12 Essential Questions

A lot of people ask me what I do for the New Year since resolutions seem to resonate less and less with how people wanted to enter into this important transition. After all, more resolutions are broken than kept, and that doesn’t feel like a way to enter the New Year with integrity.

With the traditional resolutions, people often find themselves stuck in the same place year after year – even with having the best of intentions and setting achievable goals that seem totally doable. Goals they really really want! Some have been wanting them for decades! Let’s stop that stuckness right now.

It’s time to shake, woman…shake! 

It’s time to step into your wildness, your true desires, your heart-centered visions for your life with the most astute observation, integrity, wisdom, generosity and compassion that you can muster

Before deciding what you want to create in the upcoming year and setting your intentions for those, it is absolutely essential to reflect upon and learn about yourself and your patterns so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes and find yourself in the same old rut – again. Not doing this is why many intentions – aka “resolutions” – fail.

It’s only in knowing what we do right now that we can choose how to do things differently, or choose what patterns to keep and which to let go of. Doing things differently when something isn’t working, and keeping up the things that actually serve us, is how we create better experiences in our life – and lasting happiness too. Yummm right?!

That’s why I want to share with you my personal list of favorite Year-In-Review Questions to help make sure your whole being is prepped for making your next year the Best Year Yet. I’ve found that I create the most success in my life – personally and professionally – when I take the time to reflect on the past with the intention of learning and growing (and not for ruminating or lamenting!).

While creating goals and setting intentions are an important part of actively creating a kick-ass New Year, I’ve learned that BEFORE we do that, we need to reflect on what journeys we have been through, what has happened within us in the past year, so we can approach the next year more skillfully and with deeper wisdom.

I believe this is why “resolutions” are now often seen as clichéd and de-valued. People usually enter into resolutions without mindfulness, true emotional investment, or reflection on what would really make a difference, and a solid plan. Those things are the difference between a “good idea” and a “goal.” A good idea is just that – an idea. A Goal/Intention/Resolution, on the other hand, has a clear vision and a plan – a plan based on reflection and wisdom gained.Starting here is an essential part of building a good foundation for your next year.

After years of doing this every December, here are my favorite questions to ask myself. Have fun doing this! You are going to learn and grow from it, which means you’ll be far less likely to make the same mistakes and be more able to create your ideal life. Juicy, baby!

Pick a time when you have some quiet, uninterrupted space, light some candles (I’m into candles;), pour a glass of your favorite beverage, take a few moments to breathe deeply and calm your mind, and start in on creating the life of your dreams.

12 Essential Freedom Junkie Questions to Review Your Year - and Learn To Make the Next One Your Best Year Yet!

1) What am I most proud of from this past year?

2) WHO helped me achieve that – and did I thank them?

3) WHAT helped me achieve those things (habits, systems, choosing helpful mindsets, letting go of toxic relationships, etc)?

4) Who (or How) was I BEING in my life when I was most content this last year (confident, laid-back, present, slowed-down, adventurous, generous, healthy, compassionate…)?

5) Where could I have invested more energy (and “energy” means time, money, emotions, attention)?

6) What blocked me from investing that energy?

7) How can I remove some of those blocks/obstacles for the upcoming year?

8) What and/or Who did I take for granted this year?

9) How can I honor those people or things more next year?

10) What did I do to nourish my spiritual growth (retreat, regular practice, new supportive relationships, etc)?

11) Was it enough? If not, how can I add to that?

12) What was my take-home lesson from my most intense or powerful experiences in the past 12 months? (Everything happens for a reason!)

I dare you to take one action today based on these reflections. When you write things down – and share them – they take on even more power. If you’re shy, feel free to simply journal or send an email to me about what you plan to do. I’d really love to hear from you!

Have fun reflecting on your past year. It’s a truly valuable and simple “Jedi skill:” to actually learn from our past!

*** If you’re interested in a really awesome way to make the next year your best one yet, join Freedom School. It will set you up to live the best version of you in the year to come. This is an amazing group of rebel women committed to creating lives of freedom, adventure and purpose. You can even gift a Freedom School membership to someone that you know could use the boost and come together! You’ll dive into getting clear about: what you want, how to clear your life of the things you don’t, skills for living an authentic life so you are out there being YOU and not what other people want you to be, and more.

If creating the life you love includes drinking less in the New Year, Freedom School also gives you access to Drink Less, Feel Free, a 4-week program where you learn ways to free yourself from overdrinking. The tools here worked for me – and hundreds of others. You can also give it as a gift to someone you love that has repeatedly told you they wish they didn’t always overdrink. Life is too short to waste hungover or feeling guilty, right? Plus, saying you’ll do something and then not doing it screws with your self-confidence. This program is set up to give you the support and accountability you need.

