So I'm thinking about getting a nose job. I just wanna look more Jewish. I'm gonna make it bigger. I had a breakup, and my grandma called. I was crying. She was like, "Honey, it's time we get you a nose job. "What?" "Find you a husband." "What?" "I mean, it's not very attractive to wake up next to a giant schnoz like that, Alicia? Hmmm?" "Grandma, ouch. I mean, if a husband is what we're going for, wouldn't a boob job be more effective? Or a blow job or a day job—that'd be less invasive." So it's 2015. And I'm about to perform these opening lines for my brand new standup comedy show, The Oy of Sex, at the Hollywood French festival. And something weird is happening. They're delaying the show because it's so sold out. They're actually lining the stage with audience members. As I get on, they cue the music. I do my show. "Hi. So I'm thinking about getting a nose job . . ." And it goes amazing. I kill it. People leave having grown and laughed and cried. And I have an amazing time afterward. This woman pushes through the crowd. She's got cat-eye glasses, and she says, "Phenomenal show, Alicia. I'm a producer, and I'm taking you off Broadway."
I go home. I get into my ritual postshow bath, and I am riding high. I'm thinking, you know, sure. I've performed around the world. Sure. I've won a bunch of awards, but now I think it's finally happening. Like I think, this is it.
And I flash back to a few months before. I'm on the operating table. I am having my eggs harvested and frozen—pushing snooze on my biological clock. Just hoping that my career takes off before I have a family. And this anaesthesiologist says, "Okay, Alicia." He hooks me up with morphine, and he says, "Can you count back from ten for me?" "Okay. Ten, nine, eight, you're cute. . ."
Flash forward. Four, three, two, one . . . Happy New Year. It's December. I'm in Big Sur, California. I am floating nude in a hot tub, overlooking a cliff, watching shooting stars fall into the Pacific Ocean. And this painfully handsome British man leans over, and says, "Happy New Year. I'm Colin." "Colin?" "Colin." "Colin, ha ha ha ha!" And for the next like several hours, we just start to banter back and forth—very high-level witty banter. And we're giggling, and we're sharing stories of life-altering medicine journeys, and Advaita gurus, and world travel. And oh! Colin just says, "I'm very impressed you're taking a show off Broadway. What's it about?” "Um . . .Inner peace. Love. Sex." . . . "Really?"
That's when he leans in. He caresses my face. He kisses me, and Korea just starts to rumble up my spine as his hands sweep through the water toward my yoni. And I just give in to the absolute bliss of Esalen Institute. Thank you. This is what I came here for. For the next week, Colin and I are just being totally inappropriate in the tubs every night. One night at dinner, we're eating spaghetti, and he just in like the best possible move of comedy and romance in combination, he takes one long piece of spaghetti. He places one end in his mouth and one end in mine, and just bit by bit, we go full lady and the tramp, and my heart is a flutter. I can't believe this is happening. Is this really happening? Like, can I actually have this?
I dunno if I can have this. I freeze. And that old fear of loss just starts to haunt me. And I just breathe through the fear because it's so good. I don't wanna miss this. And I just say, "Yes, I can have this. Yes, I can." And Colin, oh my God, he's amazing. He's a massage therapist in Argentina. And he says that he actually just got a job offer in California. Like he might move here. So two days later, he flies back to Buenos Aires. I fly to New York for my show, and we're sending love notes across the globe.
And then our calls start to taper off. And I realize I was just a post-divorce fling. And I have by this point in my life done mountains of therapy, meditation, healing my inner child work. I have traveled solo throughout India. I have tasted moments of nondual awakening but, no matter what I try, nothing works, and it just hurts. And I'm single again.
Flash forward to New York. It's opening night. We have the premier. They cue the music. I come out. I kill it. People laugh and cry and grow. All of our hard work has paid off, and it feels really good. Afterward, I take the train uptown to 72nd street. I'm missing Colin. That's mainly what I'm thinking about. I get in the postshow ritual tub.
And I check my belly in the mirror, and I'm carrying into the tub like literally a bucket of chocolate malt balls with me. I flip on the music and, of course, it's this song “I'm so tired of being alone. I'm so tired of on my own. Won't you help me?” And I just start bawling. And then I spiral further into the rumination, into the misery around my career. And I think, you know, people get really excited when they hear I'm a comedian. They go, "Oh my God, you know what you should do? You should do a show about . . . mmm . . . spirituality." "Oh, you know, you should talk about white fragility." "Oh, you know, you should talk about the pandemic, you know, tell the truth, you know, the truth." Whatever that is! "The truth."
And whenever people say, "Oh my God, you know what'd be so funny . . ." or they wanna pay me to write a script or a show, like on the outside I'm like, "Oh yeah, that would be totally fun. That's awesome." And on the inside, I just cringe. And I’m just like, oh no, I can't. I can't. I just can't be funny on command. Can't do it. I don't know why, but it's really frustrating to watch all the people I started with get on TV and just not have the kind of conventional success that I dreamt of as a kid.
And after eighteen shows in New York, nothing comes of it. No new booker, no new manager, no agent, no Netflix special. And I just start to wonder, like, Maybe I'm not good enough. And some part of me just gives up, which in a way is really freeing. A year later, I'm doing the show for some friends in Bali, and we have a lot of fun, and I'm just doing it for fun. That night I go home alone. Again, I get into the postshow bath. I'm missing whoever I'm missing when there's a knock at the door.
