Lang Charters: Five Things We Can Do To Develop Serenity And Support Each Other During These Anxious Times
Mindful, joyous movement. All of our emotions, like uncertainty, fear, and loneliness, are energy. Energy needs to move or it becomes like a piece of meat left on the sidewalk in the elements for days; only inside of us. Running, walking, yoga, kickboxing, Pilates, weightlifting, etc. are all not only good for our muscles, but also incredibly valuable ways for the energies of stress, worry, anxiety, anger, and more to be processed and set free.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to develop serenity and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lang Charters.
Medically retired from the Air Force, Lang is a yoga teacher, author, inspirer, and doctorate student studying spiritual formation to formalize being a life coach. More importantly, he seeks to live out his life mission, of collectively awakening, opening to, and being love together, in everything he does. A lover of kindness, hugs, music, wine, beauty, people, and Jesus, Lang is passionate about helping all of us collectively recognize, experience, and grow into more of the divine light every single one of us is born with.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Think of the longest, most twisty and crazy rollercoaster in the history of rollercoasters! In short, though, when I went to college after high school, I intended to be a rich and successful engineer or medical doctor. Yet, Spirit led me elsewhere and I got a degree in history, thinking I’d become a pastor or professor. After sticking my toes in those waters and growing up a bit, though, I joined the air force as an officer (military service runs in my family). Almost ten years into a really successful career, though, a crazy accident in 2008 I’ll discuss below, led to my medical retirement.
On the other side of the air force, I felt drawn to become a pastor, so went to The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology in 2010 for a Master of Divinity. While I thought I’d be a “pastor” in the usual sense of the word, life had other plans. Partially to support my, now, ex-wife as she became a yoga teacher, and also to help my body continue to heal, in 2011 I started practicing yoga. In 2014 a local yoga studio owner invited me to start teaching, so I did, as a supplement to my plan to pastor. Turns out, though, as I learned to follow the flow of life’s river, teaching yoga became how I pastor in person, while writing is how I care for souls from a distance.
Having let go of my attachment to pastoring in the usual way, in 2018 Spirit let me know something new was waiting to be born. After sitting with this, listening, and talking with others for six months, the answer came loud and clear: “Become a life coach.” My passion is to help people thrive and experience the most amazing life possible, and given that, plus my experiences and training, life coaching makes all the sense in the world. So, having just published my first book this summer, I began studying at George Fox University for a Doctorate in Leadership and Spiritual Formation to become a life coach this fall.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
In November 2008 life was great. I was on the other side of my life falling apart following a miscarriage, seven months of separation from my wife and our daughter, and our eventual divorce. On 11/10 my fiancée and I went “hiking” (my daughter was 3.5) at Red Rock Canyon, a beautiful park full of red rocks just outside Las Vegas. We walked up onto a plateau and saw a cave we wanted to check out. So, I went to scope out the best route for the four of us to traverse. I sat down to set my feet on a path a bit below, but when I stood my feet slid out from underneath me. Landing heavily on my bum, I pitched forward as if something pushed me. Frantically I tried to catch hold of something to stop my momentum, but could not, and ended up plummeting thirty feet headfirst off a cliff onto a boulder below.
