I don’t always make the best choices, but today I choose compassion over intolerance, sympathy over hatred, and love over fear.
—L. J. VANIER, CANADIAN PHILOSOPHER AND THEOLOGIAN
My journey began with back pain—searing, debilitating back pain. The more I ignored it, the worse it got. The more I pushed through it, the more paralyzed I felt. I was in my early twenties, and I didn’t connect this pain to my crushing stress, my high-pressure job, my troubled family, my toxic boyfriend, my pushing, my exhaustion, or my unwillingness or inability to express any of my deep feelings. I just thought, “My back hurts. Gotta push through.”
I was so wrong.
YOU HAVE A CHOICE
What I now know is, there is a path out of pain, anxiety, burnout, fear, grief, sadness, and that feeling of complete overwhelm. When I was experiencing the peak of my back pain, I had no idea that repressed emotions and the stress they cause could manifest as physical pain. I had no idea that my pain could have had anything to do with my exhaustion and burnout, my desperate need for change, my endless list of to-dos, and my feeling that nothing in my life would ever change. I remember complaining about my back to my father, a physical therapist, and he said, “Maybe it’s stress.” I’d never heard of stress causing pain. I thought everybody had stress, but obviously not everybody had back pain so severe they sometimes questioned whether they could go on living.
Back then, I didn’t get it. Now I know that what finally cured my back pain wasn’t a drug or physical exercise or surgery or any other external intervention. What cured my back pain was acknowledging the truth of how I was living, becoming aware of how out of harmony my life was, and finally giving myself permission to recognize that my life was my choice and that I also had the choice to do something different. This led me to seek out the energy healing practices that helped get my body, my health, my mind, and my emotions back into alignment—Reiki, EFT, yoga, and other practices you will read about in this book.
I’ll tell you more about my path throughout this book, but suffice it to say that I wasted a lot of time looking outside of myself for answers to my problems and cures for my pain. It was only when I looked inside that I saw what was happening in my life and owned it. That’s when I understood what was wrong for the first time: I was trying to control everything about my existence so it would be “okay.” I was refusing to admit any of my uncomfortable feelings. I was denying my true nature. I was living as the person I thought I was supposed to be, rather than the person I really was. What I needed to do, I finally realized, was to let go, to surrender, to admit, to acknowledge, to accept, and to be myself—my true self, no matter what anyone else expected. To move at my own pace, live in my own way, and nurture the inner flame that had almost been extinguished deep inside me.
That was the beginning, not just of my healing, but of my freedom. That was how I learned that I could shine my own light from my own heart without shame or hesitation. It didn’t happen overnight. It happened slowly, over the course of years, as I learned and grew and shifted, bit by bit, trying new practices, working with new teachers, and always questioning: Is this me? Is this right? Is this what I believe? Is this where I want to go? As I kept moving away from external pressures and toward myself, my body changed. As I took more pressure off myself to do and achieve and prove my worth to everyone but myself, my pain faded. As I practiced saying no to the things that didn’t serve my greater good, my mind (and my schedule) cleared. As I stopped expecting perfection from myself, I gained confidence, compassion, patience for my journey, and kindness. As I made myself and my health my number one priority, my daily joy increased exponentially. And when I finally recognized myself in the mirror again, I realized that I could turn around and help others find their way back to themselves, too.
Right now, you might feel stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, fearful, sad, in physical pain, or just completely burned out. There is help for you here. This book is not a magical cure for burnout and it’s not going to suddenly erase all your pain or anxiety, but what it will do is help you look within to find your own magical cure. Your impulse may be to deny your pain, avoid it, fight it, numb it, freeze it, medicate it, or believe you have no choice but to endure it. When you give yourself permission to use tools to start shifting your energy, you can meet yourself in the actual physical present moment and honor where you are right now.
Your mind will always have you believing that you just have to do a few more things, or maybe even just one more thing, to finally be happy, at peace, healthy, successful, worthy, and joyful. Do you feel that you are so close to happiness, but you can’t maneuver those last few steps? You don’t need to step outside yourself to reach happiness. You need to follow the path that leads you inside yourself. We are going to work on you finding your peace and your joy and your burning bright, even when stress is part of your life. You’re never going to completely eliminate stress because sometimes stress comes from the outside, but you have infinite resources within you that can help you manage it so it doesn’t cause harm. Without anything else in your life changing, you can find harmony in your body, mind, and spirit. You don’t have to get anywhere or achieve anything first. You are already there. Just as you are right now, you can start burning bright.
