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 Thought Will Change Everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I do impossible things every day.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No matter what.

Did I say no matter what?

No. Matter. What.

 

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

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.

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.

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.

True freedom is a feeling

Freedom – deep freedom – is a feeling.

While there are certainly many inalienable human rights that can help to define what freedom is, that’s not the freedom I’m talking about here. I am sure you can think of plenty of people that are privileged to have those rights, and yet they feel suffocated and stifled. Trapped, like a puma in a cage. Stuck. Like you will never know the true you, or live your true life.

Anything but free.

I’ve certainly been there. Have you?

Is this because we are spoiled and take for granted the freedoms we do have? That if we only realized how lucky we are to be able to write negative blog posts about the president without being blacklisted (for now, at least), or being a woman and being able to go to school without fear, or being able to stroll along the beach and not be concerned about landmines, that we’d realize how free we really are and get over it?

Personally, I don’t think so.

That’s because the deep freedom I’m referring to is a feelingit’s something that we sense deep in our soul, when we are aligned.

The surprise to many is that deep freedom is not having a location-independent lifestyle, or tons of money to do whatever we want with. It’s not being your own boss or not having to answer to someone else. It’s not saying whatever the hell we want and wearing what we want. It isn’t kissing or loving whomever we want, or living wherever we want.

Those are external freedoms. They are measured against us being able to do/be something without ramifications from others.

Deep freedom is when YOU are able to fully accept you, be you, love you…and also accept things as they are. That’s being aligned. The only ramifications of not doing these things are felt by just one person – you. The only person that makes you feel bad about these things is just … you.

So you see, if you want true freedom – deep freedom – it starts with going within. It can be easy to get distracted by the external freedoms, and trying to shape your life into the perfect little scenario where you don’t have to rely on anyone, or answer to anyone. But take it from someone with over 20 different certifications, 3+ places to live (read: run away to), and over a dozen ways I’ve learned to make money in case myriad things happen to the economy or political state so that I will always have my needs met: it doesn’t mean shit if you aren’t really free on the inside.

At this point, you may think, “Ana, I get the accepting myself part. But are you really saying I need to accept the things around me…this craziness that’s going on?” Yes.

Before you throw pastured high omega-3 eggs at me, know that by accepting things as they are does not mean you condone them or support them. It means that you stop wishing things were different, and get on with actively creating the world you want, while (and here’s the clincher) accepting and loving you and all the present moment has to offer.

Until you are able to pull that off, you won’t truly feel free, no matter how many beaches you take your laptop to for work, or how many Instagram photos you post about your travels. You’ll perhaps feel badass and very adventurous…but not deeply free.

This is why you always hear me say these three things together: freedom. adventure. purpose.

In my opinion, we need all these things to live a life full of Ziji (Tibetan for radiant inner confidence). When we feel deeply free; when we know we are squeezing every drop of juice out of this precious life with everyday adventures; when we use our mind, body and soul to fulfill our deepest purpose; we walk this earth grounded and with a powerful sense of confidence that is not shaken by external forces.

No. Instead we do the shaking up. From a place of confidence – not fear.

And sister, you know we need that more than ever these days.

How can you take steps towards this deeper freedom? Here are a few places to start:

  1. Get clear about your values. By knowing you – and what you want to say “Hellz yes!” to and what you want to say “Oh, hell no” to – you will be able to move closer to loving and accepting all of you. There’s some great activities to help you do this in my free Clarity + Courage Course
  2. Choose to focus on the things you can change, and release the things you can’t (and get reality checks from people to help you learn the difference). By refining our skills to know what we have control over (hint: usually that starts with ourselves and the way we respond to life), we can more effectively use our time, money, and energy to create positive change in the world. When you do this, you can more easily accept the present moment, and begin actively creating the world you want to live in, instead of fighting the wrong battles.
  3. Stop giving a shit about what other people think of you. “The people that mind don’t matter, and the people that matter don’t mind.” Love that quote. It is so, so true. Whenever you think about compromising your integrity or self-love out of fear of disappointing others, repeat that quote like a mantra. You need to focus on accepting your self – your full self – unapologetically, before you worry about what others think.

I know those things are easier for me to type than for you to do – but know that I have helped hundreds of women do exactly those things, so I know at my core it is possible. And if for nothing else, know that we need you, and your special gift, more than ever. This isn’t just a request in a weekend blogpost.

You achieving your deep freedom is a duty to your people. Now go get it.

 

What Happened to Me

As many of you know, I spent a lot of time in the Utah desert on my own personal wilderness Quest last year. About a half year later, I led some amazing Legendary ladies on their own personal Quest in Joshua Tree. Suffice it to say that both experiences were pivotal, and after I had wrapped up my year with my Legendary ladies, I had a huge 2×4 from the Universe smack me upside the head, and I had no other desire than to go inward.

exploring the Omani desert with Maia (photo credit: Thai Verzone)

Plus, having a kid made me look at how I was prioritizing my life in way that was even more powerful than having had cancer twice. I think a kid can do that for a lot of people – especially those of us, like me, who can have issues with self-love. It is somehow easier to do it for someone else sometimes.

