The Truth About Freedom – 3 Common Mistakes People Make

When I started my business and chose “Freedom Junkie” and “Freedom Sessions” as a part of my brand, I have to admit that I was feeling pretty original. Most coaches were focused on manifesting “success” and finding your “true purpose” or your “genius work,” or living your “dreams.”

These are not bad things! However, Freedom as a word was something that a smaller, more wacky, unconventional and renegade group of coaches focused on. After call, convincing people freedom was da bomb was a lot harder than convincing them to want to be rich or successful…or happy for that matter. As with anything awesome, the word “freedom” eventually caught on in the coaching world, and now you can find the word Freedom everywhere!

But what does this really mean? Does this mean more people are actively looking for more freedom, or that more people are truly teaching how to create more freedom? I sure hope so!

Unfortunately, it seems that for most, things haven’t changed outside of the verbiage used. I’m seeing a lot people say, “Make more money and [therefore] have more freedom!” “Work from your laptop and have more freedom!” “Become an entrepreneur and have more freedom!”

While these are all fun things to have in life, these aren’t really the things that bring you TRUE freedom – they’re just twists on the words success, passion, and location-independence, for example. Do they help you with freedom? Sure! But do they address the root of freedom? No.

We use the word Freedom rather nonchalantly, but the word Freedom implies freedom from something. We can free ourselves from external constraints with financial abundance, location independence, self-employment….

But what’s the ONE THING we are all really seeking freedom from?

We are ALL seeking freedom from suffering. Not even freedom from pain, but from suffering! As the famous quote by the Buddhist teacher Haruki Murakami goes, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

The {often} hard truth about freedom is that it is so profoundly about the work you’re doing on the inside. In their pursuit of freedom, most people don’t remember these key points:

3 Common Mistakes People Make When Seeking Freedom

1. Forgetting that you first have to own your shit.

Freedom must begin here, with the knowing that life is in YOUR hands and no one else’s – not with your militant boss, your insensitive boyfriend or your mean sibling; not in your past with your controlling/abusive parents, not your crappy neighborhood or the fact that your parents didn’t help you pay for college, not your short stature or your frizzy hair. NONE of that has to do with your freedom in this moment, right now. Until this fact is absorbed, there will always be excuses instead of solutions. And here’s a tweetable, amiga:

You cannot create freedom with excuses.  (Tweet it!)

2. Not knowing what you want and what it feels like

First, get clear about what freedom FEELS like to you, because freedom is a FEELING. Focus on how your body experiences freedom, what it feels like to be free, really conjure up that feeling and its vibration and tap into it. This is the only way you will truly ever be free. If you have no idea what freedom will feel like to you, you won’t ever know when it’s arrived, and you’ll keep seeking in all the different places for it – which are often simply distractions. Unless you actually FEEL free, the other stuff that’s supposed to get you there doesn’t really matter. So be sure you are clear about how you want to feel and experience this whole Freedom thing;)

Once you’re clear about what the Freedom feels like for you, start to get detailed about the other aspects of Freedom.

There are 5 “currencies” of Freedom, not to be mistaken for freedom itself. These are:

  1. time
  2. money
  3. energy
  4. creativity
  5. location

When you are clear about what you want to achieve with each of these forms of freedom moolah, you can more easily see what ISN’T giving you freedom. For example, if you are clear about what you want in a relationship, if you are in a bad or even simply mediocre/”maybe” relationship, you can more easily walk way from it.

Why is this so? When you are clear about what you want, you can make decisions more easily and with more confidence, and you will be less likely to tolerate something that isn’t clearly what you want, or stall taking action due to being unsure or insecure.

When people vacillate about whether or not they are in a good relationship, or if they “should” be more patient with someone or consider their “potential,” this is likely because they aren’t clear about what they want.

When you are clear, you can say, “Sorry. Homegirl don’t play that.” Or, “I don’t date for potential. That’s sooooo 80s.”


When you’re not clear, you start wondering if it’s your shit, or if it’s because you’re tired or mean or too picky. You start wondering if it’s because you are judging them and you know that is a “bad” thing to do. However, when you are clear, it’s not personal. It’s just the facts, ma’am.

3. Not taking action (or simply taking the same actions you’ve been taking and expecting a different outcome)

Once you’re clear about what you want, it’s time to act on that. Only then will your life start to manifest more freedom. And that action needs to be different from what you’ve been doing. You can’t keep doing the same thing expecting a different outcome!

Only when you start saying, “No” when you don’t feel like doing something; when you stop tolerating, when the fear of not being free is greater than the fear of being alone and you leave an unhealthy relationship…

Only when you ACT on behalf of what you want – and you start banking your freedom currency – will freedom manifest.

It’s not enough to dream and set intentions and talk about it. It’s not enough to get a Freedom tattoo on your back or write down all the ways more money will help you get more time, energy, and passport stamps.

This is where the rubber meets the road. Act, and you shall receive (tweet it!).

So ask yourself this now:

:: What’s my shit? What is my baggage, my mistakes, my habitual patterns that no longer serve me, MY self-limiting beliefs...what part of the way my life is right now is not a part of my creation? (Hint: none of it)

:: What DO I want?

:: What’s one thing I can do right now that will move me closer to freedom – to what freedom means for me?

What does freedom means for you, and how you’re going to start manifesting it. The more free women in the world, the more free communities and cities and countries and continents…and the more free souls to light up the universe!

If you want to join a tribe that is totally committed to creating more true freedom, inside and out, click here to learn more about the Freedom Club.


Ready to dive deeper into this? Check out Freedom School and see what everyone’s obsessed about. It’s not just group coaching. It’s a mindset revolution that you won’t want to miss.

This Truth Changes Everything About Fear and Anxiety

I wanted to fill you in on something about fear:

Most day-to-day fear is not useful.

It only pretends to be useful.

Most often, the fear we feel is not actually saving our lives or protecting us from imminent danger. Which is what its original purpose was.

It’s just the perception of fear that we are experiencing, and it needs a gentle reminder to move along.

We can allow fear to stop us in our tracks, or we can remind ourselves, “Oh, yeah, this isn’t going to hurt me. I’m not going to die. No one’s going to die here.”

In many ways, fear serves us. It keeps us from doing things that could legitimately hurt us. It can help us make better decisions when it comes to our safety.

The thing to realize is that our brains are super-programmed for fear to help us survive, but we’ve evolved (at least theoretically 😉 and nowadays, a lot of our fear + anxiety is irrational and even unnecessary.

