How to Live With Inspiration – Keith Kurlander & Will Van Derveer – HPP 109
We’re so excited to announce the reboot of the Higher Practice Podcast! Over the past 9 months, we devoted a considerable amount of time to curriculum development and enhancing our programs in the Integrative Psychiatry Institute.
During that time one of the constant conversations we were in is how to stay inspired during the busyness of life. Upon reflection, it takes discipline, purpose, and healthy relationships and habits to remain in a state of inspiration during so much perspiration 🙂
Join us in a deep dialogue about the tools, hacks, and frameworks that lead to living an inspired life everyday.
Back with exciting updates – 00:10
We’ve been on a long hiatus from the podcast, it’s been nine months now since we’ve really been in the seat of interviews. And we’ve been really focused on the psychedelic-assisted therapy program that we just finished our first cohort that started almost a year ago.
Why we need to stay Inspired – 02:42
It’s such an important part of mental well-being and optimization and just quality of life to live a life that feels fulfilling and enjoyable and aligned with who we actually are deep inside.
The impact of having good nutrition – 05:52
I think it’s still underrated in terms of how much of an impact nutrition has on our cells, in our bodies and our brains, and this concept of inspiration. Some people are on to that and are clued in.
Get your body moving – 09:15
The yogis knew this a very long time ago, that the path, at least in most of the movement-based yoga systems, was to first cleanse the body through movement. You’re cleansing the nerve channels with diet and movement.
Self expression – 19:20
So, I also think, in addition to self-connection, for me, self-expression is the willingness to be seen, and willingness to create something that falls flat on its face. Other people, they don’t care, or they judge it, or they don’t like it. You know, there’s this kind of social component to it, for me.
Keith Kurlander, Dr. Will Van Derveer
Keith Kurlander 00:10
Thank you for joining us for the higher practice Podcast. I’m Keith Kurlander with Dr. Will Van Derveer, and this is the Podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health. Hey, everybody, welcome back to the higher practice podcast. We’ve been on a long hiatus from the podcast, that’s six to nine months now since we’ve really been in the seat of interviews and having good conversations on here. And we’ve been really focused on pretty exciting programs, psychedelic-assisted therapy programs that we are now ending our first cohort that started almost a year ago. So, it’s been quite a journey to really develop a program that we felt was really needed in space as we’re moving into this new frontier in psychotherapy, bringing psychedelic therapy more mainstream. So very exciting, anything going to add to that Will, before we kind of get into what we’re doing today?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 01:09
Just reflecting on what we’ve been doing the last, I’d say nine months has been a huge shift in our attention toward developing a substantial team to run a much bigger program than we’ve ever run before. And also, collaborating with MAPS to deliver MDMA-assisted therapy training inside of this training that we launched, so it’s taken a lot of attention for us to support our team to grow and develop their own leadership. And it’s kind of a new phase for us to be in an oversight position and kind of getting to a point where we empower our amazing team members to take more on and grow and lead in their own way.
Keith Kurlander 01:54
Yeah, and of course, our minds don’t stop churning about what we wanted to be talking about on the podcast. This whole time, we’re still having those conversations which kind of leads into what I think we’ve discussed. We wanted to talk about today, which is about inspiration and how to stay inspired in the busyness of life and being in the world. So the launching point here is inspiration and how to live an inspired day and get inspired life, that’s a big goal. But I think if we bring it down to just today, it’s a little more tangible and practical. That’s what you and I work on every day together, staying inspired and helping our team stay inspired, and students, and inspiration is a big part of the way we think, right?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 02:42
Absolutely. It’s such an important part of mental well-being and optimization and just quality of life to live a life that feels fulfilling and enjoyable and aligned with who we actually are, deep inside.
