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Have you ever known the person who thinks that they have it worse than everyone else? No matter what tragedies may have befallen your own life, their situation is somehow always more tragic. Whenever you talk to them they have that dreadful “woe is me” tone that makes you roll your eyes and want to hang up the phone. And even when you try to be a good friend and offer words of encouragement they find ways to pooh-pooh anything you say. The person who seems to pride themselves on spouting off nothing but negativity, that somehow if they can drag you into their negative web that they will feel better about themselves.

We’ve all known these people.  Heck, perhaps at one time or another we’ve even been that person. Come on people, let’s be honest. I know I’ve definitely been there at one dark time or another. I’m sure many of you have too.

Here’s the thing that those people (or we) do not realize. By allowing themselves (or ourselves) to wallow in their (or our) own angst and fester in their (or our) own negativity, they (or we) are actually poisoning themselves (or ourselves). Here’s why: our thoughts have power. Yes folks, you heard right and I can’t say it loudly enough. Our thoughts have power. Now many of you naysayers who have heard about the Law of Attraction and watched or read The Secret will now be rolling your eyes and think that this is new-agey horseshit. Allow me to clear some things up for you. I have studied the Law of Attraction for the past several years and I have seen proof positive of its validity in my own life: for both good and bad.

You know those days when you wake up and stub your toe and then the whole day spirals downhill from there? That is the simplest example of the Law of Attraction. You started with a negative thought and you focused your energy on it, and because of that you attracted more negative things into your life that day. You become like a magnet. I have seen my negative thoughts perpetuate more negativity and create drama in my life, and on the flip side I have seen how harnessing the positive thoughts can truly change your life in brilliant and magical ways.

Let me talk about The Secret for a second. While the underlying premise of this book and film resides in Universal truth, their portrayal of the Universal Law of Attraction is actually a bit too literal and oversimplified. The Law of Attraction does not mean that you can focus all of your attention on a new bike and then “poof” a new bike will appear. It does not even mean that you can focus on your dream job, and that if you put it on your vision board that you will one day manifest it. That is a false and very misleading teaching. Here’s why: All the Law of Attraction truly states is that like attracts like, meaning that if you focus on the negative, you will attract more negativity into your life; and alternatively if you focus on the positive, you will attract more positivity into your life. It does not allow you to focus on one specific thing that you really want and then allow that thing to come to you, all wrapped up in a pretty bow. No siree!

And the reason is because that thing which you may be trying to manifest may in fact not be meant for you. You may be trying to manifest the return of an old lover. But if there is another lover in your future that you are meant to find, that is a better fit for you, the Universe is never going to allow the return of the old lover. The same is true of the dream job. I use my own life for this example. I was trying to manifest success in the .com world, but instead the Universe pulled one of its famous tricks on me and got me fired and now on the path to being a writer. We often do not know what is best for us, therefore the Law of Attraction is not as simple as we focus on something that we really want and then we get it.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s get back to the main point, that our thoughts do have power. You don’t just have to believe me and my experiences about the power of thought. In this age when we as human beings are starting to become more aware of our consciousness and its power, quantum physics is no longer an occult subject for the airy-fairy hippies.  It has now moved to the forefront of major research institutions like Stanford, Harvard and Princeton. There have been loads of scientific studies performed about the power of the mind. As Lynne McTaggart points out in her book The Intention Experiment, the most comprehensive body of research has been amassed by William Braud, a psychologist and the research director of the Mind Science Foundation in San Antonio, Texas, and later, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology.

If you wish to learn more about the science of the mind, I recommend Lynne’s book as well as works published by the scientists on her team. In recent years I have also seen a plethora of articles published in major scientific journals about the power of meditation to actually change the chemistry of the brain. It is no longer just a fanciful theory. Modern science has finally caught up to the ideas that ancient mystics, scientists and philosophers have known for centuries: our thoughts do have power.

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make our world.”
~Buddha~

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”
~Marcus Aurelius~

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings
can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”
~William James~

“Outer changes always begin with an inner change of attitude.”
~Albert Einstein~

Ok, so if it’s true that our thoughts can change our lives, how then do we implement that? I’ve discovered that the reason why so many people discount the teachings of The Secret is because they think “if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it.” We all know that when we are stuck in that dark and negative place, it can be extremely difficult to change our thoughts to something positive. It is our human nature that when we feel miserable and defeated, that just like the person I mentioned in the beginning, all too often we feel that nothing could ever improve our situation. We dwell on the negative. And in that situation the Law of Attraction IS actually working, but it is working on the negative side and against your favor. You are a magnet for more negativity to come into your life. To get it to work IN your favor, you have to change your thoughts. It is not an easy thing to do, but it is wrong to believe that it does not work. It takes a truly committed Spiritual Warrior to force themselves to change their thoughts, even when they are at their darkest.

There’s the old saying “fake it ’till you make it.” This couldn’t be more true when it comes to changing your thoughts. I’ve learned that even if you are feeling down in the dumps, if you can force yourself to focus on the positive, you can change your life. This is exactly what I have done in my own life. Because I have had such radically life-altering success by practicing the Law of Attraction and by choosing to focus on the positive, I want to share with you exactly how I did it.