But in order to start negotiating with your stress, I want you to understand how powerful and relentless stress can feel and why you experience it the way you do, even if your stress response is different from anyone else’s. I want you to see the pain stress causes, not just in you but in your family, your friends, your community, your country, and the world. We’re going to bring awareness to stress and what it does in your body—how it launches you into fight, flight, or freeze mode, which can make you angry, or in denial, or paralyzed and unable to move forward in life.
Stress can put you on constant alert, so you become ready to pounce on (fight) anyone who makes a “wrong” comment. Stress can cause you to avoid any confrontation (flight) because you are so afraid of speaking your truth that you run away from who you really are and how you really feel. Stress can keep you stuck in a job or a relationship or a place you loathe (freeze).
Stress can kill dreams and aspirations, or make them feel so unattainable that you stop chasing them. It can make you resentful. It can make you so concerned about everything outside of yourself (like the environment or politics or whatever it is you use as an excuse not to look inward) that you can’t see that sometimes what happens outside you mirrors what is happening within. It can take you out of your body, out of the present moment, and separate you from your own core being, your own wise inner voice, your own intuition.
You don’t have to experience any of that. You have a choice. In this safe place, we’re going to look underneath all those heavy feelings you have, even if you haven’t been allowing yourself to feel them. We’re going to do a deep dive into you, to see what emotions, memories, and patterns are going on that have spiraled into those painful impulses you experience from stress. We’re going to figure out what it all means for your life. We’re going to think about what your pain tells you about who you are trying to be, and what it says about who you really are…and aren’t. We’re going to figure out what you would rather be feeling and doing and being than what you are feeling and doing and being right now. And then you can make a choice: Do you want to be who you think you should be or do you want to be who you really are? Do you want to live in fear or do you want to live in love?
You deserve a life of harmony and health. You deserve a life of fulfillment and fullness. And you can have it. All those things you want, those things you dream about, those things that are hard for you to even admit you dream about, are accessible to you. We’re going to get you connected to how you want to feel. Your direction will become clear. No more fighting. No more fleeing. No more freezing.
We may live in an age of anxiety, but in this book we’ll create a space for us to work together. You can choose to live in a wondrous age of physical, mental, and spiritual freedom, in which you live your own life and not anyone else’s life, with ease and grace and personal responsibility for everything you feel and do and desire. If you’ve had anxiety or burnout for a while, this will be a process. I still struggle with anxiety myself—I regularly sense anxiety or overwhelm creeping into my mind, but it’s easier now for me to move through it because I have learned to take responsibility for my needs. I have tools to work with my fear, instead of letting it override my whole system and take control of my mind.
In this book, I’ll share those same strategies and tools with you, and as you align with your priorities, you’ll watch your joyful life unfold. All the noise and chaos trying to get your attention will fade away. You will learn, step by step, just as my students and clients have—just as I have—to be you, and nobody else. And it will be delicious.
So welcome, beautiful one. I invite you into the sacred space generated by this book, where we will build a solid ground on which you can feel safe, ready, and supported, and from which you’ll feel sturdy enough to explore the true nature of your limitless self. In this expansive space, I want to help you give yourself permission to feel your feelings, to trust yourself to do less, and to believe in your own intuition. You will heal and grow into the existence that is most in harmony with who you really are, what you came here for, and what you want your life to be. Exploring the micro-changes I suggest in this book with curiosity, and trying out these spiritual practices, can create a macro-shift in your daily life.
WHAT ARE YOU MADE FOR?
Does it sound too good to be true, that you already have everything you need—that you don’t need to expend any effort looking outside yourself for answers because you really can “effort” less to get more out of your life? I was once skeptical, too. It’s funny, but all the tools, practices, and techniques I now hold so dear and teach to so many others are things I once found ridiculous.
I grew up in the red state of North Dakota in a very Catholic family. We didn’t talk much about feelings. I was brought up to believe that the doctor had more answers about my pain than I did and that if a doctor didn’t know about it, it wasn’t worth my time. There was the body and its health. There was the mind and its stability. And there was the spirit, which was what you worked on when you went to church every Sunday. None of them had anything to do with the others.
Until I was an adult, I didn’t know anything about Reiki or other forms of energy healing. I didn’t waste my time with spiritual yoga, and I thought meditation was something people in other countries did. I didn’t write feelings in a journal, I didn’t spend any time in self-contemplation, and beyond the church services I loved, I certainly didn’t ritualize anything in my life. Many of the practices you will learn about in this book were just as foreign to me when I started them.
When I first heard about some of these things, I (like many of my students today) was a true skeptic. When my friends started to tell me they were meditating, I almost scoffed at it. When I heard about energy healing, I thought it was BS. Yoga? Meh. Only if it’s a good workout. This is a normal reaction to something new and unfamiliar. What I didn’t realize was that these practices were paths to self-awareness and healing beyond my wildest dreams.
