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Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles’


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Eight years ago, on July 1, 2007, I rolled into Los Angeles, in my little, green Saturn, with a sense of adventure and an eager heart, ready to fight for love. I fought and I lost. Hard. Shortly after my arrival in California, the housing crisis hit and then the recession. Out of work with no prospects, I was forced to take a minimum wage job. As I bled through my savings, I had no idea what the future would hold. I guess I could say that was the low point of my life. Enter dark night of the soul.

Then I discovered yoga and something deep inside me began to percolate and awaken. The debris started to get swept away, the pain began to transform itself and new possibilities began to appear. During this time I landed a full-time job, only to be laid off eight months later when the recession was in full swing. Lost and unsure of what to do next, I went to yoga. I meditated. I hiked. I walked along the beach. I fell in love with Los Angeles.

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

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

I fulfilled my dream of traveling to Peru and stood in the magical place that is Machu Picchu. And synchronicity began to flow into my life. On a yoga retreat with a group from San Francisco, the seeds were planted. The next thing I knew, a start-up job would take me unexpectedly to San Francisco, forcing me to leave behind the City of Angels before I was ready to go. A heart-wrenching move that was for me, but clearly one that was meant to be.

I “accidentally” landed on the same street as my brother and had the privilege of becoming Aunt Jeannie to my very first nephew, Brendan. The following year I would lose that start-up job, this time going out in a blaze of glory. Like the job loss before it, this would turn out to be one of the greatest gifts of my life, a blessing in disguise.

After I left that job, I was suddenly a writer – the most unexpected twist in my journey thus far. I was blogging, writing pieces for several different websites, appearing in different magazines, making amazing connections. I had the honor of working as a social media consultant for a best-selling author and I was making insanely unexpected connections in the publishing world. And then there was a journey to the other side of the world – my first trip to Asia, on a yoga retreat to Bali. My universe was expanding and my perspective shifting in fantastic ways.

At the same time I had taken my first Anusara Yoga immersion, and in the process discovered the most amazing community of people. I found my teachers, met my dearest of friends. I was doing tons of yoga. I found the most magical little meditation group. I was writing in cafes. I was living in yoga pants and taking long walks around this breathtaking city. I was living through the happiest, most joyful, most inspiring and abundant time of my life.

The next year, I became an auntie yet again, this time to my niece Gwenna. Over the years since, I have become a permanent fixture in the lives of my niece and nephew – Aunt Jeannie that lives in the cool apartment, a mile down the road. How blessed I am and continue to be.

But as reality would have it, the life of a writer does not pay the rent in San Francisco and so I had to return to the corporate world. I suddenly found myself back in the rat race, in a very undesirable position. Every day was a struggle. Every day I had to drag myself out of bed. But on the first week of this job, I walked into my HR orientation and met a Bostonian named Andy with a strong No’th Sho’ accent. A beautiful friendship blossomed and that friendship turned into love.

Final book simulationThen I published a book. The Yoga Diaries was a labor of love, a culmination of years of darkness that became transformed by yoga and delivered me into the happiest, most joyful, most abundant time of my life. This was my moment of giving birth, to all of the dark and light, all of the strength and wisdom that lay within me.

I managed to get myself out of the less than ideal job situation, and what I took with me were a couple great, new friends and my now sweetheart. And then in yet another surprising turn of events, the stars aligned to lead me back to my former company in Boston, a company I worked for over a decade ago, the best company I’ve ever known. And now here I am, eight years later, living in San Francisco, in a city and a state that have changed me into the best possible version of myself, working for a fabulous Bostonian company, and being blessed with the love of a wonderful Bostonian man. It seems that my life has come full circle.

