Michelle is a former commercial counsel for PayPal who is now involved in the cryptocurrency world and helps companies with many different issues in the early growth stage.
She explains how she first got into mindfulness. She says that originally she didn't know what mindfulness was and thought it wasn't that cool. After quitting PayPal she started to look inward. She didn't know what mindfulness was but she did know how to practice self-love and self-care. She used to be really busy all the time when working. Once she quit she loved having the time to practice self-love and a more simple lifestyle compared to the working life.
She would learn from people around her. Her friends served as the teachers instead of trying to find a formal teacher.
She went on a retreat once to a center called Sunburst in Lompoc, California near Santa Barbara. The center was run by the organization of Sivananda.
How do you practice mindfulness?
She lets her mind wander. She doesn't really have any formal practice. She essentially drops thoughts of future and past and hangs out in the current moment.
So you don't have a formal sitting practice where you reserve a set time each day and focus on the breath or another object of meditation?
She usually spends about 5-10 minutes in the morning before doing anything and just lets her mind wander. She practices free association meditation which is a different technique which most people associate with mindfulness where you focus on an object of meditation.
Do you teach mindfulness as well?
Michelle describes the backstory of how she got into sharing mindfulness. She wanted to start a company called Artificial Soul which is a way of automating therapeutic counseling. She applied to Singularity University. Michelle wanted to help people make better decision by having a non-judgemental robot voice that could guide people.
She says that she got distracted by only working on the robot angle of spreading mindfulness. She also needed to spread this stuff to other human beings. That's how she first got into sharing mindfulness on Facebook live sessions with her friends. She started weekly sessions covering everything from beliefs, relationships, and inner child work. She said only the brave people among her friends would do this work.
Michelle says that mindfulness is an inner work. It's not only positive. A lot of people in the mindfulness world only see the positive side. They are stuck in duality. Its necessary to go beyond duality and recognize that the bad leads to the good and vice versa.
What is your most used technique when leading people to access their inner child in a safe way?
Michelle uses dialogue and also vision boards to help people do this. She would have people work with visualization and using the symbolism and metaphors of those visualizations to help people to see deeper into their subconscious patterns.
For Michelle, her visualizations would include lots of scenes of nature so her vision board was full of camping and nature.
How does your mindfulness or meditation practice contribute to your ability to create?
In order to create it's important to be original and not care about what people will think. To create you have to own your actions. To create means that you are no longer a victim. You are responsible for the things you are putting out into the world.
Michelle says that when she is creating she seems to find people who will help. An important part of creating is collaboration with other people. They just find her and they are often weird but it works out.
She says that faith helps her because she believes that what is best for the world will happen of its own accord. Everything will happen exactly as it needs to and creation just kind of happens.
What is something you recently created or that was created as a byproduct of your faith?
Michelle explains who she gave up a high paying job and a lot of stock options so that she could be free to create.
She created Robotics for Good. She was rejected by Singularity university after pitching them, Artificial Soul. Shortly after this she was at a conference and started talking with an astronaut about getting rejected. He told her about some investors who wanted to invest in consciousness and then she met the investors. She lost touch with them for a year after this.
During this year Michelle started working with the Loving AI project. They are building robots that help humans become more loving. At some point, the investor mentioned above responds to an email thread saying that they invested in the Loving AI project as well. It seemed synchronous and Michelle finds that synchronicities are a divine gift that must be received with open arms.
What is the Loving AI project?
Michelle explains how the loving AI project just made it through level 1 of the X-prize competition. They teamed up with Hanson Robotics which built an actual robot named Sofia. They are trying to build a robot that learns how to love people better than humans can. They have started trials with human beings testing these robots.
One person who underwent this test says that he found transcendence from talking with Sofia.
This interaction reminds Stewart about the novels by Philip K. Dick and the virtual therapists that Philip created in his fictional universes.
Do you think that robots can serve as more effective therapists than human beings can? Do you think a robot can love us better than a human can?
Yes because there is no judgment. She saw this directly with Sofia. She says that AI can support humans 24/7 days a week which in-person teachers or therapists can't compete with. It just makes sense that robots will love us better than we can do ourselves.
What is Hack Temple and what is your involvement with them?