Two people who were at the show saw me leave alone. I don't really know them, but they bust the door open. They sweep me onto the couch, and they hold me in a tight embrace for the next hour. Robin and Ben are sharing love, and appreciations, and care. And their wisdom just breaks my big tender heart open. And Robin looks me straight in the eye. And she says, "Alicia, you know, you're not just a comedian, right? You're also a priestess. You're like a badass comedy tantrika. I see the goddess moving through you and awakening that entire audience. I see it. You know, after the goddess performs her magic, she needs to return to the temple for replenishment." "You know, I'd really like to be replenished with some money and success." "Alicia, just go talk to the goddess."
So after they leave, I climb back in the tub. I light the requisite candles and incense. I play the requisite flute music, and I speak to the invisible comedy goddess in the air. And I plead with her. "Goddess. I have not been honoring who I am, what I provide, and what is flowing through me. Please show me your will for me."
Just then the candles flicker. The music stops. And the goddess of comedy speaks to me . . .like in my head. A . . . LI . . .CIA! Ha ha. Just kidding. I'm the god of the comedy. Come on! "Write this down, so you can speak it. Alicia, other comedians may use me as a means to an end. But for you, that's a betrayal cos you're here to wake up. That's what you get to do. You don't get to control how your career goes. You just get to enjoy the ride." I don't wanna be forced. I wanna be invited, discovered, savored, known.
"I wanna trick you into seeing every painful truth, feeling every sensation and emotion, and then transcending it all. I want all of you from the broken down, cracked out miserable parts to the dancing night rainbow parts. Baby, I wanna make you rich in spirit, but only, only after I have tied you up and teased you and knocked you down on your knees, so you are begging me to chop off your head to slay every last thought of disconnection, untruth, and disease till you are worshiping me with uncontrollable orgasmic laughter. So fuck your little Instagram following, fuck your childish attempts to impress and seduce with your cleverness because what's on offer is so much bigger.
And guess what? You don't even need to be healed to be funny. You just need to welcome everything as it is right here now cos this is it. And welcome all of these people—these miraculous precious beings—into your temple. Nothing to fix, nothing to prove, nothing to become. This is it. And I hope you enjoy the shit out of it right here now."
I am standing in the foothills of the Himalaya. Blue expansive sky above me. Prayer flags fluttering in the breeze and just above the rhododendron forest, white Nepali mountains. And I'm not gonna see any of it because I can't take another step. My physical body is fine, but finally, the weight of my self-hatred is so heavy that I can't even pick up my leg. Next to me, with love in his eyes, my ex-boyfriend. He's just broken up with me because I'm toxic. It's not that I'm mean to him or abusive. He says it's like living with a black hole that all the joy and the happiness has just sucked inside. And I haven't realized that I hate myself. I've wanted to commit suicide for years just to escape the pain that's in my head. But I believe so strongly in reincarnation. I think you just come straight back. I can't even kill myself to escape from this planet.
And even though everything is falling apart in my world, I know that I chose this. I chose him leaving me and walking away. You see, two weeks before, I'm in a temple in India. And I am praying. Who am I? I've been reading books by gurus with unpronounceable names. Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ramana Maharshi, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and they're all saying, "Ask the question, who am I?" And they talk about how we are not our body, and we are not our mind. And I think, Wow, maybe I can go beyond my mind. And so I start to pray. I want to know myself. I want to know myself. And this question comes, "What if your parents think that you're nuts?" I have dreadlocks. I've been barefoot for years. I quit my successful corporate job in advertising five years ago to hang out with shamans in Siberia, monks in Tibet.
My parents are kindhearted small-town Scottish Christians. They probably already think I'm pretty far gone. So yes, I want to know myself, even if my parents think that I'm crazy. Who am I? Who am I? Last question. Do you want to know yourself more than you want to be with Nicholas? Nicholas is my love. He's my best friend. He's my teacher. Don't make me choose. And I see those two paths. I see the life with Nicholas, us traveling the world, living in our home in Rishikesh. Maybe having a family. And the other path is just darkness. Where does that go? The path of knowing myself. Who am I fooling? And yet I know this is the only chance I ever have to be happy.
I return to my prayer. Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? I am praying with every fiber of my being, every cell of my body. I've never wanted anything more than I want in that moment. Who am I? And then nothing. There is a void. There is not even an eye to experience a void. And it's not the kind of nothing where everything stays the same after. It's the kind of nothing where everything changes. Later I discover this experience, which isn't an experience, is called Sunyata. The void. Emptiness. And after an eternity, there is an eye again, observing a void. And then my mind scrambles back. What just happened? What just happened? Did I just die? Did my dad just die? Did Nicholas just die? What just happened? What just happened? And even though I am freaking out, something inside of me knows my question was answered, and I just experienced the truth.
And so I returned to Rishikesh excited to share with Nicholas this powerful spiritual experience I've had. And he dumps me. And I know that this is leading me on my path of knowing myself, but it doesn't help that twenty-nine-year-old little girl who's just lost her home and her life and her beloved.