Keith Kurlander 02:57
Yeah, and it almost seems like, if we start with just this framework of mental health as just a kind of entry, right? Mental well-being, whatever that is, but if we start there, inspiration seems like it’s almost a result of mental well-being to bear with that.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 03:13
I think it’s sort of what I’m learning in the last few months is that it’s a result, but it also feels like there’s a responsibility. I’ve learned this a lot from my wife, Krista, there’s a responsibility to generate inspiration through determined committed practices. In my life, over the years, I’ve thought of result as something that just sort of automatically happens if through effort, but I’m learning a lot more about how practices and commitments and discipline and going to, for example, self-exploration and journaling or making commitments for my day and practicing those things every day. It’s like, it really does change what the quality of that day is for me. Yeah. I like that. It’s like a function, you have to sort of turn on inside the mental sphere because it doesn’t just turn on by itself. Sometimes it does, but it actually takes like tending to the garden. To get that function operating well, and really living in that space. So, why don’t we start with what’s the fuel that inspiration needs in order to come alive in a day, right, just on a normal day? And then how do we keep turning it back on through the day, and when it turns off because it will? How do you start with some ways that you turn inspiration on? Well, I’m going to start with the basic level for me, because it starts there in my experiences. I was working on trying to balance my blood sugar for a couple years through diet mainly because I’ve always been pretty active with cardio, riding a bike regularly. But I came to find out that what I was doing with my diet was the opposite of what I needed, and made a big change in January, started lifting weights, went back to a more of a paleo diet, and got out of keto, went back to paleo, and pretty soon noticed a huge shift in my physiology. And it just blew me away because the access to this inspirational experience was so much easier for me, there was less stress and anxiety, and my body sleeping better. So, on the physiologic level, like you were saying about tending the garden, it’s like creating the environment where inspiration is more available. And then, I’ll speak later about practices, but that for me was like a real turning point to find more access to the state of inspiration.
Keith Kurlander 05:52
Yeah, so the energy source that you put into your body, and then learning about what works for your own body, in terms of optimizing that energy. I think it’s still underrated, in terms of how much of an impact nutrition has on our cells, in our bodies and our brains, and this concept of inspiration. Some people are on to that and like are clued in. Like my wife has been clued into that, the day I met her, you know, when she was like 18, she was already clued into that. I wasn’t, when I was 18, I was still hitting McDonald’s pretty hard, and living off of it. And others like a bad thing if you’re still doing that out there in the world but I just didn’t realize the connection at all. You saw my episode of Sour Patch Kids wants. Every other day, nutrition is key. For me, in the last year, I moved my exercise routine to like 5:36am, that was big. I was never like a morning person, you know, so I always sort of struggled historically to get up in the morning. I would wake up in the morning like, oh, oh, every time I open my eyes. But now, ever since I’ve landed in this new routine of exercise in the morning, which I used to do in the afternoon, and I’ve increased my exercise, as you know, that has given me like, I don’t know how to put it into numbers but let’s say it’s like two to three times more likely having an inspired day than before, just by vigorous exercise very early, close to waking up.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 07:35
Keith Kurlander 07:36
So, tending to the body, and to the immune system and detoxification systems and tending to those. It’s amazing. We can’t separate this mental experience from the physical experience, they’re inseparable. They are in complete synergy.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 07:57
Yeah, absolutely. It’s like the Maslowian pyramid of self-actualization begins with chemistry, and molecules and physiology and cellular balance and signaling, that’s pro longevity and pro relaxation, pro balance. And these momentary events that stress us out, need to be momentary events that we come back down from quickly. Otherwise, speaking for myself, I’ve lived, you know, years of my life in the past, where I was mostly in a stress response for a lot of different reasons, but it feels amazing to see coming to a clearing around that, and a more balanced physiology. A big part of that for me, I think just in the past few years has been my marriage and a different level of health and my partnership attachment. Being with a person who is so committed to one of our vows is abundant repair. So, you know, whenever there’s a rupture, which is inevitable in any relationship, we’re just fully committed to complete and total repair. And we do that really well, so that’s really changed my physiology, for sure.
Keith Kurlander 09:15
Let’s expand out this whole piece of connection attachment, before we do that, when you were talking about this piece of chemistry, and kind of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, that it starts with chemistry in a certain way, you know what I was reminded of was when I was really studying yoga in my 20s, the Yoga Sutras. Like the yogi’s knew this, you know, a very long time ago, that the path, at least in more of the movement-based yoga system, the path was you first cleanse the body for a long time in yoga movement postures, you’re cleansing the nerve channels with diet and movement, and the whole first process toward which is, you know, considered more of a transcendent process over time was to start with the body. So that’s kind of I really like how you’re saying it starts with chemistry. And we’re trying to collapse the journey of the yogi into a day where it’s like you get to actually experience the inspired state in the same day. And so, it’s like, can you ascend into that inspired elevated state every day to some degree. And I think that’s what we’re talking about is it does start with the body. It does, right, we have to care for our body in order to gain access to sort of the riches of what’s possible.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 10:39
It’s just like any practice. I feel like my perspectives really shifted around. It’s about getting that muscle stronger every day, the muscle of inspiration through working it out, through recommitting to the practices that set that chemical foundation. And then go into my psychology and all the things that can derail me from being in an inspired state, fear, worry, disorganization in my day, not having things planned out.