Many of you who have read my prior pieces know that I have lived through what I can only aptly describe as a “dark night of the  soul” in recent years. There were many times when I did not want to get out of bed, when I felt completely alone, abandoned and unloved, when I felt that things couldn’t get any darker. I had reached my rock bottom. It was during that time that I began to study and practice the Law of Attraction, really as an act of desperation. I took a course about the Law of Attraction and I learned about the concept of a Gratitude Journal, a concept with which I’m sure many of you are familiar. By writing down that for which we are grateful, we are focusing our thoughts, our energies on the positive. I took this lesson one step further.

Every night before I would go to bed, I would make two lists: 1. First I would make a list of ALL of the good things that happened that day, no matter how small, no matter how seemingly insignificant. Even if it was something as small as the store clerk smiled at me, I wrote it down. I searched through my memory banks trying to find any possible positive thing that occurred in that day, and I wrote them all down. 2. Secondly, I would make a list of all that I was grateful for in that day. Some things would remain constant, others would change from day to day. But by writing these two lists, everyday, by actually writing down the words, I was giving them more power and energy. By forcing myself to focus on the positive, even though I felt deep sadness, I was beginning to shift my energetic vibration, and the energy in my life began to shift. I began to attract more positivity and magic into my life. As I forced myself to do these exercises everyday for months on end, I began to notice that more and more unexpected and beautiful things began flowing into my life. And the positive energy compounded upon itself. The longer I did it, the more powerful the energy became, and the more magical synchronicity came into my life.

I have shared these exercises with each beautiful soul that has reached out to me from a place of darkness asking for help. And one person after the next has told me that by doing these simple exercises, they too have started to see positive shifts in their lives. I am never surprised by this of course, because I know for myself that it truly works. So what’s the REAL Secret then? It is not simply to focus on a specific, tangible thing that you want in your life. It is instead to focus on every positive, beautiful thing that occurs in your day, to force yourself to change your negative thoughts instead to positive ones. It is to view the glass as half full, always. The REAL Secret is to continue focusing on the positive and then to simply allow, to be open to whatever beauty may come, and not pigeon-hole yourself into a specific outcome. If you do this, every day, if you truly make a conscious effort to look for the good in each day, to write it down and focus on it, I promise you that you too will change your life for the better.

For great resources on how to practice the Law of Attraction, I can recommend the following books, in addition to Lynne McTaggert’s book mentioned above: The Power of Intention, by Wayne Dyer and The Law of Attraction, by Esther & Jerry Hicks.
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Today is September 24th. This used to be a special and happy day for me. This is the birthday of the man who was once my best friend, the truest and most trusted friend I’d ever had on this Earth. But when this man left my life, and subsequently became the most painful and profound loss I’ve ever experienced, that is when September 24th did a complete 180 and became a sad and dark day for me.

Last September 24, 2010, is the day that it would become a prophetic day for me…

That day had come as it had for the previous three years and it had dragged me right back down into the darkness. The pain was palpable. But that day I made a decision. I made a decision that I would no longer allow any negative thoughts to get the better of me, to pull me down into the muck. That day, I decided to commit myself to a 365-day challenge of positivity, that for every day for a year I would force myself to focus on the positive, to find the beauty, the good and the magic in every day. That day, September 24, 2010, was the day that I began “365 Ways to Raise Your Vibration”.

This is the very first vibration that I posted that day:

“365 Ways to Raise Your Vibration”: #1: Sing at the top of your lungs in the car!

You see, the minute I had the idea (which by all means came as a flash of pure inspiration) to start this challenge I was filled with a powerful surge of love, and it was as if the Universe were saying, “Yes, yes brave girl, go forth!” I began singing at the top of my lungs, filled with positive vibration, as I drove down the freeway and that was the moment that I fully understood that we can change our thoughts, and that by doing so, we can raise our energetic vibration and create more joy for ourselves.

Each day that followed, I would look for something good in that day and I would post my daily “vibration” on my personal Facebook page. I was doing this purely for my own purposes, to raise my own spirits, to drag myself out of the quagmire of dark and murky emotions. It was truly an act of desperation. But that’s when something magical and completely unexpected began to happen. One friend after the next began asking me from what book I was getting this and where they could buy it! “From what book”?!! These were not from any book, these were my own thoughts. Wow! I had no idea that a simple little idea could have such an impact on other people, but many friends began emailing me to tell me that my posts were inspiring them, that my thoughts were encouraging them to stop and smell the flowers and to look for the beauty in their own lives.

Then one day my Mom told me that I should publish this as a book. Seriously? Was this seriously something that I, little old me, could do? After all, I wasn’t a writer, nor had I ever wanted to be. So what business did I have thinking about writing a book? Absolutely none! I tucked it into the back of mind as something I would possibly explore later. But apparently the Universe had other ideas for me. A few weeks later I was unexpectedly fired from my job, fired for the first time in my life. And let me tell you, I am not the type of person to get fired. I have always excelled at every job I’ve ever had: I am a super hard-worker, an over-achiever and was always one to get promoted (in fact I HAD been promoted only 6 months prior to this shocking blow!), so I knew immediately that this had to be for a greater purpose.

Shortly after getting fired and not really sure of what I was going to do next, into my inbox popped an email: Hay House Publishing was announcing an upcoming Writers’ Workshop. The main purpose of the workshop was to learn how to write a book proposal and how to submit it to agents and publishers. Hmm. This seemed like very odd timing to me. My friends had asked me where they could buy this book that was not a book, my Mom had told me I should publish this as a book, and I had just been fired from my job. Do you see where I’m going here? It seemed as clear as day to me with this email about the Hay House Workshop, that the Universe was offering me a breadcrumb. I knew I needed to follow it. I immediately registered for the workshop.

