One year ago today I left my job at Google. The past year has been the greatest year of my life. I had the highest highs and lowest lows I have ever experienced. I broke open again and again. I expanded my capacity to feel. I expanded my capacity to love. I expanded my capacity to love myself.
My journey took me through 10 days in silence with myself. Then 3 months in South America where I braved the wrath of the Patagonian gods, walked the streets of Argentina, swam the oceans of Brazil, sat Ceremony after Ceremony in Peru, and climbed volcanoes in Nicaragua. I got certified to teach yoga and launched my yoga teaching career. I went to Burning Man, and Symbiosis, and Treasure Island. I found a lump in my breast and had a biopsy. I played. I laughed. I cried. A lot.
I completely lost myself. I broke down all concepts of who I was supposed to be. Who I thought I was. I burned. And then I burned some more. And from my own ashes, I rose again. More courageous, more loving, more passionate, more creative, and more revved up than ever before. Here are a few things I learned from my experience.
1. Life is a game
Each and every one of us are creators. We have the power to design life the way we want it to be. I am not a victim, and I don’t have to live as if I am. When I found the lump in my breast, I totally broke down. I saw myself suffering in a hospital bed as chemicals coursed through my body. I saw myself weak and dying. I saw my family and friends alone after I was gone. I completely tortured myself. Then I woke up.
I recognized that I had the power to control my response to an uncertain and scary situation. I saw that I could choose to see myself sick and suffering, or I could choose to see myself healthy and healed. I decided not to play victim to my situation, rather use it as an opportunity to learn and to grow. And as soon as I made that choice and rewrote the rules of my life, I could see what the lump was there to show me - how to love and forgive myself. I learned that everything in life happens for a reason, and it's all part of a game to help us remember who we really are - infinite, magical beings of love.
2. Self love is the basis of everything
Research shows that you can’t love anyone more than you love yourself. This is hard to wrap your head around - it was for me when I first heard it. But it makes sense. True love requires empathy. It requires us to be able to feel someone else’s pain so we can have compassion for where they are. And if we can’t feel and love our own pain, then we will block and numb out the pain of others.
Time and time again over the past year I’ve been shown that it always comes back to self love. Relationships will never work unless you fully love yourself. Otherwise you will constantly be trying to fill a whole with the other, and you will always come up empty. When I found the lump in my breast, I spent weeks agonizing about why it was there. I made a running list of all the ways I’d ever hurt my body, and I believed it was my fault that this had happened. What I saw was that I needed to forgive myself. Nothing I did or didn’t do caused the lump intentionally. As soon as I could embrace my full self and continually confront myself with love, my life opened up in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
3. The power of play
I never let myself be a kid. I was always serious, always working hard to be perfect. A few years ago I started to get back in touch with my childlike spirit and sought experiences that allowed me to be in a state of play. After leaving my job, I traveled for 3 months. It was pure play and was the best food for my soul. Play allows you to gain clarity by giving you a new perspective. And it gives you much needed rest that allows you to be more effective and powerful when you return to adult life.
Once I got back from South America, I spent a few months continuing to play. I went to a few festivals, including Burning Man, and was somewhat lackadaisical about finding yoga teaching jobs. But I had so much guilt and shame. I thought that I was lazy. Through this experience, however, I learned to give myself a break and recognized how important it was for me to create space in my life for creativity and clarity. Now play is part of my daily ritual.
4. Ritual keeps us connected to the truth of who we are
I’ve had so many mind blowing experiences where I remember my own divinity and all the petty shit of the world falls away. Every time I experience that I think, don’t forget, okay? But undoubtedly I always forget because that’s part of the game of life. It’s so fun to remember, I think we forget on purpose.
This phenomenon really frustrated me at first. I would feel so sad and dejected when I was disconnected from myself. And then I started a daily meditation practice, a daily gratitude practice, and a few other bits of magic. I realized that these rituals keep me grounded and connected to myself. I was never a creature of habit, but I have now become very ritualistic - journaling every morning, sitting in daily meditation, burning an abundance candle every time I get money. These small acts profoundly changed my life and allow me to stay more even keel from day-to-day.
5. Gratitude, the key to success in good times and in bad
My parents did an amazing job teaching me to be thankful, so luckily this practice has been prevalent my whole life. But it became abundantly clear how powerful gratitude is while I was working with ayahuasca in the Peruvian Amazon. Ayahuasca is a beautiful medicine that helps us to heal past pain and see ourselves clearly. Part of the healing process, however, often requires that you re-live painful experiences or get trapped inside your fear. This can be scary and disorienting and leave you feeling a bit of despair.
Every time I went into this state, I would ask Aya what she was trying to show me, then I would thank her for the lesson. Time and time again I would say, “thank you,” for some of the most painful, grotesque visions. I would say, “thank you,” when I would feel anxious. And as soon as I connected to my gratitude, the situation or vision would transform.
Aya is beautiful because she teaches you how to live differently. This experience translated into my daily life where I now have a deep gratitude practice that helps me stay positive in the good times and gracefully move through the tough ones.
6. The more you give, the more you receive
I never believed this to be true, but after implementing a regular practice of giving, I have seen gifts come back ten fold. Abundance can be monetary, but it also exists in love, in relationships, in food, in joy. I’ve found through experience that whatever I put out into the world is what I will receive in return.
If I desire more passion in my relationship, it’s my responsibility to be passionate with my partner. If I want my friends to be more loving and accepting, I must be more loving and accepting with them first. If I desire to make money doing something that I love, I must support other entrepreneurs with my dollar. It’s a beautiful cycle of reciprocity. All of these things - money, love, passion - are just energy, and the more we put ourselves in that energetic vibration, the more we stay there.
7. Radical responsibility
I am 100% responsible for everything that happens in my life. I am not a victim. I have complete control over how I respond and how I feel. This has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn and to integrate, but it has made a profound difference in my life. Responsibility means I suffer less and I love more.
There have been many times where I feel frustrated with others because of their judgment, cruelty or close-mindedness. I used to judge them for their judgment and want to remove myself from their presence. But over time I have learned to use this uncomfortable feeling as a mirror. I look at them, I see what I don’t like, and then I examine what it is in ME that’s causing me to feel that way. This has completely transformed the way that I show up in the world and the way that I view the people around me. It’s so much more fulfilling to be in a state of radical responsibility rather than feeling like a victim.
8. Surrender, surrender, surrender
And when you think you can’t surrender any more, surrender again. “Jump and the net will appear,” is one of my favorite quotes. It requires so much trust in the universe to lean into fear and expand into discomfort, but every time that I do, I am rewarded. By giving up control, I often feel that I have more control. I have made a commitment to take care of myself - my thoughts, my actions, my words - and to let God take care of everything else.
9. Community is the new money
I am not alone on this journey. I used to think I had to do everything by myself. That I had to be the strong one. Over the last year I have learned how to depend on people I can trust. Their empathy and support is the reason I am where I am today. And in my gratitude for the beautiful tribe that surrounds me, I choose to be love for everyone who shows up in my life needing support.
10. I am enough. And so are you.