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?

Boom.

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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.

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

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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.

Having Trouble Letting Go?

“Wouldn’t it be terrible if the trees outside identified themselves by their leaves? These are very flimsy things to be attached to.” ~ Adyashanti in Emptiness Dancing

Indeed it would be terrible! Especially come Autumn when they all fall away! Imagine all those trees bending over with their branches frantically scrambling to pick up their leaves and trying to hold onto them, year after year.

Think about all the things we are attached to: our ideas, our appearance, our grudges, our “things.” We scramble in this way when we see them slipping away, our grasp becomes more firm, and our energy more scattered.

Yet there is so much we are meant to let go of to allow us to nurture our core, who we really are, and the things that are truly important. There is so much bullshit we mistake for things that are truly who we are, and they distract us from our truth.

Think of all the ways that you have been stopped from doing something new, opening your heart, or taking a risk in the name of something you’re holding on to. How many times have you said, “Oh, that’s not me/my style.” “I’m not ready.” “I’ll never forgive him/her for that.” “I’m not strong enough for that.” “I’m not good looking enough.” “I don’t deserve that.”

Here’s news: Some things are meant to be with us for only a season, some things we outgrow, some things were never a part of us to begin with…and we have to let go. Only in doing this can we have the energy and focus it takes to truly nurture our core and our roots.

5 Ways to Let Go This Autumn
1. Get super clear about what your TRUE CORE is…at least what it is for this season (things change – including YOU!). What is your identity?
This is not about the things you are simply “used” to identifying with. Not the characteristics in that box that people have put you in since you were 7 years old. Not the lessons you learned on how to protect yourself when your heart was broken 12 years ago.

Make a list of 60 characteristics that describe who you are, your identity. If you were asked to give up 1/3 of those, which would they be? Cross them out. Then someone asks you to give up another 1/3. Cross those out. And yes, do that ONE MORE TIME – another 1/3. Let them go. What is the 10% you are left with? How much time do you spend nurturing these characteristics?

2. Forgive Someone
Will ya let go of that grudge already?! It’s fine and dandy to pick someone to forgive for a minor infraction. However, I encourage you to dig deep with this one and find someone with whom it is a bit more challenging to forgive. Not for their sake, but for YOURS. It doesn’t take a Zen monk to realize that not forgiving causes more suffering to the person not forgiving that it ever does to the person not forgiven.

At the same time, there is an incredible amount of freedom that comes with forgiving. Is it really that important that your friend didn’t write or call for a few weeks? Or that you didn’t get invited to that one holiday weekend when everyone went to the ski cabin? Or that your meat and potatoes family refuses to comply with your vegan standards at Thanksgiving? And yes, is it really that important that your ex left you for someone else, or that your father was angry and violent…so important that it burns a hole in your heart to this day and keeps you from realizing complete happiness? Yes, it can be important, but not worth not forgiving and the suffering it brings you.

Forgiving does not mean forgetting. We remember things for a reason. It helps us to learn from our experiences, to protect ourselves, and to remember what makes us feel good as well. It teaches us what we want and don’t want. However, forgiveness allows us to move on, to grow, and to expand instead of constrict, contract, and limit ourselves. It does not mean you have to forget, and put yourself into the same negative situation over and over.

3. Forgive Yourself
Wow. OK. So you totally screwed up. Man, you really blew it. What the hell were you thinking?

WHO CARES?! It’s done. It’s over. You can’t change what happened.

However, you can change how you act now, and in the future. You can choose to respond instead of react. You remember what you did NOT so that you can beat yourself up about it every day, but so that you don’t make the same mistake again. You are allowed to grow and change. You are not your mistakes. You are a kick ass human being who is not broken or messed up or a lost cause.

You are brilliant, magnificent, and creative. You can be whomever you want to be, be however you want to be, and do it (SNAP!) like that! You just need to decide to.

So, stop beating yourself up about shhhtuff and forgive yourself. THIS will allow you to do things differently, because you acknowledge to the Universe – and to yourself – that you know you are capable of anything.

OK, now that we got some of the heavier “letting go” stuff out of the way, let’s get to some tangibles…

4. Get Rid of Stuff (e.g. Clean Out Your Closet, Remove Clutter)
This is totally about a big issue of mine. However, I have to assume I am not alone on this one. I am well-aware of the clutter my myriad t-shirts, yoga pants, tank tops, and jeans cause. Yes, I admit I even have dresses from the 90s. And maybe even one from the 80s. I like retro. Which would all be dandy if I actually wore them. And more than once every 3 years. Even though it was PERFECT for that rooftop party ages ago. And yes, that includes tutus…or does it?