A few months later, in April of 2011, I went to the Hay House Writers’ Workshop in San Diego. They taught us all about how to build our platform, our audience, how to get our message out and how to write and submit a book proposal. Many of the tips that they gave us about how to build our platform had to do with leveraging social media: creating a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, blogging, and cross-cultivating all of these channels to increase our audience. Half of the audience was completely lost. “What’s a blog? What’s a Wiki? What is Twitter?” These were the types of questions being asked. I, on the other hand, was on fire. I had come from the .com world, so this was old hat to me. I knew exactly what I needed to do. I flew home from San Diego that night and I literally stayed up half of the night launching and linking all of my social media sites.

It is now only five months later since attending that Hay House Writers’ Workshop and I am thrilled and moved to have over 21,000 fans in 36 countries around the world, speaking two different languages. I am regularly blogging in English and Spanish, I have had my work featured in multiple publications and I have completed and submitted my book proposal, with the full intention of publishing 365 Ways to Raise Your Vibration as a book.

So as I sit here on September 24, 2011, I find myself completely stupefied as to how a simple little thought on a dark day one year ago, could have completely changed my life, and the lives of so many other people. I have managed to stay true to my commitment and I have posted something different every single day that raised my vibration. And believe me this was no small task. Like anyone, I had my days where I did not want to get out of bed, when life seemed hopeless and without purpose. I had other days where friends were crappy or bad things happened, some days when the proverbial skies seemed nothing but dark. How on earth could I find the light on those days? I forced myself. I knew that I had to fulfill this commitment to myself and eventually to my 21,000 fans, so even on the darkest of days, I searched high and low, I went out seeking until I could find something that raised my vibration that day, no matter how small. And I have now done this every single day for 364 days.

As I prepare to post #365, I sit here in awe and wonder: in absolute amazement that I have actually managed to fulfill this commitment for an entire year, but moreover completely blown away by how beautifully and magically my life has changed since making that commitment and setting that intention. Make no mistake: Our thoughts DO have power, and if we are strong enough to catch the negative thoughts and change them instead to positive thoughts, absolute magic can happen in our lives. So while September 24th was once a special day, and then became a dark day, I now view it is a destiny day. It was the day that I decided to change my life. And the Universe responded. What will be your destiny day?

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Cathedral of Cusco

I remember the moment as if it were yesterday. We were walking through the main square of Cusco, Peru, towards the majestic Cathedral glistening in the afternoon sun, when Danielle said to me, “It’s all perfect Jeannie. You are simply in the gestation period, things are incubating. You are getting ready to have a rebirth.” Who is Danielle and to what on earth was she referring? Danielle Hougard was the Anusara Yoga teacher who was leading me on my first ever yoga retreat. But she was not just any yoga teacher. Danielle is one of those special “Earth Mother” types, the type of woman who exudes love and motherly instincts from every cell of her body, the type of woman who is truly in touch with her intuition, the Spirit of Earth and Sky, and the energies of every living creature around her. This is a wise women who just seems to “know” things, and somehow when she says them you just know that you can trust her.

Danielle was responding to my story of how my life had fallen into ruins: I had moved across country to fight for love, only to find myself rejected and abandoned. If that wasn’t enough I had arrived at the beginning of the recession and was thrust headfirst into months of unemployment. Running out of money and desperate for work, I was compelled to take a minimum wage job at a retail store. It was depressing enough that I had gone from a successful, high-paying management career in Washington, DC, to making minimum wage, but in the depths of my own heartache, I was now forced to endure hundreds of happy couples strolling about arm in arm as the irritating Christmas carols pumped out incessantly through the loudspeakers of the shopping mall. But worst of all, every day I lived in fear that the man who had broken my heart would stroll in with HIS new girlfriend on his arm. This was my rock bottom. If there is a Hell on Earth, this was definitely it.

Fortunately through a stroke of “luck,” I was finally able to find a “real” job. Things were looking up, I could finally leave my minimum wage job and get back to building my career….Or so I thought. Sadly my luck would not last and I was laid off several months later, and found myself yet again in a period of protracted unemployment. So here I was in Peru, six months after having been laid off and I hadn’t had a single bite to the hundreds of resumes sent. My life was completely stagnating. I was having no luck on the job front, no luck on the love front, every cell in my body ached and mourned for the loss of my best friend, and I was depressed to the point where I did not want to get out of bed in the morning. The only thing I could feel in my life was a palpable feeling of stagnation. I was completely stuck.

Danielle’s response to this story was a friendly smile and a reassuring nod, telling me that everything I had just described was actually “PERFECT,” that although on the surface it felt like things were stagnating, that actually behind the scenes there were forces at work, and that I was simply in the gestation period…that I was simply getting ready for a powerful rebirth. Though to my rational (and depressed!) mind this sounded a little bit unusual and way too good to believe, the certainty with which she spoke these words gave me a momentary peace. I prayed that she was right.

By now you may be wondering what I was doing in Peru after the story I just described and given my obvious state of unemployment. Well, call me a risk-taker, but when life gets really dark and gloomy, that’s when something deep inside of me says “SCREW IT” and propels me to go do something incredible and adventurous, to try to drag myself reluctantly out of the muck. All of my life I had dreamed of going to Peru. When I was in high school Spanish class, my teacher would show us pictures of Machu Picchu and I just knew that I had to go there one day. So when I found myself in the midst of my “dark night of the soul,” and completely stuck, I knew I had to do something to try to unstick myself.

