We all have pivotal moments in our lives that help define who we are and what matters to us most. For Lead with Love founder Gina Murdock, a car accident became the catalyst for her journey toward healing and self-discovery. It led to becoming a yoga and meditation teacher; studying with the renowned Deepak Chopra; earning a Master’s Degree in Spiritual Psychology; and being an incredibly inspirational speaker and community organizer. Frankly, there’s so much beautiful work this woman has done and continues to do—from founding The Aspen City of Wellbeing to serving as an advisor at The Chopra Foundation—that it can’t possibly all be listed here. The bulk of her time is dedicated to Lead with Love and its mission to “shift culture from fear to love.” Our world is a better place because of people like Gina, who show up each day radiating positivity, kindness and awareness. We should all strive to be more patient; more mindful; more understanding; more inclined to follow our hearts and lead with love. I encourage you to read on for Gina’s advice and knowledge, especially during this decelerated time when we can pause, recognize our truths and reimagine how to create a life that serves our individual paths, our communities and global ecosystems.
What is Lead with Love’s mission?
We exist to shift culture from fear to love.
How do we shift culture from fear to love?
We need to take responsibility for ourselves. We need to be aware of the cultural conditioning that has turned so many of us into victims, martyrs and saboteurs, and reclaim our authentic selves and act from that place. Our authentic self is loving and compassionate. We don’t naturally see others as different or bad; we are taught that. We have been taught a model of scarcity that means, ‘If she/he has more, I have less.’ We have been taught to compete with each other and that there’s only one winner.
When we take responsibility for our own thoughts, words and actions that come from a place of fear, we will inevitably be leading with love. We mine the fear. We inquire. We look within because there is no way this change is coming from the outside. Culture is shifted when we become aware. Culture is shifted when we pause before we react. It is shifted when we take care of our bodies and minds. I dream of this world every day and I work on myself every day to make sure I am part of it. It’s so easy to slip into blaming others and feeling righteous, especially in this political climate.
Tell us about your growth journey.
I grew up curious about people and the world around me, which led me to a career as a journalist both in print and radio. I loved it though journalism is a tricky way to make a living and I found myself in the resort towns of Telluride and Aspen, Colorado working several jobs to make ends meet. I still remember how it felt to live in some of the most beautiful places on earth, and not have the time or money to do the things all of the visitors or second home owners could do. Still, those were fun days because us locals were all in it together. Even though we couldn’t afford to go to the restaurants in town, we could afford a ski pass and access to the outdoors, which provided such a sense of camaraderie and joy to be immersed in nature.
In 2007, a car accident proved to be the proverbial wake-up call for me. I quit my job, joined a yoga teacher training program and really started on my spiritual journey of healing and self-discovery. This last decade has been an incredible gift and it led me to realizing that there are really two forces at play here on earth—fear and love. I founded Lead with Love after meeting and working with Deepak Chopra and other spiritual teachers who helped kindle the fire inside me. I wanted to dedicate my life to raising consciousness and reducing suffering by sharing the skills and wisdom I learned—all of which, to me, is distilled in that tiny phrase “lead with love.” Ultimately, the goal is for people to always feel the shift from fear to love in whatever we offer from retreats and trainings to workshops and other events. It takes a lot of skill in action to truly let love lead. It’s not some fluffy thing. This is real work that requires personal responsibility and an awareness that no-one is going to solve all of our problems. It’s each of us waking up and choosing love even when it’s really hard—especially then. Those choices are what is going to create a more just, joyful and sustainable world.
Various Lead with Love events have been cancelled due to COVID-19. How are you keeping connection and positivity alive?
We love hosting people and connecting in person, but my small, amazing all-female team and I quickly shifted our offerings into the digital space. We are all Zoom warriors now! We host several weekly digital wellbeing sessions for our essential workers in the valley from the city, county and fire department, and we created an online gathering place for our community to be seen and heard throughout the quarantine period. We are currently in the midst of an incredible storytelling series working with the theme All One/Alone. The content is meant to make people think and inquire within about who they are and what they really want. I read recently that the thing we are yearning for most in life is a sense of purpose and belonging. That resonated with me and influences what we do. Our offerings help people feel more connected to themselves, others and the world in a meaningful way. Whether in person or digital, the message hasn’t changed and we’ve loved having such a global reach with an online platform.
What is your advice for those suffering from illness or loss during this time?
Feel your feelings. We are experiencing a collective trauma that will affect our lives for a long time. Pain is something I see as part of life; it’s not to be avoided. The more we face our pain and our fear, the more we can use it as alchemy to become the next version of ourselves that has greater compassion, wisdom, awareness and readiness to face what is happening next. Evolution is constant and we can either answer the call to wake up or stay stuck in the cycle that created the pain in the first place. We have to employ the growth mindset “Why is this happening for me?” versus “Why is this happening to me?” That shift changes everything. Also, learn how to ask for help. We are all human and we can and will support each other when it’s needed, but if you need help, you gotta ask for it.
What can we learn from this pandemic?
