Ann Lu, High-powered Financier Turned Yogi & Healer
Born in Taiwan, Ann Lu and her parents immigrated to the US when she was 11 years old. Encouraged to follow a path of success defined by financial security and a good education, Ann pursued a career in finance, climbing the proverbial latter all the way up to an executive position at Merrill Lynch. But after about a decade, this path started to feel meaningless to her.
For her parents, financial prosperity was a means of survival, but as a woman from a completely different generation and, perhaps, influenced by her upbringing in American culture, Ann saw things differently. “My parents struggled, but with my generation, it’s about pursuing a path of your own interests,” she explains. “It’s not like I’m going to starve to death [by switching career paths].”
The problem was, Ann had spent so much time focused on what she thought she should want from life, that she had no idea what she actually wanted. She didn’t even quite know what her own interests were.
“Curiosity was not encouraged as I was growing up, so that was something I really had to figure out myself after I quit Merrill Lynch. So, I took a year or so to do that,” she explains.
This didn’t happen overnight. In that year, she started looking for answers by exploring hobbies and classes, volunteering and trying new things until eventually one stuck. In this way, she emphasizes that the process wasn’t as glamorous as we often make these types of stories out to be. After a week-long yoga retreat in Costa Rica, she reflects in her own words:
“…the joy of liberation was soon marred by a sense of confusion. Not only did I not know what my next stop on the journey would be: I didn’t even know how to take the next step – or any step. I knew one thing for sure: one week of yoga practice in the rainforest with hollering monkeys was not going to cut it.
Having just stepped out of the safe confinement of a successful career, I was not only lost; I was frozen. For the first time in my life no one was telling me what to do, and as a consequence, I didn’t know what to do. This took me completely by surprise. How did this happen to me? How did I become a robot that I can only act when there is an external command? What happened to my inner guidance, my inner wisdom that I always assumed would be there for me?”
As she continued to use her practice to stay mindful in her pursuit, it led her down a completely unexpected path. Today, you’ll find her back in Taiwan, not only practicing and teaching yoga, but helping others overcome depression and trauma specifically through yoga.
In our conversation, she explains the benefits of somatic experiencing trauma therapy, and how negative experiences and emotions affect the body. “Trauma we often think of as an emotional issue, but it really is an issue that relies within your nervous system,” she explains in great detail. “Evolutionarily speaking, we have a tendency to notice threats more than pleasantries. So, in modern times, it’s important to find balance, [because] we have a tendency to overthink the negative. By paying attention and being more mindful, your nervous system will be more calm.”
Ann knows this firsthand, after turning to somatic experiencing to survive (literally) her own bouts of depression during a particularly difficult stage in her life. She describes the experience as a rewiring of the brain, a concept best explained by neuroplasticity. After learning how to free herself of her own suffering, and exploring the physical discomfort of her emotions through mindful practice, she came to the realization of the impermanence of it all.
Her advice in a nutshell? “Start becoming comfortable with not knowing.”
Links to topics discussed:
- Dress for Success: provides career attire for underprivileged women
- Somatic Experiencing Trauma Therapist Training
- American Psychological Association on the mental health benefits of yoga
- The Hoffman Process
- Gary Zukav and The Seat of the Soul
Types of yoga: