Forgiveness

This is the secret sauce to being happy. Oprah Winfrey famously said, “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different, it’s accepting the past for what it was, and using this moment and this time to help yourself move forward.” In this episode I explore some common misunderstandings about forgiveness. I also go into my own struggles with forgiving the person who abused me as a child, and how it changed my life when I was able to open my heart.

The Truth About Freedom – 3 Common Mistakes People Make

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Common Mistakes People Make When Seeking Freedom

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capiche?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So ask yourself this now:

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

:: What DO I want?

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

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

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

This Bucket List is More Important

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So we don’t forgive.

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

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

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

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

I’ve disappointed a lot of people.

It was not comfortable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disappointing myself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Invitation

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Oriah Mountain Dreamer

___

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

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 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.

Quick tips for tapping into your intuition

tapping into your intuition

Remember that time when you knew something wasn’t the right decision, but you did it anyway?

Like when you took a job that you ended up feeling trapped in; or went on a date that left your evening feeling like a waste of time…and you’d have rather marathon-watched the entire Star Wars series (at least you would have picked up some Jedi tricks…). Or bought the car that ended up being a lemon.

I am sure you – like most of my clients – have tons of examples of when your intuition was brushed aside.

Maybe you thought you were just being too fearful, or overly cautious. But no matter what, in hindsight, you thought, “Damn. I totally had a hit that I wasn’t supposed to do that. Why didn’t I listen to my intuition?”

Well, everything is 20/20 in hindsight.

One of the most common questions I get from clients is some iteration of, “How do I know when I am sensing my intuition…versus if I’m coming from a place of fear, or thinking it’s something I’m just conjuring up?”

A common answer to this question is that when you are tapping into your intuition, it comes across as a calm, deep voice; or “a small still voice,” vs. the cray cray running around that your brain does when it is conjuring things. If your brain is taking over the show, you will often sense the thoughts or input as “above you” and it feels quite scattered and distracted (oh…I should do that…but then there’s that other cool thing…hmmm or maybe I need to explore that instead…).

While this explanation is pretty useful, I have found it is often not enough. I wanted to share a few quick tidbits here so you can practice working with your intuition more.

First of all, there are generally four main Ways of Knowing our intuition, or sensing energy info. This idea is pretty common in many spiritual traditions and cultures. Often they are described as starting with “clair” which means “clear” in French. We have:

  1. claircognizance (clear knowing)
  2. clairsentience (clear feeling/sensing…can include claiempathy)
  3. clairvoyance (clear seeing – yes, literally seeing something)
  4. clairaudience (clear hearing)

The other “clairs” are:

  • clairtangency (clear touching – maybe happens when holding an object)
  • clairgustance/ambience (clear tasting)
  • clairalience/scent (clear smelling)

But we are going to focus on the main 4 ways of tapping into your intuition.

One way to start playing with this is to learn what your default “clair” is. What is the way you most naturally sense energetic info?

Mariana Cooper, founder of Aha! Moments International, recommends reflecting on what happens to you…after watching a movie! I found it super helpful, and maybe you will too.

Here’s what you do:

When you walk out of a movie, what do you remember most? What impacted you the most?

Do you remember the relationships in the movie and how you sobbed the whole time with the characters? Clairsentience.

Do you comment on the score? Clairaudience.

Did you know the ending from when the moving began? Claircognizance.

Do you comment on the set (the costumes, backdrops, scenery)? Clairvoyance.

You can have one dominant clair, or even all of them! Most professional intuitives have cultivated all 4 of them. Also, different situations can call for different clairs to show up more than others.

Another tip I like for tapping into your intuition is using oracle cards – you can use Angel Cards, Messenger Oracle Cards, Goddess cards, or even good ol’ tarot cards if you’d like. There are tons to choose from! Pick the ones that resonate with you.

I find that when I use them, it helps me surrender to a higher purpose of what’s going on, and reminds me I may not automatically know “why” something is happening…and to be OK with that. It helps give me a context for what I may be experiencing that is not immediately apparent to me. I love that there is a sense of a “reason” for me having drawn that card. Go ahead – try it! There are even online ones you can google for.

Now I’m not saying you need to believe in being psychic or in the powers of channeling etc. (although I strongly recommend you play with those ideas;).

What I am suggesting is that if you’ve ever had a time when you didn’t listen to your gut and regretted it, you owe it to yourself to learn more about your intuition and how it can help you. After all – you’ve seen evidence that it exists yourself!

Let me know below what your dominant clair is. Share a time you did – or did not – listen to your intuition too. It’s always great to learn from other people’s experience!

Forget About Six Figures – How to Know When Enough is Enough (how much money is enough for you – really?)

I’ve been discussing a lot about the topic of “Six Figures” with fellow coaches, and collectively, we pretty much want to vomit when we hear business coaches talking about “making six figures off your first launch” or when we see all the cheesy marketing out there that promises you’ll make the elusive “six figures” if you study that person’s “Blueprint” or “Map” or “6 week Program.”

As part of my goal to simplify for the year, I wanted to know what was my true minimum income I needed to be happy and still feel fulfilled with the things I want to do in life – and be able to offer my gifts to the world.

I knew that the siren’s call of the 6-Figure income was a distraction and a constant nag in my past, and I wanted to know what was truly enough for me?

But first … who came up with Six Figures being The Goal, anyway?

It seems to me that a lot of people are starting to drum up their idea of success – whether in their business or in their career working for someone else – as making at least six figures. Let’s be honest – it is implied that once you make 6-figures, you will be much happier and healthier (and likely better looking LOL ;).

You and I both know – when we step back from the media influx – that making 6-figures doesn’t really make you happy in the deepest sense of the word. And it certainly doesn’t make you markedly better looking unless you plan to spend at least half of that on some serious facial reconstruction.

Studies have shown repeatedly that above $70,000 there is not a statistically significant change in happiness until you reach WAY more than the $100,000 mark. And even at that point, it doesn’t increase by much. To boot, some of the only studies that have shown that more money can make you happy are related to you giving that money away.

So there.

Then why are we still all sucked into this idea of 6-Figures? I admit that in my early days of coaching, I definitely used the 6-figure mark as the point at which I’d finally tell myself that I’d arrived as a successful coach.

The bullshit part about that is that it felt like that goal negated all the powerful transformation that was going on with my clients and my business BEFORE I hit that 6-figure mark. Nothing was “enough” until I reached that. I’d always feel a little less successful as a coach, no matter how many gorgeous emails of gratitude I received or comments on my blogposts about how I was helping someone.

I finally had enough of that carrot being dangled in front of me. Screw it, I thought. Why did I think I needed to make 6-figures anyway? I have lived an amazingly fulfilling life traveling the world making only $14,000 a year when I was a climbing guide. I had so many life adventures and rich experiences with quality human beings that are in my life to this day…and all while making far less than 6-figures.

I now know that I had the goal of 6-figures because that’s what all the business programs I was taking referred to as a milestone. And I knew that I needed to know what was my “enough.”

This is not to negate that milestone. It WAS truly amazing the first year I made 6-figures. But you know what? It wasn’t that long ago. I have been a coach since 2010 and only in the last 18 months did I finally hit that mark. I came damn close a few times, and felt “less than” because of it. What a shame, right?

My life was actually quite awesome BEFORE I made 6-figures too! I traveled and loved and adventured and rested and played and dined…and the only “negative” was that I felt I was not enough because I hadn’t met the 6-figure mark. Something must be “wrong” with me if I hadn’t done that yet. And now that I’ve hit that mark, I ended up giving away the amount I made above that to a freakin’ awesome non-profit!

I realized that the reason I was content and happy before I made my 6-figures was because I had cultivated a strong happiness practice of meditation, exercise, community, contributing to society, and play…and I was making ENOUGH.

How did I go about discovering that sweet spot number, and how can I help you learn how much money is ENOUGH for you?

So glad you asked;)

I challenge you to discover the actual number of what is the minimum you need to earn in order to be happy – not just alive and surviving, but happy and thriving. What is the actual MINIMUM amount you need to make in order to pay your bills, have some fun, and offer your gifts to the world?

