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.

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.

Who Are You Willing to Disappoint to be True to Yourself?

I’ve disappointed a lot of people.

It was not comfortable.

But you know what? It was totally worth it, because it was absolutely necessary in order to stay true to who I am and what I believe in.

I disappointed the racist professor at our dinner table (and my date trying to get a job with their University) when he said, “I can’t believe people still think racism is even an issue. I mean, slavery ended over 100 years ago.” I pointed out that in fact, while slavery had ended in 1865, segregation didn’t end until 1964 (and that was only on paper) and many Americans in a recent poll said they’d rather be blind than black. Then I took a sip of wine from my glass and smiled at everyone.

I disappointed the client that wanted me to just give them the answer instead of having them do the hard – but rewarding – work of coming up with the answer themselves, and taking the risk to trust their heart. That’s not what coaching is about. It’s about self-discovery and evolution.

I disappointed my parents when I took a job that paid $50 a day and required me to live out of my car and sleep on the ground, instead of going on to get my PhD like they had dreamed. They had worked extra jobs to ensure I was able to go to a private high school instead of our gang-ridden public school, and after college I entered a lifestyle as a climbing guide that appeared to them to be a downgrade from our already sparse lifestyle. But I loved every minute of it.

I disappointed my first husband when he never tragically hurt me or cheated on me or failed to support me. He was a good man. But not the right man. And I asked for a divorce.

I could go on and on about the ways I’ve had to disappoint others in order to stay true to myself. Was it hard? For sure. Do you know what would have been harder?

Disappointing myself.

It should be harder to disappoint yourself than it is to disappoint others. Yet often we would rather let ourselves down than someone else.

We are taught this from a very young age – especially women. We are taught to put others before ourselves, and not in a compassionate way. We are taught to prioritize others in a survivalist way. We are told overtly and subtly that if we let people down – if we disappoint others – we are putting our own worth at risk.

We take the job we don’t really want. We say “yes” to things we don’t want to (any people-pleasers in the house?). We stay in the unfulfilling relationship because we think we should be lucky to have someone who loves us. We don’t wear what we really want out dancing. We don’t order what we want for dinner. We don’t travel around the world instead of heading straight into college or graduate school or that next job. We say “yes” to the food pushers even though we know the cake they are guilting us into eating will make us feel like crap. We have that drink that’s one-too-many because we want to fit in.

Here’s the deal: being willing to disappoint others in order to stay true to yourself is part of the price for evolving and moving towards the life you want to create for yourself.

 If you aren’t disappointing others, you aren’t really in the game.

Who will you need to disappoint to move one step closer to your dreams?

Check out this poem by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. It’s one of my faves. I highly recommend you read this as in invitation to yourself.

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer


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.

How to Make Decisions

It’s easy for us to get into “analysis paralysis,” wasting so much time, energy and wine ruminating about which decision is best for us.

“Should I quit my job?” “Should I leave the relationship?” “Is that really worth the money?” “Where should I go for my one big vacation this year?”

And it makes sense. After all, life is short and we don’t want to f*ck it up if we can avoid it, right?

You’re likely wondering, “How do I decide? How do I get out of this crazy confusion and finally make a decision?”

I’ve done a lot of digging on this, since I have been feeling stuck lately on some biz decisions I’ve had to make.

Here are the 8 tips that helped me the most (you’re welcome!):

1. Get rid of “history bias.”
Step back for a minute and ask yourself, “Would you choose it now if there was no history bias?” What I mean by “history bias” is we tend to have a lot of weight on our shoulders because we keep thinking about all the things that happened in the past. It can make your brain a mess, for sure. So, if you were starting brand new, would you choose whatever it is that is going on right now?

So for example, if you are deciding whether you should leave a job or not, re-decide whether you would take it or not. Would you marry this person again? Would you buy this house again? Would you spend this money?

Whatever it is, consider all your options and ask yourself, would you choose it now without your history bias?

A lot of us say, “Well, I’ve just been doing it for so long.” Trust me: that may not be the best reason you want for choosing something. And remember, when you make a decision, you want to make sure you like your reason for choosing it.

2. Ask yourself, “What if failure is no big deal?” Nelson Mandela famously said, “I never lose. I either win or learn.”

A lot of times we hear coaches ask, “What would you do if you could not fail?”

But this new perspective takes it to the next level. So, if failing didn’t matter, if you knew you might fail at it, would you still do it?

