Pursuing a Ph.D. (Pure Heart Degree)

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