EnoughLots of people start adding things to the list that they really don’t need, like “I really need to eat out twice a week in order to be truly happy.” Well, if that’s true for you, then go ahead and put it in there. However, beware of the things you think you “must” have in order to thrive.

I LOVE eating out, and quality whole food is an experience that eats up a huge chunk of my budget, but I have decided that if I could hit a restaurant once or twice a month, that would suffice to meet my “eating out” desires. If it’s not having to do the dishes that I like, or even liking to not have to cook as much, I could alternatively have scrumptious dinner parties or potlucks…and make ample use of my dishwasher and offers to help clean up.

The reason it is totally worthwhile to know what how much money is enough for you is this:

When you know what “enough” truly is for you, abundance flows even more freely. (tweet it!)

Isn’t it ironic? Once you know what you need to live in simple abundance, even more abundance can then flow into your life!

I know this is true for me. It wasn’t until I vowed to really simplify my business and my life that abundance flowed in even more easily.

I believe this is partly because once you know your minimum, anything above that is easy to see as a blessing, and more than enough. And as the Law of Attraction Goes – energy goes where attention flows, and when you see the world as an abundant place, guess what? More abundance comes your way.

This doesn’t meant to stop striving for the 6-figures if you want to. Rather,

It means not identifying your self worth or happiness with that 6-figures number, and being able to know how to enjoy this wild and precious life of yours with…enough.

And appreciating the abundance you DO have as well!

Discovering your “enough” also doesn’t mean using your minimum number to represent what is the bare minimum you need to live on in order not to become homeless or destitute. We are talking about the minimum you need to be happy and thrive.

It is a potentially tricky thing to figure out, and our minds can really mess with us in regards to what we really “need” and want. However, it is absolutely worth doing.

Discovering Your “Enough”

Be sure to set aside at least 1 hour to do the following activity, and create a sacred space to do it in (think: candles, favorite beverage, incense, calm music, views of nature, or whatever floats your boat when it comes to sacred space).

What you’ll be doing is:

1) coming up with a monthly budget of your minimum needs per month

2) and then adding in the one-time expenses you plan to have each year such as plane tickets, gas and lodging or camping for a road trip, or gifts for yourself or loved ones.Total these items.

3) Then take your monthly budget, multiply it by 12, and add it to the one-time expenses total.

(Don’t panic – I’ve created a spreadsheet to help simplify this for you – you’re welcome;)

Then – before you know it – you will have your minimum! Your enough.

After that, you may see a beautiful thing – what you need is actually already right in front of you…or at least much closer than you thought. And it’s often a helluva lot closer than 6-figures.

My enough is $5,000 a month. Again, I could be happy with less, but we aren’t calculating here what minimum I need to just be content and hang in there. I have lived off of FAR less the majority of my pretty amazing life.

However, what we want to figure out is what is the minimum to live a lifestyle that is awesome for you. And for me, that includes a couple of long vacations a year, monthly payments for my airstream and mortgage, and eating out now and then, among other things. I also now have a baby which has added significantly to my monthly minimum needs!

Suffice it to say, I was super psyched to see that my number was WAY below 6 freaking figures. I know if I make $60,000 a year, I will be able to live a life in alignment with my values and goals and dreams. If I make more than that, I’ll have more to give away and to do cool things with. And perhaps save a little more too, which has always been an – ahem – weakness of mine.

THE WORKSHEETS

To help you out, I’ve created a cool little spreadsheet you can use. When I discovered this, it helped me feel so much more relaxed about money! Here’s the key:

Do the worksheet first for your minimum (what are the basics you need not just to survive, but to thrive in a simple way)…and then duplicate it to then use for your “more than enough” goals as well – those things that are icing on the cake, like a camping trip in Morocco instead of at your local state park (both of which are fabulous!).

I am a Mac user so I created this in the easy-to-use Numbers program. If you have this program, click here to download the Numbers version. I prefer this version since it let’s you split out annual expenses and income as well as monthyl (my life definitely doesn’t split up into neat monthly events;)

If you don’t own the Numbers program, click here for the Excel version. It isn’t as elegant as the Numbers design, and is “only” a monthly budget, but you can still do it and have it get you get clear

You can use the Monthly and Additional Expenses tables in the Numbers form to come up with your minimum (you don’t have to fill out the income tables for this exercise). I also recommend you do this exercise on your computer so you can take advantage of the spreadsheet’s functionality (it adds things up for you!).