And I take myself to Lumbini where the Buddha was born. And I lock myself in meditation boot camp. From four o'clock in the morning until ten o'clock at night, I am in constant presence and meditation in a tiny Tibetan temple with a monk banging a drum and chanting deep dark Mahakala Pujas, the destroyer of the ego. It's dark, and there's yak butter lamps and paintings of the Buddha's life on the temple walls. And I sit there for days and weeks. And after a while, I see my self-hatred. I see that monster and that beast, and I know that I've created it. I'm this tiny little girl with a candle. And it has fangs, and it's snarling. And it can destroy me at any moment. I've got no idea what to do. And I just back away from it.
And the beating of the drum from the monk, it's like it starts to beat from inside of me. And I start to feel my heart coming back on line. And from that place, I look at the stories I've been telling myself about what's wrong with me, about why I hate myself and I trace them back. And they're just stories cos I can see from this place that nothing is true. And I get to a story where I am six years old in the playground in Scotland, and Allison and Emily are standing over me. "You're ugly. No one likes you. No one wants to be your friend. Your mom's English."
And I think they must be right because no one wants to be my friend, and I am a crybaby. And this continues for six years. Every break, every lunch, I'm running away from them, or I'm locked in the toilet with my feet up on the toilet seat so they can't find me. And I grow into an adult believing what they're telling me is truth. That no one will ever love me. That I am broken. And I put on masks, hoping that other people can't see inside—thinking if I hate myself, no one else will need to hate me.
And with this monk beating the drum and from this experience I've had in India, I realize these girls who said these things to me, they were kids. They were just kids. And I remember they had big brothers and sisters who were probably saying that to them. And, of course, I can forgive them. Of course I can just let it go because it's not true. But I realize I did the same thing. I took that hatred and that bullying home. And I did the same thing to my little brothers, and I bullied them and I was so cruel to them, and so mean to them.
Can I ever forgive myself for that? And as I ask the question, I realize that I'm stroking my hair. Yes, I can forgive myself for this. I am forgiving myself for this. And I realize every single part of me, everything I've experienced, is worthy of love. All of it. And what I didn't know then that I know now is I needed to be covered in those paper cuts. So I could sit in front of other people who've been stabbed and say to them, "You are worthy of love. You can get through this. You can forgive this. You can let this go." And they know that it's true because they see in my eyes that I've been through hell and escaped and that now I'm happy.
And in that temple, I pull the scarf back off my face, and it's packed with golden dragonflies. Out of nowhere, golden dragonflies everywhere. And it's like they're flying all around my head, and they're taking these thoughts out of my brain. And I am free. For the first time in my life, this love is just pouring through my brain, and through my heart, and through my body. And I look down at my heart and, you know, sometimes you just see that little boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, that little pulse.
And I thank my heart for always beating for me. I've treated her so badly. I've been so mean to her. I've blamed so much on her, and she's always cheered for me. And I hear my heart say to me, "Who else would I beat for?"
So I felt empty as I looked into my wife's eyes as we sat on the couch at our therapist's office, trying one last time to make this marriage work. And I asked myself, "Why? Why could I not accept her unconditional love?" I loved her. She unconditionally loved me. Isn't that what this whole life thing's about? Isn't this how the happily ever after story works? Why did I feel so empty? Why could I not go all in? What was this empty hollow feeling? It was shame. It was a shame that was fixed deep in me the moment I told her. The moment I looked into her eyes and told her that not only did I have an affair but that I had fallen in love with another woman. I watched her drop, collapse to the floor, crying and screaming. And all I could think about is how could I betray anybody, let alone this woman like this, someone who loved me, who I committed to being for the rest of our lives? How could I do that?
It was not the shame that makes you feel like you did a bad thing. It was the shame that makes you feel like you're a bad person, that you're no longer worthy of being loved. And that hollow feeling in this moment, like how could I feel nothing? Nothing at all, completely empty.
I was five, and I fell, and I banged my knee one time. And I remember my dad coming as I started to cry. He's like, "Chris, just relax. It's gonna be okay. Kathy, don't coddle him." Kathy's my mom. And I breathe. And I was like, you know, the tears went away, and I relaxed, and I was okay. And then I can remember the next time that I fell. And I remember falling. And I remember that pain started to come, and I squeezed, and I flexed so hard that I didn't feel any pain, and I didn't cry.
And that was the birth of the stoic boy cos I was an emotional little kid. But if I flexed and squeezed hard enough, I knew I could protect myself from ever being called a pussy again—a wuss, a little girl.
And that stoic boy turned into a stoic man. That stoic man entered the corporate world with no emotions cos emotion was weakness. Emotion was stress. If you were emotional or stressed, you didn't get the big account. They couldn't trust you to close the big deal. You couldn't get the big promotion. You couldn't be a success. Cos, of course, as a man, we all need to be a success.
So I sat in this meeting one time. My boss tells me, "We're cutting your territory in half." I sit there, of course, just listening like, Oh. Half the territory, half the accounts, half the forecast, half the revenue, and my little chance at winning the little top performer's trophy was like fading away. But, of course, I'm sitting in this meeting cool, collective.
I leave that meeting, and I feel something like in my heart. It just doesn't really feel great. So I walk to my car. I get in my car, and I start driving, and it goes like tick, tick, tick. And then boom. My tears are running down my face. I'm screaming in my car. I think I'm having a fucking heart attack. I literally be like, Get me to the hospital. I pull into the hospital. My wife comes and the doctor to tell me, "You're okay. You just had a panic attack." So I was okay. And only my wife, mom, therapist, and doctor knew that that had happened.