Several days after walking through that square in Cusco, we found ourselves on the very tip-top of Huayna Picchu Mountain, high above the breath-taking, mind-boggling and awe-inspiring creation that was Machu Picchu. This masterpiece defied human logic and comprehension. Its ruins were perfectly intact, each of its thousands of individual stones stacked so flawlessly and at such exquisitely engineered angles that they would remain intact and stable for hundreds of years of enduring the elements. There are honestly not any words I could ever use to adequately express what it felt like to be standing up there at 8,920 ft, literally on top of the world. As I looked around us, I was overcome with goosebumps at the beauty of the jagged, majestic mountains that shot dramatically up into the heavens, hugged and nurtured by the blankets of fog. If there was a God, he/she was certainly here. I felt the great Spirit of the Earth in the wind that whispered into my ears, in the Sun that warmed my back, and in the solid stone beneath my feet, stones that had held the weight and cradled the souls of hundreds of thousands of humans across the centuries. I was awed to my core. Standing up here at this great height, surrounded by the magic and mystery of Mother Earth, I knew I was being supported.

Me on top of Huayna Picchu Mountain, with Machu Picchu far below

At the end of our 10-day journey, completely moved and humbled by the Grace, beauty and humility of the Peruvian people, we returned home to the States, and I back to the chains of stagnation in Los Angeles. The minute I touched down in Los Angeles, I knew I had to leave. I am a stubborn person. And because I loved Los Angeles and felt a profound spiritual connection with her, I had previously been determined to stay there, despite the fact that the signs seemed to point elsewhere. But now the Universe had given me a breadcrumb to follow. You see, this yoga group, led by this sweet soul Danielle, was actually from San Francisco, and I only found them through an “accidental” twist of fate through a web search. Nobody on the trip could figure out why I was staying in Los Angeles after the horror I had described. They encouraged me to move to San Francisco. Considering that my life was completely stagnant and that I had already lost everything of importance that I could possibly stand to lose, I decided it was time to break free of my prison.

This is when Grace took over. Only five days after moving to San Francisco, for what was intended to be a one-month temporary sublet to test out the waters, a job offer had fallen unexpectedly into my lap. Over the weeks that followed, I frantically looked for a permanent apartment in San Francisco, searched desperately for someone to take over my lease in Los Angeles, packed up my entire one-bedroom apartment in 24 hours and drove the entire load, by myself, the six-hour drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and then started my new job the next day. Just like that, my life had shifted dramatically. Danielle’s words about an impending “rebirth” were ringing in my ears. But what I didn’t know was that this was just barely the beginning. I was only in the earliest contractions and still had over a year of “labor” ahead of me.

17 months later, after months and months of undue stress and anxiety in my corporate job, I was let go. Bowled over by the unexpected blow, I picked myself back up and threw myself immediately back into the job search. But the minute I did so, another breadcrumb was laid down for me. I had written my very first blog post, about my journey of healing through yoga, and it had felt good. But not only did it feel good, it got a good response. Somehow, as if in a daze, I suddenly found myself with my own blog and I began writing. Never having had any interest in being a writer, it was as if a higher force had suddenly taken over and was simply pulling my puppet-strings and moving me along a new and unexpected path. But this path felt right.

Now only eight short months since losing my job, I have over 20,000 beautiful, bilingual fans in 35 countries around the world, my work has been published in several different publications, I am now a regular contributor to Elephant Journal, writing in both English and Spanish, I’m about to be featured in Martha Stewart’s Whole Living Magazine, and I have just completed and submitted my very first book proposal, with the hope that I will soon be a published writer. I couldn’t have imagined this dramatic turn of events in my life even eight months ago when I lost my job. In fact almost daily I look back and scratch my head with delight and wonder. But there would be no way in my wildest, craziest dreams that I could have imagined this, as we walked through that square in Cusco talking about my impending “rebirth.”

A few weeks ago we had a reunion from our Peru trip, now just past the two-year mark since we took our trip, and I was reminding Danielle of this moment from Cusco. Danielle then told me something that I hadn’t yet known, something that made this entire experience even more unbelievable and magical to me: the name Cusco means “navel of the Earth.” Danielle had been right, I was in the gestation period and I was getting ready for a “rebirth.” What I hadn’t realized was that I had to go to Cusco, the “navel of the Earth,” in order for the “rebirth” to begin…

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They say that during your toughest times, you find out who your true friends are. I am learning that this is also true during your best times.

In recent months I have begun to see positive movement forward in my writing career and while most of the people in my life have truly been avid cheerleaders, and for that support I am eternally grateful, others have been noticeably silent. They have made no acknowledgment of my successes, have offered no kind words of encouragement, and frankly have offered no words at all. Some are very simply jealous, envious of the success I am seeing, others disapprove of what I am doing or how I am doing it, while still others think I have simply gone off the “new-age deep-end”. At this premise I simply have to laugh because for one, what mainstream society unwittingly calls “new-age” philosophy is actually based on ancient wisdom, wisdom as old as the stars. But secondly, even if inadequately named, to this notion I would have to respond, “Yes, proudly. ; )” But I digress..