Simply recognizing that fear and irrational fear are going to be a part of our lives will help immensely with moving forward. Don’t obsess about “getting rid” of it. Focus on embracing it and having it be a part of our evolutionary brain.

Also, fear does not mean stop. You don’t have to be fearless to take action. Really consider this. Taking action while acknowledging fear can be one of the most powerful things that we do.

Most of the fear that we have comes from a thought in our minds, a thought that is irrational.

Let that sink in! We let this thought have sooooo much power over us.

Irrational fear that stops us in our tracks is often the result of a mismanaged mind.

We can overcome fear + anxiety by deciding not to believe the thoughts causing it. Instead, we can understand it, find its cause, find the thought patterns that are causing it, and then change them.

If the fear is deep-seated and hard to change, I want you to take action anyway. Why?

When you take action, all of those fears get proven wrong. You’ll be fine. It’s so important to keep taking action because when you don’t, you’re reinforcing the fear, but when you do, every time you take action – every time – you give your brain more proof that the fear was irrational.

And your courage grows.

The good news is taking action while feeling fear is a skill you can develop! I teach it in the Ziji Up! Unshakeable Confidence course because it’s too important not to.

What are you afraid of? Is it irrational? Yes? Take action anyway. You’ll see that you can survive, which also provides evidence to your brain.

What you’re really afraid of is not life or death.

It’s your own feelings that you’re scared of.

The good news is that those can be dealt with. They are completely within your control. Don’t ever forget that.

Courage is just ONE of the skills I cover in the Ziji Up! unshakeable confidence course. If you want more, join the tribe.

There’s no better investment that your mental health, right? And this is a screamin’ deal, so hop on with us! You’ll get instant access to bonuses and the course. See you there!


If you want to join a tribe of people that will help you navigate this wild and precious life, come check out Freedom School – for rebels like you. It’s not just personal growth for rebels. It’s Jedi training for the new world.

You Don’t Deserve Comfort. You Deserve Better.

When I was a professional climbing guide, those were some of the most rewarding years of my life. Being in the mountains taught me a lot of things.

How to deal with 30 days of freezing rain and only three pairs of nasty socks with everything I needed on my back.

How to be really hungry and thirsty and conserve my energy so I could keep going, knowing food and water were a long way away.

How to eat pasta that had white gas spilled on it, because hey, that’s what we had (in case you’re wondering, yes, you do fart and burp it out).

How to sleep with my helmet on because we were camped under a place with notorious rockfall and no other alternatives. Not to mentioning managing my thoughts around a rock landing on my head so I could relax enough to get much-needed sleep!

How to feel pain in my hands and feet due to extreme cold for hours and hours during a climb, getting temporary respite when I had time to swing my limbs around to bring the blood flow to the tips of my fingers and toes.

How to deal with my legs going numb after hours of boredom on a hanging belay (and this was before ipods and podcasts to chip away at the time).

I could keep going on, but you get the point.

You don’t get to do cool shit without knowing how to be uncomfortable.

In the peak of my mountaineering days, I wasn’t the strongest climber. I wasn’t the most skilled climber. But I got asked to go on a lot of expeditions.

One of my favorite partners said, “I like climbing with Ana because she knows how to suffer.”

Isn’t that crazy? But what they meant was I could suffer and not bitch and moan about it all day. I could suffer and just take it, keeping focused on the task at hand. I could suffer and know how to take care of myself so that others didn’t have to. I could suffer and keep moving forward. I could suffer and still laugh and make jokes and lend my partners a hand.

That’s what you want in a climbing partner. Frankly, I think it’s what you want in any kind of partner.

It’s also what you want as a character trait if you want to do cool shit in this life.

Dr. Martin Luther King said:

“The ultimate measure of a [wo]man is not where [s]he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where [s]he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Knowing how to suffer and be uncomfortable opened up a lot of doors for me. It wasn’t just the trips I got to go on. I also learned to do hard things, things that would possibly take a long time, and having to stick with it through and through.

I learned how to fail, sometimes literally falling on a climb and physically hurting myself. And how to get back up, over and over.

I learned how to take risks – and how fear does not help AT ALL when trying to get out of a sticky situation.

I learned how to be present despite my discomfort so that I could stay focused on the task at hand.

And so much more.

You can see how this probably helped me in a lot of other things having nothing to do with the outdoors – like starting my business. Or getting my doctorate degree. Or hanging in there with my marriage when things got tough. Or grieving the death of my parents.

This is why I don’t wish you comfort and joy. I wish you better.

I wish you the ability to be uncomfortable.

I wish you the ability to know that life inherently includes suffering and that you don’t need to run from it.

I wish you the knowledge that there’s nothing “wrong” happening when shit gets hard. It’s just the way it is.

I wish you the courage to step into discomfort, knowing that what lies on the other side will be so worth it.

I wish you the deep knowing that you can handle anything so that you don’t shy away from taking risks in life (aka ziji!)

So no, you don’t deserve comfort. You deserve better.


Ready to dive deeper into this? Check out Freedom School and see what everyone’s obsessed about. It’s not just group coaching. It’s a mindset revolution that you won’t want to miss.

The Quickest Way to End Your Suffering

I’ve heard this teaching so many times, and it wasn’t until years later – after many repeats by teachers I respected and a few hard times that left me spiraling – that it finally hit me: Holy shit, they were right.

Suffering happens when we wish things were different than they are.

This may seem trite, but it is totally f*cking profound, and here’s why:

We think that the reason we are suffering so much is because of what the other person said.

Because we lost our job.

Because we didn’t have enough money.

Because that hot first date didn’t call us back.

Because we weigh 25 pounds more than we want.

Because we only have 2 weeks vacation.

But the suffering – the continued worsening of the pain – is something we create by wishing things were different than they are. Remember the saying, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional?” This is exactly what that is referring to.

I’m not saying those things are not hard. Or painful. They are. However:

Pain x Resistance = SUFFERING

If we don’t get what we want, we feel pain. That’s a normal human response. But when we spend days ruminating on why it happened to us, how we could have prevented it, how we can possibly try again to make things turn out a different way, or on how we just wish so badly things turned out differently – aka RESISTING what is – that, my friend, is suffering. And it’s optional. In fact, we’re creating it ourselves!

Here’s an example from my own life:

Marriage is hard.

It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Like waaaaay harder than climbing Aconcagua (22,837ft). Or trying to have sexy time while on the Fresh Air Traverse of the East Face of Mount Whitney.

I found that things were not quite what I expected them to be (surprise! Ain’t that always the shizzle?).

