ALIVE: 12 Ways to Wake Up, Light Up, and Find Your Bliss (with template)

Taninah Bungalow - View of one of our palapas

View of one of Taninah's palapas (fab photo by Sean Ogle)

“We show up, burn brightly, live passionately, hold nothing back, and when the moment is over, when our work is done, we step back and let go.”

–Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat

Jenny Blake Yoga - Reverse Warrior at Taninah (Photo by Sean Ogle)

Yoga at sunset on top of the water tower (By Sean Ogle)

I just got back from the most incredible week of my life…totally unplugged with 11 other entrepreneurs in a Mayan villa called Taninah, situated in the middle of a jungle near Playa del Carmen in Mexico. We slept in palapas at night under the stars, then woke up to the sound of birds chirping and ducks splashing in the pond. We ate three meals a day together cooked by an incredible staff, and laughed, played and had great conversations all day every day like we were kids again.

It’s funny that just before I left I wrote the post, What’s Your Happy Place? I found it. I found it in physical form (the resort had ziplines, a mini golf course, a game room, a treehouse, hammocks, and a waterslide in a cave) and in my spirit — I’ve never felt such a pure sense of joy, bliss and love for such a sustained amount of time.

This post won’t be a recap of my vacation – there are no words that would do the experience justice. I feel transformed beyond measure, and this is my attempt at maintaining it moving forward, and helping you find that same sense of aliveness in your own life.

My book is centered loosely upon the Wheel of Life (template here), an exercise where you can rate every area of your life on a scale of 1-10 (work, money, friends, family, home, organization, health, personal growth, relationships, fun & relaxation). While that exercise can help you design your life in every area, it doesn’t quite hit on the qualities that bring us alive within that life.

The areas (and accompanying Wheel of Aliveness template) below are based on my trip and are influenced heavily by Martha Beck’s latest book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New WorldI believe they can be applied to any person at any time, because they hit upon fundamental aspects of being fully human. If there are any areas that don’t resonate with you, feel free to replace them with ones that do.

12 Ways to Wake up, Come Alive and Find Your Bliss

As you read the list below, consider how each one is showing up in your own life (or not). On a scale of 1-10, how present and full is that element? How do you feel when you maximize each one? What would be possible in your life if you were to increase the areas that are lacking? Feel free to also use the shiny new template for this exercise.