When I was younger and I would express to my Grandmother my distress about friends who were being unsupportive, she would simply say to me, “Oh nevermind.” I now realize how much wisdom was held within that simple statement. For I have realized that it doesn’t matter what any of those detractors think of what I am doing. If they choose to be unsupportive or disapproving, I have realized that that is their problem, not mine. And it is not worth a moment of my precious energy trying to please them.

All of my life I have cared way too much about what other people think of me. I don’t know where this personality trait comes from, but even from a young age I have always been a people-pleaser. Whether I was trying to please my parents by getting the best grades, or trying to please my teachers by being the model student, if I wasn’t doing perfectly and making people proud of me, I was not content. As an adult I carried this into my professional life by always striving to be the top employee and climb the corporate ladder. But I have realized that over the years I have acted this out to a fault: I have spent years walking on eggshells, agonizing over my choice of words, and ensuring that I did or said the right things in order to not offend or upset the people around me. And while that was always from a place of good intention, and there are certainly moments when being a diplomat is the right course of action, as a whole I have realized that trying to please everyone else is a futile effort and frankly a waste of my valuable time. Simply put, it does not matter how well-intentioned I may be, or how hard I strive to act from a place of highest good, there will always be people who are unhappy with me. Being a writer has forced me to face this reality, and for this I am grateful. I know that no matter what I write, no matter how sincere or heartfelt, that there will be people who hate it, people who are enraged by my words. And so I realize, yet again, that that is their problem, not mine.

Oprah Winfrey spoke on her final show about the idea that everyone on this Earth has a calling:

“Everybody has a calling, and your real job in life is to figure out what that is and get about the business of doing it. Every time we have seen a person on this stage who is a success in their life, they spoke of the job, and they spoke of the juice that they receive from doing what they knew they were meant to be doing. We saw it in the volunteers who rocked abandoned babies in Atlanta. We saw it with those lovely pie ladies from Cape Cod making those delicious potpies. … We saw it every time Tina Turner, Celine, Bocelli or Lady Gaga lit up the stage with their passion. Because that is what a calling is. It lights you up and it lets you know that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. And that is what I want for all of you and hope that you will take from this show. To live from the heart of yourself. You have to make a living; I understand that. But you also have to know what sparks the light in you so that you, in your own way, can illuminate the world.”

As I watched Oprah beautifully express her final soliloquy, her words came out of the television screen and enveloped me. I was moved to tears and goosebumps ran up and down my spine. As she described what it means to have found your calling, I knew that I had found mine. This message further reverberated with me only a few weeks later when one of my yoga teachers was talking about the first time she stepped onto the mat, and how she knew immediately that it was her calling to be a yoga teacher. As I sat on my own mat, legs folded in a seated meditation position, I resonated with everything my teacher was saying, and I felt exactly what she must have felt that day she realized her own calling. I too realized that I had found my calling.

This life has the possibility of presenting us with profound spiritual experiences, experiences that allow us to expand our consciousness and to access our deep, inner truth. By living through one of these experiences, and going deep into the recesses of your spirit and your higher consciousness, you are able to access ancient wisdom. And if you are open enough to “see”and brave enough to trust what lays within, you may be fortunate enough to find your calling. This is exactly what happened to me. The type of life experiences that can lead to such a powerful opening and awaking of consciousness are often experiences of the most painful and tragic kind. Traveling to such profound levels of grief can allow you to blow wide open. This is exactly what happened to me when I lived through my “dark night of the soul“.

I went into my “dark night” having been a manager in the .com world. To my surprise I emerged a writer. As I listened to Oprah Winfrey’s experience, it struck me that often times we have no idea of what our calling will be. We may think that we are supposed to be a doctor because society says that is the best career, or a lawyer because we come from a long line of lawyers, but the truth is that what we think we are supposed to be doing, may in fact be the farthest thing from the truth; it may have nothing to do with our calling. Never in my life did I want to be a writer. It was never remotely a thought in my head. I was not the kid in English class dreaming of being a literary master (and believe me I know plenty who were!). I hated writing. Hell, I even avoided certain college classes because there were too many required research papers for my taste. But when life happened to me, and I suddenly found myself placed on the path of the writer, without having any idea of how I had gotten there, that’s when I knew it was exactly where I was supposed to be.

This brings me back to those people who are being less than enthusiastic about my new-found path and reminds me of another story. Earlier this week my yoga community was celebrating the 14th Birthday of Anusara Yoga. The same teacher I mentioned above was giving a tribute to Anusara founder, John Friend, and she was telling us that when John Friend first started what was a brand new branch of yoga and a new lineage of teaching, while he was blessed with the support of many, he also had a number of detractors and was met with some criticism. Of course he was, he was doing something different from the mainstream. He was taking bold actions to develop a brand new style of yoga and this was threatening to the “old guard.” But as my teacher reminded us, John had already found his inner truth and he knew that he was on his true path, that he had found his calling. Despite the criticism, he knew he had to stand in his truth. Now, 14 years later, Anusara Yoga is one of the fastest-growing yoga movements on the planet, and John’s teachings have profoundly and beautifully impacted and transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people (I am one of those!). John Friend was right to trust his inner guidance and to stand in his truth.