In any event, get rid of stuff. If you’re stressed about the money you spent on them, sell them to a consignment shop, to a used clothing store, or get a big phat receipt from Goodwill for your donation. Just ‘cuz you bought it doesn’t mean you have to keep it in that big box called your closet. Things in there are for things that get worn.

5. Stop a Bad Habit
What is a habit anyway? It’s not something we need. It is something we’re used to. Food, we need. Eating after work at 10pm, a habit. Rest, we need. Plopping in front of the TV after work and zoning out, a habit. Self-soothing when we’re stressed, we need. Nail biting, smoking, and complaining to anyone around us, a habit. Habits are yet another form of unconscious attachment. Let go of one…at least for 21 days. It is said it takes 21 days to form a new habit – like not doing your old bad habit!

Some final thoughts from Adyashanti:

Self-inquiry is…not about looking for a right answer so much as stripping away and letting you see what is not necessary, what you can do without, what you are without your leaves. In human beings…we do not call these leaves. We call them ideas, concepts, attachments, and conditioning. All of this forms your identity. Inquiry is a way of inducing a spiritual winter in its most positive sense, stripping everything to its root, to its core…This is a falling into the most essential root of being.

Bam. That’s good, right?

As you probably know by now, “Ziji” means “radiant inner confidence.” This growth requires courage and faith in who you are, and that you are indeed magnificent. Play with the courage it takes to let go, to see your core, and consider joining the Ziji Up! Mastery Program

http://www.ultimateconfidencecourse.com
– the ultimate confidence course for intrepid souls like yours. It’ll give you an extra kick in the butt;)

To Your Freedom,

Image

http://www.adventuremastermind.com

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?

No.

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.

Yummmm.

what makes your soul sing?

Today marks my 45th trip around the sun. Whoa!

This year I’ve tried to think about how to celebrate by focusing on what is really important to me, based on my own experience of what I know makes me truly happy, content, and living with a sense of purpose. Here’s a few of the things I’ve lined up, and why. I hope it helps you create more moments of meaningfulness in your life!

After all – life is too short to be spending most of your time doing shit you don’t want to be doing

TIME IN THE MOUNTAINS WITH GOOD FRIENDS

Today I’m going to spend time outdoors with a group of wild woman I love. Tomorrow I leave for a backpacking trip through the Sierra Nevada in California, with a dear friend of mine. Mountain time is important. Friends are important.

We’re heading to the east side, where there’s a slip fault and the mountains shoot straight up from the valley floor. I don’t like hiking in trees that much because I love vast, open views, so the east side of the Sierra feels just right to me. You get above treeline after some serious effort up steep slopes – and it’s well worth it. This place and it’s abundant granite are where my soul feels most content.

I had first wanted to spend tonight eating oysters and drinking champagne with my friends, which I definitely also love – but those things don’t make my soul sing. I want to spend my precious time doing what makes my soul sing, and today my soul wanted mountains (maybe after the hike, the oysters and champagne will take front seat;)

Do you have a place where you feel absolutely at peace and magical? Where is that? How can you spend more time there? How could you possibly…live there? A place where you feel free, where you can adventure (your way) and feel alive, is essential.

Do you have a friend who deeply understands you? Who makes you feel good about yourself? Who is easy to listen to and give generously to – and who gives back? How can you spend more time with them? How can you find someone like that – or build a tribe of more people like that? Your success and happiness are largely correlated with the 5 people you spend the most time with. Choose wisely.

YOGA

After I write this, I am heading to yoga. It’s one of the few things in my life that has remained a constant source of support and rejuvenation. I took my first class at UC Santa Cruz when I was 18, and have never looked back.

What is a reliable source of nourishment – body and soul – for you? How can you tap into this more often?

Spend more time on what’s important. You need to schedule it. Prioritize it. Only then will it happen.

MEDITATION

Whether I like to admit it or not, my ability to be kind, present, patient and generous is largely dependent on how much energy I put into my spiritual practice (and not just reading spiritual books). A huge part of that is meditation. The times when I’ve been most proud of how I showed up in the world have been when I have made the time to meditate – especially when doing this Tonglen meditation I learned when I was 19 years old (this is a link to a guided meditation I did with a group on a retreat I led at Breitenbush in Oregon).

