The Power of Community in Personal Transformation

On this week’s episode of the Elements of Community podcast, Lucas Root is joined by spiritual teacher Dr. Valerie Sheppard, a catastrophic stroke survivor, self-mastery expert, and CEO of The Heartly Center for Mindfulness and Self-Mastery

Dr. Valerie shares her insights on the transformative power of community and how it can profoundly impact personal growth. Drawing from her wealth of experience, she emphasizes that coming together in a supportive group environment can expedite our journey toward becoming our highest selves in ways that solitary efforts may not. Her own journey serves as a testament to the strength of community in personal development.

Tune in to this episode to hear Dr. Valerie Sheppard’s wisdom on leveraging the power of community to awaken your authentic self and create a life you love. Her remarkable journey and expertise will undoubtedly inspire and empower you on your own path to self-mastery and personal growth.


[00:00:00] Lucas Root: And we're live. Thank you so much for joining me, Dr. Valerie. I'm delighted to see you and as I have now discovered fuchsia background is, waking me up and warming me up this morning.

[00:00:48] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Good. Very good. I'm glad.

[00:00:52] Lucas Root: You are joining us from France right now, which is very cool. I'm a little bit jealous

[00:00:58] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: I'm in[00:01:00] SheppardSheppardDr. Valerie René SheppardDr. Valerie René SheppardDr. Valerie SheppardDr. Valerie Sheppard the commune of Puy Vers, in the south of France, kind of midway between Toulouse and the Mediterranean coast, down in the Pyrenees Mountains. Absolutely spectacular.

[00:01:18] Lucas Root: A place I want to go not just because I want to go everywhere which I do I want to go everywhere, but specifically I want to go to the Pyrenees.

[00:01:29] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Really amazing land, just the energy in the land, and I'm in the shadow of a very famous ruin of a castle, Chateau Puivert.

[00:01:42] Which is a very special part of the region, and the heart lay lines that run here, so I'm right where I'm called to be. Sort of drinking it all in, anchoring myself, and waiting for guidance [00:02:00] on what's next.

[00:02:01] Lucas Root: Very cool. You've heard bits and pieces of how I came to know you, but only bits and pieces, so, over the past four years, you and I have been playing with the same people and people we love and cherish and support and every time they mention you, they mention you with a degree of reverence that's impossible to ignore.

[00:02:25] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Oh, that's so sweet. Thank you.

[00:02:27] Lucas Root: Yeah. And you know, as this was happening for years, people are mentioning you regularly and I just keep thinking, now, of course, this is all COVID times, like, so it's not like I can just wonder, am I maybe I'll just see her the next time we all get together, like, cause there isn't a next time we all get together.

[00:02:44] I mean, now there is, but there wasn't.

[00:02:46] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: There wasn't then.

[00:02:48] Lucas Root: So this idea was building up in my head, not by me. It was just sort of percolating of this mythical Dr. Valerie that you were becoming larger than life. And I gotta say, now that [00:03:00] we've gotten a chance to get to know each other a little the few chats we had before you left for France and then now you live up to the mythical being that I was building up in my head, so far I am quite pleased.

[00:03:12] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Thank you so much. Yes. Thank you. I appreciate knowing that. It's funny because, you know, other than seeing ourselves in the mirror, we don't see ourselves through other people's eyes or hear ourselves through their ears or know ourselves through their hearts. So this kind of feedback is so sweet. It's also delicious.

[00:03:34] Thank you very much, Lucas.

[00:03:36] Lucas Root: My pleasure. I'm glad I could share it. Would you like to tell the audience a little bit about yourself, and then a little bit about the community we're going to talk about today?

[00:03:47] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Thank you for asking. So hello audience. I'm Dr. Valerie Renee Shepard. I'm the founder and CEO of the Hartley Center for Mindfulness and Self [00:04:00] Mastery. And our focus is on helping people create more clarity in their lives, about their lives, so they can have more peace and love and joy and freedom, and get out of their own way and live a life that is truly one that you can love to live.

[00:04:23] Lucas Root: My wife is amazing at walking by at exactly the right time. This didn't just happen, but she's created this habit in me that's great. So she'll walk by at exactly the right time, hear a snippet of a conversation and be like, I don't know what that means. And it's good. I mean, it's really good.

[00:04:45] You know more about marketing even than I do and being able to tell your audience what something means matters a lot because it's hard for us to opt in for something that we don't understand. It's not impossible, but it's really hard.[00:05:00]

[00:05:00] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: In the same wavelength is kind of critical.

[00:05:02] Lucas Root: Yeah. What does it mean to, to have a life well lived?

[00:05:08] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: The life that you love to live is one where there's more of what you want and less of what you don't. There's more of just ease and peace and grace and less struggle and strive and prove and less what I call settling for the way things are, which is called making lemonade out of lemons and actually consciously co creating the life that you want to live, that you even are very sure, like unequivocally sure that's why you came here.

[00:05:43] Like I incarnated into this physical body in the planet earth, at this moment in time to do and be this and you're actually doing and being that.

