I'm in a cabin in the woods, meditating about my upcoming move to Bali. I'm stressed out. I don't know if it's the right decision. I've sold almost everything. And I say to myself, Colleen, how bad can it be? I stopped myself. How bad can it be? You're moving to Bali! How good can it get? I jump up, and on a big piece of paper I write ‘How good can it get?’ Underneath that heading, I started to write down things that would mean that my life was getting good. One of those things was 'Make out with a sexy man.' Little did I know that was the beginning of a torrid love affair.
I had met Aaron a week before at contact improv dance, and he was sexy, witty, and playful. So I went back. He was there. We danced. Though we're not supposed to talk when dancing, I asked him, "Did I see you at dinner last night?" He said, "No." But quickly followed up with, "Maybe you're seeing the future." At that moment, Aaron gave me a gift. He put a ball in the game. Now usually, because I'm not enough, I would not pick that ball up, but I had a choice to make. Was I gonna continue being small and know myself is not enough, or was I gonna be playful, sexy, and free. I chose the latter. Well, people do say I'm extremely intuitive.
After the dance, Aaron asked me, "Well, when do you wanna go on a date?" I said, "Well, it should be soon cos I'm leaving town in three days and the country in three weeks." That's one of the guidelines of a torrid love affair—someone should be leaving soon. So he said, "How about tonight?" I said, "Fantastic." He told me the location to meet him at a restaurant, and we meet up, and I think to myself, Oh God. Now I have to like have a conversation. I don't wanna talk about the stress I'm under, or what we do for work, or our past relationships. I wanna keep it sexy and fun and stay in the present moment—another beautiful guideline of a torrid love affair. So I think What's gonna make him feel good? I ask him, "So what are you passionate about? What turns you on?" We start bantering back and forth, and the conversation gets very sexy. He finally leans into me and says, "You just wanna fuck, don't you?"
Now I heard him loud and clear, but what came outta my mouth was, "What?" He got really shy and backed away. And I realized that my good girl conditioning was showing, and I wanted to recalibrate back to being sexy, fun, and free. So I lean in. "Oh no, I heard you. I just wanted to hear it again." Even though I didn't answer his question, we both knew what was gonna happen that night. So we started talking about how would we make it happen? Where would we go? What do we want to take place? Another beautiful guideline of a torrid love affair—a high level of communication.
So we made our plan. He was gonna come meet me back at my wooden cabin. We meet there. He comes back with music, candles, and binds one would use to tie someone up. I soon find myself in quite the compromising position. As I'm lying in bed tied up, he leans over me, and he whispers in my ear, "You're mine. No one else can have you." After the binds have been taken off and our session was done, I ask him, "How did you learn about all this?" He's like, "Actually, I've never done it before, but I've always wanted to do it." Another beautiful guideline to a torrid love affair—pushing your edges.
He tells me about a time where he saw Batman being tied up by Catwoman when he was a young boy and how it made him feel. The next night I dress up as Catwoman. And I dance for him. And it's so edgy and so real. And I feel crazy but so alive. He laughs, and I jump on him, and I push my hand down on his chest, call him Batman and tie him up and say, "This is no laughing matter. You're mine. No one else can have you."
When Batman was untied, he turns to me, and he says, "Can I dance for you now?" In awe, I'm like, "Yes." He gets up to dance, and I start to cry. Can it stay this innocent, this free, this playful? And again, I catch myself, and I say to myself, Maybe it can, maybe I am the one who dictates my life. And I say how it goes, and it can be this way forever just because I say so. I start to laugh with delight. He jumps on top of me, and I look at him like he's the most amazing man in the world.
He says to me, "Has anyone ever barked into your pussy?" "You mean like a dog?" "Yeah." "No." "Oh, poor baby." As he goes down between my legs, the most masculine bark vibrations go up my body, and I think to myself, How good can it get?
There I was, sitting in my new apartment, and I start shouting out loud. "I am free. I am free. I am free."
Rewind. I'm twenty-one years old. And I wanna find the man of my dreams. And my friend at the spa that I'm working at, she looks at me, and she says, "I have the perfect man for you." I get really excited. My heart just starts to beat fast. We go out on this boat trip that weekend, and five margaritas later, we fall madly in love. You know how that goes.