Since those early days, I’ve learned a lot and found many answers. I’ve been able to help guide thousands of other people through their own transformations, shifts, and healing in ways they never would have believed possible, by using the ancient tools and practices and knowledge I share with you in this book. My own life experience with pain, burnout, anxiety, overwhelm, and pushing myself to the breaking point led me down a path that is finally in line with who I really am and who I want to be. I’m not made for the high-pressure corporate world. I’m made to be a teacher, guide, spiritual empowerment coach, motivational speaker, and energy healer. Without these practices, I never would have discovered that truth about myself.
What are you made for?
I have been where you are, and I have come out on the other side stronger and freer than I ever was before. I had to help myself first, and that is what I want to help you do, too. It has become my mission and purpose in life to guide other people to come into their own light by inspiring them to relate to and connect with who they really are, beneath all the noise and clamor of life in a high-pressure world.
I want you to feel able to live your life with purpose, joy, and balance, free of all the things that separate you from your true, precious, beautiful, benevolent self. No matter how anxious, scared, sad, frustrated, or burned out you feel right now, we’re going to get you burning bright. To me, burning bright is the opposite of burning out. Burnout comes from excessive, relentless doing, but the beauty of burning bright is that it is not about doing anything more at all. It’s really the opposite. It’s about learning how to know and trust deep within that all you desire is already inside you, and once you give yourself permission to unlock your heart and get free from the prison of your mind, you will understand that there’s nothing more for you to “do.” You can simply be, and that is your everything.
When you have burnout, it always feels like there is more to do and more, more, more that you must give. In this book, I want you to see and feel that you are enough without any more doing. Instead, burning bright is about outwardly doing less, and, when you let go, how much more can come into your life—such as unlimited love that, once you access it, will help you to breathe a huge sigh of relief because you will realize that you have always been enough. That there is nothing else to do but be who you are.
When you are burning bright, you will feel a renewed surge of energy, clarity, and light. You will feel able to do everything you want to do with a sense of joyful, easy, and graceful commitment to your path. You will wake up in the morning ready and eager to start the day, without needing to control what comes. You’ll embrace your work, your loved ones, and your life. You’ll feel a sense of trust in yourself and your path and life’s bounty and support for you. You can be the bright flame at the center of a life of peace, love, health, and abundance.
To burn bright is the opposite of the manic, overwhelmed, anxious, stress-driven, worried energy so many of us associate with productivity and achievement. It is a clean, calm, pure energy, based in love rather than fear—an energy that you can relax into, that feels timeless and dependable and as if it will never run out. It is an endless fountain of contentment that enhances and colors your participation in your own life.
The word you associate with burning bright will be your own. How do you feel when you wake up in the morning, throughout the day, and at night? Right now, think of the word that describes or represents how you would like to feel in your life every day, even if it feels incredibly far away right now. You can even close your eyes for a moment and tune in. What word or feeling did you get? That’s your burning bright.
For me, when I was in the midst of true burnout, I never felt free. I felt stuck with my back pain, with my family turmoil, with my stressful career, with my toxic on-again, off-again boyfriend. So, burning bright to me has always been about feeling free—to remember that I always have a choice, that I am powerful, and that I can always make changes that support me and my life. That I am never stuck with what life has given me.
We’re going to clear a path for you to connect to the radiant health and well-being you deserve, your innate passions and purpose, and your deepest truth, so you can figure out why you are here, and then get out there and live according to that purpose. Throughout this process, I’m going to ask you to keep looking inward, to find new layers of trust and recognition within yourself.
As you hold this book in your hands, know that I have infused it with healing and balancing Reiki energy just for you. The experience of reading this book in any form is intended to open you up to love and permission to burn bright. There is a magic and a divinity to this book—on paper, this book has things to share with you and I wrote these words for you. But what you won’t see is the healing and light that this book carries within it, to be with you on your journey. When you hold this book in your hands, have it in your bag, on your desk, or next to your bed—even if you are reading it from an electronic device or listening to it in your car—know that I am connecting with you directly and on purpose. I am sending you blessings and healing from where I am to where you are. I am sending you access to your own courage and to your inner knowledge that you are deeply worthy of all you desire. This book is tangible and intangible. Even the team who helped write and edit this book shared with me that they could feel their energy shifting as they worked with it. You don’t need to know where this book is going to take you. Just know that it will take you where you need to go.
Whatever it took to get you here, whatever you did to become willing to do this work for yourself, congratulations. That is huge. I am elated that you have chosen to spend this time with me, and honored to share this experience with you. I have so much yumminess for you here—the ideas, the energy, the grace, the magic, and all that exists between and beyond the words on these pages.