It was all overpowering, but I didn’t have the mental, physical, or spiritual space to have to “explain” it to anyone. I just did what had to be done. I find women explain far too much anyway, and could benefit from just doing what the hell their souls are telling them they need to do – without explanation.

:: I (almost) instantaneously unplugged from online marketing. It’s amazing how much space this opened up in my life. I took clients by referral only, and that kept me plenty busy along with everything that followed…

:: I moved through a psycho-spiritual crisis and unacknowledged postpartum depression, and healed my body. My relationship, family and spiritual practice is now stronger than ever, and my body is feeling more powerful every day…something I haven’t felt since before I had my kiddo. I shed much of my excess ama, and my body feels almost as light and energetic as it did when I was much younger. I still have some work to do, but I am well on the path.

:: I listened to the one word that kept sprouting from my Quest and popping up in Mystery wherever I went: SERVICE.

This was a doozy, because I did not want to hear it. I felt I was already in service with my Legendary and other coaching clients, and the volunteer work I did abroad every few months (diving into it at a refugee camp with Congolese and Rwandan refugees for a month counts for a lot of service, right?) But this word “Service” and its calling told me: Wake up, Woman! You are meant to do more. Open your eyes and see it. Why the hell do you think I’ve been having you cultivate those myriad skills over the years? Not just because you are a multipassionate/ multi-potentialite or whatever people are calling it these days. You are supposed to DO something with all of that.

:: So…I applied for and received a scholarship for a doctoral program and focused my project on helping to start the first emergency maternal-child transport system in Nepal. Yes, for the entire country. No, not alone. But yes, far larger than I ever thought possible. A daunting undertaking to say the least, which will extend well past my doctoral program. Anything born from the heart should endure past it’s short-lived inception.

:: I also started crafting something pretty powerful that will rock the system of healthcare that we live in. It’s something I can’t talk about yet because it will upset a lot of people, and I can’t handle that right now. But I am in deep Jedi training for the Big Disappointment that I will have to endure, knowing that I have to let go of the fruits of whatever efforts I put into this project…which, again, is the case with anything from the heart 😉

I am almost done with my doctoral degree – if all goes well, I should be receive it by December (can you believe it?! Those two Master’s degrees finally paid off, LOL). Then shit gets very, very real after that. You’ll have to stay tuned…but trust me, you will be in on it when it happens.

:: So, what does that mean for Freedom Junkie and Legendary Wilderness Quests? It means I am even more clear about what I am here to do for you. It’s simply a more distilled version of what I have been giving you from my heart since the very beginning, with my very first FullOn365 blog post.

Freedom.

Adventure.

Purpose.

On steroids.

We’re talking vajra path, full-speed ahead manifesting.

:: I will be offering many of my online programs for free or donation-only, to honor the call to Service and to counter the craziness that our new politics is creating. Please, take all you want – but I beg you: USE IT. The world needs you to be YOU more than ever.

:: I will lead a select group of women (who are ready) into their own Legendary wilderness Quests once a year. I am committing to making this as affordable as possible.

:: One retreat a year will be held in Alaska, and the other in Baja, Mexico where we will deep dive into your Soul in some of the last great, vast, expansive lands of unadulterated wilderness there is left on this planet.

In short, if it isn’t obvious, I am focusing on in-person contact with you, my people, my tribe. I am wanting to offer a bit of Medicine to counter all the disconnect that permeates our society, because no matter how much you comment on posts and get replies, or how many different emoticons or video feeds or likes you get, there’s nothing is like talking, seeing, touching, and BEing with a real-life human BEing.

To put it differently, my strongest super powers come out when I am in your face. Literally.

So why do anything else? I’ve got too many other Service duties going on to mess with anything less than my ideal delivery system.

I’ll also be focusing on system-wide changes in our country. I’ve had enough of waiting for other people to do it.

I’m writing this just after landing in Nepal to launch my doctoral project. The 36 hour trip here has been one of the longest periods of time I’ve had to not have to choose between staring at a computer or playing with my kid in the outdoors (guess who wins most of the time?), or attending to the needs of my soul. The first thing I thought of doing was writing to you.

Guess that puts you pretty high up on the list.

I hope this inspires you to follow your Soul’s calling, no matter how scary it might be, how radically different it may look from what you think you “should” be doing, and no matter how you might disappoint others.

That last one’s a doozy. But you will – and can – survive. If you need some help, feel free to start with my Ultimate Confidence Course – the Ziji Up! Mastery Program. It’s 7 weeks of full-on confidence and courage building. For however much you can afford. For realz.