If you failed at trying something, quitting something, or moving out into something, would you do it if failure didn’t matter?

This is important to ask because remember: “failure” is just the way you think about it. If you’re only “winning or learning,” then there really is no failure. Nothing is a failure. So when you take out the thought that “failure ruins everything” and that you could fail, which one do you do?

3. Imagine that both decisions could be awesome. What if you could succeed at both of them? Which one would you choose?
Some of us don’t choose one option over the other because we’ve played it out and we’ve already anticipated failure. We’ve already anticipated that we won’t know how to do something or we’ve succumbed to our own doubt about something.

For example, if you’re thinking about leaving a relationship, consider this:

If I stay married, the marriage turns out awesome because I make it awesome, and if I leave, my life is awesome because I make it awesome. So knowing that either way I could have an amazing life, which one do I choose?

Whoa. This clears up decision making so quickly, right? And it’s true: you can feel awesome either way (but that’s another blog post).

4. The next thing I want you to consider is one of my faves. It’s that can you say yes to both things.
I LOVE having it all;)

It’s super common to think “either this or that” when we are considering our options. We think one automatically excludes the other. This is a really great time to get coached!

We often think that if we say yes to one of them, we’re saying no to the other. Sometimes we don’t want to say no to the other, so we don’t make a decision.

But what if you could say yes to both things? Gasp!

Like, “Should I leave my job to become to a life coach?” What if you could keep your job and become a life coach in the evening? What if you could have both? Would you choose both instead of saying yes to one or no to the other?

I am really good at this because I’ve learned over many years to be efficient with my time. I get to do a lot of different things – I coach clients all over the world, I catch babies, I got my doctorate, I help people in integrative medicine, I volunteer in remote areas, I lead retreats, I teach new healthcare providers how to be good at providing care and being compassionate with their patients…

Do I do them all at the same time? Of course not! But I get to do them;)

Many people I know would have just chosen one of those things. And that’s OK too! It’s just that sometimes, you don’t have to. I decided I didn’t want to say yes to one and no to the other. (And it’s also not because I don’t sleep. I love me some sleep;)

5. Ask your “Future Self,” the you 10 years into the future, what they think, and why.
Remember that your Future Self has already learned the Big Lessons and who knows exactly what you need to do to manifest your ideal life.

When I’m making big decisions, I often ask my future self what should I do and why. It was one of the first tricks they taught me during my first coach training in 2009, and it sticks because it is really, really good! She always seems to know exactly what to do.

When I think of myself 10 years from now, at 55 years old (!!!), what do I tell myself? It’s crazy how much wiser I am. I always have the best answers;)

6. Give yourself a deadline to make the decision.
That’s right. You could go on and one ruminating. At some point, you need to stop it. There’s Parkinson’s Law: The amount of time that one has to perform a task is the amount of time it will take to complete the task. That includes decisions.

When the deadline arrives, make the decision and move forward.

I mean really, how long are you going to be deciding?

There’s actually no risk in deciding. The only risk you have is in the decision, in making the decision.

So give yourself until, say, the end of the month, or the end of next month, or the end of the week, and then you will decide one way or the other to do something.

That might feel scary to you. It did for me. But that means you’re doing it right. It’s okay to be afraid! Making decisions is what helps us move forward, to grow and evolve.

Know what else? It also helps us take action and therefore increases our confidence, because we juice up our confidence when we take action and learn from it. It also saves us time since we stop wasting time deciding!

7. Go over what is the best and worst-case scenario for each of your options.
I like doing this because the worst-case scenario often doesn’t feel as bad as I think it will when I play it out. Plus, what we often find out in the end is that the worst-case scenario is missing out on the best-case scenario;)

8. I saved the best for last. One that works for me consistently is asking, “What moves me towards who I want to be?”
So just be really clear and answer the question, “What moves you toward who you want to be?” It’s that simple. It works. Sometimes, another way to ask this can be to ask, “How do I want to feel?” Pick the thing that helps you feel that way. I do that a lot when I ask, “What will help me feel more free?” Deep down, you know what will move you towards who you want to be. And that, my friend, is what really matters.


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.


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.

One Major Way You’re Sabotaging Your Relationships – and How to Stop

Let me just start out by stating the obvious: relationships are hard. Anyone who says, “Oh, but they don’t have to be,” has either never been in a passionate one, or is full of sh*t.

It totally makes sense that they’re hard.

