It is the Feelings You Are Attached To, Not the Things

After traveling for seven months, I finally stopped back home for a few weeks in Los Angeles. While I was there, I went to visit my old office to see some of my coworkers. Immediately, when walking into the building, I felt butterflies and sort of a sense of loss in my stomach. It was the same feeling I had carried with me for the first few months of my trip abroad. The same kind of feeling you feel when you see your ex for the first time since you broke up and you still aren’t over them. Or when you move to a new city and feel homesick because you miss your family and friends.

If you don’t know me, before I left, that office was my home. Really. You don’t understand, I pretty much actually lived there. I pulled many all nighters there, took showers there, got ready for first dates there (well more like fifty first dates), ate most of my meals there, laughed there, cried there, and developed some of my deepest friendships there. It wasn’t just a job for me. It was my life.

focusing on the rearview

When I decided to leave, it was the hardest decision I had ever had to make. But I felt that it was time. I knew there were bigger and better things waiting for me on the other side. But still, for months after I left, even while halfway across the globe, there were times when I would sit there and wonder if I made the right decision. I longed to feel the same feelings I felt while working there. The excitement and the intensity. And walking back into that office building seven months later, these are the feelings that came rushing back and filled my soul.

In the beginning, I had contemplated ending my trip early and going back to work there because I missed it so much. I even talked to recruiters a few times while I was on the road. It was not until coming back that I realized for the first time that it wasn’t the actual job I missed. Or the building. It was everything that happened while I was inside of that building. The challenges I had faced. Both personally and professionally. The struggles I went through and how I overcame them. The friendships I made. All of the feelings I associated with the job and the building. That is what I was really attached to.

It is similar to how I feel about Los Angeles in general. The memories of weekends spent sitting on the floor at a friend’s house, everyone playing instruments and jamming out together. The late nights spent sitting on the beach by the lifeguard stand, smoking a joint, and having deep conversations about life with my best friend. The kind of moments where you stop, look around, and think, ‘Man. Life is good.’ The moments where your heart feels happy.


We often become attached to certain people, places, or things because we associate them with the feelings we felt while we were with them. The comfort or confidence or joy we felt in their presence. We can’t let go because we want to feel that way again.

This happens in many relationships. One or both of you agree that it is time to move on, so you do. But you just can’t seem to let go. Even if the relationship was shitty and you know it isn’t good for you, you hang on. You miss the intensity of it and all of the feelings you felt while in it. The comfort. The growth you experienced while being with that person. But then you go back and it isn’t the same. You thought you missed the person, and of course maybe you did, but what you missed more was how you felt during that time in your life when you were with them.

For me, I know deep down that if I went back to my old job, it wouldn’t be the same. There are only a few people I know left on the team and the job has completely changed. But it was still hard for me to let go of because of how much it shaped who I am today. While I sat there at my old desk and relished in the memories, I realized that they are still mine. I will always have them with me no matter where I go.

The feelings are what our heart really longs for. And these feelings are created by moments. Now. In the present. It isn’t the place. Or the person. But the moments. Once we realize that we can and will continue to have more of them, and that we can have them anywhere, with anyone. It will set us free.


That random stranger you meet and end up having a three hour conversation with that leaves you feeling refreshed. The time when you almost get kicked out of a van in the middle of nowhere in Thailand because you lost your sticker but someone fights for you to stay. Or when you start a new job and finally understand what you are doing. These are the moments we crave. The feelings we want to feel. It is not the guitar or office building, or particular person that brings them. It is the moments. 

There are places I stay for only a few days but am genuinely sad to leave. But it is never about the place. It is about what I experienced in that place. The connections I have made. It is the same reason why I no longer believe someone when they say not to visit a certain country or city. Because whether you recommend a place doesn’t so much have to do with the actual place, but more the experiences you had there. And believe me, I can be in the worst circumstances while traveling but if I am surrounded by cool people, I will always associate that country with the people and what we went through together. 

Our brain tends to play our past over and over inside of our heads, much like watching a home movie of our happy or sad times. But like watching any other movie, just because we see it, it doesn’t mean we are actually experiencing it. It only adds to our attachment. Instead of watching replays, it is useful to recognize where you are stuck or what you can’t seem to let go of. Recognize what feelings you are craving from your past and open yourself up to feeling them in the future.


It took me months to feel completely excited about my decision to leave Los Angeles. And even then, it wasn’t until coming back that I was able to truly gain a fresh perspective. I didn’t want to let go of this office. Of this place. Of those memories. But I now realize it wasn’t the place I was attached to. And what helped me to realize this is that I can now look back and see that I started to feel the same feelings when traveling. I am now opening myself up to a world where it is possible to feel these feelings anywhere I am. I am no longer attached to a place. Or specific people or objects. I am attached to the entire experience.

