Leave a review to help other dads find the show and become better men and fathers: Leave Review
Today’s guest is Justin Ehrlich
We go deep talking about:
- Daoism, and the fundamental question of how are we going to die at peace
- Traumas and experiences that we haven’t fully integrated
- Social versus traumatic programming
- Finding contentment from knowing our purpose and embodying it
- Why it’s important to have a list of 2-3 physical exercises to get you out of trigger mode
- Reflecting on our past to see how it’s manifesting in your lives today in order to heal our traumas
- The gift of forgiving yourself everyday
- Finding meaning and forgiveness in life
- Freedom from the fear of losing yourself or the fear of judgement from others
- Recognizing your anger and learning to move that energy physically to change it
- Understanding what we need and learning to express it before we get to an angry outburst
Justin is a life and health coach that helps people cultivate and integrate their physical, emotional, and spiritual lives. He’s a longtime practitioner of classical Chinese medicine and student of Daoism. Having always believed the mystical practices of the ancients were relevant in the modern world, he’s devoted his life to sharing just how practical they can be. His mission is to help people heal their physical, emotional, and spiritual lives with practical methods drawn from both the ancients and modern-research. He lives in San Diego but works with people all over the world.
Find Justin online at:
Curt Storring 0:00
Welcome to the Dad.Work podcast. My name is Curt Storring, your host and the founder of Dad.Work. Today is episode 49 with Justin Ehrlich, how to die in peace, Eastern wisdom for fathers. We go deep today talking about Taoism and the fundamental question of how are we going to die at peace, traumas and experiences that we haven't fully integrated social versus traumatic programming, finding contentment from knowing our purpose and embodying it? Why it's important to have a list of two to three physical exercises to get you out of trigger mode, reflecting on your past, to see how it's manifesting your life today in order to heal your trauma, the gift of forgiving yourself every day, finding meaning and forgiveness in life, freedom from the fear of losing yourself or the fear of judgment from others, recognizing your anger and learning to move that energy physically to change it, and understanding what we need and learning to express it before we get to an angry outburst. Justin is a life and health coach that helps people cultivate and integrate their physical, emotional and spiritual lives. He's a longtime practitioner of classical Chinese medicine and a student of Taoism, having always believed that mystical practices of the ancients were relevant in the modern world. He's devoted his life to sharing just how practical they can be. His mission is to help people heal their physical, emotional and spiritual lives, with practical methods drawn from both the ancient and modern research. He lives in San Diego but works with people from all over the world. I was very excited to have Justin on. And he shared some things in this episode that clicked with me big time. And I know we don't hear a lot about Taoism, Eastern philosophy, Chinese medicine, you might not have heard them ever. And if you have, you probably have no idea other than in passing, that the fact that they exist. And what Justin has been able to do in this episode for us and for you, is to bring these things down to earth in a way that aren't extremely practical, that answer a lot of questions. Without getting too deeply into the weeds of the spiritual side of things, and giving you the opportunity to go deeper in the spiritual side of things, if you wish to Justin inspired me in this conversation to work closer with him. I have worked with him in the past, and I have learned meditation techniques from him. And after this episode, I asked what other options are where to work together. And I am exploring, and I have begun working with him in a men's group capacity so that I can get some more of my needs met, but also so I can learn some of the wisdom that he has this is how impactful it was. I am part of a number of groups and masterminds and calls and all that kind of thing, so that I can continue to do my work so that I can keep having either breakthroughs or insights or wisdoms that I can share with you here and Justin's a big part of that. And I want to thank him for the groundedness the calming energy he brings, and just for the amount of work he has done on himself, and also to share with the men listening here and the men he works with. I'm just extremely grateful and felt a lot of synergy and resonance in this interview. And I hope that you will feel the same way. Before we get into it. If you have been enjoying this podcast. And there are things that are resonating with you things that have stirred in you questions you are starting to ask yourself. And if you're wondering how to go deeper with those thoughts, how to use the work we talked about in this podcast and your own daily life with specific feedback and examples. And if you're tired of being a lone wolf, if you're tired of doing this alone, if you feel unsupported in many areas of your life, I can invite you to join us in our next men's group for dads. We're launching in February, another group to continue doing this work together deeply within a safe held container with other men, for you will be saved, to be seen, heard, supported and even challenged, so that you can get direct feedback so that you have a container in which you can be held. A lot of us men are the rock, we hold space for other people. But where do we go to be held? Once we have held space for our kids, our wives, our co workers or employees, whoever you're holding space for, there's often not enough energy left to hold the space for you when big things happen. Or even when you're simply trying to process trauma, grief, anger, whatever it is in your life, men's group is a way that you can get that energy unstuck moved, and there is some power, almost call it a sacred power of sitting in group with other men, the brotherhood that develops the ability to become more authentically yourself to let go of past wounds, traumas, programming, from your family, your society, your culture. I use men's group personally to keep me on the right track towards the Northstar of the man that I know I want to become. Every week I step into circle I know I'm going to be either cold out or cold up to be that man that I want to be for myself, but also for my wife and kids. So this keeps me grounded, it keeps me level in our men's groups. For dads we introduce mindfulness practices that you can take home meditations, breathing exercises, we go through prompts and processes to to go deeper into your psyche in places that you might not have gone before, to an earth and unleash and share things that you might not have shared before that move your life forward, that make you a better man, partner. And Father, we also have room to share openly with whatever is real for you. bringing that to the group with no shame, with no judgments is something that very few men have today. And I want to invite you to join us in our next group. If this sounds interesting to you, you'll know there's no big pitch, there's an investment, there's a commitment, it's only for the men who are actually ready to show up week in and week out and do their work amongst other men. If you feel resistance to this, if you feel something in your gut that's telling you this might be right for you have a look. And see if this works for you by checking out the website dad dot work slash men's group. That's dad.work/mensgroup. By checking out the website, dad.work/group. That's dad.work/GROUP, you can check out all the information there. And you can fill out the application form on the page, we are going to be starting in February, there are a couple of time slots available to you. All you need to do is apply by next Friday, January 28 2020. To go to dad.work/group. Otherwise, please keep enjoying the podcast, we will be introducing more offerings to go deeper if the men's group commitment is not one you can make. We will be outlining workshops, summits, eight week intensives to go extremely deep in a short amount of time, there will be a lot more coming from me and Dad.Work as I continue to step into this place of being able to support the men in our community, the dads in our community so that they can go back and support their families. And through that we are going to change the world. One life at a time, one father at a time, one family at a time. This is going to change the world. With all that being said, I want to thank Justin again for coming on this podcast. And man I hope you get a lot out of this. Here's episode number 49 How to die in peace, Eastern wisdom for father's with Justin Ehrlich.