We take two mammals with sub-optimal communication skills (aka “language”) and some serious evolutionary biology along with a high likelihood of experiences of trauma with people they’ve trusted, and stick them together.

Then we expect them to go against everything their evolutionary brain has learned about being safe and avoiding discomfort or difficulty so they can experience some sense of…connection and love…and geez, it’s no wonder we can get into it with our significant other.

So let’s just remember: There’s nothing wrong with your relationship just because it’s hard.

However, what’s is wrong with most relationships is that we don’t let the other person be who they are.

We have a Manual for them. We have a long list – conscious or not – of how we think they should behave. How they should treat us when we come home from work. How they should react when we cry. What they should give us for our birthday. What kind of father or mother they should be. How they should smell (or not smell). How much sex we will have with them and what that sex is like. How much money they should spend and on what kinds of things.

“Oh Ana, but I am an exception. I don’t have a Manual for my partner!”

People who say this usually do so because thus far, their partner is following their Manual.

We usually don’t know we have one until it’s not being followed.

If you think you don’t have a Manual, just imagine your partner coming home and not doing everything you like them doing. If they normally cook you dinner, imagine them stopping. If they normally plan fun adventures with you, imagine them becoming a couch potato. If you normally have sex three or four times a week, imagine it dropping to once a season. If they usually end texts with the heart emoticon, imagine them changing it to goats and chickens. If they are always on time, imagine them being late. Always. By a lot.

You might be wondering why Manuals are even a problem. Don’t they just help us get our needs met?


That’s another misconception about Manuals. They aren’t filled with objective “rules” that are legit. They are filled with expectations we have to protect us from feeling bad.

Requests are what help us get our needs met.

Manuals create suffering when we believe they should be followed in order for us to be happy.

Requesting that your partner not be late helps you get your needs met.

Getting pissed when they are always late because in your Manual they are supposed to be on time makes you unhappy. Again, you are not unhappy because they are late. You are unhappy because you expected them to be on time.

(I know. Crazy. We’ll do a call on this soon, because I know some of y’all are like WTF???!!!)

The other reason Manuals create problems is because people evolve. Well, at least people change (Freedom Junkies evolve;). When people change, the Manual doesn’t allow them to act differently. This rocks the boat, even if there isn’t anything fundamentally “wrong” with the change itself. I see this all the time in my coaching clients. They evolve. They start doing things differently. They are no longer following their partners’ manual.

Boom! Shit explodes.

When we decide to love someone, we need to also decide to let them be them. It’s really the mature thing to do, and the way a true Freedom Junkie walks their talk. The most freeing thing we can offer another human being is to let them be them and love them for it.

This does not mean you don’t make requests. It just means you don’t let yourself get all victimized and bent out of shape when the other person doesn’t fulfill them.

Some people ask me, “But don’t I have a right to have certain needs?” Girlfriend, yes. But you don’t have a right to make other people meet them. Ultimately, meeting your needs is up to you.

Plus, when you make your happiness depend on another person’s actions, you are giving all you power away. To them! To something you have NO control over! We don’t ever have control of other people, no matter how much we’d like to believe differently.

Trust me. I’ve been through this debate. I wish my husband was home more instead of up in the sky with his paraglider waaaay out of cell phone range in another time zone all the time, and I feel more than entitled to bitch about it. I wish my mother didn’t criticize me so much when I called her on the phone. I wish so many people who did things that I thought were f*cked up would just stop because “most people” would agree that I was right.

Well, “most people” aren’t who you chose to be your person to walk this life with right now.

If you are choosing to be with someone, then let them be them. Make your requests. They will either honor them or not. They get to be them – another adult, just like you, being them.

Choose to stay or go. But if you choose to stay, let them be who they are. Learn to give yourself what you need so that you aren’t relying on someone else for your happiness.

If you aren’t getting anything out of the relationship and want to go, then by all means go! But know that unless you’ve cleaned up your thoughts about what a partner “should” be doing for you – e.g. if you think they are there to protect you from feeling bad – you will likely repeat these same patterns in the next relationship.

Our relationships aren’t there to protect us from doing hard things, feeling hard feelings, or facing our bullshit.

In my mind, relationships are there to push our edge. To challenge us to grow. To help us evolve and learn how to free our minds so we can love wholeheartedly. Ultimately, this extends to all our relationships – friends, parents, siblings, colleagues…all the silly humans.

Chuck the Manuals.