While I should have died, and even stopped breathing, I did not. I believe love (the kind Jesus modelled — willing to give one’s life for the benefit of others) from family, friends, medical workers, strangers, and God is what not only saved my life, but brought me back into a bigger and more beautiful mode of existence. Within hours friends and family from all over the country were by my side in the ICU. At the time, my fiancée was visiting from Washington, but she sacrificed her job, house, car, and time with her son to stay with and care for me during my two months in the ICU and three-and-a-half months in impatient rehab. Friends far and wide showered me and the people caring for me with food, gifts, cards, and many other expressions of lovingkindness. While I didn’t escape the accident unscathed — aside from getting a severe traumatic brain injury, I lost my depth perception, peripheral vision, sense of smell, ability to drive, and career in the air force, among other thing — on the other side of all this “death” is more LIFE than I ever dreamed was possible! For anyone interested in more of this story, the book I wrote is a memoir about my accident, recovery, and reflections on life. It’s titled Falling into Love: The Transformative Power of Community.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
One word: Nourish. While I for sure know this vital for those in giving professions, teachers, coaches, healers, nurses, pastors, doctors, writers, etc., I have a hunch it’s applicable to everyone. What I mean is find practices you enjoy which feed your mind, body, and spirit, and make them habits. For instance, nearly every morning I cuddle with my wife, drink my morning coffee while reading soulful meditations, a few comics, and about sports teams I enjoy, and then do some combination of running (while listening to books/podcasts that feed and grow my spirit), spinning, strength training, walking, and yoga.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Same word: Nourish. Create and foster an environment wherein it’s normal and natural for people to nourish their bodies, minds, and spirits, because when our “tanks” are full, we perform way better. Related to this, I would add togetherness and vulnerability. The more people are allowed to be fully and freely their authentic, loving selves, the healthier they become. What is more, life is a team sport. We truly either rise or fall together. I think Pete Carroll, the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, is a fantastic leader who nails this in three ways that come to mind: (1) Believe and name the best in people — it’s like the perfect amount of water and sun on a plant. (2) Help people discover and live into her/his highest potential. (3) Create a cultural of family, wherein people on the “team” think of and treat one another like sisters and brothers.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Recently I read Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz. Its main message is that while we consciously and unconsciously believe we are right about all our beliefs, opinions, etc., the truth is to err is to be human. Out of a host of books that have changed my life, I picked this one for two reasons. As a lifelong Christian, for a long while I thought God expected perfection from us. What is more, as a driven individual, I expected the same from myself. This book has been part of me realizing life is not about perfection, but participation. Practice makes progress, not perfect. Realizing making mistakes and being wrong about things is part and parcel to what it means to be human, unlocks oceans of grace for myself and others.
On the topic of others, I also believe this book is highly relevant to the polarized and tribalistic society we live in. It helps us remember Republicans, Democrats, Christians, atheists, Muslims, African Americans, Indigenous Peoples, White People, women, men, and so on are all both right and wrong. And isn’t that freeing? Wouldn’t that reminder help us fight less and come together more?
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious just from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
1) You are what you “eat”. During my second divorce, I lived with my parents for seven months. One day while they were watching the news, I distinctly remember feeling quite dirty from all the negativity being communicated. Since then, I make a point of being mindful of what information, opinions, stories, etc. I take in. I do my best to both stay informed and hear views contrary to my own, while also protecting my heart and mind from being traumatized by the vitriol that’s regularly in our news, politics, and the like. To put this more positively, I purposefully choose to fill my mind with things that are good, true, noble, peaceful, life-giving, compassionate, unifying, kind, caring, and loving.
2) Mindful, joyous movement. All of our emotions, like uncertainty, fear, and loneliness, are energy. Energy needs to move or it becomes like a piece of meat left on the sidewalk in the elements for days; only inside of us. Running, walking, yoga, kickboxing, Pilates, weightlifting, etc. are all not only good for our muscles, but also incredibly valuable ways for the energies of stress, worry, anxiety, anger, and more to be processed and set free.
3) Drinking in nature. Virtually every time I pause to really take in the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of nature, I return to a place of wellbeing. Whether it’s a sunrise, sunset, a flower, tree leaves moving in the wind, birds singing, the interplay of clouds with the sun and sky, the soothing feel of a gentle breeze, the rhythm of rain, and the list goes on and on, the affect is the same! I like to think of myself as a beauty hunter. Frequently, when I take our dog, Biscuits, out, I will look around for glimpses of beauty. You might be surprised how much there is when you’re on the hunt! For instance, one morning the way the sunlight was filtering through a group of trees just took my breath away. Or, a different time I happened to see how the light shining through our window lit up parts of a yellow flowered indoor plant we have, while leaving other parts in the shade. What a calming and joyous experience! By the way, if you don’t have access to much nature, imagination and pictures can create quite the same experience. Just drink it in and enjoy!