[00:05:56] Lucas Root: Wow. Yeah. [00:06:00] See, that's easy for me to opt into.

[00:06:04] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Yeah, maybe. Come on in. The water's fine.

[00:06:08] Lucas Root: Yeah. You know, all the water is fine. Cool. Thank you.

[00:06:17] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: You're welcome.

[00:06:17] Lucas Root: And tell me about that as a community.

[00:06:22] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: The community of the Hartley Center the biggest place that we gather is in my Facebook group, which is called the Bliss Collective. And the Bliss Collective is a space where I share videos and I go live and I share Tips and tools to help people create the lives that they want. And one of the aspects of creating the lives that you want is to understand what life you're living right now.

[00:06:55] And the way I do this is through my book and my [00:07:00] courses. And they were all created out of the journey that I took in my own life to do the same thing. I got to a point in my life where I was, not really clear on why my life was my life, you know, would ask things like, what is going on? And is this really what I'm supposed to be doing and is everything that I've achieved like it's, you know, we were talking before we came into the recording about this question of what if the best of my life is behind me and I'm in my thirties or forties.

[00:07:40] Like, average lifespan says I'm going to be here for a while. What am I going to do for the rest of those decades? And I started consciously asking, not just waiting for periods, you know, things to trigger it. I started noticing I had some questions, went into those [00:08:00] questions to get answers and from those answers, distilled the book and the curriculum.

[00:08:05] And that's what we do in the communities. We dance and play in those things. And Some people go to the 11th degree, meaning they jump on planes and come to places where I'm doing immersion intensive spiritual transformation retreats. Others jump on a Zoom and they meet with me privately or in a group setting.

[00:08:27] But the hub, so to speak, is the bliss collective and then little tendrils out from there.

[00:08:34] Lucas Root: That sounds blissful.

[00:08:37] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: It is my vibration living.

[00:08:42] Lucas Root: I it's not a thing I think about all the time, but Engaging with the idea of like a high school athlete or a college athlete and they get into their late 20s or early 30s And they're like, those were the best days of my life I've heard this before like a number of times and [00:09:00] Every time I hear it, I'm like, this isn't an idea I carry around but we're bringing it up. What if that's true?

[00:09:11] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Well, having been a high school and a college NCAA division one track and field athlete I've been through those things. I was never the superstar whose life was so ingrained and formulated by my physical body's athletic prowess. That I didn't already have other things in the works, you know, I was doing other things the whole time I was an athlete, never relied on being an athlete as my one thing.

[00:09:40] So, I don't know it firsthand all the way, but I do have that feeling from a couple of things in my life. One was they're always injury related. You know, when I blew up my second knee, I blew out one knee, then blew out the other one, [00:10:00] and that was kind of the career ending injury. Like, I don't play football, also known in the US as soccer anymore.

[00:10:07] And I always, When I was playing, I never walked on the pitch thinking it was my last game. I always saw myself playing on the old girls network, you know, where we're in our fifties and running around with knee braces on and stuff, but, and we're a lot slower than we used to be. And a lot of our kicks don't go as far as they used to, but we're still playing and we're still in the joy of it.

[00:10:34] And so that whole contemplation, I think in the language of my community, it shifts from a, Oh gosh, you know, the best of my life is behind me too. Okay. If the best so far is behind me, what more is possible right now for creating a new best [00:11:00] of my life? And that's the way we would address it.

[00:11:04] Lucas Root: I love it. So, Tim Ferriss is one of the most voracious journalers in the world. Having read all of his books, I love what he has to say. I still don't journal like he does. But, one of the ideas that he has that I really love is, if you can figure out that there was some particular time in your life where something was going on that you really loved, and you read the journals, Leading up to that, maybe by a week, or two weeks, or five weeks, and you just look for the things that created the recipe for what you wanted.

[00:11:42] Because you journal the way, well, at least because he journals the way he does, all of his journals contain these recipes. His mindset tools, and what he was doing with his meditations, and the food that he was eating, and how he was working out, and even when he was working out. And all of that comes together as a [00:12:00] recipe that builds this, whatever this thing is that he's noticed that he wants to bring back into his life.

[00:12:05] Well, when you were in high school, there is actually a recipe that creates, quote unquote, the best days of your life. Is there any reason why we can't figure out what are the elements of that recipe that are repeatable now in my 30s or now in my 40s and put those into my life now and find a way to have these be the best days of my life using that recipe.

[00:12:31] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: So, I understand what you're saying, and I wholeheartedly disagree.

[00:12:37] Lucas Root: Huh.

[00:12:38] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: I don't like that idea at all, and part of the reason is, been there, done that, got the t shirt, didn't do me any good. This whole idea of reliving a formula from my past doesn't necessarily take into account that I'm not that [00:13:00] person anymore. And in an ideal world, we don't want to be that person anymore. So the same stimuli and the same degree and the same sorts of amplification of certain emotions and certain dynamics going on in our world. I think I'm going to say, am I going to say shouldn't? Yeah. Okay. I'm going to say shouldn't.

[00:13:25] Shouldn't be the roadmap. It's not organic enough. It doesn't take into account present moment awareness. So, if it's just going to be a lift and a reapply, I would say not digging it. If it's a lift and looking at that and also going, but why was this important to me back then? Like, why was this a trigger?

[00:13:55] For joy and happiness, or anger and resentment and [00:14:00] fear and shame and guilt, like, we have to look at the whole equation and what from my experience with myself and my students and my clients is. When people are lifting and trying to bring from the past into the present, often what they haven't sorted out is the false self that was stimulated back then, and bringing that forward is not serving them.

[00:14:25] So when we're stimulating the aspects of ourself that are, In limiting beliefs or conditioned patterns of habitual belief and behavior that are rooted in low vibration, low consciousness ways of looking at the world and being in the world, the last thing we want to do is amplify that and continue it, as we go forward.

[00:14:51] Rather, I would like to do a retrospective analysis, and understand what about me [00:15:00] made that important or made it not important. And is that really the truth for me? And was that okay then? And certainly not okay now. And was it not okay then, but man, Oh man, with who I am today, this would rock my world. And so it's gotta have the analysis in it that looks at who am I being, you know, I have this fundamental question that I ask over and over of people who work with me. Who are you being when you think you're being you, who are you being when you think you're being you, and it gets into this question of authenticity because most people say I'm authentic and they're not really going as deep as I would ask them to go.

[00:15:53] And they're often living a you that isn't them, it's their grandmother, or [00:16:00] it's the person who beat them up, the bully on the playground, or it's the abandonment issue that they got from something that happened when they were 4 years old. They're not really clear or awake. First, step in my four step process is wake up.

[00:16:16] They're not awake to the ways they're not self Is actually running them ragged.

[00:16:29] Lucas Root: I like it. That was awesome. Thank you.

[00:16:32] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: You're welcome.

[00:16:33] Lucas Root: Yeah, a retrospective analysis on the things that worked and the things that didn't and why.

[00:16:40] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Yeah, and am I the same? As

[00:16:43] Lucas Root: Which, which of course the answer is no, we are not the same.

[00:16:48] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Some people fight pretty hard to be the same, I think that in my experience their interpretation is everything would be that much easier. I already know that, [00:17:00] you know, if I just keep doing that, I know it. And even when I find people are banging their heads against the wall, you know, that old adage.

[00:17:12] Do things the same way, expecting a different outcome, even when they're doing that, they're, and I, you know, I'm not saying they as though I wasn't among them. We, I have done this in my

[00:17:23] Lucas Root: I've done it. I'll probably do it again.

[00:17:25] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Yes, like, why am I still doing this? But you still have to come awake to that place where you are consciously aware of, oh, I'm doing that thing again, instead of just doing it by route, because I've always done it. There is salvation in the willingness and the choice to change. Salvation lies there.

[00:17:52] Lucas Root: Yeah. Wow. Another thing. So, when I consider buying something, the first place that I [00:18:00] go look is the bad reviews for that thing. And absolutely true. If something doesn't have bad reviews, I'm not going to buy.

[00:18:08] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: You're looking for downside risk.

[00:18:11] Lucas Root: I'm well sort of. So people hear that and they're like, oh, okay, so he's looking for a reason not to buy It's not really that. What i'm looking for is I'm trying to decide if the things that people don't like about this thing that I'm gonna buy Are things that bother me.

[00:18:28] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Yeah, that's the downside risk. Like, is it risky for me without knowing? Oh, these are the downsides. I can live with those or those aren't important to me.

[00:18:41] Lucas Root: Those aren't important to me or those are really important to me It's a good thing people told me about it so that I can decide not to buy. Yeah.

[00:18:49] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: So do you ever worry with, so I have this, you know, I don't necessarily, like, make restaurant reviews, movie reviews software [00:19:00] reviews, book reviews, any of those kinds of things paramount. They're like an FYI, and I end up seeing the movie anyway. I'm like, yeah, but nobody knows me like me, and I don't know them well enough to know why I should trust that their point of view takes into account My constitution, so to speak I love it when people say it's the best Chinese restaurant ever.

[00:19:24] And then I go eat and I'm like, what on earth were they thinking? And then I remind myself. Oh, but they're not me. So,

[00:19:31] Lucas Root: They are not you. Yeah.

[00:19:32] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: You know, I'm the one who trusted what I read over my own gut, my own way of evaluating. And so I think it's a dynamic question or comment that you bring up, Lucas.

[00:19:50] Lucas Root: Yeah, well, thank you. There are some things that I pay a lot of attention to and some things that I pay almost no attention to movies and books none at all whatsoever. I'm [00:20:00] not even interested in reviews I will look it up to see if it's a like a straight five star rating because if it's straight five stars I'm not buying Like I said before, there have to be bad reviews, but for movies and books I'm not likely even to read the bad reviews.

[00:20:19] So, if you're a 4. 4 or 4. 5, right, that means there are enough people out there to have opinions. And to me, that's it. That's all that matters. Restaurants, I pay a lot of attention to.

[00:20:34] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Yeah.

