From Wall Street to Awakening: How to Bridge Your Passions & Expertise to Change the World
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Hey everyone, it’s Julie here and I’m really excited to introduce today’s guest. Michael H Cohen is a health attorney living in California and he’s joining us today because I’ve been really inspired by his personal journey and how he’s bridged that with his professional world and I thought he’d be a really great example for us on how you can really live your passion and still be in life and life that can, for some of us, can seem like a lot of responsibility so welcome, thanks for joining us Michael.
Pleasure. Great to be here, Julie, thanks. Thanks for having me.
Yeah, I’m really excited. Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into health care law and how has that gone hand in hand with your own personal journey of spirituality and consciousness?
Sure, well I started out after law school and then I went to business school and then I worked for a judge, we did some other things and then I started out my career as a lawyer on Wall Street. So I a very mainstream, conventional corporate lawyer. I did securities law, I did banking law, I did high powered M&A deals. So I did all of that stuff and part of being a Wall Street lawyer is that I didn’t get any sleep. And so, one of the things that I did to help with that is I took a course in transcendental meditation (TM). And so I’d be having these 23 hour days and then with TM, you meditate … Yeah, brutal, I know. But the good news is they had a little room where it was dark and you could just go and rest. And so what I would do is I would do my 20 minutes of TM twice in 23 hours and I found that I would get really refreshed.
So that was really the beginning. It’s like I knew that there was something else that I could access that was really powerful.
What was, other than feeling refreshed, what was the experience?
We call it going inside. Where do you go when you go inside? It’s kind of funny.
So that’s basically what I was learning was to go inside and what I found was that the more that I did it … I mean, in TM, one of the ideas is that it produces a lot of happiness.
And so I found that indeed, I got to this quiet calm place where I wasn’t drafting documents and I wasn’t proofreading and I wasn’t micro analyzing the impact of a word or a letter on a deal and I was able to just be somewhere else and the more I did it the more I had experiences inside. So, like dreaming, you can have more and more lucid experiences and eventually that just expands into lots of other things like yoga and lots of things. I’ll get to that.
But soon then I became very interested in what else there was and consciousness and so I started to try to put that together with what it meant to be a lawyer.
And basically, the more I researched the more I realized there was this area that was developing that people were calling alternative medicine. So it’s not really medicine, it’s really about health and healing and wellness and being a total human being and I thought “What is that?” As a lawyer. Well that’s healthcare law so that’s how that started.
Wow. It kind of led you right to this apex of consciousness and law.
Yes. It was my own particular apex and one that fit in with the times because in medicine a lot of doctors are moving toward integrative medicine which is to integrate alternative complementary therapies like herbal medicine, even reiki to help cancer patients for example to help people feel better and support their immune function and so on so there was a huge parallel movement in medicine and then congress created an office of alternative medicine. So there actually became an official government US sanction to this whole body of work. And so my part was to develop legal rules that support a world in which we looked at much more than just conventional medicine. We looked at all aspects of healing a human being. You know there’s Bernie Siegel and Deepak Chopra and all these other docs and Dr Atkins and lots and lots of people that started creating this wave. Judith Orloff, you know, this wave of integrating body, mind, spirit. Herb Benson. Talking about the relaxation response and so there’s a whole world of docs that were getting involved. Then there’s the government, so then I brought in the legal piece to support that.
So what is the legal piece? What are the main issues that come up when dealing with this area of, body of work?
Well it turns out that there are lots of them and it depends on what your particular situation is so it can be everything from … Well let me just start by saying that really, the rules are the rules that apply to healthcare in general. So we talk about healing, we talk about complimentary, integrative care. We’re really bringing over the rules from regular law and moving them over to complimentary medicine. So that’s the basic premise so for example, a physician has a duty to talk to a patient about all the reasonable and feasible options that are available for care. So you just take that one, that’s called informed consent.
So that’s an obligation that is a legal and ethical obligation in healthcare law for a physician. So now what about, if there’s an herb, let’s say that someone is depressed and they don’t want to take the medication, let’s say they’re not severely, its mild to moderate, they might be able to take St John’s wort or another formula. So the idea is there that if you’re really going to look at it, this duty of telling a patient what the options are, why not include options that have evidence even if they don’t come from the conventional base but they’re kind of pushing the envelope a little bit, but there’s at least enough evidence that it makes sense to talk about them. So that’s how you can take the very mainstream, well accepted principal of law and bring it over into this other arena. So that would be just one from the doctor’s side, for example.
That’s beautiful, I mean imagine if that were true. I know my parents, they’ve been in a mainstream medical model their whole lives and then I’ll say “Well have you ever thought of this Chinese herb?” And they’re like “What?!”, it’s just not in their frame of reference so …
It’s like “Is that grown on Mars or where does it come from?”
Yeah but it’s so powerful and it can help whatever, it may or may not be the solution for someone but it’s definitely beautiful to have our legal system supporting us and getting all the information that we need so … cool.
Exactly yeah, that’s a powerful principal about information and disclosure and having real conversations so that people are empowered to make their own decisions and so that’s a lot of what I wrote about in the beginning was movement from a model that’s been very paternalistic which comes from the father archetype.
So it’s the father making the decisions which, you know, it’s okay when you’re little but as you get older and if your father is like Darth Vader, then you want to make your own decisions.
So, just a little Star Wars metaphor there just for fun but the idea is that people should be empowered and have full information to make their own decisions. And so we call that the value of autonomy so there’s this full body of literature and ethics. So after practicing, I became a professor and part of my work was to develop a body of scholarly work that could show how we could better balance, for example, paternalism and autonomy because they’re starting from two totally different ends of the spectrum. One is somebody else makes the decisions, the other is – oh my God, what if people make decisions but they don’t have good information?
So how do we get empowered autonomous people to make good decisions based on the best information in partnership with the care givers.
And that’s definitely a principal of most healing practitioners that come from a more holistic point of view is how do we support the patient or the client and not even calling them a patient but calling them a client to have that empowered ability to connect with what’s best for them so it’s beautiful that your work is bringing it into the mainstream and you’ve been bringing awareness to that.
Yeah, its 2014, its time.
Its time. So most people who are listening to this show are people who really want to have that experience of really marrying their passions with what they do in the world, how they making a living and so I really hear that you’ve been able to do that in a lot ways and so I’m wondering if you can share a little bit about that personal journey of really finding this path and if it was challenging, if it just kind of fell into place or what is it in you that allowed that to come to be?
Nerves of steel.
Superman, yes. Yeah, I mean I think you’ve got to find your inner Super hero basically. It seems very effortless right now, a lot of people from the outside go “Oh, this is so obvious.” and also the times are a little bit different. This is an age where people are much freer to be themselves in one way than even a couple of years ago just because we have internet and texting and avatars online and everything’s much more open.
Right, easier to find your people who really can get you just being who you are, we’re not stuck in local communities any more, we can just get online and find people who can resonate with us.
Exactly, I mean the fact that we’re having this conversation, it’s just amazing.
So that was impossible when there was like … Houston and all that stuff, back in the ancient era of the 20th century. But a lot of it for me was really I just took one step at a time. So there were many, many steps and I think TM was a big step for me just to go inside and then, of course I was very rational, analytical so I had to read all the literature so I was reading this book by a guy named Charles Tart called ‘Altered States of Consciousness’ so I’m working on this 100 page merger document and then I get home and I’m reading about altered states of consciousness, it kind of sounds a little science fiction-y but I was very active, I would read books like ‘How Do I Contact My Spirit Guide?’ So is this real? And so a series of adventures and I studied hypnotherapy and so I learned about trance work and how to go into trance and “Is everything a trance?”, my law firm is a trance, of sorts and really I was just so mainstream that I was completely passionate about my career and I had to stay within those parameters but at the same time I did a lot of personal exploration and so one of the things we have in common is Barbara Brennan’s school.
So I remember my first day in Barbara Brennan’s school, I went in there because this book literally fell into my hand.
A lot of people say that about her book.
Does it levitate?
It levitates, it literally falls into people’s hands, apparently.
I think it has wings and that’s just like … because when I think about it, it didn’t even fall, it sort of went up before it went back down. Kind of like …
It’s for you, it’s for you, it’s not for the floor.
It actually kind of made this arc, there might have even been a person in between but I might be elaborating a little bit, embellishing a story.
You wouldn’t do that.