4) Breathing Love. One of my favorite practices to help center, calm, and enliven myself is breathing love. While breathing in I will think, feel, and receive an “I love you” from God, the Universe, nature, others, and/or whatever resonates with you. On the exhale I will send out my own “I love you” from my heart center. When we consciously breath, like this, we mindfully join the dance of creation and cycle of life. We take in particles breathed out by Jesus, the Buddha, and Mother Theresa. We are gifted with oxygen from plants. When we breath out, we return nourishment to said plants. It’s the rhythm of love.
While this practice always blesses me greatly, I’d say there’s an added power when done for a minute, or five, with others. Our hearts send out an electromagnetic field that extends 20 feet beyond our skin. This energy goes into the people around us, and subtly affects her/his disposition without a word being spoken! The nature of our thoughts shifts and shapes the energy we send into others, so purposefully making it about love makes all the difference in the world.
5) Roses and thorns. Most days when my wife, Lisa, comes home from work we share our highs (roses) and lows (thorns) of the day. Likewise, when I tuck my fifteen-year-old daughter, Lara, in at night, we do the same. Not only are celebrations and sorrows better with others, there is something super freeing about voicing our struggles, hurts, faults, griefs, etc. What is more, taking time to name and share about good things, reorients our minds to how amazing it is to be alive.
Studies show negative experiences are like Velcro, in that they instantly stick in our brains. Conversely, positive moments are like Teflon, as they will slide away … unless we take 15 or more seconds to savor said experience. Isn’t that interesting? I understand it’s because we are hardwired for survival, and quickly identifying and reacting to the negative stuff keeps us alive. At one of my lowest points in life, during my second divorce, a yoga teacher I follow invited people to keep a gratitude journal for 30 days. Just notice and write about three things you’re thankful for each day, she said. I kept it up for two plus years, as this practice has completely changed the game for me. It rewired my brain to see, enjoy, and focus on the good.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
1) Affirm. Affirm what he or she is feeling is real and matters. Be sympathetic and curious. Ask questions to learn more, show you understand, and demonstrate you care and are with him or her. I think one of the biggest burdens of anxiety are thoughts like, “I’m all alone in this”, “nobody else would understand”, “I’m weird for feeling this”, and so on. Anxiety is a normal and natural part of life — generally it’s a sign one is engaged in life and cares deeply about what’s going on (recognizing medical and genetic conditions can play a part as well). We each desire to be seen and heard well, so I think one of the biggest gifts we can give a person feeling anxious is affirmation.
2) Encourage. Toward the beginning of the pandemic, I heard a podcast where the interviewee pointed out that we’re like the Divine in that we’re simultaneously transcendent and immanent. What she was saying is that while part of us is in the mess and muck of life (immanence), another aspect of ourselves has a bigger picture, heavenly perspective (transcendence). To me, to encourage a person who is struggling is to help her/him touch base with their transcendent self by reminding her/him of their courage, power, perseverance, and inner radiance that has gotten her/him this far and will see her/him through it. I find the key is to do this while continuing to affirm the realness of the struggle.
3) Share. One of the worst parts about being down and struggling, in my experience, is the feeling that I am uniquely cursed in this way. Do you know what I mean? That’s why I think it’s a huge gift to share with someone in the dumps my own worries, fears, insecurities, and such. This lets them know they are not alone or abnormal in their anxieties. The trick, though, is not to share your struggles in a way that makes the conversation about you, instead of her or him, or overwhelms her/him. It seems to me the best experience(s) to share are ones you’ve already moved through, as not only will this not burden her/him, but hearing that you made it through will give her/him hope.