Instead of wanting to relive the past, I am now thankful for it.  And use it to create an even better future. Because missing my life in Los Angeles and longing to feel the feelings I felt while I was there have fueled my passion to experience life in a deeper way. To continue to fill my life with experiences that change me. And to inspire others to do the same. When I left, I was sad because I didn’t want it to end. Now I realize it was only the beginning. Instead of one office building, I now have the whole entire world as my home. 

As cliche as it sounds, home really is where the heart is. If you can separate your feelings from the person, place, or thing you are attaching them to, you are able to take them with you, anywhere you go. Once you learn to keep the memory of your experiences close to your heart and realize they will never leave you, you will always be home. No matter where you are.

Cool Girls Ride in Convertibles

I have experienced a lot in my life and traveling has given me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. From diverse cultures, with different backgrounds, all with unique life circumstances in the present moment. But there is also so much I have missed out on. Experiences and connections I have actively chosen not to have. And up until this point, that has been okay with me. Keeping myself closed off from experiencing more. From opening up and really connecting with those around me. But I can no longer go on living like this. Let me explain.


I was recently watching one of my favorite movies, “Waking Life,” and there is a scene in it that really opened my eyes. In the movie, a guy and a girl walk past each other on the street without saying anything to each other. The girl then stops and turns around. She walks back up to him and says the following.

“Hey. Could we do that again? I know we haven’t met, but I don’t want to be an ant, you know? I mean, it’s like we go through life with our antennas bouncing off one another, continuously on ant auto-pilot with nothing really human required of us. Stop. Go. Walk here. Drive here. All action basically for survival. All communication simply to keep this any colony buzzing along in an efficient polite manner. “Here’s your change.” “Paper or plastic?” “Credit or debit?” “You want ketchup with that?” I don’t want a straw, I want real human moments. I want to see you. I want you to see me. I don’t want to give that up. I don’t want to be an ant, you know?”

I actually think about this often. As I am standing in an elevator. A stranger standing next to me. Both of us just standing there. In silence. Failing to acknowledge one another. Or as I am walking along on the street. People passing by all around me. Each of us in our own heads with our own thoughts. Living our own lives. We walk around like zombies. Keeping to ourselves and avoiding real moments of human connection.


A few weeks ago. In Bali. I am sitting outside on the porch at my guesthouse. There is another porch directly across, on the other side of the pool. Facing mine. A guy walks out and sits down to smoke a cigarette. We are minding our own business. Sitting there in silence. Aware of each other’s presence. But choosing to stay separate. There is a moment when I look up at him. I then see his head slowly start to look up at me as well. We are about to make eye contact but at the last second, I look away. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see him hold his gaze on me for a few moments longer. As if there is something he is about to say. Like he is about to recognize my presence out loud. With a simple hello. But I avoid it. For some reason, I turn away instead of giving him that chance. He gathers his things, stands up, and walks back inside. The moment is gone. All it had to be was a simple smile. A hello. So that we could both feel alive. But I didn’t give him that. I didn’t give that to myself.

My memories are too often made up of these types of moments. Moments when I wanted to open up but chose not to. Flashes of me choosing not to participate. Not letting people in. The times I decided to stay silent when all I had to do was look at someone for one more second, let someone see who I am. Show them a small part of me. Let them show me a small part of them. All I had to do was say something. Anything. But I didn’t.


We are all living this life together but choosing to keep ourselves separated. But as human beings, don’t we all just want to be acknowledged? To feel like we exist? Like we belong? To not have to go through this life experiencing our troubles alone? To even feel like we are noticed and appreciated? Maybe even loved? So why do we continue to walk around avoiding the very thing we crave?

The more I think about this, the more I believe that we have unconsciously become conditioned to be this way from the time we are children. One of the first things we are told is, “Do not talk to strangers.” Of course as children, this is a beneficial thing to learn. To keep us safe. But as we grow older, we hold on to this same mentality. Still to keep us safe, but from different things.

To avoid rejection. Or to avoid having to reject others. Or because we are too busy. We can’t talk to everyone so we talk to no one. Or because we simply don’t know what to say. Whatever the reason, becoming aware of all of the moments I have chosen to stay hidden has finally shown me a part of myself that has been conditioned to live in fear. A wall I have subconsciously built. A side of myself that is sabotaging so many potential connections with the people around me. I have been protecting myself. Trying to stay safe. Even though now I am old enough to know that if a stranger offers me candy, that doesn’t mean I have to eat it.