Okay, I am here then with Justin Ehrlich, who I have had the pleasure of working with in the past. And I'm extremely excited to have you on because the wisdom and the practices and the traditions that you bring are outside of our western norm, and in my experience, bring extreme value. And so I want to first of all, welcome you. And second of all, ask you to give us an overview that sort of very grounded in benefit for the men listening because we're going to be talking about integrative Chinese medicine, likely Taoism and the things that you do, and that I have learned from you along the way. But I want guys to be like, what's in it for me, because that's how we all think without going oh, this is woowoo because I love with this stuff like it's it's so it's sort of a degrading way to say it, but I totally love it. And I want you to sort of quasi finish speaking on woowoo Ed and get into sort of a grounded way to say that men can actually go like, okay, now I want to listen, what does this guy have to say? Because man, it is so powerful.
Justin Ehrlich 8:32
Thank you for having me. I'm very glad to be here, obviously. And yeah, very glad to try to unblu some of the more esoteric sides of things. And you know more than saying it's integrative Chinese medicine is really a branch of Taoism or a site of Dallas medicine or Taoist philosophy is where all of this is grounded in and to frame it in such a way to make it very grounded. The basic tenant, as I understand, and I reserve the right to be wrong, because I'm a human and still growing. But the basic tenet of Taoism is like, how are we going to die at peace, you know, if we're going to tie it into sort of the stoic view of Memento Mori and remember, you die, right? And death is coming for all of us. It is inevitable for ourselves for the people that we love. And we all want to be able to let go of that last exhale peacefully when we can't. The reason we can't is there are demons, memories, traumas, experiences that we have not yet fully integrated. And we are facing them at our deathbed. We are facing our regrets. We are facing our errors or mistakes, our judgments, basically, and we're hunted by them. That becomes our purgatory. That becomes our difficult transition between this realm. And the next realm and whatever realms you want to label that as whether you are Christian, whether you're Jewish, whether you're a Muslim, whether you're a Taoist or Buddhist, every world religion has some concept of this realm and they another realm. And it is that transition that we are concerned about. We all want to die at peace and go to heaven, to put in the Judeo Christian language, right? And Taoism is concerned with how do you get there. And that's a very practical thing, because fundamentally, our journey is preparing us for death. We are born we die. Everything we do from birth, to death is to prepare us to make that transition. And one of the areas without, you know, much mental extrapolation that we know we get hung up and is in the role of parenting. It is so easy to have regrets that haunt you when you're caring for a young child. And it is so easy to carry our judgments of our parents and their failings. There, their misfortunes, their mistakes, into how we parent, and hence we carry that to our death as well. And so a big part of the journey in Taoism is trying to heal that, whether that be the language that I use would be like social programming, unraveling the ways that we were raised in the society that we were raised in, or the time period that we were raised in, and especially the traumatic programming the traumatic events that continue to haunt us. And those events and those facets of our our upbringing, or our programming influence how we parent influence how we react to our children, how we react to situations that they're in, they become our triggers. And if we can spend the time reflecting and getting to know ourselves, not only can we be a better parent, we can be a better partner, we can be a better friend, we can be a better friend to ourselves, because we're more in touch with ourselves. And fundamentally, all of that combined leads to us dying more peacefully, to be like, maybe I don't want to die right now. But if I am dying, I can die saying, I was Justin, I would have liked to have had one more cup of coffee, but at least I'm good with how I conducted myself in this lifetime. And I think that's where a lot of the morality of religions points towards is that process basically. And so I take it out of the context of the religion because I don't, I'm not an ordained Dallas priest. I don't follow it as a religion, but it is a philosophy of life, which then permeates how I practice medicine as a reflection of that journey. That disease is a reflection of that journey, and where we get stuck sometimes. Wow.
Curt Storring 13:04
Okay, so, so many things coming up. Yeah, no, thank you. That was we're so grounded, like my feet are firmly entrenched in the ground. Now. Thank you so much for doing that. And I, I have questions about the specific daily things, because I am assuming then. And this is a very broad assumption, but it feels like the sort of central tenant here is contentment in a sense, is is that something that makes sense in the sort of day to day when you can become content? Or is there something that has to work with contentment, to provide value in the day to day life on this journey to death?