If you accept the invitation and decide that we can work together to go deep inside and release what hurts you, controls you, and limits you, then there is nothing you can’t do. The luminous gift of this work is the recognition that you already have everything you need to free yourself. You are in the right place, at the right time, for the right reason. All the things that brought you here had to happen so you could arrive in this moment. No matter how you feel right now, know that you haven’t done anything wrong. Your imbalances, disharmonies, fears, and pain come only from not seeing yourself in all your fullness, completeness, rightness, and imperfect perfectness.
This book has three parts. In the first part, we’ll explore the mess of being human, with all it entails: the stress, anxiety, and pain of life in the modern world, along with the many ways our experiences imprint on us and make us who we are in seemingly indelible ways. And yet, you can rekindle the flame deep within you, that you knew as a child was part of who you are. You are still that person. You still possess that flame. You can reclaim your joy and your energy with new tools and with deep growth.
In part 2, we’ll work on all the ways to excavate your joy. I’ll introduce you to techniques and methods of rethinking your body, your mind, and your spirit, for a fuller and brighter experience of life, love, work, and connection. You’ll learn about many of the practices I use daily on myself and that I teach to thousands of others, including emotional freedom technique, or EFT (also known as “tapping”), to release pent-up negative energy, and Reiki, the most powerful energy-healing technique I know.
Reiki is based on ancient practices but was first systematized in the nineteenth century in Japan by Dr. Mikao Usui, after a spiritual awakening he experienced while meditating, fasting, and praying on Mount Kurama. He went on to develop the healing practice of Usui Reiki, and opened a Reiki clinic in Tokyo in 1922. He passed on the knowledge to several masters he trained, and the techniques of Reiki have been passed on through a lineage of masters and evolved into a powerful and relevant practice anyone can utilize right now in the twenty-first century.
Reiki utilizes the flow of life energy that exists everywhere all around us and within all beings. We all have Reiki energy within us, and each one of us will experience it in a different way, but anyone can learn how to channel it to ease pain, calm anxiety, and bring positive energy and light into any being, any room, and any situation. I’ll show you how you can benefit from these and many other practices to help yourself out of the darker places and into the light whenever you need them.
Finally, in the third part of the book, I’ll share my favorite rituals celebrating daily life, big events, and the cyclical nature of earthly existence. From the dramatic to the subtle, these rituals will help you make your life feel more sacred. I’ll also share some additional practices with you, from working with crystals to yoga to my personal take on astrology, so you have tools to manage any situation that might come your way. Speaking of my personal take, it’s important that you know that the practices and information you will find in this book are rooted in both my personal life experiences with burnout, anxiety, and chronic pain, and the work I’ve done with thousands of clients and students. This is what I have seen and experienced in more than a decade of helping others to address and relieve these conditions. I know what pain and struggle feel like in this life. I am right here with you.
And finally, what I want you to know before we begin, most deeply and from the depths of your soul, is that you are made for greatness. Everything that you seek is already inside of you and my deepest desire is for you to see how incredibly worthy you are right now of living a life you love and knowing what it truly feels like to be happy, healthy, and abundant.
I know how hard this is. Two days before I signed and got my book deal, I completely self-sabotaged. I didn’t believe I was worthy of receiving a book deal and I had to sit in my own fear and physical pain prior to that all-important meeting with the publisher who would ultimately love and accept this book. Even though I didn’t feel worthy, I was. And so are you. We all are here to burn bright, and it is our birthright. If you take nothing else away from this book, please take this.
I also want you to know that the secret to burning bright is to accept that change and shifting and letting go are your new best friends. These are the keys to freedom, so get ready! We’re going to shake things up and knock things loose and move you out of your ruts and into a life that brings you joy.
To prepare your mind and heart for this work, I have created a self-discovery agreement that I would like you to read out loud, commit to in your heart, and sign. First, let’s take a moment to prepare. This is something I do in many of my workshops and classes to help create a mutual intention and quiet space from which to start our journey together. We’re going to agree on some things, so let’s get our minds and hearts aligned.
Find a quiet place where you can sit or lie down comfortably. Lower the lights. Light a candle or some incense. Get comfortable.
Take three slow, deep breaths, inhaling for three counts, and exhaling for three to five counts. In your mind or out loud, say these words:
I give myself permission to engage in self-discovery.
I give myself permission to receive the energy healing this book offers me.
I give myself permission to acknowledge and recognize my worth and my innate value in this world and my worthiness to live a life of radiant health, abundance, and love.
Bring your palms together in front of your heart in a prayer position, and take just a few minutes to sit and breathe and bask in a feeling of gratitude for the good things and blessings you have today, including the ability to explore your own consciousness as you seek out a life more in line with who you really are.