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Five years ago today I came to San Francisco for a 1-month sublet, my kitties in tow. I was on the tail end of the darkest depression of my life and my life was stagnating in Los Angeles. I knew I needed to make a change, but I had no idea where it would lead or what I would find in San Francisco. But in the face of fear and doubt, I blindly took the first step. Five days later a job offer had fallen in my lap. Overnight I had to find someone to take over my lease in Los Angeles, find a permanent apartment here in San Francisco, pack up my apartment, and drive the Uhaul, by myself, the six lonely hours up the I-5. I’ll never forget the experience of driving out of Los Angeles. It was 2009 and we were experiencing some of the worst fires in LA history, and they were extremely close to the city. As I drove through Hollywood and up the 101, I could see smoke, ash, and flames on both sides of the freeway. I felt like I was literally driving out of the mouths of Hell. Little did I know, I was actually the Phoenix about to rise from the ashes.

TriangleI started my new life in San Francisco, disillusioned by the weather and really missing my Hollywood Hills and my Mediterranean lifestyle. I found myself in a stressful start-up job, with an environment that gradually became more and more toxic. What was I doing? Where was I going? I had no idea. I came to my mat. I sought out solace in my yoga community. I knew nobody. But I kept coming to my mat. And little by little, month after month, I began to make new friends and build a new community. That job eventually fired me and I stood in one of the most important and pivotal moments of my life. Somewhat accidentally, at this same time, I found myself in the unexpected seat of the writer. I wrote my story of healing through yoga. A floodgate opened. The next thing I knew I had a blog with thousands of followers around the globe. Life was surprising me at every turn. I began writing for several different blogs and making new connections, collaborating with other creative beings all over the world. I was taking major risks. Around the same time I enrolled in a 7-month intensive yoga immersion. My yoga practice deepened to levels I never could have imagined and a community of friends formed around me. The most beloved, devoted friends of my life began to step forward, sharing in the journey and supporting me all along the way.

San Francisco has changed me in ways I never dared dream. It has brought magic, synchronicity, and connection – truly unbelievable experiences that continue to inspire and amaze me day in and day out. And then there was a book. For the past three years, I have rejected society’s norms. I have walked to the beat of my own drum, I have followed my heart and I have lived without fear. I have rejected the notion that I have to do anything that is dictated by others. During that time a book formed- a passion project which set out to share the countless inspirational stories of transformation through yoga that I continued to hear left and right. And with it, a mission. My mission: to share the power of the practice; to bring greater peace, love, and healing to the world; to empower people to overcome their darkness and step into the light.

On this five year anniversary of beginning my life in San Francisco, it seems perfectly poignant that I stand at the precipice of publishing The Yoga Diaries. And I look back in absolute astonishment at this incredibly rich, surprising, powerful journey that has unfolded before me – A journey that I created.

There is no amount of gratitude that I could express that would do justice to how thankful I feel; thankful for this magnificent, breathtaking city that has taken me to new heights; thankful for all of the beautiful beings that have crossed my path, become my brothers and sisters, and supported my dreams and my personal growth; a life so rich and full of Grace and love. I am the Phoenix and I have risen.

Phoenix Rising

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DSCN1335Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles

It was exactly six years ago today that I drove my trusted little Saturn into the City of Angels, the crimson sun setting behind the mighty palms. It had always been my dream to move to the West Coast, and at this moment in my life, I was spurred on by a fight for love. Sadly I was met with anything but. And so began the darkest years of my life: alone, jobless, and heartbroken in the vast and lonely sea of Los Angeles.

In a moment of desperation, I dragged myself into my neighborhood yoga studio. And that seemingly small decision would forever change the course of my life: it would be my first step into a profound healing journey and the beginnings of a major life transformation, the likes of which I never could have imagined. Yoga led me to Peru. Peru led me to San Francisco and here I discovered a whole new Jeannie and a whole new life: a beloved community, an unexpected and dramatic career turn, a book, so many magical experiences and powerful manifestations. It has been a story that this writer never could have written.

Golden Gate from Buena Vista with AnkitGolden Gate Bridge from Buena Vista Park, San Francisco

For six years, California has been home. In fact, from the moment I arrived here, I felt like I had come home. When my heart was broken, Los Angeles held me in her warm embrace and surrounded me with her Angels. California has taken my breath away with her unrivaled beauty: her brilliant sunshine, her majestic mountains, her pristine ocean. And then there was San Francisco. Oh, San Francisco. With her forward-thinking, progressive, risk-taking mentality, San Francisco has inspired in me a well of limitless possibilities and she has allowed for an energetic expansion beyond all measure. California has cracked my heart wide open and allowed me to connect with the Spirit within and all around me.

On a regular basis, I have stood in awe of her outrageous scenery: spectacular views of the shimmering Bay, the electric view of Los Angeles from the Hollywood Hills, the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge, the snow capping the mighty San Gabriel Mountains, the jaw-dropping vistas from the twists and turns of the Pacific Coast Highway, and the mystical fog cradling the dramatic San Francisco skyline.

California has changed me. She has saved me. She has inspired me. I am forever grateful for this place.

DSCF2697Baker Beach, San Francisco

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Over recent weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting with several different friends from out of town, all friends who came from different cities and from previous lives of mine. Not only was it wonderful to catch up with these old friends and reminisce about times gone by, but it was a compelling opportunity to look back on my journey, to see all of the dots that have connected, and to reflect on all of the wonderful souls who have touched and shaped my path along this winding road of life.

Boston, MA

The first of these friends, Simone, was visiting from my home city of Boston. We began working together when I was a mere 23 years old, fairly fresh out of college and wet behind the ears. Looking back on that young age, now 14 years later, it is hard to even recognize the person that I once was. I was just barely beginning my journey into adulthood and I had so much to learn, and so many tough lessons that were still ahead of me. In my wildest imagination (or nightmares!), I could not have conceived of what was yet to come. I was, however, fortunate enough to land the job of a lifetime. For several years we organized student tours abroad and got to reap the benefit of traveling to exciting, foreign lands. This was a professional life filled with wonderful friends, laughter, hilarious travel stories and adventures and simply joyful and rewarding times. These were the days of our lives.

Fast forward five years and I would find myself a new resident of the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, and a newly enrolled graduate student. Having left behind a broken heart and dark clouds in Boston, I was starting over in a new life, preparing to embark on a career of international diplomacy and peace-keeping. However, a semester of confusion, dissatisfaction and feeling like a fish out of water, would eventually lead to my leaving graduate school and landing serendipitously in a job working for an International Human Rights organization. This is where I would meet Lauren, the second visitor to San Francisco in recent weeks.

Washington, DC

Lauren and I would become part of what I coined the “The Sex and the City” foursome of ladies who would get together regularly for dinner and girl talk. These friends were the rocks that kept me grounded during my four years in Washington. Lauren would witness me evolve into my first management role in the .com world, she would see me grapple with the stresses of a high-pressure, long-hour career, and she would see me struggle through a confusing yet painfully beautiful long-distance “relationship,” a relationship which would eventually leave me completely shattered, turned inside out and gasping for air. About to embark on what would turn out to be my “dark night of the soul,” Lauren would be part of the good group of friends that would send me off on my forever-destined journey to the west coast, leaving behind my east coast life and friends, leaving behind a part of myself.

The journey west would take me to Los Angeles, a city that would unwittingly become home to the deepest depression, the most gripping pain and the most intense struggle of my life. But simultaneously, and somewhat ironically, it would become the most bewitching and magical place I have ever lived, deeply connecting with the fibers of my spirit. Filling me up with her bittersweet nectar, Los Angeles would eventually become the gateway to a profound spiritual awakening, a complete transformation and a brand new Jeannie, alchemized by the fire of life.

Magical Los Angeles

Enter Garrett. A childhood friend of the family, Garrett had known me since I was a young girl and he had seen me grow into a woman. He had known me through various lives and several different versions of myself. Upon my arrival in Los Angeles, he was one of the only people I knew and was often the only shoulder to cry on during a very dark time. Garrett was witness to the darkest years of my life, the most profound turmoil through which I have walked, and for this I am grateful.