I think meditation works for me because of the way it helps me pause before reacting in a way that’s not in alignment with how I want to be in the world, and how it helps me step back and get perspective on what is really going on – seeing things as they are, without the drama and story I create around them. Tonglen in particular helps to heal painful relationships for me – and this is often a source of much of our suffering. It helps me feel more genuine compassion and love – even for people I may not be feeling warm and fuzzy about.

What helps you show up to be the best version of yourself? What helps you be more compassionate, loving, kind, and generous? Do that. You’ll always be glad you showed up as a good person.

TIME WITH FAMILY (I wouldn’t have said this 20 years ago)

I’ve had a complicated history around my family. Once I turned 18, I couldn’t wait to leave the chaos and abuse of my younger years, moving out shortly after my birthday that year. Later, I was able to heal my relationships with my parents and with the neighborhood that brought me so much stress and violence. Not too long ago, my relationship with my mother got complicated again, and then she died. It was bad timing, but death is known for that.

This is my first birthday without my mother, who is the one and only person who never, ever forgot to wish me a happy birthday. I miss her dearly. I wish I had been able to show up better, to meditate more, work less, be more patient. But alas, I was struggling with postpartum depression and having to provide for my family as the primary breadwinner – a new and sleep-deprived mom – during her last years.

I’m only human, and I’m sure as hell not perfect. But I do see the importance of cultivating a loving family that feels good to come home to, and showing up for them in a way I can feel proud of. I’m trying my best. I brought my kiddo to camp late today so we could cuddle longer and share kisses and eat capers and lox together and walk at a leisurely pace, stopping to check out the fireweed blooms. I’ll spend more time with her and my husband after I get my massage this afternoon;)

I’m also going to try to forgive and let go of the shit that keeps me from loving fully.

It’s too heavy a burden.

Who is the “family” you are choosing to create? You get to choose many of them now that you’re all grown up.

Are you happy in your community? Are you showing up like you want to for your loved ones?

If you died today, would you have said what you needed to say to the people you care about? Do you need to cut the energetic cord between you and another person?

DANCING WILDLY

Dancing in the only thing missing from my agenda for today that would totally make me happy, so I’ve scheduled it for when I get back from my backpacking trip. I’m not talking ecstatic dance at 9am or salsa classes after dinner. I’m talking thumping sweating jumping head-banging spinning howling bring it on electronica latin club ska hip hop anything that’s got good rhythm with my ladies yet by myself in the middle of the dance floor appearing so wild that no one dare come near me kind of dancing. I can’t wait!

These are some of the relatively small things I’ve chosen to do, but they hold a lot of power for me.

I hope these ideas help you start moving towards a life that is more in alignment with who you are and what you want from this precious life. Life is too short for anything else.

How To Set Boundaries That Actually Work

Do you remember how proud you were when you set your first “healthy boundary?” I do.

I remember finally planting my metaphorical foot down after months of frustration. I told someone I was dating that I wasn’t going to tolerate anymore flaking or not showing up when he said he would. I deserved my time to be respected. I set my boundary and … he listened!

Well done! I thought to myself. Should have done that months ago!

But…he didn’t listen for long. In the end it was a battle of me re-setting boundaries, trying to control his behavior, then him complying…and eventually breaking them again. Then I’d withdraw to “enforce” the boundary…rinse, repeat.

When I was first taught about boundaries, it was in the context of women who do too much for other people, and not enough for themselves. It came across to me that I had to be firm and defend myself against others asking me to do things I didn’t want to do, or allowing them to act in ways that were not healthy for me. Sounds like a good idea right?

While that sounds like a really good idea on the surface, the way I was doing it ended up leading to not-so-good things for everyone involved. Things like Anger. Frustration. Control.

That last one is the biggest thing – it turns out unbeknownst to me, I was using boundaries to control other people’s behavior. I was giving ultimatums like “you do/don’t do this…or else!” This is not a healthy way to set boundaries – yet it is the way most of us were taught to set them.

Most of us set boundaries based on how we can change how someone else behaves, and not on our power of choice and agency to do what is best for us.

The healthy way to create boundaries necessitates remembering a very important thing: that boundaries are all about YOUR behavior.

Whaaaaat?! That’s right. The focus of a healthy boundary is actually not about the other person doing or not doing what you want at all. They are all grown up, and whether you like it or not, they “get” to do whatever they want. I know. It sounds crazy. But stick with me for a long minute;)

A healthy boundary is all about what you are going to do. It is a consequence you set that is completely based on an action you will take.