So the next day, you go right back to the office like nothing happened. That stoic man in the corporate world made his way right into my relationship with my wife because I had to be strong. I had to be the pillar. I couldn't do something that might make her emotional because I had to be strong for the two of us. And it didn't allow me to connect to her at all. Cos I was scared if, all of a sudden, like I wanted to have a simple conversation, like "Can we just maybe do these things? Cos I think it'd be fun." Did she think I'm gonna shame her by that? Is that gonna cause a reaction? Might as well ... nope, can't say that. Her job was killing her, and I just wanted to be like, "Can we talk about your job cos it's impacting me too, and I just feel like it's getting in between us?" But I couldn't do that cos I didn't want to create hysterics. I had to be strong for her. I felt like I was playing second fiddle to her family, but I couldn't say anything.
And then one night the phone rings at three o'clock in the morning. It's her mom hysterical, crying. And I can feel that she's about to have a breakdown. And in that moment, I'm like, Geez, I've done all this to avoid the breakdown. And here it comes. And then I felt the tick tick. And instead of the boom, it's that moment like in movies where they throw the bad guy on top of the grenade, except that was my heart. So it went like this . . . and I held the panic attack in, and it just like imploded me. This stoic man was killing me across the board.
And in a moment when I was about to go into standard Chris Walker Fix it Mode, shift the knobs, change the job, change the location, do whatever it is—it'll be fine for another six months, a year—I realized that I had no idea who I was. I didn't know who I was. And like how could I fix what I didn't know?
So I decided to move to Bali to become a yoga teacher. Yep. And backpacked a yoga mat, six books with me and why six books is important is cos I am not a reader. But if I was gonna prove to myself that I was gonna change, I was gonna start reading books. So I get to Bali. Yoga, eat, sleep, repeat. Yoga, eat, sleep, repeat. A little cacao dessert, a little ecstatic dance on the weekends, but leaving so much bullshit behind me.
I actually began to really feel. I began to focus. I began to feel what I could only describe in that moment—it was just like this little glimmer of what felt like somebody wrote in a book about this thing inner peace. Like it just kind of felt like a little peaceful. I began to feel. And dare I say it just a little bit of may I call it self-love? Just a little bit. Just like a little salt on top of the dish kind of amount of self-love. But like I was feeling, and this shit was fucking awesome.
But then I get a phone call. I get a phone call from my wife. She's been deported. She's in a holding cell in Gatwick Airport about to be forced to go back to France with absolutely nothing. And all I could think about is I need to be there for her. At the drop of a hat, I buy a ticket to Paris because I love her. I want to show her that I love her. I also wanna show her that like I've changed. I'm like a new fucking person right now. Like this is really, really real.
I'm on the way to the airport. And I've got a book in hand. I call it 'The book.' Brené Brown's Daring Greatly. Now this book is the book for me for a specific reason. It's maybe six years before my mom gave me this book. That book moved to three flats in San Francisco, moved to London, came to Bali, had never been cracked once. So I'm going. And I can even remember through the difficult times in life and only now looking back on it, I could call it depressed states that I was going through, that my mom would say, "You know, Chris, I think it'd be a good idea right now if you read that Daring Greatly book I got you." I can remember hearing my wife being like, "You know, this might be a really good time for you to read that book your mom got you." Of course, I don't listen to them at all, but I lay a gauntlet out for myself. I lay a gauntlet that says I'm gonna read this book cover to cover in one day because that'll really prove to me and to her that I've changed. Cos the old Chris Walker could not read a book in one day. I had read about twelve books in my entire life up to this point. So I got this pink highlighter, and I'm sitting on the plane. Two hundred pages. All right, twenty pages tick. I get to ten tick marks the book is done. Twenty pages tick. Fading into, okay, take a nap. Back. Tick, tick, tick. I get the 10th tick. I finish the book, mission accomplished. I sit there, tears running down my face, and I'm like, "You mean vulnerability is not weakness. It's a superpower. What?"
Ahh. I can laugh about it now, but in that moment, and I don't do anything half-ass, I knew there was only one thing to do from here. I was to repropose to my wife. So with vulnerability as my little superpower—on that, her Airbnb in Paris, I'm standing crying butt naked reading the vows that I had rewritten. This new commitment, this new love, this new me was there. And at the end, I asked her to be my wife, and she sat there crying and smiling at me. And she said, "I can't." It destroyed me. Like the feeling leading into it was so beautiful. It was so pure. It felt so good. It felt so amazing. I felt, I felt this whole time. I felt like I had never felt before. I was experiencing what it was like to go in, and regardless if she said yes or no, I knew that I had changed. I knew that I had feelings and a connection to this thing called vulnerability that I had never had before. But there was this deep sadness, like why couldn't this have happened two months ago? Like why couldn't I have found the whole sense of self two months ago, and I would've fixed everything. Right? How did I get dug into this hole? How did I believe vulnerability was a weakness for so long?