The most introverted person (me) will still tell you that some of their happiest moments are those shared with another individual or group of individuals. This is true for most, if not all, of us. And what I have learned is that how we open ourselves up to the world is directly related to how the world opens up to us in return.

In Bali, the day after I avoided confrontation with the guy on the porch, I am walking along the road next to the ocean. Aware of the moment the previous day, I consciously decide to make an effort.  As I walk down the path, I see a guy standing next to his bike up ahead of me. As I walk by, I smile and say hello. I keep walking but then hear a voice behind me. I turn around and see him catching up to me. He asks where I am from. We start talking and I notice that he is actually quite good looking. We end up hanging out that night (and a few more 😉 ) and he mentions that the reason he talked to me initially was because I had smiled at him. He knew I was friendly. It was like the Universe rewarding me for trying. For getting out of my own head and letting someone in. Instead of choosing to stay hidden from the world.


This brings me to another memory I have from when I was about eight years old. A single moment that I will never forget. I am sitting in the back of my parent’s car at a stop light. Next to us, there is a group of pretty girls all sitting in a red convertible, talking and laughing. They are much older than me. Seem much cooler than me since I am just a kid. Suddenly, one of them stops talking and looks over at me. For an instant, I want to hide because she has caught me watching them. But at that moment, she looks directly into my eyes and smiles at me. I smile back. The light turns green and we both go our separate ways. 

It was a simple moment but one that has had a profound impact on my life. That cool girl took a few seconds out of her own life to stop and acknowledge my existence. How wonderful that made me feel. At eight years old. It showed me how powerful connection can be. How much we all need it. No matter what age we are.

We all have so many opportunities each day to connect with others in this way. To leave them feeling like I did that day in the car. We have the chance to make someone’s day tad bit brighter because we talk to them. Or ask them how they are doing. When someone is having a bad day or going through a tough time in their lives, we have the power to help them. Without even knowing anything about them. With a smile. Or maybe even a passing conversation.

I strongly believe that one of the reasons we go through tough things in life is because it gives us the chance to help others who may be going through a similar situation. To be their light, to let them know we can relate to them and have been there too. That we made it through, are okay, and that they will be okay as well. Or just to even remind them that they don’t have to go through this life alone. No one does.


I say from now on, we get out of our heads and consciously try to experience more of these human moments. Because when it comes down to it, our life experience is greatly enriched by our connections with other people. There is a poet, D.H. Lawrence, that talks about this idea, which they also reference in the “Waking Life” movie.

“It’s kind of like D.H. Lawrence had this idea of two people meeting on the road. And instead of just passing and glancing away, they decide to accept what he calls “the confrontation between their souls.” It’s like, um, freeing the brave reckless gods within us all.”

And I believe that he is absolute right. This is something we consciously need to remain aware of and strive to embrace. It is the collection of these small moments in my memories, where I have chosen to avoid connection, that I will now use to fuel my growth.

I can no longer go on hiding from people. Keeping myself hidden from the world. I can no longer walk around like an ant. I don’t want to be an ant. The journey could be too wonderful. I don’t want to have all of these memories of amazing experiences but walk away also remembering all of the moments I missed. Only experiencing half of what I could be. I want to experience this life with you. All of you. So now I strive to enrich my experience even more, by adding the depth of connection. I need it. And I have a feeling you do too. 

Because when it comes down to it we are all in this together. Trying to do the same thing. Survive. In the best possible way we can. And we have the opportunity to help each other do this. Through awareness. And love. So next time we are out in the real world. Let’s make an effort to accept confrontation. By putting ourselves out there. Helping others put themselves out there too. Letting them know it is okay. And by doing this, freeing the brave reckless gods inside of us all.

Follow That Bus

It is 7:45am on December 25, 2018. I wake up to the sound of a man’s voice shouting something. I open one eye and hear the same man talking but there is a curtain separating us. I look toward the bottom of the curtain and can only see his legs as he continues walking to the next person. Where am I? How did I get here. As I look around, my brain becomes less foggy and I start to remember. I am on a bus somewhere in India. I sit up and pull back the curtain that is hanging in between me and the rest of the bus.

About 8 hours ago, I hopped on an overnight bus to get from Hampi to Bangalore and must have fallen asleep. I usually can’t sleep on public transportation but these sleeper buses are so comfortable. They are like a hostel on wheels. I look around. It is daylight outside. Shit, hopefully I didn’t miss my stop. I pull up Google Maps on my phone to see where we are. Yup, totally missed my stop.