  • Movement/play – many of us sit at computers all day and continue staring at screens into the night. How can you incorporate more athletics and movement, even outside of the gym? Yoga in the rain, tossing a football and baseball around, and zip-lining (among many other activities) completely brought me back to my body this week. The owner, Marino, even set-up an obstacle course for us on the last day, and I almost peed my pants watching everyone else go through it! It feels great to sweat and release energy through play. See also: Sean Ogle’s The Importance of Play (about our trip)
  • Dance & Music - you may not like dancing, but I believe that there is something incredibly powerful about connecting with music, feeling it in your bones, and letting yourself dance and be free. Sweating in a club, connecting with people around you, or just dancing by yourself when no one’s watching. See also: Where the Hell is Matt? (One of my all-time favorite YouTube videos — you can’t watch it and NOT smile)
  • Nature – It was an incredible experience getting to immerse ourselves totally in a Mayan jungle, especially after coming from THE concrete jungle of New York City. A reminder about how powerful it is to be outside, play outside and rest outside. Go for walks, lay in the grass, sit on a bench and people watch. See also: Martha Beck’s Logging Off: The Power of Disconnection
  • Water – I thought about combining this with nature, but it’s different. Water has a powerful effect on our bodies — whether it’s a pool, hot tub, bath tub, slip and slide, or even staring at a natural body of water like the ocean or a river. See also: Bon Iver’s incredible Holocene bonus video from his self-titled album, 20 Life Lessons I Learned on the Rogue River
  • Community & Connection – there is something magical about sharing meals (3 a day), and finding people who inspire you to be the best, most authentic version of yourself. Consider the communities in your life: are they serving your most authentic self? Are they making your life better? During the trip we would come together for a few rounds of “Ohm” after every sporting event, even in the middle of a restaurant one day. Ohm is said to be the universal sound, and the beautiful harmony reminded all of us that we are connected and we are loved. See also: The Holstee Manifesto: This is Your Life.
  • Laughter – laughter is one of the purest forms of joy. Find people who make you laugh, don’t take life too seriously, and let yourself be silly. See also: Top 10 Funniest YouTube Videos
  • Learning & Creativity – this entails reading books, engaging in conversation, asking questions, giving yourself space to explore your creative side. Engage your mind, and just as you let your body play and be outdoors, allow your inner creativity to shine through freedom and flexibility. By creating such an incredible place, Marino taught us all to dream big, bigger and bigger still. Never give up on bringing your wildest dreams to fruition.  See also: Live for the Dip
  • Challenge – get outside of your comfort zone, tackle big goals and big ideas, undertake projects that bring you alive. See also: Joseph Campbell on The Hero’s Journey
  • Commitment – what matters to you? Commit to living authentically, commit to living in accordance with your core values, and commit to projects and people that carry significant meaning. See also: Big Difference by Willie Jackson, about the powerful conversation we had with Marino about the plight of the Mayans (much like Avatar) and his commitment to serving them.
  • Gratitude & Positivity – it was amazing to be around a group of people who let all negativity roll right off their backs at any given moment. No sooner did someone state a fear or self-doubt than it was washed away by caring, positive encouragement. This is about maintaining a player mentality (as opposed to a victim role) in your own life, about reframing negative thoughts into positive incarnations, and about constantly reminding yourself of everything in life that you are grateful for, therefore giving it a chance to expand even further. See also: Be Thankful  and Zen and the Art of Happiness Book Notes
  • Letting go – resting, relaxing, dropping any thoughts or worries that aren’t serving you, let small infractions in life roll of your back. My friend Mike from the trip uses the motto, “Zero F*cks” — as in, “I have zero f*cks to give” when something irritating happens, or even when going into a situation (like a night out with friends to focus on being carefree). He quickly got us to all adopt the phrase — making sure to clarify that Zero F*cks only applies to stuff that doesn’t matter, so that you can focus your attention on everything else that does. See also: Dancing with Demons and Finding the Light
  • Light and love – sending love to yourself first and foremost, then to all others around you. One love. See also: Light, Love and Yoga Money and Expanding Happiness: on Bliss and Fear (with notes from my dad)
My deepest gratitude to Marino of Taninah for creating such a magical place, to Nick Reese for organizing the trip, and to the ten incredible people that I am fortunate to call family now. For those who love travel as much as I do, be sure to also check out Jonah Lehrer’s Why We Travel.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments: What brings you alive?
What do you have room for more of in your life?

Jenny Blake - Yoga at Taninah at Sunset (photo by Sean Ogle)

Modified pigeon pose at Taninah (HDR photo by Sean Ogle)

  • Willie Jackson

    This post gets me excited and I was THERE.

    What a trip. What life.

    • jennyblake

      Thanks WFJ :) What a life indeed. Lucky to have you in it :)

  • Allie Mahler

    AMAZING!!!! You help bring me more alive and the other 9 amazing people we spent this past week with :)

    • jennyblake

      Thanks love!!! It’s so funny — I just remembered that I chose a word for myself at the WDS conference last year, and it was ALIVE. How fitting… :)

  • Michael Hrostoski

    Jenny Hrostoski, I absolutely LOVE the juicy new template. So glad we got to spend more quality time together swinging in hammocks, tag team teaching yoga and laughing our faces off. Love you and the rest of the Wolveri. Your twin in life, Mike Blake.

    • jennyblake

      Mikey Wolveri!!! So glad you love the new template — forget the wheel of life, this is the jam, baby! I absolutely loved every minute of hanging out with you — you’re such a blast and so thoughtful at the same time. All of our tandem hammocks were awesome, and it meant so much to be able to co-teach/assist those yoga classes — I learned so much from you! Twins4Life, Jenny Wolveri Hrostoski.

  • my honest answer

    It sounds amazing! I could really do with a vacation like that!

    • jennyblake

      Thanks so much!! It’s hard to know what to expect from a vacation like that going in, but I couldn’t be happier. Time to start plotting your getaway! :D

  • Julie

    Essentially, you just nailed the chemical equation for Magic. I’m still vibrating from the happiness and life that we experienced down there.

    • jennyblake

      Julie — I read your comment while walking through the streets of New York yesterday, crisp breeze blowing in my face, and I got the HUGEST smile. This really is the chemical equation for magic, isn’t it? I’m so happy we found it, and even happier that we found it together. Love you — thanks for the comment!!

  • Megan Cassidy

    What an incredible trip, Jenny. I was in Arizona for work this past weekend, and although the hours were long, the little downtime we did have made the whole trip worth it. After our last day, I jumped in the hotel hot tub and just looked up at the stars. Best moment of the trip.

