Category Archives: fear & challenges

Something Wonderfully Bold

tara brach illustration

“Perhaps the biggest tragedy of our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns…We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet each day we listen to inner voices that keep our life small.”

“Pain is not wrong. Reacting to pain as wrong initiates the trance of unworthiness. The moment we believe something is wrong, our world shrinks and we lose ourselves in the effort to combat the pain.”

“Attention is the most basic form of love. By paying attention we let ourselves be touched by life , and our hearts naturally become more open and engaged.”

“Charlotte Joko Beck, Zen teacher and author, teaches that the “secret” of spiritual life is the capacity to “… return to that which we have spent a lifetime hiding from, to rest in the bodily experience of the present moment—even if it is a feeling of being humiliated, of failing, of abandonment, of unfairness.” Through the sacred art of pausing, we develop the capacity to stop hiding, to stop running away from our experience. We begin to trust in our natural intelligence, in our naturally wise heart, in our capacity to open to whatever arises. Like awakening from a dream, in the moment of pausing our trance recedes and Radical Acceptance becomes possible.”

“There is something wonderfully bold and liberating about saying yes to our entire imperfect and messy life.”

All quotes by Tara Brach


Filed under fear & challenges, great quotes

Change Your Focus, Change Your Life

road in a rural area with a nice blue sky

Want your relationship to fail? Focus on what isn’t working.

Want your life to feel like drudgery? Focus on what isn’t working.

Want to feel like there’s no way to win? Focus on what isn’t working.

When Mario Andretti (super-famous race car driver) was asked, after all of his years of racing and success, what his greatest lesson and piece of advice was, his answer was very simple… “Don’t look at the wall.”

If you are blazing down a racetrack at 200 miles per hour — don’t look at the wall! Keep your eyes on the road. Don’t waver, don’t worry. Keep your focus on where you are going, and where you ultimately want to be.

Your car is like an extension of your body, and your body follows the same principles as your life — your focus leads the way.

If you focus on what isn’t working, or what you don’t want, or what you don’t have — that’s what you’ll get! And lots more just like it.

You have to put your horse blinders on and have faith. Focus on what’s working for you. Focus on what’s great. Focus on what you love. Focus on what you want. Hold your attention there, repeatedly. Trust where it’s leading you.

Where your attention goes, it grows.

Like begets like.

Someone asked me once what advice I have for people that are going through a bought of depression. I said there is only one thing that works to swiftly change a negative mind-state… Gratitude.

As quickly as you can, begin to move into a state of appreciation. Even if it feels contrived at first. You have to immediately change your focus to what is good in your life.

Maybe your girlfriend left you — but the couch you are sitting on feels so soft!

Maybe you lost your job — but your still have your legs!

Try as best as you can to embrace and love what’s working in your life.

How does the perfect temperature water feel on your skin when you take a shower?

How good is a cold refreshing drink on a hot day?

Get your mind off of what isn’t working and keep it on what does work. As best and as much as you can.

Your attention really matters.

If things are really hard for you right now, what’s soft? What’s good? What do you want more of?

Focus on the road you want to travel. Focus on where you want to be. Focus on what’s good. Focus on what you love. …You’ll get lots more of it.

I know this advice seems silly or super-simple, but people thought the same thing about Mario Andretti’s advice. What! After all those years of racing, and all of that success — all you have to offer is, “Don’t look at the wall”?

Yep. Believe it or not. Sometimes the very answers we are looking for are the ones that we completely ignore. Because they seem too simple, too good to be true.

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Filed under fear & challenges, sunday is for lovers

Our 3 Month Adventure

3 month adventure 90 day challenge

The title says ‘our,’ because I’m talking about me & you! But first let me explain (by telling you something about me.)

