Dr. Scott Mills, Ph.D. has been studying and teaching the ways in which humans really work for over twenty-five years, helping his clients to discover their personal paths to happiness and freedom.
In part one of Dr. Mills’ discussion with Face the Current, he shared his insights into super resilience, the expansion of our personal capacity, the Human Evolution System, the importance of living as an embodied being, and the concept of a “full body yes”.
In this, the final interview installment, Dr. Mills continues the intriguing conversation with topics including the importance of personal safety for getting outside our comfort zones, using a “mirror” to identify our choices, virtual retreat opportunities, and how best to equip children with the tools necessary to emotionally reset.
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Sasha Frate: You’ve spoken about being fully sourced and I think this is another amazing focal point that you cover in your course. You describe it as the capacity to drink in the full, energetic resources that you’re being offered, fully bringing you a sense of vitality and aliveness.
Now, I’m not the expert that you are on this, but I truly feel that this area is of such great importance. So many of us allow ourselves to become so depleted of our energies for various reasons. For instance, we stay in unhealthy relationships too long; we give attention, time, and energy to work or projects that we’re not passionate about; we update ourselves on stressful news feeds way too frequently—all kinds of things. I see it as really putting ourselves into a survival mode where, rather than flowing from this centered, aligned, connected, and grounded space where we can thrive in our life, we’re just merely surviving. I know you’ve spoken about this, but maybe you can retouch on it: How can people become fully sourced, full of vitality, and do more with less energy spent? How do you rope people back into the space?
Scott Mills: I actually rely on the chakra system for this. I’ve studied the Hindu work as well, and it has a beautiful way of opening up different parts of who we are. If you think about these different centers of energy in our root chakras—the place where we connect safety and security—that’s actually where most of us are working right now. Part of what’s been interesting to me during COVID-19 is anybody who’s had any kind of developmental challenge (meaning they showed up in life and didn’t feel very safe at some level) has been shaken. It’s been almost like, “Wake up, wake up, remember you aren’t safe in the world!”
A lot of us have gone into this fear mode because that basic level of security and safety has been missing. When it comes to our sense of creativity, am I feeding my creativity in this moment? What about my sense of will and capacity to create; my sense of heart? We are so disconnected from our heart in the ways that we don’t see other people; we don’t connect to the pain and the joys of other people. This is the piece that I think is so tragic. When we protect ourselves from the pain of other people, we think we’re all good, but we’re actually missing out on all the positive, beautiful experiences we can have when we’re connected with them. We’re diminishing our capacity to express, to have insight, and to think.
I look at this and say, “Okay, how balanced is someone in the particular moment?” And you can do this for yourself! You can say, “Is most of my energy dedicated to just getting by; just surviving? Is there energy allocated in my life for creativity? Is there energy allocated to making things that show up in the world? Is there energy allocated for my heart to open and connect with other people; for me to express myself, for me to be insightful, for me to think?” This is very easy to do.
Humans are designed to be creative—we are curious by nature! Watch any baby that’s learning to explore its world and you will see that we are curious by nature. We are designed to learn and that’s part of why I think we’re so adaptable.
When we stop learning—when we stop being curious—we start stagnating. Stagnation is not good for anyone—it’s sort of like rotting in place. We’re designed to be connected to each other. In fact, we’re designed for packs, to be collected with each other.
This is part of why COVID-19 has been hard. People have been isolated in a way where we don’t know our safety anymore. We don’t feel like we’re with our people.
We can simply notice if we’re experiencing a fullness or a deprivation in each one of these ways. Is there an opening, or is it closed down? It’s a very simple level. I don’t find this complex for people to self-evaluate. However, can people shift their focus so that they can give to themselves in the place that they most need? That is where it gets more difficult. This is why part of super resilience is the capacity to ask for what you need when you need it, fully receive it, and then to also give without expectation. We haven’t talked much about that, but it’s important to be able to give to other people without the strings attached. Give of ourselves and meet their needs.
For example, if I can notice right now that my heart is feeling disconnected and then you say, “My heart is feeling pretty empty,” I can begin to notice ways that I could feel more connected with you and I can ask for help with that. I can say, “I feel like I’m not spending enough time with people. Let me see where I can spend more time.” That solution could be reaching out on Zoom or taking a walk with a friend. (I’ve made a big commitment during COVID to reach out to friends who are living by themselves, to make sure that everything’s okay.)