Justin Ehrlich 13:42
Well, I think, you know, the images, I would understand it, it's like, we're all here for a purpose. And much of our life is spent trying to discover that purpose. And true contentment comes from knowing what that is and living that out. So again, like I can die at peace, knowing that I was Justin, but I can't do that unless I know who Justin is supposed to be. Right. And I've actually acted upon that I have conducted myself in the moral standards that apply to me personally, I don't need to match your moral standards, I don't need to match society's moral standards, I need to understand what my moral standards are and conduct myself in a way that I am at peace with that. And how is very individualistic in that sense?
Curt Storring 14:30
How do you find your purpose then? Right?
Justin Ehrlich 14:35
Which is the question and that is the the journey and it's good to know that purpose who we are is also not a static singular thing. Who I was in my teenage years and who I was in my 20s or in my 30s or in my 40s is different. What I value what is important to me to be at peace with myself is different. I Could not conduct myself as I did in high school or in college, and be at peace now. But that doesn't mean I wasn't at peace then. And there is this constant evolution, constant change. As we age and we accumulate life experiences, we do a certain degree of reflection, and we discover more layers of ourselves. Some of that discovery is unraveling of social programming of traumatic programming. Some of that discovery is the what comes out when those things are unraveled. The more of the truth of who I am. And so the way that I approach this, working with clients or with myself, is through questioning through introspection, which is a big part of Taoism, a big part of any sort of psycho therapeutic process is, what is going on? And why is that significant to me? What am I triggered by? And why does that trigger me? What is the story? What is the residue, social programming traumatic program that is attached to this thing that I'm seeing? It's causing me to react to it? My child is crying in the grocery store, I am getting triggered, why am I getting triggered right now? Is it that I am late for something and if I'm late for it, there's the story of what it means to be late? Is it that people are looking at me and I feel like I'm being judged? And there's a story attached to the idea of being judged by somebody else? The the questions that I use are the what and the why the what is just the signpost, the why is the introspective journey that we need to go through to understand ourselves? And as we can answer that, why? Because I can understand why I react to something, then I can try to understand is that coming from social programming, is that coming from traumatic programming? Or is that just part of my intrinsic nature, it's not just doing that work to, to heal trauma or to deprogram ourselves, or whatever language we, we want to use to describe it. It's also part of self discovery. It's like, oh, no, this is the type of person that I want to be. That's why it's important. And in that comes freedom, we can make choices. And now we can focus on the why, rather than just trying to control the What the What is the external, why is the internal and that's again, part of that Dallas paradigm of yin and yang, internal, external, we can't control the external, a child is going to cry, rain is going to fall from the sky, the weather will change, what we can do is interact with the internal in relationship to that external, and use it as a sounding board for self discovery, and hopefully, arriving at some sort of peace so that we are more grounded for our families, for our friends and for ourselves.
Curt Storring 18:03
I really love where you're taking this, and I just want to listen to your talk for the next hour to be honest, because I try to get this exact message out. And I didn't even know necessarily where it came from. I have done some reading of Zen, some Buddhist reading, like a little bit of reading of Eastern philosophy. And this is one of the things that sticks with me most is to ask questions. And this is so topically relevant to me, because over the last week I have this will actually be coming out probably six to eight weeks from now. But when we're recording, I have just made a post put a podcast out on being triggered. And I love being triggered, perhaps not in the immediate moment. But in the immediate aftermath. I go like yes, because I now have a roadmap to my internal world that I can use to go in and heal or as you say, self discover who I truly am. And so I love these moments of being triggered and most people don't they react rather than respond. And so is there maybe a container that you recommend people do this work in? Or is there a practice or two that people can start to use to actually do this, rather than simply respond? And I think we probably want to break this up into mindful practices to be able to notice before the reaction happens, and also reflective practices. So I'm just going to ask if anything comes up there for you.
Justin Ehrlich 19:26
Absolutely, there's a there's a ton of things we can do. And if I if I step it back a little bit there sort of the the observe observing process, and then there's the doing the work process. And the first part is really for all of us to begin to intellectually, just begin to understand that we do have triggers, we will react but that is okay to step out of judgment with the fact that we are carrying baggage and the language that I use for this process, which is, I would argue is quite important is that we need a certain degree of inner honesty, we need to be able to call ourselves out and be like, I've just got triggered. And we need to be able to be vulnerable about that we need to not judge that part of ourselves. If we think we have to be perfect if we buy into the idea that we're perfect, and we don't have triggers, growth is impossible. And so before you begin trying to learn a meditative practice, or in introspective practice, you need to be able to get real with yourself and realize we're all human. We have baggage. And that was him would argue that's actually the whole point of being here is the baggage, because the baggage, and the more esoteric side of Taoism is why you came back for another lifetime, you didn't resolve the baggage in the previous life, you're here to try and get better at that skill, you want to go back and revisit the lesson. So once we can admit to ourselves that we do have triggers, we want to be able to not really expect ourselves to catch it in the moment, it's to really be able to work with it afterwards. So having a list of two or three, I often recommend physical exercises, going for a run going for a walk, going to the gym, going for a bike ride, that is just our reset, we need some sort of practice to get us out of trigger mode, and into back into frontal brain back into higher brain function out of lower brain function. And so the practice is really just doing the reset, being able to recognize we're triggered and have some basic practice, it doesn't have to be anything esoteric, it's just get back into neutral. Once we're in neutral, we need to begin to do some degree of mental work. And this would be in Western psychology, mapping out what happened writing it down, I love mind mapping as a tool. And I'm happy to include, send you over up some instructions on that, that you can include with this, for your reader to mind mapping is something I use with all of my clients, I use it myself as well. And it's a really powerful tool to begin unraveling the deeper layers of your subconscious, at least in the way that I use it mind mapping can be used for a ton of things. But specifically in relationship to triggers, it can be very, very helpful for unraveling some or some of the deeper subconscious. Then once you've mapped out what the trigger is, then you can begin to figure out why is that a trigger? What is the residue that's there? And how can I reengage with my day to day life, and have that now on my radar to look out for it in advance rather than being caught off guard by it. Because really what I a trigger is being in a position where something happens that we're not prepared for work, we're caught off guard by it with the situation we don't know how to navigate and not the store, my child is crying, people are watching. I don't know what to do, I'm triggered because I don't know what to do. If you knew what to do, if you knew a way to handle it, it wouldn't trigger you in the same way there is this space of being in between.