It will actually free you up to love so much more deeply and freely.

And don’t worry – you will still be OK. If you’re doubting it, then we’ve got some work to do together on building up your self confidence – your ziji – so that you believe you are 100% capable of taking care of your emotional needs. Then, the other people in your life? They become people who are there to make life even more juicy.

Instead of your emotional caretakers, they become the cream cheese icing on that gluten-free Freedom Junkie cake of yours.



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.

what a 4500 year-old tree taught me about doing hard things

I was hiking toward a forest of knotty, twisted, magical trees, many of which are over 2000 years old, and the oldest of which is over 4773 years old. I wondered what it takes for a tree to live that long.

Most of us would enter into some kind of personifcation and think of things similar to what make strong, beautiful humans: good food, water, a comfortable environment, and if we’re lucky, maybe even good parents and friends. Plus good genes.

For these ancient trees, we might think they need good soil, a temperate climate, ample water, good (but not harsh) sunlight, and not too much exposure to harsh winds or bad storms.

The truth, however, is that we would be utterly wrong.

I learned that contrary to what you might think, the oldest living trees on earth grow at elevations between 9,000 to over 11,000 feet – in high desert. The oldest trees grow on outcrops of dolomite, a low nutrient soil. There are high winds. Harsh temperature variations. Periods of long drought. And they only grow here.

These trees were babies and growing at the time stone axes were being used in Europe, the Great Pyramids were being built, and when clay tablets were being used in northern Syria.

Holy shit, right? That’s some serious living…And they didn’t need the easy life.

What if we’re just as wrong about what makes strong, beautiful humans?

I sat with this tree you see in the photo (photo credit: Elliot McGucken), and marveled at the miracle of life it was a symbol of. So beautiful and resilient in such a harsh environment. The things that tree must have seen because it was willing to…endure.

I wondered what would have happened to this tree if it thought that it “should” have been born somewhere…easier. Nicer. Gentler. Or if it thought it should be bigger. Straighter. More green.

After all, it’s what most of us humans do.

We wonder what life would be like if we had different parents, a better partner, a kickass job, a bigger house. If we lived closer to the beach, the mountains, a cultural epi-center, or a river. If we had more money. A tighter butt. Skinnier hips. A higher IQ. If we could climb 5.13 or paddle Class V.

I bet if that tree had all those thoughts, “shoulding” on itself, it would have shriveled up at the first hard drought. Or gotten toppled over at the first big storm, not having bothered to put down strong roots in such an unrelenting place.

That’s often what happens to humans who think, “Poor me.” They give up.

But this tree didn’t think that way. Or maybe it didn’t think anything at all. It just kept living, doing what it takes. Making the best out of what it has. Knowing, trusting, this is exactly where it should be.

These trees loves it here. So much so, that they can’t grow in rich soil or kinder, gentler places. They need these challenges to thrive.

What if humans “thought” more like this tree. What if we didn’t question if who we are or what we have is enough?

What if we thought, “This is exactly who I am supposed to be. I am perfect for this life of mine. This is exactly what is supposed to be happening. I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I was born to be right here, right now. I can do this. I’ve got this.”

I bet life would be different. I bet we’d be a whole lot happier. A whole lot nicer, more productive, and energetic. A whole lot…better off.

Some might argue, “Yeah – and we’d also have no development or evolution or progress for those of us stuck in shitty situations.”

Nah. Those are just more excuses for not choosing to be happy. When we are happy, we are actually open to more innovation, more options, more creativity. When we are happy, we can more easily generate more happiness.

When we endure, when have have survived and learned from getting through challenging times (instead of complain about it and wish things were different), we evolve, we adapt, we are resilient, and we are more confident.

We’ve done hard things. And instead of running from them, we aren’t afraid of them. We take more risks, we think big, We don’t shrink back.

We say, “Bring it on!”

Happiness is a choice. I had a Tibetan spiritual teacher that told me, “If you wanted to, you could be happy Just. Like. THAT!” And he made a dramatic snapping of his fingers high up in the air.

I just stared at him. I had no freakin’ clue how that was supposed to happen.

He told me I had to learn to direct my mind. Think different thoughts. To know that I create my own experience of reality. I needed to turn my suffering into happiness. WTF?

Fast-forward 26 years later, and I think I am starting to get it. This tree…this hella old, knotty, beautiful tree gets it.

Being happy is not easy. But I’m starting to believe that it is actually that simple.