In the past, (more intensely from 1997 – 2011), I would regularly set-up challenges for myself. Examples of challenges are the following:

  • Hiking in the Himalayas to a glacier. (Wearing a pair of dilapidated shoes that were 4 sizes to big for me — it’s a long story, and an event that I would never-ever care to repeat. I would hike again in the Himalayas, but not in that way!)
  • Running a full 26.2 marathon — with a super-hilly course. (I was 35lbs. overweight and ill at the time, I had a golfball sized growth that needed to be removed in my left ovary — ovaries should be the size of almonds, not golfballs.)
  • Participating in several 10 day silent (Buddhist meditation based) retreats. (By far the easiest of all my challenges, it wasn’t challenging at all — but I did relish & enjoy the silence, as well as the break from technology. )
  • Attaining beginners/intermediate and advanced yoga teacher diplomas. (By far one of the greatest choices I ever made. Not because I continued to teach or practice yoga asanas, but because yogic philosophy and meditation would continue to stay with me and help me through daily life.)
  • Shaving my head. (Cutting off my long hair to see what life is like without it! I’m glad I tried it, but would never do it again. I have a horrible shaped head, with more scars and bald spots than I was aware of. It was not a good look for me — at all. But that wasn’t the point of doing it.)
  • Creating big commissioned works of art for the public. (I did this on several occasions. Some of the projects I enjoyed, others I disliked for numerous reasons, and prayed for the day it would be complete and over with.)
  • Fasting for 18 days on water only. (One of my more insightful and pleasant challenges, ironically it was effortless and I could have easily gone on for another week or two.)
  • Going through intense meditation & yogic practices led by swamis. (Some were a bit traumatic! But also great, and I was grateful for the experience.)
  • And there are many others… I think I bored you with enough details… but I’ll tell you one more… Another example was making a list of fears to conquer (in the late 90’s), and crossing them off one-by-one. The list was filled with activities that I felt ashamed to learn as a grown adult (like learning how to ride a bicycle), or activities I kept dodging in my life (like mending a long-time strained relationship), or things that I was utterly terrified of. Learning how to swim was a huge one for me. Mostly because I almost drowned as a child. (I was pulled out of a lake and dragged onto land.) In time, I was able to cross that fear off my list. (I took swimming lessons and later traveled to Fire Island with my swimming instructor, to swim in ocean/bay waters.) Learning how to swim was by far the most challenging, most impactful, as well as the most memorable thing I have ever done (due to the fact that I had a life-changing epiphany while in the water).

At the time I was doing all of these things, I was often encouraged (sometimes in miraculous ways), but also discouraged. People thought I should be focusing on more important things; like secure work (with a company I could retire with), or making as much money as possible, or pursuing higher education. They also had the impression I was some sort of unhappy seeker that needed to fix herself, or someone that was a masochist (which is what my father said, in a loving & humorous manner), or someone that was addicted to fear-based thrills. None of it was correct. What I was, was someone that believed life (more so, I) had more to offer than what I was currently experiencing. I knew that behind the unremarkable aspects of life, behind the mundane mask of who I thought I was — there was something spectacular, something revelatory. And once something is known, once it is experienced or revealed to oneself, that one will never be the same. And I wasn’t.

After that stretch of activities, a bunch of things happened, and life dramatically changed course (several times). And like most things, it has now come full circle, or full spiral. I find myself wanting to push boundaries and experience the unknown again. Only catch is, I have a little senior special-needs dog, that is pretty much glued to my hip. So whatever I do, she has to be with me (for the most part), and it will have to be activities that are local and close to home.

So, my idea is to greatly challenge my daily routine. I want to go for what I know I want, and what I feel curious about — and what feels slightly out of my reach (do to fears or plain ol’ laziness). I want to set up a 3 month challenge (92 days), from November 1st to February 1st. The goal is to create powerful habits — daily rituals that bring surprising results. I want to create days that knock my socks off. Not because anything super-exciting happened, but because I am extremely present to the joy of practice: the practice of creating the most spectacular day. The practice of unwavering dedication to 7 key habits that inspire me.

