Yielding to Life

One of the first things I noticed after arriving in Costa Rica was the interesting relationship Tico drivers have with yield signs. There weredozens of them on my initial ride into San Jose, far more than I probably encounter at home in any given week. Here, there seem to be quite a few creative interpretations of what the signs mean, and I enjoyed observing this as part of my initial landing here. ceda

I grew up in a place where I spent a lot of time studying the art of yielding. In my hometown of San Antonio, Texas, the intricate highway system includes yield signs at just about every off-ramp I can recall. My mother would (and still does to this day) get especially peeved at the drivers who blew through the yield signs, who from my recollection were more often than not men in cowboy hats driving insanely oversized pick-up trucks.All this musing on yield signs the past few days – and maybe my whole life – became meaningful for me when I found myself navigating a situation related to my travel plans. I came here with plans to visit just two places that are not particularly close to one another, but not all that far given it’s such a small country. I’ve traversed much bigger distances in places like India and Vietnam by train and bus and have never had any issue getting exactly where I wanted to go at relatively little expense.Long story short, I found that getting from my point A to point B here was not the easy, tropical breezy task I thought it would be. For the first few days after I arrived, I spent a good amount of time emailing and calling various transport options only to find that the timing was off or the expense was ridiculous since I would be booking a 6-person van just for myself. And yet, I persisted, feeling determined to make things happen exactly as I envisioned they should.

Finally, on my third day here, after time on the phone with a particularly slow and cranky bus line agent, I felt the need to just take a pause. In a short moment of meditation, I got the message to explore if there was an intermediate place to travel to, allowing me to break up my travel time, see a new place and avoid the inordinate expense that seemed inevitable if I pushed through with the plan I came here with.

With just a little research, I confirmed that indeed there was a great option, one that would let me travel by boat and spend a night in the little beach town of Montezuma. When I sat with this possibility, I noticed that my body felt at ease. I was able to let go of all the physical tension that had accumulated as a result of this search.

In that moment, I felt like I had just yielded to life. Instead of trying to push through, like a crazed Texan in a giant truck, I slowed down, let go of my plans, and saw another way.

This experience reminded me of something I’ve already known, but can easily forget: Anytime we encounter continual obstacles to a plan, it’s generally worthwhile to consider other options. Doing so requires mindfulness to consciously slow down and realize we are attached to a plan, and openness to consider that there might be some alternative way of achieving the outcome we desire.

In the end, I got to where I needed to go, and I did so in a far more scenic and adventurous way than I even initially knew was possible. When you yield to life, you also may get a much more fulfilling and robust experience than you had even imagined possible.

So, the next time you feel like you’re pushing through a bit too hard, just remember to yield a bit to life and not be this guy:


Just Because It's Local Doesn't Mean It's Seasonal

Those of us living in Southern California are blessed by the amazing availability of fresh produce grown not too far from home. Unlike some areas of the country where farmers markets are seasonal, our markets operate year-round, making it easy and affordable to access gorgeous produce 365 days a year.


When we walk into a farmers market here, it can be tempting to let down our hyper-vigilant food consumer guard. With no labels to study, no country of origin stickers to squint at, many people think they can breeze through the market and be assured that anything they come into contract with is local and seasonal. The local piece may be true, but it is very much a myth that farmers markets sell only seasonal fare. Indoor growing facilities and various alternative growing techniques (e.g., aquaponics) allow SoCal farmers to grow things like tomatoes throughout the year.

As an informed consumer, it’s up to you to learn what is truly in season in your neck of the country. For those in Southern California, the L.A. Times offers a great online resource to help you identify seasonal crops (and it includes tips for picking the best of the bunch). And if you live outside of the region, this is still a pretty handy guide considering much of our country’s produce comes from this area.

You might be reading this and asking yourself what the big deal is about eating seasonally. If something is available, locally-grown and organic, why not just eat it? Here are a few advantages seasonal eating provides: 

1) Seasonal foods are powerful medicine. We live in a time where many of us are disconnected from the rhythms of nature. Seasonal foods remind us that nature is constantly in flux, and many are inherently balancing from the standpoint of Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine and other healing systems. For example, in fall and early winter, times when people are prone to feeling a bit scattered, root vegetables and heavy winter squashes grow in abundance, providing grounding energy. Melons are cooling and flourish in the summertime. It’s not a mistake that certain things grow when they do. If we eat them year-round, we might actually thrown ourselves off-balance. It is advantageous to our health when the contents of our plate vary from season to season.