I am grateful because today when I met Garrett and his girlfriend for coffee in downtown San Francisco, while they were visiting from Los Angeles, I was able to shine brightly and tell Garrett how happy I am, how much joy, wonder and magic I experience on a daily basis. Had Garrett not been there to witness my lowest point, I’m not sure anyone would truly know how extraordinary and powerful my transformation has been, and how grateful I am for all of the trials and tribulations that have led me to this place.

As I look back on these friends, and the many others who have laughed with me, cried with me, fought with me and walked alongside me, I am deeply touched by the indelible marks that each one has left on my soul. It is often said that we should not look back to the past, but I profoundly disagree. There is so much grace and beauty in putting the pieces together and making sense of how the journey unfolded. Some of the most important lessons, and even revelations, of our lives come from time reflecting back on our previous journeys. It is all a beautiful, and necessary, part of our evolution.

It is true that however we might plan and plot, in large part we have no idea where are journeys will take us next, or where each path will lead; but what I am sure of is that there will be beautiful souls along the way, souls who will come into our lives to help us along our journey. There will be souls who help us, souls who hurt us, and there will be souls who crack us wide open, but each one of these souls has a purpose and a powerful lesson to teach us. And as we walk along our path, however much it twists and turns, and however dark, scary and painful it may become at times… we should embrace the journey.

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Me and my brothers in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

My very first introduction to San Francisco was at the tender age of six when my mother took me and my two brothers across the country on a 2-week train trip. I don’t remember much of San Francisco, except for this photo missing my two front teeth. That and the crookedest street in the world. It, like many experiences of my early years, faded into the recesses of my memory.

Some 20 years later I would be sitting in my office in Boston, daydreaming about moving to San Francisco with one of my best friends and colleagues. I’m not sure why we had it in our heads that San Francisco should be our destination; perhaps it was the fact that both of our older brothers had already moved there, perhaps it was the adventure of moving west towards a new frontier, perhaps it was the romanticism of a place we couldn’t fully imagine, some place new, different, exciting. Perhaps it was simply the fantasy of leaving everything behind and starting over, a new person in a new life.

San Francisco skyline

Despite our daydreams, life had other plans for both of us. She, my colleague and friend, ended up on her own adventures between New York City, Paris and Washington, DC. My own path led me to Washington, DC and then finally west, but to a different destination… Los Angeles. Though I had spent all of that time dreaming about San Francisco, circumstances had led me elsewhere, and San Francisco just didn’t appear to be in the cards. That is until 2009, when a series of events “inadvertently” led me right to the place of my previous daydreams… I had finally landed in San Francisco.

At first it was a love-hate relationship. My heart was stuck in Los Angeles, and that coupled with my love of the warm weather of Southern California, meant that I was pretty miserable and found every reason to complain about San Francisco. It was not living up to my dreams of all those years before.

But as it always does, time went by and things began to change. My heart-strings began to release their tight grip on Los Angeles and I began opening up more to the idea of San Francisco being home. Little by little I began to acclimate to the weather, I began to find a new community of friends, I began to plant roots. San Francisco was becoming home. As it did so, the beauty around me began to become more and more apparent. Every time I would walk to yoga, I would stand in awe of the spectacular view of the skyline that was simply the backdrop of my walk through Alamo Square. The succulent scent of California’s year-round flowers wafted into my nostrils everywhere I went. The breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge would render me speechless each time I passed over it or caught a glimpse of it from atop a high vista point in the city. The stunning views of the San Francisco Bay, dotted with beautiful sailboats, would come into my eyesight during a routine walk or drive. On almost a daily basis I would find myself amazed by the staggering beauty around me and exclaiming to myself, “My God. How on earth do I live HERE?”

View of Golden Gate Bridge from Marin Headlands

As a writer dedicated to focusing on the positive and seeking out the joy of life, I strive every day to appreciate the beauty that is all around me and to not take it for granted. But like any human, even I have my moments when I lose sight of it. Tonight was one of those moments. As we just changed the clocks and it is suddenly getting dark much earlier than it was previously, I found myself disappointed by the loss of light in the day. As I was preparing to leave for yoga this evening, I posted this update to my Facebook page:

“Really not thrilled about it being DARK for my walk to yoga.”