As the relationship progressed, I realized this wasn't a typical relationship. This was toxic. There were many ups and downs, lots of fights. There was abuse, manipulation, control—the whole thing. I was losing myself. And one night, we get in a raging fight, and I'm shaking. I've got mascara drawing down my face. I'm feeling broken. And he looks at me and screams at me, "Don't come home until you bring another woman home for both of us." I'm devastated. I still go out that night cos I didn't think I had another choice even though I knew I was so disrespected. So dishonored.
So I'm sitting at the bar, and I'm getting drunk. And I look and feel into, Is this really my life? Is this really what I came here to do? Is this happening? Am I gonna end up just like my mom, living on the streets, choosing alcohol and drugs, and being a prostitute? Am I gonna end up just like her? No, no, no. It's not supposed to go like that. No, no. Until one day, I woke up drunk for the last time. I woke up, and I'm sitting on my bed, and I reek of alcohol. I'm shook up. I'm dying awake.
And with God's grace, I was shown two paths. One path; if I was to continue that path and go down that route of self-destruction, what my life would look like. And guess what? It was just like my mom's. And then I was shown this other path; if I was to awaken and choose myself and sobriety, and it was heaven on earth. That day I called every single family member and told them I had a problem. I told them I needed help.
And so, as I climbed my way in sobriety, the lights started coming on. I started to awaken who I truly was. I started taking empowering steps. I went into yoga teacher training. I almost changed my name - Anandi. (Yeah. That's where it comes from.) I wanted to change myself. I started running, I started yoga. I started all the things that I loved. It was a full month—my first month of sobriety—and I felt joy for the first time. And I go, Can I feel this good? Can I feel this free? Yes, yes, yes.
But I still couldn't leave him. I was hooked. I was hooked. So he agreed to go to therapy with me. And that's when it shifted. That's when things really shifted. His name was Greg—the therapist. He was an expert in his field, amazing with addiction. And he started to give us tools. He gave me tools. As I started to peel back the layers of what I thought was me madly in love with this man was just my compensation for the love I didn't have for self. And Greg started telling me it was my inner child trauma that was keeping me going back and back and back to this man. And so he asked me to create a boundary, a boundary that I knew I was gonna keep.
And that boundary? I'll never forget. I was sitting with our therapist, and I say to the therapist as a witness, "If he does this one more time, I'm out that door." And he did. We were driving to the airport. We're in another raging fight. We get to his gate as he was leaving. And he says those words, and there was the boundary being crossed. There was it. I got home, packed my stuff, and left him. And I never went back.
The gift that Greg gave me from that boundary was the gift of fatherly love. Because at the time, I didn't have my father in my life. I didn't have my mother in my life. So I had to start to father myself and mother myself. See, when we have trauma from our childhood, we typically have these stories that are wrapping us into attracting partners and things that keep us locked in prison. And we need to start to heal these inner traumas, to allow us to awaken our own inner sovereign power, to bring us back into our inner parent and our inner union. Especially if you're dealing with a narcissist. See, if you're an empath like me, we have a lot of motherly love. And the narcissist and the empath, they go hand in hand. They're a perfect recipe for disaster. But you know what? That man—my partner—was my guru. He was my teacher.
So remember the mirror and the blessing in the lessons. They're showing you what is still unhealed. Let it be a reverence to continue your path to awaken to who you truly are. See, this is why I show up every day, supporting men and women all around the world, helping them heal these inner traumas from the physical, mental, and emotional body to bring them back into their sovereign divinity, their sovereign power.
It is such a blessing that I get to support women and men. Watching them blossom, awaken, and remember who they truly are. From that boundary, I've been able to achieve quantum leaps. And I continue to surprise myself like here I am surprising myself showing up. I would never have been able to do this years ago. Let me be an embodiment of how liberation can be. Let me be an example that you don't have to live in that pain. Let me show you that going from that much density brings you into this much light. See, women, I'm talking to you.
We need to shift this. See, when a woman follows her intuition, she is free, and they are free. When a woman walks away from a relationship that's dimming her light, that's causing her pain, she is free, and they are free. When a woman says no, that sacred no, even if it's hard, she is free, and they are free. See, when I started to awaken myself, he started to awaken, and that's how it works. Here we are awakening ourself to awaken others. From that time period, I've been able to connect to my dad. After ten years estranged, he sends me text messages, "I love you." It's amazing. It's a miracle. And that's what happens. You become the miracle. So let me leave you with this. Remember, you are the medicine. You are the one that you've been waiting for. Remember, freedom is your birthright. Thank you.
I'm sixteen years old. My mom walks into my bedroom. She says that she's worried about me. She says that I need to start eating. And then she bursts into tears and starts crying uncontrollably. And the reason she's crying is because she's seeing her youngest girl, her youngest daughter, disappear in front of her. Now my mom never cries, and seeing my mom so upset, in that moment, something breaks open inside of me. I look at myself in the mirror and, all of a sudden, I can see that the white top I'm wearing, which is supposed to be very tight, is actually just hanging loose on my body.
Now I have lost fifteen kilos in a very short time, and it all started because of one simple rule that I made up that I was going to stop eating after 6:00 p.m. in the evening even if I had not eaten during the whole day. Now, this just became one out of many rules that I made up so that I could control my weight so that I could look good. I start seeing a psychologist at the age of sixteen.
I meet Christer every Thursday morning. And he shows me, he makes me understand the enormous power that my mind has over my reality. Not only how I perceive myself, but how I perceive others and my entire world. And I become probably the most dedicated sixteen-year-old girl ever that just wanted to learn and grow and heal from within. Looking back, I ask myself, "Why did that happen? How did that start?" And I realized that I started to pay a lot of attention to what others were doing, how I thought I should look, what I should do. And all that I really truly wanted was just to be loved, seen, and heard for who I truly was.
So I'm five years old. It's Sunday morning. I'm with my parents in this huge furniture store, but I'm lost. I'm walking, trying to spot my parents, and this tall woman walks to me. She has a warm and friendly smile. She looks me in the eyes. She asks me what's my name? And I tell her. I look her in the eyes, and I say, "I'm Pippi." Now just to be clear, my name is Natalie. But in that moment, my mom and dad instantly knew that it was me because who I thought I was and who I wanted to be growing up was Pippi Longstocking. Some of you are smiling. So for those of you who don't know, Pippi Longstocking is the main fictional character of a series of children adventure stories that pretty much every young girl in Sweden either read or watched. Now Pippi Longstocking—she's different. She definitely does not fit in at all. She has this adventurous spirit. She even has a big bag of gold coins in her attic. So this little girl is financially free. She gets to live the life she wants. She can design the life that she truly wants.
Growing up, this little girl—she was my hero. I believe that Pippi had a powerful connection to her heart's voice, which I believe is an energy that we all can tap into—a pulse of the universe—if we just decide to tune inwards and fully listen. And when I was sixteen years old, looking at myself in the mirror, I could see that I completely had lost my connection to my heart's voice.
I'm twenty-nine years old. I wake up in panic. My heart is speeding like this. I'm drowned in sweat. And I look at the clock. It's 3:00 a.m. again. I'm having another anxiety attack. And this has been going on for weeks. I'm shit scared, and I don't know what to do. I walk to my bathroom. I flush cold water into my face. And the reflection of who I'm seeing—myself—makes me sad because I don't recognize myself. My skin is telling me that I'm not feeling well. I don't look healthy. I look quite sick. But instead of listening, I get myself together. Four hours later, I'm at work, suited and booted, showing up with my perfect smile. I'm a senior manager, and I'm greeting my staff with this big smile. At work, I'm performing excellently. Everything is great. Everything is really great. It's just that I feel like I'm slowly dying from within. I feel like I have no pulse.
"I can, and I will. I can, and I will. I can, and I will." This becomes my mantra during a transition period where I finally decide to tune back into my heart's voice. I decide to quit my job. I decide to sell pretty much everything that I own so that I can put on my big backpack again and go travel the world because that's all my heart wants to do. Fast forward six months. I'm in Rishikesh, Northern India—the capital of yoga. Rishikesh is surrounded by the foothills of the Himalayas. Through the valley, we had the river Ganges flowing freely. Wild monkeys running freely. There's something magical and mystical and spiritual with the whole atmosphere of just being there. I love it.
