Why Obstacles Are a Blessing


Last June, in Paje, Zanzibar, I am sitting at a hostel bar on the beach. Toes in the sand, drink in my hand. Talking to a girl from the States that I met earlier that day. After a few drinks she is telling me about how she has been traveling for a few months and planned to indefinitely. I am inspired and tell her that is exactly what I want to do. I would love to travel and focus on writing. She asks, then why don’t you? Hmmm. Good question. Because I love my job. I am happy. I make good money. But I do really want to.

We end up drinking more (and more) and later that night she records a dark video of my drunk ass sitting next to her, looking right into the camera saying, I quit my job! I am going to travel the world! Arms flailing and everything. I do hope I never see that video but also kind of want to because that moment in a way, changed my life.

While I say this on her video, I do mean it but still have a few doubts in the back of my head. How can I leave such a great job that I have worked so hard to obtain? How can I leave all of my friends? What if I travel and never meet anyone because I am always moving around from place to place? How will I make money?

The fear talking. The same fear that talks to you anytime uncertainty is present. When someone breaks up with you and you are heartbroken. What if I don’t meet anyone else? Why don’t they love me? Is something wrong with me? What if I am alone forever? Or you get fired from your job. What am I going to do now? How will I make money? How will I pay rent? Or even when you have a good relationship and you are the one who is thinking about ending it. What if I am just scared of commitment? What if they are the best person for me and I am going to mess it up? What if I hurt them? Who will I be friends with now? What will I do on the weekends? You get the point. Fear makes you question everything. It wants to keep you safe.

The Boy

So on that same trip I end up meeting a guy who is an expat living in Tanzania. We will call him The Boy. I think the Universe knows that love is the quickest way to get me to make moves in my life. I am naturally a lover. So I meet The Boy. We spend 5 days together, every minute of those 5 days. Together. I meet his friends, we talk about our deepest fears. What we want in life. What makes us happiest. What we wish was different about ourselves. And we laugh. So much. More than I have laughed in a long time.

It is the first time in years that I immediately click with someone. Being with him feels natural. Like I can be myself completely. I really like him. I tell him about my conversation with the girl at the hostel and the video. The next day, he says, I have a crazy idea. If you really do want to quit your job and travel, you are welcome to come stay at my place for free and use it as a home base to save you money. You can come here when you want, write, and then travel when you feel like it. He says I know it sounds crazy but I really like spending time with you and I haven’t felt this way in a long time.

And it IS pretty crazy. We have only known each other for a little over one week but I am all about doing what feels right. I tell him I will think about it but it does sound like something I am interested in. Isn’t this just the Universe handing me a way out to get where I wanted to be? 


A few days later, my holiday is over and I am back in Los Angeles at work. I still feel burned out even though I just got back from a three week long vacation. All I can think about is traveling. And what I said in the video. When she recorded it, my soul felt excited. I ask the Universe for guidance to help me decide if I should make a move.

A few days later at the office, we are called into a meeting. Our boss announces that our department is going to go through a major re-org and my position will be eliminated. I am not being fired but will most likely need to take a position in San Francisco or New York if I want to stay. Wow.

It has been two weeks since I left Tanzania and I am still talking to The Boy every day. Video chatting in the morning and again in the evening. We are officially dating now. He is my boyfriend. I have a boyfriend. I tell him what happened at work and how I think this is a sign that I should leave. It is the perfect time to make the move and live the life I have always wanted. He agrees.

I still decide to interview for the other positions to give myself some options. To be safe. So I do. And I somehow end up being offered an even better job, my dream job. But in San Francisco. Shit now what do I do. It is funny because on the airplane on the way home from Tanzania, I was reading the You Are a Badass book and there is a part that says when you make a major decision in the direction of your dreams, you will be tested to see how badly you want it. This is my test.

I still take some time to think about it. So many times I stare at the contract and almost hit the ‘Sign and Submit’ buttons. The job is amazing, one that many people would dream of having. I should take it. It is the responsible thing to do. I have worked so hard for it over the last three years. It is a huge pay increase, with a company I love. It is safe. But there is still part of me that feels like I am supposed to travel.


At this point, it has been three months since I met The Boy and we are still going strong. But I love California. One day I decide I want to stay. The next I decide to leave. The Boy didn’t ever ask me to turn down the job but did make it clear he really wanted us to be together. So I finally make a decision. The number one reason for my decision, which I think is really important, is that when I think about taking the job in San Francisco, it doesn’t make my soul excited. But every time I think about traveling, I get butterflies. Still a part of me must confess that the relationship is what helps put me over the edge. I am in love. So I turn down the job and leave the company. It is the hardest decision I have ever had to make. Believe me, I cried for 3 days straight when I left. Just ask anyone on my team.

I buy a one way plane ticket to fly back to Tanzania. To live with The Boy. I am super excited. I will finally be in a happy relationship. It has been a few years since I have been in one and I am so ready for it. And even more importantly, I get to travel and write. Everything I have been wanting. Life is fabulous.