We feel like I can't do this, I can't do that. But I need this to stop, I need this to change. And we're we're being pulled in all these directions. And we're that's the fight flight freeze Vaughn space. And so we come up with a plan. And then we can met separately from that we can have a meditative practice to begin to observe our body, we can have regular practices to help reset the nervous system. Like meditation exercise, I believe we talked about this when we worked together a long time ago of sort of the overlap between exercise and meditation that when we are triggered, there is just this strong energetic charge in the body, this strong or large neurological reaction that's occurring. And we need to burn off some of that energy. So that's why going for a walk or run is so helpful when we're triggered trying to sit down to meditate is is really difficult. And if you're a very seasoned meditator, it's often possible to do that. But it's not always the easiest approach. And so I often encourage people go exercise and then meditate afterwards, after you've burnt off some of the physical energy, the mind will settle and then you can sit down and do meditative work introspective work much more easily. It's often much more rich, in terms of what it gives you. And as we do that, we begin to then see more of ourselves see more of our triggers. And we're able to then come up with plans for how to navigate the day to day life in a better way. And sometimes what we discover is we have some residue from social programming or traumatic programming and we need to go do some work on it. Other times, it's like, oh, I just wasn't prepared. That's, you know, the the never ending journey of parenting is that you're going to always be caught off guard. And not every time that you're caught off guard and triggered is that that happens, does it mean you have some deep unresolved trauma, sometimes it just like you weren't prepared for it, you just need to come up with a better plan and move on with your life. But either way, in that short moment, there is a trigger. And so you go and you figure out what it meant. And you figure out how to navigate going to the park more smoothly, or taking a trip more smoothly or doing whatever more smoothly, it's not like you don't need a lot of deep work around every trigger that comes up.
Curt Storring 25:36
Yes. And I'm glad you said that, because this is a spot that I think a lot of people in the space, at least on Instagram, I mean, you see people on Instagram, and maybe that's not reality. But I do see a lot of people who are just consistently stuck in, in trauma. And I want to sort of give the background that I strongly believe that most of what is wrong in the world has at least some relation to unresolved trauma to immature masculinity. And I think there's a lot of growth work and maturity and initiation that especially men need to go through. And so I am very pro finding these traumas, especially in men's lives, because it's part of this emotional journey, I believe. And you have to live your life as well. So my whole challenge in this Dad.Work project is how do we address the underlying issues and get men to do this introspective work while realizing that, at least for me, I find spirit, I find source in being grounded every day, like in noticing what I am doing every single day and finding that and a lot of it has to do with simply differentiating between trigger Oh, no, I gotta go do work for like, the next year, and I'm not going to do anything real and in my life is gonna pass me by simply because I need to so called heal. And I think part of the healing journey is learning to differentiate and then move forward with your life in the ship, if you will. And can you talk about that distinction a little bit more? Is there a time to do this trauma work? What does that look like? And like? How do we how do we know here when we've done the steps trigger reset mapping out? Why planning? Like how can we tell? And what are the other things we can do after that.
Justin Ehrlich 27:19
So in in the sort of online world, there's this portrayal that we're looking for some sort of big aha enlightenment moment. And in my experience, that's a very rare thing. It's not what 99.99999% of the population will experience. It's not realistic to look for. It's not my understanding, it's certainly not my experience. So what we are trying to look for with this journey is the idea of growth, the way that a tree grows, the way that a mountain evolves, it's slow, tedious, it's ongoing, and it's natural tree is not growing, because it's broken. A tree is just growing. And life, from childhood to adulthood to death, is growth, it's evolution. And so looking for trauma constantly is also not healthy. But recognizing that we do contain triggers that we do have trauma, and we do contain reactivity is also being honest with yourself. I don't know a single person that doesn't have some degree of social programming. Because we grew up in society, we have some degree of attachment, damage, trauma is inevitable. And so we need to do the work but also not be too focused on it. And if we use the Christian model of the cross, right, you have a vertical line and a horizontal line, and that represents a great image. But the idea of crosses is not unique to Christianity, but it's most familiar to people through Christianity and the cross. But that image exists in Asia, outside of Christianity, and the vertical line represents the present moment, the dissension from heaven, the top of the line to Earth, the bottom of the line, and it has an intersection with the horizontal line, which represents the past and the future. And where the magic occurs is at that intersection, where the past and the present, the past and the future, sorry, are meeting with that present moment. And that is where healing occurs. That is where the divine descends into the human experience, and where enlightenment moments can occur. When we connect some vision of the future that we are projecting out that we need to achieve, or we are carrying some facet of the past as a burden, where we can bring those together into the present moment and see it in our living moment as you're interacting with your child as you're interacting with them. Your spouse as you are interacting with your job, then you have an enlightenment moment. And that's what healing trauma is. It's in Dallas language. It's called alchemy, it's turning poison of a negative projection of pressure, I have to achieve this, I have to achieve that. Or a memory that haunts us something from the past. When we can disregard that and see it in our living moment. That's how we heal trauma. We don't heal trauma by going back and reliving the past. We reflect upon the past to see how it's manifesting today. It's not meant to be this trauma work where we're constantly diving into Mommy did this daddy did this bully on this playground did this. The teacher did that? Yes, those things happen. Yes, they were traumatic. They're also not happening right now. The past is the past, even the cup of coffee that I had an hour ago is gone. I can't relive that cup of coffee, which might be traumatic in and of its own.