You referred to the watching of stressful news feeds, and during the first year of this administration, I probably checked the news five times a day because I was convinced we would be in a war. There were many things that made it look like that was going to happen, perhaps with multiple countries. So, my head space was getting filled over and over and over, and when that happens, there’s not much room for anything to move. Your head becomes like a shaken-up soda bottle and it explodes as soon as you open it! This is what facilitates rage culture.
If I notice that my heart is feeling empty, I can begin to look for ways to adjust. The important thing to know is that these adjustments don’t usually happen in a vacuum; we need other people’s help.
Some of us have swallowed our sound and a lot of us have swallowed our words. It’s not that the capacity to speak is gone, it’s that some part of you—or somebody else—has convinced yourself that it’s not okay, and you’ve listened. We just need to remember to re-collect ourselves and to have our full voice open.
SF: That sounds like the aspect of self-help you previously mentioned where we see ourselves as broken.
SM: It’s about seeing parts of yourself projected beyond the boundaries of your physicality. For instance, if I don’t think I’m creative, what I’m really saying is that I don’t know how to be creative. Perhaps no one has ever shown me the creative parts of myself before! If I do something as simple as Google “How are people creative?” I can see what’s available within myself and learn about some options on the menu that I haven’t seen before.
The sense of brokenness occurs when people hold the sense of, “Something’s wrong with me because I’m not creative,” or, “Something’s wrong with me because I don’t know how to love people,” or, “Something’s wrong with me because I don’t know how to express my voice.” This is different than framing it in terms of never having been shown how to do all these things.
I’m teaching a course next month with Luis Chapa, a former principal for the Met Opera. We want to show people how to claim their creative voice and expression. The first step is to stop judging and just to let ourselves feel what it feels like to make a sound. Some of us have swallowed our sound and a lot of us have swallowed our words. It’s not that the capacity to speak is gone, it’s that some part of you—or somebody else—has convinced yourself that it’s not okay, and you’ve listened. As Walt Whitman said, “To shout your barbaric yelp from the rooftops of the world.” That is one of my favorite poems.
We just need to remember to re-collect ourselves and to have our full voice open. It’s important to feel safe and supported. These elements are usually in our body, but for whatever reason, we’ve ignored them. We have access to them; we just have to find them again. This is a huge piece of what I teach people to do and it’s actually very, very easy. I basically hold up a mirror and show you who you are. I’m not crafting that outcome, I’m not creating it, I’m just suggesting that perhaps the mirror is dirty and clouded by other people’s ideas, or some things that you believed about yourself, or some ways that you previously existed in the world. But, if we just clean the mirror, you can look at it and see yourself as an extraordinary person who is here in this life for a big purpose. Once that happens, life starts to open up in a really interesting way.
SF: A lot of the simplicity lies in just the awareness and the recognition.
SM: Yes. I love this quote from Einstein: “We should strive for things to be as simple as possible and no simpler.” For me, it’s the definition of elegance. I strive for the work that we do in the world to be elegant; to not have a significant waste of energy.
For most of us, it’s actually just about coming home to ourselves; to start inhabiting this body that we showed up on earth with; to start saying, “I’m an embodied human.” What do I actually feel? Without other people telling me what to feel and whispering in my ear, what do I actually think? Just connect into what is present right here, but that doesn’t mean we don’t go outside of ourselves for more information. I might ask someone what they think about something, and that might spark my own curiosity. This is a component of super resilience! If you’re not curious, your world collapses on itself because your life-experience is so tiny and you only stay within your boundaries. But I have to be okay with myself if I start to get curious as to what could be beyond my boundaries. If I’m not okay with myself, looking across the boundary is going to feel threatening. For example: “I don’t know who those people are, they’re not my people; I don’t feel safe with them.” But if I recognize that I’m pretty safe, things are okay, I know who I am, I feel grounded, and I know I’m supported, it’s very easy to look at a person or experience outside of my comfort zone without getting triggered.
SF: Yes, definitely. Scott, I like how you describe the idea of a mirror, and this positive way of reflecting our goodness and wholeness. A lot of people—or a lot of unhealthy relationships—have this mirror effect, but in an unhealthy way. This can unfold when you’re drawn to a friend, partner, or any other person in your life that reflects all the negative things that you believe about yourself, and somehow you’re still attracted to that mirror. I think that a lot of people are unaware that’s even happening, and that this type of relationship is an unhealthily reflected connection.
How would you advise people to tap into the awareness or recognition of a scenario like that?