The week before my flight to move to Tanzania, The Boy starts acting weird. He is telling me strange stories and seems stressed when he is telling them. I never really understood anything he was saying but long story short, I find out he has had a serious girlfriend for the past 4 years. As in he still has this girlfriend and doesn’t plan on leaving her. Then why was he encouraging me to come live with him? Why would he even want to? What was the point? How did he even have time to talk to anyone else? We talked all of the time. He was so sweet to me.

My heart is broken. I am pretty angry he sat there and watched me turn down my dream job when he knew our whole relationship was a lie. I cancel my flight. Now here I am with no job, no income, no plan, no boyfriend. For a little while, this is pretty hard for me to deal with. A few days before, my life was “perfect”. Now, everything has changed.


I am sad for about a week. Thankfully, I quickly realize I am now free to do anything I want. Anything. And it also occurs to me that if I hadn’t met him, I would have most likely taken the job offer and moved to San Francisco. And that isn’t what my heart really wanted. But I couldn’t see it then. It was like he was sent in my life just to give me a reason to not take the job. And then when I turned it down and was on the right path, his job was over and he was gone. And we haven’t spoken since. Now here I am, traveling the world. Living the life I said I would that night on the video.

The reason I am telling this story is because of all of the times in my life when I wasn’t able to see things this way.  Especially when my heart was broken. I didn’t realize I had the ability to change my perspective at any given moment. When life came crashing down, I didn’t think I could handle it. I have stayed in dark places for way too long. And someone reading this may be there now. I want to help you. Others may see my life from the outside and think there are no obstacles. Think I am always happy. Wish they could have the balls to chase after their dreams like I am. I want to show you that I am the same as anyone else. I have doubts. The fear makes me question things. There are obstacles. There is heartbreak. The difference is that in any situation, I am now able to see the bigger picture and be thankful that this is leading me in a new direction even if I don’t know yet where that direction is heading to. I don’t stay stuck questioning them. Or try to hold on to the life that was taken from me. It is okay to be unhappy, it is part of life. But while you are unhappy, you can still train your mind to see that this will all change. And this situation may even be the biggest blessing of your life.

Okay, okay. When something hurts us, it is not always easy to see this. One thing I do want to mention is that this does not make it okay for others to treat us badly. Or for us to justify their behavior. But after someone does hurt us, we shouldn’t let them keep hurting us, long after they are gone, by staying stuck in it. It also doesn’t mean to live your life always faking it. Thinking positively does now mean you have to always try to be happy and not feel anything. Feeling the emotions is part of the process. The point is to learn how to feel them without letting them consume you. Not letting your fear keep you stuck in the pain. Keep in mind that you are being guided to something greater. Feel the emotions. And once you are ready, let the situation go and be thankful you are heading in a new direction. With endless possibilities. You can now do anything you want.


What if all obstacles are lessons, detours in the right direction? If you genuinely knew this, would you be able to embrace them more lovingly?

Think about a time in your past when something happened that shifted your life in a new direction. It wasn’t what you had planned. You were comfortable. You were happy. You felt like you were unwillingly forced to start over. Your boyfriend or girlfriend broke up with you. You got fired from your job. You didn’t get the job you knew was meant for you. Something happened that messed up “your plan.” A time when you were so hurt that you didn’t think things would ever get better.

Now think about where you are now. Something you love about your life. Somewhere in your life where you wouldn’t be if that situation had never happened. You see, sometimes the most painful obstacles or “setbacks” arise because it is the only way to get you to move on a different path. We can all feel when something isn’t right. When we aren’t quite where we always dreamed we would be. When we are craving more. But we are comfortable. We are stuck. Something major needs to happen in order to set us free. It is the only possible thing that can happen where we will finally leave the situation we are stuck in.


While obstacles can be extremely painful, I challenge you to embrace them. Blindly. Without judgement. Without needing to know why you are in this situation or what is in store for you in the future. Try to have faith in yourself that everything will be okay. When you let go of the life you planned, you never know where you will end up. All you have to do is train your mind to see the opportunity. And be thankful. Always.

Using Your Own Breath to Reach an Altered State


I had recently started going to group meditation classes on my lunch break to get away from my computer for a minute in order to avoid getting burned out. I was sitting at my desk on a particularly stressful day and decided it was a good day to meditate. I looked up classes nearby and there was one that I had never heard of before, called Breathwork, but it was the only one at 12:00pm. I signed up, grabbed my purse, and headed that way. Breathwork. Sounds like another one of those yoga classes that focuses on various breathing techniques. Hopefully jeans and a hoodie are okay to wear because that is all I had with me.

I arrive and wait in the main lobby with about 20 other individuals. The bell chimes signaling that class is about to begin. The door to the meditation room opens and we all walk in. There are mats on the ground all around facing the front where the teacher sits. I grab a blanket, choose a mat, and sit down. The teacher introduces a new breathing technique that I have never heard of before. She tells us that we will be breathing through our mouths only, in a three breath rhythm. One breath into the stomach, another into the chest, and then one breath out. Breathing as deeply as we can but rapidly. She will guide us through the process over the next hour. 