[00:20:34] Lucas Root: Because my food experience is something that has elevated in my life in importance. And every single time I sit down to eat it's almost to the level of worship.

[00:20:47] And I don't want that to go away. So I pay a lot of attention to restaurants.

[00:20:53] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: I say the same way when I say people think it's just kind of funny, but when I say I'm a foodie[00:21:00] it's not just that I really love eating. It's that the ritual around eating is so special to me. It just feels like the nourishment goes beyond just physiological nourishment and that there's a worship process in eating that is about my relationship with the divine.

[00:21:24] It is not that I worship the chef or that I

[00:21:28] Lucas Root: exactly.

[00:21:29] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: I'm in a relationship with the divine saying, wow, my God given senses are allowing me to experience these moments, these flavors, these scents, these aromas, this community around this plate in a way that it's like irreplaceable. And I have a reverence when I say I'm a foodie. I say that with great reverence.

[00:21:55] Lucas Root: Yeah, so yes, I pay a lot of attention to [00:22:00] reviews of restaurants. That matters to me. But sort of in that vein, like again, the first place I look are the bad reviews. I want to see what people didn't like. It's just it's a thing, like to me, the things that people didn't like helped me understand whether or not i'm gonna have a problem with that. Yeah

[00:22:23] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Perfect. That's great.

[00:22:28] Lucas Root: So, tell me a little bit about more about. And for me specifically what I like is to see how the elements of community play out. Tell me a little bit more about your Bliss community and What i'd really like is i'd like to see how The projects the ways that you gather the ways that people come together advance the purpose.

[00:22:53] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Yeah. Thank you. The whole idea with the Bliss Collective is like [00:23:00] one seminal idea. And what I do is that your own healing changes the world and the way that happens, like one person transforming from fear to love from angered peace. From hate and fear into feeling safe and secure being themselves and having other people be themselves.

[00:23:26] So your own healing changes the world. And so the projects underneath that, like purpose, being around heal yourself self awareness, and personal responsibility coming together in a space where I choose to make it my responsibility to make myself the best version of myself everywhere I go.

[00:23:54] And that changes everywhere I go. The [00:24:00] universe's energetic. We're energetic beings within the universe and as energy comes together, it's shifted. So the project is the self and the collective project is we each take responsibility for healing ourselves so that when we go back into our individual spaces, we create a ripple effect on this net of love, net of light that holds the earth and we make it better. One human being, one spiritual human integrated person at a time.

[00:24:41] And that's the real project. You know, get out of your own way, create more of what you want, live at a high vibration. And that changes everywhere we place ourselves into a more high vibration environment and in high [00:25:00] vibration environments, it just feeds on itself. You know, through law of reflection, law of attraction, law of karma, law of reciprocity, all of these laws, universal spiritual laws that are in operation 24/7, 365, whether we know it or not, like it or not, understand it or not, believe it or not, this is what's going on in the universe.

[00:25:25] So living in harmony with those laws is the project. As me, individual taking responsibility for myself. And doing it.

[00:25:36] Lucas Root: Yeah, and doing it. And then leading by doing, right? While I was making my coffee this morning I'm sitting there over the coffee machine ruminating about fitness and being fit and being healthy. Just one of the things I think about from time to time and the thought sort of passed through my mind with regards to community and, you know, there [00:26:00] are some really powerful studies out there that talk about how much more effective it is to lose weight when you're doing it with other people.

[00:26:08] But those studies stop short of standing on the causality, which is unfortunate, I think. You know, they sort of leave that to you to fill in the gap between, Hey, there's this really powerful data that suggests that if you do this together if you're hanging out with fit people, you're probably more likely to be a fit person.

[00:26:31] And if you're working with other people to get fit, you're going to get fit faster, more effectively, more efficiently. And it's not just that you're less likely to fall off the wagon, although that's a thing. But it actually happens faster. Our body picks up on the vibration of the people that we're working with to achieve a goal.

[00:26:53] In this case, fitness. And we take that vibration and we internalize it and it's [00:27:00] a more than one model. Like, it's more than just me. It's a greater than the sum of the parts model.

[00:27:10] And you're talking about that spiritually, which I love. And you're doing it together as a collective, which I love. Cause we have this amazing data that says that when we do it together, we do it better.

[00:27:24] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Yes, and we do it better and we do it in a more committed way. We do it longer and we actually enjoy the doing of it, a lot more. The belongingness of the common thread. You know, the through line that is the same through line for everybody is very powerful and very supportive. I don't know how many of those studies are longitudinal, so for me, I start to wonder how long they work and [00:28:00] one of the critical elements in whether we're in a collective doing it together or doing it alone is personal responsibility and how strongly I will stand up for my own results and my own systems and my own practices as a part of the group instead of just or more than maybe not instead of it's a both and probably more than just or in addition to allowing myself to sort of halo, you know, ride coattail on the fact that other people are doing it too.

[00:28:48] So in order to have the belonging that I want in this fit group of people I've got to and so that i've got to in order to belong which is more it leans a [00:29:00] little toward people pleasing is out about something outside of me driving me I've got to cultivate in myself the drive, the desire that's inspiration as opposed to motivation.

