2017 review: The Painful Journey to Self-Love
If you are reading this, then I want to start with short message: I love you.
I know it’s weird that a stranger on the internet said something nice about you, but I really mean it. I’m serious.
Alright, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get into this post!
Words Are Incredibly Limiting
Wow. There are really no words can describe how incredible this year has been. That being said, I will do my best to write about that which can not be expressed in words in hopes that you can FEEL the underlying emotions and feelings that inspire these words.
For the last two years, I’ve written yearly reviews and I find it’s a great way to reflect on the past 12 months. Life moves so fast, so while I don’t really care about getting drunk and staying up until midnight, I see the New Year as a reminder to dig deep into the last twelve months of my life and re-evaluate all of it. My 2016 post was written as a musical. 2015 was more goal/achievement centered. This post is just going to be me going through each month and sharing my experiences. I have no agenda other than sharing my truth and hoping that inspires you.
This may be the only blog post I write in 2017, so I promise to keep it engaging, deep, and most importantly, straight from my soul.
Last year’s post was centered around my music, and I don’t want my life to be centered around only music (I am currently working on letting go of my attachment to my music and the idea that “I am a musician”. Sure, many people see me as a musician and I love the music that flows through me, but I am also SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT).
Anyway, since less is more and simple is sacred, this year’s post will simply go in chronological order. I’ll take you on a journey from each month, highlighting the major pitfalls and achievements along the way.
Are you ready? If you’re not sure, then here are some reflective questions;
- Do I have any tissues nearby if I start crying?
- Do I have 90 minutes to dedicate to reading this? Warning: once you start you may not want to stop!
- Am I ready to smile deeply?
- Do I feel like I could use some inspiration?
- Have I gone to the bathroom within the last 2 hours?
If you answered “yes” to three out of those five questions, then I belive you are ready.
Okay, I’ll admit, that was a bit silly. But if you got some tissues just incase, I love the hell out of you.
Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my 2017 year in review!
January: (Bali, Indonesia): Family vacation, discovering kirtan, and my broken guitar
I ended 2016 in style with a 5-day silent meditation retreat at the tantra school in Chiang Mai. Leaving the retreat, the one question that stuck with me was this: “Am I a human being having a spiritual experience or a spiritual being having a human experience?” (I told you this post was going to be deep, lol!)
I celebrated 12:00 AM midnight by meditating in a vortex circle with a bunch of hippies. Everyone seemed to be “feeling the energy”, but I didn’t feel shit. All I could feel was the throbbing pain in my head.
“If I’m a spiritual being, why am I in so much pain?” I questioned. But I didn’t think too much of it. The thought of being a spiritual being scared the shit out of me. I felt like I was being brainwashed and I used the word “cult” to keep me stuck in my old ways and beliefs.
With that, I said goodbye to my beloved June and traveled from Chiang Mai to Bail to meet up with my family. I arrived in Bali and loved the atmosphere there. But there was a little issue that caused some inner turmoil…
The morning after I arrived, I opened up my guitar case to practice some tunes. As I unzipped the case, I noticed there was a small crack in the wood, but I didn’t think much of it. I lifted the rest of the guitar up and it felted a bit weird. A few of the strings had broken, but I wasn’t too phased since that had happen in the past when I carried on my guitar on an airplane.
Still functioning in auto-pilot, I sat the guitar in my lap and tried to strum it. Then it hit me: this guitar was unplayable. The neck was shattered and the strings were all over the place. There was scraps of wood sticking out from all angles. It was broken. Very broken.
Then, I cried.
The next two weeks were hard. I didn’t have any friends in Bali, and I had so many mixed emotions inside of me that wanted to be expressed. But how? Until then, music was my therapy. Without therapy, what could I do?
I ended up giving poetry a shot, and I wrote this poem: “My broken guitar.”
In perfect timing, I found a beautiful guitar that someone in Bali was selling and I got it for a good price, too. My new guitar fit me better, and it was BEAUTIFUL. This was a sign that everything was here to help me!
Our family vacation was wonderful. We ate at healthy restaurants, went to cool events such as contact dance and sound healing, and spent a few nights on the beach where magic mushrooms were sold freely at restaurants and bars. I love to travel!
Bali is known of being the capital for spiritual tourists, and I could definitely feel it. Though, it didn’t feel spooky (well, I had a few moments when I felt some strange energies) or divine. Rather, it seemed like people who came there were open to being their authentic self. I LOVED that, as it gave me permission to express my authentic self as well.
It was in Bali where I discovered “Kirtan”. Kirtan is pretty much the musical component of the yogic philosophy. For Christians, people go to church and sing gospels. For yogis, people sit in a circle and sing devotional songs in sanskrit together. What appealed to me the most was that it was a chance to play music in a setting where there was no alcohol, cigarettes, bright lights, and loud noises, basically all of things that triggered migraines for me.
At the time, discovering this was HUGE! I had been longing to play my guitar and share my music, and then, BOOM, I realized there’s a place for me to do so! I had this feeling, “Holy shit, this my path. I will go and sing this Kirtan thing and inspire the world.” But that feeling didn’t last too long.
As I write this, I’m still not sure how I feel about Kirtan, but I definitely like it better than performing for drunk people who blow cigarettes in my face. I’ve participated in a lot of Kirtan circles, and as much as I love music, at this point of time, I’m not sure it’s my highest calling. The truth is, whenever I sing or breathe too much, it gives me a headache. So even if I’m singing in a setting without drugs and alcohol or potential triggers, I still feel pain. Luckily, I’ve figured out exactly how to solve this problem (more about that when we get to July).
Alright, this post is already getting long and I’m ONLY ON JANUARY. HOLY RASTA MOSES! Let’s move on…
February: (Bangkok, Myanmar, Koh Phangan, Saigon): Vipassana retreat, We are one, Apple fast
After three guitarless weeks, I got hold of my dream guitar and headed to Bangkok to meet up with my partner, June. We spent three days in Bangkok, and they were not easy.
The Stresses Of Travel
Next, we headed to the airport to head to Mandalay for a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat. We arrived at the airport on time, but when we handed our passports to the woman at the kiosk, we were shocked at her response.
“Do you have a visa, sir?”
My heart dropped. “Um….no? I need a visa to go to Myanmar?”
“Yes, sir. Americans need visas. Since she has a Vietnamese passport, she’s able to enter for 14 days without a Visa, but all Americans need an entry visa. Without one, you can not board the flight.”
June wasn’t going to board the plane alone, we had just spent a month apart and the last thing we wanted to do was be separate from each other. We were both freaking out. Luckily, it was Friday morning and the retreat started Saturday evening, so we had some time to figure it out.
We sat down, connected to wifi, and began plugging away. June looked for later flights and I looked up how I could get a visa ASAP. We quickly found a website that issued emergency visas in 8 hours (according to the website). It was about 11 AM, so I bought an emergency visa and we became one step closer to a solution.
Next, we booked a flight for later that day at 8pm, which would give us enough time to get the visa and go. This new flight was not a one-way flight, but it was our only option. It had a layover in Yangon, so we cancelled our hotel reservation (which was in Mandalay, our final destination) and booked a new hotel in Yangon. Tomorrow, we’d fly from Yangon to Mandalay and arrive early enough to make the retreat on time.
We waited at the Bangkok airport and could finally relax. 4 hours had passed, and I still hadn’t heard from the visa service. 5 hours, 6 hours, and still no word. The sun had set, and I started to get worried. Had the visa company closed for the weekend? I called them. No answer. I emailed them. No reply.
It was 6 PM and we had a flight at 8, but still no visas. 7 o’clock rolled around. June looked me at me and wondered if she should go. “Is this my fate? To go on this retreat by myself and leave you here?”
She didn’t leave. After we clearly missed our flight, we booked a hotel in Bangkok and called an Uber. We had missed two flights, spent over 12 hours waiting at the airport, and I was still visa-less. And time was NOT on our side.
That night, we decided to celebrate, aka eating our emotions, by going to a BBQ buffet! We had a romantic evening and enjoyed the night together. That night, I went to sleep unsure if the next day I would go on a 10-day silent meditation retreat or not. We realized that it was not a smart idea to book a flight without a visa, so all we could do was wait. Jeez, the retreat hadn’t even started yet and I was already faced with so many challenges!
I woke up the next morning with a light cold. All this stress was damaging to my nervous system. I checked my email, and I got my visa! We rushed down to the lobby to get it printed and searched for flights. We found one, but it left in just under two hours. We were about 20–50 minutes away from the airport depending on traffic. Could we make it?
We booked the flight and rushed to the airport. Our uber driver was the happiest guy we had ever met. There was also no traffic at all! We had a good feeling about this!
We arrived at the airport, very familiar with the terminal at this point, and got in line. When I proudly showed my visa to the flight attendant, she pointed out a mistake.
“This visa says port of entry is in Yangon. This flight is to Mandalay. We can not let you board.”
ARE. YOU. FUCKING. KIDDING. ME!? I didn’t say that outloud, but that’s how I felt. Was the universe trying to give me a sign that it wasn’t meant to be? She said we needed to go upstairs and speak someone at a different desk if we wanted to buy tickets. We also needed to get verification from the immigration office.
This next move was an irresponsible one: June and I split up. She needed to go to the bathroom, and we didn’t have much time. It was 9:30 and our flight left at 10:45. We had to get my visa approved, buy tickets, check in, and then get through security and customs.
With no time to spare, I rushed upstairs and went to go buy new tickets from Bangkok to Myanmar. I secretly hoped the woman at the kiosk wouldn’t check the port of entry, but she spotted it right away.
She said she would sell me the tickets, but I couldn’t board without permission from the officials in Myanmar. “How much for the tickets?” I asked.
“11,300 baht per person.” she responded. Over $300 each for a flight that typically costs nder $100.
ARE. YOU. FUCKING. KIDDING ME?!?!? I swallowed my pride and gave in. Fine, I’ll pay whatever it takes. Just get me on the stinkin’ plane!
Next, she said she needed June to be present in order to issue the tickets. Where was June? She went to the bathroom over 15 minutes ago and she was nowhere to be found. It was 9:50, 55 minutes until the flight took off. An international flight, which meant only 5 minutes until they began boarding.
Five minutes passed and my anxiety was growing by the minute. Since we were only in Thailand for 3 days, June hadn’t bought a data plan, which meant I couldn’t reach her. I decided to call her Vietnamese phone from Skye and I finally got a hold of her.
“Where are you!?” I yelled. I’m here at the kiosk waiting to buy the tickets and they need you to be here.
“Where are you!?” she yelled back. I’m here at the desk waiting FOR YOU.
It turns out there were two different upstairs kiosks. Both of us were right. Both of us were waiting for the other. But there was no time for dispute, I retrieved our passports and sprinted to meet up with her.
When I arrived, we shared a brief silly moment of “What the F@#$?!” and then we waited to hear back from the Myanmar people. It was now 10:05 and our flight left in exactly 40 minutes. The practice of surrendering had begun FAR before the meditation retreat!
At 10:08, we got word that my visa was cleared. We could go! The cost of our tickets had increased by another $50 each, but I didn’t have time to care. I handed them my credit card and passports and pleaded, “Can you help us make sure we make this flight? It leaves in 30 minutes and we don’t want to miss it.”
“I’m sorry sir, we can inform our staff that you are coming, but we can’t help you budge any lines.”
We retrieved our tickets, but our stress levels were still skyrocketed. Would we miss our flight FOR THE THIRD TIME? Was this disaster ever going to end?
We sprinted to the check in counter to check our bags and cut the line. “Sir, your flight leaves in 30 minutes, I advise you hurry and get to the gate as fast as you…”
We were gone. Next was immigration. The line was very long. We ran straight to the front of the line.
“I’m very very sorry sir, but we’ve had a stressful day. We’ve missed two flights already and we really need to get through.”
The nice French man pulled out his boarding pass. “Actually, we’re in a rush, too. It was 10:25 and his flight was boarding at 10:30.”
I showed him our boarding passes. Our flight had started boarding 20 minutes prior and was taking off in 20 minutes. He shrugged and let us ahead of him. God bless this man!!
We made it through security and sprinted to the gate. We got there and could finally relax…the flight was just beginning to board. We shared a long embrace and smiled at each other. We made it. We were going to make the meditation retreat!
Vipassana Meditation retreat: 10-days of meditation without distractions
We arrived in Mandalay, trying to forget the fact that I had just spent nearly $2,500 (I purposely didn’t count) on wasted flights and hotels. It was quite ironic. Vipassana retreats are free. They are based on donations that they collect only at the end. However, this was already (by far!) the most expensive meditation retreat I’d ever been on.
June and I said our goodbyes, and we swam into silence where we would stay for the next ten days. Technically it’s 12 days, since you show up and that’s day 0, and then you end up leaving on day 11.
I sat on my uncomfortable bed and read through the rules of the course: no speaking, no writing, no listening to music, no making eye contact with others, no sleeping during meditation hours, no eating after 12 pm, no alcohol, drugs or any medication, no form of exercise, and no engaging in other spiritual practices.
I woke up on day 1 with a harsh cold. My nose was stuffed up and my throat was sore. I looked at my watch: 4:05 AM. I had 25 minutes until I needed to be in the meditation hall for the first meditation.
They played a guided meditation tape that included instructions to focus on the the edge of the nostrils where the air is coming through. I could barely breathe out of one nose, but I did my best. The entire hall, filled with about 100 people, meditated until 6:30 AM, when we finally could “take rest” and go eat breakfast.
Day two, I woke up completely stuffed. I spent 10 hours meditating that day, but I couldn’t breathe through my nose. How was I supposed to follow the instructions if I couldn’t breathe through my nose? I kept quiet and continued. But it wasn’t fun.
Each night, I couldn’t fall asleep. I was so tired, but my body couldn’t sleep. I could barely breathe, let alone relax. Day three I woke up feeling horrible. I felt sick from this cold and tired from sleeping only from 1–4 AM, and I couldn’t even vent to anyone. After one of the meditation sessions, I stayed after so I could ask the meditation teacher what to do.
When I told him my nose was stuffed up, he didn’t understand. He was a 75-year old Burmese man. He seemed very kind and gentle, but his English wasn’t as good as his meditation practice. He asked one of his students to translate. “Oh! You cannot breathe out of your nose. This is not a question of meditation, you must see a doctor!”
Evening came around and I met with the doctor. He was an old Vipassana student who lived nearby and his English was much better than anyone else at the center. It felt good to have a conversation after so much silence. He gave me some medicine, which surprised me since it went against the rules of the retreat. But it didn’t surprise me as much as what he said next.
“If you’d like, you can leave the retreat. Do you want to g?”
WHAT? This was a 10-day retreat and no one was allowed to leave! I had heard stories about how strict they were and I figured that it was impossible to leave. I had been dealing with chronic headaches and I when I get a cold, I’m free to go? This shattered my expectations.
I thought about it for about ten seconds. I could leave, but what about June? What would I do in Myanmar by myself in this fragile condition? No. I wasn’t leaving. I came here to experience a full Vipassana experience, and I would follow through no matter what.