Keith Kurlander 11:14
Yeah, I had a great teacher, a gestalt teacher, when I was back in grad school. He used to talk about the cycle needs of the infant a lot, such as food, touch and movement. And you have to keep resolving that cycle in a healthy way through touch and movement, over and over and over food, touch and movement, in order to give them the best opportunity to develop a healthy brain and a healthy being. So that doesn’t go away, right? So, we’ve talked about food and movement. I think I started talking about touch in a certain way, so I don’t think of touch just as sensory touch. I also think that touch is intimacy and connecting with another human being as we keep getting older. So let’s go into touch a little bit. Let’s go into intimacy and connection, you started going there. Maybe say a little more of what you were speaking to.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 12:13
Yeah, thanks. It’s fun to explore the ways that the physiology of the human system can respond to different interventions and try different things. Krista and I are big fans of Stan Tatkin’s work and we learn from him about the comings and goings, coming back into contact at the end of a work day, or one of us is coming back from a work trip or something like that. And that moment of reconnection is really rich. And so, one of the practices that Stan Tatkin recommends that we’ve used a lot is embracing each other, hugging each other until you can feel the physiology of the other person settling. It usually happens with a deep breath that happens spontaneously, after 15, 30, 60 seconds of a hug. It’s really incredible to feel that shift and physiology. So that’s one example. Another one I want to share quickly is that whenever we get into a snag, and we get into an argument or a disagreement, or we don’t see each other in a moment, we’ve experimented a lot with cutting out the verbal attempts to resolve that rupture. And what we will do instead is interesting and fun is one of us, whoever notices that the other one is dysregulated will point to the couch and say, let’s go over there. And one of us will literally lie down on top of the other one and feel the weight of the body and the care on the same team feeling, and just feel physiology, reregulate. And then we would talk and work through what happened and doing that first, rather than trying to talk through the activation in the amygdala feels way more efficient and more effective. So that’s a fun one.
Keith Kurlander 14:10
Nice. Yeah, my wife has definitely been the teacher for me. I mean, I’ve learned a lot from her in terms of how touching connection is foundational to inspiration and wellness, you know, I’m about ten and half years older than her. So I was 30, she had just turned 19 I think when we met, and I thought I was her teacher for the first day. It’s like a day that lasted even a day, you know, there was some interaction. And I thought she was being silly, and I got all my things and I was going to teach her about that. And then, you know, by the second day, we were walking somewhere, and she’s sharing something and I’m zoning out or whatever triggered and she’s like, I don’t feel seen. From then on, I was like, okay, now I have to see people better, or see people. So, she very quickly became probably the primary teacher around how to do connection in a healthier way, then, probably I had ever seen. So I think the connection is, I’m sure it goes both ways sometimes, but I think it’s just that she definitely had a more natural sense of how to do it. I don’t just mean with her primary relationship, but connection has been a major part of inspiration to our team, us, my wife, my child, my friends, my family, like just the more intimacy and connection I can rely on, it’s so much easier to go into inspiration. And in fact, when I got in a big snag with Emma, inspiration is like, where did it go? It’s gone. Right? As soon as I’m overwhelmed, and some snag in myself, it’s actually the opposite of inspiration.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 16:11
Keith Kurlander 16:12
It’s like, I can’t even be inspired as soon as I’m triggered with Emma. So, to me, it’s like a ground to come back to this open state of human connection, and love and trust and security. It seems like it’s another ground, another fuel for inspiration. And returning to that, like, if you want to get back into inspiration, you gotta get out of your argument, and somehow fix it, because you got to figure your way through it.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 16:39
Keith Kurlander 16:39
Or else you’re not getting back to inspiration. So, I try to remind myself that when we get in a big snag, and I’m like, Well, how long do we really want to feel this way for? Because inspiration feels a lot better, and connection feels a lot better.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 16:57
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it’s really painful to lose contact with inspiration and with the people we care about. And this reminds me of the other thing that I think is related to inspiration, that’s a big part of my relationship at home with Krista is supporting each other’s full self-expression. And it’s really hard for me, it has been, to give myself permission to express myself. I’ve got all kinds of excuses and reasons not to do that. And, you know, the whole mantle of being a physician and having a medical license and being afraid of reprisals for things that might say, it’s a journey for me, self-expression. But what I’m realizing is that inspiration is really connected to self-expression. I can’t fully feel inspired if I’m not really tackling self-expression.