Caveats:

:: you may have to do this several times before arriving at your number

:: this number will change with time – as you change, as your circumstances change (like mine with a baby), as life happens

:: you may have to start with your “ideal” numbers before you can whittle things down to your “enough” numbers. Therefore, you may want to make a few duplicate copies of these spreadsheets on your computer before filling them in.

WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR ABUNDANCE

Once you’ve realized how much you need to make, what does science show us about the ways that money can actually bring us more happiness – if at all? As I said earlier, giving money away to others in need is a big way to help yourself feel better. This is why tithing is a part of almost every spiritual tradition. But wait – there’s more!

Another great guideline is this:

Use your abundance to buy experiences instead of things.

Hands down this is a common practice amongst those that have more happiness than others. They spend their money on experiences instead of things. Read: festival tickets instead of a new stereo; plane tickets instead of a 60 inch flat screen on which to watch people traveling; regular outings to a dance club in order to sweat your prayers instead of another pair of shoes.

I hope this has inspired you to have the courage to discover what is financially enough for you. I find that it will truly create more freedom in life, and abundance in one’s mindset and in reality as well. So go for it!

Since change comes with taking action, I want you to know I am committed to reading your responses and will reply to each one. I really want you to do this!

Please comment on the blog below, and let me know what is now possible for you knowing your “enough.” What did you learn in doing the activity? Feel free to share what your “enough” number is as well. I think it is awesome to see the ranges that are possible.

 

Live in Alignment. Your actions – not words – demonstrate what you believe

actions wordsIn 2000 I was making my annual Fall journey to Nepal to do some guiding, and was traveling with my once-ex, then giving-it-another-go boyfriend. There is usually an 18+ hour layover in Bangkok on most Thai Airways flights to KTM, so we headed into town for an all-nighter instead of trying to sleep in the stuffy airport (this was pre-renovation).

For this particular layover, we chose to visit the Red Light district along Khao San Road. We heard the dance clubs there were awesome, and stories of the area always intrigued me.

Filled with curiosity and bit nervous (well, at least I was), we visited a few places with exotic dancers that were initially pretty fun, with people seemingly happy and dancing and EXCELLENT music… but then things rapidly got sad for me. As we went to other clubs in the shadier parts of town, the vacant looks on many of the men and women’s faces depressed me, their oppression weighed heavy on me, and I soon declared I just wanted to spend the rest of the layover eating sticky rice and chicken while people watching at an outdoor cafe.

My boyfriend agreed and we picked our perch sitting on wooden barstools sipping on fruity drinks. It was going to be a LONG night.

Things were already awkward between us. I knew things were not going to last forever, and in true pre-Freedom Junkie fashion, I wanted to beat the relationship to death lest I called it quits prematurely – or mistakenly.

We made small talk and commented on people’s outfits and went over our itineraries for our upcoming expeditions. We fought about him getting me the wrong drink “because he never listens.” Then I threw up because I must have eaten something funky earlier, but then I was fine;)

Right after that, I saw the Hairy Guy hit the Tiny Thai Woman.

He was HUGE. A big, hairy German guy wearing all black leather, with studs around his neck, wrists, waist, along his pant legs…he would have set off an airport metal detector from outside. And there he was, smacking around a little Thai woman.

And she was a bulldog, fighting back, yelling at him, not taking any of his bullshit.

He hit her again.

I was shocked. I looked around. People were just…watching.

I looked at my boyfriend. He was just…watching.

I said to him, “Are you going to do anything?” And he looked back at me saying it was too dangerous.

I was livid.

I stood up, grabbed the barstool I was sitting on, and went running towards the German guy like a Mama Bear.

I read once that if someone tries to assault you, scream all crazy, like a banshee, and it will throw them off because you’re so whacked out.

Apparently this tactic worked.

I ran towards him screaming, pushing the legs of the stool towards his face – but intentionally not hitting him (I think if I had, he may have actually gotten more angry). I stood between him and the woman. I kept pushing the stool towards him asking him to go away, remembering what the circus guys did with the lions.