Seven-year-old Chris knew vulnerability was weakness. I played basketball. This kid, David Baird, couldn't dribble with his left hand. And I terrorized him. I stole the ball from him over and over and over again. I was an asshole. It's okay, though. I was just thinking, ding, ding, ding, I didn't need to score a single point. Every steal was a win. I was winning, and I lived the rest of my life with two things moving forward from that point; a belief that everybody else was me. They were gonna take advantage of my vulnerabilities just like I took advantage of David Baird's vulnerabilities. And so, I began to live life strategizing on how to win. Cos why wouldn't you want to be a winner? Why would you wanna be a loser if you could be a winner?
But obviously, with this story, it caught up to me. So now I stand committed to no longer seeing life as a game that's all about winning. I choose to see life as a game that's about experiencing. For life is not all about winning. Winning is this future-dated idea outcome. Focusing on winning kept me from fully feeling, from fully expressing, from fully connecting to who I was because I might put in jeopardy the win. It took me completely out of the present moment. And isn't life about this present moment? For when all we're doing is focusing on the outcome, we set ourselves up for disappointment. We set ourselves up for upset, suffering, depression. What if you create the company and the only reason is to make a bunch of money, and it goes bankrupt? If the only reason that you get into the relationship is so that it'll last forever, and it ends. If you build all the money so that you can be accepted as a success, and then you're still not. You focus so much on the result that you just let life go by, and you just miss experiencing all of it.
So we have an opportunity. We have an opportunity right now to drop the stories. To drop the stories that told you what you were supposed to look like, what you were supposed to do, what you were supposed to feel. You can drop all of that bullshit and connect to the present moment. You can connect to the most authentic truest version of yourselves. And maybe you can even share the present moment with somebody you love. But you can begin to feel and share along this beautiful yet not always easy journey that's life because if you don't, life will pass you by one moment at a time until you either die or you tell yourself that you have had enough. Thank you all for your time.
November 2018. I'm sitting in couples therapy with my boyfriend, and the therapist says, "Megan, look, he is afraid of you." And I get defensive. I'm like, "Why is HE afraid of ME? He's the one that won't be loyal. He's the one that's not committing. He's the one that's sleeping around." And she says, "Stop, Megan, you're punishing him." And I pause, and I look in his eyes, and I can see it's true. He is afraid of me cos I've been mean. And you know why I've been mean? Because I've been denying my desire in order to please him. In all these little spots, he said, "I want an open relationship." I said, "Okay, I'll try it." He wanted to live and work at the retreat center. And I said, "Okay, I'll leave LA." In all these little spots, I went with what he wanted to try to please him, keep our relationship.
But meanwhile, I was punishing him under the radar. Has anyone ever done that? Okay. I'm glad I'm not alone. In that moment, though, I realized it was a wake-up call for me. I was like, "Where else in my life am I doing this?" I started to see all these little places where I wasn't being honest with myself or others. For example, my job was to sell corporate training at the retreat center. I hadn't sold any because I didn't think that they were ready for it. My other job: I was there to give insights at the retreat center, but I just judged people cos I didn't want to risk my reputation by saying what I actually thought.
I felt stagnant and stuck cos I didn't want to admit that I really wanted to travel. Seeing the fear in my boyfriend's eyes was a wake-up call. I didn't like the woman I was becoming. I was being mean, so every day I sat, and I meditated, and I asked, "What do I really want? And what do I need to admit to myself?" For days nothing happened, and then a very clear vision began to form. A few weeks later, I was talking to my friend, Rev. Jo, who is probably the wisest woman I have ever met. She is a native American medicine woman, a shaman, a preacher to Agape, where thousands come to see her every week. Basically, there's no bs-ing in front of this woman. She's been a desire doula for thousands of people, and I was pregnant with a very big, very secret desire. I sat down with her, and I started going into my story as we do. I was saying, "Ugh, I just keep fighting with my partner, and I feel ineffective at the retreat center. Everything feels stuck. Oh, and every time I think about Bali, I cry. And as I said that, tears streamed down my face - my whole body covered in goosebumps.
She turned and looked at me, and in her Southern drawl, she said, "Baby, ain't nothing gonna feel right until you follow that. Bali is a calling on your life." It hit me with that thud of incontrovertible truth, something that was undeniable and really uncomfortable. Has anyone had a moment like that? Yeah. I knew she was right, but my mind had a lot of things to say about it. I said, "But Rev. Jo, what about my job and my partner and my community, and what are they gonna do without me?" And da da da. "Megan, do you teach about desire, or do you teach about obligation?"
Fair enough. Right? But still I was scared. I was really scared because if I left and went to Bali, it would mean giving up everything I had created - my friends, my spiritual community, my job, my relationship, my financial security, my family - for some vague vision I had seen in meditation. It felt insane. But with Rev. Jo next to me, I realized maybe I'm not crazy. Maybe this is not insane. So, that night with the little bit of courage I had, I went home, I opened my laptop, and I quickly bought a ticket to Bali. I knew if I sat and thought about it, I wouldn't do it. The fear voices would get far too loud, and I would lose all my courage, and I wouldn't do it. So I bought my ticket and then over the next few weeks, I sat with people as I told them my decision. My boss was angry because I was leaving my new job. I broke up with my boyfriend, and I held him as he cried.