It is a church in San Francisco that was turned into an incubator. Michelle says she is a mentor for the entrepreneurs from all over the world, helping them with legal issues. Negotiations and contract law. This brings Stewart to a topic he really wants to discuss further.
How do you bring mindfulness into negotiations?
She says that as an attorney she has always been really calm and present. Even though lawyers generally get upset and angry, she is known for remaining calm when others are crazy. She says that mindfulness also gives her the ability to see into people's true intentions and know what they are looking for which is a very important skill in negotiation.
Is anger ever an effective tool in negotiations?
Michelle says that she can appear angry on the outside, but would be equanimous on the inside. She is used to lawyers around her yelling and screaming. There are a lot of time pressures and people are stressed. She says that mindfulness helps her to stay calm and collected. This doesn't mean that she doesn't question or be assertive.
Stewart mentions that this constant returning to presence and equanimity can help in situations that are supercharged and particularly when other people involved are not present. He notices that when he is in these situations, his ability to return to the present moment influences those around him to also remain calm and collected. Stewart asks Michelle whether she notices the same thing.
She says that she always has had the gift to read people really well. She notices that now she can tell beforehand what someone's intentions are and this helps her to filter the people who are really clear about their intentions and can be clear with those around her.
This leads her to explain how she is now prioritizing working with people who are conscious and present. She mentions that she quit her job so that she could prioritize being real all the time as opposed to only on her time off.
What does it feel like in your body when you are in environments that prevent you from being real or being your true self?
She says that a lot of people in the corporate environment are after really superficial stuff. Most people are playing games of status like a bigger paycheck, status, or other external validators of success. People do a lot of subtle put-downs or devaluations of human existence.
Michelle brings up the idea that unity itself is truth and at all of this stuff is bullshit and violence. The reality is that we are made of the same stuff and that this stuff detracts away from the realization of this.
She gives a definition that mindfulness is letting your true self-shine. She makes it clear that if someone tells you something about yourself that you don't find true, it's your responsibility to realize that it is representative of the other person's issues. Michelle says that due to her mindfulness practice these games that people play don't really affect her and she can stay true to herself most of the time.
She mentions the book "The Games People Play".
As a lawyer, you must have run into many people who could be diagnosed as sociopaths, psychopaths, or narcissists. What are the main tells or triggers that help you identify at the moment whether you are dealing with someone like this? What attitudes or techniques do you use to protect yourself in these situations?
Michelle says that she can detect people like this really easily and she usually stays away from them because its impossible to win when dealing with such people. She says that Wikipedia page for narcissistic personality disorder says that there are 14 defining characteristics of these people and there is also a book called "The Sociopath Next Door" that talks about what qualifies someone as a sociopath or a psychopath.
The main thing that lets you tell whether someone is a sociopath is that they play the victim. If they continuously try to get your sympathy, you should be careful about dealing with such a person. They try to get into your heart which is counter-intuitive. They want to gain access to your feelings. They are highly trained to be liars. This is particularly affecting in relationships.
Stewart mentions that they always try to make the situation confusing.
Michelle says that this is called gaslighting which is the process of making the situation confusing for anyone involved. Stewart says that they are excellent at making sure anything they say can never be taken as evidence of wrongdoing or being clear.
Michelle reiterates that the key is to just stay away. She talks about narcissistic supply and how they are trying to use those around them to keep their sense of self large. She says that they have been doing this since they were young and are way better trained than other people. It's important to stay away because you will never win. If you are in business with them, then take the loss and walk away.
She brings up the fact that it is not only something that men do and she has known women who also look for this narcissistic supply. There are lots of patterns that you can see beforehand if you look for them and are aware of them. She says it's not worth it to be involved with.
What is the thing you are working on right now that is most exciting or what type of advice do you have for the community?
Put people first. It's important to think about the community and your contribution to it. Be eager to learn. Don't try to control too much because you can't. Life will show you that it is out of your control. It's scary to hear, but when you lose control and things work, you become so grateful.
Stewart mentions that we don't really have control and never have, but we build up the delusion that we are. It's important when creating to realize this and to tap into the everchanging conditions of life.
How do you create when you can't control what you create?