I wonder what would happen if all of us started living from our Souls. Can you imagine how different this world would be? I can.

Let’s do this.

the fear of being average (yeah, you’ve got it too, right?)

fear of being averageYou know that thing we do when we compare ourselves to others until it hurts? It’s totally normal. In fact, one of the most common causes of suffering in us humans is the fear of being average…the desire to see ourselves as “above average” (a different way of saying we want to see ourselves as better than others) – and the vast majority of us suffer from this…which is why we compare so much. To see where we stand.

When I first read that factoid as I was researching info for my next course (one on self-compassion!), I really really really wanted to feel that I was not victim to this desire (because that would be kind of…average, right?).

But I so. totally. am.

I have an overwhelming fear of being…average.

I don’t want an average income. Or an average marriage. Or an average car, travel schedule, house, wardrobe, or stack of graduate degrees. I don’t want average grades, careers, weekend trips, or stories to tell by the so-not-average campfire.

I want a fucking extraordinary life. Waaaaay above average.

I have had a fear of being average since I learned what was possible if you proved you were above average in this world (aka school). Being above average got me out of the ghetto and into my Freedom Junkie way of living. It got me amazing opportunities: scholarships, grants, adventures, jobs…lots of good things. I was terrified of what would happen if I ever lost my ability to rank as above average. Indeed, the idea of losing my mind like my father did (he had schizoaffective disorder) was the scariest thing I could imagine. It was my above-average mind that…kept me safe.

The fear of being average was such a big part of my life that it even drove me to hound my uro-oncologist when I was first diagnosed with kidney cancer to find an alternative to removing my kidney and chucking it.

I was sitting in a meeting with him at the uro-oncology unit of UC San Francisco (he happened to look like the Dalai Lama in a lab coat, which helped with our negotiations;). He told me that my tumor was in a part of the kidney where all the blood vessels come together, and that to remove the tumor while my kidney was still attached to me – and have a good chance of complete tumor removal without causing other severe complications – was very, very small. So they would have to just remove my kidney altogether.

Then he said the thing that got me researching my ass off:

“Don’t worry. You’ll be fine with having one kidney. In fact, studies have shown that people who donate a kidney have the same level of happiness as the average American.”

Oh heeeelllllz no, Dr. Man.

“Ummm. No offense…but I am way happier than the average American – and I plan to keep it that way,” I replied. I didn’t say out loud that to be an average American was the most miserable thing I could think of. I just saw myself watching TV on a couch and having the big adventures of my life be camping out for Black Friday sales.

I got on the internet that night, and while I was watching multiple YouTube videos of the surgery I was about to undergo, I saw an interesting blip on my Google search page: “UCSF: #2 renal transplant facility in the country”

Hmmm. So if the issue is they can’t cut the tumor out safely while it is attached to me, why not remove my kidney, cut the tumor out, confirm the margins are clear, then put it back in me?” Shazaam!

I called my surgeon the next morning.

“Interesting. I’ll see what the tumor board has to say,” he said in response to my suggestion. (Since this was such an involved surgery, you have to get the OK from everyone on the team – in this case, uro-oncology, the transplant team, and other hospital folk.)

The next day he called: “OK. We decided that we can try the autotransplant – but one of the main reasons is because you are a rock climber and have a higher risk for trauma than the average person, and thus may have a higher need for 2 kidneys.”

Woohoo! Being above average saves my scared ass again! (But that is soooo not the point I am trying to make here;)

What’s poignant here isn’t the fact that I got the team to try a new surgery…but rather that the fear I felt when thinking I might end up average was all-consuming.

Yes, the outcome was great for me in this scenario – but it always haunted me that it was my fear of being average that was the driving force. That it had been the driving force behind so many of my actions in the past.

So what’s wrong with striving to be above average when so many cool things can come of it? Like awesome adventure travel, getting to keep your organs, and free tuition, to name a few?

When you have “fear of being average” as your main motivation, you are also susceptible to a deep, wounding type of suffering, because your happiness is based on something outside of you: how you compare to others.

And as long as your happiness depends on where you stand in relation to others on the scale – even for something as noble as adventure or compassion or generosity – you will never have the kind of deep, radiant confidence (aka ziji!) that comes from knowing your own inherent self worth.

So you know those days when you internet troll or just perseverate endlessly while comparing your life to others on Facebook or in “real life” – someone in a similar field as you or in your social circle or tribe – and you wonder why they seem happier or more loved or more famous or more exciting or more wealthy or more adventurous or more kind and compassionate or more relaxed … or more anything than you?

Yeah that.

That’s from our fear of being average. The Comparison Carousel. Round and round. “Where do I stand now?” we wonder. All. freakin’. day. It’s exhausting.

