Fuck Goals, Focus on Feelings


My favorite kind of days are the ones that start out like any other. You wake up. Get out of bed. Drink some coffee. Eat breakfast. Maybe go for a walk or a stroll along the beach. Then out of nowhere, a random person crosses your path. Smiles and says hello. Starts talking to you. The next thing you know, you are sitting on the beach, watching the sun come up, sharing a bottle of Konyagi with a bunch of Tanzanian prostitutes. Or sitting in the middle of the jungle under a banyan tree, smoking a bowl with an Indian baba and a ripped, shirtless Russian dude.

The type of experiences that leave you looking around and wondering, how did I even end up here? If you would have asked me this morning what I was going to do that day, I never would have even come close to guessing this.

Some of the best experiences in life are often not the ones you plan for, but instead, the ones you just find yourself ending up in. They are things that you could not plan for even if you wanted to. Because you weren’t even aware that they were a possibility. When you are open to anything and not set on a particular destination, you can end up anywhere. This is the main reason that I love traveling. You never know where the day will take you.

This is not only possible when traveling. I am learning to approach life in the same way, no matter where I am. Instead of having fixed plans of what I need to do and things I need to accomplish, I am trying to focus on flowing with life and going in whatever direction it may take me.


Many of us become incredibly focused on setting specific goals and have a clear picture in our heads of where we want to be in life. Then we focus all of our energy and daily plans towards doing things to get there. We even make daily checklists of what we need to accomplish that day to stay on track.

There is nothing wrong with working hard to get where we want to be. This may even be beneficial for short term projects at work. But I honestly believe that setting specific goals when it comes to planning the direction of our lives, limits us. It hinders our open mindedness and flexibility. We often become too focused on staying on track to achieve something that we lose sight of other opportunities that are presented to us along the way. Or even worse, something outside of our control prevents us from reaching one of our goals and we are left heartbroken.


I am sure you have been asked the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Let’s say you are asked that right now. Before answering, you might take into consideration where you are in your life currently. What you feel is missing. What you hope to accomplish. You might even think about what the person asking you would be satisfied to hear.

Looking back, if I had been asked this question at various points in throughout my life, I would have had completely different answers.

Fifteen years ago, I had never even stepped foot outside of North America. I was in a serious relationship. I worked for a newspaper’s non-profit program. At that time, if asked this question, my answer would have been something like. In five years, I will be living in Missouri. Married. With one kid. Using my degree, with a career in marketing. Because that is both the direction I was headed, and what I thought would be satisfying to me in the future.

Flash forward five years later. Am I where I said I would be? Not at all. I am a promotional model. Traveling around the United States. Working events for hundreds of companies. I am in a brand new relationship. Definitely not married. And not even close to having kids. If I had been asked this question again, then, I would have answered something like. In five years, I will be starting my own promotional staffing agency. Living in St. Louis. Marrying this guy I had just moved in with. (Thank the Universe that didn’t happen, no offense.)

Five years go by. How close did I come to achieving my dream five year plan? Not even. I am living in Los Angeles. Less than a mile from the beach. Working at a tech startup on data analysis projects. Traveling overseas in my free time. With a group of amazing friends who I didn’t even know five years prior. I must say that this ended up being way more exciting than what I had envisioned for myself.


You get the point. So much can change in five years. Had I stuck to my five year plan at any of those points in my life, my life now would be incredibly different. Not bad. Just different. But also not as incredible.

So fifteen years ago, when working at the newspaper, why didn’t I answer the question with, “Jobless. Traveling the world. Experiencing life to the fullest that I am able. Completing a ten day silent meditation. Doing ayahuasca in the middle of the Amazon. Or sitting on the beach in Zanzibar sharing a bottle of liquor with five Tanzanian strippers. (Had to throw that in there again because life is so crazy, right.)

I think because I didn’t even know these things were possible for me. I was just a girl living in the small town of Columbia, Missouri. If I had stayed stuck on my original plan of being married with kids with a 9 to 5 job in Missouri, I definitely wouldn’t be the same person I am today. There is nothing wrong with the life I had envisioned for myself back then. I probably would be incredibly happy had I ended up there. It just wasn’t the direction life took me.

Sometimes when we don’t end up where we thought we would, we think we have failed. We have regret and feel bad about ourselves for not accomplishing exactly what we said we would. I strongly believe there is a balance between knowing what you want, working hard to get there, and being okay with ending up somewhere else.


I am all about vision boards and acting in alignment to manifest what I want in life. Which in another language, may translate to “setting goals and working towards them.” But I think the key difference is that when manifesting something, you envision the end result you want and focus on feeling how you would feel as if you already had it. You don’t plan step by step what you will do to reach that destination. You simply trust and allow the Universe to guide you there. I think it is time we use this approach when planning the path of our lives as well.

