The Greatest Gift

Written 07.16.16. | Published 08.02.17


Three years ago, on July 16, 2013, I asked myself, “What is the greatest gift you will give in this life?” I sit with that that today, July 16, 2016 and I have no idea what I have truly given.

I do know what I have received.

I have loved and been loved deeply, three times by three remarkable people.

First, by Freddy, who was my first love.  Together, we experienced a wild about you, crazy feeling. An introduction to the first set of lessons I needed to learn: first, to find myself and know myself, second, forgiveness, and third, compassion. 

Second, by Max, who named me Lotus. Our relationship was completely unexpected, spontaneous and magical. A magic carpet ride of ups and downs with its fair share of adventures and disasters. This chapter provided my second set of lessons: to accept joy, to honor and appreciate what you have, to love oneself, and to be free.

Third, by Feliciano. The longest and most mature relationship I’ve been in with it’s own highs and lows. Somehow, we’ve made it out of the darkness and into the light. Through our relationship, I am learning how to be patient and kind. I am learning to suspend judgment. I am learning about trust and openness. I am practicing unconditional love. 

My sister recently shared a quote with me, “Go and love someone exactly as they are and then watch how quickly they transform into the greatest, truest version of themselves. When one feels seen and appreciated in their own essence, one is instantly empowered." — Wes Angelozzi

This is my aim, and what I hope to be my greatest gift of all: to love people exactly as they are. To release the desire to push them, pull them, criticize them, change them, but rather to embrace them. 

I understand that this must come from the inside out. As I release my need to control, to edit, and constantly improve, coming from a place of dissatisfaction. 

This is my ongoing lesson, my lifelong teacher: to love myself exactly as I am in this moment, to appreciate myself in my own essence, and grow from there.



Pursuing a Ph.D. in KPG

A wise friend once told me that the reason why most brilliant people fail is they burn out. He had been one of those people; an incredibly talented photographer and art director flying all around the world shooting for some of the largest companies in the world. Wayne suffered a severe brain injury that landed him in the hospital where he nearly died.

Ever since Wayne shared that, it’s really stuck with me and over the last few years I've been flirting with burnout. I consult with a firm that is self-managed and mostly remote, which allows me to travel 50-80% of the time.

Moment captured by: Marva Merci Dixon 

Moment captured by: Marva Merci Dixon 

The travel bug more than bit me, it's under my skin, and I have been crisscrossing the U.S. like my life depends on it. For the most part the life I designed looked and felt like a dream. Though it was fulfilling, the problem was it wasn’t sustainable and the very things I loved most (travel, community building, purposeful work) were also creating a tremendous amount of stress.

Even with this awareness, I continued to try to manage and maintain it. With each long trip or 12-hour computer day, I thought, if I just hack at this harder or work smarter I’ll make this ship sail.

But in January 2017, the writing was on the wall and my body, energy, and spirit could feel it. I was overweight, feeling trapped in a body that wasn’t mine. I was having my biofeedback therapist work on me almost every other week, rebalancing my energy, only for me to deplete it two weeks later. And my spiritual practice was an "MVP" minimum viable practice with a bit of stretching and prayer in the morning and journaling late at night.

Moment captured by: Vanessa Deering

Moment captured by: Vanessa Deering

I couldn’t do it anymore. I knew I had to make a change.

From what I’ve learned about change, the greatest transformations occur not in the doing or the thinking but in your state of being.

I was done putting so much of my mental energy towards this state of imbalance. I got really clear on my desire to live in a State of Grace where intention, purpose, and divinity meet.

Doesn’t that sound lovely? It does but getting there felt impossible. 

Einstein says you cannot solve a problem with the same consciousness in which you created it. If I had any chance of evolving into a State of Grace, I needed to do something radical.

Moment captured by: Vanessa Deering

Moment captured by: Vanessa Deering

I decided to pursue what I called a "Ph.D. in KPG" meaning a Pure Heart Degree in Koh Phangan, Thailand. 

Even though I had only spent a week in Koh Phangan I recognized it's an island designed for healing and growth. I felt this was the place I needed to be so I jumped through hoops, made leaps and bounds, let go of everything I knew and crossed oceans to be there again.

It felt risky but I went all in.

“There is no perfect place to meditate.” — Buddha

As soon as I arrived back in Koh Phangan I felt anxious. All of my insecurities and fears began to bubble up and stare me right in the face. I felt naked (which I love feeling now but definitely not then). I felt paralyzed. I felt lost and completely transparent like people could see right through my bullshit (and they could).