[00:29:16] So the external world can motivate me. I had coaches, they motivated me, but when I fell out of favor with them, meaning I stopped kind of liking the way they did things I had to inspire myself to train really hard. And to excel in spite of that. And so that's why it's kind of central to the community that I'm cultivating is this concept of personal responsibility that the outside world can only take you so far and your belief system and your mindset, heart set, skill set, they all have to come together to [00:30:00] carry you over whatever you designate as your finish line.

[00:30:05] Lucas Root: Beautifully stated. Yeah. Wow. So that sort of leans into, from a community perspective, that sort of leans into, it actually goes beyond, but it leans into the value. So the fourth element value, is as is everything, it's bidirectional. You're not really in the community if you're not contributing value.

[00:30:33] It's not enough to just show up over and over again. You have to actually contribute. Where just showing up is not actually contributing. And the way you're talking about it is a beautiful way to look at it, like, haloing, like, it's not enough to just grab onto these people that are doing the thing and allow them to drag you forward.

[00:30:55] If you're not actually contributing, you're not in, and looking at that from a [00:31:00] longitudinal perspective helps us remember that if you're not in, you will eventually fall off.

[00:31:08] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Yes. And I'm just allowing the idea to percolate a little. And so I feel a little scratchiness, which means some aspect of me is saying, but wait a minute. So I believe that people are at all different places and so within the concept of community and belonging that there are going to be some people who don't have the capacity to contribute at any given time because of whatever may be going on in their lives.

[00:31:49] That's not visible to others, because they haven't fully bought in, but they wanted to jump in and see if this is where I'm supposed to be in there. So they're, you know, the junior birdman, [00:32:00] so to speak. And so I, from a, I guess, from the mission, you know, the heart centered nature of the mission sort of feel like there is a contribution to the community from a passive a more passive engagement, we said before, this was kind of an oxymoron, but passive engagement, meaning receptivity to what is being offered until I can get to a place of gobbling it up and then contributing something from having gobbled it up.

[00:32:44] And maybe this is, you know, a difference that I feel because of the nature of my community is, it's transformative and it's spiritual, which means even though the common mission is change the world because I [00:33:00] change, it doesn't show up the exact same way. So people are at different places on their own continuum not the continuum that I lay out and I lay one out, but they're on their own continuum of their journeys.

[00:33:18] And so I like to think that a contribution to the community could even be just my presence is here and I'm willing to receive what could help me transform so that when I'm out there, I am contributing a higher vibration. I don't know if that's completely different than what you were saying. I just wanted to make space for the contribution to be less than an, you know, especially in the West, we're so into doing and going and getting it done.

[00:33:58] And, you know, I've got to do something and [00:34:00] give more and be more. And I just wanted to make space for a more quiet, contemplative, reflective way of contributing to the community.

[00:34:13] Lucas Root: Lovely. Yeah. And there has to be that too. There has to be quiet, contemplative making space. It has to happen. One of my favorite ways to talk about community is people who gather together on some, you know, let's say Saturday mornings for coffee and hugs, like...

[00:34:35] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: I go to a market here, a market. In this area, Sunday markets, Saturday markets, evening markets, you know, and I'm talking open air, lots of stalls, people serving food and all kinds of things. And the last couple of Sundays I go to this market in Esperanza and the last couple of Sundays there has been this, I see them as a [00:35:00] couple.

[00:35:00] I don't know that they are a couple, but a man and a woman, they have blindfolds on and the signs around them say free hugs.

[00:35:08] I love watching people kind of go by, you know, as they're walking by, they're kind of looking. But then when I see somebody like dive in, go in for the hug, and the man is really tall.

[00:35:23] And somebody asked me, why are they wearing blindfolds? And I said, I think it's because it's unconditional hug that way. There's no, no aspect of them is holding back because a judgment came in as they saw the person who wanted to be hugged. And it's so beautiful to just watch. I love being a fly on the wall watching this.

[00:35:49] So the community of, I think of it as a communal sharing of grace.

[00:35:59] Lucas Root: [00:36:00] Yeah. Which, by the way, is a project. That's amazing. And so I think about this, it's impossible for me not to, being a physicist by trade, I think about this from the observer principle, where when you observe a system, the system is changed by the observation. But here's the thing, in nature, it works in both directions.

[00:36:22] as does everything, including the elements of community. When you observe a system, the system observes you back.

[00:36:29] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Oh dear. Yes, it does.

[00:36:31] Lucas Root: And with their blindfolds on, what they're creating is, because we judge, this is what we do. In all circumstances, all the time, everywhere, we are judging. It's our decision to change the way we judge.

[00:36:46] It's our decision to act on that judgment. But we're always going to judge. What they're doing is they're inviting a very specific judgment. They're inverting the observer principle with intent. It's amazing.[00:37:00]

[00:37:00] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: It's very cool. And I just love it. And to see it at this big open air market in a place that is not, you know, I don't think you would expect to see that where people are eating food. And, you know, buying shoes and around and meeting friends and getting, you know, I go there to get my fresh vegetables from organic farmers and some of the best cheese I've ever had.