SM: This is where you have to go back to the brain for a minute. For most of us, we learn these patterns when we’re very, very young, usually by the age of two or three, and they teach us how to survive in the world. Humans come onto the planet pretty unscripted, while other animals know how to hunt in a day or two. Some animals can drop out of their mother’s womb and they can run in less than four hours, and their instincts allow them to quickly relate to their environment. One of the most beautiful things about humans is that we’re crazy adaptable; we can step into almost any kind of climate and figure out how to live in it. We can also eat an array of different food and live in different environments all over the world.
Imagine being young in an unsafe world and not having your needs met. When this happens, we start to learn how to survive without feeling very good in ourselves. Our needs are not met, and we don’t have people around us that really see us. Imagine this as your starting point in life! That would be your foundation and then you would keep building floor upon floor of your life on that. No matter how high you build, you are always going to be repeating the unstable shape of the foundation. Jump to being a twenty-two year looking for a relationship, and who do we pick? We pick the person who can’t see us and who doesn’t really meet our needs, because that’s what we know.
In fact, we’re really good at seeing this pattern in our friends, but it’s more difficult to see in ourselves.
SF: That’s a function of comfort, right?
SM: Yes, because to step outside of what you know you can survive feels much scarier than just staying in this pattern.
Part of the work of super resilience is to show you all the ways that you’re strong—the bigger parts of yourself—so that your brain can grow accustomed to new offerings on the menu of life. This is why safety is the foundational piece. If my pattern is showing up in relationships in a way where my needs are not met and I’m not really seen, it would feel unsafe for me to even imagine the possibility of somebody coming along who could completely see me. That idea does not even seem possible to some people and that can feel so scary. Our work can begin to make that scenario less scary, so the brain can relax and open up to the coding.
In the Western world I find we look for the root cause. We can explain all the ways that we’re broken, and point to relationships we’ve had at various ages to pinpoint a pattern. For example, “It’s because my parents were terrible and they didn’t give me what I needed,” etc. It’s exhausting to inventory all of the ways that we are “broken” and it can leave us feeling very inadequate.
Instead, it’s much more useful to find places in your life where those patterns are nowhere to be found! Define the places that you have strength, and borrow from them. Most of us had a special parent figure, grandmother or grandfather, teacher, coach, auntie, uncle—someone—from whom we can borrow strengths. For instance, when artists sit down to create, they don’t have that “broken” experience, so we work with that type of wonderful strength and help it to expand.
One way that we help people to fix areas of their lives is to say: “You know that dilapidated shed out there with the broken nails and broken hammer? Can you go in there and use those broken tools to fix it?”
Go into your brokenness. Go into what is not working and fully inhabit that place.
SF: That’s huge because that’s a shift in reinforcing a belief or perspective on self-identity to say, “This is an experience,” as opposed to, “I am this thing.”
SM: Yes, it’s about becoming stuck in time. We freeze ourselves by saying, “I am afraid, I’m happy, I am sad,” as if it’s all of our being. One of the fun things I often do with people is say to them, “Okay, so can you find where the sadness in your body lives right now?” To do this, scan your body from the top of your head to the bottom of your toes, and breathe a little bit. For some people, it even helps to use their hand to trace their body. In doing this, I’ve never had someone say to me, “I can’t find it.” It’s all pretty intuitive. For example, sadness usually shows up right around the heart. The important thing to ask yourself is whether or not it is everywhere in your body. The answer is “no”, so that means you are not this one part of you. You are not sadness, you have some sadness. I think the romance languages nicely reflect this in translation.
SF: Right, you don’t say, “I am”, you say, “I have”.
SM: You just say, “I have this—I have some fear. I have some sadness.” You don’t say, “I am this thing.” We tend to over-identify with that “broken” part of ourselves; that one emotion we wish would go away. If you’re inside all of your sadness, you can get a sense of how hard it is to notice how to get outside of it.
SM: If you’re inside your wholeness, you might notice that you’re experiencing some sadness, but you most likely notice that you’re also experiencing some ease. You may even be experiencing some joy! We’re so much more complex than this computer model that says we can only experience one thing at a time. We can experience lots of different emotions at once! We’re often conflicted about things, so as soon as we start to notice we’re more complex, we have a place to work from
SF: Scott, you offer other unique experiences, courses, and a lot of virtual retreats. I think it is a fascinating concept because I always think of retreats as physically going somewhere, but right now it’s a beautiful experience that people can still have while staying socially distanced or quarantined. Some of your retreats include Healers Thriving In Chaos and Beyond; Opening of Your Heart and Mind to Love; and Soul Night of Comfort, Love, and Delight. Can you share a bit about how you conduct these virtual retreats, how they work, and why they’re so impactful?