For example, if your mother is constantly belittling you when she calls, you can create a boundary. You can say, “Mom, it is not OK for you to belittle me when we talk. I love you, but if you start to do that, I will let you know I am going to hang up, and we can talk again when belittling isn’t part of the conversation.”

Then, if she does it again, you say, “OK mom, I love you, and I’m going to hang up now. When you’re ready to talk without doing that, we can chat again.”

You don’t continue to try to change her or “make her stop.” You just take care of yourself.

You may have noticed a few other things in this example:

1) The boundary isn’t about something petty. Some people want to set boundaries around things like getting people to stop giving them unsolicited advice, or doing something annoying like talking too loudly. That is actually attempting to control someone and not letting them be themselves – which is not OK.

Boundaries are set for big-deal items: emotional or physical boundaries. People do not get to hit you. People do not get to emotionally abuse you (like the belittling in the example above). People do not get to break your trust.

You may wonder – Hold on, girl! What’s the difference between setting a boundary and making a request for my preferences, then? Can’t I ask someone to stop something that annoys me?

YES! Make all the requests you want!

If someone is not crossing a physical or emotional boundary but is simply annoying you, choose to either share your time and energy with them, or not. Make a request, or not. Requests don’t have “consequences.” The person either does it or not, and you do the work to learn how to be happy either way.

If you choose to still be around them, let go of trying to change who they are.

Don’t forget to not let whether they comply or not affect your happiness or your sense of empowerment. It really isn’t appropriate to create boundary around something you’re simply being annoyed by. That’s usually solvable by you changing your thoughts about what’s going on and not taking them personally.

That can be a big-girl-panties concept, but I know you’ve got this;)

2) Boundaries (unlike simple requests) have a consequence that is about an action you will take, and you need to follow through on this. Using the example above, if your mom/partner/friend belittles you and you don’t hang up like you said you would, that removes the strength and purpose form the boundary. It also tends to eat away at your self-respect and self-esteem. You end up not trusting yourself, which is usually worse that the original breach of the boundary anyway.

3) The boundary does not come from a place of anger. Your happiness should not rely on this person’s actions. Therefore, the boundary is simply to honor yourself, and you can choose to not take it personally and step away from the unhealthy situation. No drama. Just, “No, thank you.”

Let’s see more examples of what this all looks like:

If you have a friend who is constantly late and this wears on your time and energy, you can choose to stay friends with her and say, “I get you’re often late, it’s what you do. But it’s hard for me when I waste my time when I’d rather spend time with you. So, if you are more than 15 minutes late, I’m going to leave.” Shazam! You honor who she is, and you honor your needs.

In this example, you are choosing to stay friends with this person, and creating a boundary that respects both your needs. You can also choose not to remain friends with this person if they don’t follow through. In either case, you can walk away – without drama.

In my relationship example in the beginning, choosing to leave when it was clear my emotional boundaries and trust were not being honored would have been better than trying to control someone else’s behavior. I could have said, “If x, y, z behavior continues, that doesn’t work for me.” Then I would have left – which ended up happening anyway – but it would have happened with me being in a much more empowered place – and much sooner. That would have saved both of us a lot of time and energy and suffering. And way less drama.

I know some of these concepts can be a bit WTF for you right now, but let it simmer awhile. Check it out and observe the difference between people setting healthy boundaries vs. trying to control someone else’s behavior. As one of my favorite spiritual teachers would tell me, “Check your mind. Check it for yourself.”

What are your deal-breakers that you’d like to set boundaries for? Are you able to differentiate between the need for boundaries vs making a request? If not, shoot me an email. Trust me – I’ve been there!

the mother wound + healing

I’m writing this post on Mother’s Day, and I know that not all of us have had deep and fulfilling relationships with our mothers. If your relationship with your mother is intimate and warm, I hope you celebrate this day with her in your heart or in person! Consider yourself blessed. And if you are a mama, I celebrate you for choosing that courageous path and growing little humans that will eventually be caretakers of our planet (no pressure;)!

However, our mother is the one person in our life capable of creating one of the deepest wounds possible – known as “the mother wound.” This email is for those of you with a tender mother wound.

When we share such deep bonds with someone, growing inside their body and relying on them so deeply, and then hopefully  being nourished by them physically and emotionally once we are born (or not, if they had to give us up, or weren’t capable of doing so)..when they hurt us, it cuts deeper than any other pain.

We can spend our whole lives suffering this wound. Or not.

Instead, we can choose to know this wound is shared in our humanity. Like many wounds and types of suffering, it is only possible because of the depth of love that is possible. It is precisely because we can love so deeply that we can suffer so deeply. It’s part of the deal of being human. All mothers are bound to let us down at some point. It is up to us to know they are human.