Right then, the bus pulls to a screeching stop and I hear the front doors open. Guess I will get off here. I gather my things, walk off the bus, grab my luggage from underneath, and sit down on the curb to figure out where I am and where I need to go. I have a flight later that evening but am not exactly sure what time it takes off. Probably a good thing to check. I reach for my cell phone. Fuckkk. I left it on the bus. I look up just in time to see the bus pull away into the crowded streets of Bangalore.

I am not so much worried about the actual phone (even though it sadly is the most valuable thing I own). I am more worried about all that is saved on my phone. We don’t realize how connected we have become to our cell phones until we don’t have access to them. Our lives have become so entangled into our apps that we can barely function without them. No Spotify. No Uber. No email. No camera. No photos. Without our phones, we are forced to deal with the world the old fashioned way. Although I am a huge believer in disconnecting, it doesn’t change the fact that the info for the rest of my trip is stored on there. All my flights. All my hotel bookings. My entire itinerary for the next 5 months. And Google Maps. My best friend when traveling alone in a foreign land.


The only other people who got off the bus with me at that stop are a nice couple who I had spoken with briefly the evening before. They look over at me and I am sure they can see the despair in my eyes as I sit there on the concrete. They walk over to me and ask if everything is okay. Yes. I left my phone on the bus and don’t know where I am or how I am supposed to call an Uber. I also don’t know what time my flight is. Or how to get to the airport. The length of my answer shows how I immediately jumped into the frustrated, feel sorry for myself mode. This isn’t their problem. I look up at them. Thanks for asking. I appreciate you. I will figure it out.

I sit on the curb and like I do sometimes when I am overwhelmed and lost in a foreign country, I start to cry. Just to let the frustration out of my system. A car pulls up next to us and I see the back passenger door open as the couple starts to get into their Uber. Standing and holding the back passenger door of the car open, they are still looking over at me. I see them whisper to each other as the guy continues to get in the car. The girl walks over to me. She says to me. Come. Get in. We will chase that bus and try to help you find your phone. Wow, okay. Thank you.


I take a seat in the front next to the driver and they sit in the back. They are locals and explain to the driver where we are going and what to do. As the Uber starts to move in the direction of where the bus headed, they repeatedly try to call the bus company to ask where the next stops are and see if they are able to somehow get in contact with the driver. No luck. But this sure is exciting. Kind of like we are in an action movie, chasing a bus that has my cell phone on it. Which has a bomb planted inside. And if we don’t get to it to answer the call when the bad guy calls it. Well, you can imagine the rest. Boom.

We continue to drive for about twenty minutes but it is pretty much just stop and go the entire time. There is so much traffic. I look around. So many buses. Dozens. Seriously they are all over the place. Goats walking the city streets on the sides of the road. A typical scene in India. I turn back to them. Do you guys even remember what color our bus was or what it looks like at all? She smiles and shakes her head no. Me either. Inside I give up. This seems like a hopeless task. I don’t think we are going to find it. If you guys want to just let me out here…Just as I am saying this I hear the back car door open and see the guy get out of the car.

The door slams shut and I see him running ahead of us, in between the hundreds of cars stuck in traffic. I ask her. What is he doing?! Where is he going?! He is going to try to find the bus. Oh my gosh. Wow. Okay. I am unsure what to say. I watch him zigzag through the traffic ahead along side all of the motorbikes, all of them just trying to make their way through all of the stopped cars. I lose sight of him and we both sit there in silence for a few minutes. I am thinking, this dude is crazy. And he is doing this all for me. My heart is melting.

Her cell phone rings. When she hangs up, she tells me. He found the bus but he does not see any cell phone there. He says he will wait on the bus for you. They are pulled on the side of the road a little ways up ahead. Go meet him so that you can look for yourself to make sure.

I open the door of the Uber and step into the now moving traffic. I start running in the middle of two lanes, cars and buses honking on both sides of me as they swerve around me, trying not to hit me. This may seem crazy anywhere else but this is India so I feel like maybe they are used to these kinds of things.

Finally, up ahead, I see a bus pulled over on the side of the road and the guy is standing there waving to me. I head to my seat to see if I can find my phone. Look under the blanket, behind the seat, everywhere. No phone. Well shit. I give the driver my name and email address and ask him to let me know if it turns up. I am now over the loss of my phone, more amazed that we actually found the bus.

We see that the Uber has caught up to us and is making it’s way over through the lanes to the side of the road. It pulls up behind the bus and we both get back in. Hey guys, I appreciate your help and for going out of your way to help me find my phone. That means a lot to me but you can just let me out here and get to where you need to be. I’ll flag down a cab and just head to the airport. No, we will take you to a Starbucks. You will need wifi so that you can use your laptop. Ask someone there for help connecting to the internet. If that doesn’t work, there are two more coffee shops on the corner with wifi. I thank them and hand them money to pay for the Uber. No, no, we won’t take it. We just wanted to help you.