I thought my partner would behave a certain way once we had our kiddo. I thought I’d be working a lot less the first year of her life. I thought we’d be raising her from my van on the road, living simply. Or in a yurt in the mountains. I thought we’d be paddling and climbing together – not watching my husband take off into the air with his new-found paragliding passion.

And I. Was. Pissed.

OMG I was pissed.

Things were supposed to be different. We talked about this. We made agreements. It was all laid out.

So how did everything end up like this????

And let me tell you – life coach or not, I let this toxic thought stew in my brain for years. Not moments. Not months. Years.

Am I being dramatic when I use the word toxic? No. Wishing something was different than it is is toxic. Especially when you have very little control over the situation (like, say, another person;). Especially when it goes on for years.

One day, I got tired of feeding myself toxic thoughts. The good thing about being a life coach is you are constantly talking with other people about how to change their mindsets. So, it’s not like I didn’t have the tools to do it. I was just avoiding it. And everything else was pretty damn good, so I could ignore this toxic thought until I couldn’t.

I was getting something out of carrying around this thought (so that’s another blog post – but ask yourself: what might you be benefitting from by not letting this thought go?).

But eventually my own good advice caught up to me, and I had to either change my mindset or leave the hubs, because it was not good for my health. Or my kiddo. And I love my hubs, so I decided to work on own mind – something I did have control over.

I decided to accept how things were. No, it’s not what we had discussed. But it is what’s happening now, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to change, so….what if I just accepted what IS?

I’ll tell you what happened.

My heart started opening up again. We actually started having fun together again.

My business took off to the next level. I was no longer pissed I had to work so much and instead embraced it and thought, well, if I’m going to do it, might as well crush it even MORE!

I saw myself as a badass pulling off a lot of hard shit, instead of as a victim.

I moved the fuck on.

But out of all the things I said above, the biggest gift was the heart-opening I felt. Instead of resisting who this other precious being in my life was, I accepted him. And wow – isn’t that what we all want? To be accepted?

What a gift to him. And the release of trying to control things was a gift to me.

So you see, all I did was change my mind. I decided to be OK with it. To accept it.

It really was that simple.

On the other hand, the journey to be willing to do that – to know that I could do that and it didn’t mean selling out my soul or my dreams – was looong. But the shift was simple.

I remember a Tibetan monk once teaching me, “You can be happy just. like. that.” And he snapped his fingers.

Just. Like. That.

Guess he was right too.

Let me be clear: This is not to encourage you to settle. Or to not dream.

I’m a coach for Freedom Junkies, and I want you to dream big and go for it.

But I am saying to let go of it already. Not of your dreams – not those. Hold on tight to those.

Let go of the bullshit thoughts and expectations that are holding you back.

Accept what is so you can live creatively and positively and start manifesting the life you want (vs stewing about how you wish it was different).

So what’s the jedi mind-trick?

Radical Acceptance.

Acceptance of whatever is happening right now.

Go create what you want.

You’ve got this.


Be sure to check out the Ziji Up! Mastery Program, where you learn other jedi skills like this one to take your confidence to the next level.


If you want to join a tribe of people that will help you navigate this wild and precious life, come check out Freedom School – for rebels like you. It’s not just personal growth for rebels. It’s Jedi training for the new world.

Why Should We Give a F*ck About Confidence?

Here’s a little tip on confidence:

Many people think they’re confident because of their accomplishments. They think it’s because of the job they got, the peak they climbed, the presentation they crushed, or the killer karaoke performance they gave back in the day.

They think it’s the things they’ve achieved – the fact that they completed something – that led to that feeling of confidence.

But the truth is, confidence comes not from the things people have achieved, but rather the obstacles they had to overcome, and who they had to become, to get there.

This is one reason why when people don’t have to work as hard at achieving something, they often don’t feel confident in their results. They didn’t have to change or grow while getting there. For example, when people get into a fancy school because their parents went there, they often don’t think they could have gotten in otherwise. They have thoughts like, “I don’t deserve to be here.” “It was just luck.” ” I wouldn’t have gotten in otherwise.” Even if they were freakin’ brilliant they could have these thoughts.

We can talk ourselves down from any achievement if we’re not feeling confident – and this is why feeling confident doesn’t come from the achievements themselves. It comes from our thoughts, which take shape because of how we evolve in the process.

Confidence is earned. It’s tempered in the fire of the freakin’ obstacles you walk into.

I mean, think about it. Confidence can’t come from just achieving something before, because how would you ever have the confidence to do what it takes to achieve something you’ve never done before?

Confidence does not come from your actions and results. It’s a feeling that produces your actions and results.

Confidence comes from your thoughts, which then affect your emotions (how you feel) and therefore what you do and how you show up in the world.

I know that I’m not the same person I was before I started my own business. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”

I had to overcome a lot of external and internal obstacles to get here, and my mind has been blown over and over, and I am forever changed.

As a result, I feel completely different now when I make an offer for a course than I did 9 years ago. Way more confident.

It would be easy to say that it’s because I’ve done a ton of launches since then. But really, you could easily put someone into my shoes and if they did not evolve in the process, they could still feel really insecure, no matter if they had successful launches or not. They’d think it was luck or something. Or they’d compare themselves to someone else more successful and feel less confident as a result. I know many entrepreneurs in this space.

So I’m more confident now not because I launched a bunch of courses before. It was because of all the hell I went through and back with my own personal sh*t and insecurities. How I grew. How I overcame my own self doubt so that I could take action.

I know I can do it again. I know I learned a ton.

I know I can get knocked down and get back up again.

So why should we even give a hoot about confidence? So glad you asked.

Because it’s the secret sauce to the Universe.

Dreams + Confidence = You create the life you were meant to live. You are unstoppable.


Dreams + Insecurity = You act from a place of fear, and create a life based on fear. Or you act from resentment, and you can never – ever – create your dream life from a place of resentment or fear.

Confidence determines the actions you take towards the things you want in your life. It’s why I chose confidence to teach in my first (and most popular course), the Ziji Up! Mastery Program.

True Radiant. Inner Confidence. It’s the shizzle.

You need it like a lion needs wild, open spaces. Your soul craves it.

Not feelin’ it? Try these confidence tips:

1) Acknowledge your achievements. I know, I know. After all that I just said, this is #1? I put this here for those of you who have extremely low self confidence and really high self-doubt. Even though this isn’t the root of true inner confidence, it is sometimes a really helpful starting point. You’ve done more than you think! Make a list of at least 50 things you’ve achieved in your lifetime, from easy to the ones that were a big deal. Stuck at wear to start? You learned how to walk! The accomplishments per se won’t give you self confidence, but thinking about them will.