Days 4,5, and 6 were also a struggle. I spent most of the day in pain: headache, fatigue, stuffy nose, sore throat, the usual. It was pretty horrible. On day 6 I finally got a good night sleep, but I was still sick. I could barely focus on the meditation. My nose was so stuffed up, I would blow my nose every 10 minutes. The person next to me relocated and I later learned it was because I was so distracting. I was pretty miserable, but I kept on trucking. I often fell asleep sitting upright during the meditation sessions because I was so tired.
I wanted marijuana so badly. I had been using it regularly to help with headaches, and I thought it could really help me feel better and also sleep better at night. I actually had a little stash of THC pills that I had brought with me. But at the time, I was aware with the fact that I was dependent on marijuana. I would get headaches every day. And everyday, I would smoke some weed or eat some THC to help me through the day. Since I wanted to commit to the Vipassana retreat, I decided to give June all of the marijuana medicine I had so I wouldn’t be tempted. Afterall, the point of this retreat is to surrender, right?
But on day 6, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I spoke to one of the volunteers and told them that I was in a ton of pain and that my girlfriend had my medicine. He told me he needed to check with the head teacher to see if it was okay.
I spent the entire day wondering what would happen. I was desperate and in so much pain. I knew that marijuana would help, even it broke the rules. On the morning of day 7, the volunteer approached me.
“Yes, you can get your medicine. Please write down your girlfriend’s name and I will ask her.”
BOOM! There was hope! I could make it through! I had spent the previous day spying on my girlfriend so I could memorize her seat number. I wrote it down and included her name. I also added that she was short and Vietnamese. I wanted to make sure there was zero chance of making a mistake. I was so close to relief. I could taste it!
That night, the volunteer approached me with a confused look.
“I asked your girlfriend about your pain medication and she didn’t know what I was talking about. She gave me this pill, though. Here you go.”
He handed me a few white pills that I could not recognize. My heart broke yet again. Did June purposely not give him my marijuana pills? Did she hold back in fear of getting in trouble? Did he even ask the right person?
At this point, I had no choice but to surrender and get back to the meditation practice. So that’s just what I did. I woke up on day 8 and finally felt like I had some energy. The 2-hour meditation sitting from 4:30–6:30 AM was the most challenging, and day 8 was the first time I didn’t fall asleep while sitting. By day 9, I could finally feel some of the benefits from the meditation. I was no longer sick and my cold no longer caused me any pain. I still had headaches throughout most of the day, but I enjoyed short stints of bliss. That being said, I was still ready for the retreat to end so I could reunite with June and get back to my pain meds.
Days 9 and 10 I felt more bored than anything. I wasn’t stressed or worried, I wasn’t in much physical pain (except my legs hurt from sitting for so long), I was simply bored. I missed singing. I missed playing music. I felt like I needed something to do! But, with no headache, I finally felt good. Or, not shitty is maybe a better way to describe it. But when you’ve been in hell for so long, even the simplest sensations can feel like heaven.
Without a headache or a cold, I had every right to be happy, and I was! But, I was mostly excited to get back to June and carry on with our life. When day 10 ended and we were finally able to talk to each other, several people came up to me. “That was you who kept blowing your nose! How many rolls of toilet paper did you go through?” I was famous. Or maybe infamous was a better term :D
I noticed that as I began to speak to people and the excitement we all felt inside could finally be expressed, the headache returned. After just one hour of talking to people, I returned to my room in pain. This was very frustrating. I was devastated. Everyone seemed to be on such a high. And for me, it was back to reality, which meant back to living with chronic pain. This was a hard truth to swallow.
But it felt amazing to hug June again. After sitting for 10 hours each day in the same room as her without being allowed to even look at her, it felt wonderful to hold her in my arms. But it was bittersweet when I told her that I had a headache.
She laughed as she asked me, “Did you try to ask me for your medicine on day 8?”
It turns out that they mistook my girlfriend for some German girl, who was very shocked when someone asked her for pain meds for he boyfriend since she didn’t have a boyfriend. She was dealing with back pain at the time, she she decided to give some of the painkillers that she was using.
I later realized that I had my THC pills the entire time. I couldn’t do anything but smile. I guess it was all meant to be.
After the retreat, June and I spent the night in Mandalay and then left for the Thai Islands the next day. It was time to enjoy life and celebrate surviving 10 days of boot camp meditation!
Koh Phangan: Apple Fast, “Right Now, and “We Are One”
We arrived in Koh Phangan, Thailand and I was so excited to be reunited with my guitar. I spent hours singing, playing, and writing. I wrote a song based on the meditation retreat called “right now”, and another one about the concept that we are all connected called “we are one”. These are still two of my favorite songs to this day.
Koh Phangan was great, but my head still was in pain on a daily basis. We decided to do a little fast to see if that could help the pain. June was experiencing some facial acne at the time and she read online that apple fasts could help that, so we committed to a three day apple fast.
It was much easier than expected. But I didn’t notice much difference in the pain levels. I did notice how little I could eat and still have energy! On the day after the apple fast, we discovered that we could purchase psychedelic mushrooms on the island. We picked some up and had a wonderful journey.
We spent most of our trip in silence, enjoying the beauty of the nature around us. Psychedelic experiences are very hard to put into words, but I felt a deep connection to the nature that surrounded us. It was like the trees were speaking to me saying, “hey, I am connected to you. You and I come from the same place.” This was pretty powerful and lead to the inspiration for my song, “we are one.”
Next, we flew to Vietnam to meet up with my family again for another Ginsburg vacation. This time, with my dad and his girlfriend! I also was joined by my best friend from college, Jay Alter. He moved out to Asia to work for my brother!
And so the adventure continued! Little did I know, March would be one of the lowest points I would hit in my entire life.
March: Family Vacation, Koh Samui, depression lost → What’s my purpose
Alright, I’m gonna be honest. I just wrote a shit ton of words for the first two months, and I just don’t think I can keep that up. So, in order to help you maintain some reading chronological momentum, March is gonna be super short.
In March, I went on a family vacation with my family (vacation #2 with my dad. #DivorcedParents means #TwiceAsMany vacations)
After the trip, we stayed at a 5-star villa in samui. We had like 5 servants and a chef. It was fun but I felt like my outer world didn’t match my inner world. I spent a lot of time contemplating my existence and wondering why the fuck I’ve been born here on planet earth. I also experienced a lot of pain and fatigue. I wrote this tune, “What’s my purpose?” which expressed how I was feeling quite well.
I also turned 26, which was nice. But I also realized that golden birthdays lose their value when grow older. I definitely felt a bit lost and hopeless, but fortunately, it didn’t last very long!
April: (Minnesota, Florida, USA) Zen retreat, meeting my mentor, grandma 90th birthday
After three up and down weeks at a beautiful resort in Samui, I flew back home to Minneapolis, MN at the beginning of April. I wasn’t in a great place (physically and mentally), so I asked my sister to find any type of meditation retreat in the twin cities area.
She found a 3-day Zen Buddhist retreat that was conveniently located 2 miles from my mom’s house. My sister Melanie said she wanted to join, and then my mom later wanted in, too! So, the three of us went to a weekend retreat together, in silence!
The retreat was very nice, and I enjoyed learning about the Zen traditions. However, it didn’t quite match up with the stories I had heard about Japanese Zen traditions from Alan Watts’ lectures. For the first time on a silent retreat, I felt bored. I wasn’t frustrated or distracted, my mind was pretty quiet. I was just bored. The teacher told me that being bored is a sign of progress! So, yippee for progress!
More than anything, I was so grateful that I could be there with my sister and mother. I was so proud of my mom for stepping out of her comfort zone and spending three days in silence! I wasn’t sure how she would handle it, but after I remember asking her how it went. Her response,
“I liked it. I’m just not sure why anyone would ever do that again!”
I love my mother so much! The next major event that happened that month was meeting my mentor, Joshua. This healing journey has brought me to all walks of life and lead me to all sorts of amazing people, and this was no exception.
Since May of 2016, I have been talking to a psychotherapist named Jeffrey. He’s been really helpful and has become a beautiful source of wisdom and support in my life. While in Minnesota, I paid him a visit and he told me about a past client/friend of his who had a teacher named Dan who wrote a book about a meditation technique that cured his chronic pain. He said that his friend was named Joshua and that he could try to see if his teacher, Dan, had any openings.
Intrigued by a new method of overcoming chronic pain, I took him up on the offer and gave Joshua a call. Joshua’s teacher, Dan, had a 6-month waiting list (talk about high demand!), but Joshua offered to help me. For free!
Now, this is where my ego got in the way. Why would anyone help me for free? What’s in it for him? Was he going to take something from me later? Was this another cult?
It turns out Joshua spent two years living at Jeffrey’s (my psychotherapist) house as a part of his journey to recovery from depression and chronic headaches. So, as a pay-it-forward favor, Joshua said he’d be happy to help me free of charge.
For the first few months, we chatted about once a month. He taught me a new meditation technique, basically leaning into the pain and asking certain questions, allowing myself to take best action. He taught me to welcome the pain, befriend it, and ask it what I can do next.
But I barely believe in it. I wasn’t sure talking to a headache could help. But the more I spoke to him, the confidence I gained that he really believed he could help me. It also helped knowing that he had dealt with over 20 years of chronic headaches and now he NEVER gets headaches. I had my doubts, but we continued to chat about once or twice a month. Even if the method wasn’t helping my chronic pain, it was very nice to have someone on the other line who cared about me and would listen and provide support no matter what.
Around July, I realized that I didn’t feel worthy of his help. After many of our calls, he would say the nicest things to me, but I wouldn’t believe them. “Jeremy, you inspire me, and I feel like the luckiest person in the world to be able to help you. It’s better than winning the lottery!”
These words would go in my ears and then my ego would act as a shield and deflect them as if I was protecting myself from being loved. He was giving me his time and I wasn’t giving anything back. It wasn’t a two way street. I felt like I owed him something. I felt guilty and shameful.
But suddenly, my perspective shifted. I realized that I, too, would go out of my way to help people. I LOVE to help people even if they can’t pay it back right away. So, why not let others do the same to me? This was a major breakthrough for me, realizing that it’s okay to accept support from others.
It was then when I really started to love myself more. I started doing what I call a “two-sided compliment”. Every time I complimented someone outside of me, I would compliment myself as well. For example, “Joshua is such a beautiful soul. He’s so wise and generous with his time.” Next, I compliment myself. “I am such an easy person to help. I attract awesome people because I am eager to learn and I am a good student!” Sometimes it can be easy to compliment everyone and everything besides yourself, and this is a little trick I created to balance it out.
To this day, Joshua continues to play a crucial role in my journey. He’s one of the wisest and most gentle souls I’ve ever encountered, and I am so grateful for his guidance. He is also one of the main reason I’ve started to coach people. If you can’t pay it back, pass it on.
The last major event in April was celebrating my grandmother’s 90th birthday. It was a special day and it was so great to see my family and celebrate together. I love talking to my Grandma because she is very present. She doesn’t talk about much, but she’s always grateful and happy.
For some reason (maybe because I had been contemplating death a lot), I felt called to talk to my grandma about death. When I asked her, she said she tries not to think about it because she is afraid.
I asked what she thought about grandpa ted (who died many years back and they were the cutest couple I’ve ever seen). She said she thinks about him every moment of every day but she wasn’t sure if she’d get to see him again. I assured my grandmother that grandpa ted is still with her, and that he’s waiting for her. I also told her to consider the idea that death was just an rumor and that maybe when she dies, she really goes back to the infinite love she is and reunite with all of her family members. She liked the idea! “Well, I never thought about that! Sounds good to me!” She probably forgot this a second later. I love my grandma so much.
Since I was ruminating about my own existence, death was on my mind a lot. Maybe a little bit, too much, as May would bring along some psychological challenges, including many suicidal thoughts.
May (Chiang Mai, Thailand): Plant Medicine, Moving to Thailand, The Only Way Out is in
With April behind me, the weather in Minnesota finally started to get warm (kind of). I celebrated both of my parent’s 60th birthdays in the same day. That was exciting! Lots of food and so many amazing friends and family.
As far as health experiments go, this was the month I started doing coffee enemas. The first one I did was extremely powerful, and I even recall the smell of cigarettes coming out as I evacuated. It gave me a lot of energy and seemed to ease the pain in my head short-term, but the pain would eventually return.
After a month and a half without my sweetheart, I missed June a lot. I was happy to fly back to Chiang Mai and start a life together there. We settled down in a cute apartment and quickly found a beautiful community of people.
I also attended two ayahuasca ceremonies in May. The first one was Peruvian style. I didn’t really know what to expect, and I invited two people very close to me because they seemed interested. The ceremony was in complete darkness and we were all on our own. I felt a little bad since I wasn’t able to be there for the friends that I invited.
One of my friends didn’t have the best experience. I’m pretty sure she hated it. She left feeling horrible and in her words, “had lost all faith in humanity.” This broke my heart. Plant medicine has been an amazing tool for healing and personal growth, and I felt a little responsible for her experience. I also finished the ceremony with a horrible migraine that lasted for an entire next day. This questioned my faith in grandmother ayahuasca. Was it just another trigger for these headaches?
I arrived at this ceremony eager to play my guitar and share a song. The entire night I kept telling myself, “soon it will be my turn to shine, my turn to share.” I had a profound vision of a butterfly deep in its cocoon, waiting for spring to come and waiting for the cocoon to crack so it could emerge as a new creature. I was the butterfly, and the headache was the healing cocoon, and sharing my music was part of my transformation of becoming a butterfly.
But, when the time came to share, I was met with a traumatizing experience. When I went to take my guitar out of the case, I realized the case was locked. I couldn’t believe it. Like, I actually kept trying to open it and was explaining, “this isn’t my case, it won’t open!”. But it was my case, and it was definitely not opening.
I felt devastated. All I wanted to do was share a song, share my gift. Express my pain through beautiful melodies and sing what could not be communicated in words alone. But I couldn’t. The time had passed. It was too late. It brought back the same trauma that I experienced when I realized my guitar broke in Bali. This was a huge ego blow for me, but it definitely taught me a valuable lesson: I am not my music. I am enough without it.
The next weekend, I attended another ceremony. This time it was set in the Brazilian tradition. The differences were vast. The Peruvian style was shorter and lasted about five hours. But it was far more intense. It was pitch black and I could barely figure out where I was or who I was. The Brazil tradition was lit, and we all read and sang out of songbooks. I was very scared that this second ceremony would also lead to a migraine hangover, but I attended anyway. “I make decisions out of love, not fear” I told myself.
This second ceremony was much lighter, and I enjoyed playing the djembe throughout the night. It felt good to be apart of the music and not the one leading. I could simply be of service. I also was able to get my guitar case open and share a few songs as well.
During the ceremony, I had some profound realizations. I faced my demons. There was a moment when I realized that I couldn’t run away from myself. I faced this deep and hidden thought that was buried inside of me: “I hate myself”. I faced it and “looked” at it straight away. From then out, I decided that I needed to cultivate more self-love for myself.
There was no hiding it. A part of me hated myself, and it was time to make some changes.
June (Chiang Mai, Thailand, Laos): The love of my life, Song challenge, Artist Way → Community,
June is my favorite month, because it is a constant reminder of the beautiful being named June that I find myself deeply in love with. She’s been the best partner anyone could ever ask for, so I’m using this as an opportunity to express my love and appreciation for her.
Geez, where do I start? She’s smart, cute, funny, and incredibly good at cuddling. She’s wise, brave, and inspiring. I just love the living guts out of her!
My parents got divorced when I was eight years old. I only have one memory my parents kissing each other, and I recall it seeming forced and nothing like what I had seen at the movies. I spent the first 22 years of my life craving for a girlfriend, craving for love. A big part of me wasn’t sure that true love even existed. Hollywood does a great job illustrating love in a way that seems appealing, but in my world growing up, marriage and love seemed to only create more problems.
And then I met June. This tiny and bubbly Vietnamese girl with a smile that moves mountains. Many people don’t know this, but we actually met on stage. I was performing a set at a comedy open mic and as a part of my act, I called up a stranger from the audience and freestyled a song about them. That night, I called on June and freestyled a song about her while she stood next to me on stage smiling. She couldn’t understand my humor and had no idea what was going on.
Well, now here we are, a couple deeply in love and committed to growth, transformation, and sharing our love in anyway possible with each other and with the world. I am grateful for you, June. You are the apple of my pie, the willy to my wonka, and the chopsticks to my rice. I’m not sure if these metaphors are romantic for you or make any sense so let me say this clearly: I am in love with Dung Thi Bui and I don’t care who knows it!
So, what happened in the romantic month of June? One fun thing I did was a #songmantrachallenge on Instagram. I posted a new song every day, many of them being short mantras. I had a good time doing it and it was fun to commit to posting something every day. It also helped me hone my songwriting skills and gave me an excuse to meet other musicians here in Chiang Mai. I even lead a few songwriting workshops in Chiang Mai and taught others which was fun. I am now confident that I can write a song about anything. I guess that’s a valuable skill, right?
I’m not sure what month it was, but I developed an extremely efficient method for writing songs as a form of expression. It went something like this:
Step 1) Get a horrible headache and feel like shit
Step 2) Become extremely emotional and cry in public
Step 3) Get stoned and write out any thought that wants to come out
Step 4) Pick up a guitar and start singing
Step 5) Feel amazing and have brand new song that I could sing to myself whenever I need it!
I wrote a few songs like this. From beginning to end, the songwriting process probably took 30 minutes total. It was almost like there was this huge rsh of energy within me that just needed to get out. If I didn’t act upon it, it was trapped inside of me and manifested as a headache. As soon as I “pooped” out the song and expressed myself, I would feel so much relief. It was interesting!
I also traveled to Laos this month which was fun to see a new country! I think it was the 27th country I’ve ever visited. I am so grateful for the opportunity to travel!
I also realized that the greatest part about living in Chiang Mai is definitely the community. After spending seven months on the road bouncing from country to country, we chose to settle down in Chiang Mai because of the people. For me, life isn’t about where you go or what you do, it’s about who you share your experiences with.
Honestly, at this point, I didn’t have many friends who I felt like I could be my true self around. Since I had been dealing with chronic pain for so long, many of my friends didn’t understand what I was going through. I felt like I had to constantly explain myself for being late, not going to a bar where they’d be cigarettes, or for keeping a strict diet.
In Chiang Mai, I finally met loads of people who didn’t really care what I ate or what I did. They were open and loving and extremely supportive. My friend Charlie invited me to join his weekly creative writing group. At the time, I was in so much pain on a regular basis that I rarely made commitments. I wasn’t working, either. In fact, my laptop broke during the month of June and it took me four weeks to get it fixed. An online business owner that spent the entire month without a laptop. Talk about contradictions :D
This writing group met once a week. At first I was hesitate to join because I was afraid of making a commitment. I soon realized that no matter how much pain I was in, I could show up in any state and I would be received with love and compassion. These group members slowly became my family, and now we continue to meet once each week. We go through the exercises from the book “The Artist Way”, but it often turns into a group therapy session. Needless to say, it’s been incredibly healing and powerful. I’ve been able to let go of a lot of blocks that were getting in the way of my creativity, and I also have five best friends of which I can share anything with. Bard, Sadie, Charlie, Sarah, and Karen, I FRICKIN’ LOVE YOU GUYS!
While June was a good month, I still found myself in heaps of pain pretty much daily. Luckily, July is the month I would discover a powerful breathing technique that would make a huge impact on my health and life.
July (Chiang Mai, Thailand) : Papaya fast → conscious avocado, finding buteyko method, wim hof method, old grumpy man next door
At this point in time, I had a bit of an addiction to my guitar. Of all the things one can be addicted to, a musical instrument isn’t so bad. However, I had a neighbor that disagreed.
On a sunny day around 2PM, I was singing with June practicing for an upcoming gig. Our next door neighbor came running over and yelled at me in my own home. He told me he would not tolerate any more music and that I better find somewhere else to go deal with my guitar addiction.
This hurt my little feelings! Like… a lot! I felt so much anger and frustration towards this old fat geezer. Slowly, my hatred towards this ugly man turned into compassion. I realized that he must be in so much pain if a little disney song could make him feel so angry. Balled up with so much emotion, I ended up writing a song about him. It’s called “The Old Grumpy Man Next Door.” I just realized I haven’t recorded it yet so it’s not on YouTube. Sorry!
A week later, we moved apartments and made sure there weren’t any old grumpy men nearby so I could express myself freely. Next on our agenda was a papaya fast. At this point in time, I was still in so much pain on a regular basis, so I was looking for new health experiments in hopes that it could minimize the pain.
For ten days, June and I ate only papaya. It was pretty easy, and I only remember having rough symptoms for one day. I felt weak and low energy, but besides that, it was a great experiment that gave me lots of energy!
We also did not once get sick of papaya! Every morning we sat down for breakfast and the papaya tasted amazing. We’d look at eachother, smile, look down, and feel so grateful and excited to share papaya. I also realized that I don’t need that much food to survive and thrive. In fact, I felt WAY BETTER on this papaya fast than I did eating a balanced diet or in any of the other diets I had tried up until this point (keto, paleo, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, low-histamine, just to name a few).
I felt more energetic and my fatigue had almost disappeared, but I was still getting daily headaches. So, after ten days, we broke the fast. That night, I ate an avocado and it started talking to me. Without knowing what to do, I wrote a song about it: “The Conscious Avocado”.
Towards the end of the papaya fast, I started waking up very early without much difficulty. This was a HUGE breakthrough. Until this point, I was hesitant to schedule anything before 11 AM because I never knew how much pain I would be in when I woke up. Some days I’d be able to wake up around 8 or 9, but other days I’d be in so much pain that I would go back to sleep and stay in bed until mid-afternoon.
For the first time in a while, I was waking up early! The papaya fast had a lot to do with it, but I also contribute it to a new breathing technique that I discovered. It’s called The Buteyko Method. I don’t really feel like explaining it in detail right now, but it’s a very powerful breathing technique that was discovered in the Soviet Union by Professor Buteyko. Here’s a video of me doing it.
It’s pretty much the Wim Hof Method turned completely upside down. Instead of overbreathing, this method teaching you to underbreath, to take small baby breaths out of your nose and to breathe as little as possible.
This practice also included a lot of lifestyle changes that were challenging for me. I started sleeping with my mouth taped shut to keep my CO2 levels high. I also stopped jogging, weight lifting, and any other physical activity that forced me to breathe out my mouth. I also cut out many foods that require the body to to breathe more, such as chicken, dairy products, nuts, peanut butter, and any heavy foods. I pretty much became a fruitarian, since I was so in love with eating papaya.