But, you know, like, I don't want to make light of trauma, in the sense like it did happen. But it's also not happening right now. What's happening right now is the residue of the past that we're carrying forward. And letting go of that, sometimes it's very challenging. But if we can see that, it's that we can begin the process of healing, because we're living in the present moment. And in Taoism, it's all about that present moment, because that's where that vertical line from Heaven descend. And that's the whole idea in in mindfulness practices is how to be in the present moment. That's the Zen adage of chop wood carry water, be mindful of the present moment, in that you will discover something miraculous, right in those little things. And it's work. You know, it is a practice, it is this process of slowing down of not getting into our stories. And just like meditation, you sit on the cushion, the mind wanders, you come back to the breath, you come back to the body, you come back to the cushion, you're going through your day, you will drift off. So you just come back, and the practices in the coming back. It's the studies with meditation. And we probably talked about this years ago, as well. But like, you think, okay, I sit down to meditate. And for some reason, I'm an advanced meditator, and I can maintain my focus for 30 minutes, or an hour or two hours, or 10 days of blissful meditation, and we think that's advanced, you go to sit down, and in those 30 minutes, your mind wanders once every minute. And so you get 30 times of returning back to focus, I stayed in focus for 30 minutes, your brain will develop more than by the returning is the magic, not the staying. And so it's the same in our life, we get triggered, we fall out of flow state. When we're parenting, when we're navigating life, that's fine. What you want is to develop tools that bring you back to flow state, that bring you back to focus that bring you back to presence. Because if you have those tools, you will be able to adapt life and return to presence to to hold yourself to a standard that you won't ever go out of flow state. To hold yourself to a standard that you won't ever get triggered, is not realistic. It's holding yourself to an impossible standard. Everyone gets triggered. My Dallas teacher, on multiple occasions said he gives himself the gift of forgiving himself every day, hopefully the things that you have to forgive yourself for become less than less through the work that you do. But if you can forgive yourself every day for having gone out of flow state, you have a chance to grow and have a chance to go back into flow state. If you judge yourself for going out of flow state for going out of being the perfect dad, whatever that false images, then you stay in suffering, you stay in judgment. And so much of our journey is healing that sense of judgment. And that's where trauma comes in. That's where programming comes in. Society says I have to be this way trauma says I have to be this way. And that's why doing trauma work is useful because it helps us discover the judgment that we carry, and then hopefully resolve it.
Curt Storring 34:45
And in speaking of forgiveness there this was one of the things that took me the longest to understand to forgive myself to forgive my parents to forgive anyone I didn't even have. I felt as though I had no container in which to hold for giveness I had no framework to view forgiveness. And I hear this in a lot of the guys that I talked to, like, what does it mean to even forgive? Is it just to turn the other cheek? Is it to let it go? And you know, pretend it doesn't hurt anymore? Those clearly are not the actual answer here. But how do you think about forgiveness? Because this is very powerful when you get it? Yeah.
Justin Ehrlich 35:20
So in the tradition that I study, we use the term alchemy a lot. And alchemy represents the idea of turning poison into medicine, turning something that was toxic into something that was magical, turn mercury into gold. Right. That's the sort of the alchemist language for that. And, you know, when we when we reflect upon our experiences, we have an event that was traumatic. We have an event where we hold a grudge. Person A did this to me, it was wrong, it hurt me. Whatever it is, from the most tiny of things. They took my parking spot, to the most major things they physically accosted me they emotionally accosted me, they spiritually accosted me, whatever it is, they, you know, the, the priest destroyed my faith in God, that's a that's a huge betrayal. Right? You're you believe in the church, the priest betrays you, spiritual betrayal. You have an emotional intimacy with somebody, they betray you. That's an emotional betrayal. Somebody physically attacks you assault you, that's a physical betrayal. How do we turn something like that into something meaningful? How do we alchemize it. And that's really what forgiveness is about is that we reflect back on what it is to be ourselves to be Justin to be Curt, and to find meaning in the experiences that we've had, so that all of the experiences helped me to be me. And once I can take something that was painful, and use it to feel more empowered about being the person that I want to be on this life, in this life, so that I can die at peace. It is no longer traumatic. Because it has empowered me to be me. So speaking from, you know, personal experience, some of the bigger traumatic events of my life, I was married, got a divorce, I was with my ex wife for 12 and a half, almost 13 years, my divorce was hugely traumatic. But do I carry trauma from it today? No, no, it's turned into one of the most empowering, heart opening source connecting experiences of my life. The death of my stepfather hugely traumatic, also extremely heart opening, extremely empowering. Doesn't mean it wasn't traumatic at the time, doesn't mean I didn't grieve horribly and feel lost and dark and in pain at the time, but if you do the work, and you find meaning, in the suffering to quote, that famous saying, if you can find meaning in the suffering, suffering is no longer suffering. It's just hard work. And there's a big difference between hard work and trauma. Trauma is only happens when there's a belief that shouldn't be happening to me, this is just bad. There is no meaning to it, there is no good to it. And then again, in the Taoist paradigm of that yin yang paigey symbol that we think of the white part of the circle has a black.in it. The black part of the circle has a white.in it. There is no absolutism in Taoism chapter two of the doubt urging, ever seeing good and bad, you miss the Dow, the bad contains good, the good contains bad, there is no absolute yin and yang theory. I may not see the good of my trauma. But the trauma happened. And so I have a choice. Do I turn it into something good? Do I alchemize it into something useful? Or do I just stay with the fact that I just have trauma, either, whatever I want to label the trauma, I'm bad because of the trauma, somebody else's bad because of the trauma. I can't forgive. If I'm just blaming, but if I can alchemize I can forgive. And for me, that's what forgiveness is. It's letting go of the burden of blame, whether that blame be pointed outwards, or pointed inwards. And as men we often blame ourselves for our own failings, rather than necessarily blaming the other person. Or at least that's how I was raised. So that would be more of my natural pattern is to blame myself for failing rather than blaming the other person.