SM: When we gather together—whether it’s virtually or physically—we create a connection with each other, and we remember it. For example with the Soul Night, we brought in the Corn Brothers, musicians who traveled with Coldplay and Pink. They opened up the retreat for us, and they shared a song that they recently wrote about the loss of an eighteen-month old infant. Everyone was so touched by that song.
As humans, we know that we’re touched by music and the experiences of other people. So, we create an experience where we invite people in just to listen to their stories.
And yes, there are some beautiful things you can watch on TV and your heart can be open to it, but when we do virtual retreats, the assumption is that people are hungry for connection and for some sort of experience. We design the retreats so that you can have some sort of deepening experience.
We also bring in other people such as Dr. Laurie Laden, one of the top trauma specialists in the world. I haven’t really experienced trauma, so we bring in people like her and then we create lots of space for people to connect. Most of the retreats are created to fill a need; to step into the place where people are most in need. For instance, the love retreat is actually just helping people see how their brain works around relationships.
For all of our retreats, we actually use a transformative or transgressive education model that dictates that people need to have experiences. We as people have experiences all the time, but we rarely take time to reflect on them.
SF: Reflect and then integrate, allowing that space for reflection and to look at how we can integrate what we just experienced.
SM: Exactly. So, for us, we are first interested in every person coming into one of our retreats and leaving with more of a sense of agency or authority over their own lives. If I design an experience for someone, I want them just to have the experience. I’m not going to tell them what it looks like, what they should do, or what they should feel. There’s always space for reflection and engagement because we want people to sit with questions such as, “What is it that I just discovered? What’s the ‘aha’? What moved in me? What did I feel?” Only by helping people frame their experience so it makes sense in a larger context do we teach anything.
We get emails every day from people saying that one exercise in a retreat they attended literally changed their lives. We hear comments such as, “I feel more open. I feel more alive. I feel more loving.” (If there is anything you could do in this world that could get you responses like these, find your place to do that!) Talk about feeding your soul! That’s why we do a lot of these retreats for free, because we know that people need them, and we love watching those lights turn on for them. There’s very little that’s more exciting than that.
SF: Yes, it is really amazing and rewarding to see that spark. The next great extension of that is just knowing how that spark has its own ripple effect and even greater impact just from that one connection that you created with one of the people in your class. I noticed a great example of that when I watched one of your Mind Valley coaching calls. I loved how one of the students was sharing and revealing what her experience was so far with the course, and she said that she thought she was already living life in a state of happiness. So, she was happy in life, but this class brought her to this whole new level of happiness where even other people were recognizing that. It’s just a great example of how that impact on one individual really does have this effect and greater impact on those around them, and then it just spreads in such a positive way. From the initial spark-point it reignites and reactivates.
SM: I am super committed to children having the tools that I create, and that’s my favorite ripple effect of what we do. (I say “we” because I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. There are so many people that I constantly acknowledge for the contribution that they made to allow me to create the work that I do.) In these calls, one thing we often do is teach people exercises and I’ll literally say, “This is something you can do with your kids.” I’ve had teachers take lessons into their classrooms, and I’ve had parents try them with their kids.
We teach people how to re-ground, re-center, and get back to safety. When somebody tells me they taught their young child how to use this very basic tool that could help them feel okay again, that’s one of the biggest, “thank yous” I can ever get. It’s wonderful to know that there are children who are going to feel better in the world because of a tool that their mother or their father learned and that they can practice together. In doing this, they’re also setting themselves up for more capacity in their own lives to re-center. To me, that’s just extraordinary to watch. I love when people have the openings that you mentioned, but even more so when they take it to friends and partners.
I received a sweet email from somebody the other day. I worked with her boyfriend and the email said, “I don’t know what you did to him but thank you. His heart is more open, he’s more present with me, and our relationship is getting so much richer.” I actually just saw her the other day, and she’s pulling in some of the same tools I taught him. She even participated in one of my calls and is stepping into more of her own capacity.
Ultimately, this isn’t about my work; this is about what we do for each other as human beings. If I step into my sense of safety, and if I know how supported I am and that I’m whole, then I have foundational points. When I sit across from you, it’s a whole different experience because now as a safe, supported, whole person, I can actually see you and I don’t have to say a word—I can just sit with you. I create more space for you to show up as yourself, and those are the most exciting pieces that come out of the work.
