This Saturday, I returned from a 2 week trip to the Sacred Valley of Peru. In many ways, it was one of the most challenging trips I’ve ever been on, but was also the most heart-opening, deepening and revealing experiences of my life.

As I’ve mentioned here before, my intention for 2013 was to Live Life Fully, and so when I blocked out the month of November as ‘time off’ back in January, I had NO clue what I would do. At the time, I was working with clients 6 days a week and the thought of taking that much time off felt like  a daydream. But as I’ve realized over the past 11 months, that intention set on January 1st was really when The Unbridled Life was born.

You see, by intending to Live Life Fully, what I was really doing was acknowledging that I wasn’t living the life I dreamed of, and I saw clearly that there were 3 areas I felt bridled in my life: A lack of allowing myself to rest/ relax was my saddle, resistance to treating myself to the experiences I desired was my bridle and a lack of gratitude was my whip.

When this trip presented itself to me perfectly wrapped up in a November time frame- a chance to travel with respected coaches, study with an amazing healer, and visit ancient sites- I resisted at first. Hard core resisted. Even though I had changed so much to make space to live a truly unbridled life, I was reminded how living in this way is at it’s core a daily practice- and a process. You see, the old bridle of believing I didn’t deserve something I desired tried to sneak in (umm, a lot), and the belief that time off was ‘bad’ reared it’s ugly head. After weeks of back and forth, I finally said yes, and the journey of a lifetime began in that moment.

There is a lot to say about the trip, and over time the various lessons I learned will be revealed. But today, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, the lesson of Gratitude that I learned on a particular starry night begs to be told now.

On one of my last nights in Pisac- in the Sacred Valley of Peru- in the midst of deep spiritual work, my body had a complete break down. I’m pretty sure it was something I ate or drank that evening that brought me into a full state of nausea the likes of which I’ve never felt. At the end of a blissful evening of meditation and contemplating the heavens, pain and sickness struck in a way that I learned the real meaning of the agony & the ecstasy.

For 6 hours, the bridle of sickness tightened around me. Laying down made me nauseous, but sitting up was excruciating pain. Standing was not an option. My stomach was in knots. But my body stubbornly refused to release whatever I ingested that was making me so ill- like it was teaching me a well needed lesson that I just couldn’t see.

I tried everything- walking around, crawling, trying to release. I tried surrender. I tried pleading. Lots and lots of pleading mixed in with cries of willingness and total abandon to the lesson my body was teaching.

But nothing worked. All my spiritual tricks and body whispering went no where. I was fighting a losing battle, and after 6 hours and no relief, the tears began.

With those tears, I could no longer ‘try’ to surrender. I just simply did. And in the softest voice, one I barely heard myself, came two simple words.

Thank you.

Thank you for showing me my body is not invincible. Thank you for showing me that I can’t force it to yield like I used to do. Thank you for showing me how fragile yet strong she is. And thank you for whatever lesson this is she wants me to learn.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Then it happened in that exact moment. My body finally surrendered, grateful and spent, and began to release whatever I ingested that made it so ill in the first place (disclaimer- when they say don’t drink anything but bottled water in South America, they aren’t kidding!)

I’ll spare you the details, but after 6 hours of excruciating nausea, in just 15 long painful minutes, I was back to being myself.

And incredibly grateful for a body that speaks and a soul willing to listen.

I’m still processing the lesson, but I know the biggest piece for me was Gratitude. I’ve read all the books and worked with Gratitude before, but never have I had the honor of experiencing the magic of being grateful when in the deep depths of pain. I surrendered to a willingness to be totally grateful for 1) my body- no matter what she is experiencing 2) whatever life throws my way- no matter how painful and miserable and 3) my ability commit to removing the things in my life holding me back, bridling me and no longer serving me.

So on this Thanksgiving I have 2 challenges for you:

1. Can you begin to identify what are the ‘bridles’ in your life? Are there habits or patterns that some part of you knows if you could just remove them, you’d be free? Is there something you just wish you could let go in order to move on in your life? Or do you feel so weighed down you can’t even begin to identify them?

Take your time. Feel into it. The practice of unbridling your life isn’t a one time thing. It’s a daily practice of asking yourself:

How am I holding myself back today?

What is my body telling me I need to release?

What is my soul yearning for to feel free?

What do I need to do for myself today to feel unbridled?

Once you’ve sat with the questions a few times comes the ultimate act of courage- hearing the answers and then doing something about it.

Sometimes the answer may be small like take a bath tonight, or could be huge like quit your job. It takes equal courage for both, because if you aren’t brave enough to give yourself the small things to set you free, you’ll never give yourself the big. The Unbridled Life is a practice. Start the questions. Listen to the answers. And start removing the bridles the best you can. They may come back on from time to time, but once you know what they are, you know how to get them off.

2. Gratitude. For the next month, as life gets busier, family interactions increase, and the pressures of the holidays come into full swing, can you allow yourself to be grateful for it all. Can you thank the long lines at the store for giving you an excuse to slow down? Can you thank your body for the few extra pounds it gains while enjoying amazing food? Can you thank your siblings for driving you crazy, or the traffic for enforcing quality alone time with your loved one?

Or will you choose for these things to annoy, frustrate and hurt you?

Gratitude really is a choice. And a practice. We can choose to let things get to us, or we can choose to be grateful and let it teach us the lessons we are meant to learn in the moment.

And just maybe, being thankful could be the catalyst for the bridle to slip easily off- leading you to be truly free. {Click to Tweet

I’d love to hear if you’ve ever had a similar experience, or what bridles are present in your life right now that you could be thankful for.