We humans need to experience hard things to grow into something of a true work of art…a beautiful, twisted, gnarled and hearty human being whose life is their masterpiece. If we didn’t suffer, we wouldn’t grow and adapt and be pushed to rise up to the occasion.

We would not learn what we are made of.

This tree was not born wondering if it could make it. We, being silly humans, often do.

Know that you can.

Know that if you weren’t able to handle what you’re in, it would not be happening.

What’s going on in your life that you’d rather have…go away?

If you can actually make it go away, then by all means, do that.

But if you can’t, if you are truly not able to change what’s going on right now, what would happen if you chose to feel better about it? What if you chose to think differently about it so that it served you instead of ate you up?

This, my friend, could be a game-changer.

You’ve got this.


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.

Why I Miss Being a Dirtbag

I was recently watching the movie Dirtbag, a documentary about the legendary climber, Fred Beckey. It brought back so many memories of my own dirtbag days, although Beckey would put me to shame with how he stuffed pages of a novel he was reading into the liner of his jacket, then burned it in the morning to heat some tea water… or the beans and maggots dinners he had.

The movie defined being a dirtbag as “one who forgoes material comforts and defies societal norms in pursuit of a nomadic mountaineering lifestyle.” Yes, please.

What I loved about it was the simplicity and freedom of having everything I owned in the back of my station wagon, and the luxury of time. Time to just BE. I was working as a seasonal climbing guide and Outward Bound instructor, and I made $55 a day when I first started, for a 24-7 job.

There’s a saying in mountaineering that “on either side of the socio-economic spectrum lies a leisure class,” meaning you either made shit tons of money so you didn’t even have to work to make it and had tons time to do what you wanted, or you were a dirtbag and didn’t have a lot of money, but you had all the time in the world to do what you wanted since you lacked social or financial obligations like a regular job or a mortgage.

I also miss showing up at a climbing site alone (pre-cell phone) and seeing if anyone I knew had left a note up on the message board saying that they were there. Or the joy of a good buddy finding me as they noticed my prayer flags flapping in the wind on my car while I was making dinner in camp, and then us staying up late deciding what climb we’d do the next day, sorting the gear and memorizing the route and tracing guidebooks. There was something to be said about having more opportunities for synchronicity to blow my mind.

I miss showing up in Curry Village in Yosemite after a long climb and waiting for the tourists to walk away from their half-eaten pizza, and the sheer joy I felt as free, delicious food filled my belly, so my funds could go towards the pitcher of beer. I miss the long days, nights and endless weeks in the mountains with my good friends. You do one hard climb with someone and you can know them better (and they, you) than someone you’ve spent time with daily while at work in “the city,” even if that’s been for years.

Simplicity, nature and adventure make for a very, very content life. (—> that’s Fred Beckey at 93 years old! And he still camped on the ground next to his car at this age – no motels or AirBnB for this guy!)

Still, I am glad that these days I can be a Dirtbag by Choice. It’s nice to know I can pay for my medical bills and take care of my family and friends if something happens to them. And yes, I really like sushi too. And plane tickets. And retreats/workshops…

In the end, I think the key is not being attached to it all. I’m glad I had my dirtbag days, because it showed me I could have very little materially, and still go to bed feeling – truly feeling – “I am so fucking happy. I feel so fulfilled, so complete, so in love with life, that today would be a good day to die.”

When we have experienced being happy with less, we are not as scared to lose what we have. When you have the experience of being happy as a single wild woman, it is less difficult to leave a shitty relationship. When you’ve had the experience of creating success from nothing, you are less scared to quit a job. The fact that I have experienced viscerally that it is possible to feel such bliss while owning very little (and not just “knowing” it intellectually) makes it less scary to take risks with my business and lifestyle design, and helps me feel more free.

What could you lessen your attachment to that would help you be more courageous? Is it having to have a really big house or a fancy car? Thinking that you “should” make a certain amount of money? Proving something to friends or family?

What’s your version of “dirtbagging” it? What would it look like for you to live simply, or with a lot less than what you have now? In the end, you don’t really have to do get rid of it all – but you need to ditch the attachment to these things, because that’s what chains you down. It’s often good to “practice” by traveling with very few items, or stretching out your funds while on the road with a really low budget, or backpacking for an extended time with everything you need on your back. But there’s lots of other ways too.

Working on being less attached is a step towards true freedom.


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.