Looking out the window I could see that it was dark and I was not looking forward to the walk in the cold, especially when I was so used to taking this lovely walk with the warm sun on my back.

I headed out the door and onto my usual route to yoga, which takes me through Alamo Square, home of The Painted Ladies. The minute I set foot into the park, I once again stood in awe. In the crisp fall air, the city was sparkling with absolute brilliance against the night sky, cradled by the glow of the bright moon above. I was immediately humbled and realized the error of my ways with my previous Facebook post. It was ironic that I was on my way to yoga. One of the themes that we frequently explore in yoga is the embracing of not only the light, but also the dark, the shadow side of life. As the seasons change and we move into a darker time, the yoga invites us to explore the darker side of ourselves, our experiences and our emotions. And it invites us to embrace both, to see the beauty in both, the opportunity for growth which comes from each. As I reflected on my dissatisfaction about the days turning into night, I realized that I was missing out on the opportunity to embrace both the light and the dark. And as I walked through Alamo Square and marveled at the beauty of the night scene around me, I felt nothing but wonder and gratitude.

San Francisco at night, from Alamo Square

I thought about the 6-year old me sitting in front of the Golden Gate Bridge with my brothers, completely unaware of the fact that this would one-day be my home. I thought about the 20-something me daydreaming with my friend about San Francisco, about how we would get there and what it would be like. And I thought about the current me who had evolved from a place of daydreaming, to ambivalence about a city, to embracing it as my home. And as I looked at the stunning skyline glittering beneath the light of the moon, I was overcome with emotion and I once again thought to myself, “My God. How do I live HERE?”

This post is dedicated to Jules, who has forever been my ally and friend
along this journey.

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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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© Philippe Clément, http://en.arterra.be/

They say that “there is no reward without risk.” I have no idea who “they” are, but whoever they are, they are very wise. Throughout my adult life I have always been a risk-taker; and I’m not talking about the adrenalin-pumping type of risks, such as bungee-jumping, or the questionable type of risks, such as gambling in Las Vegas. I’m talking about life risks, the kind of risks that require a perfect balance between practicality and fearlessness, mixed in with just a dash of insanity.

The first big risk of my adult life was at the naive age of 20. Never having left the country (with the exception of the 6 hour drive across the border to Canada), I put myself on a plane and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Spain, where I would live for an entire year. I landed in Madrid, a world away from my family and the only life I had known, not knowing a soul and surrounded by ham legs. This move would not only be one of the most life-altering experiences I have ever had in this life, but it would also later lead to a dream job: a job planning educational student tours to Spain and Latin America (www.acis.com); a job I did for years and loved; a job that would allow me the incredible opportunity to travel regularly to Spain and Latin America. This risk to move to an unfamiliar world in Spain would prove to be the first in a long line of bold life choices.

In 2003, after 911 had severely impacted the student travel industry, I made another bold decision: to move to Washington, DC, another city where I didn’t know a soul, and once again leaving behind a life of familiarity. In Washington, DC I would attend graduate school at GW University, where I would study International Affairs, putting me on my desired path of becoming a Foreign Service Officer. At least that was the plan…However, it didn’t take me more than one semester in DC to realize I was not a bureaucrat. After much deliberation, I made the brave and scary decision to leave graduate school. After all of the work (GREs, college applications, pre-requisite courses) I had done to get myself to GW, this was no small decision and a risk I took with slight trepidation.

