Alive and Awake: 6 Mantras for Living the Dream


“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.” Henry David Thoreau

Walking on the beach in Costa Rica, surfboard in hand, after dropping my four kids at surf camp in a state of pure bliss, I feel so fully alive, giddy like a little kid coming out to play on a Saturday morning. I keep pinching myself, wondering, “Is this for real?” I am living the dream that I once thought was impossible to achieve.

Fifteen years ago I was sharing a small cubicle, working 14 hours/day to save a bank money on pencils. I graduated from an elite business school and was hired to a top job in global management consulting. I was making great money and headed down a path of achievement and prestige. There was just one problem — I was miserable. I could feel my soul being sucked out of me with every line of data I crunched. As the whispers of my soul became screams of anxiety, feeling trapped and empty, I took the first of many leaps and quit my job to travel around the world. I had no plan and, as a lifelong Type A perfectionist, I was terrified that I would never work again, but I leapt into the unknown and trusted that I’d figure it out on the way down.

I wrote out a life plan that included a house full of kids, extensive traveling experiences, deeply transformational and high-impact work, financial freedom, and deep soul connections with loved ones. I put the plan in a drawer and didn’t really think about it. Last week, as we moved our four kids to Costa Rica to set off an open-ended journey of travel and exploration, I realized that all those things on my old list have been created. Our days are filled with yoga, surfing, sunsets, nature, learning, creating, and connecting. It’s an even better dream than the one I thought I wanted, though.

Instead of focusing on the external conditions of my life, these have all served to take me to a much deeper level of fulfillment. This is the practice of finding the bliss in every moment, of understanding that everything I ever wanted was already within me. I just needed to do the work to shed the layers that were covering the joy and happiness that is available to each of us, no matter our life circumstances.

I still have no idea what the future holds, making it all up as I go. In building my career as a transformational leadership coach and yoga teacher, I have collected many tools to help in this transition, including a number of powerful mantras that have guided me navigate through the dream called life. Here are six of my favourite mantras for living the dream:

  1. Follow the butterflies. Do one thing a day that scares you. I suffered with chronic anxiety for my entire childhood and early 20s. One day I had an insight that instead of allowing the nerves and knots in my stomach paralyze me, I could use that energy to propel me forward. Now I interpret the butterflies in my stomach as a signal that I’m excited about something. I’ve found the edge of my comfort zone and that’s where all the growth happens in life. I’ve become “comfortable being uncomfortable” by regularly leaping into the things that scare me most.
  2. It’s all made up — create your own reality. We are living in a fantasy, a socially constructed view of “reality” based on core beliefs and perceived limitations. I constantly peel back the layers of my beliefs and ask myself, “Is this true for me or just an internalization of what ‘they’ say?” The reality you create may be reflected in your external circumstances or your internal state of mind. Perspective is everything, so you could be in the exact same situation and have either a hellish or blissful experience, depending on your mindset.
  3. “Sorry… not sorry.” It’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission. To create your own reality, you need to break the rules. Since the rules are all made up, anyway, this can be really fun. I have learned it’s better to just do whatever you want to do and adjust as needed, if the impact is other than what you’d hoped for. I have pulled my kids from school for a month every year to travel and many people have asked, “how do you do that, don’t you get in trouble?” It wouldn’t occur to many people to even try it. My experience has been one of total support from every teacher and administrator, as they have unanimously shared that they think travel is the ultimate source of education.
  4. “I don’t know.” Stay in the question until the answer appears. If you are uncertain about what to do next, do nothing. Timing is always a factor and you may need to gather more data or clarity about how you feel about things. You’ll know when you know and, until then, it’s a perfect choice to not choose.
  5. Trust the process — the universe has your back. Magic happens when you trust that good things will come your way. We didn’t know how we were going to educate our kids in Costa Rica and on the first day we met Estefania, an incredible former head of an international school who had just arrived in the small surf town where we live. Our kids are thriving. We had to be here to discover the perfect solution for our family.
  6. Don’t forget to breathe. Ultimate happiness is found in being fully present in each moment, regardless of where you live, what your family situation, career or financial situations are. To connect to the bliss available in every moment, take 3 deep breaths and find the beauty exactly where you are.

As you navigate along your path, open your eyes to the perfection of where you already are. Hopefully these mantras will help you to be even more alive and awake in the dream called life.

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