2) Greater enjoyment. If you compare a December strawberry to a July strawberry, you can bet with pretty great confidence that the latter will be sweeter, juicier and more delicious. Fruits and vegetables simply taste best at their peak. I also find that when I don’t eat something all the time, I come to really appreciate it during the time when it’s meant to be eaten. For example, persimmons are typically only available in the fall, and I eagerly anticipate their arrival each October. I make it a point to savor each one, knowing their time is limited. If I ate them all the time, I would not have nearly the appreciation I do for them.

3) Seasonal foods are good for the earth. From what I’ve learned from my friends that farm, the best way to maintain healthy soil is to cycle various crops throughout the year in the same soil. Keeping the same crops going all the time depletes the soil and produces food that is less dense in nutrients.


You can say yes to seasonal growing by making a point to shop from stalls at the farmers market that sell mainly seasonal crops. I always avoid the places that sell the same things all throughout the year. 


If you do want to enjoy tomatoes, berries and summer’s other gems throughout the year, use this as motivation to learn how to can, make jams, dehydrate and take part in other food preservation techniques if you don’t already do so. The tomatoes you can at the end of August will always be superior to any tomato you can buy in February. I generally like to use preserved foods as accents to meals that include mainly seasonal ingredients.

By no means should we beat ourselves up if we decide not to maintain a 100% seasonal diet, but I do encourage people to let a minimum of 90-95% of their produce purchases be truly seasonal. People generally share that eating in this way not only yields tastier fare, but also challenges them to learn about new vegetables and seek out new recipes and preparations. If eating seasonally feels limiting to you, try reframing it as an opportunity to enjoy the best of the best and to develop a deeper appreciation of food and the ever-changing nature of the world around us.

Don't Cheat. Just Eat.

In the last week, numerous people I’ve talked with – friends, clients, my esthetician – all have talked about how they’ll let themselves cheat this Thanksgiving when it comes to what they’ll put on their plates. What they mean of course, is that they’ll eat foods that don’t fall into their usual diets, which might include gluten-laden baked goods, dairy products and sugar. If you’re someone who’s planning to cheat on Thanksgiving (or any day, really), I’m asking you not to. And, I’m also asking you to eat whatever the f*ck you want. Really my request is to stop using the term cheating when it comes to food

Our language matters, and in a society where eating disorders are rampant and we are already overloaded with guilt from countless external sources, why use food to pile on yet another serving of shame? 

Cheating is never a good thing. Just think about it in other contexts – tests in school, lovers, etc. There is inherently shame and a sense of wrong-doing implied by the word, and frankly there’s no food in the world that should eat away at your sense of self-worth. Nothing inspires more compassion and heartbreak in me than when I hear people talk about “cheat days.” No more cheat days, please. Just love yourself every day. You can’t do that on cheat days. 

When it comes to holidays, the truth is the whole point is to eat a little differently – that’s part of what sets a holiday apart from every other day. What characterizes holiday foods across cultures and throughout centuries? Generally, they are richer, sweeter and more decadent than anything we might put on our plate on a typical weeknight. That's the whole point.

I’m not advocating to eat mindlessly, but the truth is you can still eat mindfully and have a little pie, and you can even have it with whipped cream, if that will make you happy. A lot of it comes down to moderation and the portions you choose. Having a sliver of pie (and whipped cream too!) isn’t going to change your life in any substantial way. And guess what? If you have a really big piece, you’re going to be just fine, too. Repeat after me: “My body is resilient and can handle a holiday meal.” Truly mindful eating is not just about monitoring what’s on your plate, but how you respond to it emotionally as well.

Guilt around food is not simply pointless; it actually can be harmful. If you finish a meal obsessing about the fact that you ate stuffing with gluten in it, or that you had two servings of dessert, you’re kicking your autonomic nervous system into high gear. When this happens, the capacities of the digestive organs are inhibited, and instead of metabolizing and assimilating your food, it’s processed in a much less complete and efficient way. Simply put: self- judgment will always trigger the release of stress signals and neurotransmitters, and these get in the way of a healthy digestive response. 

In the long view of life, what’s on our plate matters, as poor food choices repeatedly over time are linked to a host of conditions most of us hope to never encounter. When it comes to one special meal – whether it’s Thanksgiving dinner, or another occasion – what’s most important in my view is not what’s on our plate, as much as how we treat ourselves after consuming it.

So eat, drink, be merry. Don’t let yourself be consumed by guilt. If you find your mind spiraling with critical thoughts after your meal today, just remind yourself of my favorite mantra: “There’s always the next meal.” Each meal is an opportunity to make different choices, so if something doesn’t feel good today, try something different tomorrow. 