2) Become aware of self-doubt and when it sneaks in. You can do a “thought download” where you think of something you want to feel confident about, write down all the thoughts you have about it, and notice the ones tinged with self doubt. Realize these are just thoughts – not facts or truths – and that you can choose to think them or not.

3) Identify your thought triggers. For some people it might be facebook and comparison. Don’t indulge that. Set up clear boundaries about what you allow yourself to check out. A coach of mine a long time ago told me I was banned from perusing other coaches’ websites so that I’d stop comparing. It was a good mental cleanse! Know your own thought triggers.

4) Practice good mental hygiene. Don’t let your insecure thoughts hijack you. Remind yourself they are just facts – not truths. What thought will better serve you? I’ve used the analogy of putting my sh*t talker/inner mean girl into a box. I can take a peep and see that she’s in there, but otherwise, I just close the box. “Nope. You don’t get to take up any of my time or mental bandwidth,” I tell her. You can visualize something similar. I’ve had clients flick their mean girl off their shoulder, or lock the box for a bit.

5) Remember that confidence will help you bring your gifts to the world – and that the world need those gifts. The world needs YOU.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” ~ Martha Graham

So please – go get it, girl.


Want to work with me 1:1 to get this thought-work shizzle mastered and start turning your life around towards where you want it to be? Click here to schedule a free strategy session, and let’s jam about what’s possible.


Ready to dive deeper into this? Check out Freedom School and see what everyone’s obsessed about. It’s not just group coaching. It’s a mindset revolution that you won’t want to miss.

this is what causes suffering

Whenever we feel we’re deep in suffering mode, it feels like something is happening TO us. The traffic. The breakup. The job we didn’t get. The fight we just had with our boo. The extra weight. The 2 weeks vacation time (yes, to me that’s a bad thing…you deserve way more).

You get the idea.

Thing is, the only reason we’re suffering is because we are wishing things were different than they are.

I’m going to say that again, because I really want it to sink it: it’s because we are wishing things were different than they are.

NOT because of the traffic. NOT because of the now-ex-partner. NOT because of the extra 25 pounds. NOT because of the rejection letter. NOT because of boo or because you can’t take time off for a month-long expedition.

It’s because we aren’t willing to accept life as it is.

Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not saying to settle.

I’m asking, “How would your experience be different if you had the thought, ‘This is happening FOR me?’ ” (and not “TO me”)

What if we could – on the regular – be OK with life as it is?

What if we had the thought, “This is exactly what should be happening. Because it’s what is happening.”

I’ll tell you, because I’ve been there. With my cancer. With my divorce. With my boyfriend cheating on me. With my post-partum depression. With my post-baby belly. All that shit.

Our experience would be waaaay better than when we take the role of the victim – aka the perspective that life should not be happening to us the way that it is.

When we’re in that victim mode, we feel powerless. Helpless. Tired. Hopeless. Pissed.

When we accept what is and do our thought work to choose a perspective that better serves us, guess what? We have the energy to make shit happen. To create the life we want. To stop wasting energy trying to change what is, and start creating what is possible.

We stop spinning our wheels and ruminating on the dreams of what could have been.

We start moving forward and creating instead of perseverating over, “Why me?”

For some reason, we resist this concept. A lot.

For some reason, us silly humans try to pretend that life isn’t supposed to be what it is.

Part of this is because of evolution: we want things to be comfortable, pleasurable, and easy because historically that ensured our success. Our freakin’ survival. Discomfort, pain, difficulty…all that was scary and needed to be avoided.

But now, amigos, we are safer than we ever have been. No saber-toothed tiger. No days without food. No being cast out to the wilds all alone.

All the discomfort humans did feel “back then?” It helped us evolve. We couldn’t escape it.

And we still can’t.

Life is supposed to be hard, for a big chunk of it. It’s just the way it is.

We are supposed to evolve.

When we stop fighting that, and stop telling ourselves that things are “supposed” to be easy or uh-mazing all of the time, then we can get on with living instead of trying to change reality.

So you see, accepting what is doesn’t mean settling. It means you stop fighting and instead use your energy for creating. It means you do so with more power, energy, and optimism.

I’m not saying you’re going to be happy all the time if you accept what is.

But you sure as hell will be a lot less tired and hopeless.

You’ll evolve.

So ask yourself, “What if this is exactly what is supposed to be happening?”

How is this supposed to serve me?



Have you had a mini-session?

If you haven’t had a mini-session with me yet, what the hell? Book one! They’re free. They’re not scary – I won’t “make you” sign up for anything. And they are freakin’ amazing – many past peeps said it helped give them just the shift they needed to get unstuck. Just do it already. Click here to book. Because I’m not going to be doing these forever.


If you want to join a tribe of people that will help you navigate this wild and precious life, come check out Freedom School – for rebels like you. It’s not just personal growth for rebels. It’s Jedi training for the new world.

Do You Wish Life Was Sometimes Easier? Here’s What You Can Do

I love this quote by Joan Rivers. I have to say I don’t think of Joan often when looking for inspirational quotes ?, but this one came through my feed and I was like, “Damn – that’s good!”

The reason I think this quote is so. damn, good. is because it states a deep truth about how we can feel better and use our time more meaningfully during the rest of the life we have on this planet.

So many of us waste time indulging in negative emotions and waiting for things to get better – and we do it a lot of the time.

The reality is life has some freakin’ hard moments – because that’s how life IS. And those hard moments sometimes fall like rain. And sometimes they only happen like a lunar eclipse. But if we wait for it to get “easier” before we feel better, we’re going to be feeling shitty a lot more of the time than we need to.

We can’t wait for the boss to get nicer – or for them to get fired. For the partner to be more understanding. The partner to even exist. The partner to leave and ask for the divorce we’re too afraid to ask for. The bank account to be more full. The tummy to get flatter. The tummy to get bigger and have a baby arrive. The kid to grow up and finally move out. The kid to need you again. The weather to be perfect. The vacation time to triple.

Shit does not get “better.” Shit just happens. It just IS.

So what is one to do?

YOU can get better – you can get better at managing your thoughts. You can let your brain evolve. Which helps you manage your emotions. Which helps you create the reality you want to feel and experience.

This does not mean that by evolving you’ll never feel bad. But it does mean you are at less risk for feeling negative emotions that have no purpose for you.

Here’s the key: we can’t be afraid to feel hard things.

When we’re afraid to feel hard things, we spend time feeling self-pity and blaming everybody. We worry all the time and doubt ourselves. We even hate people – and there aren’t many feelings more awful than hate, especially when we direct it at ourselves.