We all lie down on our backs and she begins breathing loudly making it easy for us to mimic her. It is sort of similar to the breathing one learns during a lamaze class if you can imagine that. She dims the lights and turns on some evocative music. Our journey begins. I start to breathe in and out through my mouth in this rhythm which is slightly more intense than how I breathe on a regular basis. I get a little lightheaded but keep going. I am honestly pretty skeptical that simply breathing will do much for me but want to at least try. I can hear others breathing softly all around me.

At first, I am a little self conscious to breath so loudly where others can hear me. I think the people around me feel the same as they are more on the quiet side even though the teacher is coaching us, telling us to breathe more deeply. She then turns down the music and asks everyone to scream as loud as they can on the count of three. 1,2,3…ahhh! Everyone is giggling. She tells us to do it again but even louder this time. 1,2,3…AHHHHHHH! There is something about letting yourself go and not caring what anyone else around you thinks of you. That is exactly how I felt and it seemed that others did as well and now the awkward tension has left the air. We are all in this together.

The music gets more powerful and she continues to instruct us on breathing but more intensely now. After about 10 minutes, I all of the sudden feel waves of energy radiating all over my body. My senses are heightened. It is dark, my cells seem to all be vibrating as I lie there on the ground with my eyes closed. I hear the girl behind me sobbing. Her emotions seem to roll over me like a wave where I can feel them throughout my body. I continue breathing, more deeply as I want this feeling to stay. At that moment, I feel tears pouring down my cheeks. I am crying? I had no idea. 


Twenty minutes in, the energy is so intense throughout my body that I cannot move. Really, I try moving my hands and can’t. My jaw is numb and my hands have formed into a lobster claw like shape. I try to release my fingers and lift my hands off the ground but I am unable to do either. This is slightly unsettling and I wonder if my body can handle this anymore. But I keep going.

The music gets louder. She says to keep breathing. My head is spinning. I still can’t move my hands and now my arms are paralyzed too. I can’t move anything. My body is sweating. Memories come to me. I just watch them flash by. I think of my parents. Times I have misunderstood them. I now see a new way that they need my love. I think about the stress I have been feeling about whether I should take the new job I was offered. I feel like this burden is lifted off of me and I realize everything will be okay. I keep breathing. I feel the energy flowing. A tingling sensation in my hands, shooting through my arms, all the way down to my toes. I keep breathing and allow it to take over my body. I can hear people laughing. Crying. I am feeling all of these things. As my eyes are closed, I start to see swirls of color. Purple and green. 


The music then becomes softer and the song changes. A woman is singing. Loud and passionately about love. Like a song you belt out in the shower right after you break up with someone. One of those songs that makes you feel something. She says now to begin to slow our breathing. The same song is still playing and I can feel the passion in the lyrics throughout my entire body. It is so emotional. But at the same time, my body starts to relax. Although I am more relaxed, the energy in the room is still intense as we are all coming down. The music comes to an end and the room is silent. We all lie there in the darkness, silent for a minute. She says to stay there as long as we need to.

I take a deep breath in through my nose and blow all of it out through my mouth. I can finally move my hards again. I lift them up and feel my face. There are tears running down my cheeks. I wipe them away. My body is slightly trembling, as I can still feel the vibrations that penetrated through my entire body only minutes before. I open my eyes and sit up slowly. I continue to just sit there. Others get up and go talk to the teacher about their experience. Ask questions. I am still in a trance. There is no way I can drive right now. I don’t know what just happened but it was liberating.

This experience was so unexpected. Only an hour ago, I was sitting at my desk having a normal day at work. And then I come here and have such an intense experience. It feels like I have let go of emotions that I have been holding on to for years. Throughout my life, I have tried various methods, therapy, self-help, meditation, etc. but this was the first one that I feel really got to the core and helped me let go. I feel free. I slowly get up and walk around for a minute. I walk over to the teacher, hug her,  and tell her thank you for everything. I open up the door and go outside. The sun is bright, a huge contrast from the dark room I was just in for the past hour. It is a perfect summer day in Los Angeles. The birds are chirping. I just take it all in. I feel different. Better. What just happened in there? There is no way I can go back to work right now.

I drive home in silence. Smiling. Completely present. Noticing everything around me. When I get home, I sit down and start thinking about what just happened. How can something we are constantly doing (breathing) get you to that altered state so quickly? And physically paralyze your body. I already want to do it again. But it was so intense. Is it safe? I have to know more.


When I get home, I look up breathwork. I learn that there are two main types. Holotropic Breathwork and Rebirthing. The main difference is that with Holotropic Breathwork, you breath through your mouth. With Rebirthing, you breathe through your nose. Holotropic Breathwork was developed by Dr. Stanislav Gof, one of the earliest researchers of LSD and the therapeutic effects of psychedelics on the mind. But then in the 70’s the federal government cracked down on LSD research which eliminated all of Gof’s funding.