I used to think only my friends and others with FOMO (fear of missing out) had this type of fear, and that it was this fear that helped them have such amazing lives of adventure. But then I started to realize that we all have the fear of being average. It’s why scapegoating is so common when times get tough – when there is an economic depression or scarcity of jobs, racism and discrimination increase as people strive to prove in a scarcity environment that they still have the one-up on others.

Don’t take this lightly, folks. This tendency to want to be above average creates more suffering in us as individuals, as well as worldwide in small communities, large countries, and in international relations.

You may not realize the degree of suffering this causes if you manage to stay “above average” in the categories important to you or your culture for a long time…until you start to get exhausted running the race; start to fall behind; or finally find that person who is smarter than you, prettier than you, sexier than you, more adventurous than you…just better than you all around (all else created equal). And you will find that person. There is always – always – going to be someone “better” than you are at something (except, of course, at your own unique purpose;).

When that happens, you feel crushed. Or suddenly depressed, even though you have achieved some amazing shizzle in your life. Or you feel devastatingly not enough.

I know some of you may be wondering if this means we should all strive to be “average.”

Absolutely not.

This life is precious, a gift like no other; to be born in your body on this planet with the ability to create life experiences and a mind to dream…its all a miracle and you would be a fool to not take full advantage of it and make the most of this life.

I want you to live an extraordinary life.

Because of that, what I do want to encourage is this:

Do not let your motivation be to feel like you are better than others, or “above average.” Let your motivation in life be to live your best life. To live your gifts into this world. Screw what anyone else is doing. Only you know if you are living life full-on. And that is all that matters.

After all, in reality, we are all average. As Dr. Kristin Neff, a Developmental Psychologist from the University of Texas at Austin, points out, “To be human is to be average.” It’s true. We all have our strengths (the things we do really really well), and the things we do just so-so (sort of average)… and we also have our weaknesses – those things that we just suck at, or have a lot of room for improvement.

The key to sustainable happiness – and indeed the true inner confidence that follows – is to accept that we are all beautifully average. The world needs us all to be average at most things! Then, we can focus on our gifts – those things we do really really well – and leave the rest to the other average humans that rock the things we suck at.

We don’t have to do it all or know it all (ahhhh…isn’t that relaxing!).

While the reality is that we may need to stand out from the crowd to get certain jobs or attain certain accomplishments, we don’t have to be better than someone else to be happy.

Indeed, the opposite is true. Embrace your averageness;)

Live an extraordinary life on your terms.

When you release the desire to be above average and embrace your true gifts and the preciousness of this life…ahhhhh – that is when the fun begins. The freedom. The adventure. That no one can take away from you.

Since this tendency to have a fear of being average exists in almost all of us, don’t beat yourself up about it when it arises. Just notice it. Notice it as part of the average human experience.

Then do things differently.

Choose to be motivated from your own heart’s desires…what makes you happy, no matter what else others are doing.

Stop comparing.

When you see yourself comparing, ask yourself what you really want in this life, and what is one action you can take right now to move you closer to it.

Embrace your “average,” and focus on extraordinary living from your heart

Recognize the common humanity in all of this – that you are not alone in your fear of being average. That we all fear it. And that is it precisely our averageness that beings us closer as humans….And it is precisely the unique gifts that every single one of us has that, when expressed fully, make this life extraordinary. It is savoring each moment, staying present, being kind to ourselves and each other, manifesting your gifts and living this life as the greatest adventure of all time that will give you the radiant inner confidence to know you are crushing this whole carpe-the-dang-diem thing.

Only you know when that happens.

And that’s all that matters.

Try this:

(adapted from Kristin Neff’s book, Self Compassion)

  1. make a list of 5 culturally-valued qualities you have in which you are above average
  2. make a list of 5 culturally valued qualities you have in which you are average
  3. make a list of 5 culturally valued qualities you have in which you are below average

Now, can you look at this list and embrace it fully? Can you accept the fact that we ALL have traits in which we kick ass, fall within the bell curve, or need to leave to someone else – which makes us all…average? And can you feel in your bones that just because you – and everyone else – is actually quite average does NOT mean you cannot live an extraordinary life?

It just means you are finally…free.

 

7 signs you’re at risk of living a boring life – and how to prevent boredom now

I grew up as an only child – and even though I grew up with 9 boys (my “cousins”) that taught me how to share and how to play tough, and who made me always play Princess Leia when I really wanted to play Darth Vader (no one else wanted to play a girl), there were many, many times when I was bored.

Bored out of my fu*king mind.

So bored, in fact, that I would cover my face with my pillow and cry.

I remember vowing one night that I would do my absolute best to not ever be bored again.

But then it still kept creeping up on me! Some moments that pop into mind are: when I moved to the San Francisco for graduate school and found myself going from living out of my Volvo and sleeping under the stars to sitting more than ever inside concrete buildings; after I had my baby and being freakin’ exhausted seemed like a good enough excuse to talk myself out of anything; when I got my first full-time job as a midwife, and my vacation time went from months off each year to a few weeks…

I found some similarities in all these instances and wanted to share them with you.