You’ll know you’re feeling “unnecessary” negative feelings when the things you feel don’t get you anywhere. They keep you stuck. Or they spiral you round and round. They help you make an excuse for why you can’t go out into the world and bring your gifts to share with the other humans who totally need you.

And here’s the kicker: the reason why we indulge in the familiar negative emotion is because we’re afraid of feeling any kind of new negative emotion! But it’s still negative emotion. So when you’re not afraid of feeling bad, you can move through a negative emotion more efficiently. Crazy, right?!

It’s all a part of the yin and yang of life – in the yin yang symbol, it’s not like 80% is light and love – 1/2 is light and 1/2 is dark (just like in this caffeinated version to the right;) You need the contrast to fully experience being human. You can’t see light if there was no darkness to contrast it. Falling in love wouldn’t be so sweet if we always felt that good.

So – if you’re going to be human and feel bad feelings, at least let them be ones you are choosing or consciously aware of, and not ones that take over you and keep you from getting out there in the world.

You also might as well learn to be with those hard feelings. That way you can at least keep evolving and moving forward in your life. When you learn to manage your thoughts, your negative emotions don’t stall you out.

It requires courage to accept the reality that life doesn’t get much easier. But there is so much possibility in also accepting that you have control over how you think about it – and how you feel about it.

And guess what? That affects the reality that you experience. And isn’t that what you want to change anyway? How you are experiencing life?

You might be saying, “But Ana, my life is sooooo super shitty. It’s totally legit shitty.”

Think about self-loathing and pity and blame and hate.

It doesn’t feel good even if you feel justified in it.

Even if you feel like you have a reason, who cares what the reason is?

If it feels terrible, you could be using up that 50% of negative emotion you’re going to feel anyway (because you’re human) on something that pursues a goal for you, that creates something, that makes a contribution to your life, that doesn’t have a net negative consequence to it.

For example, I was feeling shitty about my overworking in the medical field, my father dying, my mother having abused me, getting divorced at 35, having cancer TWICE…I could list more things. I could have wallowed in self-pity about it and wished life would just back the fuck off for a bit. Which I did do in a proper way with wine and boxes of pizza for awhile.

But after allowing my period of self-compassion (vs self-pity), I got it together and used that energy to create a new career for myself – and voilà, Freedom Junkie was born. And so many other awesome things because I let go of wanting to wait for life to get easier. Or for my negative feelings to go away.

I did this by managing my thoughts and not letting them spiral me. I did this by not indulging in how hard it was to feel bad – I just felt the hard feelings, didn’t create story around them, and then was free of them.

If I hadn’t managed my thoughts, I could have been stuck in that place of self-pity for years…I had all the reasons laid out in front of me. I had the justification, but it felt shitty – so who cares that I had good reason? It was time for a change.

Of course, because I am human and in a body on this planet, I felt crappy again at some point, but because of different circumstances. The cool thing is, the more you do this, the more you know you’ve got this! You can more effectively be with hard emotions, which allow them to move more quickly through you, and then you can turn your thoughts around and keep moving forward in life.

You can do this too. We ALL can.

Try these two quick tips to make the hard feelings a smidge more manageable:

1) Don’t create story around your negative feelings. Remind yourself that as humans, we suffer sometimes, and it’s part of life. As Buddha said to a woman mourning the death of her son and wishing for the pain to stop, “Go into the village and find someone who has not experienced the loss of a loved one. Bring them back here.” She was never able to find someone. Which was the point. Being human comes with a lot of hard things – AND a lot of amazing things. Don’t let the hard things keep you from opening up to the beautiful things. Practice self-compassion about life as a human. This shit is hard! And beautiful.

2) When a negative feeling comes up, don’t push it away and don’t dive deeply into it letting it spiral you. Instead, feel it in your body. Stay out of your head, and describe it to yourself in terms of sensations (chest gets tight, face gets flushed, head feels pressure, etc). When we don’t add story to our negative feelings, studies have shown they pass through us in an average of 90 seconds. It doesn’t mean they won’t come back (usually because we start having thoughts about them again), but they can pass relatively quickly. Staying in your body instead of you head can help this happen more efficiently.

Trying to describe the details for how to manage your thoughts in an email would take me forevs. So keep an eye out for a video series I’ll send you where I go into how you can do this in a systematic way.

You’ve got this. And you’re not alone. Don’t ever forget that!


Want to work 1:1 with me to get this thought-work shizzle mastered and start turning your life around towards where you want it to be? Click here to schedule a free strategy session, and let’s jam about what’s possible.


Ready to dive deeper into this? Check out Freedom School and see what everyone’s obsessed about. It’s not just group coaching. It’s a mindset revolution that you won’t want to miss.

How to Choose a Life Coach

I was hanging out with some girlfriends sipping my fizzy berry drink (doing my seasonal cleansing, baby!) and chatting about exposés coming out lately around less-than-ethical coaches that use age-old techniques of manipulating people into forking over life savings or becoming cult-like followers of their programs.

One of my amigas asked, “But how are people supposed to tell the difference?”

I know the answer to this because I almost joined a cult when I was 19. It was disguised as a meditation class. What follows is a long post, but I think it covers some important points.

At 19 years old, I was in the depths of a spiritual crisis and had a sense that meditation could help me. Every class I found charged money – a lot of money – and I was at a loss since I was a broke college student. Then I saw a flyer for a free meditation class on campus. Sahweet!

I showed up and another woman I knew was there. I was glad to see a familiar face. The class was led by a woman in her 30s who seemed nice enough. In then end when she asked for feedback, I commented that I was a little distracted by the weird music that played in the background.

Yes, I called it weird. Because it was.

“Oh, that’s composed by Rama. You’ll get used to it. It’s really transformational.”

A white guy named Rama who composed New Age music. Hmmmm.

Then, after the class, the teacher pulled me and my friend aside – even though we were about to walk out, and many others had approached her afterwards to get more info. “I’d like to invite you two to a live event to meet Rama. It’s in LA, and we’d be happy to pay all of your expenses.”


She made some comments about how we seemed “so into it” and how we’d love the community. I was hesitant. But I also loved free shit.

I agreed for her to come by my place later in the week to talk more about it. The other woman, on the other hand, agreed instantly.

As we both walked home after the class, I asked my acquaintance if she thought it was weird that only the two of us got pulled aside when we were the ones just walking out. And how we happened to be the only 2 females there, with the rest being guys with greasy hair and the like – who were also way more “into it.”

She thought nothing of it.

About a week later the meditation teacher came by my place on campus, accompanied by a mousy looking woman carrying binders.