I said goodbye to my friends and my family who questioned my decision, cos no one understood. "Why are you going to Bali? You don't know anyone there." And I didn't have a good reason. It was really hard to say goodbye. This is why people don't follow their desire because we can feel intuitively in the short term, people will be hurt. People will be upset. They will be ashamed. They will be angry at you. You'll feel disappointed. And so, it is far easier in the short term to pretend. But what's the alternative? I had seen in myself when I was pushing down my desire and denying it, I was eroding into a lesser version of myself. And then I was blaming people for my unhappiness.
So I said my goodbyes over the next few weeks. And then I found myself in Bali, and I felt this little tingling sense of aliveness all over my body. I felt hopeful. I didn't know what was coming. All I saw was 'Do Women's Retreats in Bali.' That was what I saw in my head. It's been magic since. I've had two amazing women's retreats exactly as I had seen in my meditation. I met my husband-to-be at an exotic dance - very Bali! I adopted two dogs. I grew my coaching business past six figures. It has been so beautiful. But beyond any of this external is how I feel inside. I feel more connected to myself, more aligned, more centered than I ever have. But it's not like a one-and-done decision. Following my desire is something I have to practice every single day because the fear voices are there.
And the fear voices are really tempting, and the desire is quiet. And it's still. Just this week, for example, we were buying our first home - it's a big desire of mine - and all of a sudden, my fear voices were so loud. It's like, "What are you doing? You're insane to commit to staying in Bali, and everything is uncertain, and there's coronavirus. Why would you do that?" So I called up one of the other wisest people I know, my mom, and she said, "Megan, I have never seen you so happy. You're thriving. You look like you."
And in that moment I realized, that's why I cried when I thought about Bali those two years ago. Cos I thought I was just going halfway around the world, but I was really just coming home to myself. There's a few things I know about desire that I wanna leave you with. The first one is there are a million reasons not to follow it. And there's a million voices. Your shoulds, your pros, your cons, your fears, other people's opinions, external influences. And there's only one quiet voice, and it's inside your body. The second thing is I have to admit that I heard it. This is actually the most important. When I'm working with women, I often hear, "I don't know what I want. I just don't know." But when we get down to it, most of the time, they really know what they want. They just know it has consequences.
The third one ask for help. I would not be here if it was not for that coach, for Rev. Jo, for my mom, for Colleen. It's like none of us can do this alone, nor are we meant to. We need each other to live into our desires. The fourth one is I have to be willing to feel all of the feelings because when I follow desire, like when I came to Bali, it didn't necessarily feel good. It felt scary and uncertain and nerve-racking, and oh my gosh. And like heartbreaking and difficult, but it felt honest. So my willingness to be with all of the feelings is important. And then the last one I know is my desire is my blueprint to living my soul. And your desire is a hundred percent unique to you. It's how you know what you're here to be and how you know what you're here to do. So, your desire will take you on a totally unique journey. I don't know where your desire is taking you, but I do know that she's a persistent mistress, and she will be knocking on that door asking, "Are you ready to wake up and trust me and in doing so trust yourself?" The question is, will you answer it? Thank you so much.
It's March 2014, and I'm standing in the middle of Sanur Bypass. It's Bali's busiest road. And I'm praying that a truck runs me down. I've lost seven members of my family, and the recent deaths of my niece and my sister have devastated me. I've been suicidal for six months, unable to eat or sleep. And I just snapped.
But nobody would guess that to look at my life now. I've had a really charmed life. And I think most people just assume that I've breezed through it, sort of leaving a trail of golden bubbles in my wake. Some of you know I'm a jeweler, but the truth is, and I'm taking a risk to say this, I've struggled with the label of mental illness all my life. And I say label for a very important reason, which you will find out. Society has stigmatized and shamed us by saying we're crazy. We're bipolar. You've heard it all. It's still a really scary thing, as you can see, to say this just in front of this small group. At twenty, I was diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder. That spells SAD, and that must be some kind of cruel joke, right?
About half of every year, I looked good on the outside, but I was dying on the inside. On a depressive scale of 1 to 10, I was a suicidal 10, but only in the fall and the winter. In the spring and summer, I was carefree, happy-go-lucky, energetic, very creative, very productive. A psychiatrist blamed repressed trauma and genetics because all my family was also depressed. When it came on every fall, it felt like someone was injecting me with a feel-bad drug. And I told the psychiatrist that, but their answer was always medicine, prescribe. They were incentivized to do that. So they dosed me with pharmaceuticals to dull the pain rather than investigate possible causes and perhaps even find a cure. I'm just gonna take a moment and ask how many of you in this room have been affected by somebody's mental illness, yours or anybody you know, depression, anything? That's all but one person.
I'm just gonna give you a few statistics. Here's a reality check. Globally depression is epidemic. In January 2020, the WHO claimed that 17 percent of Americans are clinically depressed. And that was before the lockdown. Imagine what it is now. Economic losses are $210 billion annually. That's more than Jeff Bezos is worth. While the medical mafia reaps the profits, which have doubled from 14 billion last year - let this sink in - to 28 billion in the first eight months of 2020. Yet, there's no discussion about the cause. And there's no talk of any cure. Why do they say it's incurable? Sorry. I digressed. Back to my suicide attempt. Obviously, I was not killed. The cars went around me as the Balinese do - very good drivers. Nobody even honked - seriously. I stood there for five minutes, waiting. Didn't happen, thank God. That winter of 2014 was a total blur.
I can't even tell you how I survived it, but I am so glad I did. That April, like clockwork, my depression lifted. And I got back on social media and found messages from friends. Some who were in my childhood neighborhood saying how sorry they were that I'd lost my family. And that a large part of their family had died too. And also, almost all the neighbors on the street had had cancer. And I started thinking, "That's weird." It was really rural and beautiful agricultural land in the San Fernando Valley, outside of Los Angeles in the fifties and sixties. What happened? Was there a pesticide dump or something? So I just went on Google, and I typed in San Fernando Valley cancer clusters. And up came dozens of stories that shocked me to my core. Six miles from my family home, there was America's first nuclear plant, which had been kept secret from the public. From 1959 to 1969, it had three partial meltdowns. The first one was the worst. It totaled more radiation than Three Mile Island by 450 times. They didn't have any containment facility. They just opened the doors and let it all out over the population.
Sorry. It's really emotional for me. So I just sat there cold and shaking. I now understood the mystery deaths of my parents, my sister, her daughter, my grandparents, and why my only remaining family member had had cancer, including thyroid cancer, when she was twelve, three times. The next day I went down to a holistic doctor, and I got a provoked heavy metal test. We had to use a binding agent called a chelator to pull out the toxins to get an accurate reading. Our bodies are so smart. They encapsulate toxins that we can't eliminate in specialized fat cells. And they store them there to protect our vital organs. My tests showed cesium, strontium, plutonium, many other radioactive nuclides, and glyphosate, on and on, you know the list - mercury, lead. But the mystery thing was my manganese levels were completely off the chart. There's a red column, which indicates really bad levels - danger danger. My manganese levels were in the margin of the paper. They were literally outside of that. The doctor said, "Well, this only comes from mining or welding." I said, "I assure you I've done neither." He said, "Well, there's no other cause so . . . it doesn't come from nuclear accidents." We got online. I said, "There has to be another cause." We scoured the internet. Didn't come up with anything but mining and welding.
The five things that happen when you're manganese poisoned are Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, seizure disorder, autoimmune disease, and guess what? Chronic depression. So there was my poisoning that I'd always felt I'd had, and I'd told the psychiatrist, "I feel like I've been poisoned." And I was, but now the mystery was how. For months I didn't give up. I scoured the internet. I asked every doctor, every medical professional. I followed rabbit holes of scientific journals. I couldn't find an answer. And then, in 2016, a fateful trip to Bangkok where I met an American man who was also a victim of conspiracy. His name was Brian Dardzinski, and he owned a little clinic there next to Bumrungrad Hospital.
He was a vaccine researcher, and he'd been drummed out of America. But that's another story. He said to me, "I do know one other source of manganese poisoning. Did you live in Arizona or New Mexico?" I said, "No. Why?" He said, "Because rocket testing produces manganese in the fuel particulate that people can breathe." I got chills again. I said, "I lived in the San Fernando Valley where there was Rocketdyne, which was right next to the secret nuclear plant." And he said, "That's it. How long did you live there?" I said, "Twenty years. And I remember as a kid, every night the sky looked like opals." He said, "Those colors represented all the toxins that were floating down on you."
He said, "The good news is we can get those toxins out of you. And you'll likely be cured of your depression. But the bad news is it'll take two to five years to do that." So off I went back to Bali with my detox kit, and I own a far-infrared sauna, which is the single most important detox item a person can have. I highly recommend it. I knew that sweating was a way to eliminate toxins. So I added two sessions a day of infrared sauna. And I also added twenty minutes on my rebounder jumping up and down for twenty minutes, which works your lymphatic system and cleanses your tissues that way. So guess what? In seven months, I went back to that clinic. I had a friend who was going through some cancer therapy, and I said, "Brian, I feel great. I think I'm done." And he said, "No, no, come back in fifteen months. You're not done yet. No way." "Please take my test." He wouldn't. So I went to my friend's clinic. They took my test. All clean. Everything, clean, clean, clean. I went back to Brian. He said, "How'd you do that?"
I told him how I did it. So he said, "Congratulations. Now you can get yourself off your meds." In one month, I weaned myself off medication I'd been taking for forty years. This month is my five year ‘sanity-versary.’ No meds, no depression, five years. Thank you. So I'd like to inspire all of you into action today to become an advocate for your own health and your own sovereignty. Even if you feel perfectly fine, you can enhance the quality of your life, your energy levels, your stamina. I'm sixty-four now. I feel like I'm twenty-four. I have never felt better in my life. Especially the strength of your immune system. It's super important right now with COVID-19 to strengthen your immune system. And that can happen when you rid yourself of the toxins that you acquire from life and hidden poisons that we can't even see. So my message is twofold. Listen to your intuition and never ever, ever give up looking for the truth. I'm actually grateful for my . . .oh, God, I just got chills all over. I'm actually grateful for my experience with the nuclear accident, which led to my new purpose in life. I'm currently creating awareness with activism and satire - humorous songs, but I'm also building a detox and wellness center in Ubud called Lumina. I want to help other people achieve optimum health. Thank you so much for listening.