Instead of focusing on what was missing, we can choose to focus on the love that was there…that our mothers kept us alive and nourished us – however imperfectly – despite their own suffering and pain.

We can choose to create the love we want in our lives – by nourishing friendships and relationships, and even with healing our mother wound when we are ready.

Know that your happiness does not depend on your mother, or anyone else. You can choose to create happiness in your life now. You can choose to think new thoughts about your life – to write a new story about your wound.

You can start to see the ways in which your wound has shaped and forged you in alchemical ways to be someone with your unique gifts. Indeed, some theories suggest the mother wound happens to us in exactly the way we needed it to to shape us spiritually in this life – when we are courageous enough to let it.

Let it. Let your past be the thing that helps you grow into the phenomenal person you are destined to be. Shape your mind and soul to look to the present and future with a bright heart

The truth about why it never feels like enough

Most people look at life coaching and think of it as something that helps people feel…happier. There’s a lot to be said for simple happiness. But there is a lot more that people aren’t talking about. Here is the truth about why it never feels like enough.

The field of Positive Psychology and it’s emphasis on how humans thrive best is the perfect compliment to coaching. After all, a lot of what myself and other teach is how to help decrease your own suffering.

Maybe you can relate to one of these situations:

  • you have a bitchy inner critic that tells you you aren’t worthy of a better life
  • you have a tendency to make bad choices relationship after relationship and chose someone who doesn’t lift you up
  • you are a perpetual perfectionist and can’t seem to start, finish, or let go of anything because of your need to have it be flawless
  • you keep searching for a life with more meaning and purpose…and still haven’t found it
  • you struggle with creating healthy boundaries and saying “No” to people, trapped in a never-ending cycle of people-pleasing and lack of self care.
  • you feel trapped and stuck
  • you wallow in a scarcity mindset, blocking abundance from entering your life
  • you feel a lack of self love and self-worth
  • you wonder why you don’t feel confident or courageous enough to do what it takes

Coaching helps you with all the above. But what a lot of people don’t talk about is that once you achieve a lot of the things above – the freedom, the location-independent lifestyle, the abundance, the awesome relationship, the killer career, the ziji (radiant inner confidence) – people end up realizing that something is still missing.

And let me tell you – that moment sucks. Royally.

Here you’ve done the spiritual work, the intellectual work, the creative work, the courageous work – a LOT of freakin’ work – and it all seems perfect, yet something is Still. Freakin’. Missing.

Here’s the clincher: we are born to serve in a powerful way.

We are meant to use all the skills we learned up until this glorious moment of fulfillment, and use them to (no pressure here;) change the world.

You cannot be a human with all faculties present in yourself and feel content in life if you are not deeply serving. You will always feel like something is missing.

In order to serve powerfully, we must muster the deepest type of courage yet. This is courage deeper than what is required to ask for a raise, or to start our own business, or to leave the toxic relationship.

Don’t get me wrong – they are related, and the first kind of courage is requisite to getting to the next level of bravery.

But what is required of you to truly feel like your life is enough and to finally feel content is to be of deep, holy service to some-one/some-thing else greater than yourself.

You don’t necessarily need to expose environmental injustices like Margaret Heffernan

… cover the atrocities of war like Janine di Giovani

… move to Afghanistan to be the attorney representing abused girls like Kimberly Motley

… or demand transparency in medicine like Leana Wen

This also does not mean that you can expect donating 10% of your income to charity can help you feel this sense of purpose. I know that donating part of one’s income to charities is more popular than ever (I do it myself) – but this is not the type of action I am talking about. Nope. It is ideally YOU who is doing the act of service (but by all means, please still donate, because we need so many types of service out there!).

why it never feels like anough compassion courageWhat I mean is if you truly want to feel fulfilled at the end of this life, your actions need to involve courageous acts of service. By you.

When I look back on my life, it is not the peaks I have climbed, the adventures I have been on, or the financial milestones that help me feel that today would be a good day to die – although I will be the first to admit that they certainly help.

Rather, it is the times that I have made other people’s lives better that help me sleep at night. The times I spent in Africa working with refugees on the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and DRC. The times I forgave people that deeply hurt me. The times I risked disappointing others and being criticized in order to bring a bigger message to the world. The times I washed my bloodied gloves in a bucket by hand while delivering babies in a public hospital for Haitian women that had no running water. The times I sat with a mother holding her stillborn and allowed myself to cry with her, and kissed her baby so she could see that indeed, her baby’s life mattered to me too. The times I helped another women claim her power and freedom.

