This article is created in proud partnership with Ana Verzone—a Buddhist life coach dedicated to bringing mindfulness to the real world. ~ ed.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
~ Mary Oliver
Allow me to light a fire under your butt today.
When I was diagnosed with cancer for the first time (I’ve had it twice—two different kinds), I was living what many people think of as “the dream.”
I was an international climbing guide, married to an awesome partner, traveling all the time, not earning much but feeling free and fulfilled and having so much fun—my life was one big adventure.
But there’s nothing like cancer to wake us the f*ck up. No matter what we think we know or how much we think we have our sh*t together or who we think we are.
After my diagnosis, I had a breakdown. I started questioning everything: What if I could no longer climb or ski or travel? What if my body failed me? What if I got really sick—like can’t get out of bed sick? Who was I really without all those things that I felt defined me? Where did the freedom and adventure I valued so much really come from? Was I really living the life I felt like I was meant to live?
This breakdown led me to my own personal breakthrough, as breakdowns often do, which laid the foundations for the work I’m doing and the life I’m living today, which I could not be more psyched about.
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I’d like to help you toward a personal breakthrough of your own without you having to go through cancer, or any kind of life-altering traumatic experience to get there.
So, if you feel like life has more to offer you (and you have more to offer life), here’s a Buddhist inspired exercise to shift you out of anxiety, overwhelm, and self-doubt, into true inner freedom:
Think of one thing that you’ve been longing to do. It could be taking a round-the-world trip, writing a book, or just becoming the healthiest version of you, or even telling someone you love them, or that you forgive them.
What is that one thing? (Actually take a moment now to figure it out.)
Then, ask yourself: Why haven’t I done this yet? Why am I not living the way I long to live?
If you’re thinking it’s got something to do with your thoughts, you’re on the right track, but it’s not the obvious ones like: I haven’t got enough time or money, or I’m not smart enough or beautiful enough…
All kinds of “stuckness” start with a simple, sneaky thought almost all of us assume to be true, without being aware we even have it:
We think we have more time.
We all believe we’re not going to die anytime soon.
It’s true. We drink our green juice (or maybe just our cuppa joe) and we assume we’re good for awhile.
Think about it: if you knew, like really knew you only had a year or a month or however long, how would your mindset change? How many of those inner obstacles would fall away if you truly grasped the impermanent nature of your own life?
But because we think we have time, we spend time on habits (mental, physical, and spiritual) that distract us from creating the life we’re meant to live. We allow ourselves to remain in that comfortable cocoon of “for now” because we’d really rather avoid having to deal with the anxiety, fear and overwhelm that we’d have to overcome to take action. We wait for… another time.
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We’re going to die—each one of us, that includes you—and we Don’t. Know. When.
Ummm, way to be a downer. How could this seemingly depressing fact possibly me help live the way I’ve always wanted? Glad you asked.
When we fully realize 1. how precious, fleeting, and miraculous this life of ours is, and 2. we are going to die and we don’t know when—that is when we truly start living. Our hearts open, we give love freely, we find the courage to face our fears and start living the way we’ve been longing to, right now.
But you know what? It isn’t just me who thinks this. Meditating on the preciousness and impermanence of this human life are the first two steps on the Tibetan Buddhist Path to Enlightenment. In this tradition, it isn’t until you have grasped these two concepts that you can move on to the other stages on the path to enlightenment.
After my first brush with cancer, I spent years reading, studying, seeking, and learning with Buddhist monks from Tibet, figuring out who I really was and what it took for me to live a life of 100 percent alignment with my deepest values—now. Not later.
This work is what led me to what I believe is the master key for a life well-lived: Ziji.
Ziji (zee-jee): a Tibetan word meaning radiant inner confidence
If we’re all gonna die, why should we give a f*ck about confidence?
Because confidence is the secret sauce to making the most of this one, precious life. It helps us overcome the fear, anxiety, and self-doubt that keep us from doing what our soul longs for.
You see, waking up to not wasting anymore time is just the start. When we decide we are going to do things differently and not put things off anymore, anxiety, insecurity and self-doubt come up. We’re afraid we might fail. We worry about humiliation and letting people down. We freak out in overwhelm.
This is totally normal—our brains are wired to protect us and to avoid risk and potential danger. But to move forward and evolve, we have to do the work and cultivate the skills to conquer those inner gremlins of ours so we can live our lives fully and freely. Otherwise we stay paralyzed or procrastinating.
Dreams + Confidence = You create the life you were meant to live. You are unstoppable.
Dreams + Insecurity = You act from a place of fear, and create a life based on fear. Or you act from resentment, and you can never—ever—create your dream life from a place of resentment. Or you don’t act at all.
Confidence determines the actions you take toward the things you want in your life. It’s why I chose to teach it in my first (and still most popular course), the Ziji Up! Mastery Program. True. Radiant. Inner. Confidence. It’s the shizzle!
We need it like lions need wild, open spaces. Our souls crave it.
“Listen, I wish I could tell you it gets better. But, it doesn’t get better. You get better. “ ~ Joan Rivers
I know that I’m not the same person I was before I beat cancer, or before I started my own business. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” I had to overcome a lot of external and internal obstacles to get here, and my mind has been blown over and over, and I am forever changed.
And it’s not because I’ve gotten better or because I’ve launched a bunch of courses or coached a ton of people. It’s because of all the hell I went through with my own personal sh*t, my fears and insecurities and limiting self-beliefs. That’s how I grew. That’s how I learned to take action on a massive scale, right now.
Ziji is earned.
It’s tempered in the fire of the freakin’ obstacles you walk into.
Radiant inner confidence does not come from your actions and results. It’s a feeling that produces your actions and results.
I know I can do it. I also know that if I don’t do it, I can get knocked down and get back up again.
I know in my bones that the same is true for you.
Ziji is the master key because it’s what can help us bring our unique gifts to the world—and the world sure needs those gifts right about now. The world needs you!
There’s only one you with the unique and special gifts only you can bring. Only one precious life in this body. Only one moment that matters—and that’s right now. So what are you going to do with it? Don’t waste it! You deserve the life you were truly meant to live.
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“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” ~ Martha Graham
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