I was lit up as my teacher told this story. As seems to happen more often than not, I felt that her message was magically directed straight at me. I knew immediately that I am no different than John Friend. I have accessed an inner truth that has given me 100% certainty that I have found my calling and that I am on my truth path on this Earth. My journey is to write inspirational stories from the heart, stories of hurt and healing, of betrayal and triumph; to help others with their own healing, by writing about mine. And as I move forward and I am inevitably met with additional criticism, I will always remember the wise words of my Grandmother, “Oh Nevermind.” And I will stop trying to please everyone around me, and instead I will STAND IN MY TRUTH because I know that as long as I am on my true path the rest will follow…

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Balinese Offering

As previously featured on Elephant Journal.

I had been warned that I would experience reverse culture-shock upon returning from Bali, one of the 17,000 islands of Indonesia. I have a little bit of first-hand experience with this concept, having spent my junior year of college living abroad in Spain. When I returned back to the United States and then to a small, rural college town in New England, I felt like I had landed on a different planet. I had gone from a diverse and international community in the midst of a pulsating urban center with a rich cultural and artistic history, to being in the middle of farmland in one of the least diverse states in the nation. So yes, I knew all about reverse culture-shock. But I was only going to Bali on a two-week yoga retreat; surely that was not enough time to experience any kind of culture shock upon my return. I was not worried.

I guess I should have heeded the warning. After the 24 or so hour journey home from Denpasar, we landed in San Francisco late on a Sunday night. My body had no idea what time it was; it didn’t know if it should eat, sleep, or go for a walk! It happened to be just before midnight on what would be the 4th of July, a surreal time to be arriving back home from my first ever trip to Asia. As we drove into the city, headed down the Octavia St. ramp and then made the turn onto Fell St., I was very aware of the fact that I was experiencing the exact same sensation I had had when I found my feet back on the rural earth of New England, all of those years prior; I felt like I had entered the twilight zone. San Francisco is a very vibrant and lively city, full of energy, and as the city was teeming with tourists for the 4th of July festivities, one would imagine it being even more so; and to the average bystander it probably felt exactly that: alive. But to me that night it felt like a dead zone. As we drove past the dark and austere buildings of brick and wood, the city seemed almost depressed to me.

Why did it all of a sudden look so different to me? Bali had provided a stark contrast. The island is famous for being a “spiritually elevated” place with some of the world’s most happy and smiling inhabitants. And that description couldn’t have proved more true. In Bali the idea of community is one of their most important themes. Within a particular village, all of the men are required to join what is called a “Banjar”, essentially the Balinese equivalent of a community organization. The Banjar meets weekly to discuss and decide on issues that impact everyone in the village; such as when to fix a road, rebuild a side-walk or whether or not to allow a bar to open. The men of the village take their Banjar responsibilities very seriously and any men that neglect their Banjar duties are fined accordingly.

In addition to the Banjar, the rest of the villagers are heavily involved in their communities as well. They all work together to organize and perform in local, traditional dance performances, which take place often on a daily basis. They help one another out in times of need. If someone’s house catches fire, you will see the entire community grabbing buckets of water and running to the scene to help. The community also comes together in times of ritual and celebration. In Balinese Hinduism, the highest honor that a person can receive is to have a cremation ceremony. When it comes time for this elaborate and beautiful ceremony, the entire community will come together to assist with the building of the cremation tower and to celebrate the life and right of passage of the deceased.

Balinese life very much takes place in the streets. You see the happy Balinese people out and about (amidst the dogs and hundreds of chickens!) walking, talking to one another, welcoming tourists. And everywhere you look you will see smiles, wider ear to ear smiles than I have ever seen. You see men and women alike bringing their sacred offerings to their Temples, multiple times a day; all to honor and appease the Deities in order to bring blessings upon their village, and the citizens within the village. Community is everything in Bali.

So imagine I come home to a society where it is rare for anybody to talk to their neighbors (unless you have a complaint!), where we spend much of our time isolated either in our homes or in our cars, or in our offices working like dogs, and where if you regularly smile at strangers who pass you on the street, you will more likely than not be taken for a crazy person! This city that had once felt so alive and energized to me, now felt very cold and harsh…and concrete.

What shocked me most of all was the number of homeless people in San Francisco. Knowing that I live in a city with one of the highest populations of homeless people in the country, this should not come as a surprise to me. I see it everyday, day and night, no matter where I go. But the reason that this was suddenly so glaring to me is that in Bali I saw none. Here I was in what the US would consider a “Third Word Country” and I did not see a single person sleeping on the streets or pan-handling. How could this be? I’ve traveled to plenty of Third and even Second and First world countries and seen ample and visible homelessness. So how is it that on this island of nearly four million people, I didn’t see any? The answer is the “family compound”.

Balinese family in their family compound

Anyone who knows me personally knows that this term has a funny, personal connotation to me. You see, my dad comes from a large Italian family, and because several of the siblings built their houses on the same plot of land, side by side and back to back to one another, they have created what we in my family call the “compound”. Well, it seems that my Italian relatives may have been onto something. In Bali, everyone lives in what they call a “family compound”. The oldest brother is the head of the compound, the wives then follow their husbands to their family compounds, and then the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and grandchildren all live together, all working together to support the family compound and its members. So you see, it would be really difficult to become homeless in Bali, because even if a member of the family finds themselves jobless or down and out, because they live in the family compound, they are supported by the rest of the family. Very simply put, the Balinese take care of their own.

So to come home to San Francisco, where on any given day I can see 10-20 people, without homes, without any way to wash themselves, pushing around all of their Wordly possessions in their grocery carts, wondering where they will find their next meal; was a sobering experience to say the least. I found myself wondering how this can be in the richest country in the world when a “Third World” island like Bali has no such problem.