The woman stood behind me yelling at him fiercely.

He shouted at me, his face all red and sweaty and puffy. I yelled, “Get away from her! Go away! Back off!”. Finally, his friends encouraged him to take a few steps back. He yelled a few more somethings in German towards the woman, and walked off with his posse of other hairy and balding dudes. The woman kept yelling in an ongoing rant, like a puppy still yelping after being stepped on. There was no thank you. No shared gaze of sisterhood. She just walked off, and I went the other way.

I carried the stool back to the cafe, plopped it down, looked at my boyfriend and said, “I want a beer. Buy. Me. A. Beer.”

I am very aware that I got lucky in this scenario. But I suppose everything happens for a reason. For some reason, Hairy Guy thought it was OK to hit a small Thai woman, and he turned away from the screaming banshee of an American.

I totally do NOT want men to get into fights, and in all honesty, if I wasn’t a woman, the Big Guy would have perhaps hit me, which means it would have indeed been dangerous for my boyfriend to have confronted him directly.

But still.

My boyfriend just sat there, watching. And it was SO not sexy.

I mean, maybe he could have held my hand in concern, or expressed his horror, or stood up to let the guy know someone was at least watching…or have gone to try and find cops? And even if they wouldn’t do anything, he would have at least had the honor of having tried something.

I don’t know. Maybe it was too dangerous for him and maybe the only thing that could have helped the situation was some whacko American woman running at the Hairy Guy with a stool.

Whatever it was, I did not like the fact that everyone was just watching.

It felt incredibly…disconnected. Like people didn’t realize we were a bunch of human beings witnessing something unacceptable.

Suffice it to say we broke up after that trip. We still climbed together, but then it was done. Not because of this scenario, but because I felt disrespected as a woman in the relationship, under-appreciated, and under-adored. I am a Leo. I crave adoration (pssst…so should you).

That episode kindled in me a burning conviction to spend less time watching and more time doing. It reminded me that activism wasn’t only for those passionate college years.

Taking action is the way our beliefs and values manifest.

Yet how many times do we just sit there, watching?

And why should we even care about this?

We need to care – and we need to act – because it is our actions that develop our self-respect. Our ziji – inner radiant confidence. Our integrity.

We need to care because if you want to be happy – really happy, like having long deep sleeps and gazing up at the stars feeling so damn blessed that you don’t even want to sleep because life is so good – you need to be in alignment.

You absolutely need to live in alignment with you values if you want to be truly content. And while we can fool ourselves that being in alignment means believing nice things and having good values, it is our ACTIONS that really show what we believe in.

Words convey what you think. ACTIONS demonstrate what you BELIEVE. (tweet this)

We need to live in in alignment and act with integrity because crappy stuff happens in life – things will be hard sometimes and you will not like what is going on.

And in those times, it is your integrity and living in alignment that helps you feel…good about yourself. Even if not necessarily “happy.”

It helps you feel good about yourself and your connection to humanity when you are not necessarily feeling good about life at the time. And in case you’re not up to date on the Positive Psychology literature, the quality of our social connection is the single largest predictor of happiness.

So if you’re feeling in a funk or a little down on yourself, check in with what one small action can you take to bring your life a little more into alignment with you values.

This will not only help you feel less anxious and more content, but you’ll also have more self-respect and confidence. And guess what? That helps you also be more productive and successful and fun to be around. So it’s a win-win when we strive to live authentically and in alignment.

Maybe you ride your bike to work today. Or finally write that blogpost you’ve been putting off – again. Maybe you call up a friend you’ve been meaning to get in touch with. Or stop and chat with a homeless person and give them some nourishing food. Or finally bring that box in the basement filled with clothes you don’t need to the local women’s shelter.

For me, I have long been looking for a purpose to donate a portion of my income to. It was hard to settle on one, as there are so many things I can about. This led to analysis paralysis. I have finally narrowed it down to girls’ education, and will be speaking with people from four different organizations this week to determine which one(s) I’ll select.

I have been wanting to do that a long time. But wanting isn’t enough. Time to take action!

What’s the one action you are going to take to help your life be more in alignment with your values?

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.