He then decided to continue his research but without drugs. He studied the way his subjects were breathing when they were on LSD and replicated this same breathing with his new subjects. He found that “by forcefully inhaling and exhaling for equal amounts of time, at an increasing speed, one is able to enter an altered state of consciousness*”. Grof defines the holotropic state as “those that are beyond the normal waking consciousness, having a mystical quality to them that can sometimes be reached through meditation and use of psychedelic drugs, and in some cases through spontaneous emergence. Grof argues that these states have inherent healing mechanisms, similar to a body’s immunological or histological response to distress. Setting an intention for healing and psychospiritual growth when accessing the holotropic states initiates a process of self-repair of the psyche, he explains.*”

As far as the lobster claw hands and paralysis I experienced, I learned that this is called tetany; a convulsive tension that can be triggered by a deficiency of carbon dioxide in the blood (which resulted from all of the rapid, shallow breathing we were doing). This is completely normal during breathwork sessions and can be controlled by changing your breathing. It is harmless as far as I have read in my research (but don’t quote me on that), but if you get panic attacks easily, it would be a good idea to make sure to do one on one breathwork sessions instead of group sessions. This way you always have the teacher there to talk you through it.


Since this first experience, I have continued my breathwork journey and do believe it is proof that much healing can be done from within. I have tried both Holotropic Breathwork and Rebirthing and believe they have the same benefits. My experience with Rebirthing was slightly more intense for me even though the technique is calmer and seems to be more gentle on the body. For that reason, I do prefer Rebirthing going forward. Regardless of if you breath through your mouth or nose, every session will be different. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry, sometimes I just feel. I don’t see colors all of the time but when I do, it is delightful. As with anything, if you go in without expectations, you will be given the exact experience you need at that moment.

I still think about that day at my office. And how it unexpectedly turned into a day that I will remember forever. My intuition told me to take a break and sign up for that class even though I had never heard of it before. I didn’t question it, I just did it. And it ended up giving me exactly what I had been needing. Life is great like that. When you listen, you are most often rewarded. Whether you meditate or not, do or don’t do yoga, or are spiritual at all. I highly recommend you try a breathwork session. It just might change your life.



Below are the main websites for each type of breathwork where you can find more info, a list of practitioners, and workshops.


Holotropic Breathwork


Below are a list of the breathwork centers where I have done group sessions and would highly recommend. I will add to this list as I find more that I think have a good atmosphere.

Unplug Meditation

12401 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 101, Los Angeles, CA 90025

Unplug Meditation is where I had my first experience and many after that. They have various teachers and sessions at different times of day throughout the week. You can also book through ClassPass. 🙂

Pyramids of Chi

Jalan Kelebang Moding No. 22 Banjar Bentuyung Ubud 

Tegallalang, Tegallalang, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571

Every Wednesday, Daniel (Suntara) Coates and his wife, Rosarmy, lead a 2 hour Rebirthing & Sound Healing session that I highly recommend. Daniel has over 13 years of experience as a Sound Healer and Rebirther.

Additional Resources*

Entering A Psychedelic State – Without Psychedelics: Inside Holotropic Breathwork

Why a Breathing Technique That Makes You Trip – Without Drugs – Should Be Your New Year’s Resolution (Vogue)

I Was Told That Breathwork Turns Your Hands Into Lobster Claws and Eviscerates Your Soul (LA Mag)

Principles of Holotropic Breathwork

Rebirthing vs. Breathwork

A Trip in Tulum

Trippin’ in Tulum

A guy from Berlin. A girl from Singapore. Me from the States. We met in our hostel in Tulum. They ask if I want to go and have some dinner and drinks tonight. Yes. He also has some acid we can take. Why not. This is Mexico, I feel at home here.

We take the acid and leave. We get to dinner, sitting on the back patio of a cute outdoor restaurant. White string lights hanging up, soft music playing in the background. She looks at me. It hasn’t hit me yet, she says. When will it hit? I say, it is not something that hits you. You just feel it. How will I know? You will just know.

It is her first time. I can tell she is still waiting for it to hit. Don’t worry, you will feel it. Maybe I should take some more. Okay.

We continue eating. I smiled at a guy as he was passing our table. When he comes back, he sits down to talk to us. He lives in Tulum. In an instant, it starts pouring down rain. We head back inside of the bar for cover. He walks up to us, now with his friend. There is a mojito bar across the road. He is pointing. Let’s go there. The five of us head that way. We all order mojitos, cheers, and the vibe has changed. We are laughing, dancing, taking turns spinning the big metal wheel that squeezes the juice out of the sugar cane. We are all enjoying the moment, just happy to be there. We take group selfies, videos, all of us laughing. These are the moments that replay in my head. I still don’t feel anything, she says. You will.

He says, let’s go back to my place and make some drinks and smoke a joint. My car is parked right over there. We nod, still smiling. All lost in the moment, not wanting it to end. We walk down the dark road, get in his car, and he starts driving. There is one minute where we are heading down a pitch black gravel road surrounded by only trees. The type of trees that arch over the road and sort of turn the road into a tunnel. No houses in sight. She and I look at each other. As we exchange glances it is clear we are thinking the same thing. Were we too trusting? Uhh excuse me, are we almost there? My heart is all of the sudden racing. This is how it ends. Easily this could happen and it makes sense. We don’t know him. At all.

Also, I am on acid. Senses are heightened. I was lost in the mood, craving more connection. This feeling can change in an instant. When you are on acid, your walls are nonexistent. Which is why it is so easy to have a bad trip sometimes. You have nothing to protect you. But on the other side, it shows you how life could be like if we all let our walls down. It is a truly beautiful thing.