Everyone was a mirror.

Everything was a trigger.

It was inescapable.

And with no family and very few friends around to save or distract me I actually had to sit in the sweat lodge of my own shit and sweat it out.

Every day, step-by-step, breath-by-breath, story-by-story, I began to peel back layers of my conditioning. I thought I had already done a lot of internal work but wow was I humbled.

Through formal and informal healing sessions and experiences I began to release code after code of programming creating space for a new way of being. 

Ecstatic Nature Retreat | Tantra Heart Love | Captured by Maxinne Bjork

Ecstatic Nature Retreat | Tantra Heart Love | Captured by Maxinne Bjork

Slowly my mind released control. I became more and more aware of my ego, my darkness, my inner child. Once you start digging you realize how much is REALLY there.

I began to let go of everything I thought I knew. I surrendered.

All with plenty of resistance of course, that’s actually one of my favorite Koh Phangan sayings my friend Wendy and I joke about, “Breathe into the resistance” someone will say when you're having a hard time and all you want to say back is FUCK YOU and FUCK YOUR ELITIST SPIRITUAL BULLSHIT. But then you remember, it’s not about them, you’re having your own experience. Everyone in your life is just playing a role in your dream sequence.

You’re the one who’s suffering and that's your choice. 

Moment captured by: Maxinne Bjork

Moment captured by: Maxinne Bjork

While I see this as a lifelong journey, what I’ve learned so far from KPG is this:

  • In the cave you fear is the treasure you seek.
  • Health, balance, and grace are directions not destinations.
  • Every trigger is a teacher and an opportunity to purify, thank it. 
  • Anger is not a bad thing, channeled properly, it is an enormous well of creativity.
  • On the other side of anger is often deep sadness, on the other side of sadness is often anger.
  • It's less about what you are doing or how much you gain, it's more about who you are being and how much you're willing to let go. 
  • While we all have differences, we each have a desire to love and be loved.

Though the "Pure Heart Degree" is a work in progress, at the moment, self-love and healing feel like the most important things to study.

 Be well soul friends, 


p.s. View the entire Koh Phan photo album and another post about the island: 3 P's of KPG: Pleasure Passion Purpose.

Moment captured by: Maxinne Bjork

Moment captured by: Maxinne Bjork


The Three P’s of Koh Phangan, Thailand

Everyone’s experience will be unique to them but from what I’ve seen, there are three main regions of Koh Phangan carrying three different vibrational frequencies. These frequencies correlate with the three highly researched levels of happiness that we teach at Delivering Happiness.

1.     Pleasure

2.     Passion

3.     Purpose

Full Moon Party | Haad Rin, Koh Phangan

Full Moon Party | Haad Rin, Koh Phangan


What most people have heard about when you mention Koh Phangan is the Full Moon Party on the Haad Rin side of the island.  This is “Pleasure-seeking” happiness or “Rockstar happiness”, which is chasing the next high.

I have only passed through Haad Rin but from its reputation, I’ve heard it’s like Spring Break meets Yacht Week in the tropics. Endless bars, cheap drinks, it’s a place you can really party your heart out. Haad Rin is catered towards people looking to have fun (dependent on your definition of fun). What it’s not catered towards is your long-lasting health or happiness.

Lovely Photography: Katsura Sato | Haad Yao, Koh Phangan  

Lovely Photography: Katsura Sato | Haad Yao, Koh Phangan  


Then there’s the East side of the island nicknamed the "Tri-Bay" for its three beaches: Haad Tien, Haad Yao, and Why Nam.  This is what I consider the “Passion” side of the island.

The word passion comes from the Latin root “pati” which means "to suffer". The suffering on this side of the island comes from the Tri-Bay’s unofficial tagline, “DETOX RETOX”. In the Tri-Bay you’ll find beach dance parties at Why Nam, Guy’s Bar, and Eden with good vibes and fun treats to keep the vibes flowing (if that’s what you’re seeking). 

The beachside resort and healing hub for your DETOX is the Sanctuary where you can take various workshops, experience healing sessions, or do a five-day cleanse. When I first arrived, I did a week long Thaivedic Massage course Thai massage + Ayurveda) and really enjoyed it. Though people are mostly on holiday coming and going, there’s also a pretty close community so you’ll see familiar smiling faces wherever you go.