Another element of Balinese society that stood out to me is the way they care for their elderly. They remain in the family compound, as the family elders to impart their wisdom on the grandchildren, and they are very much involved with the day to day functions of the family unit: cooking meals, making offerings, contributing to any family artisanship (ex. mask-making, puppet-making, etc). I came back to America thinking about the fact that we so often put our elderly in nursing homes, that we essentially pawn them off on someone else to take care of them. Now I recognize that this has just become somewhat of a norm in our society and that many people do it out of necessity, and certainly not out of any lack of love. I know it is a horrible decision for many people to have to make. But when I saw this very distinct society that has found a much more humane way to take care of their elders, through the family compound, it simply seemed barbaric to me that our society has developed in the way that it has.

The last aspect of Balinese society that really struck me as beautiful and contrasting to our own was their devotion; their devotion to Earth and Spirit equally. When Hinduism came to Indonesia from India, as early as the first Century, it mixed with the animist religions that already existed on the Indonesian archipelago, forming a unique brand of Hinduism, which today remains only on the island of Bali.  Animism encompasses the belief that there is no separation between the spiritual and physical worlds, and that spirits exist not only in humans, but also in all other animals, plants and all other parts of nature.  The Balinese people very much live off of the land, and because of this belief that we, the Earth and everything on it, are all part of Spirit, they have a deep respect and reverence for all parts of nature. Being an agrarian society, with rice being the most important crop, the Balinese take special care to nurture their fields. They understand that if they disrespect the land, that it will cause everything and everyone to be out of balance. For that reason they spend pain-staking amounts of time and energy to honor their Deities, the Gods of the sky, the Gods of the rice, etc, by making beautiful little baskets of offerings. To walk about Bali is to see hundreds of offerings, everywhere. You will see them on cars, in front of storefronts, in restaurants, at Temple gates, and on sidewalks. As a tourist you really have to watch your step to not step on them as you go. Multiple times a day you see men and women alike coming out in their lovely sarongs and Temple scarves, to leave a beautiful offering at a Temple.

Balinese woman leaving daily offerings at temple gate

When is the last time any of us went outside and thanked the land for providing us with our food and water? What does our society do to stay in balance with Earth and Spirit? I’ll let you answer that for yourselves. I have my own thoughts on the matter.  But I do know that many of our own Native American tribes do this. The society that I have described above is very similar to Shamanic societies all around the world. I have studied much on this favorite topic of mine, as it is something from which I believe we can learn great lessons. I am intrigued by how native societies all over the world, thousands of miles apart, have developed very similar rituals and ways of living that honor the Spirits around them, the Spirits of Earth and Sky. If I can apply a pop-culture reference, if any of you have seen “Avatar”, then perhaps you know what I’m talking about. That film was poignantly timed and did a powerful job of illustrating the beauty and wisdom of a Shamanic society, of the importance of respecting, honoring and integrating with the land around us. Picture the scenes in “Avatar” and you can pretty much picture Bali.

So what is my point? Am I saying that Bali is a better place to live than America? Bali is a beautiful, magical, spiritually “elevated” place, that is absolutely true. And would I accept an invitation to live there, even if only for a while? You better believe it! But I am not saying that any one place is better to live than the other, and I have to state that because I know that there will be people who read this and make that mistake. I definitely recognize the wonderful things about the United States (as I did after my adjustment home from Spain as well), but the beautiful thing about travel is that it gives you perspective, perspective to see what is good about one’s society and what we have to be thankful for; but it also provides us with the perspective to see what is not so good about our own societies, what can be improved upon and where we have room to grow as a people.

I believe the true definition of a Patriot is someone who is not so arrogant to believe that they are better than everyone else, but rather is humble enough to know that he can learn from other people, other cultures. And while a country that still performs animal sacrifice, a country that does not use toilet paper and a country where offerings are made to appease the Gods, would most often be considered “primitive” by the Western world, instead I would argue that it has a lot to teach us. The real question is, are we humble enough to learn?

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Earlier this week I learned the very unpleasant tidbit of information that a former colleague of mine had betrayed my trust, and that this had in turn contributed to my losing my job. Was I livid? You better believe it. Did I want to immediately lash out and confront this person? Affirmative. I have always prided myself on being someone that doesn’t take crap from anyone, someone who is able to stand up for herself and fight back. “Nobody better mess with Jeannie Page!” had been a life-long credo…

Thankfully I had been on my way to yoga class when I got this news. Furious from the news, feeling absolutely betrayed by someone I had trusted, and completely keyed up as a result, I knew that I had to calm myself and meditate on the issue. Once on the mat, I began to breathe deeply. As I moved through the poses I focused deeply on the issue at hand. What was the right response? Would I email this person, tell them that I knew what they had done, and essentially tell them off? Here it was 4 months later since I’d lost my job. Would there be any point to confronting this person? Would it help me in any way?

Well, my main purpose with starting this blog was to write about life’s challenges, with the intention of approaching them from a more enlightened space. I immediately recognized that I was faced with an opportunity to do just that. I’ve been practicing yoga and meditation long enough to know all too well about the human ego. I knew immediately that my response of anger, my desire to retaliate, was an entirely natural human response… but that it was in fact a response of the ego. My ego had been wronged and my ego wanted revenge. But what would that accomplish? It really didn’t matter WHAT or WHOM had contributed to me losing my job. The fact of the matter was that I had already lost the job and there was no turning back.