We turn the corner. A neighborhood. Here we are. We pull in the driveway. Waves of relief and a smile on our faces. Silly us.

We get out of the car and walk inside. There is a Christmas tree on the front porch. We walk inside. There, we find a small white dog with a black circle dot on the top of his head. All moods are good now. We sit around the island bar in the kitchen. Make cocktails. Light up a joint, pass it around while listening to Paloma del Cerro. Some of us sit on the floor, talking about music, art, and life. Two of the guys are dancing around the living room. I sit with the dog. Just watching and taking it all in.

I head over to my friend who is sitting at the bar in the kitchen. Everything okay? I love how we are all here right now. We went out and had no idea this is where the night would take us. And we are all connecting so deeply. Growing up in Singapore, I have always been taught to stay reserved. I have never experienced anything like this. I am happy being able to connect with you guys. She is crying. Now I am crying. Girl, NOW you are feeling it. We laugh. What a beautiful moment. One I will never forget. 

The acid may have been in us, but the feelings are real. The acid just removes your blockages to feeling them. You are so aware of your surroundings and the energy of the people around you. Human connection at its finest.

Two more dogs come. They are hairless Mexican dogs. I don’t know if you have ever seen one. But if not, they have almost human skin, black and white, moles and all. Their bodies are almost reptilian. They are absolutely beautiful and their energy is intense. In the past, they have been used as healers. When someone is sick, they lay on their body providing warmth and healing. But also I instantly feel as if they can see straight into my soul. One comes over to me, sits down, and stares directly in my eyes.

All 8 of us hang out there in that room for hours. Five people, three dogs, all just enjoying each other’s company. We didn’t know each other five hours ago. We all walked into each other’s lives at different times that day and ended up here in this room, together sharing this amazing evening.

I have been lucky enough to experience these types of moments sporadically throughout my life. Drugs or no drugs. To have these moments, you simply must remain open to them. Say yes more often. Go where your heart leads you. It is these moments that will change your life and leave you always craving more. There is something so wonderful about just being present and really connecting with people. Seeing who they are without a mask. Letting your walls down and being comfortable to be your truest, most authentic self. These are the moments I travel for. These are the moments I live for. Nothing else is better.

NOTE: Drugs are illegal in Mexico. And so are strangers. Be careful with both. Always trust your intuition.

10 Days Inside My Head


Prior to my trip to India, I was searching online for breathwork sessions there and somehow ended up on the Vipassana website. 10 days of silence? Sounds interesting. I then read a few blogs from others who had done it and it sounded pretty challenging which enticed me even more. I honestly applied without really even thinking about it. Previously, I had only meditated about 3 hours per week max (but usually more like 1 hour), in a group meditation setting, on my lunch break (Class Pass was the best). When I applied, I didn’t know anything about the Vipassana technique itself. Only that during the 10 days of the course, one is to follow a strict schedule including over 10 hours of meditation per day, and keep noble silence the entire time. Perfect for me because I actually prefer not talking over talking.


Vipasana: To see things as they really are, [to see] the true nature of reality

Vipassana is one of India’s most ancient types of meditation, a way of “self-transformation through self-observation”. Although it is said that Vipassana was discovered by the Buddha, the technique itself, along with the courses, are nonsectarian (not affiliated with any religion). What makes Vipassana different from other types of meditation is that it aims to get to the root cause of all suffering, by focusing on the physical sensations in the body. Vipassana teaches us to not react to the physical sensations we feel, while keeping in mind the law of impermanence. There is no feeling we feel that will last forever.


Think about standing across from a person you love, a good friend or lover, looking directly into their eyes. They look at you you and tell you that they never want to see you again and turn and walk away. Immediately, you feel your heart drop, or your heart starts beating faster, or there is some sort of reaction in your body. When this happens, it signals to your brain to react. You don’t like feeling this way and want it to go away. So your brain starts thinking of ways to make this physical feeling go away, prompting you to react either through thoughts, actions, or words.

Now think about when you throw a rock into a pond. It will sink to the bottom. If you just observe it, the ripples will spread out and slowly fade away. But if you keep throwing rocks into the pond, it will cause lots of splashing and chaos. The rocks are like reactions, your words, thoughts, and actions. When something happens like in the above scenario, it causes you to feel anger, or sadness, or anxiety. If you simply notice the feeling without reacting to it, it will eventually fade away. But If you throw more stones at it, reacting with thoughts (How could they do this to me?) or words (I hate you!) or actions (You punch them!), you are only creating more ripples. By observing your anger without reaction, you are able to see that it is simply a physical sensation in the body that will pass. We don’t need to label it as good or bad, or react to it at all.



I arrived at Dhamma Setu Meditation Center right outside of Chennai to start my course. I had no clue what to expect. Upon arrival, we turned in our cell phones, reading/writing materials, camera, basically anything that stimulates the brain, serves as a distraction, or allows us to communicate with the outside world. Noble silence (no talking, no eye contact, looking down while walking) started that evening and would last until the 9th day. Since the course was not fully booked, I was given my own room with my own bathroom. Inside was a twin bed, a blanket, and a mosquito net. Day one wake up call was at 4:00am so I went to sleep right away.