But humans Do it in both directions. And, you know, life is what it is. Bad things happen, good things happen. If we can find meaning in it, forgiveness occurs spontaneously, we don't have to force ourselves to say we need to let go of it, we don't have to turn the other cheek, we just see the experience in an entirely different way. There literally is nothing to forgive, because we have alchemize the poison into medicine.
Curt Storring 40:32
It makes me want to think of gratitude, rather than forgiveness.
Justin Ehrlich 40:36
Yeah. And with that, there comes in awakening understanding of self, which allows for a healthy establishment of boundaries that are not reactive boundaries, they're just sincere boundaries. So it's not about turning the other cheek so they can hit you on the other side. It's simply like, Okay, this is what happened, I found meaning in it. But I'm not okay for it to happen again. So you can establish a very healthy boundary with the person and forgive them at the same time. You don't have to emotionally bypass you don't have to spiritually bypass, you have owned your experience, you have held the container for yourself of this is who I am. This is what it means to be Justin. This is what it means to be Curt. And here are my boundaries based on that self knowledge.
Curt Storring 41:26
Man, this is extremely powerful. I am excited right now like I, I just want to tell you, this is a framework possibility for me to understand perhaps more of the scaffolding around these things that I have seen, taken learned assumed over the past eight or 10 years of my own journey. And I'm excited, I really love how you're explaining all this because it lands right in my soul. And so thank you, first of all, for doing this. And a couple of quick follow ups to that. I think we hear often this phrase, it's happening for you and not to you. And I think like to some, this seems exactly like what you're saying, if you can alchemize the the issue of the trauma from happening to you, and then give thanks that it actually happened for you. Because in our darkest spots and our wounds, if you will, that's usually where the seed of greatness is planted, at least in my you know, own experience, we have these amazing parts of ourselves, learning who we most deeply are comes from these things. And I also heard you say, more or less, and I say this a lot to the guys that I work with, it is not your fault, that the trauma or whatever happened, but it's completely your responsibility. And there is this balance of rejecting blame for the thing that happened so that you don't get into the shame spiral, and having to move forward and have your feet on the ground, which it sounds like all of this work is for you. Do you have anything that comes up to you just on that? Yeah,
Justin Ehrlich 42:57
absolutely. I mean, we, in following like sort of the Yin Yang theory we can, we can either be a victim to our life experiences, or we can rebel against our life experiences. So we can say that the world is wrong, we can be angry at the world, we can fight against the world, or we can be victim to the world. But that's you're stuck in polarity of good and bad. The answer is found in being like it sucks. And I'm in control. Right, I'm going to take back control. And the fear that of admitting that is that once you do admit that your happiness really is your own responsibility, right? There is nobody else to blame. If you if you take that pill, if you drink that Kool Aid, you're responsible for your journey. That's immensely empowering, but kind of scary also. Because it means if I'm struggling, I need to change something I can't blame the outside world I can not like the outside world, I can be frustrated with it. You know, we can't control the weather the the universe continues to evolve, irregardless of humans and has long before humans existed. So why would we think egoic Lee that we somehow have the power to control the ever changing presence of the universe? Why not just learn to flow with it? Which is again is kind of the essence of Taoism. Yeah.
Curt Storring 44:25
I love that. Thank
Justin Ehrlich 44:26
you. One of the things that I often look at, you know, if we look at social programming and traumatic programming, they become the false boundaries to our personal identity. This is who I am, this is who I have to be. And as we encounter life, we encounter situations that don't fit within that container of our identity. This is what it means to be a dad that is a social contract. Change the city, change the town, change the family change the country. That container changes the contract of what it means to be a father is different everywhere. And of course, there will be overlap. But it's, it's different. And so you get put in a situation that demands you to be different than that container you believe in, and you get triggered because you feel like you're not being a good dad. Because you're not meeting the definition that you're living by, again, grocery store, at the mall, at the park, at school, at football practice at baseball practice that martial arts practices, whatever it is that your kid does, there's a container a definition that you're trapped in. And so, and that happens to all of us, with our work with our relationships with other people within society as a whole. And the opportunity when we're triggered, is not to not be triggered, but to see like, well, if I, if I leave this container, and I go be a dad over here, that's not part of this container, can I still be the dad that I want to be. And if you can do that, if you can discover what it means to be yourself here, then the container of fatherhood just expands. And then it expands some more. And what comes with that is freedom. Because now you don't fear losing yourself. You don't fear judgment, you don't fear, social projection or trauma in more and more directions. That's the opportunity that a trigger presents. And the more you can do that, the bigger container of presence you can hold for your kid. Because if you can't be a dad over here, if you can only be a dad in this tiny little corner of social construct, what happens when your child ventures out of that construct, you limit your capacity to be a father by your own construct. And so then the child feels unloved, feels abandoned, feels judged, feels traumatized, which is the trauma that you experienced as a child when you went outside the container of your parents. And so our work is to not build firmer and firmer boundaries, but to expand our capacity to be who we want to be outside of these imagined boundaries. Right? Because if you can feel free to be yourself, anywhere, and always show up for your child, no matter what and feel at peace with that, you will get triggered less,
Curt Storring 47:37
you know, you don't get triggered less, you will also have a smoother path to to peace as you approach death. Okay, thank you for sharing all that I would love to get into some practices, some very sort of, in the moment practices, perhaps, particularly around anger, because for a lot of the dads who follow me, we have a Facebook group with 1000s of men, and literally half of them tell me their biggest struggle is anger, temper patience. And I think that there is so much value in what you just shared this stepping off point for men listening, they are likely to find something in what you just shared, that will work for them on their path to become less reactive and less triggered unless angry. But are there sort of specific practices that you work with men on to handle anger in the moment when triggered, so that they don't yell or throw a fit? Because this for me was my biggest issue as a father is I was just get angry because I was out of control. And I was always triggered. I didn't know what to do, as you said, and it took me a lot of work to find ways to deal with us. So how do you approach anger in this sort of realm.