Think about where you see yourself in five years. That is where you want to be now, but as you grow and embrace the path of your life, you really could end up somewhere completely different. And that is okay. Life can take you anywhere. So instead, I want to propose a different question. How do you want to feel in five years? In what ways do you want to grow as a person? Who do you want to become? Now instead of deciding exactly what path to take, open yourself up to all of the experiences that can possibly take you there.

As much as this cheesy saying makes me cringe. Don’t worry about the destination, embrace the journey. And hopefully, in five years, you will too look at where you are now, and smile. Because not sticking to the plan can lead you to a better place that you never even imagined.

Why I Am Not Going To Write About My Ayahuasca Experience

As I write this, I am sitting in the middle of the Amazon jungle in Ecuador on the fourth day of my five day ayahuasca retreat. I have done ayahuasca the last two nights but this is a new experience for me. Before coming here, I didn’t really know what to expect. I don’t remember the first time I heard about ayahuasca, but I know it has been on my radar for at least a few years. For those of you who aren’t exactly sure what it is, here is a brief overview.

Ayahuasca – meaning ‘spirit vine’ in Native South American Quechua languages – is a foul-tasting hallucinogenic brew that has been used for centuries by rain forest shamans as a religious sacrament. The infusion facilitates mystical visions and revelations, and is said to have healing properties.”

Mystical revelations? Healing? Ummm yes, please. So I started to read more about it. If you Google ‘ayahuasca experience’ you will find countless stories from others who have taken this plant medicine and what their experience was like. While their stories were all unique regarding the realizations they had about their lives, they all had similar aspects to them. Throwing up violently for the first hour, followed by a feeling of bliss.

Also having intense visions during their trip while receiving clear messages about their life path. Life changing revelations where you clearly understand your purpose. What you are supposed to do in life. What you could be doing better. That make you realize what is really important. Be more patient with your family. Appreciate your girlfriend more. Follow your dreams in search of a new career. 


While the later sounds soothing for the soul, the former parts of this experience honestly scared the shit out of me. I have taken LSD, MDMA, shrooms in the past but have never really had any intense hallucinations. I also dislike throwing up more than almost anything in the world. Even so much that I almost didn’t come on this retreat. I certainly do not want to throw up ‘violently’ for an hour even if it is followed by a feeling of intense love.

Because of the getting sick part, I initially decided it wasn’t for me. I have been there after a night of drinking. Laying in bed when your head starts spinning. All of the sudden getting incredibly hot. Breathing deeply in and out of your mouth, trying to talk yourself into not purging. That feeling of nausea is not one I want to willingly put myself through. 

But then one day after booking my trip to Ecuador, I said to myself, “Fuck it.” I am all about putting myself through new experiences. Especially ones that scare me. If others can handle it, so can I. So after spending quite some time researching places to do it, I finally decided on one. I signed up and paid my deposit before I could talk myself out of it.


Feather Crown Ayahuasca retreat center

When picking a place there were a few major things on my mind. I didn’t want to have a touristy experience, I wanted something as authentic as possible. With a shaman. In the middle of the jungle. If I was going to get sick, I at least wanted to be throwing up out of control while surrounded by beautiful nature.

I also wanted to make sure the place I went had a good reputation. There are stories of shamans taking advantage of women under the influence. Stories of people getting hurt because they weren’t properly supervised. For that reason, it was important for me to find a place whose main motivation was helping people. Not making money. And the size of the group was important to me. If something went wrong, I wanted to make sure someone noticed right away.

This is how I found Feather Crown


Fast forward a few months later. It is the night before my retreat and I am sitting in bed reading a few last stories. I read one about a guy who took too much. He is laying there and all of the sudden has the feeling like, “Get me the fuck out of here.” He gets up and runs out of the temple and through the jungle by himself. Freaking out about feeling like he is stuck in a concentration camp. He finally comes back to the camp, rips off all of his clothes and jumps in the shower. After the staff talking him down, he finally returns to the group.

Okay, I am scared. I don’t want to freak out and end up getting eaten by an anaconda or something. I also search for “ayahuasca deaths” and see that there have been a few. But the more I read, I realize this was not from the ayahuasca itself but from lack of care during the experience. People mixing other substances or freaking out and hurting another participant. 

I also start to wonder what kind of realizations I will have. Will I wake up to realize I have been sabotaging all of my relationships? What will Mother Ayahuasca tell me about my life? I am happy but I do want answers. What is next for me? Will I ever meet someone I want to be in a relationship with? Where should I live when I am done traveling? What should I do to make money? These are most of the unanswered questions I have going through my head at this point in my life.


This is Don Carlos, the incredibly sweet shaman who led our ayahuasca experience.

I get to the retreat. The one I signed up for consists of two consecutive nights taking ayahuasca. The first night has come and I am extremely nervous. I really do not feel like throwing up for the next hour. But my name is called. I walk up to the shaman and down about 3/4 of a shot glass of ayahuasca. No turning back now. I return to my mattress on the floor and sit there in the dark and just wait. Wait for the feeling of sickness to overcome my body so that I can throw up for the next hour and get to the good part.