DAYS 1 – 3


I wake up to the assistant teacher ringing a bell loudly outside of my window. I open my eyes, get up, and begin to get dressed. She starts knocking. I open the door and she whispers, “Come.” while pointing to the Dhamma hall. “Now?” I ask, and then immediately realize I already broke the code of silence. Eeek! (Although talking to the assistant teacher is actually allowed.) I look up at the clock outside. 5:20am. Shit. I overslept. Not sure what type of alarm system they have going on here but obviously they don’t know about my ability to sleep through anything. I will need to talk to her about this later. I hurry to join the others in the silent hall for the remaining hour of meditation before breakfast.

Today, we are to focus on our breath, breathing normally. Direct all concentration to the air coming in and going out of our nostrils. Whenever your brain trails off, simply notice and bring your attention back to your breath. Day one, it is hard for me to physically feel my breath coming in and going out of my nose. But after 10 hours of meditating, I finally notice the spot inside of my nose where air hits when it comes in and the slightly different spot the air hits when it blows out. This feels like a huge win for me that day.


My brain does not want to play this game. I can barely turn off my thoughts for even a few seconds. Inside my head, every single memory I have from ages 12 to 18 has replayed itself. Even memories I wasn’t aware I still had. Everything in my life I have done wrong. Everything I have done right. All of my past relationships. Thoughts about future relationships. Thoughts even popped in my head that make no sense at all, like a dream. A cat wearing a scarf walking across the road in front of me, stopping to turn its head and look at me. I am losing it. No wonder people in solitary confinement go crazy. It hasn’t even been two full days. Our brains crave stimulation and create it if they aren’t given any. I can’t do this for 8 more days. I am a horrible meditator.

That night, we watch a video featuring Mr. S.N. Goenka (whose teachings currently lead the course via recordings). Every night you watch a discourse with him explaining what happened that day and what will happen the next day. In the video that night, he describes my struggle that day perfectly. He says, as you were able to see today, your brain does not want to be controlled. Jumping from past to future and future to past. It will try anything to remain in control. And that is okay. Your only job is to keep bringing your attention back to your breath. Keep doing this without judgement and you will be successful. Okay that makes me feel better. He says today is one of the hardest days and as we continue to work, it will get easier. I hope so, otherwise this is going to be a long eight days.


I can noticeably tell the difference. It is like I cleared out my brain storage bank and the thoughts popping into my head have quieted down. I have more control over my thinking and awareness. I catch myself more quickly every time I start chasing a thought. Progress. But 7 more days is still quite a lot of meditation. During the discourse that night, he says that today we should have felt we were able to quiet our minds more easily. He gets it. Maybe there actually is a rhyme and reason to all of this. Tomorrow we will learn Vipassana. We haven’t already? Okay, cool. I am actually looking forward to it.

In between meditation sessions, we had a 10 minute break to walk up and down this tree lined path.



The course is not only challenging mentally. What is hardest for me is the physical pain. I never knew that sitting down could make your body so sore. I feel like I ran a full marathon followed by going ten rounds in the ring with a champion boxer and lost by knockout. I can barely walk to the meditation hall each morning. Sitting with my legs crossed? Maybe for a few minutes and then I have to switch poses again and again to relieve the pressure on my knees.

Today we are told that we will have 3 hours per day (one hour at a time) of strong determination where we are to try and sit in the same position for the entire hour without moving any part of our body. The whole point of this is to really strengthen our minds by not reacting to this pain.

For some reason, during these hours, my legs fall asleep within seconds and I lose all circulation. It is like they are saying forget this and giving up on me completely. It seems like this would make it easier since I don’t have to feel the pain, but it worries me. Is this bad for my health? Will this make my circulation issues worse if I just let them remain numb for 3 hours per day? But each time, after the hour is over, I slowly regain feeling as I start moving my legs again. This confirms even more that no feeling is permanent. Nothing is permanent. When you don’t attach thoughts to your pain and label it as good or bad, you are able to just let it just come and go. By the sixth day, the pain and numbness are there at times, but it no longer controls me. I am able to direct my brain to watch my breath and not pay attention to other areas of my body.



I feel so much lighter. I have more energy and clarity in my thinking. Might be due to the whole not drinking alcohol, not smoking cigarettes, only eating natural vegetarian foods, drinking plenty of water, and meditating on a daily basis. I can completely feel the difference and for a moment start to feel sorry for what I have put my body through during my lifetime.

I become aware of how to stay equanimous and not react to triggers in the outside world (the girl next to me who is snoring the entire time I am trying to meditate – how can she sleep for 11 hours a day and then sleep at night. I think her snoring was definitely an added test for me) or to any of the internal physical feelings I experience (the intense pain and throbbing I feel in my kneecaps). To not judge them as good or bad, to just feel them knowing they won’t last. Nothing is permanent and it is our attachment that causes our misery. Becoming aware is one thing but practicing it is another. If this course can help me even once out of every ten times, to not react and to stay at peace, I think it is a success.