I knew there was only one right answer, one enlightened answer. The answer was to do nothing, to say nothing, and to simply rise above it. Now this certainly would leave my ego feeling entirely unsatisfied, but I recognized that the way to truly have strength in this situation was to walk away from it and move beyond it. I had to be stronger than my ego. But beyond that, I also recognized that I had an opportunity to take this to a place of even higher vibration: a place of gratitude. You see, I actually owe this person a “thank you”, for they have helped to liberate me from the chains of corporate oppression and to release me from a very unhealthy situation. They have allowed me to make a much-needed shift in my life and to align with my true path, a path of higher awareness, conscious creation and {hopefully!} inspirational writing.

So, how am I going to react? I am simply sending thoughts of gratitude.

And I say to you, that if you find yourself in my position, and having been betrayed or frankly screwed over by someone…stop and think for a minute. Find the silver lining in the situation, look for the good that has come from it (or that WILL come from it!), and instead of seeking revenge, send them thoughts of gratitude.

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It is an age old question: is the soul eternal? Mankind has been asking this question since the beginning of time, throughout all civilizations, all around the world. So who am I to try to answer such a question? I am just a simple girl who has had some pretty extraordinary experiences. One such experience occurred in June of 2008 in Southern California.

I was in San Diego working at a convention and I was sad, incredibly sad. I had just learned that the man I loved had moved in with the woman with whom he had replaced me, virtually instantly. I was devastated, absolutely gutted. It was painful enough that he had replaced me so quickly, but this had been the best friend I’d ever had in my life, and he had callously cut me from his life and broken off all contact, as if I’d never meant anything to him at all. To learn that he had now moved in with her was just the proverbial icing on the cake, on a very dark and disgusting cake.

I could not function. Here I was at this conference booth, dressed up in my sharp suit, trying to sell our product to whomever walked by…but I was just going through the motions. My head was entirely elsewhere and as I had just learned this painful news, I was quite nauseous and unstable on my feet. I decided that I needed a nap: the kind of nap where you just disappear into the mattress, where you fall heavily into an alternate reality and forget about the waking world, even if only for a short time.

The afternoon break came and I immediately went back to my hotel room and sank into the bed and cried. It hurt so badly. “Will this pain ever go away?”, I asked myself. Of course I’d been through heartache before in my life, this was certainly not the first time. But this was by far the most profound, the most life-altering and I could sense that it was a grief that I would carry with me forever. I tried to cry myself to sleep….

…Suddenly I was at the foot of the bed, looking back at myself sleeping. I was initially confused. “How can I be seeing from over here if my body is over there?”, I asked myself. “How can I be looking back at myself?” I asked myself if I was dreaming. “No! This is definitely not a dream. I am more awake, more lucid than I’ve ever felt.”, I exclaimed to myself. I looked around the room and saw all of the reminders that I was in fact in my hotel room: I saw my suitcase on the floor, my shoes by the side of the bed, and I saw my body sleeping in the exact position in which I knew I had fallen asleep, with my left arm tucked under my head. I looked down at myself where I was…I was floating!

In that instant it hit me… I was outside of my body! I was having my very first Out of Body Experience. Now, all of my life I had believed in this sort of thing, it is not something I had ever questioned. Whenever I’d read stories about other people having OBEs (Out of Body Experiences) and near death experiences, and read the similarities between all of the different stories around the world, I’d never had any doubt of their veracity. I’d always found it fascinating and intriguing. But it never occurred to me that this could happen to me.

What happened next would blow me away. I floated over to my sleeping body and I began stroking my hair. I said to myself, to the me sleeping in the bed, “Don’t worry Jeannie, everything is going to be ok.” The physical me began to cry and at that moment I swept back into myself and BOOM: I woke up in the bed, tears pouring down my face.

I immediately knew what had happened: my higher self had given me a message of comfort that day, a message of higher truth. I was speechless… But not only was I speechless, I was elated. Before I had gone to sleep, I had been devastated beyond all belief, and while that pain was still very much alive, I had just discovered something so much greater, something that made that pain virtually irrelevant, and something that I knew would change my life forever. I had just confirmed for myself that the soul is eternal, that our physical bodies are merely a vessel and that when this body breaks down, our soul lives on and goes elsewhere. I simply knew this with 100% certainty.

People have asked me if perhaps it could have been a dream, and I know some people will read this and think that. And as you read, that was the first thing I asked myself when I realized what was happening. All I can say is that anyone else who has experienced an OBE will know with 100% certainty that it was not a dream. There is no greater lucidity, no greater alertness than you feel during an OBE. You feel an incredibly heightened sense of awareness and knowing, far greater than you feel in the waking world. On top of that, you feel an incredible amount of peace, a lightness and a Universal love. You can feel that you are connected to and part of something greater.

Whatever was going on in my physical life, whatever painful emotions I felt, I knew that from that moment on, my life would never be the same again. I now knew that I was part of something greater, some elaborate and intricate scheme (whatever it may be), and that my soul was eternal. I now knew that my body was just that, a body, and that the soul would continue living on after this life. Armed with that knowledge, I know that I can walk through my life on this Earth and I can experience everything from a much higher place of awareness. I can handle anything that comes my way, for I now know how fleeting, how temporary it all is, and how small our human problems really are in the grand scheme of things. I now have a higher vision, and with that…. peace.

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