Making these changes were fairly easy, BECAUSE I KNEW THIS BREATHING METHOD WAS HELPING. Since July, I have done this exercise four times every day without skipping more than one session at a time. It has worked wonders for me and I’m so grateful to have discovered it! It’s currently my go-to exercise if I experience any of the following symptoms: headache, fatigue, dizzy, stressed, anxious, cravings, feeling cold (increase of CO2 levels makes you feel warmer) or scatterbrained.
Coincidentally, while I discovered this life changing technique, I got a call from the team at the Wim Hof Method. They wanted my marketing help to launch their new course. It was a dream opportunity, though I felt a little conflicted since I didn’t practice the Wim Hof Method anymore and had found another technique that helped me more (though the Wim Hof Method helped me SO much at the time). I embraced the opportunity to help one of my personal heros spread his message across the world!
For the next three months, we worked together on their product launch. My sister and I created most of the content for their launch: emails, landing pages, social media posts, etc. Not only was this the most fulfilling work I had ever done in my life, but I finally had the energy and mental capacity to work again! My bank account was nearly empty, so the financial boost came in handy as well.
On paper it was perfect, but working with the Wim Hof team brought many challenges. Let’s just say I learned a lot about Dutch culture. Overall, it was a great experience and I felt so fulfilled to be able to help my hero. We ended up making them over $600,000 in sales in the first two weeks of the launch. More importantly, I’m proud of the the thousands of lives behind those sales that are now living a healthier and happier life because of this powerful method!
So, my health was on the rise, I was doing fulfilling work, and I finally had some money in my bank account! All of that being said, I was still getting headaches on a daily basis, and a new lifestyle change was waiting for me in August.
August (Chiang Mai, Thailand): Men’s circle, The body is on a journey, and letting go of habits
August was another month of going inward and making some big life changes. I finished the papaya fast on a “high”, but the transition back to eating a normal diet came with many challenges. When I commit to something, I find that I have all the self-control and discipline in the world. But when I lack commitment, I find myself being pulled into other people’s/governments/businesses’ agenda. That’s when I start to slip. That’s when I notice a gap between what my heart and body wants and what my life looks like. That gap is what causes pain.
August was the month I committed fully to the Buteyko method and living a lifestyle based on their suggestions (sleep less, eat less, breathe less). Since I was feeling so much better in July, I wasn’t sure what was causing the improvement. That’s the challenge when you try many things at once, it can be hard to track which variable is causing the best results. Was it the papaya fast? Buteyko? The Israeli acupuncturist who guaranteed he could help me(What up, Ben!)?
Was my body finally healing itself fully from the ground up? It didn’t really matter as long as I felt good, but when I started to feel weak and in pain again, the doubts kept popping up. “None of this is working. You’ll never get out of this pain. These headaches are going to last forever. You are a failure. ” The fear-based thoughts were endless.
Then, my friend Jae sent me a YouTube video called “The end of inner conflict”. It’s a long video, so let me summarize: THE BODY IS ON THE JOURNEY OF LIFE, NOT ME.
This sparked a huge shift in perspective for me. I wasn’t in pain, my body was. It wasn’t me who wasn’t sure what to do, it was my body. I wasn’t gaining new experiences, my body was. And if I wanted to suffer less, I needed to surrender to the body and let it have its journey.
So, instead of waking up with a headache and thinking, “Ah.. fuck, another day of pain. This sucks.” I began allowing my body to have its journey. If I woke up in pain, the thought turned to, “Alright body, this is your journey. If you’re in pain, then you’re in pain. I’ll let you have your experience.”
It’s my ego that thinks my body should hurry up and “get over it”. It’s this ego that wants to resist the pain and run away from it. But what if all the body wants is to be in charge? What if the body simply wants to be heard, felt, and understood? What if the awareness inside of me wasn’t as important as the body?
At this point, I realized that there was a part of me that still hated myself, so I began to focus on cultivating self-love. Reminding myself that is was the body’s journey added a new layer to that. I needed to love myself, but more importantly, I needed to love my body. And if I wasn’t letting the body feel however it wants to feel, then that’s not loving the body. That’s resisting it and judging it. What you resist persists. So I began to love my body and befriend it.
I also stumbled upon a men’s circle here in Chiang Mai which has been incredibly healing and valuable. It took me about three sessions to figure out exactly what it is, but basically it’s nothing more a group of men sitting in a circle and talking about their feelings. Sounds simple, but simple actions create extremely powerful results. If you were secretly hoping it was a big circle jerk, then I’m sorry. Not that kind of circle…
Anyway, there were several weeks where I showed up after a rough week and shared my story and just broke out into tears. AND IT FELT AMAZING. I started to realize the power of being seen and being heard. Even if none of the other men could help me with my current situation, their presence made me feel so safe and loved. This helped me become more authentic, and I continue to go each week and it’s been far more helpful than any therapist I’ve ever met with. Thank you Justin, Charlie, Jacob, and Peter for being so amazing.
If you’re a guy and you’re looking for a space to talk to other guys about more emotional topics besides sports, business, girls, drugs, and rock and roll, I highly suggest looking for a men’s circle. It’s one of the reasons I am able love myself so much right now.
August was also a month of letting go of lifestyle habits. I stopped going to the gym. I stopped exercising heavily. I cut back a lot on how often I was singing. I stopped doing the Wim Hof Method breathing exercises. I stopped eating chicken, peanut butter, and almonds.
Why? Because these were all things that made me feel good in the short run, but long term, they were making the headaches worse (I purposely don’t identify with the headaches. They are not mine! They belong to the body!). And it makes sense, each of these activities requires a lot of oral breathing, which increases my oxygen levels and decreases my CO2 levels. The Buteyko breathing method suggests that all of these activities contribute to my chronic pain. Even though these were all things that I loved, I made a commitment to let them go. This was not easy, but I knew it was in my body’s best interest.
After all, it’s not my journey. It’s my body’s journey!
September (Chiang Mai, Thailand) : Kyle Cease, Meditation retreat in the mountains
September was the month I found a new hero: Kyle Cease. Kyle is a stand-up comedian who turned into a transformational speaker. He’s like Eckhart Tolle blended with Jim Carrey. He’s funny, witty, and WISE AS HELL.
As soon as I went to his website, I knew I was going to love him. He’s an entertainer, but he’s also a healer. He’s funny, but he’s also so loving. Every time he’s on stage, you can tell he is tapped into this flow state. And it’s so fun and fulfilling to watch him give his gift.
Over the last few years, the way I have consumed content has changed drastically. I used to be more passive about how I would consume things: looking for blog articles in my newsfeed, listening to book recommendations from my friends or from podcasts, etc. This past year, I’ve tried a new approach. Whenever I discover someone that vibes with me, I dive in and flood my conscious and subconscious mind with their teachings. Then, I repeat it until I feel like the information lives inside of me.
I did this a few times in 2017. I read the book “A New Earth” by Eckhart tolle twice in the same month and treated it like a bible, rereading sections each night and in the morning, underlining important passages and having discussions with my friends about what I learned. I did the same with a few Thich Nhat Hanh books. I just read them twice in a row and that made it much easier to digest the information and then actually live it.
I also listened to over 50 hours of lectures by Alan Watts. I love his ideas, but more importantly, I love how my body feels (it’s the body’s journey, remember!) when I listen to his lectures. I’m currently listening to his audiobook “Out of your mind” for the 3rd time this year. I’m not trying to brag, just sharing my new approach to learning!
Anyway, once I discovered Kyle Cease, I consumed everything I could that he had put out. That included his comedy podcast episodes from 2012, his book, his YouTube videos, and also his paid content from his website. He has a video series that consists of 18-hours of content filmed at one of his 2-day events. I watched it twice and I’m currently watching it for a third time. This has helped me really instill these lessons and perspectives that he shares.