Noble silence is lifted as we start to make our transition back into reality. We are now allowed to talk to each other. Ironically, I find I have lost my voice. But that is okay with me as I still don’t feel a need to talk just because I now am allowed to. It is slightly overwhelming for me hearing everyone speak again nonstop. We get our phones back as well. I turn mine on but with slight anxiety. Like when I used to go OTG during work and have an anxiety to check my email for the first time when I return. I don’t think I am ready for the real world yet. I will wait until tomorrow. I keep it on airplane mode.

I finally emerge from my room and start to engage with the others as we share about our experience. It is amazing how you can go through something so intense together with a group of people, not even talking, but feel so close to them. It is like we are now bonded for life.


The main question people ask me when they find out I did a course is, “Were you able to stay silent for the entire 10 days?” The answer is, no. I don’t know if I even made it one entire day without talking. Which is surprising if you know how little I talk at times anyways. But let me explain. I did not talk to any of the other women completing the course along with me. Every other day, you meet with your teacher and she asks you questions, so I did say about one sentence every two days to answer her. Outside of this, I spoke 6 times. To a gecko. A spider. A frog. A pig. A puppy. And to myself, once. Each time, it was completely a mistake and came out before I could control it. For example, I got back to my room and there was a really, really fat frog sleeping under the doorstop of my door, preventing me from opening it. I nudged him and he opened half of an eye and then kept sleeping. So I said, “Dude.” Another time I walked into my room and a gecko on the wall flinched, completely startled that I had walked in. I said, “Awww it’s okay.” The next day a jumping spider was sitting next to my bed and I said, “Oh, hey there!.” Anyways, you get the point, I talk to animals. This is okay though because the whole point of noble silence is so that you don’t get any outside sources of thought or stimulation. You experience things for yourself without comparing your experience to that of others.


Overall, this course was nothing like I had imagined. It was so much more. I am now a huge believer in Vipassana and plan on continuing down this path. You would think a meditation retreat would be relaxing but these were some of the most challenging days of my life. A lot of stuff surfaced that I never thought I would have to see or think about again. But the course helped me clear everything out. Become a stronger person. And become more aware of my feelings and reactions. If you think that meditation is easy, just for hippies, or won’t benefit you, I challenge you to sign up for a Vipassana course. This may change your mind. But you definitely have to put in the work.

The main learnings I walked away with. 1) Vipassana meditation is the only type of meditation I have practiced that seems to get to the root cause of all suffering. 2) Meditation is a constant practice and I have a long way to go on this path, but am making progress. 3) We are taught so much that the cause of our suffering is outside of us. It is time we all look inside of us to realize the true laws of nature and really understand our bodies.

Although I haven’t even continued to meditate for even one hour each day like I told myself I would, I will continue to practice Vipassana mediation. I do intend to complete another course, most likely once a year and also would like to volunteer at one to help others have this experience. The course is entirely donation based. At the end, you can donate if you found it beneficial, by giving money or your time by volunteering to help run a future course. If you are thinking of doing a course, I highly recommend taking these 10 days to invest in yourself and your happiness. For a list of locations all over the globe, and more information, check out the Vipassana website. Feel free to comment below with any questions as well! 


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Dhamma Setu is located right outside of Chennai, India, about 10km from Chennai Airport. Dhamma Setu is rated one of the top 10 centers in India and I would highly recommend it. Although close to the city and the airport, you still feel as if you are in a hidden sanctuary.


Courses are held in centers located all around the world. All of the information you need can be found here. Every course follows the exact same teachings and course schedule. The only difference would be your teacher who guides you along the way and is there to answer any questions.

Cost: Courses are free of charge, 100% donation and volunteer based.

Scared of Ants.


For those of you living in the United States, who are scared of ants, you don’t know how good you have it.

I say scared of ants, but don’t mean myrmecophobia (a specific fear of ants in general). I also don’t mean red ants that can hurt you. I mean the tiniest little black ant you have ever seen. Imagine a dinosaur but bigger. That is us. To an ant. Now, imagine you are walking down the sidewalk in your neighborhood one day. As you look up, you see a ferocious dinosaur approaching. Your mouth drops open and you cover your head in fear. When the dinosaur gets closer, it looks down, sees you, and runs away screaming. A few minutes later, it returns with its dad, points at you (hand shaking in fear), and screams, “It’s over there, dad! Kill it! I am scared!” That is us, when we see an ant. And most other insects.

I know not EVERYONE in the States is scared of bugs. But we all know at least a handful of people who are. We are either the one that is scared of the bug, or the one that kills the bug. And whichever one you are, you have still experienced that moment when you open the shower curtain, only to reveal a spider, causing you to jump back, put all of your clothes back on, and yell for someone to help you. (Or if you are brave, you go bak in and take care of it yourself.)

Americans who have never travelled outside of the country. I have news for you. The insects in the United States don’t prepare you for what is out there in the real world. Our insects make you weak. If you start traveling, you are immediately put at a disadvantage as you only have bugs in the States for your reference. But it’s not your fault, it’s all you know. You just need some perspective, and over time, you will be okay.