[00:37:28] And then I'm coming around the hill and there's the huggers and it's so special, especially since, you know, I think some people would characterize, like, as you said, from a judgment perspective would have a characterization in their mind's eye of who, what's the kind of person that would do that.

[00:37:48] I even had to notice for myself, like, wake up to the fact that for me, there was a little bit of, well, they don't look like hippies.

[00:37:57] Like they don't look like a [00:38:00] certain kind of people who would just stand in a very busy crowded market with blindfolds on waiting for someone to come up and say, I'll take a hug.

[00:38:09] And they didn't even have. You know, some people say it's free, but they put something there in case you want to give them a donation. No, they didn't even have that. I saw a couple people saying, what if I want to give you a donation? They were like, we don't accept them. And to think about, wow, who are these people?

[00:38:26] Like, are they corporate executives? Are they doing community service? Who are they? It was very, I love doing.

[00:38:33] Lucas Root: Perhaps aree doing community service.

[00:38:35] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Yes, absolutely. But I wonder if it was the reason that they're doing it because they said they would do some community service. And so I love, like, so this is another one of the seminal teachings that I have, like, are you watching yourself?

[00:38:51] Are you awake?

[00:38:52] Lucas Root: If a judge in the U.S would allow that as a community service plan.

[00:38:58] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Wouldn't that be interesting.

[00:38:59] Lucas Root: I mean, they [00:39:00] should but now the idea is in my head, like, wait, would that even be accepted?

[00:39:04] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Interesting. Like when you read, I feel like you could make a case when you read about the way endorphins are released and serotonin and oxytocin and other things.

[00:39:18] Lucas Root: I would argue that is maybe the best community service model there could be.

[00:39:23] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: I think between free hugs and a community laughter yoga class, you'd have down pretty well. So as a laughter yoga leader there are some pretty powerful physiological, emotional, mental, spiritual benefits from that practice as well. So that would be a pretty neat one, two dynamic going on.

[00:39:43] That I think would just be amazing.

[00:39:46] Lucas Root: Yeah now i'm gonna be Now i'm stuck with that. I'm gonna be thinking about it all day Like would a judge actually accept that as a community because they should But would they?

[00:39:57] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Yeah the[00:40:00] left brain side of me is like, I can come up with a million, well, not a million, three or four reasons why they could throw a wrench into that. Maybe social workers wouldn't. I could see a judge, you know, the whole, you know, but there are ways around it, potentially women hugging women, men hugging men, no cross sexual, you know, gender, all of that stuff being taken into account.

[00:40:33] I think, you know, it could possibly be a really neat project to actually have it be a way that you create community service hours.

[00:40:49] Lucas Root: Fun. I like to I like to wrap up my interviews with three questions. And strap on your seatbelt, because question two and question three are [00:41:00] curveballs.

[00:41:01] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Are what? Curveballs. Oh, I read an article once on what do you do when life throws you curveball? Cool.

[00:41:10] Lucas Root: Tell me about it. What do you do? Dr. Valerie, what do you do when life throws you a curveball?

[00:41:16] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: It's a really simple practice. First is the breathing. So I first kind of have to convince myself to slow down, like slow everything down and everything slows down when I slow down. So I'd stop and I breathe and usually just the breathing allows me to kind of put things in a little better perspective.

[00:41:40] And then the next thing is to kind of go, so what really is going on here? And what that's doing is you just said a little while ago, something to the effect of. It's our interpretations are judging selves come in and try to kind of hijack the moment. With [00:42:00] our, you know, little internal voice of, well, this is what it means.

[00:42:04] That's what they were trying to do. And that's, they shouldn't happen that way. And, you know, all of that judgment coming in, which often drives into some really rapid action. And so the slowing down gives me an opportunity to say, so what is this really? It's curiosity. Number one, breathe, oxygenate your brain, slow down your world, number your outer world.

[00:42:26] Number two, in your inner world, start asking questions. Get curious about what is this moment in the bigger picture? What is this moment in my internal world? What is this opportunity that this moment's giving me? And I will say, you know, just so that it doesn't sound so frivolous. That article was one that I wrote about having had a brain hemorrhage and waking up after being in a coma for a few days and not being able to move my right side of my body.

[00:42:54] So that was a pretty big curve ball, and even in that [00:43:00] situation, it's like, slow everything down, come into a space of what is this really happening for? And what's the opportunity inside the curve ball? Is it to see myself in a different light? Is it to notice that I'm anchored in some really negative energy?

[00:43:20] Is it to notice that I'm doing things that aren't serving me? Is it to come into rapid reflection around what's happening? That could contribute to my future. It's that kind of thing. And then it's about waiting till we can get to a neutral place and choosing, what am I going to do in the dynamics that are present at this moment?

[00:43:51] And will they serve me going forward? Or do they anchor me in my past?

[00:43:58] Lucas Root: Lovely. [00:44:00] That's a wonderful practice. First breathe.