We are all more connected than many of us ever realized. We are a global community and what happens in the far reaches of the world, whether it’s a virus or a refugee crisis or a drought, affects us all. I hope we learn the necessity to act from that awareness. If we care about surviving as a species, we need to make drastic changes in the way we propel ourselves and how we consume. Perhaps seeing the clear blue sky for the first time in a decade in Delhi, Beijing or Los Angeles will somehow convince policymakers to enforce regulations that support and sustain life on earth. If you love the planet, protected animal sanctuaries and clean air and water, it is imperative that you vote for representatives who won’t roll back every law that was made to protect those things. Ban plastic. Reinvent. Create a green economy. It baffles me that this is such a divisive political topic that has become about “freedom.” Your freedom to pollute is at odds with my freedom and the freedom of every future generation to live.
What do you think are the most beneficial ways for people to discover their greater purpose?
It’s important to look inside yourself through meditation and self-inquiry. No person or thing outside of yourself is going to give you the truth that resides in your heart. Intuition is this tiny thread tugging at you. It’s hard to hear or feel with all of the noise and information in the outside world, which I call static. You have to tune in to find the signal like an old radio dial. Keep tweaking it and showing up until you click into that resonate sound and hear the voices singing. When something is “for you,” it feels like a gush of warm energy flowing, making your heart beat faster. Listen to that. It can be scary. It can often be at odds with the life you’re currently living, so you’ll be tempted to pretend you didn’t hear it. But once you know what makes you feel alive, it’s hard to forget. I think a lot of addiction, depression and loneliness comes from stifling that knowing. It is your mind and body saying, “This isn’t it.” Can you look at that and give yourself permission to see what is true? Can you have the courage to listen? It’s not easy. People may get hurt if you change your path. You have to be willing to surrender the life you’ve built—maybe even the life your parents or spouse or society instructed you to build—to experience the life that was meant for you. There is no better feeling than purposeful living. It doesn’t have to be some big thing. It is simply being true to yourself and what matters most to you. For many of us, it is a lifelong journey of discovery and inching closer to the warmth, choosing to turn our face to the sun.
What are you currently reading and can recommend to others?
I just read Untamed by Glennon Doyle, a real manifesto for women today, and Love is Letting Go of Fear by Gerald G. Jampolsky, M.D. which is also sort of a life manifesto. Both affected me deeply.
How do you personally lead with love?
I don’t. But I try because I know better. I always think of this quote by Deepak: “Because I have a choice, I choose love.” I know I founded Lead with Love because it is my life’s purpose to lead with love and relearn how to do that while honoring myself and my boundaries every day. For me, that requires a bit more space for thoughtful decision making and it sometimes means shutting down temporarily so I don’t let anger or rage become hurtful to others. I find the time to look inward and feel rather than projecting on someone else when I am triggered in that moment. I was struck by the research of therapist Dr. John Gottman, who can basically predict whether a couple will get a divorce or not within five minutes. He says it takes five positive actions or affirmations for every one criticism to create balance in a relationship. We have a negativity bias in our brains that means we are actually wired to look for what’s wrong (from our old reptilian survival brain scanning for danger), and we often remember the hard stuff instead of the good. It’s a difficult thing to override that neurobiology, but we can with awareness. I use the tools I’ve learned from studying Spiritual Psychology at the University of Santa Monica; yoga; meditation; The Work of Byron Katie and lots of other great books that influence how I show up. Mostly, it’s just a choice that I try to make every moment of every day. It helps to have “Lead with Love” plastered all over my clothes and computer. It’s my constant reminder that I birthed this movement to first shift myself and from there, shift the culture.
Who was your greatest mentor and what qualities did you appreciate most about them?
I am constantly reminded of the courage and conviction of Nelson Mandela and Viktor Frankl. The stories of those two men, more than anyone else, have influenced my philosophy of life and knowing that I always have a choice. If they could endure what they did and come out with a feeling of forgiveness for mankind, I know I can get over my grievances. Forgiveness sets us free and is the only way to take inspired action for a better world. It can’t be fueled by anger, shame or blame.
As far as a personal mentor, Deepak showed up at a pivotal moment in my life and offered incredible wisdom, guidance and support for which I am forever grateful. I also consider my husband Jerry to be a mentor because he has spent his career coaching entrepreneurs and really knows how to problem solve. He has always encouraged me to pursue this endeavor as he too believes we must raise consciousness to solve the world’s problems.
How can we develop more genuine, honest connections with others?
This is an interesting question because it comes up for me a lot. I crave deep, authentic connection so much and yet I often find it elusive with my partner, family and friends. I think we have built a very superficial culture and to fit in, we say we are fine. We get busy because there is so much to do and so little time and we relate to the ones we love most with less care and attention than those relationships need to thrive. I find that the best way to have more genuine, honest connections is to share my desire for it with those I care about and to meet people where they’re at without expecting that they are going to give me something. It’s also been empowering to sit with myself and meet my own needs for connection first. That means I listen. I wait. I don’t force myself to know what I don’t know, but I get curious about what’s going on in my body and mind and ask, “What do you need from me right now?” I am fulfilling my need for attention and approval by giving it to myself in a loving way. I can then approach my relationships with others as someone who can be truly present because I don’t need anything from them to fulfill me. I can just be with them and that is a glorious feeling. Simply being is where it’s at if you want the cliff notes for all of this.