But it never happens. Well believe me, I do get sick. But not like they said I would in the stories I read. I was told it would come right away so I was sitting there waiting for it. Expecting it. And therefore, sort of resisting it instead of just letting it happen. I did end up getting sick, a lot. And often. But it didn’t happen in the first hour at all. Instead, I got sick near the end of my trip. I think I was holding back, actively trying to relax and not get sick. It was all I could think about for that first hour.

As I was laying there, I was also actively waiting for revelations to come to me. For the ayahuasca to speak to me and show me the answers I needed. But they never came. I did see, hear, and feel many things (the ayahuasca was definitely working) but it wasn’t how others described it to be.

I woke up the next morning feeling slightly disappointed. I certainly tripped but why didn’t I have any clear answers? How come everyone else I read about did and I didn’t? I also didn’t get as sick as I had anticipated.

I walked around all day feeling like there were still bad feelings stuck inside of me. Not just the disappointment, but also a feeling of anxiety. Last night was rough, I had no realizations, and I have to do it again tonight. Ugh, not looking forward to it. Why put myself through the physical discomfort if there isn’t a tradeoff to receive clear insight?


A bottle of ayahuasca with other supplies used during the ceremony.

Before my second trip, I thought a lot about it and I really believe my expectations had kept me from just riding the wave and having my own experience. So I set an intention to just go with the flow and see what happens. To let the ayahuasca give me whatever it is I needed, without judgement.

And she sure did. I won’t go into what I experienced, but I will say that I didn’t have many thoughts that night at all. Only visions and feelings. No answers. But maybe I didn’t need them. Maybe I already knew the answers all along and the ayahuasca was just there to remove all of the internal obstacles I had blocking me from seeing them. Because deep down, don’t we all actually kind of know what is best for us?

A good friend once told me, “If you are asking the question, you already know the answer.” This is advice that I have always kept close to my heart. I believe this is absolutely true. While you may not know right away, you can discover the answer by removing the fear, the self doubt, the self sabotaging protective tendencies. Until you are back at the root. Your instinct. Our bodies and minds are constantly working to protect us. But I believe our souls always know the way.


I woke up this morning after my second ayahuasca trip and immediately smiled. I felt wonderful. Like I had let go of so many things I had been holding on to that may have been keeping me from embracing my path.

Sitting here thinking about it, I realize that even though my experience was nothing like any of those I had read about, it was exactly what I needed. It was a two night process of letting go of my demons. Clearing away the negative energy. Healing and falling in love with myself all over again. It made me face everything blocking me from what I already knew. The truth. It took me two days to let go. But I finally was able to. And it feels so great.


Looking back, if I could change one thing, it would be to not hold on so much to the stories of others. Instead, I would just sit back and believe that I would receive exactly what I needed. And I think this is good advice to follow for life in general. Comparing yourself to others always distracts you from your own journey.

When you take medicine, you don’t sit there and actively tell it where to go inside your body. You trust it to know where you are hurting and heal you. It is exactly the same with ayahuasca. After you take it, you just need to trust it and let it work its magic.

If you are planning on experiencing it for yourself, you can listen to the stories of others if you want to, but know that your experience will likely be unlike anything you have heard about. You might be sick the first hour or even the entire time. Or not at all. Although very unlikely. You may not leave with all of the answers you came there in search of or any at all. But you will leave with exactly what you needed. And the more you set your expectations aside the more you will realize and appreciate that you did.

If you are unsure if you should do ayahuasca, I highly recommend waiting until you feel like the time is right. This is a personal experience on your own personal journey. A highly personal one. It is not simply a drug trip.

With that being said, if you do want to know about my personal experience or have any general questions, I would be more than happy to answer them. 


So, was it what I expected? Definitely not at all. Am I glad I did it? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Yes, I am planning on it. Was it easy? God, NO. Was it enjoyable? Not until the end. But it is a process. What would I change or what would I do differently going in? I wouldn’t read any stories about others’ experiences. I would instead turn inward and focus on my own.

I do want to provide info for a great place to do it. If you feel Mother Ayahuasca calling to you. They are gentle and really care about your well being. They are there to give you answers, and assist in the process, but understand this is your journey and let you make your own decisions. After all, isn’t that the whole point of this experience?




Feather Crown Ayahuasca Ceremony Retreat

Santa Clara, Ecuador (outside of Tena)


Feather Crown offers 5 day, 8 day, and 12 day retreats starting around $500. Lodging, meals, plant baths, jungle walks, ayahuasca ceremonies, and a visit to a local village are included in the price.

Getting There: Quito is the best city to fly into and you can take a shuttle from there. Once your retreat is booked, they will assist you in providing options to get there.

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.

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

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.