[00:44:05] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: It's a forever practice too. It's like forever and ever and ever.

[00:44:11] Lucas Root: Yep. First breathe. You know, what's amazing is in first breathe. That's applicable to everything. First breathe.

[00:44:22] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: And. I didn't know and most of my clients don't know how shallowly we breathe and it's because our worlds in many cases have become so rapid and so tension filled, stress, anxiety and overwhelm are like the primary emotions of any day that we are often holding our muscles. You know, people have a lot of pain and it's interesting.

[00:44:54] When we do a body scan, how we can find out, well, gosh, I'm holding my breath, [00:45:00] I'm holding my abdomen and I'm holding my tush in, I'm clenching my arms. No wonder I'm in pain. My muscles are tired and they're building up lactic acid and that doesn't work. And so the first breathe is a way to notice. Oh my gosh, let's take a deep breath.

[00:45:22] Let's exhale a long time and evacuate some of that old stale air that's built up in the very tiny bottom of my lungs. And so breathing practices are very critical, especially, in an environment of transformation.

[00:45:40] Lucas Root: Yeah. I've worked with a couple of different vocal course coaches. Yeah I love working with vocal coaches. They, they approach being an athlete because, you know, using your voice is an athletic endeavor. Your voice isn't something that just magically happens. Like, we have a [00:46:00] mechanical container that is controlled by muscles and hard structures.

[00:46:04] And the muscles work with those hard structures. And then we push something through it in order to create, you know, we push air through it in order to create sound. It is actually an athletic endeavor, all of which is encapsulated in here and in here.

[00:46:19] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Diaphragmatic breathing is important.

[00:46:22] Lucas Root: yeah and only the first, and I, you know, I've asked these other vocal coaches that I've worked with, but only the first one did breathing exercises with me to such an extent that the first two sessions we did was just breathing exercises. And he said something at the end of the very first session that I've never been able to forget. It was over 20 years ago. He said, your first breath that you ever took in the world is probably still in your lungs.

[00:46:50] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Get out. I have never heard that. Wow.

[00:46:55] Lucas Root: Wow.

[00:46:56] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Wow.

[00:46:58] Lucas Root: Yeah. [00:47:00] Hard to imagine, right?

[00:47:01] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: One of the benefits of laughter yoga is that laughter can help us evacuate our lungs more than we do with normal breathing, especially when you get into a laughter meditation and you're laughing for like 20 minutes without stopping. I love those.

[00:47:18] Lucas Root: That sounds great. Now I need to go sign up for one of those now. Okay. So the big questions. The first is for people who have been deeply inspired by you, and I hope that's everyone. How is the one best way that they can reach out to you?

[00:47:38] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Oh, I just tell people, get me on email enough of the social media stuff. It's and it's H E A R T L Y Hartley center. Yeah. You can also do the PMing thing and you know, LinkedIn and yada. The fastest way to get me though, especially when I'm [00:48:00] internationally traveling is email.

[00:48:03] Lucas Root: You know, at some point in the not distant future, coming to the U. S. will be internationally traveling for you.

[00:48:10] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Yes, indeed. So cool.

[00:48:15] Lucas Root: There's a shift, right?

[00:48:20] Second question. Here's the first of the curveballs. What is the one thing you wish I had asked you but have not?

[00:48:27] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Oh, okay. So along the lines of kind of what's the heart of the community and what I do, the question would be. Why do you like the kinds of modalities that you do? Like, what's your favorite modality and why? And I'm really big on learning and growing and transforming in a [00:49:00] group container, in a vibrational container that involves others.

[00:49:06] And the reason is because number one, I think divine energy chooses who's in the container. They're divinely put there. And you find out as you start talking to each other and you're like, Oh my gosh, you know, we're both doing the same thing. Or, you know, I have had that wound and I'm working on healing it too.

[00:49:30] And you find out that the divine, the angels the power of the universe through those laws that I mentioned before brought together a perfect container where people are going to spiral and what that does is they spiral faster. That's what I love about group dynamics is some people stay out of them because they don't want to air their dirty laundry in public.

[00:49:55] And I just say, they're just not ready. People who are ready. It's [00:50:00] not even dirty laundry. All they know is it's holding me back. It's somehow preventing me from living my best life, from creating a life. I really love to live and I'm tired of it. I'm tired of having the things that are in my way be things inside me.

[00:50:16] So I don't care if you know about them, I'm going after them and I'm going to do it this way. And so I love immersion. I love retreats and I love having, getting groups together and they get to learn from each other as, and the application of the principles and practices that I teach from their own experience of them, not just hearing me talk about others experiences and my experiences, they can talk together and say, well, when I do it, this happens and what do you do?

[00:50:48] And here's how, and I love that. So to me, that's my number one favorite modality is group transformation, and that's why the bliss collective and that's [00:51:00] why some of the I have a prosperity circle. We do that there too. And I do these lovely 7 day retreats here in France. And we saw it.

[00:51:11] We see it there as well.