Keith Kurlander 17:54
Yeah, I mean, I think the freedom to express is the inspired state, so key to be working through, you know, a lot of obviously trauma can bury our expression. Although there’s also the flip side of that, which one of my early yoga mentors said, Don’t repress but don’t over express. I think expression is probably the healthy medium. And they’re the middle ground of being able to be in a flow state and let out our creative selves, be authentic, I think that’s a very inspired state. And then I think the two sides of the coin, where we aren’t in that is probably a kind of suppressed state, where our traumas and whatever else causes us to do that, or an overexpressed state, right? It’s probably not even the term expressions, probably diving good there, but it’s a dissociative state, right? It’s like, we’re not connected to self, and it’s just like this outpouring of ourselves that we’re not connected to our heart. So I think expression is who we are, when we’re connected to self. And I think in an inspired state, we are able to express ourselves. And I think practicing expression moves us into inspiration. It’s what we’re talking about.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 19:20
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think my background, for those of you who haven’t heard us talk about yoga and meditation before it’s really more of a deep dive into Tibetan Buddhism. And I felt like, in my deepest years of practice there, I felt very connected to myself, but actually, there was massive amounts of censorship going on with others and it was painful. It was a gradual and, you know, kind of a long process. The headline is that meditation helped me get connected to myself, but meditation didn’t help me with self-suppression in terms of expressing publicly, like having a feeling of confidence or comfort, expressing my opinions or my needs, asking for things from other people. So, I also think, in addition to self-connection, for me, self-expression is the willingness to be seen, and willingness to create something that falls flat on its face. Other people, they don’t care, or they judge it, or they don’t like it. You know, there’s this kind of social component to it, for me.
Keith Kurlander 20:35
Yeah, I think that, you know, related to expression, living an inspired life, living an inspired day, it takes courage because what you’re expressing isn’t always going to be. Certain people will receive it as feeling hurt in some way versus feeling helped. It takes the courage to just know that being in yourself and expressive of what’s moving through you, that you can trust yourself enough that it’s what needs to happen, whatever that expression is, whether it’s words or whatever, maybe you’re giving a talk, and you say something that moves through you, and somebody doesn’t like it. So I think there’s sort of a fierce courage that I think is a very generative and inspiring moment. In a highly inspired moment, you get the kind of fruits of that, which is feeling that courage and that confidence.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 21:39
Right. Yeah, the willingness to show up for yourself and stand in that, whatever that is judgment, fear, crickets, nobody listening. I made a commitment to myself to just start practicing more of this. Kind of dabbled in social media but never really knew what I was doing or what the purpose was. And then I realized a couple of weeks ago, that this is like a huge opportunity for me to show up for myself, and just express what feels true to me and the moment, and let the chips fall, see. And so I started a Twitter account like 10 years ago and didn’t do anything in it. And as of May 1st, I just made a commitment to myself to tweet every day, and just get in there, and start doing it as a practice of self-expression. It’s interesting to see all the things that come up around that.
Keith Kurlander 22:37
That’s great. Well, why don’t you tell thousands of people listening right now your Twitter handle is practice. A lot of people watching you, what’s your handle?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 22:46
Funny to notice what comes up when you invite that. So it’s @willvanderveer. It’s just my name, Will Van Derveer. So yeah, you can go see me making bad art on Twitter.