I get to the Starbucks and the girls working there are so sweet helping me get connected and making sure I have everything I need. I spend a few hours there checking my flight times and figuring out where I am going to go once I land. Time to head to the airport. Reach for my phone to order an Uber. Habits. Well this is frustrating. Hmmm, how exactly am I going to get there. I haven’t seen any taxis around here. Ugh.

I promise you that the same second that I am thinking this, a guy at the table in front of me randomly turns around and looks at me. Is there something I can help you with?  Wow can this dude read my mind or what. Hmm actually, I am trying to get to the airport but don’t have a cell phone to order an Uber. He says he can order one for me. Thank you so much, that is so kind of you. I sit down to pack up my laptop and at that exact moment see a new message pop up on Facebook. Hello, Jill. We have your phone and have been trying to get ahold of you. What?! I sit down to reply. Hello! Where are you? They send me their location. Only twenty minutes away. Okay, on my way. The nice guy at Starbucks orders an Uber for me and off I go.


Twenty minutes later, we pull up to the address they gave me. I see two guys standing outside waiting for me. They ask me what my phone looks like to confirm that it is indeed mine and then hand it over. Ahhh! How did you guys find it? They tell me. Our friends did. They said you left it on the bus so they grabbed it for you. Since they had to go to work, we felt like it was our responsibility to track you down. We didn’t want you to look back on your trip to India and remember it as the country where you lost your phone. We want you to remember your time here as enjoyable.

But how did you know who I was or how to contact me if my phone was locked? We noticed the Gelato for Breakfast sticker on the back of your case so we looked it up and found your blog. We then were able to find you through a link to your Facebook page. Wow, I actually had only put that sticker on the night before, when I was on that same bus ride. Talk about synchronicity. 

That is so sweet of you. Thank you. They ask me if I want to come in for some coffee. No, actually I need to get to the airport. Okay, here we will take you to the shuttle. They flag down a tuk-tuk, ride with me to make sure I get on the right shuttle, and even pay for the tuk-tuk ride. I really hope these two guys get everything they want in life and more. By the way, don’t you guys need to be at work or something? No, it is a holiday. It is? Ummm, Christmas. Oh. I didn’t even realize that. Well Merry Christmas! And thanks again.

So here I am, sitting on a bus on my way to the airport. Feeling so loved. India, you are chaotic, crazy, unpredictable, overwhelming, vibrant, and the absolute sweetest. Today I fell into your arms and trusted you and you led the way. You took care of me in a way that warmed my heart and forever left a mark on it. Today, I was reminded how many times when you need help, people seem to randomly appear in your life out of nowhere. Even if only for a moment. To help lead you in the right direction. By saying something you needed to hear. Or helping you in some way, to move forward so that you don’t stay stuck.

For me, these lovely strangers seemed to fall into my life that day at exactly the right moment. One after the other. All in order. As if the Universe was planting them there for me to guide me. In the direction of not only finding my cell phone, but also toward remembering that sometimes not being ‘connected’ on your phone can lead you down a path of real, deeper connection. By forcing you to live in the moment and interact with all that is around you. The love I felt today was a way greater gift than getting my phone back. I may be far away from all of my friends and family this year, but this was a day I will never forget. On Christmas, you reminded me that the greatest gift of all is the gift of love and connection.

Let Go of Your Ego and Get in the Water

I seem like a surfer girl. I really do. A California girl with long, blonde hair. Very chill. Extremely cool. Great style. 😉 You know all of the things. But up until recently, I had never actually tried to surf. Not even once. I have wanted to. Really. Just never did. I still travel to all of the cool hidden surfer destinations. Cause they are totally my vibe. There, the people I meet are surprised I don’t surf. They say to me. Awww, you have never even tried surfing? Why not? I reply. No man. The water is too cold in California. There are too many great whites. I work too many hours to have time. All excuses really. (Although they are based around truth which makes it easier for me to convince myself to believe them.) Because honestly, the real reason I never had tried is simply because I didn’t want to look like an idiot. I wanted to be cool and impress people. Not show them how I have no idea what I am doing.