6:00 a.m. I'm sitting on the cold stone floor in the yoga shala. It's freezing. I'm covered in layers, and layers, and layers of weird clothes I got at the market stands—elephants and crazy colors. I do not look like I would've done in the yoga studio back home for sure. But I feel like I'm belonging. I'm surrounded by yogis from all over the world. They're chanting in Sanskrit. Back then, I don't really understand what they're saying. I kind of sneak peek like this—kind of trying to understand what they're actually saying. It doesn't actually really matter because, sitting on that cold stone floor at 6:00 a.m. every morning, something peacefully begins to grow within me.
So yoga and meditation completely change me. And my time in India brings me back to life. Not only am I traveling again, I am becoming Pippi. No rules, no restraints—just me out there feeling free. I'm not rich in money anymore, but I am oh so rich in spirit. I get to see the ancient temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I sit for hours to talk with the locals in the countryside. I get completely lost in the wild, lush jungle of rainforest of Borneo. I dance under the stars under the full moon on the beaches in Thailand. I get to connect with amazing people that I still call my best friends today. I get to have the ultimate Eat, Pray, Love romance in Bali. It was magical.
My journey of following my heart's voice has been littered with ups and downs. I can't even begin to share all the mess that I've experienced. It's not a linear path. I've fallen down more times than I can even begin to tell, but I always brought myself back up. Things go sideways. During my travel adventures, I lost my luggage more than once. I got robbed. Of course, I got parasites in India a couple of times. And the amazing Eat, Pray, Love romance? Three years later, a painful, painful heartbreak. My heart cracks wide open. Now, I know that it takes something if I say that I want to be happy.
And I've learned that my biggest battles in life, going through eating disorders, burnout, painful heartbreaks, among other things, that these battles have been gifts and blessings because they had me look deep into all the BS that I had living inside me for so many years. I had to learn not only how to love and accept myself, I had to learn how to fully love myself. And this is important—not only how to love the sunny side up of Natalie that I felt was actually quite easy to love. I had to learn how to fully actually love all those sides of me that I spent so many years running away from. The things that I didn't really want to identify myself with. The things that I felt were the dark sides that I didn't want anyone to know about. But because I've been committed to fully, fully, fully, not only face all of these sides of me, but to actually deal with it, and to make peace with it—that means that I'm no longer restrained by any rules.
I get to decide and make up my own rules. I get to live my life free. I get to feel that I'm alive. I get to define success and happiness on my own terms. And I get to create my own golden coins. So what I really, really needed to do the whole time, as I understand now, was to give myself permission to just be who I am.
And here I am today, standing in front of you, barefoot, living in Bali, which used to be such a big dream of mine for a lot of years. Standing here feeling free, feeling alive, and feeling very Pippified. Now I learned that my magic, that our magic, is to be found in the mess. And it turns out that my mess is my golden coins and that this is the currency that I get to use when I tap into my heart's voice and the pulse of the universe.
I'm on a plane flying to my homeland from Bali. I arrive at the airport, and it's a beautiful summer day, and I can feel the hot sun on my skin. I go straight to my mom. I give her a deep hug, and I whisper into her ear. "I'm here now, Mom. We got this." But I knew I had something to do. So I go inside, and I follow the nurse silently. We go down into the basement and, all of a sudden, it's really cold, and I'm having this shiver going up my spine.
I enter a small room with dimmed lights. And the nurse—she closes the door behind me. I see my dad peacefully lying there, and I'm breaking down. I'm sobbing. I'm crying. I don't really know what to do. And then I give him a hug, but he's ice cold. That's when it hit me. He's dead. You know, my life will never be the same, but luckily my dad had been preparing me for this my entire life.
I wanna tell you a little story. I was six years old, and I was alone at home cos I was a good boy. It was just after my dad's birthday. And there was lots of wrapping paper around everywhere. I grab his favorite lighter, but I want to be smart. So I grab a glass of water and place it right next to me. I take the wrapping paper, strike the lighter, and begin my ultimate experiment. Well, as you can imagine, it didn't turn out too well, and the glass of water didn't help one bit. Things get out of control immediately. There are flames everywhere. I'm running outside. I'm screaming to the neighbors, "The house is on fire. The house is on fire."