No I wouldn’t, no. I was right there, the truth is, it did kind of make this arc. But the truth is, I stepped forward at the same time so it was right. But I looked at that book and I saw her … it was very well put together the way she made this bridge, it’s like say, in the medical world, people bridge body, mind and then you’ve got to go “Body, mind, spirit” and you go “What’s that?” You know? Speaking of spirit, a playful spirit is playing with my tape on my camera so if you only see the top of my head let me know because-
No, we got you. Just for everybody who’s listening while you get that figured out. The book is called ‘Hands of Light’ and her second book is called ‘Light Emerging’ so check that out too.
‘Hands of Light’ and ‘Light Emerging’ absolutely, yeah. So, like I say, this is a different age in a way. In a way it’s a more open age because, for example, therapeutic touch which the nurses do, that took a while to become more accepted but about two years ago I went to India to help teach nurses therapeutic touch. It was with a group of doctors and nurses. And it’s pretty obvious, and there’s literature, for one thing it calms people down when you put their hands above their body and you soothe and unruffle their field and okay well, all the science, maybe we don’t know quite what it is but it’s clear that that’s powerful so I met Barbara, I got the book, I went in the program and I remember my first day I think one of the deans said “How many people here see angels?” And I looked around and 90% of the people raised their hands.
That would have freaked me out from day one.
I thought “Oh my God, what am I doing in this room? Maybe I should run now”. And that was just the first hour.
I know. I had a first day too.
You had a first day, same reaction like “What is this?”?
I didn’t have that reaction but I remember there were many people that were like “This isn’t really for me” it’s like you really have to let go of those mental concepts that can keep you in a box and be open to something that’s way beyond the normal paradigm in that school. And so it’s challenging in that way, it’s challenging to the go to say “Okay, let’s just open and see what’s here.”
Yeah like what’s real? Not only what’s real for me but what’s my relationship with all of this and why am I going in this direction?
And they kept talking about being a healer and the first year I was a Wall Street my first year, probably in to my second and so I didn’t know what this whole identity meant, I didn’t know what it was like what am I going to do healing people? I’ve got a day job?
And it didn’t make any sense to me.
What I really love that you said that I want to call attention to for everyone is that how did you actually make this transition to where you’re bringing your passions and being who you are more fully into your work and what you’d said to me was you just took the next step. I love that, so many times we think we have it all figured out, that we have to have the plan and honestly we just need to take the next step.
Exactly. I mean, in my career, so I left the Wall Street firm and I became a professor and I as a was a law school faculty member I developed teaching in courses so I taught healthcare a lot and so that led me into all these areas like informed consent and licensing and how is herbal medicine regulated by the FDA and what about HIQA and privacy and how does this all come together, how does the law tell chiropractors what they can do versus what acupuncturists can do and what about people who don’t have a license that are doing different things was that a category so that gave me real platform to explore and at the same time I was in the school.
I remember one time actually I went to we had these circles, these healing circles which were I think just so people understand we should talk about, it’s not necessarily physical healing, healing is a very broad concept.
Right, well we’re going to take a short break so that’s a good thought to pause on. Let’s get into what that really is and how we can share that with our audience. We’ll just take a short break everybody. We’ll be back with Michael H Cohen, you can find out more about his law practice at cohenhealthcarelaw.com.
All right, welcome back, I’m here with Michael H Cohen. Hi Michael.
Hello. Hi Julie.
Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
Yeah, it’s so interesting to hear all of these pieces of your life just unfolded and start to come together. Your law experience could translate into a whole new body of work that was really needed but also bridges consciousness and healing.
Thank you for saying that. Appreciate that.
So right before the break we were talking a little bit about what is healing and it as a bigger body of work than physical healing. You want to say a little bit more about that?
Well sure I mean there’s a lot to say you know because it’s easy to talk about in a way but what really happens when you’re completely present with somebody is just so powerful and such a heart centered experience that it’s just like, I’ve had moments where the love just exploded from me. I can’t even describe what that was. I had a moment where I was on a bus in New York City, I think it was my second year in the program and I was back in New York riding, I forget which one it was, it goes up Broadway or something and I just felt like this love just come through me it was just I incredible, it was literally like this blessing came through, just this universal blessing and I felt this love for every person on the bus and I just walked through and then what was so interesting was that when I got off the bus and it was just me again, you know? It’s that ability to go back and forth, you stay a real grounded, centered, authentic, vulnerable person with personal challenges and struggles and just trying to figure it out and what am I doing and can I please have the answers? Can someone please put this together for me?