Growing up in Missouri, or even when living in California, I never ever saw a lizard inside of someone’s house. (Unless it was a pet.) I didn’t even know that was a thing.

So I get to Thailand as an adult. While changing in my room, I have a feeling I am being watched. Out of the corner of my eye, I see movement. I look up. Oh my gosh. There is a lizard in my room. Okay, okay, remain calm. Slowly walk to the door and shut it as fast as you can. Whoo that was close! I walk to the front desk. Ummm excuse me. There is a small lizard in my room. A gecko? Yes, I suppose. The front desk guy just staring at me silent, unsure of what to say. Okay.

I go back in my room. Sit on the corner of my bed. Stare at it for the rest of the night. Watching in case it decides it is hungry and comes after me. I get no sleep that night.

The next day, I am sitting by the pool thinking. How can I live like this? What should I do? Should I book a plane ticket back home? A little girl next to me sees a gecko on the wall of the clubhouse next to the pool. She runs over and points to it smiling. She is nuts.

Oh, hey little guy. how are you?

I quickly learn that geckos are everywhere in tropical climates. Okay, it doesn’t make me used to them. But then after traveling for a few years, my roommate gives me some new perspective. She tells me that geckos are actually so scared of you that they will risk their life and fall backwards off a wall in an effort to get away from you. Aww poor little gecko. Don’t do that. From then on, I notice this whenever I see one. The moment I step into a room, they are watching my every move. Just like I was watching them on my bed that one night. No wonder he was staring right back at me the entire night. He wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. Perspective. Ahh, such an amazing thing.

Over time, I have become completely comfortable around geckos and other lizards, and even am comforted having them around. I even talk to them in the shower or when I am about to go to sleep. I am at the point where I welcome them, because this means I am somewhere tropical (the best).

lizards are one thing.

Fast forward to life on a farm in Cambodia. My brother, Sam, and I are spending a few days with the locals and living in a bamboo hut on their property. We each have our own twin bed, along with a mosquito net. The first night, I wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. I step down and look at the ground. AHHHHHH! WHAT IS THAT. Sam get the fuck up RIGHT NOW. Look at that. On the ground is an 8-10 inch long centipede (or millipede, I refuse to Google it because I do not want to see a photo of one), black, and about 2 inches thick. It might as well be a snake with legs. Sam. Get that thing out of here right now.

He takes a shoe and gently pushes it out of the front door. It curls into a ball as he pushes it, like a roly-poly. Sick. I make him stand guard by the bathroom door and after I get back into bed, I make him tuck my mosquito net in under my mattress, all the way around my bed, without even a crack exposed. I do not want any chance of one of those things getting in my bed when I am sleeping. During our stay, we end up seeing a few more of them in our room, but we survive to tell the story. Terrifying.


While traveling, I can honestly say I have seen more of those centipedes and it is one thing I am still scared of to this day. When I was in Malaysia, a guy at my hostel said he was sleeping and woke up with one on his neck. Twice in the same night. (There are some stories you wish you were never told. I am forever traumatized.)

But I can say that these experiences have really put things in perspective. After Sam and I’s centipede incident in Cambodia, I get back to the United States. I am in my bedroom and see a silverfish on the wall. (Previously, silverfish were my biggest enemy.) I look up at it. Awww, how cute and small! I snap a photo and send it to my brother. Laugh out loud. Look who is sleeping in my room tonight. Me to the silverfish. I will let you live little cutie!

Traveling has made me stronger. Coming into contact with all types of insects and animals that I have not previously known anything about. (I often even have monkeys in my room at night!) Paired with all of the other new experiences and cultures I am being exposed to throughout the world. I have come to learn, we are all just trying to survive. I have a new appreciation for all animals, insects, reptiles, and humans. (Except the centipede – still working on that one.)

Although this story may scare you if you are one of those people who are scared of ants, this is also a story of hope. I too, was once scared of ants. The truth is, outside of the United States, lies a world full of the same bugs we have, just super-sized. It is like every other country puts their bugs on steroids. Or maybe the US government gives ur bugs chemicals to keep them small so that we can control them. (Sound familiar? Jk Jk Jk) Regardless. When I started traveling, I quickly learned that there are big creatures out there. But I didn’t let this keep me from traveling, If I had, I would still be living my life, scared of ants. Instead, I followed the fear and kept going. 

Perspective. Such a wonderful thing.

After writing this, I realized that this entire story is actually, a metaphor for what traveling (or filling your life with more unique experiences) does for your life in general. It gives you perspective. You see that there is more out there. There are bigger things in the world and experiencing them expands your mind. You are no longer scared of a jumping spider, because It is now your roommate and the only thing you have to talk to during your 10 day silent meditation course (blog post coming soon). Instead of feeling fear, you have a new friend.

Travel will change you. You will come back with a completely different mindset. Things that used to stress you out will no longer matter. You see the bigger picture and realize what is really important in life. When you return back home, you will continue to do the same things you did before. Such as sleep. But now, when you see a spider on the wall next to you in bed. Instead of ending your day with an act of murder, you are able to close your eyes and smile, comforted that you are not alone.