She told the mousy woman to place the binder on my kitchen table and the other woman did as she was told. One binder fell to the floor and the teacher barked at her, “Pick that up! We have to be careful with those!” The mousy woman scrambled anxiously.

The woman then went on and on about Rama and his programs and how he was soooooo amazing, and how there were so many other women like me and my friend in their community.

Throughout all this she kept shouting sharp comments at the other woman, who never spoke the entire time.

It all felt really off. I said I’d think about it (remember, this is before I knew any of my life coaching Jedi tricks about boundaries😉

She reminded me it would cost me nothing – they’d pay for me to fly from Santa Cruz to LA, and put me up with free lodging etc.

I said again that I’d think about it and she asked me, “How long do you need?” I don’t fucking know, I thought. Just get out of my place.

“Three days,” I finally said.

And they left, the mousy woman opened the door for the “teacher” and scrambled to catch up with her.

I found it most disturbing that she treated the other woman like crap. I don’t care how far along you still need to go on your meditation path. No need to treat people like shit.

After they left, one of my roommates came home and I told her about it. She agreed it was weird and called her mom, who was an investigative journalist in LA. (Badass!)

Her mom called back within minutes and said how Rama was a well-known scammer who recruited young women – particularly cute brunettes – and eventually got them to give over their life savings and donate them to his cause. If they didn’t have money, they could work for him for free (he had some kind of business on the side). He also hooked up with his students.

My roommate’s mom called the organization and asked that they not come onto campus and that she knew Rama was a known cult leader. The “teacher” said they were invited so they had permission to be on campus (which was true), and after a few more minutes of prodding, she admitted that they were indeed a business (but denied they were a cult) and that Rama saw his participants as “investors” in his business.

So Rama had sex with his followers, took their money and free labor, and grew rich off of it.

Wow. Lesson learned. I told the woman who was going to go to the event what had transpired. What happened next is a whole other blog post.

Suffice it to say, Rama and his entourage were not bona fide teachers of meditation or worthy of teacher status.

Shortly after this series of events, I found an Australian Buddhist-lesbian-martial-arts-loving-nun in Boulder Creek, California. She taught me meditation for free. She taught me how desiring chocolate cake and sex was perfectly OK, but that attachment to them and letting such desires run my life were what created suffering.

She taught me how I could feel desire AND be free by not attaching to it. She was fucking amazing, and to this day she teaches, including to death row prisoners in San Quentin prison. She’s one of my mentors, Robina Courtin. She’s the real deal.

She convinced me to go to Nepal before I graduated from college, even when I tried to come up with myriad excuses why the timing was bad. She told me over and over how she was imperfect. And even though she made no money, every now and then she would give me gifts like a candle, or a mala, or a book.

It was in Nepal in the Fall of 1994 that I really learned about choosing a mentor.

I had almost become a Buddhist nun after a month-long meditation retreat, but bypassed shaving my head and becoming celibate after a few weeks trekking alone and meditating in the Himalayas. Having that adventure helped make it clear to me that I was supposed to try to attain enlightenment while having sex and the challenges of intimate relationships 😉

I asked a respected Tibetan Lama how to best select my next teacher to study with.

“Check your teacher” he said.

How the hell was I supposed to do that?

He said I should spy on them (really!), study them – see how they act when they don’t think anyone is looking. He told me that it was then that people’s true character came out. He also said that no matter what, they should be acting with compassion and kindness. (Unlike the barking meditation teacher from the cult.)

He told me that traditionally, people would follow around a prospective teacher and watch how they treated others, spying on them behind bushes and eavesdropping through shut doors. They would see how they practiced and how they lived their lives. They would do this for quite a long period of time, because choosing a teacher was very, very important and it was paramount to trust your teacher deeply.

If you didn’t choose an ethical and practiced teacher, you endangered your spiritual path, and even your life.

Holy shizzle – that’s serious.

I didn’t think of it that way at first, but the make made a lot of sense the more he spoke to me about this.

To truly grow in life, you need to deeply trust your guides – whether they are your parents, your best friend you call in the middle of the night, your coach, or your spiritual mentor.

You need to trust. Not in the blind way that cult-leaders and charismatic faux-teachers would like you to – but in a deep way that allows you to take the big risks when you are feeling like shying away from the edge.

After all, that is where true growth happens – when you are living on the edge of your comfort zone. And if you are with a good teacher, you’ll go there. And when you trust your teacher, you’ll stretch beyond your comfort zone. And they’ve got your back.


Use these guidelines for evaluating whether anyone is worth your salt (or hard-earned cash) before committing to working with them intensively. These are 6 points to help you learn how choose a life coach. Frankly, I think you should use these guidelines in choosing your friends and partners as well!

1) Are their values in alignment with yours? When I was looking for a coach, I found a lot of them telling me they created lives of “freedom” – but none of them traveled for 3-4 months a year like I did. Instead, they bragged about being done with work by 5pm, having one spa day to themselves a week, and escaping to a ski cabin each winter. They went on and on about having lots and lots of money. They also bragged how they hardly ever had to coach – that almost everything was automated or delegated out to their other “head” coaches, and how they only had to show up to coach once in awhile.

Those things are nice, and indeed those things were freedom for many people. But I wanted 3-4 months of true vacation. I really really like spa days, but I prefer them in places that required me to get a visa. I wanted money too – but enough for me to do exactly what I wanted (not buckets and buckets of it but with no time to do anything with it). Plus, I wanted to coach people. Not rake it in without having to ever connect with the people paying me good money to help change their lives.

It wasn’t all about the numbers for me – it was about the experiences.

My definition of freedom was not theirs.

What is your definition of freedom (or any of your other values)? Is your coach aligned with that?

2) Do they walk their talk? I go to a lot of conferences and gatherings where there are many high-profile coaches. I can’t tell you how disappointed I’ve been when I meet some of them in person. It was heartbreaking for me to see that someone I admired after reading their blogs or watching their videos actually acted like an asshole.

It felt like high school again: women boasting about freedom and sisterhood, then not giving the time of day to someone they didn’t think was an “influencer” when they were approached and tried to start a conversation. They would brush them aside.

And the ironic thing? Their “followers” would hang on to them tighter, feeling like they were the “special ones.”

The sad part was they were only treated like that because they paid.

Once they were out of that person’s Mastermind, their emails stopped getting answered or the other members stopped writing them or caring about what they were up to.


Just like the monk told me when I was 19 – your teacher should act with compassion and kindness. Even if you don’t pay them.