I tell you – it creeps up on you and you don’t wan to be caught sleeping when it does! Here are some tips to help you bypass boredom so you don’t get side-swiped by it like I did:

7 SIGNS YOU’RE AT RISK OF LIVING A BORING LIFE

1) It takes you a really long time to get out of bed – because there’s no really good reason for you to hop out and carpe the dang diem anyway!

2) Watching TV or movies is the #1 way you spend your free time. This could mean that you are busy watching other people’s interesting lives instead of getting out there and living your own. Exception: the occasional guilty pleasure series marathons with friends or lovers 😉

3) You are jealous. A lot. Jealousy is a sign of desire. It’s not a “bad” feeling or a sign that you are some kind of corrupted person. It means you want something. When you’re living a kickass life, you are jealous way less often. This is because you either compare yourself to others way less, or you are living a life you really, really like. When you’re not living a live you love, you get jealous of other people who are – or who at least seem like it.

4) You spy on people via Facebook or other social media – and rarely post. This is almost like spending too much time watching TV/movies. You were put on this gorgeous planet to experience it and DIVE IN!

You were put here to feel wind on your skin and the dizzying drop of your insides when you swoop down on a swing or rollercoaster (yes I still LOVE swings!), to dip into the chilly waters of an alpine lake, to have epic orgasms and accidentally step into cow poop while wandering market streets in India, to wake up with the moonlight shining brightly on your face, to laugh deep deep belly laughs with your friends.

Not to scroll down a screen watching other people do it.

5) You have crappy sleep. A day well-lived is one where you collapse into bed tired and content. You’ve exercised, you’ve gotten done what you wanted to get done, and you feel a satisfaction that a life well-lived gives you. And you sleep deeply because dang, a life like that needs it!

6) You don’t feel sexy. Sexy is more than something you feel in your body. In fact, that is the smallest part of sexy. Feeling sexy is mostly about how you perceive yourself. And you know yourself best, sistah. You can’t lie to yourself about if you’re living your best life. You know the truth. When you are doing cool shit, you hold your head high, you’re not afraid to talk to people because you want to tell them what you’ve been up to, and you strut your shizzle. Living an exciting life is absolutely the best ingredient for sexy.

7) You don’t have any energy and may be sporting the Boredom Belly. If you’re like me, when you’re bored, you eat emotionally, and this is usually food that isn’t the best for maximizing your Thrive. It’s usually stuff like carbs or sugars or heavy, poor-quality fats or salts. These all sap your energy and you end up pooped as a result. You may even have the Boredom Belly, as I like to call it – belly fat is associated with stress and high-carb eating, among other things also associated with a boring life.

Can you recognize yourself in any of these? No worries, amiga!

boredomI’VE GOT SOME IDEAS FOR YOU TO TURN THAT TRAIN AROUND … AND HOW TO PREVENT BOREDOM NOW

:: Do a cleanse – this will give you something to focus on other than other people’s Facebook profiles, and will up your energy factor so you can more easily get out there and start having some amazing experiences! It’s a great way to kickstart your mind and body

:: Unplug – When you don’t have the distraction of watching other people’s lives, and when you also suddenly have more hours in the day to do cool shit, there is way more possibility to bring excitement back into your life.

:: Try something new every day. When you break habits – even things as simple as eating something different for lunch, driving a different way to work, reading a new magazine – your brain is primed for new experiences and is more likely to be comfortable with change. Which means you’ll more easily step out of your boring patterns, and be way more likely to do some new cool shizzle

:: Plan an adventure. This doesn’t have to be a trip with your family to a politically unstable country with a fuel crisis and food shortage like the trip I’m about to take with by hubby and baby tomorrow. It could really be as simple as going out to a nearby lake at night, and sitting at it’s edge watching the stars and moon reflected on the surface; or going to visit a part of town you’ve never been to: ever had a Korean spa experience in your local Korea Town?

Ever smelled the spices and sundries or stared at the dried bodies of various reptiles in the apothecaries of China Town? Take an intro Capoiera class, or ride your bike around town and simply get lost.

:: Above all – discover what excites you. The antidote to boredom is excitement, and you need to know what lights your fire and fans your flames. It’s your duty in life.

Those are just a few ideas. And guess what? My Urban Wellness Club has even more awesome ideas that you can receive throughout the year to make sure your life is never, ever boring. You’ll also have me and a tribe of amazing women to keep you inspired and accountable throughout the year – because we all know how easily we can fall off the wagon and into a boring funk. Will I see you there? I dare you. Grab Your Boredom Insurance Here.

In the meantime, I dare you to do one of the things I mentioned above to keep yourself from getting bored. Which did you choose? Or better yet, what’s one of the tricks YOU use to keep from getting bored? Do more of that!