I will create a daily to-do list, as well as measurable results of success (for long-term accumulated benefits of my daily practice). I will also create a daily blog, to hold me accountable. Each blog post will be numbered for each of the 92 days the program is running. At the end of the 3 months, you will have been able to see the journey, as well as the magic that unfolded along the way, and the final result of all the work put in.

Here is where you come in… :)

If you have something you want to achieve or experience in 3 months (92 days). Email directly and team up with me. Contact me via this Link. We can hold each other accountable online throughout the challenge..

If you are indecisive, or have to start late in the program — contact me anyway, and jump in!

And if you don’t want to take on a challenge, but want to watch or root me on — that would be wonderful! Simply follow my daily blog updates (92 days worth!) via this Link. (I will not be posting daily updates on Sunday Is For Lovers, they will only be on my daily blog set-up for this challenge.)

Happy November 1st! I’m excited to see how life unfolds into the new year. I hope you are too!


Filed under fear & challenges, group support

No Excuses. Ever.

human spirit quote
Today’s blog post is a video of a carpenter. It’s a stunning reminder of how powerful & resilient the human body can be, but more importantly, how invincible the human spirit is.

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Filed under fear & challenges, great quotes, inspiration

Bankruptcy is Bliss! How Filing for Bankruptcy Can Create Clarity & Abundance :)

bankruptcy no credit bliss

In late 2010 I decided to put the wheels in motion and file for bankruptcy. My papers were processed in 2011, and I received a complete discharge in 2012. Between contacting a lawyer and getting all debt cleared, it was almost laughable. Every part of it was like a joke. And believe me, the joke is on us (consumers, the average person). There were so many scams being pulled throughout the whole process: from the government all the way to the common junk mailer. Everyone had some sort of hustle. Even the court trustee played debt american bankruptcydirty. He contacted the owner of my building to see if my apartment was rent stabilized — he wanted to know if there could be money made by evicting me (thus sharply raising the rent & finding a new tenant who would pay much more). He wanted to work a deal with the owner. Luckily, I have a great relationship with the owner, and I’ve always been one of their best tenants. So they just ignored the trustee & sided with me. Eventually the trustee gave up & saw there was nothing to gain from my situation.

Last week I heard about Casey Anthony and her trustee. The fact that the trustee wanted to own the rights to her life story and sell it didn’t surprise me in the least. Ya, they could say it’s to pay her credit debt off, but it’s really just a massive hustle by the whole system — from the banks & credit card companies, to the government & courts, to the small parasite businesses taking advantage of loopholes — everyone wants a piece. It’s all a big game. That’s what loans & credit cards are …game. Every game comes to an end. [To learn more about the game read The Debt We Shouldn’t Pay and watch Money as Debt, The truth about Money – Part 1 & Part 2 & Part 3. You can watch Part 1 at the end of this blog post, it’s embedded.]

When people think a game is real, they get hurt. Not only physically, but more so emotionally. Our country is hurting. Not so much the big guys, or one ones calling the shots with all the cards in their hands, but the average player. The donald trump bankruptcycommon guy or average family that thinks they are getting ahead by playing along. But what are they truly gaining by passively following (or by trying to emulate what they see on TV)? Have they lost touch with what really matters in life? With what is truly real? Are they aware of what is most valuable?

Everyone should be clear: forget your credit line — your life is on the line! I’ve seen way too many people miserable over money matters. I’ve even seen friends, family & couples split up over debt or financial disagreements. We are not pawns in a game. We are living beings, gifted with the opportunity of life. Gifted with the precious ability to feel & to love & to see. Why is that not our focus? When did money take the front seat and drive the destiny of our lives? Where is our bankruptcy city debtsense of Self worth? Is it the ‘small self’ or ego that is always worried, always chasing the carrot? The one always looking for approval & comfort? If so, that isn’t the real you. The carrot journey never ends. Oh, yes it does — pardon me. It ends at death. When we realize what truly matters.