3) Do you feel uplifted when you are with them? Not from a star-struck perspective or because of who they know or the name-dropping of who they hang with. Rather, when you are with them, do you feel seen, heard, and understood? Do you feel inspired to take action in your own life? Do you feel hopeful about your future and have actionable plans to make it happen? Do you feel better about yourself and are more proud of how you show up in the world when inspired by them?

4) Do they offer real value? I’m all about the “pricelessness” of true freedom and happiness. But you should definitely not be convinced by a coach to tap into your 401k because someone’s Mastermind would “totally be worth it.”

Yes, I feel this way even if you freely choose to do so.

In my opinion, using the excuse that people freely do so is just bullshit. And many people blow off their clients going into serious debt because they claim that client had a choice.

Fair enough. They did. But coaches also have a choice in how they select their clients, and the ethical coaches I know have a stringent application process before allowing people into their higher-level programs. They only allow people in who show high promise of benefitting from the teachings and indeed making the program “worth it,” and not just taking the money of anyone who wants to join.

Any responsible coach would not ask you to tap into your life savings. There are way more affordable ways to learn some of these skills before you can afford a high-level Mastermind.

It’s one reason why I offer my crazy-affordable Urban Wellness Club. It’s a way to receive coaching and learn life, wellness, and mindset skills even when you can’t afford my year-long mastermind or 1:1 coaching yet.

5) Eventually, will you learn what it takes to do it yourself? If you’re with a smarmy teacher, they’ll encourage you to always need them and to give up things important to you to be with them (like your 401k). They’ll teach you, but then also have a tricky way of making you feel small so that you don’t quite feel worthy unless you are one of their inner circle. And you won’t learn anything that would allow you to not “need” them anymore.

This reminds me of the classic tale in Chinese medicine about the old wise medicine man who had met a young and talented new practitioner. The young new guy said, “What have you cured? I have cured so many diseases like the horrific and persistent x, y, and z diseases. What have you treated?”

“Well,” said the elder practitioner, “I admit I have not cured any of those fancy diseases you speak of. You see, my patients don’t get sick.”

Oh, snap!

A good medical practitioner helps you to not get sick so that they don’t make their living off of curing disease after disease in their patients. Similarly, I believe a coach helps you learn the skills to be able to implement on your own and over time.

Let me be clear about something here: personally, I always have a coach. I like having a coach. I work well with coaches and it’s a huge reason why I am as successful as I am. However, I do not need a coach. I have learned how to discover what I need to do to succeed, and I choose to have coaches to help make it easier. But I do not need them to move forward because I have learned what it takes to do it myself.

Similarly, you can choose to work with a coach over time year after year – but know that you should also be growing over time, learning new skills and seeing real change.

6) Who are their teachers? Before every traditional Buddhist teaching I have attended, there is a large portion of time – an uncomfortable portion of time, if I have to say so myself – where you are fidgeting for the “real teaching” to start…but it is stalled while the monk or nun teaching goes on and on about where the teaching came from, ultimately ending back at the Buddha himself.

You see, in traditions that have been around for thousands of years, they know that where the teaching came from is just as important as the teaching itself.

You don’t want to invest precious time and energy (and these days, money) into following a spiritual teaching that someone pulled out of their ass. Same goes for coaching. It’s one reason I am not totally opposed to coaches being required to be Certified (FYI most out there aren’t).

I do believe you can be a really talented coach and not be certified. I also believe it’s a lot harder to be a crappy coach if you are certified than if you’re not.

You can still be crappy if you’re certified, just like you can be a crappy doctor even if somehow you were smart enough to get into and finish medical school. However, you have better odds and receiving medical care from someone with an MD or other health licensure than from someone without one. And you have a better chance at true quality coaching from someone certified through a rigorous program.

Who did your coach study with? Who did they learn from? We often practice how we were trained, so make sure your coach got into the trenches with some real masters so they can share their precious nuggets of wisdom with you!

7) Do you relate to their story? A coach who has walked your path – or at least the path you want to walk – will be a better coach for you than one who hasn’t. Simple as that.

If you want to learn to create a life of unconventional travel and adventure, you won’t work as well with a coach who perhaps travels, but chooses to “adventure” only in the fancy hotels and spas in the countries that they visit.

If you’re trying to lose weight after a baby, you won’t work as well with a weight loss coach who has never struggled with weight to begin with.

If you want to work on your fear of being alone and can’t stand the idea of being single, you won’t work as well with a coach that has always been in a super cozy relationship than with a coach who has had a fear of becoming a spinster after a divorce at 37 years old.


So there you have it – 7 points that I think would serve you well to consider before choosing to work intensively with a coach. Or choose a friend. Or let a guy move into your house.

You are worth every bit of discrimination that you can muster when choosing who to let into your life.

Do you think we might be a good match? Schedule a free strategy session with me here, and let’s find out!


If you want to join a tribe of people that will help you navigate this wild and precious life, come check out Freedom School – for rebels like you. It’s not just personal growth for rebels. It’s Jedi training for the new world.

This Thought Will Change Everything

I just got back from an awesome business conference in Dallas. I love going to these events because first, they scare the shit out of me.

I start to dream even bigger, which put my brain into fight-or-flight more because I feel kind of maxed out where I am already. I’m already booking most hours in my day (even if those still include playtime in the mountains), using up most of my money (BTW I put away the minimum I need to for retirement because I kind of suck at saving;), and continuing to move towards a life where I work even less than what I do now.

There’s not many things that scare me these days. But creating a bigger dream, putting it out there, and not having it come true is one of them. I fear that people will see me as a failure, that I will have deep regrets, let my family down, or take on too much and end up in overwhelm. Be broke. Get depressed. End up having to sell everything.

The bonus of being an experienced life coach is that I know how to coach myself, and I do know that ultimately, all those things I just said are thoughts. They may feel like real, actual things that I am afraid of, but in reality, they are just thoughts.

Knowing that my fear is created by thoughts – and not reality – has gotten me past every single obstacle I’ve had to overcome. Hard climbs. The first time I dropped into a steep bowl of fresh powder. Class V rapids. Applying to the top grad school in my specialty – and not a single other school, since I knew that was where I wanted to go. Cancer – twice. Being alone with my baby for months out of the year and for many, many weekends and evenings while also working two jobs. Sometimes three. Getting my doctorate degree with a toddler – while working. Starting my coaching business – and quitting my secure job to dive deeper into my business. Falling in love again after a broken heart. Having my heart broken again.

All those things I said above were indeed real – and they for sure happened. But what creates shitty feelings are the thoughts we have about those things – including fear.

So the second reason I love going to these events is because I am reminded of thoughts that can replace the ones that cause my fear. The big one I came home with, from my colleague Kara Lowenthiel:

“I do impossible things every day.”

