buck: You know what I’ve been doing that it is totally random but I have it seems to do something for me it’s like I I’ve suddenly started reading books about like old athletes that I used to or you know of sports or whatever that I used to watch when I was a kid and it totally gets me absorbed.
Colleen: Alright well I’m going to keep checking in on you.
Buck: Yeah you know I mean listen at the end of the day luckily this for us is you know these are first world problems and but they are problems we have and
Colleen: Yeah and I would say that cultivating consciousness is a global thing right so know we’re lucky to negotiate and wrestle with enlightenment and not you know if we’re gonna have food on our table right I think there’s a collective effect when we can all sort of raise our self awareness so yeah and stay out of trouble at the YMCA.
Buck: I will. We’ll be right back.