The reason I filed or even thought of filing for bankruptcy was because I had a slow death. It started very gradually, slowly, but became very noticeable in 2007. Something in me was dying, and in 2008 it died. Everything I knew myself to be, all that I enjoyed being distracted by …died. I had been someone that loved art my whole life. I was the kid in their room drawing, while all the other kids were outside playing. I loved museums, and all creative things. I loved visual things & magazines. I even became an artist and worked in creative fields for 20 years. It all came to a crashing halt. I no longer wanted to make ‘stuff’ or buy stuff or felt inspired by stuff. I was suddenly turned off by it. I felt the weight & the responsibility for what it takes to make medical debtthis stuff. You can call it art, or fashion, or interior design, or a cup to drink out of — just the whole idea of creating & shopping and the toxicity of it (not only for the person who’s creating it, but for the homes that store it and the landfills that eventually receive it). Everyone is destroying their health and the environment with the need for stuff. To have stuff or to make stuff. I just couldn’t do it anymore.

The ‘death’ or realization came after I finished a serious of bronze sculptures I was working on for a client. When the project was complete, I went to Africa for a month. After my return, I was clear that I was no longer going to make art or stuff for clients. At least not the way I was doing it before. I was going to allow a new work, a new career & purpose for myself to emerge. the american dreamWell, long story long — it didn’t emerge! After returning from Africa, I got very ill, and I had problems with my old spinal injury (from 1997). I used my credit cards to live for a while, and to pay for medical bills. Needless to say, they piled up.

I found myself not wanting anything that creates and (supposedly) fulfills the life of an average human being: children, family, marriage/partnership, career, things, home, car, pets, property, hobbies, etc. I had no feeling or desire towards any of  it. No goal to achieve it, no want to have it, no idea that it could bring me happiness — no interest at all. I found myself in a very odd place. I found the world and most people’s dreams totally unrelatable. What I thought might pass and resolve itself in a year or so, quickly turned into 5 years.

My love for art, or visual creative stuff never returned. My desire to go back to work, doing what I was doing before (making stuff that is toxic to people & to the planet) never returned. And neither did a new inspiring career to replace the old one. That never surfaced either. But what did was synchronicity. Perfect opportunities, that suited the new me. The right people at the right times. I met people that wanted me to teach. People that were excited about things that I knew how to do. I also met a person that was excited student loans debtabout getting land, and living off-the-grid. I teamed up with this person & I bought 5 acres of land (with their help & the help of a best friend).

All of the energy from the people I’ve been working with lately got me inspired to start a new business. It’s a business that teaches people how to be boundless (via e-books & videos). The business I’m beginning inspires me because it helps people to remember who they are. Who they really are; the Self they get in contact with at death. When one realizes that all the stuff in their lives is not what’s most important. All that they work to buy or keep up or represent, in the end has no value for them. What matters most is what could be felt. Was I loved? Did I love well? Was I present to feel life’s unconditional gifts? Did I truly appreciate the gift that was my life?

cut up credit cardsThe interesting thing is, I don’t miss credit or credit cards at all (my life is so much easier & better without them!). I never needed a bank loan to buy land. I’m living with more freedom and more abundance then I’ve ever experienced. Not to mention, love. The amount of love in my life is unfathomable to the former me. Everyday is a celebration of life. Everyday I’m grateful for the little things. I’m healthier and more connected to my body, to nature & to all living beings. Life feels sacred again. I’m debt free, and my mind is free.

I’m also making moves towards a life of self-sufficiency, by moving to the country with my partner. Which I hope to do in the next year or two. I want to teach people how to grow their own food, make their own home, and find peace in simply being. Life could be really-really simple. It doesn’t have to be a money & status game. There are no “I bought my happiness” winners of that game. There are no winners in life. But there are ones who are successful. My definition of success is an unconditional constant abundance of peace, love & happiness. If you have achieved or realized those — you are rich.


Filed under fear & challenges, revolution

Afraid of the Light

head in the sand

When do you feel your best?
When do you not feel your best?
What gives you energy, inspires you & lifts your spirit?
What takes your energy, leaves you uninspired & low in spirit?
When was the last time like you felt fulfilled, content & complete?
When was the the last time you felt unfulfilled, discontent & incomplete?