And then you go through these universal, transcendental experiences which are really beneficial. So it’s easy to say well we’re not, just to be clear to the audience, we’re not pulling chicken livers out if people or doing that kind of stuff.
I’m not doing that, maybe some healers are.
I mean unless they’re made out of rubber, I’d be happy to have one but … you know, it’s just really about connecting at the deepest level and finding, it’s really personal growth is what it is. That’s what intrigued me.
Going back to hands of light, she took psychology and she started with defense structures and she took that and then she put it into what she called a bio energetic paradigm. So it’s looking at energy fields and understanding the world in terms of the information that’s contained in these other dimensions of living that maybe are not reducible to biochemistry.
Right, I always like to use an analogy for how we as a healer or somebody who studied with Barbara Brennan and there are many other modalities. When you open to that way of looking at the world, through that energetic template like okay, it’s almost like, I don’t know if you’ve ever taken an art class but if you’re taking an art class, I’ve taken drawing and watercolors and whenever I’m taking a class like that or maybe I’m taking a science class, whatever, all of a sudden I start to see the world through that frame work, I’ll start to see the sky in shades of blue like I do when I’m painting them and-
-like I’m drawing and everything all of a sudden when I’m looking out in the world, I’m starting to see it through perspective like well that’s in front of that and if you foreshadow like if I was taking business classes I’d go into a baseball game and I’d say “What’s the business model?” And I’d start to look at the business model of the baseball game, so we all look at life through these different perspectives and Barbara Brennen really gave this framework for really seeing a human a little bit more fully than just the physical or the psychological but really seeing them from that greater perspective and you start to just see the world from that perspective and things change in really big ways.
Yeah, everything changes, yeah, everything.
Yes. No going back.
There’s no going back but it’s a breaking through and its emotional and one thing that I really respect about her is that she always emphasized the emotional authenticity and the breakthrough and sort of pushing through, it’s not about ego, it’s not about “Oh I can do this” it’s an understanding that comes from within. But I’d be curious how see the world and I can share because we talk about the chakras and the energy systems, for me now years after graduating, this is natural, this is how, when I go into a meeting , this is how I experience people’s energies and even when I was teaching law, I noticed, its not about the words. Because, well academia can be kind of a difficult place sometimes and where as in a corporate environment it’s not about the words, it’s about the intention and it’s about what people are really communicating underneath and so there are a lot of techniques. There’s face reading, there’s, I don’t know, people are sensitive in different ways.
But that can be a business tool, it can be a healing tool. How do you experience that coming out of a school, maybe you could share and I can compare.
Yeah, I will share but I just want to touch on, you answered my next question that I had for you which is, okay, you went to school for healing and you’ve done transcendental meditation and all of these different things. How are you bringing it back into the mainstream legal profession? And I just heard you say it’s by, and you tell me if there’s more or if I got it right but you see people out there energetic being and their intention and you’re relating from that place.
Yeah, completely, yeah. you relate to people in a more real way and I find that I listen more and when I speak I listen to what comes through. So it comes from a different place and often times it’ll touch people.
You know? Or it’ll be funny and spontaneous in a way that I … I become funny. And I wasn’t really funny as a Wall Street corporate lawyer.
I’m sure there are Wall Street corporate lawyers whose probably, one is a comedian and he’s going to write in and say hey, I was just on Saturday Night Live but I wasn’t funny. I was very contained and I didn’t know that I had the freedom to be all these other things.
Yeah, do you think that it’s possible, for our listeners, what are the things that made it possible for you to bring that into your everyday life? Sometimes it’s not about getting a new career in order to find the fulfillment, sometimes it’s just bringing those new states of being or allowing ourselves to be more who we are right where we are.
Do you have worries about that? Like if I’m really just this funny guy, are people going to take me seriously?
Well, sure, I have to pay $10,000 a day to make sure that it all lines up but part of it is just letting go and taking risks. I would say one of the key things I learned in school is to take risks. Take emotional risks. And as a corollary to that a major lesson for me was that emotional vulnerable is strength. It takes a huge amount of strength to completely allow your emotions to just rip through your body and if you can do that and get through to the other side of that. It’s so powerful to know that you have a container for that. I think in our culture, people are very afraid of their emotions, for example, one thing that’s new on my journey is I’m taking improv classes and I love because people will say the most outrageous things and they’re hilarious and they let themselves take the risks it doesn’t matter if it works or doesn’t work, you just go with the next impulse.