SF: It is exciting. And in terms of extending this to children—and not to judge any parenting practices—but I feel like sometimes parents look at kids as if they’re too young for certain conversations or life-strategies. Some things are considered “adult stuff” or kids are talked to in baby talk when they’re actually ready for adult language. So, what you mentioned is really huge for children because we are helping guide them and give them tools so that they can move through experiences in life, well equipped, guided, and supported. And so, I love that you hear that as well.
SM: Yes, and we’re not teaching people how to have conversations with their kids. So, I’m never saying, “Go talk to your kid about X, Y, and Z.”
SM: What I want them to learn is, “How do I manage my own brain?” This is actually stuff that should be taught starting in preschool, because it’s super simple. And the funny thing is, kids are actually better at picking up these tools than adults are because some of what we do is use things like guided imagery to initiate certain happenings in the brain. If you say to kids, “Imagine a yellow square in front of you,” they can do it. “Imagine you’re climbing a mountain,”—no problem. Kids are amazing with this, and we forgot that we have that skillset, too.
For instance, I have adults who come to my workshops and events and they say, “I don’t know how to be creative. I don’t know how to visualize.” As adults, we’ve shut off that part of ourselves. We all have this capacity, we just forget.
For example, one thing we teach people for parasympathetic reset, is to simply take one hand and move it down the center of your body in a calming, almost petting-a-cat motion. So, pretend that from your collarbone down to your belly button is the spine of a cat, and just pet it for two minutes. Your parasympathetic nervous system actually starts to kick in because of a nerve in that location. This is a very, very simple calming tool.
So, for a kid who is flooded with neurochemicals and emotions, it’s not helpful to say, “Why can’t you just behave?” Rather, if we can say, “Okay, cool. Don’t worry about the ‘why’, just sit down with me for a minute,” and we do this technique with them, it serves as our reset. You don’t have to call it a fancy name, you can just say, “Let’s just reset our emotions for a second.” Kids can do this for two minutes and then be back up and running. And this is just one of the many, many tools that are available for kids.
SF: Can you share what’s next for you, your path, and your offerings to the global community?
SM: I love that question. It’s a weird one because it’s a weird time right now. It’s so interesting to think about what’s next, because I think we don’t know what the new normal is. I just spent last year traveling to Japan, Malaysia, and Mexico, teaching all over the world. Now I don’t know if I’m comfortable getting on a plane or even going to a restaurant down the street from my house.
SF: Oh yeah. So, your future is open and flowing and adaptive.
SM: Yes, I’m being really open. What is very clear to me is that my work in the world is to teach more, so you’re going to see more courses offered from us. Yesterday we announced our summer brain camp, which is really fun. It’s a weekly free coaching call where people can come in and work and settle and just get grounded again. We also have a love retreat coming up, as you mentioned, and beyond that, we’re just watching. We’re watching for what people need most as world changes unfold. And I think this is a place for most of us to just acknowledge that we don’t know what’s coming next week.
Now, that’s not an excuse to do nothing! It doesn’t mean we’re not planning, but it means we’re having to be very open and very fluid; we’re really doing our own work here.
Trust and be in the flow of life. One of my favorite Taoist phrases is, “Go up when the river goes up and go down when the river goes down.” This is great practice right now to go up when the river goes up and down when the river goes down, all the while responding to the immediate needs of those around us.
SF: Well, it’s wonderful for you to have that ability to create and provide in flow without having to have the whole next year planned out in terms of what’s coming for the community and your work. And I love having that type of flexibility, as well. With the magazine, it’s so great to connect with you, because what you do is so perfect for our time right now, and your content really resonates with what would be most helpful to people. I love that.
SM: Yes, and just go to our website. We put things out very quickly, so it helps to be on our mailing list to get notifications. But we do create a lot of recordings which you can find on the website, and there are great tools in each one. The beautiful part is that we put out these recordings so you can actually go back and practice the exercises again and again. This all stems from the fact that my team and I are committed to creating a more loving and equitable world. We all just want to be a part of collective evolution. That’s really the foundation of it all, and anything we can do to make that happen, we’re here for it.
SF: Wonderful, thank you so much, Scott. I appreciate you taking the time and sharing all of this, and I’m excited to participate in some of these. They all seem very intriguing, so I look forward to seeing what you produce and share, because I really value what you’re doing.
SM: Beautiful. I think that Face the Current, where really creative, extraordinary people are able to meet and do work that can change their lives, is such a gift to the world. It’s a huge honor for me to be part of this community of people that you’ve talked to, and I want to thank you for being you and for all the work you do.
SF: Thank you—I appreciate that.