Spiritual Crisis

identityshiftHave you ever had a moment when you realized you don’t know what is supposed to come next in your life, what your next purpose should be….and you felt like the weight of the world was crushing you?

If yes, you can likely relate to what I’m about to tell you. If no, please keep reading anyway as a reminder that it isn’t about what you “have” or “do” in the world that helps you feel happy or content. It’s way better than that;)

I CAN’T BREATHE

I was hanging out in the sun after some quality time with my girlfriends. It was an awesome day. I was Superfoods Cleansing with my Urban Wellness Club tribe, my body was feeling lighter, my skin brighter, and my mind clearer. My biz was cruising along and my clients were rocking their mission.

So why the hell couldn’t I breathe? Why did I feel like I had an elephant on my chest?

I don’t mean I had trouble breathing in an OMG-pot-is-legal-now-and-I’ve-taken-it-a-bit overboard kind of way.

I mean, my chest was tight with anxiety, with a sense of doom. Thoughts started flooding my mind.

…about something my husband did that pissed me off.

2 years ago.

…about doctoral programs and which one to pick and what if I made the wrong decision and should I do it at all…and why the hell did new opportunities around this decision keep popping up?

…about the trip we were going to take to Nepal…what now after the earthquake? Do we still go? If not there, where? Eastern Europe? East Asia? South America? Would Maia get cholera in Pokhara?

…about my body and how it still hasn’t totally felt like “mine” again after having my baby, and how I knew this was in large part because of the choices I was making about how I was eating, drinking, and moving.

…about what direction my biz was going to take next

Then I felt like shit and beat myself up for being so overwhelmed.

I could keep the list going. All this and more was entering my mind, one after another, without respite. Too many decisions. Not enough clarity.

And this had been going on for months. I felt like I was losing my mind.

This claustrophobic feeling overcame me between my periods of the realization that, “Holy shit my life is awesome!” I would be playing with Maia and watching her beam me this utterly EPIC smile and blow me a kiss with this postcard view of the Alaskan mountains behind her and I’d feel so amazing…and then I couldn’t breathe again.

I knew this feeling, this chapter of life. It is a chapter in life and not simply a moment because unfortunately, this transition isn’t as “transient” as I would have liked it to be. This was a bona fide Spiritual Crisis.

I have lived it twice before, and I’ll tell you about the first time.

SPIRITUAL CRISIS #1

I was 19. I had an amazing boyfriend, I was excelling at my University, I had a work-study job where I took UCSC students on climbing and backpacking trips (beats the hell out of working in the cafeteria any day), and I did homework on the freakin’ beach in Santa Cruz. My mother and I were finally friends, and my dad had not been hospitalized for a schizophrenia episode for years. I lived with a strong tribe of women and could hear the ocean waves and harbor seals barking at night while I slept. I spent long weekends rock climbing in Joshua Tree or peak bagging in the Sierra Nevada.

Finally, finally, everything in my previously chaotic life seemed right.

Yet…it was sooooo far from right.

I was desperately anxious and felt something huge – monumental – was missing, even though I “had” everything.

I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think straight. I’d go on epic mountain bike rides just to open my lungs and prove to myself that I could indeed breathe. I’d go so hard that I’d feel exhausted at the end, and finally be able to relax from pure physical fatigue.

I didn’t know what to do. I spoke of this with no one. I was afraid I was going insane like my dad, and wished I hadn’t taken so many hallucinogens in high school.

I walked into one of the spiritual bookstores in downtown Santa Cruz and went up and down each aisle with no aim, but with a shitload of hope that something would help me.

One book caught my eye.

It was about having a Spiritual Crisis. I can’t even remember the title. I flipped through the intro and it said something like:

Spiritual crisis (also called “spiritual emergency”) is a form of identity crisis where an individual experiences drastic changes to their meaning system (i.e., their unique purposes, goals, values, attitude and beliefs, identity, and focus) typically because of a spontaneous spiritual experience.

I took a deep breath. Holy shit, this is it, yo! I was having a Spiritual Crisis. Thank fucking gooddess. I wasn’t going insane.

My “spontaneous spiritual experience?” Having everything I thought I wanted and still not being happy. Realizing – truly realizing – that happiness wasn’t about life on the outside…and not knowing how to find it. I felt like I’d never, ever, be happy.

Holy shit that was major at 19 years old. At any age, really.

“Spiritual experiences” don’t come riding in on rainbow unicorn farts all the time.

OK. Spiritual Crisis it is. But…now what?

To spare you an even longer version of this story, I’ll cut to the chase: I somehow knew deep down that my spiritual crisis could be healed with clarity about my purpose.

And there was one ideal way for me to get there: meditation.

And I had no freakin’ idea how to do it.