Wondrous Photography: Vanessa Deering

Wondrous Photography: Vanessa Deering


Finally, there’s the side of the island I call home. Along the West coast of Koh Phangan lies the “yoga” or “hippie side” of the island called Sri Thanu. To me, Sri Thanu is so much more than a bunch of yogi’s. Sri Thanu is a small village and conscious community where people come to heal and grow. If that is what you're longing for, you’ll want to pinch yourself when you arrive because the entire village is designed for your healing and spiritual awakening.

Wondrous Photography: Vanessa Deering

Wondrous Photography: Vanessa Deering

With the elevation of our collective consciousness, there are more and more communities like these sprouting up around the globe, but what I think makes Sri Thanu unique is the gentleness with which it heals and holds space for you.

Geographically, the beaches are shallow and low tide, perfect for floating. The sunsets reflect like mirror images onto the sea. The lush green jungles surround you in a state of serenity.

Wondrous Photography: Vanessa Deering

Wondrous Photography: Vanessa Deering

Culturally, the local Thai people are kind and loving. The majority are Buddhists who live their lives humbly, respectfully, and with honor. Most speak some English and are willing to teach you some Thai. Koh Phangan has virtually zero crime and in my experience is very safe to travel solo.

Stunning Photography: Maxinne Bjork

Stunning Photography: Maxinne Bjork

Communally, the people who really tap into the Koh Phan-magic always return. Whether they come back every season or 14 years later, this sacred place opens your heart and stays with you long after you leave her.

Wondrous Photography: Vanessa Deering

Wondrous Photography: Vanessa Deering


Culinary wise, the options are mostly either Thai or Vegan-Vegetarian.


  1. Cafe Wan -  try the orange curry! it's unbelievable, my favorite. 
  2. Bai Jai (try the pumpkin and egg special and the massaman curry
  3. Mamma Pooh's - massaman curry and seafood
  4. Anutta - quick, easy, yummy spot! love their shakes and veggie noodles. 


  1. Karma Café - I love the breakfast burrito, Kale-ifornia Salad, and Perfect 10 Salad
  2. Orion - their Buddha bowl and hummus!
  3. Green Gallery - excellent Israeli food
  4. - their mushroom shishkabab and vegan desserts!


  1. Seed to Feed – gorgeously vibrant salads with micro-greens from their hydroponic garden
  2. Barracuda – the best fresh Seafood, the owner is Italian or French? he is super passionate about fishing and really is gifted!
  3. Taboon - Israeli - I like the Sabih eggplant salad, hummus with mushrooms, and chapatti bread yum yum yum!
  4. Three Sixty Bar - not for the food but for the view!


Getting to Koh Phangan is a trip. There’s no direct flight and it’s not for the high maintenance.

  • The two main airports to fly into are Koh Samui or Surat Thani. Koh Samui flights from Bangkok are about $100 and Surat Thani flights are about $45. I use Google Flights, AirAsia or Nok Air. 
  • You’ll need to take a ferry to Koh Phangan from either Koh Samui or Surat Thani. I recommend Lomprayah Ferry as it’s the fastest. Keep in mind when booking you have to take shuttles to and from the airport and so add at least 1-3 hrs padding.
  • When you arrive in Koh Phangan you'll arrive in Thong Sala, which is a little town, you can then get a taxi to your choice to all three sides of the island (Sri Thanu, Haad Rin, or the Tri-Bay - well the Tri-Bay you'll take a boat taxi). 


  • Laemson Resort - ~$25/night - simple bungalows right on the beach next to Zen Beach which is very popular.
  • Benjamin's Hut - $~40/night - nice landing spot on the beach, has a little restaurant, breakfast is included, and mostly families stay here. 
  • Koh Phangan Rentals & Villas - Rachel will help you find a place if you're looking to stay longer.
  • Koh Phangan Conscious Community - you're welcome to ask here. This is a private community, please read the instructions before posting!



  • Andoo Bike Rentals - right next to ask for Andoo or Yik. Tell them Lotus and Wendy sent you and they'll take care of you!
  • Trusted taxi drive - Pele, he speaks good English and is super helpful and available. He also provides a much more fair price than others. Tell him Lotus sent you! +66 93-679-5215)

If you make it that far, hit me up and I’ll shower you with more Koh Phan Love & Support. 

Godspeed and safe travels,


p.s. see full Koh Phangan photo album