Two months after taking the risk to leave graduate school, I would find myself walking around the halls of the United Nations, and looking out on the pristine waters of Lake Geneva, shimmering with the reflection of the majestic, snow-capped Alps behind. “How did this happen?”, you might ask. You see, after leaving school, I began immediately looking for work, honestly having no idea what I was doing or where I would land. In a surprising turn of events, I was offered a position with a human rights firm in DC, which sent me to Geneva, Switzerland for three weeks to work at the Commission on Human Rights at the UN. As I sat there overlooking the breathtaking scenery, chills ran up and down my spine. I knew that if I had not taken the risk of dropping out of graduate school, I would not be having the incredible experience of standing in the halls of the United Nations in Geneva. That was a pivotal moment in my life; the moment when it crystallized for me that life is all about taking risks.

Upon returning to Washington, DC, and now clear that the decision to have left school was the right one, my short-term assignment at this job was coming to an end. To my surprise they offered me a full-time position. Here I was having dropped out of grad school, and virtually out of money, and I was being offered a full-time job. Perfect, right? Well yes, except for the fact that my gut was screaming at me to not take this job; my instincts told me that although it was a good offer, that it was not the right path for me. Without any other plan or idea of where my future would lead, and facing the fact that I would soon run out of money, I went against the advice of my parents (here’s where the important dose of insanity comes in!), I took another risk and turned down the job. I knew how long my money would last and I knew that I would need to find a job before the end of August. On August 24th, just as I was reaching my deadline, I was offered a different job: a job with an internet start-up, an incredible opportunity which would take me down a completely different path.

Taking this job with my first start-up (along with the decision to turn down the first offer) would turn out to be another brilliant decision, and a risk well-taken. Within a few months I had been promoted to my first management position, and I proceeded to gain the fantastic experience of building out a brand new department, and furthermore to have the exciting and invaluable education of going through my first acquisition. (Beyond that, little did I know that the decision to take this start-up job would five years later lead to another start-up position in San Francisco.)

In early 2007, after almost three exhilarating and incredibly educational years at my first start-up, and now with solid management experience under my belt, I made the decision to leave my job. For all of my life I had wanted to move to the west coast, and at this point in my life there was a love worth fighting for in Los Angeles. So I quit my very stable and well-paying job in Washington, DC, packed up everything, and drove the 3,000 miles across country to Los Angeles. However, this would prove to be the riskiest decision that I had ever made. You see, this man had just chosen another woman over me, and I was stubborn (or stupid!) enough to try to fight for him anyway.

To my dismay, I arrived in Los Angeles to find myself rejected, heartbroken, jobless and friendless. And even worse, I had the very bad timing of moving right before the recession was about to hit in 2008, and this meant that I was in store for two years of on and off unemployment and instability. I was about to enter my “dark night of the soul.”

Well, as stupid a risk as that appears to have been, it would prove to be the most daring, and in turn the most rewarding I have ever taken. And by this point I had learned that the amount of reward we receive is directly proportionate to the amount of risk we take. This move across the country to California would change my life in dramatic ways, all for the better: it would lead to my discovery of Anusara yoga, which would save me from a very dark period; it would lead to a powerful “spiritual awakening,” which would lead to me being a writer right now; and it would lead to a series of jobs that would eventually lead me to San Francisco, and to the brilliant life that I now enjoy.

And this leads me to the latest (and hopefully best!) risk that I have taken. In January I lost my job at my second start-up, and I found myself at a crossroads. I could either continue to look for work in the corporate/start-up world, which had become my niche over the previous years, or I could make the very daring decision to follow my bliss and work at becoming an inspirational writer. On one hand I could choose the path that society says I should follow, the path of the stable career, salary and benefits; on the other hand I could choose to follow my heart into the unknown. Choosing the latter would go against the practical advice of everyone around me (including my parents), and it would absolutely require an ample amount of insanity. So which path do you think I took? If you’re reading this, I think you know the answer.

Since I made the fearless decision to follow my bliss and walk down the unknown path of the writer, in just three months I have launched my work in two different languages, and I have been beyond humbled to receive more than 5,000 fans in over 30 countries (now 25,000 fans in 35 countries!) ; all amazing souls who are supporting and encouraging me along my path.

So I ask you this: when you are standing at a crossroads and are faced with a major life decision, the question is “to risk or not to risk?”… You tell me.

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