Keith Kurlander 22:59
Right, @willvanderveer, expressing himself fully, right now. Go check his expression now. Cool. Yeah. I know we’re going to have about five more minutes here, so I want to hit the values a little bit. I just think if we’re going to be talking about inspiration, it’s really important to bring up values as part of the conversation.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 23:26
Keith Kurlander 23:28
Yeah, so for me, values are also a practice. So values being the things that I believe are most important to me as a human being to fulfill in my life, in a given day, since we’re talking about the day right now. And values, I think behaving in our values as a practice. I think that that’s not really talked about much in most spaces, that actually staying in our values, meaning behaving in our values, which is really staying in our values is a real practice. It’s very easy to do things that are important to other people and not ourselves. And I don’t mean compromise, I just mean actually abandoning self. It’s very easy to get kind of glazed over and not even know what’s important to ourselves in a given moment. It’s so easy to get into big addictive cycles, where we’re more behaving out of seeking a lot of pleasure and not really out of seeking a lot of meaning. So, I would say that a major part of the practice to get into inspired states is practicing behaving in our values.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 24:42
Absolutely. Yeah, and even just doing the work of discovering what’s most important to us, what our values are, is such an important kind of foundation. Right? When I first discovered that work, that was Demartini who we both studied with a lot, I really struggled with that because there was so much subordination or kind of living a life that I thought others needed me to be or wanted me to be. And so, it’s been a big leverage point for me and achieving inspiration and beginning to come out in the shell and self-express to do that work. It’s not easy to even know what your values are.
Keith Kurlander 25:25
Yeah, it’s not easy to know what values are or interjected values of others, that we picked up along the way of what we should be doing in the world. But some of us like myself, for me, the way I don’t know my values is more the opposite because I tended pretty early on the push against, I’m not going to do what anyone, a kind of middle of college I was like, or end of college, I said I was like, I’m making a commitment to like discover myself and my values. But there’s still other issues of like knowing values, because even if you’re like I’m not doing other people’s values, you still have to relax enough to find your own in that fight against getting out the interjects, and that kind of that wrestling of getting those out, and is this big, long process, I think for a lot of people to relax into who they are, then it’s a daily process is what you’re talking about. It’s a daily process of being in self, being in relation to others that we have collaborative and cooperative relationships with. And they have things that are important to them, and we value other people, then sometimes the value is to follow their needs, and not our own in that moment in some way. It’s a whole complex thing, and at the end of the day, I think it’s key to be able to get into inspired space is to feel like your day was basically about who you are, and what’s important to you. And that’s a radical thing to know that’s where self-worth comes from. Right?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 26:57
Keith Kurlander 27:06
I’m worthy because I have something to offer the world that’s inside of me, that’s important to me. It’s kind of like putting the oxygen mask on first.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 27:15
Keith Kurlander 27:16
Being connected to your own value system.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 27:19
Totally. And also converting that inner set of priorities into action, is what I hear you pointing toward too is like, I don’t know if it was Brene Brown, or someone who said that she wants self-worth to worthy behaviors, or something along those lines. Like you gain self-worth through action, not only by knowing who you are, or what, but actually living, creating a life, that’s a reflection of that inner world.
Keith Kurlander 27:51
Yeah, and I think that there’s this sort of delicate path of getting every day. And then for some more than others, depending on where you’re at right now in this moment in your life, like, it might be the road to a higher level of optimization feels far away. It feels like it’s a lot of confusing non values, based behavioral, mishmash, all day of feeling like addictive cycles, all kinds of problems and not inspired, and any on the spectrum to feeling like I’m totally inspired, I’m totally in control my behaviors right now, they’re totally pointed into meeting like that spectrum. We all fall somewhere on the spectrum at any given moment. I think just recognizing that that’s a human journey. It’s a spiritual journey.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 28:46
Keith Kurlander 28:46
And just recommitting to self and loving self in a moment to get back toward inspiration is I think the ultimate practice we could have.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 28:58
Absolutely, I mean, it’s like you start over every morning when you wake up, right? Whatever happened the day before, doesn’t count today. That’s how it feels to me, like I need to go do my practices, recommit. And I might fall short, but then I can recommit the next day and deepen day by day in that commitment, that discipline and that consistency is what supports the development of freedom, really, in my world. It’s ironic. I used to think freedom was like, Oh, I don’t have any rules, I don’t have to do anything today.
Keith Kurlander 29:34
Yeah. Well, as we wrap up, I’m reminded of our friend, remember Jeremy Geffen, of course.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 29:41
Yeah, of course.
Keith Kurlander 29:42
Our late friend, dear man. I’m just reminded of when I was in Colombia with him, I was having a horrible night. It was very challenging. He walked over to me. He said, the sun will always rise again, the day will be new, and it’s sooner than you think. So, the sun will rise again, and we have another opportunity for a whole day tomorrow to get inspired, and I think we end there, this inspiration to practice, daily practice.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 30:19
Keith Kurlander 30:20
Dr. Will Van Derveer 30:21
Keith Kurlander 30:29
We look forward to connecting with you again on the next episode of the higher practice Podcast, where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health.