Take the time to answer the questions. Don’t formulate the answers, just allow them to present themselves. Quiet down, relax, & allow the answers to effortlessly appear. Write down the first thing that pops in your mind after reading each question. Don’t edit the answer. Don’t second guess it. Just write it down & accept it.

Notice. Simply notice all of the answers. Noticing is one of the most profound steps someone can take to transform their life. It’s effortless, but it’s daunting. For some it is scary. Because once they see what is going on, they will never be the same. They will forever be awake to what is happening in their life. They can no longer sleep-walk through their days & then wonder why they always feel tired, or always feel like year after year, they never reach their desired destination.

Begin to see what is there, & you will not only see that what is making you unhappy is being chosen (by you) repeatedly, over & over again — but you will also see that the peace, joy, energy, & inspiration is always there for the choosing as well.

Imagine a room in your house is buried with things that are unwanted, unsuitable for you, or unneeded at the present moment.  Because of that, you will not be able to see the things that are the most appropriate for you; the things that are perfect for you in this moment. It also doesn’t allow any room for anything new to come into your present life. That cluttered room is filled with the past. Past choices. Past solutions. Past desires. Things that no longer serve you.

buried covered unseen hidenMaintaining a jumbled existence doesn’t allow for room to play freely.  It makes it difficult to see & choose what might serve you best now. Spaciousness (physical & mental) is the freedom that many of us are seeking. And it’s not found in more stuff, or more experiences. We have plenty of those! It is found in being spacious. Being clear. Being open. Being ready & available to what might come our way next.

One way to be clear, is to clearly see. To see what is already there, right in front of you. Be clear about it. Then begin to dig, & clear out what is behind it. Go deep. Don’t be afraid to excavate (figuratively & literally). Dig & clear out your stuff. It’s taking up space, & it’s blocking you. These blocks (stuff being held, be it mental or physical) impede your energy flow. They also block the light. This heaviness or tiredness that people feel is often because they feel weighed down by the things they are carrying unnecessarily. Physical & mental blocks (or baggage) are two sides of the same coin. Therefore, both need to be cleared out. Both need your attention.

Awareness is key. Without that, you are lost. You’ll be on the hamster wheel of life, wondering why you are always chasing after something (or being chased by something). Wondering why you are always falling short of your self-expectations, falling short of what you know you are capable of being or achieving. To meet your best self or your best life, you must first meet who you are now. Have you really met you? Or do you constantly avoid you? I know that sounds funny or silly — but I’m being serious. So many of us are moving through our lives so fast, & we are so busy with work or family or entertainment, that we haven’t really sat with ourselves. When I say sit with ourselves, I mean with open eyes & open arms. We haven’t said, “Ah. I see you! I see how you have been hiding. And I see that you are buried. I love you. And I am going to unearth you, unburden you. I’m going to set you free.”

It’s simply an act of self-love. And unconditional love of ‘the self,’ is unconditional love of all selves (all people). So self-love isn’t a selfish act, it’s a self-less act. There is no separate self, separate from the rest of the world. Also, your life is a mirror. When you see love & perfection (or hate & imperfection) in you, you see it everywhere. Meet yourself where you are today. See what you see & feel at this moment. At this stage in your life. Meet yourself where you are. Then develop the relationship from there. Your relationship to the whole world will improve.

Don’t be afraid of the light. Just as you shouldn’t be afraid of the dark. Shouldn’t isn’t the right word. What I mean is, accept it. Embrace it. Make peace with both light & dark. Find the balance & the harmony between the two, & you will find harmony & balance within yourself. Make friends with the unknown. Meet what scares you. Sometimes the thing that we are most afraid of, is the very thing that would serve us best.


Filed under awareness, fear & challenges, unlearning

Coney Island Polar Bear Club (& cub!)

The first section of this blog post is an email I sent to my Mom. It’s about the adventure I had last Sunday with the Coney Island Polar Bear Club in New York. The second half of the post is a detailed description of the event.