It's the morning of the big day. A festival to celebrate the anniversary of the new Innovation Lab, the greatest achievement of my career at the global economic powerhouse, the IMF. I've been in the auditorium since 6.00 a.m. setting everything up with my team. We're about to open the doors for the opening ceremony. And when we do, a flood of gray/black suits are gonna come in. I'm so enjoying the contrast that I've created, with the bright pink and yellow and teal balloons throughout this space. My vision has come to fruition, and I can't wait to see how people react. As the suits begin to walk in, my excitement builds. The managing director, one of the most powerful women in the world, takes the microphone. She says, "I want to recognize the person that made this all happen." I stand up a little bit straighter, and I'm ready to step forward. And then she says the name Travis Wagner.
Now, just to be clear, that is not my name! As I graciously clap for Travis, my heart sinks. You see, two years ago, I had it made. I had the sexy red sports car with the sunroof and the Bose sound system, a walk-in closet overflowing with sheath dresses and heeled shoes, and other First World essentials, a UN-issued blue badge that whisked me past barricades and security guards and inside the headquarters of the global financial empire in Washington, D.C. A pretty much guaranteed paycheck for the rest of my life. Acquaintances, accessories, and assurances—I had it all.
I'd always loved the world of business in the marketplace. My dad taught me the value of working hard, and he clued me in that the point of life was to stay busy. Turns out I was amazing at both of those. I remember one of my first summer jobs. I'm sixteen years old, driving in bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic, but I don't care because I have a job, and I'm in love with the glamor of the nine-to-five routine. I'm listening to the morning radio, the windows down, drinking my French Vanilla Dunkin' Donuts coffee, and I can't wait to arrive in the office. As I walk in, I smell coffee. I hear the clicking of keyboards and the chatter of gossip from the odd cast of characters around me, and this warm feeling of familiarity rushes over me. I'm part of a community. I have a place. I belong.
After that, I had a whole string of blue-collar jobs. I just loved the fact that I could walk in, get myself hired, and start getting a paycheck, whether it was at the gas station, fast-food restaurant, the clothing store at the mall. By the time I finished college, I had at least twenty jobs on my résumé.
Soon I found myself in the capital of the United States at a fancy new job building my career. I worked hard. I had a title. I had an office. I had a reputation. And yet, despite having more than I'd ever had before, more success, more security, more opportunity, I couldn't help but notice that as time went on, something was missing. I wasn't happy. Somewhere along the way, I'd lost that spark. I remember talking to my dad one day, and he said, "Do you think you'd ever be able to go back to waiting tables?" He knew how much I'd loved working at this trendy Italian restaurant in downtown Santa Barbara at the end of college. And then I thought about it for a minute. And I realized that no. I'd become jaded and entitled. And the higher I climbed, the more my ego was all up in it. I didn't recognize the woman that I'd become.
For more than a decade, I had been trading my time, my energy, and most importantly, my passion for someone else's idea of success. While I was playing this game of validation and acceptance and making money like everybody else around me, it was sapping my energy and suffocating my soul. Life was passing me by while I was languishing inside these polished concrete walls of compromise. I was living someone else's dream.
So that morning, when I heard Travis's name announced on the microphone, it was both heartbreaking and the permission I needed to walk away. Three months and two tantra events later, I'm standing on the curb at Dulles International Airport, waving goodbye to my brother and sister. I've sold my car, packed my life into a storage unit, and handed over my responsibilities at the Innovation Lab. You see, what not everyone knew about me was that I had a double life. Part of me was Sensible Susan, who loved structure, followed the rules, and knew how to get the job done. The other part of me was this woo-woo wild woman, the insatiably curious seeker who wanted to taste and experience life fully.
I'd been dipping my toe in that woo-woo river for many years, but now I had the freedom to jump in fully. And once I unlocked that door, there was no stopping me. Just like those jobs back in high school, college, I was taking it all in. I was traveling around the world, dancing at festivals, signing up for workshops, trying the latest tantra techniques, checking out all the spiritual hotspots. I was alive. You see, Sensible Susan had been delivering on someone else's dream and playing the game pretty well, but it wasn't until I gave myself to that wild woman fully that I started really living my own life.
I started discovering what abundance means to me. Who am I? And what do I value when the old identity and everything familiar has been stripped away? What's left? What is worthy of my time and my energy?
Earlier this year, I moved to Bali. I traded my high heels for flip-flops, those concrete walls for the jungle canopy, and the crush of bureaucracy for the cushion of heart-centered community. I found freedom. I found connection. I found incredible beauty and celebration and that magic I'd been craving. And most of all, I've been dreaming whole new dreams about what's possible for myself and the planet and starting to build that new paradigm from my own vision, weaving a new world into existence in every moment and living life on my own terms.
I'm part of a project team that's about to launch something epic. It's gonna change the world, and I'm supposed to be sitting down talking about strategy. And instead, I'm stirring this huge pot of cacao and making sure that it's just the right blend of sweet and spicy. And just like those balloons at the party back then, I'm putting my own special magic into this place. This is how I wanna show up right now. The difference between then and now is that I don't need validation for my cacao and for my wild woman. She's fully present, fully accepted, fully integrated. And at that moment, I realize that I've broken free. Free from that constraint of societal programming and free from living someone else's life because, let's face it, if I was listening to that programming, I should be married by now. I should have full-grown kids. I should have a car, and a mortgage, and a pile of debt that I'm working my way out of. And guess what? I'm not. I'm not even wearing a bra.