I called Transcendental Meditation places but they wanted to charge me hundreds of dollars for a course. I checked out a group on campus that ended up being a cult (which I totally called them out on and found an investigative reporter in LA that had been trying to expose them for years, who then interviewed me). I called a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction teacher and they were charging almost $300 for the program. I called so many people and all were either creepy or expensive – especially for a college student.

WTF? I’M HAVING A FUCKING SPIRITUAL CRISIS HERE, PEOPLE! WILL SOMEONE PLEASE TEACH ME HOW TO MEDITATE WITHOUT MAKING ME BROKE !!!!????

Exhale.

(And FYI – this is why I offer free stuff along with my juicy programs. EVERYONE deserves access to this stuff!)

So then I called this Buddhist center in Boulder Creek in the Santa Cruz mountains. They said a free weekly class was being taught by a nun, Robina Courtin.

I showed up at the next class.

She was a stout Australian woman with a lovely accent and very direct communication style. I liked her already. She told me how she had become a nun after coming to the U.S.A. to learn martial arts so she could go back to Australia and kick all the cops’ assess that were jerks to her and her lesbian friends. But then she met a Tibetan Buddhist monk named Lama Yeshe, who pointed out that she was very, very angry. And he suggested that perhaps this should be her focus instead.

After studying with him and noticing immeasurable benefits, she became a nun, and here she was teaching me meditation in the middle of old-growth redwood forests in the Santa Cruz mountains. She missed the city, she told me. But she would go where her teacher wanted her to. We meditated on sex. And chocolate cake. And our attachment to them.

I was hooked.

I ended up living in a gypsy wagon at this retreat center the rest of my time in college – a funky little wooden cabin with an outdoor shower perched on the bed of a converted Ford F100 that was up on blocks in the middle of a redwood forest. One day I’ll dig out the photo and show you guys. It was boho awesome.

I meditated regularly. I took revered Tibetan monks visiting the center on trips to see the coast and on rollercoaster rides at the Boardwalk. I brought them their meals and even made them oatmeal in the mornings. (I thank the living stars everyday that I understood how lucky I was sharing all those moments with great teachers). I took care of the meditation gompa and swept all the floors and watered all the plants and dusted the beautiful statues. I loved every minute of it.

Then I went to Nepal, did a month-long meditation retreat at a monastery, and almost became a nun. The “almost” part is another story.

Then I hiked into the Annapurna mountains alone for another month, and did some serious thinking.

And I came out…clear. Finally. Ahhhhhh.

It was the biggest relief of my life at that point.

But the point of this story is to share what am I going to do to take care of the Spiritual Crisis I am in right now.

MY TOOLS FOR A SPIRITUAL CRISIS

I heave learned in my 41 years on this zany planet that the two things in my life that have been constant compasses, serving to help guide me in times of duress, are a regular meditation practice and solitude in the wilderness. When I veer from either of those two things for too long, bad shit happens because I tend to then fall out of alignment and I get crazy monkey mind. Yoga pulls in at a close third.

When I look back on my life, I think, “Wow, in those days at the retreat center I was so easily compassionate and patient towards others. I was fearless about doing whatever was right. I knew what was important. My next steps were clear, even if my greater life plan was not. I felt so calm and centered and…content.”

This wasn’t because of the worry-free college years.

It was because of my regular and dedicated spiritual practice, and my regular visits with myself in the wild.

I know this because I went through this again much later in life, when I had many more responsibilities, and the same practices helped me through it.

And now, here I am. Again.

Here I am with what seems to be everything I have ever wanted. Yet I have no idea what’s next, and instead of invigorating me, it is causing me to feel utterly crushed.

Shall I be content simply with what is (which is actually awesome!)?

Shall I strive for something greater?

Shall I go in a completely different direction?

WTF does this feeling even mean for me right now?

What I DO know is that this kind of suffering often arises when our minds are unsettled and unfocused and chaotic. When I have a regular meditation practice, these thoughts are much less likely to overwhelm me. I am more content with what is, and can intentionally drive my focus.

IDENTITY + PURPOSE

If you check out the description of the Spiritual Crisis above, you’ll see that it often occurs with shifts in identity, purpose or focus (among other things). This is where I am at.

New motherhood.
New state (I’ve finally hung out long enough in Alaska to feel like I actually live here).
New identity.
New purpose…but what is it?

In discussions with my clients and friends, I often see that people think identity is a static, fixed thing. They feel this way about purpose as well. Often we can fantasize that once we figure out our purpose, we’ll be set for life!

But here’s the thing: purpose is inextricably linked with your identity.

And your identity will shift over time. If I had aimed for the same identity and purpose I had in my 20s, I’d likely be living out of my car and eating leftovers from Outward Bound courses, telling my mom I couldn’t afford to help her with her medical bills because I wasn’t making enough money, but that I loved her oodles. I wouldn’t have Maia and I wouldn’t be with my soulmate. Nothing is necessarily wrong with the above, but it would have felt out of alignment sooner than later.