The email…

From: AimeeLovesYou
To: Mom
Date: Mon, Mar 26, 2012
Yesterday was 45 degrees (brrr!), cloudy & a bit rainy.
I really didn’t want to go. But I did. I went to Coney Island… to swim with the Polar Bears! :) I was happy that I did it, & it wasn’t as bad as I thought.
I’m telling you, Ma. These fears are just puffed-up illusions. If you poke a hole in them, they really do deflate!
Happy Monday.
:) I love you.
A. (aka, Polar Bear cub)

The details…

The hardest part was leaving the Coney Island Polar Bear changing room on the boardwalk & walking out to the beach in a bikini. The distance from the changing room to the ocean seemed so far …& very intimidating. I would have to make my way through the cold, & make my way past all of the people. Everyone on the boardwalk was bundled with coats, gloves, hats, & scarves. They were looking at my friend & I like we were crazy (my friend with his tall thin tattooed body in nothing but orange swim trucks, & me sporting my playful hairdo that looked like Mickey Mouse ears, plus my black bikini-like outfit on a wintery-cold day). People were totally staring.

I was SO COLD walking out to the beach. My friend kept saying “Jump! Do jumping-jacks! Run! Stay active to keep warm!” But I was afraid my boobs were going to flop around (or out!) & everyone was starting at us! I felt frozen on the boardwalk, figuratively & literally. Eventually I mustered up enough courage to cross my arms in front of my chest & run out to the beach. When I got to the ocean I started to jump in place. After that, the rest of the Polar Bear Club arrived, warmed up (with jumping jacks), & then we all got in the water.

Being in the cold ocean wasn’t as bad as I thought. But it was so strange — at one point I thought my bikini bottom fell off. I kept reaching down to feel if my bikini bottom was there. I would reach down to pull it up, only to discover that it hadn’t moved an inch! This feeling kept happening. The other thing that worried me, was my private part felt so cold, it felt like it was going to crack off! My legs, arms, stomach, hands & feet, all felt fine — I just had a numb butt & a completely frozen _____!

The waves were the other thing that made me feel uneasy. As they approached, I wasn’t sure if they would splash me (brrr!), or raise the water level (oh no!). When I would see a wave forming or approaching, I would get really nervous. At one point my friend asked me, “Are you OK? Do you want to leave?” I said, “No, I’m fine, I can stay!” But then he asked me again after the waves started to move with more vigor. He looked like he was making his way out, so I said, “We’re leaving? Ok, let’s go!”

Again I crossed my arms in from of my chest & started to run. My friend & I were making our way over the sand & back to the changing room. People cheered us on. One man even shouted that he was proud of me. He hollered cheerfully, “I have to hand it to you, girl. I couldn’t have done it. But you did it. Bravo!”

The run back to the changing room felt like a flash (an interesting contrast to the run out to the ocean that felt like forever). Once I got to the entrance of the changing room, my muscles were burning. My thighs felt like they were on fire! My whole body felt fiery hot. My friend & I stood at the entrance rinsing our shoes & feet, clearing the sand off. I wasn’t cold at all. I was totally wet, standing in 45 degree weather, having a blast!

After that, we dried off, & headed to the subway. Off we went, to the next adventure for the day.

It was a great experience. I learned so much. It reminded me of a post I wrote last year: your BIGGEST OBSTACLE doesn’t exist. Sometimes the way out of a challenge (or fear) is to go through it. You have to walk right through it to see that it isn’t real. Or to see that it is only temporary. Like stormy weather, or an uncomfortable moment, or even a death — allow yourself to fully experience it. Allow it to dance around you & then see that it was only temporary. Happiness, sadness, pain, pleasure, see it as a flicker of life passing through you. The contrast & joy that is life, moving & shape-shifting. Fully feel it. And fully feel alive.

[Top photo by Jay Dickman.]


Filed under emails, exercise & sport, fear & challenges, power & courage