I don’t know at what age this starts in people but I do know my nephew suffers from the same thing. He is nine. A few months ago when I was last in town, we all went to the roller rink. Sunday Funday. So we get out there in the rink and start skating. Having a great time for about five minutes. Then out of the corner of my eye, I see my nephew start to go down. Ut oh. He loses his balance and falls to the ground. He is embarrassed. My heart feels for him. It’s okay dude. Everyone falls. He gets angry. Obviously using this to cover his embarrassment. My heart again. Ahhh. Love. Anyways, he skates off of the floor, sits down on a bench in the corner, and says he doesn’t want to skate anymore. No words can convince him otherwise. Even if we pretend to fall also. His ego is strong. At nine years old. Which means this conditioning happens early. But how early?

Imagine if a one year old already had this ego developed. And that at one, he cares what people think about him. One day he is crawling and sees the coffee table out of the corner of his eye. He crawls over to it. His parents are watching. He grabs on. Begins to pull himself up. But immediately falls back down, right on his butt. He starts crying. His parents laugh. Embarrassed, he then thinks to himself, well that is the last time I am going to try that. Then goes on to live the rest of his life crawling because he doesn’t want to look like an idiot. He doesn’t want to feel the rejection and humiliation again that he felt that first day he tried and ‘failed’.

If our egos took ahold of us that early, can you imagine? Grown men and women crawling around because their pride is too strong? 


Luckily, babies aren’t conditioned to think this way yet, so they keep pushing through. But as children or adults, somewhere we let the ego start to control our decisions and dictate what we will and won’t do. We stop doing things simply because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable. We don’t want to look dumb in front of others. How sad we have become.

Even if you don’t believe you are like this, because you are sure you don’t care what other people think, you are at least able to witness it in others. When someone tries something, does it poorly, and then gets embarrassed. Or someone refuses to try something and you don’t understand why they won’t even try.

I have even seen the most narcissistic people who ‘believe’ they are amazing at everything, act this way. One day I asked one of these types to come and ride a bicycle to the beach with me. He said he wasn’t interested in riding a bicycle and therefore didn’t want to hang out with me. Hmmm okay. I later find out that he just doesn’t know how to ride one. He has never learned. HIs ego was probably developed too strongly before he ever had the chance to learn. So instead of trying now, or even telling me that, he stayed at home and gave up a potentially delightful day at the beach. Or a chance for me to teach him how to ride one!


Regardless of when it happens, one day we go from being fearless and not even thinking about the opinions of others, to another day refusing to try new things because we don’t want to feel inferior.

So how do we stop letting pride get in the way of our experience? I don’t think this is something we are actually ever are taught how to overcome. Instead, we have just learned how to deal with it. We cover it up by becoming the class clown and giving others an actual reason to laugh. Or we use it as motivation to focus on becoming better at things we are actually good at. Or we convince ourselves we aren’t interested in doing the thing we are bad at anyways. There are many ways we learn to avoid feeling rejection. But why do we care so much what other people think?

Instead of learning something as an adult, we would rather not even try because there is a chance we will ‘fail’. And by ‘fail’ I mean look stupid in front of another person. I think this is something that we need to face head on. Something we need to practice by willingly putting ourselves in these types of situations. To actually work to eliminate the hold our ego has on us. It is the only way to get back to that baby-like mindset we once had. 


So back to my surfing story. I am pretty self aware and notice times when I act this way myself. Because of this, I have started to embrace doing things I am scared to do. Especially if I am scared to do them because I don’t want people to look down on me. So I decided I want to learn to surf. Because it looks like so much fun and I love the ocean. But I have met so many cool people who surf and that makes it even harder for me to push my ego out of the way. Cool people watching me try to stand up on the board and fall? Eeeek.

And they very well might actually be judging me. But at some point, didn’t they also have to learn to do this for the first time too? Where did the empathy go?

Anyways, in Sri Lanka, at the age of 35, I sign up for my first surfing lesson. It is scheduled to happen in two days. When I check in to my guesthouse, I see the instructor. He casually says, how about we do it tomorrow morning instead? Tomorrow? That is in like 12 hours. That is way too soon. Too soon for me to look like an idiot. I need time to prepare myself. Or talk myself out of it completely. I need more time. But I immediately realize what is happening. My ego. So I tell him, okay, tomorrow is cool. I am nervous. But whatever, I am doing it. So why not tomorrow.

In the morning, I wake up and sit in my room for awhile before we leave in order to give myself a pep talk. To change my mindset. Girl you got this. Who cares what anyone thinks. You are in Sri Lanka and will never see these people again. Just learn this, get through it, and enjoy the process.

I am ready. As we head to the beach, even around my instructor I am feeling a little insecure because he has been surfing for years. Is he thinking in his head, man another loser amateur I have to try and teach. But I continue to tell myself. Ugh. I know it sucks for you dude. But this is for me. I decide who gives a shit. I am here to learn. For myself. Because I want to. Not to impress this dude.