[00:51:13] Lucas Root: Yeah, I had a really powerful realization I've started 13 different businesses in my life and I'm probably not done. And I had a really powerful realization, recently within the last several years so relatively recently that you know I've always been the kind of person like if I can do it myself I'm going to do it myself. And you know, for all the reasons, I don't want to bother other people I don't want to be slowed down by other people, blah, blah, blah.

[00:51:41] One of the realizations that I had was by doing it myself I was, without understanding, I was excluding my community from succeeding alongside me in whatever dever I was doing. [00:52:00] I was excluding them from enriching themselves alongside me both in experiences and in actual cash I wasn't giving them the opportunity to opt in that journey and in a very real sense every single time I choose to Engage with let's say vendor services or hire somebody and i'm hiring outside of my community that money is still getting paid But it's getting paid to somebody outside of my community instead of inside of my community and The skills that they're building inside that work.

[00:52:30] It's being built for somebody who's outside of my community instead of inside of my community. Now, maybe I'm bringing them in. Maybe they're becoming part of my community. Maybe they're going to be with me forever after this but what about the people who are already with me forever?

[00:52:43] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Yeah, it's a really important thing to consider and I love the idea of, you know, blessing others with my blessings and to think about the community the elements and the people, [00:53:00] the dynamics in the communities that where I travel and to keep those blessings rotating through those people as well.

[00:53:08] It's really pretty.

[00:53:10] Lucas Root: Yeah. Yeah. And it's interesting cause we look at a pattern like the one that I had and we assign it names like selfish, that was selfish of you, Lucas. And sure, you know, go there if you want. Here's the name I assigned it. That was thoughtless. I hadn't taken the time to really think through the full interaction. That was thoughtless. It wasn't selfish. I wasn't withholding riches. Somebody was enriched. But I wasn't allowing people who already love me to opt in to be that person.

[00:53:53] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Yes. And I don't know the idea of a thoughtless, you being a thoughtless [00:54:00] person still feels like a heavy negative judgment. And when I feel like, and so when you talk about community language and the community in the Hartley Center, community language is really critical. And. You know, I would offer you a choice that, you know, a different way of saying what you discovered, which is I made that decision maybe without the highest vibration of me participating.

[00:54:39] So that you're really talking about, you already have, you know, we all are always already our highest and best selves.

[00:54:52] Lucas Root: In that moment.

[00:54:52] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Our highest and best selves always already exist within us. We've just disconnected [00:55:00] from them like electricity is still running through the lamp available to you when you flip the switch, we just have to activate it.

[00:55:09] So your choice and language just didn't reflect your higher self, which is more compassionate and loving, and instead of giving you a slap for not having, you know. Selfish and thoughtless are pretty yucky words if you think about them in the narrowest sense. And so I just felt like you're growing back into the place of kind of refining how you use your blessings.

[00:55:37] It's just a I think I'm going to refine my idea without making it bad or wrong. I'm just going to refine it. I'm just going to polish it a little. So that even when you think about, oh, I don't think that was my best shot. You can still think about it at a high vibration.[00:56:00]

[00:56:02] Lucas Root: What you just demonstrated is how we together can take the story that's going on inside my head and refine it into something that helps me grow into my highest self together better than alone.

[00:56:16] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Yes, indeed.

[00:56:18] Lucas Root: Thank you.

[00:56:20] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Welcome.

[00:56:21] Lucas Root: Do you have any parting gifts or thoughts that you'd like to share with our audience?

[00:56:27] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: You know, I have a quote. It's not mine. I have lots of them, but this one is not mine, but it's one of my favorites. It's in my email signature and I say it a lot. As long as you live, keep learning how to live. And it's from a Roman dramatist, like third century named Seneca. And the whole idea that I bring forth from this quote in my community is [00:57:00] You're not trying to be better than the person to your left or your right.

[00:57:04] You're only trying to be a better version, the highest and best version of you. that means higher and better than you were five minutes ago. And so, it's always only about that. How am I besting my best?

[00:57:22] And can I bring play into that? And can I See the flow in that. And can I feel the glow that comes from that? And so I offer that to the audience as continually challenge yourself to grow in your self mastery, to grow in your personal responsibility and applying those things in your life so that you heal yourself.

[00:57:53] and contribute to the changing of the planet.

[00:57:59] Lucas Root: That's [00:58:00] awesome. As long as you live, keep learning how to live. That sounds like Seneca.

[00:58:07] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Yes.

[00:58:09] Lucas Root: Thank you, Dr. Valerie.

[00:58:11] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: Thank you, Lucas. This has been a great conversation.

[00:58:15] Lucas Root: Yeah,

[00:58:16] Dr. Valerie Sheppard: I'm really grateful to have been here and many blessings to you and your lovely credibility nation audience.

[00:58:26] Narrator: Thanks for joining us this week on Elements of Community.

[00:58:30] Make sure to visit our website,, where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or via RSS, so you'll never miss a show. While you're at it, if you found value in this show, we'd appreciate a rating on iTunes, or if you'd simply tell a friend about the show, that would help us out too.

[00:58:51] Be sure to tune in next week for our next episode.

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