Next thing you know, fire trucks, police, ambulance—blue lights everywhere. And our home . . . gone. My dad comes home first after work to this madness, and I'm getting interviewed by the police. I'm like, "I didn't do anything wrong. It wasn't me. I have nothing to do with this." I'm scared. So my dad kneels down, and he's like, "Sascha, I am so so sorry. It is my fault. I should have introduced you to fire. I should have made you aware of the danger of it." In that moment, everything shifted. I was no longer scared. I felt safe. Now looking back at this moment, I realized that he took full responsibility for my actions. There was no blame, and there was no shame.
And then, a couple years ago, I asked him, and I still vividly remember like "Dad, how did you raise me the way you raised me?" "What do you mean?" "Well, I mean, did you read a bunch of books or, you know, did you ask your friends? Like, what did you actually do? I mean, you're so old. Back in the days, they wasn't even internet around. Remember those times?" And he's just like, "You know what, son. I didn't read any freaking books. We just had one single intention, just one commitment to each other. And that was to raise you with love. That's it. There was nothing more special about it. And we knew we were going to make mistakes. Like not hiding my lighter from you, but we also knew if we raised you with love, everything is going to be fine." And when he said that, I understood why I had a life like a fairy tale. His intentionality to guide and parent me through love was real.
And then, just like that, things can change in a split second. My dad had a stroke. And while he was on his death bed and those three days suffering, he wasn't thinking about himself. He was giving my mom pin codes and passwords and bank account details just to make her life a little bit easier in that transition. And I'm trying to get ready to go as fast as possible back to Berlin and Germany.
While I'm getting ready to fly out, my mom calls me, and she's like, "Sascha, I don't know what's going on. Dad just called me. He wants me to come back to the hospital." In that moment, I knew that he already knows he's going to die. So I sent him a voice message. "Dad, I'm on my way home. I'm almost there. I'm gonna take care of Mom, I promise you. I love you over everything. And I'm so grateful for everything you've done for me and Dad I already know. And it's okay if it's time for you to go, please don't wait for me. Like I don't want you to suffer." I hang up the phone. I break down in tears. I'm crying. And then Dave comes, and he holds me tight. Like he was basically there during my weakest moments, and Dave, I'm forever grateful for everything that you've done for me and how you've been there for me—really.
And then Dave tells me about this meditation. Of course, he's a meditation master. And basically, he says, "Do this." And I do exactly what he says. I'm sitting in meditation and closing my eyes, and he wants me to visualize a staircase. I'm slowly walking up those stairs, and on the left and on the right, I see images and pictures. They're memories and moments of me and my dad. I look to the right. I see us on the slopes during winter holidays. And he was so slow it drove me fucking crazy. And then I go a few more steps up. We were playing pool. We were playing a lot of pool together, and he showed me, he taught me how to use angles to play a better game. And then later, we were in the car driving all across the countries in Europe to all my many basketball games, and he was cheering on the sidelines for me. And then he says to look up, so I look up to the top of the staircase. And I see a figure surrounded by a golden-white light. I know it's him.
So I walk all the way up. I'm right in front of him. I can cry with him. I can speak with him. I can talk to him like, "Dad, I miss you. Thank you for showing me the way to choose love first and make me the man that I am today." And then, when I've expressed everything, I slowly turn around, and I walk back down those stairs all the way to the bottom to come out of my meditation.
Now, this meditation, we call Stairway to Heaven, and it changed my life. It allows me to go deep into my emotions, and my feelings, and my pain and address it instead of avoiding it. And the most beautiful thing about it? I have a chance to go back up there and be with him whenever I want. Now I have one guiding question that I'm carrying with me every single day. What would my dad want for me? I know he wouldn't want me to like bathe myself in self-pity and cry all day and like stop enjoying life. I feel like that would be the opposite of honoring him for everything that he's done for me.
He would want me to make an impact. He would want me to shine my light. He would want me to be that powerful man that he taught me to be by shaping me with his love. So I'm very proud because we are launching this massive meditation initiative for global impact with YogiLab to show people a way out of suffering. It's the technique of the Buddha—Vipassana meditation. And despite the fact that I lost the most important man in my life, we are going to continue to push forward with this to inspire millions of people and to shape the planet and this world with one beautiful intention. Because what my dad has shown me is that we can change someone else's life when we choose love, when we raise ourselves with love and when we take care of others and treat them with love. And for that, I will be forever grateful. Thank you, Dad.