If you plan to evolve in this life, you must allow your identity – and purpose – to shift.

And it ain’t easy, sistah! That’s for sure.

But it is absolutely necessary to go through this process, through the Hero/Heroine’s Journey, if you will.

You come out the other side with more clarity and purpose than a Library of Congress filled with self-help books could ever offer you.

MY VOWS

So what is my plan?

Going back to what works: Meditation + Wilderness. And let me toss in Integrity + Alignment too.

Meditation. I know that when I have a regular meditation practice, I am more calm and clear and can see what is truly important. This always leads to less anxiety and white noise in my head. And shuts up my inner critic as well.

Wilderness. I have already planned out 4 solo trips into the wild over the next year, during which I will go on vision quests and soul crafting journeys to open up more deeply to what is next for me. I’m going to embrace the Heroine’s Journey that I know shows up when a transition like this manifests in life. It’s exciting and scary at the same time. In other words, it’s an Adventure.

Here’s a simple graphic to give you a peep of what that’s like:

Heros-Journey(from https://engl200x.community.uaf.edu/files/2012/04/Heros-Journey.png)

This, my Freedom Junkie friends, means I also get to find out what juicy next step is in store to bring to you too! I have a good idea of what it is…but want to be have more Ziji (radiant inner confidence) about it before telling you.

To be clear, you don’t have to go on a vision fast to gain Clarity. You can go on the Heroine’s Journey in so many different ways. I help plenty of clients get clear without having to send them into the wilderness alone without food for several days. They arrive to me at some point along this Journey, and we dive into it together.

I just know that for me, at pivotal transitions where nothing else seems to be helping or able to get me to the depth of clarity I need, the vision fast and accompanying Heroine’s Journey is my preferred method. This is my path when I need more clarity related to a total shift in identity and purpose – beyond clarity about my next career or the next place I want to live etc. The clarity I have after such an experience is backed with unshakeable confidence in the next step.

I haven’t had to do this in a long time…and you can see that it is not an easy or quick process. Note that I said I’ve made some plans “over the next year.” Not the next week. But I know from experience that it is well worth it!

Integrity + Alignment. This is where the vows come in. When you are in integrity, you are more calm and centered. We can all believe we are in integrity, but without committing to a clear description about what that is, we can cheat a little here and there, or fool ourselves into thinking we are in alignment when in fact, we’ve got a little kink going on.

In certain traditions, on auspicious days of the calendar like the new moon or full moon, it is said that when you commit to certain precepts/vows for that time-frame, you benefit exponentially. You also aren’t supposed to just pick all the vows so that your odds of good karma credit go up. On the contrary, if you take a vow and break it, that’s worse than not taking it at all.

I have found that this wisdom of choosing what you can truly commit to 100% – knowing yourself well enough to know what you’re ready for, and what you’re not ready for – is so brilliant. It acknowledges that you are human and that you are in absolute choice about how you live. Vows or precepts in this sense aren’t rules you have to follow – they are recommendations that, when followed, tend to lead to a calmer mind and a happier life. If you find otherwise, so be it.

But why reinvent the wheel, right? If these things have been found to be helpful for millennia, then they are probably a good idea. So I’ll be taking a few of these vows for at least 1 month, starting June 1st.

Goddess knows I need a calmer mind right now.

Three of them that I’ll share here are:

1) No intoxicants. Pretty straightforward. I need all my brain cells and emotional calm and a warrior’s energy to figure this one out.
2) No stealing. This also means not “borrowing” pens from the clinic, and it means I point out when I get too much change back from the megacorporation I didn’t even want to buy from in the first place … and not buying from the megacorporation in the first place ;).
3) No sexual misconduct (so grateful I am with my soul-mate and that this comes so easily)

In addition to the myriad other vows, I am committing to a daily meditation practice, and not just doing it “most of the time.” Cuz most of the time becomes “when it’s convenient.” And we shouldn’t just be tending to our minds when it is convenient. It’s kind of like having a baby – there’s never a convenient time. Especially to do The Work.

Whew.

So that’s my really long post about my really long plan for dealing with this current Spiritual Crisis. I am thrilled I didn’t collapse and think I had to figure this all out by the end of the week. I am grateful that I know this path and have walked it before, and that it will be well worth the patience and trials that come ahead.

And I am beyond excited about this new little big thing I’ve been conjuring… just for you. But like all incredibly epic things, it will have to wait until it’s good and ready.

Share with me if you’ve been on a Heroine’s Journey and what you gleaned from it. Or tell me about something you think a Heroine’s Journey would help with! Are you on the Journey right now? At what stage? I know I’m not alone out there, because if you’re reading this, you too are making this wild and precious life – and how you live it – a top priority.