It turns out, I am able to keep this mindset throughout the entire lesson. I soon realize that when I am dedicated to learning, I actually have no time to even think those kind of negative thoughts. There is too much going on. Noticing my body position on the board. Watching for the incoming waves. Knowing when to start paddling. When to stand up. Making sure my feet are planted in the right places for balance. For two straight hours, I am fully present. I even once get knocked (really freaking hard) in the head with the board. I don’t even care. I realize no one else cares either. And if they do, it doesn’t matter to me.

It occurs to me that I have embraced the same mindset I must have had as a baby. That fearless keep trying mindset when I learned to walk. The only difference is that as an adult, I had to talk myself into it. Earlier in life, we don’t have all of these self defeating ego centered type of thoughts. You see, babies don’t give a fuck. They don’t know any better. And that is how I want to learn to be again. That is how I am learning to be again. And surfing, for me, is a great way to practice this.

I think we all should try to be more like we were as babies. And in order to do that, we need to recognize when we are letting our egos keep us from experiencing life. These moments are huge opportunities. Opportunities to practice putting our egos aside and not caring if we look like a fool. Opportunities to remind ourselves that if we had this mindset earlier in life, we may not be walking or talking today.

Realize it is only the fear we have learned in our lives that is now holding us back. If we can overcome this, there is so much more in life that we can experience. Babies don’t give a shit and neither should we. Let’s remember this and use it to become, and to stay, fearless. Because it is when we are fearless that we open up the door to unforgettable experiences and the confidence that comes with that. And who knows, you may even enjoy your life a little more.

Hugs, Caramel, and Cocaine


Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, known throughout the world as Amma (meaning “Mother”), is a spiritual leader who has millions of followers across the world. For those who see the world through the lens of social media, she has 15 million Facebook fans if that tells you anything.

Amma is all about love. She believes in helping others and providing them with the comfort they need during times of struggle. (Hence the nickname, “Mother.”) She is known for giving a hug to everyone who stays at her ashram to bless them. She has hugged over 34 million people and been known to sit in the same spot for more than 22 hours without interruption while she does this. Talk about dedication. I love hugs. I guess that means I am going to India.


Two months later, I am in India. Arrive at the ashram. After checking in, I head to my room to drop off my backpack. I am surrounded by people dressed in white. On my right, a girl doing yoga on the shaded grassy area under a tree. On my left, a couple are sitting next to each other meditating.

While the vibe is peaceful, the ashram is actually really busy this week. Thousands of people are here. Some for the night, others for a few months. You can tell the ones who are staying longer term because they seem to take a sense of ownership over the operations of the place. Their confidence and sense of purpose here almost seems sort of cliquey to me. Like they are on the inside and I am an outsider. But that is most likely in my head.

I walk past a table with a woman selling jewelry. She holds out a necklace with a single rudraksha bead on it. “This seed came from Amma’s womb. Amma birthed it.” Hmmm. What does that even mean? Hopefully they have washed it since.


After breakfast, I see a table with a sign reading, “Come here to get your token for darshan (aka blessing aka hug).” Easy enough. I head that way and the guy sitting there hands me a token with Q1 written on it. He tells me this indicates which group I am in. Once I see the sign in front display Q1, I should get in line to go on stage. I look up and see that the sign currently reads A1. I look back down at the guy who gave me the token. He shrugs and says, “Busy day. Try coming back around 7:00pm.” It is currently 9:30am and Amma is already on stage doing her thing. Hundreds lined up to see her. So. Many. People. 

The energy here is…hopeful. From those I have spoken with and the vibes of everyone around me, it seems that many have come here in search of something. Something that is missing in their lives. Others are going through a transition and seeking guidance from the divine. While the people here are friendly, I can sort of feel a sense hopelessness in the air, longing to be filled. The healing everyone is striving to find. Not many say hello or smile at me. They are here for their own purpose. To find themselves. Not to make friends with me.

Most of Amma’s followers truly believe that she is a saint. I can see it in the way they look at her. How they talk about her. Like she is the answer. She is their God. At lunch, a man tells me a story. He explains that once a guy with leprosy came to see Amma in hopes of being cured by her blessing. He waited in line for hours and hours. Once he finally got to Amma, she took him in her arms and pulled him onto her lap like a baby. She started stroking the hair on his head. Then began licking his skin. With her teeth, started slowly pulling off the infected skin until he was completely cured. “It’s true,” he says. “He still comes to her ashram to this very day to pay her thanks.” I am not really sure how to respond to this so I tell him, “Oh, cool.”