It takes a lot of courage to serve others fully. To allow ourselves to feel the pain and suffering of others and to take action to stop it. To be so vulnerable with strangers that it scares the shit out of you.

You also have to know what the world truly needs in order to best bring your gifts to the world in acts of service. And learning what the world needs can be terrifying, scary, and overwhelming.

But you can do it. You MUST do it.

You were born to do it.

I have clients break down in tears when they realize this. This is understandable, because the responsibility can feel overwhelming. But trust me – you don’t need to do anything more than discover your gifts and live them fully.

Your true gift involved deep service to others.

You do not need to head into war zones or depraved conditions (unless that’s a part of your gift), but you do need to discover and be honest with yourself about what you are good at, and how it can help make the world a better place than when you arrived.

It’s scary, but you can find the ziji, the courage, the confidence.

How do we get this courage? In my experience, this deeply driven courage is created by an emotion that is much less “sexy” to many: Compassion

Compassion is the most courageous emotion we can carry, and the brave acts it allows us to undertake is why it is the emotion that helps our life feel like one well-lived.

The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes. ”  ~ Pema Chödrön

There you have it.

If you want to live a truly courageous life, open your heart.

Feel the pain, the suffering, the injustices.

Do the work. Spend time alone. Spend time with people who really matter.

Fiercely quest for your purpose.

Let any ideas of your previous self die away, so that you may truly be open to the gift that only you are able to deliver – one you may have no freakin’ idea about yet. Or one you know about, but that really, really scares you to think about embodying.

You are enough. The best way to see that – and indeed, the best way to feel that – is to discover that gift and how to best bring it to the world in service.

Share with me below about your gifts, or what has helped you sleep better at night, the ways you love to serve, the ways you dream to serve. I love this kind of stuff – and trust me, I’ll reply.

For more inspiration:

Listen to this excerpt of an interview on the Ted Radio Hour with Zainab Salbi describing how women endure during times of violent conflict, holding their communities together best they can, with courage and compassion.

Read this article from the Greater Good Science Center about a happy life vs a meaningful life (and are they different?).

Want to tap into your own compassion more (for yourself and others)? Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page, and have a listen to my free Tong Len guided meditation.

Read all of Pema Chodron’s books. Period.

When emotions get the better of you

daretoforgiveThe other day, my emotions got the better of me, and I walked home with my tail between my legs.

We finally got back from Nepal, and I finished up my Soulcrafting retreat in Colorado with el maestro, Bill Plotkin. I returned to Alaska refreshed, renewed, tapped in and turned on…and somehow still managed to fall into a rage when I went to pick my mom up from dialysis the following Monday.

It was ugly. I was shaking from fury. I could feel my head pounding and my vision narrowing. All I could think of was, “If my mom dies because of some idiot, I’ll never forgive myself.”

But perhaps we should back up a little.

I am feeling quite raw after my retreat. It had been almost 2 years since I took any time for myself alone in the wilderness. And that’s even with me including a solo trip to Hawai’i when I was 7 months pregnant…and not exactly in wilderness. Let’s just say it was high time for this to be happening.

I had some amazing numinous experiences with nature in the desert of Colorado. We’re talking communicating-with-trees-and-plants-and-other non-humans kind of numinous. Completely sober.

Yes, it is much easier to have a chat with a Mormon Tea plant in the desert with the aid of certain psychadelics, but I thoroughly enjoy being able to get there on my own devices.

I had moments of collapsing to my knees, sobbing with deep gratitude, deep love, and profoundly deep grief at all the suffering going on today. I cried so hard, at times no sounds came out of my mouth (you know that one, right?). And other times it was so loud it echoed back at me from the canyon walls.

I committed to a long journey in those sacred canyons – one I am deeply immersed in right now, and will be until Fall of next year (if I’m lucky!).

I returned with the most overwhelming appreciation for my loved ones, and I was particularly excited because my mom was visiting us in Alaska, having just started dialysis after her heart attack earlier this fall.

Then, this past Monday morning, she woke up with a fever and chills. She had a temperature of 100.4 degrees F, and was fatigued with a headache. Important note: one of the more common complications of dialysis and causes of death is sepsis – systemic infection. They are much more prone to serious infections for myriad reasons. And older people sometimes don’t even get a fever with infection (or a very high one).

I called the dialysis center and said that my mom’s kidney doctor in the SF Bay Area wanted blood cultures to check for systemic infection, and that if they wouldn’t do them there, I would have to bring her to the ER. They agreed to do them there when we dropped her off that day. I asked if I could give Tylenol for her headaches, because then she would not have a fever as high when she showed up and they said it was OK.