I love Kyle because I see myself in him. He’s an entertainer who has found a way to pierce into people’s hearts and provoke growth, all while making them laugh. He inspires me to think of new ways to combine my creative skill sets in order to impact people and make them happy (in fact, in November, I began doing just that).
I even wrote a song inspired by the apple tree metaphor that he uses. Here’s some lyrics from the song incase you want to keep reading and don’t feel like listening to the song:
“I am an apple tree
my apples grow effortlessly
They’re pure and rich in vitamin C
I am an apple tree
I am an apple tree
I don’t make pears or raspberries
what you do with my apples doesn’t matter to me
I’m just an apple tree
All day long, I let my apples grow
I’m not concerned with how they look or where they go
and when my apples fall, I don’t get sad at all
Cuz they’re not me; I am an apple tree”
And, I also made this video sharing 7 things I learned from Kyle Cease. I fuckin’ love him and hope to co-create with him someday. Until then, do yourself a favor and check him out and see if he resonates with you.
When I coach people, I often find myself using the same metaphors and lessons that Kyle shares. “And I love it!” Thank you, Kyle Cease. I love you from the bottom of my heart and I am so grateful that you exist!
Meditating in the mountains
I also went to another meditation retreat in September. I notice this pattern in myself, whenever I have a few (or a lot) challenging days (physically or mentally) in a row, I start to crave change. I want to “escape”. I want to do something that’s going to make the pain stop. I want to run away from myself.
This time, I found myself craving a silent meditation retreat. I just wanted to get away for a few days, be alone with my thoughts, and take a break from life. So, I found a beautiful 3-day retreat in the mountains of Chiang Mai only 1.5 hours away. It was close and cheap, so I went.
I had a great time on this retreat, and on day two, I realized that I still didn’t feel good. I still felt pain, both physically in my head and mentally. I wanted to feel good. I wanted to feel that deep inner peace that Buddhist monks represent. But, I didn’t feel that at all. Instead, I felt frustrated. I felt angry. I was miserable.
My outside surroundings were beautiful. We were immersed in nature and the weather was perfect. But inside, I felt horrible. Then it hit me: the external doesn’t matter unless the internal is at peace.
It didn’t matter where I was, how many meditation retreats I could go on, or how good the view was. When my internal state was in pain, the outside world didn’t matter. At the time, this was a tough pill to swallow. I felt hopeless, like there was nothing I could do. At the same time, I felt free. I was free because I knew that there was nothing I wanted to chase. I couldn’t escape anymore. My only choice was to simply accept whatever emotion arises at the time and let my body have its journey.
October (Bangkok, Pai, Thailand): DCBKK, Leading Wim Hof Breathing, Pai
October rolled around and it was time for the annual DCBKK conference. This is a business conference for internet entrepreneurs. This was the 3rd time I’d be attending. I felt excited to go, but I was also very nervous.
I joined this community of entrepreneurs in 2014 when I was living in Saigon, Vietnam. At the time, I was teaching English part-time and also performing music part-time. A month later, I quit my teaching job and pursue my passion: music. But performing 5 nights a week wasn’t as fulfilling as I thought. I wanted to build an online business. I wanted to make money online so I could perform music because I love it, not simply because I needed the money.
At the time, the community was perfect for me. But ever since I’ve started looking inwards, I’ve changed a lot. I no longer valued financial freedom and location independence like I used to, and those are the two center values that this community is based upon.
I went to a business conference knowing that I didn’t want to talk about business. It turned out to be a blast! My sister and I even wrote a little jingle about the conference as a way to get people excited. I don’t know of many other business conference jingles out there!
I ended up skipping most of the speaker sessions. Instead, I got massages, did Buteyko breathing in the sauna, met with old friends, and relaxed in my hotel room. It felt really good to know that I was completely content. I didn’t need to learn any more marketing secrets so I could make more money. My intention was not to grow my business, I just wanted to feel good and love myself more. And none of the speeches were about either, so I didn’t feel bad skipping out.
The highlight of the conference was when I lead a Wim Hof Method breathing session. The room was packed with over 40 people. Before this, I had taught the method to several friends, but I had never instructed a room full of people before. To give you an idea of my health situation at the time, the breath workshop began at 8 AM. The night before, I was terrified. I wasn’t sure I could wake up that early AND have the energy to facilitate. But I had trust. I knew that my body could be there for me when the world needed it most. Not only when I needed it, but when others were counting on me.
I woke up feeling sluggish, but I made it downstairs and lead the session. People loved it. A few people claimed to have outer body experiences, or said that they experiences as much love as when they were on MDMA.
At this point, something inside of me shifted. I was no longer the victim. I wasn’t some headache-ridden patient who was suffering. I was a leader. I was a teacher. And it felt amazing to help others tap into their inner wisdom, personal power, and creativity.
Since the conference, I’ve lead a few more breathing sessions. One of them actually lead to an opportunity of a lifetime. This would all take place in November…
November (Chiang Mai, Thailand): Coaching Biz, Family visit, Digital Detox Camp
November 2017: the month I started two business despite living in chronic pain.
Kyle Cease says that when you want something, you’re not ready for it. What he means by that is if you feel like you need something outside fo you to feel complete or happy, then you’re already in lack. If you tell yourself, “When I get $10,000, I’ll be happy,” you’re telling yourself that you’re not happy. It works the other way around, “When I’m happy, making $10,000 will feel natural and easy and I won’t even desire it.”
I didn’t fully agree with this until an opportunity fell into my lap. I knew I was ready for it because I didn’t want it. I didn’t crave it, but it was perfect for me, and it came to me in a beautiful way.
I lead a breath workshop for a group of entrepreneurs who were living in “The Entrepreneur House” hosted by my friend Chris Reynolds. His girlfriend, Marcelli, really enjoyed the way I lead the breathwork and even complimented me by telling me that she enjoyed my style more than Wim Hof himself. Talk about an ego trip!
After the session, I was talking to her and I told her that she should start spreading the method by teaching people in Brazil.
“Actually, I was thinking of inviting you to Brazil to do that!”
I didn’t think much of what she said. But later that week, she sent me a message and said she has an opportunity for me. She asked if she wanted to meet her and Chris (her boyfriend) for lunch.
That could have meant anything. Did she want a private session? Did she need my help with some writing? Was she actually going to invite me to Brazil to lead Wim Hof exercises? I had no idea, but it felt good, so I said yes. I actually wasn’t sure if it was a business meeting or not, so I brought my girlfriend June along.
At lunch, she mentioned that she knew of a beautiful retreat spot in the mountains of Brazil. She was friends with the owner and she was planning to throw an event there in February. Chris spoke about how he knew someone throwing “Digital Detoxes”, basically a business event for entrepreneurs to connect without the distractions of wifi and other devices. He said the concept was already proven and that they wanted to throw a similar event in Brazil.
And they wanted me to join the team. It was an obviously yes. Some people say when making decisions, they should be a “fuck yes” or a “hell no”. This was a “fuck fuck fuck FUCKING FUCKITY FUCK yes!”!!!
I felt like the universe was handing me my dreams on a silver platter with papaya on top. I had always wanted to throw an event or host a retreat of some sorts, and this was the perfect opportunity to do so.
The four of us met up again later that week and started laying down the foundations for the Digital Detox Camp Brazil. It’s been super fun to work with this crew, and I find it very cute that it’s two couples all working hand in hand. The journey of putting this together has been amazing, and I’ve learned so much about throwing events simply by hanging out with Chris. We have weekly calls every Thursday, and the calls are so fun it doesn’t even seem like work. That is the type of work I want to continue doing!