Justin Ehrlich 48:48
So anger, in off step into the realm of Chinese medicine for a second. Each of the emotions in Chinese medicine is a vector of movement, an energetic movement, up down in out, anger is an up and out movement, it moves to the muscles of the body, it moves to the sing using the language of Chinese medicine to help us move. It helps us to physically establish boundaries, to force something to change, I get angry, you're in my way I push you out of my way. I get angry, I close the door. I do something physical with my body because the energy of anger is very physical. If it doesn't get expressed physically, it goes up into our head, we get hypertension, we get a headache. We get bloodshot eyes, we stroke out in severe cases. And so learning to recognize that we get angry and then learning to move that energy physically to be like, Okay, I'm angry because I need the world to be different right now. And that charge of anger that is coming up is just my natural, healthy response to want to change something, it's not about the anger, the need to change something. And judgment are two different things you don't like as men, we tend to pull away from our anger because we judge that we shouldn't get angry. But anger and needing a change in a situation are very intimately related. And sometimes what we label as anger is really just that we need something to be different than what it is. And if we can allow for that, to reframe it, so that we are not judging ourselves for being angry, we're, instead we're learning to speak to ourselves that we just need the situation to be different, we can remove some of the hesitation in expressing ourselves. When we don't express ourselves, we need the situation to be different. But we feel like saying, Hey, could you turn down the TV would be bad, the nervous system continues to get more and more charged. And then it bursts through as an angry outburst. And so our responsibility is to learn to understand what it is that we need, and learn to express it before we reach that boiling over point. And if we have hesitation to say what we need, then we want to do the healing work of Brown, why shouldn't I tell my wife, my partner, my child, that I need something? What's wrong with that. And when we feel that urge, when we feel that trigger? To honor that, we just need to move our body, we need to dissipate some of that physical energy because that is where anger goes. And so we go for a walk, we go do some push ups, we go do some squats, we go do something physical, to dissipate some of the energy so that the pressure cooker doesn't explode. And that really like it just needs to be let off. And then we need to reflect upon like what just happened and what do we need to keep it from happening again. And you know, Life is stressful, having kids in house is stressful, and it's not going to go away. So we need that to be a regular practice every day, a few days a week, because it will build up otherwise, it will just death by 1000 cuts, there will be a little trigger and a little trigger and a little trigger. And maybe not any one big one. But that steam needs to be let off, we need to go move our body we need to go laugh, we need to go out of parenting mode sometimes. And into friendship mode, we need to switch the brain out of those spaces on a regular basis, like a meditation practice. And one of the ways to work with anger is to work with the opposing side of it, which would be joy would be gratitude. And so having a regular practice that brings you into that state, whether that be meditative, whether that be with family, whether that be with friends, whether that be through hobby, are all different ways that you can control anger indirectly. So you don't struggle with it as much, because you literally let the steam off by laughing. By smiling by feeling free. Anger is just a form of constraint, stress tension with what's happening. And anytime I have a practice that takes me into flow, I reduce that, that tension, that friction.
Curt Storring 53:34
Right, that's fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing that I love that. This is all long term, as you say on this path, if we stop seeing each moment as being make or break. And if we see it as on this continuum, I've done a death meditation before where you visualize yourself on this train that you cannot get off of that you see the end result, this ending, if you will, and you have to get okay with sitting on that train. And I think what that does in this situation is realize that you may develop some of these practices, you may do some of these practices for weeks or months, and they may not get better right away. And if you keep doing them, they'll almost certainly get better if you're being honest with yourself. And this is what I experienced too. I took forever to stop and I almost gave up so many times. And there was this little glimmer of hope that was remaining in me. And that's part of why I do this podcast in the first case is to give that hope to men who feel like they can't find it themselves. Because it's a long ball game. And if you just keep it up, there's great results.
Justin Ehrlich 54:38
Absolutely. And you're not meant to do it alone. We are so great. Thank you for being having having a community of other men of other people you can talk to an open up with and be vulnerable with about how it shows up in yourself is helpful, but it's also therapeutic because we all end up carrying around a certain amount of shame over our struggle. And so being able to be vulnerable about the parts that are hard with another person is also stepping into confronting your shame, which when you do that makes it easier than when you go back home and have it come up, because you've already faced it. So then you can be more honest with yourself. And so it's this intertwined web of healing. It's not any one thing. But the sum of the parts equates to something bigger, you know, and life doesn't end. So the journey doesn't end with somehow we think, like, we'll get it and it will end but like, life doesn't. Yeah. And so like, why would the process of learning why would it end? It's also why in Taoism in general, we don't tend to believe in this big enlightenment moment. Because there's no way to predict what will happen tomorrow. So how could you know, you won't react to what happens tomorrow? How could you be enlightened, to the point that you're nonreactive to anything, when you can't predict what's going to happen tomorrow?