Happy Thanksgiving! XO

Reflections on Fear: Four Years Down the Road

Four years ago today, I left the corporate world. For those of you who have known me for a shorter period than that and can’t imagine me rocking a BlackBerry and business suite, it is true – I spent nearly nine years working in consulting, from the time I left college onward. If you’d asked me four years ago where I would be today, I could never have imagined I’d be living the life I am living. Even though I am very much doing all the things I dreamed of doing when I made the big decision to leave, at that time my mind would always default to the worst case scenario. My biggest fears as I prepared to leave were always around finances. In my mind, I was going to blow-through the nice nest egg I had diligently worked to save during my final years of corporate work, and within a few years, would be on my knees, begging my former employer to take me back.

I can remember many mornings both before and shortly after I quit, when I would wake up, paralyzed with fear as this scenario played through my head, over and over again. Laying there, I would spend hours composing my future plea to my former boss. And if it wasn’t that, I was calculating exactly at what point I’d have to drain my 401(k), trying to imagine how many months I could not pay rent before getting evicted, and how awful I would feel if I had to call my father and tell him I was going to move into his spare room.

Thankfully, none of these things have happened. Or anything even remotely close.

Had someone interrupted me and told me the many things I would have accomplished professionally since I made that fateful decision to join the ranks of the self-employed, my little mind would have been blown.

Had I been told that not only would I not blow through my savings account (and various retirement funds), I would actually contribute to them, I would have laughed.

If someone had told me I would be a certified life coach and guiding people to do exactly what I did (i.e., quit the jobs they dislike), I would have asked you how I would have possibly have had the time and/or funds to make that happen.

One of my worst fears when I quit was the notion that my passport might not see action for years. Had you told me then I would have visited over a dozen countries in the time since I quit, I don’t think I could even have held space for such a seemingly luxurious notion.

As you can see by now, I was basically a big ball of fear as October 26, 2011 approached.

And still, I did it. I quit. I had faith that despite the worst-case scenarios spun to me by my lower chakras, thousands of years of accumulated survival instincts in my DNA, and all the really annoying parts of my mind, I could somehow get by.

And I did. One day at a time. And I worked hard, and there were months I dipped into my savings to cover my rent. I won’t tell you it was easy. But it certainly has been rewarding.

One of the greatest things I’ve learned in my journey from corporate girl to living the life I love, is that you have to learn to skillfully co-exist with your fear. I’m all for burning through fears and letting them go, but my experience has been that’s way easier said than done. And the thing about fears is that just when you think you’ve finally released one, it has this really nasty habit of showing up again (usually first thing the next morning, if you’re me). 

A powerful tool that really got me through the months leading up to my resignation came out of a conversation with a good friend, who also left a day-job the same year as me. She offered the metaphor that fear is like that annoying relative you don’t really care for but who has a regular habit of coming to visit. You can’t turn your relative away, but you also don’t have to spend of your time with that person. It’s exactly the same with fear – you can’t just eradicate it at will, but you also don’t have to be engulfed by it.

At a recent retreat, there was a little deck of inspirational cards on a shelf in my room. The first night, I drew one that contained this quote by Dorothy Thompson: "Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live." From the second I first read it, I found myself passionately disagreeing.

We come alive not when we are free of fear. We are truly alive when we can see the fear, look it directly in the eye, and not be controlled by it. The more we recognize fear and name it, the closer we become to no longer being afraid, to being more fully alive. We can still live fully and richly, even in the shadow of fear. Fear can be a great teacher.

This doesn’t mean we should live paralyzed by our fears. There must be conscious action to accompany them to begin to dissolve them, slowly. For me, my meditation and journaling practices allowed me to see my fears, and to also see the bigger perspective that they were only some of many, many possible outcomes.

The opposite of fearful is not fearless, it is faithful. Had I waited to quit my job until I felt absolutely no fear, I’d still be doing the same thing I did four year ago, and probably would be doing it for the rest of my life. I had to wake up each day to my fear, but to know other paths were available to me. Fear is just one of the many, many options in the choose-your-own-adventure game of life, and just inconveniently tends to be the one our minds default to, thanks to many years of evolution.

One of my favorite fear-alleviating strategies is to name at least three alternative paths to whatever fear I am working with, which just snaps me out of the fear long enough to remember it's not my destiny. Lots of other outcomes are possible, even if they feel out of reach in the moment. Doing this as a written exercise is particularly nice, as you then pull out the list to read when the fear resurfaces (or add to it!)

I’m sharing this story because I know I am always inspired when I hear about people busting through their fears. And because I want to ask you if there’s something you’re not doing because fear has the best of you.  I hope you’ll move forward, have faith and wait not another moment to be more fully alive.