Once I felt what it was like to be aligned with my work, I realized that the marketing agency I had been running with my sister wasn’t my highest calling. I noticed that every time I had to do work or write emails for clients, it felt heavy. There was an inner resistance. It wasn’t that I hated the work, but I knew it wasn’t what I was meant to do. At one point in time, the work felt exciting. But that was no longer the case. I’d spent hours in front of a laptop top doing creative work, but it left me feeling drained and it worsened my headache.
At the same time, my sister Melanie requested some space. She claimed that she wanted to learn more about herself, and in order to do so, she needed to free from my influence for a while. At the time, we were best friends, siblings, and business partners. I could see how it is hard for her to listen to her own intuition when she’s constantly surrounded by her older brother who is used to telling her what to do. We decided to keep running the agency, but to split up and take clients individually and decrease the amount of time that we spend together.
The next week, I began asking myself “Why did I get involved in this business in the first place?” At the time we started the company, working together with my sister made perfect sense. She was looking for a way to make money online and I had a skill set and clients that were constantly reaching out. I also had many health issues that held me back, so I could teach her everything I knew about copywriting and marketing and she could pick up the load when I wasn’t feeling well.
It wasn’t long until my health got in the way and she was left with the burden of doing most of the work. That was not fair to her at all, so I completely understand her desire to take a break from working together.
This hit me with a deep insight: I didn’t love the work I was doing. I loved working with my sister, teaching her everything I knew and watching her grow, but I didn’t love the work. I didn’t realize how heavy the work felt until I started working on the Digital Detox Camp and leading Wim Hof Method breathing sessions. Those felt effortless, it didn’t feel like work, it felt like play. So, it was time to find work that didn’t feel like work. It was time to step into the unknown and serve the world in a new way. When one door closes, a million other doors can open, as long as you look for the door knobs.
I’ve spent the last two years in somewhat of a healing cocoon. I’ve gone on 7 or 8 silent meditation retreats, been to 5 plant medicine ceremonies, read heaps of self-help books, been through online courses, worked with a number of coaches, psychotherapists, healers, doctors, and everything in between. I knew that there would come a time to share these lessons and experiences with others and serve the world. And the time had arrived.
I had been offering my brother media training for the last few months as he was going on a lot of podcasts and giving public speeches. This gave me a lot of confidence as I realized how much I had to offer. My brother Nate is very inspiring and is a very smart serial entrepreneur. Check him out here!
Helping him craft his story, become a better presenter, and be intentional with his words was fun, but I knew I wanted to help people on a deeper level.
Next, I put out an offer to my social networks offering a free call to help them with whatever they were going through. I didn’t know what to call myself: a healer? A coach? A supportive friend? A chronic pain counselor? But that didn’t matter. I just wanted to help people.
More people reached out for help than expected, and I hopped on calls with about 8 different people. To my surprise, I was able to help each and everyone feel better. Some calls went better than others, but I tried to focus on two questions:
1) Was I able to serve the person on the other line or in front of me?
2) Did it feel like work? Or did it feel effortless? Did it feel light or heavy?
It didn’t take long until I knew that this was for me. It felt right, and it still does. I closed my first deal and that was all the confirmation I needed: I had become a coach. And it felt amazing.
December (Chiang Mai) : Master Fast
December rolled around and I could feel the presence of Santa Buddha in the air.
I noticed that I was getting stomach aches pretty regularly. Often when I would combine too many foods. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. On one note, it frustrated me. The headaches were slowly subsiding, but then another pain showed up! What the heck?
On another note, I saw it as a sign. My stomach was signaling me that something needed to change. I was eating very healthy at the time, mostly fruit with some veggies in the evening and the occasional rice, noodle, or vegetarian dish. I was eating minimal meat and no fried foods at all. So, why was my stomach bothering me with such a clean diet?
I decided to listen to my body and go for another health experiment. My friend Jae, the one who introduced me to the Buteyko method, had been trying a fast called “The Master Fast”. It seemed pretty intense and I didn’t know much about it other than she loved it and claimed to get amazing results from it.
After doing some research of my own and learning about it, I decided to give it a shot. I also decided that I would keep a daily vlog to track my progress and share my experiences with the world. It would also keep me “accessible”, since I knew I wouldn’t be going out to eat at restaurants or cafes, I wanted to have some more internet presence.
Long story short, this fast fucking blew my mind. The people who run the program don’t even like calling it a fast, they call it a lifestyle. And I see why.
The fast is very simple. You’re only meant to consume grape juice, tea, and herbal tinctures. Once a day, you consume what is called “plasma pudding”, which is a combination of psyllium husk, activated charcoal, bentonite clay, and grape juice. You’re meant to dry fast (no food or water) every day for 12–15 hours, and each week do a 24–36 hour dry fast). Enemas are highly recommended, and so is the buteyko method.
So, for 18-days, I survived off of nothing but what is listed above. AND I FELT FINE. I had a lot more energy than when I was eating food. I had more time, presence, and joy in my life. I was able to work through many emotions and do some deep healing as well.
Honestly, it’s hard for me to write about this because many of my friends and family have reached out to me saying that they were worried about me on this fast. Some were very scared. Some thought I was hurting myself on purpose. Others thought I was being radical and that I needed to seek medical supervision. I completely understand where they are coming from, but this is my body’s journey.
I learned so much doing this Master Fast that it’s hard to put into words. I did, however, track my journey on 27 daily vlogs, so if you are interested, please check them out.
I’m still processing all of the amazing insights I gained from this fast. I had many intense spiritual experiences, too. But it has been a big challenge to go back to food. My body isn’t used to eating. I also know from experience that I don’t need food to have energy. It has lead me to question almost every belief I have about science, food, and nutrition. I’m aware that the master fast is not backed by science, but I don’t need science to prove anything. I felt it. I lived it. I experienced it. I know how good it felt, and I’m continuing to feel how BAD my body feels when I eat foods that are considered ‘normal’ and ‘healthy’ by society.
Overall, I’m extremely grateful that I did this fast. As I transition back to normal food, I am so aware of my addictive habits and emotional coping mechanisms. I’ve realized that food has been one big distraction from listening to my body. I’ve noticed that I used to eat so many foods simply because I was addicted to the flavor and not because it made me feel good.
As much as this is scary, it’s frickin’ exciting! I’m finally learning to listen to my body and understand it. I’ve learned to trust that whatever pain or emotion it feels, it’s meant to be and it’s here to help me. I’ve learned to love my body, every single piece of chest hair, every piece of body fat, every mole and every freckle. My body is a temple, and I’m learning to treat it like one.
It’s a bit scary. Sometimes I look in the mirror and feel like I don’t recognize the person staring back at me. AND I LOVE THAT. This life is a gift, and I am also the gift. The way I can give my gift back to the world is to be my true self. To step into my authenticity and stay open to whatever my body wants. To listen to my heart no matter what, even if it goes against my loved once.
So as I enter into 2018, I have no idea what to expect. I have no goals. I have no visions. I simply have gratitude and excitement. I am excited to dive into the unknown.
I do have some intentions for 2018: LOVE MORE.
I want to love more. I want to love myself more. I want to love others more. I want to love my haters. I want to love the strangers on the street. I want to love every moment, no matter how much pain my body is experiencing.
And I also want to inspire others to love more. I wrote this song, “love is the way” with my friend Huggs. It’s been an anthem of mine. Whenever faced with a challenge or fear-based thoughts, I ask myself, “What would love do now? What would I do if I loved everyone unconditionally?”
So as I come to the end of this incredibly long post, I ask the same question. What would love do now?
Love would say this: I love you. Thank you for reading. If this post inspired you, please send it to a friend or feel free to reach out.
PS happy new year!