You know, it’s like, if you’re a person that has impulse control problems, you probably need to see a shrink. But if you’re a person that is very well mannered and very maintained, you went to the right schools and you were in the right corporate environment and if you’re a woman, you wear the Chanel suits or you wear the Hermes scarf or whatever it is, the pearls, I mean I had my Hugo Boss. I mean I still have all that stuff and the Italian shoes. If you can do that and you can be appropriate in those environments. For me, a lot of it is the ability to just completely let it out and to have it straight and if that means sometimes going into places within ourselves that are painful, knowing that you can come out the other side.
This is something that a lot of people only experience when they’re grieving. And obviously there are a lot people that would say well don’t recycle the past because we don’t want to get caught in it but to some extent, there are these deep things and everyone has their own, it just has to come out in some way. It has to be healed to be free.
It’s like someone said to me, if you don’t resolve this in this relationship, it’ll be there in the next one. You’ll bring in the next person but it’ll be the same exact thing.
So might as well deal with it now.
Yeah and that is the scary choice and it is the strong choice and when we do that we choose to face that part of our self that hasn’t felt free. We do face rejection or feeling like it’s not accepted. All those things, that’s what we’re facing but then we also open to all the love and the freedom and the things that we really seek that are on the other side of that and we realize we survive it, usually when those big emotions come or when we do things that are true for us but that are inappropriate.
So yeah I agree. There’s like a doorway when you give yourself permission. It’s like you have to pass through almost a little bit of a dark side to integrate and come into the light. But don’t hurt anybody.
And get support. You don’t have to do that alone.
Yeah and part of your journey was that you were in communities that were supporting you bringing that into all aspects of your life.
Completely. That was part of the beauty of the school was having that.
Yeah it’s a beautiful part.
Because I miss that because when I got back to my law school faculty or back to starting my own practice, people don’t just look and really tune in and its interesting, I just saw this move ‘Her’ – H E R.
Have you seen it?
It’s a little off topic because it’s about a guy with a very sophisticated operating system and she comes to understand him.
Yeah and the voiceover is just horrific it’s like how can this guy fall in love with his computer, look how weird this is, all the technology but I think … so that’s all weird, there’s no questions, there’s a fundamental weirdness about it, it’s part of the message of the movie, technology, artificial intelligence is evolving, what’s going to happen between humans but the reason I bring it up is because there’s an empathy and a quality that comes through that character which is very cleverly designed by the people who made the movie. They’d show that this guy feels listened to. And part of it is about the disconnection where people don’t feel listened to. So many times one of my teachers would say “Take a breath.” Just come back in, take a breath and it’s so amazing.
And so simple.
Ans so simple.
So I thought let’s take this into international diplomacy, seriously, I thought this is the revolution. I mean what if we all just stop and take a breath? Or what if we all do a centering exercise and visualize the common goal.
Right. How powerful. Especially when you’re talking about issues of healthcare laws and the intricacies and everybody’s different points of view and what a gift.
What a gift! That you’re bringing that and bridging, you know, a lot of times, those of us that feel called to study in consciousness and doing that inner work, it can be a challenging path at times to be the one that’s kind of holding that space so I honor you for doing that in your field.
That’s a good description. Its holding space.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Well, we’re coming to the end of our show today so I want to point people to your website because I know that you have some really amazing sharing that you do on your blog about not just healthcare and law but also your own personal journey and really your integrating those two things and so if you’re someone whose listening right now and you’ve been feeling like how do I really be this greater part of myself that wants to express and do work that’s meaningful, then let Michael inspire you. And so I appreciate you inspiring us today.
I appreciate you for giving me this opportunity to share and for organizing the show.
Yeah, you’re welcome. Is there any final words? Any way that you want us to reach out or connect with you .. or?
Stay connected on the inner planes and go forth and explore and just be yourself. Thank you for having me and it’s a great privilege to share a little bit of where I’ve been with you and have all the encouragement in the world and have at it because that’s what life is about.
Awesome, thank you so much. Okay everyone. This is Michael H Cohen, you’re here also with Julie and come on and check us out at intentionradio.com if you’re watching on video today there’ll be a link to Michael’s web page and stay tuned. We’ll be back next week. Thanks Michael.
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