4) Play. Play is one of the rhythms of life. Elementary school kids aren’t the only ones who need regular recesses, we do too! At another one of my three or so lowest moments in life, one of my best friends came and visited me for a long weekend. While Kevin gave me plenty of space to share the deep soul pain my first wife and my separation was causing, he also sagely suggested we take some time to just have fun! Our brains and bodies need time to reset and digest, and making time to play is essential to that process. Not only that, but it also helps us plug into joyousness. While playing video games was the fun Kevin and chose, there as many options as there are people.
5) Togetherness. While I was going through my second divorce, Scott, a longtime best friend, lived in Singapore and travelled all the time. Still, he made a point of regularly calling and texting me to check in, chat, vent, share, laugh, cry, and so on. For most of this season divorce was not a given, and while I was living with my parents to give my ex space, I was quite hopeful that we’d work everything out. The flip side of this, though, was I was also often overwhelmed with anxiety at the possibility of a marriage I was 100% invested in falling apart.
It seems to me to be in the throes of anxiety is like being a ship at sea in a storm, or hurricane. It forcibly tosses you wildly about. By being deeply with me, though, Scott was like a safe harbor in a storm. His calm, non-anxious, wise, and loving presence brought me oceans of peace, harmony, and wellbeing.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
I would say therapy, a gratitude journal, friends and sharing, movement, and self-soothing. One of the best gifts I believe anyone can give themselves is therapy. I’d say it’s as essential for people as oil changes, tune-ups, tire rotation/replacement, etc. are for cars, and even more so when we’re struggling! They give tools, insights, and perspectives that make all the difference in the world. As I mentioned above, a gratitude journal is a game changer. Practicing gratitude is like doing a drug that’s free, 100% good for you, has no side-effects (aside from joy), and literally changes your brain chemistry for the better!
My lowest moments in life have all been when I was alone. Life is simply better together. Sharing our burdens is freeing and hugs are healing and magical at a soul-level. Anxiety, and all our other feelings, are energy — and energy needs to be moved and expressed. When we workout, we work the anxiety, fears, worries, stresses, and so on out of our bodies.
In many ways we have the ability to be our own best resource when it comes to things like anxiety. You know how when a baby cries, a parent soothes it by meeting whatever need, whether it’s hunger, loneliness, sleepiness, or a full diaper, its tears are expressing? We can do the same for ourselves. Our anxieties are gifts meant to keep us safe and alive. So, starting by recognizing and naming its original goodness, we can then start to be curious about what’s beneath our anxiety. Keep asking “why” and “where” until you get to what seems like a root of the issue. For instance, I mentioned how I was ridden with anxiety during the season of my second divorce. At face value I thought it stemmed from the thought of my ex leaving me. However, by being curious and asking myself why I was anxious and where was it truly coming from, I discovered the root issue was fear of being alone and unloved. With that in mind, I could then reassure (i.e. soothe) myself I was far from alone and was quite loved, by telling myself all the friends and family who are Team Lang.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Just too danged blessed to stress.” I love this quote from my yoga teacher and friend Eoin Finn, because when we focus our mind’s eye on the positives, which are always numerous, there isn’t much (if any) space left for the stress. This year — as we’ve been navigating the uncharted waters of the pandemic, racial divides, and political craziness — my family, friends, and I have also been walking through cancers, possible gender transitions, sexuality revelations, mental illness, and more. Yet, while deeply feeling the weight of all those things, I also feel more joyous, alive, and full of love than ever before. Why? Because I take time to savor the many blessings this season has brought — a closer relationship with my daughter, a heightened sense of partnership and oneness with my wife, continued and increased depth to several key friendships, and the list goes on.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I call it The Namaste Revolution. When we say “namaste” in yoga, we use it as a shorthand for: The divine, the light, the love, the oneness in me sees and salutes that same eternal flame of goodness in you. I believe the more we can live this mentality out with everyone we meet, see, hear, and so on, the more beautiful our world and existence will become.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
I’d love and be honored to connect with you through my website at www.lightlovelang.com, on my Lightlovelang Facebook page, and on Instagram at, you guessed it, @lightlovelang.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!