About Me / My Mission
(Or, Why You Should Read This Blog Anyway)
It is said that soon after his enlightenment, the Buddha passed a man who was struck by the extraordinary radiance and peacefulness of his presence. The man stopped and asked, “My friend, what are you? Are you a celestial being or a god?”
“No,” said the Buddha.
“Well, then are you some kind of magician or wizard?”
Again the Buddha answered, “No.”
“Are you a man?”
“Well, my friend, what then are you?”
The Buddha responded, “I am awake.”
Hey there. I’m Elana Miller, and I don’t want to be just alive – I want to be awake. I want to help you be awake, too.
A little background on me: I’m a psychiatry resident at UCLA. Before that I went to medical school at USC and got my undergrad degree in psychology at Harvard (not too shabby!). I surf. I play ukulele. My (not so secret) life goal is to move to Nicaragua and practice telepsychiatry.
A little background on my work here: Zen Psychiatry is the evolution of my former blog The Psychosphere. I started writing here in 2010, shortly before I graduated medical school and started residency, on topics like psychology, entrepreneurship and spirituality.
The name change signifies a clarification and transformation of my focus, and the fact that as I’ve moved through residency, I’ve noticed a lack of focus on optimizing mental wellness over curing mental illness. For people who are very sick there are many resources and options – but what about solutions for those who are not sick, but not well, either?
I am not a zen master, but believe that eastern mindfulness and spiritual perspectives can be integrated into our western view of the mind and brain. I believe in a positive view of psychiatry – a view where we are so much more than our diagnoses, and where the greatest pursuit is not medicating away mental illness, but striving for happiness, joy, and fulfillment of our greatest human potential.
A few experiences have played a big role in shaping my current perspectives, including:
- Thinking I wanted to be a surgeon my entire life but discovering late medical school that psychiatry was my true calling (best decision ever!).
- Getting dumped big time, but dusting myself off, getting out there, and finding the greatest guy on the face of the planet (aka Peter – I mention him here and there on this site). —>
- Through the process of working through this breakup, discovering some of the amazing writers who breach the gap between eastern wisdom and modern life, geniuses like Jack Kornfield, Thich Nhat Han, and Sharon Salzberg.
- Discovering Tim Ferriss’ book The 4-Hour Workweek, which pretty much revolutionized the way I think about life and work, and made me realize there’s an alternative to the traditional path of studying hard in school, getting an unsatisfying job, and then working the rest of your life until you retire.
- Voraciously pursuing all sorts of random business ideas over the last few years, leading me to learn awesome skills like web programming and graphic design.
My interests and perspectives are complex, but my mission here is pretty simple. There are a couple reasons why I was put on this planet, and one of them is to spread a message that you – yes you, reading right now – can do anything you want to, as long as you make a decision to do it, and start walking the path.
Once you realize this, a whole world can open up to you. You can push boundaries, break stupid rules, and do things you didn’t realize you were capable of. You can learn skills that are difficult. You can accomplish things that are challenging and not give up. You can act wisely and have a stamina for your goals that other people lack.
A lot of us are held back by fear, doubt and uncertainty, but we don’t need to be. No matter where you are right now, it’s possible to be more empowered, less afraid, more fulfilled, and more motivated, all while being okay where you are right now and enjoying the process.
The solutions I share are diverse and span traditional psychiatry to eastern mindfulness practices to motivational techniques and everything in between. I hope to translate the research and knowledge of my field in a way that is both meaningful and practical for you to apply to your life, right now.
Living an authentic life requires both reflection and action. It necessitates both examination and experimentation. I appreciate you joining me here and I look forward to helping (or at least entertaining) you along your journey.
The story starting this page was taken from Seeking the Heart of Wisdom: The Path of Insight Meditation by Joseph Goldstein & Jack Kornfield.