It is slightly strange for me to see individuals worship another living human being. I mean aren’t we all equally one? I get it that people do worship other human beings. Like sports figures or singers. People appreciate and admire their talent and therefore the body attached to that talent. And maybe people appreciate Amma’s talent and her selflessness. But it seems more than that. I guess we are all just looking for someone to look up to. And instead of a Michael Jordan type figure, they choose Amma.


The sun has gone down and it is finally time for my group to line up on stage and receive our hugs. Amma is in the center of the stage. Dozens of her followers are sitting on the floor surrounding her. While waiting for our turn, we watch Amma hug the others in line before us. Some bring her gifts. Flowered garland necklaces. A basket of apples and oranges.

We see a woman present her with a can of caramel. Amma blesses it and then passes it behind her, to her assistant. Her assistant opens the can and hands it down to be passed around stage . One by one, I watch people stick their finger in, say a prayer of thanks, and then close their eyes as they put their finger in their mouth. Rubbing the caramel off on their tongue. Savoring the flavor. The look on their face tells me they truly believe the caramel is blessed. And by eating it, they are now blessed as well.

Watching them do this reminds me of watching someone do cocaine. After snorting a line, the way they slowly run their finger around the plate. Picking up the last drops of powder. Then opening their mouths to rub it around on their gums, enjoying every last drop. I guess everyone just wants to be healed. Some with caramel, some with cocaine. The former maybe just slightly better for the soul.

I am in a chair. A woman sitting at my feet looks up at me and lifts the can of caramel towards me. She is staring into my eyes as if to say yes, please go ahead. As if encouraging me to share in this experience with them. I grab the can, take some on my pinkie, and pass it along to the next person. As I lick it off my finger, I don’t feel any different, but I do enjoy the feeling of togetherness that surrounds me. Completely in the moment amongst thousands of strangers. The experience is powerful.


When it is almost my turn to hug Amma, everything starts happening really fast. One second, I am sitting there in a chair on stage facing the audience. Someone hands me a wet wipe to wash off my face. To not get makeup on Amma. They explain I am not to touch her. The next moment, a member of her staff grabs my hand and whispers for me to kneel down, facing Amma, behind the person she is currently hugging. Someone then says, “Go, go, go! It is your turn.” I move forward, while someone pushes me lightly from behind, closer to Amma’s chair.

Her assistants place my hands on each side of her, making sure I don’t touch her. I am trying to balance but slightly unstable like all of the sudden I may awkwardly fall face forward into her lap. She grabs my head and places it against the side of her cheek. Her arms embrace me and my nose is instantly filled with the scent of roses. She whispers some sort of blessing into my ear and then pushes me away when she is done. Handing me a piece of candy and a packet of ash as I stand up to leave the stage. Her team sort of lead me along and out of the way.

As I walk down the stairs, I notice the vibe has totally changed from earlier in the day. The nighttime atmosphere with lights hanging all around. People standing around talking. Laughing. There is happy Indian music playing in the background. It feels similar to a carnival. There is a feeling of ecstasy in the air. The energy is high. Everyone feeling euphoric after receiving healing through Amma’s loving embrace. Full of hope and gratitude. It is such a good place to be. I don’t feel any different after receiving a hug myself, but am definitely enjoying the energy of everyone else. I stop for a second to take it all in.


While some parts of this experience are slightly harder for me to grasp, I always love to meet people who really believe in something. And who are passionate about it. Whether Amma really has God like powers or not, I suppose it honestly does not matter. If someone believes something to be true, doesn’t that make it so? For them at least? And as long as that belief helps them in any way, I am all for it. Thoughts are a powerful thing. And so is perspective.

Amma preaches love and healing for all individuals. This definitely make her an incredible person to worship. As humans, we are drawn to the qualities in others that we want to have ourselves. We also want to believe in something bigger that inspires us to grow. Whether we get that from Amma, or something/someone else, I don’t think it matters. What is important is that we have something, anything, in our lives that makes us feel this way. That inspires us to turn inward and continuously grow. To live our best lives. We have all of the answers inside of us. Maybe some people just need to be led to Amma in order to find them.


More Info

Indian Website

US Website

European Website


  • Amritapuri Ashram is located in India’s southern state of Kerala. Prior to visiting, it is best to register online using one of the websites listed on the left below. To stay here it is around $4 USD per day which includes housing and three meals per day.

Getting There: The two closest airports are in Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) and in Cochin (Kochi). The ride from Trivandrum takes about 3 hours. From Cochin, the drive takes around 4 hours.

If you are coming by bus or train, Kayamkulam and Karunagappally are the major cities to reach. From there, take an auto-rickshaw to Parayakadavu. Ask the driver to take you to Amritapuri Asram, seaside.