Curt Storring 56:03
Right. Excellent point. I love that.
Justin Ehrlich 56:05
Right. And so like, be compassionate with yourself that you think you've got it figured out. And tomorrow, your kid will do something that throws you a curveball, and you react, and you're like, fit. I thought I was better.
Curt Storring 56:19
Yeah, you had happened to me, like within the last month, I have not had a big outbreak like that or out outrage like that. And suddenly something happened. And I was right back in it. And it's like, okay, well, I can see this. Now. I don't hate myself for like I used to. And I could not have seen this coming. And so that is such an excellent way to relieve the burden of infection.
Justin Ehrlich 56:39
And what we tend to do is to think, because it happened, again, we think we're not better, but we are better. And it happened again. Yes, both are happening. I'm human, I'm still being human. And I'm also being a better human. It's not that I've regressed. It's not that all this work that you've done, didn't work. It's that life will throw you curveballs to help you keep growing. And children are this an esoteric way, children are a representation of limitless possibilities. And our unresolved social programming or traumatic programming become the first walls that we put around them, telling them how they need to behave, how they need to be, which limits their possibilities. And when they counter those walls, it triggers us because they're going outside of the boundaries that we establish, for whatever reason, we establish those boundaries. And it triggers us and so children are, by nature, limitless in their possibilities, and they invite us to move back towards limitless possibilities.
Curt Storring 57:47
And I love that. This is amazing, man, I'm so pumped up for all of this conversation. And I want to make sure that we know that you, if I'm not mistaken, have men's groups. Do you still do that? Yes,
Justin Ehrlich 57:59
yeah, I do men's groups, and I do one on one, work with men as well.
Curt Storring 58:02
Right? Amazing. Because when you said doing it alone is not the way to go. It's like I just had one of my men's groups last night. And the amount of emotion and growth and just expression that happened in that meeting was phenomenal. And I get that multiple times a week. And I know you do. I've talked to men who are in your men's groups, and they're just like, this is where this is where it is, man. So I'm glad that you do that.
Justin Ehrlich 58:26
Thank you. Thank you glad you do as well. It's it's needed. Like we're so full. We're meant to have some help in this journey. We're not meant to do it alone. Yeah,
Curt Storring 58:34
I have like a million more questions for you. And I know we don't have more time. I would love to talk eventually about sort of fatherhood in Taoism, parenting in Taoism, if there is like a principle or principles. So, you know, maybe we'll have to schedule around to some time if you're up for it. But this, like I said, has been very nourishing to me in a way that I did not expect. And I want to just extend my gratitude to you for showing up and for being prepared and for sharing knowledgeably, and with so much sort of grounded wisdom. So thank you for sharing this with us.
Justin Ehrlich 59:08
Thank you for having me. It's always my pleasure to be here and glad to come back anytime Curt, you know, it's a great topic. And you know, how we show up for ourselves and how we show up for kids? Is it literally like that is the future of society. So if it touches Close To My Heart on many levels,
Curt Storring 59:25
yeah, yeah. And where can people find more of you if they want to work with you? Or if they're local to you? What exactly do you do if you can just give us a quick rundown and then where can people find you?
Justin Ehrlich 59:36
My website is just my full name justinehrlich.com best place to track me down. I have an Instagram page as well with loads of sort of reflective content to kind of stimulate some thought and reflection. But my websites the best place to reach out with me and I work with people all over online, so not limited to local, local, I just is limited for acupuncture. Honestly, I can't do acupuncture on somebody in Vancouver, because I'm in San Diego but most of my clients for coaching and the sort of philosophical, personal growth work are outside of this community. It's all online. So
Curt Storring 1:00:13
amazing. Okay, no limit. I am personally going to look into working together with you and I encourage all the men who were inspired by this conversation to do so. And that's it with Justin Ehrlich. Thank you so much, man. Appreciate this.
Justin Ehrlich 1:00:26
Thanks so much Curt.
Curt Storring 1:00:34
That's it for this episode. Thank you so much for listening. It means the world to find out more about everything that we talked about in the episode today, including Show Notes resources and links to subscribe leave a review work with us go to dad.work/pod. That's DAD.WORK/POD. type that into your browser just like a normal URL, dad.work/pod. To find everything there you need to become a better man, a better partner and a better father. Thanks again for listening, and we'll see you next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
Leave A Review – The Highest Impact, Lowest Cost Way of Supporting the Show
Are you enjoying this podcast? Do you want to say thanks, and help more fathers find this episode? Please leave a review for the Dad.Work podcast on Apple Podcasts.
Ping me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @dadwork.curt and send me a link to your review and I’ll give you a shout-out on the podcast!
More Resources for Dads
Free 14-Day Email Series
Join our free 14-day Better Man, Better Dad email series to learn the most impactful tools, tips, practices, and wisdom I have learned on my journey to becoming a more conscious father:
Join a men’s group for fathers and be seen, heard, supported, and challenged by a group of fathers who have your back unconditionally:
1:1 Coaching and Support
Want someone in your corner to support you, challenge you, and hold you accountable as you navigate your own healing and growth journey as a father? Using transformational coaching and breathwork, we will discover, heal, and integrate the things you need to work through in order to become the man, partner, and father you need to be.