My husband told me to not rush home and that he could bring her. He promised to make sure she got blood cultures. He dropped her off, asked the nurse if she would draw blood cultures, and she said yes.

I go 5 hours later to pick up my mom, right before they close, and there are no blood cultures.

No. Freaking. Blood Cultures. No blood cultures that would help us feel confident that at least whatever was going on was not a potentially life-threatening infection.

I asked what happened since I had called three times to confirm they’d be done AND my hubby made sure too. The nurse said she evaluated my mom upon arrival and my mom didn’t have a fever high enough to warrant blood cultures.

I was livid. My mom was tired. Had a raging headache. Was weak. She had lost so much weight since I saw her last. And now they were about to close.

I. Went. Off.

I am pretty sure I turned red. I threatened to call the better Business Bureau, to speak to the supervisor the next day, to get them all written up for this clear act of negligence. They called the nurse I spoke to earlier and she said she forgot to pass on the message to the new nurse that she had agreed to draw blood cultures.

I felt so…powerless. I had done everything short of dropping everything and walking in there and making them draw the blood cultures in front of me. I called THREE times after we had made the plan to make sure. My husband verified. I. did. so. much.

And still, I had no control over what people would end up doing. Now, if my mom was indeed septic, we had lost precious treatment time. And they didn’t even draw a CBC, but I won’t go there.

All I could see was my mom going into full blown sepsis in her frail state. Me wishing I had not been so lazy and letting my husband take her in. Her dying because of one thing I could have easily done to ensure she received quality care – watch them do it.

It has taken me a long time to learn to trust and delegate.

And this wasn’t helping.

After enough of my ranting, they agreed to draw the blood cultures.

I quietly, and in complete contrast to my earlier tirade, said, “I wish I didn’t have to get so pissed for the right thing to get done.”

My mom got up, I walked her outside, helped her over the cold snow and ice, and into the car.

I couldn’t speak a word. I was so scared. I am sure she thought it was because I was so angry.

Later that night, I felt deep shame. Yes, people had made a mistake. A mistake I tried to prevent by calling and double checking and checking again…but not again. Yes, my mom could indeed have a bad outcome because of this.

But that was no reason to be so rude. To be mean to another human being.

I then went to a place of self-compassion. I acknowledged that I was afraid my mom would die and that I could be partly to blame by my lack of vigilance. My fierce and rageful ranting was because of my love for her, and my wish that is wasn’t so easy for a loved one to leave forever.

I vowed to call the nurses in the morning and apologize.

The next day, when I finally had a calm moment, I called the center and the same exact nurse answered.

“Hi there – it’s Ana Verzone.”

“Yes?” I could tell she was not excited it was me.

“I wanted to apologize for the way I got so mad at you yesterday. You absolutely didn’t deserve that. I thought I had done everything to prevent that mistake from happening, and it was so scary to see that even then, it didn’t matter. Things hadn’t been done, and then I was afraid my mom would die from an infection. I am really sorry that I treated you that way.”

She replied, “OK. Thank you. You know, I told everyone, ‘This is all because she loves her mother so much.‘”

I couldn’t believe it. I thought for sure that she went around saying I was the biggest bitch ever and that they should try to get my mom transferred or something.

But she…forgave me.

What if I hadn’t called back? I would have forever thought I was hated by her.

I broke down crying. I breathed out, “Thank you for understanding. Thank you for managing to be compassionate and to try to see where I was coming from. You have no idea how much that means to me. Thank you.”

She saw through it and saw that I was scared.

We hung up.

I felt human again.

I am grateful for so many things this year. But this year, one of the things I am going to hold particularly dear is the near-magical capacity we have to empathize with another.

And to forgive.

I can’t help but invite you to consider this as a gratitude on Thanksgiving Day – that others have had empathy for you, understood you, and forgiven you when you were being human in the messiest of ways. And gratitude that you can offer the same gift to others.

Today, I dare you to either ask for forgiveness, or to forgive someone.

Which is it going to be for you? Share with us below.

Does this story resonate with you? Do you want to do deeper? If you want to dive into living truly authentically, raw, and wild, and finally meeting your unique gift, consider joining me and 9 other amazing women for next year’s 10-month adventure, LEGENDARY. Two adventure retreats and a jam-packed year of diving into soul. And more being proud of how you show up in the world. Check it out at www.AdventureMastermind.com

This being human thing definitely takes practice.

I dare you.