Damn straight, sister. I have been doing impossible things. Every. Damn. Day. And I can continue to do so.

So when I dream up something so amazing it scares the shit out of me, damn straight I can do that too. I just need to do what I did for everything else: commit to it. Take massive action until I get exactly what I want – no matter what.

In case it wasn’t obvious, this formula works for you too. It’s simple – but not easy. Creating the life of your dreams takes grit and hard work – but life does anyway. So you might as well be creating your dreams while you’re at it.

The latest dream I’ve manifested? It actually brings tears to my eyes, because when I was at my very first business conference, I was asked to dream big – waaaay big – and one of the things I wrote on my 3×5 “goal cards” was to have a home in the mountains and a home on the beach, because I love both of them (but granite mountains trump all else, I think;). And also because growing up, we always lived in rentals, and until I was a teenager, I slept in one bedroom with my parents and my grandma.

Last year I made both of those things happen. In March, I bought this slice of heaven in Baja California Sur, Mexico (see the arrow? That’s pointing to the spot)

In December, I bought this tiny slice of heaven right at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, staring right up into the east side landmountains where I learned how to be confident, independent, and a true woman of my own making (pic on the right). The place I most dearly call home. Just beyond a nearby pass is one of the most gorgeous places on earth – Evolution Basin – and I can be there in a heartbeat (well, many heartbeats at 100bpm as I hump over the pass, at least;).

So you see – if I can do it, you can too. But first, you have to dream – you have to allow yourself to want the impossible. Because the impossible only seems that way today. And it only seems impossible because you think it is.

Then you need to tell yourself you can do impossible things. Every day. And commit to that – no matter what.

No matter what.

Did I say no matter what?

No. Matter. What.


Pssst. If you want help creating the life of your dreams, schedule a free strategy session with me by clicking here. I’ll show you how it’s possible to get from where you are now to where you want to be.


Ready to dive deeper into this? Check out Freedom School and see what everyone’s obsessed about. It’s not just group coaching. It’s a mindset revolution that you won’t want to miss.

This Bucket List is More Important

When we create bucket lists, we’re often thinking about mountains to climb, countries to visit, or other epic adventures to have. It makes sense that these things come up when we ask ourselves, “What do I want to make sure I do before I die?” After all – these things are exhilarating and form memories of a lifetime. Because my clients are Freedom Junkies, they want to do things like road trip for 6 months across the US, or ride motorcycles to the very tip of South America. Backpack the Dolomites and climb the tallest peak on every continent. Sky dive or bungee jump. And it makes sense.

But when we think about what people who are actually dying say they wish they did when they had more life force in them, we hear a very different story. Yes, many wish they had lived more full lives, but they way they interpret that is different than what you might think. When we look more deeply into what will truly be important for us so we can feel more free at the time of our death, we need to remember this uber -important item that needs to be on everyone’s bucketlist: forgiving. I know – it’s not as fun as paddling a Class V river in Africa, but hang in there with me.

Here’s a list of the top 5 regrets of the dying that a palliative nurse, Bronnie Ware, writes about in her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing.

The Top 5 Regrets Of The Dying
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. “This was the most common regret of all.”
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

My coaching programs are designed to help my clients live a life with no regrets. Until my mother died in 2017, I could say I had no major regrets. I really spent most of days walking my talk and making sure I prioritized authenticity and living a full life. I wasn’t perfect, but I felt pretty good about how I was showing up in life. However, after I had my daughter in 2014, I noticed that I started to feel some deep pain from when my mother abused me as a child, and I let this affect my relationship with her in her later years of life. I thought I had forgiven her, but when I had my own daughter, it seemed to have brought up a lot of that past pain again – and a hardening of my heart.

The last year of my mom’s life was one where, because of my lack of forgiveness, there was a lot of unnecessary emotional suffering between us. I fortunately had some positive moments with her just before her death, but I deeply regret not having let go of my anger sooner. When she died, I no longer had the time to work on forgiving her and loving her more fully, like I had been telling myself to keep trying to do. She was gone. And damn, did I regret not forgiving her sooner and opening my heart to her more in the last few years of her life.

If you look at #5 of the Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, notice how when we don’t forgive, we are actually not letting ourselves be happier. We are choosing to carry on a level of suffering that is actually under our control. I could have been so much happier in the moments I was with my mom. So much less…angry.

When I listen to the voices of my clients on the retreats I lead, it’s pretty apparent that a lot of our suffering stems from very old pain. Similar to my relationship with my mom, I hear stories of when a parent abused them and the chasm it created in the relationship. I hear about when their spouse had sex with their best friend decades ago. When a colleague stabbed them in the back and caused them to lose their job – and their house. When an ex lied to them and broke their heart. This list can go on and on. Of course, it makes sense that our suffering stems from something that happened in the past – but what we forget is that we don’t have to keep reliving that event over and over the present.

This type of ruminating really takes hold when we don’t forgive. When we bear the burden of resentment in our hearts, we feel it physically, emotionally and psychically, and when we feel it, the painful memories come back, and we relive the painful moments over and over again. It’s so crazy that we do that to ourselves! But it makes sense: our brains are trying to protect us from the same trauma happening, and keeping us hyper vigilant. “Hey, Ana, don’t forget when that happened! It royally sucked. Don’t ever let it happen again.”

So we don’t forgive.

But the thing we tend to forget is that forgiveness is not the same as not forgetting. It’s actually not necessarily detrimental to be able to remember painful events – after all, it is good to learn from them past and avoid entering into similar situations if it won’t serve us. But by not forgiving we are perpetuating the suffering of that event because we relive it every time (vs recalling the memory without being loaded with the resentment of not forgiving).

I know that right now, my bucketlist includes a list of people I need to forgive, and I’m getting on that pronto. And I mean TRULY forgive, no matter how scary it feels to do so (and trust me, it does feel scary – I’m working on it by doing this tonglen meditation with these folks in mind). But you know what? I’m really happy I’m getting on this, because I already feel more free in my heart, and I know I won’t die regretting that I didn’t let go of the emotional chain I was creating with my inability to forgive them.

So, Freedom Junkie, what I ask of you is that on that bucket list of yours, where you have a ton of amazing adventures planned, add to it that you want to open your heart and forgive. Let yourself be more happy. It’s scary – just like climbing a big peak can be – but it’s just as awesome.


If you want to join a tribe of people that will help you navigate this wild and precious life, come check out Freedom School – for rebels like you. It’s not just personal growth for rebels. It’s Jedi training for the new world.