    • jennyblake

      Thanks girl! Awesome that you were in Arizona last week — sounds fantastic!! Stargazing is such a powerful experience — especially from a hot tub. I love it :)

  • Nick Reese

    JB — This post nails it. 

    • jennyblake

      Thanks NR :D

  • Kyle Durand

    Jenny, I have no idea how you do this again and again – see/hear/experience something and cut right to the heart of the matter. 

    I loved our morning talks for many reasons but particularly for the opportunity to listen to you dissect an issue and provide me with a new heart-centered perspective about it.

    • jennyblake

      Kyle — you are so sweet, thank you. This comment means so much to me — made my day yesterday. I absolutely loved getting to know you this trip and so value our many morning conversations. Your perspective on life and the graceful yet powerful strength with which you carry yourself is so inspiring.

  • Elisa Doucette

    SPIRL my heart is exploding I am so happy that you had such a wonderful experience with these great people in Mexico. Those times that we are able to recoil into a place unknown and find out more about ourselves, those are priceless.

    And your sunset yoga photos – DAYUMM girl! You modify the HELL out of that pigeon!  ;)

    • jennyblake

      SPIRL!!!! Thank you so much — I miss you!!! I am just so glad that I have the entire MONTH of May to look forward to spending with you!! SPIRLship goes international. Who would have thought that we would both be cavorting across Asia together over that first phone call many many months ago….

  • Clare

    Great stuff, Jenny. I’m gonna make me a Wheel of Life’ based on those new categories. On Why I travel, I love Alain de Bottom’s quote:

    Here’s to packing bags and hitting the road, Clare :)

    • jennyblake

      Thanks so much Clare! LOVE that quote :) Cheers to packing bags indeed :D

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  • Shannyn

    Oh, you KNOW I’m all about this…that is AMAZING Jenny Blake (I better dust off my yoga mat while I’m at it!) .  Loved the pictures and damn you’re a flexible woman!

    • jennyblake

      Thanks Shannyn!! I am so excited for *your* big vacay in July!! So happy for you that you’re going to WDS — you’re gonna love it :D

  • Jana Schuberth

    Okay, I am just gonna say it: I am soooo jealous :-) !! What a place and what a holiday! Just what I could need right now. It looks awesome Jenny and you so deserve it after your year 2011! Fabulous :-) xoxo

    • jennyblake

      Aw, thanks Jana! It was an awesome getaway :) I hope all is fabulous with you too! xoxo

  • Michael Wu

    great content on this blog! Hope it’s going well for you Jenny! I try ordering the book at the bookstore but its sold out but i’m going to order it online.Thank you Jenny Blake for you all do to provide values in people life.

    • jennyblake

      Thanks Michael!! Your kind words mean a lot to me, and I’m so grateful that you ordered the book! If you send me your mailing address (jenny at lifeaftercollege dot org) I’d be happy to mail you a bookmark :)

  • Alyssa VandeLeest

    This is such an inspiriing post. I don’t think a trip like yours is in my immediate future, but I’m hoping  I can find a way to incorporate some of these lessons into my regular day-to-day life.

    • jennyblake

      Thanks so much Alyssa! That’s really what I’m wanting to do now too — find a way to incorporate these things in small ways in every day life. We can do it! 

  • James Wedmore

    Great post Jenny!  All the things we learn as a kid and successfully forget as an adult!  Thanks for re-teaching them!  ;-)


    • jennyblake

      Thanks so much James!! Listening to your videos right now — your positive, playful mindset shines through every one :)

  • Marian Schembari

    Lord, I love this so hard and agree with every single one. Right now I think I’m missing a little dance in my life and definitely a lot of “letting go”. Things to work on!

    • jennyblake

      Thanks so much Marian!! “love this so hard” – you crack me up!! That just gave me a huge smile. And I think we could ALL use more dance in our lives!! 

  • Ana Paula

    Thank you Jenny!

    • jennyblake

      Thank YOU Ana! 

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  • Natalie

    Jenny, thank you so much for sharing your experience! This was EXACTLY what I needed to hear to get inspired to save for my own adventure and evaluate my current life. And the pics are beyond gorgeous. 

  • Danielle

    Hi Jenny!

    Sounds like you had a great trip!! I think I have a severe case of the travel bug after reading this post! Just wondering if there is another way to download the new template, for some reason it won’t download for me. Thanks!


    • jennyblake

      Thanks Danielle! It was awesome — a reminder to get outta dodge on a regular basis :) I’ll share the template with you directly…sorry about the access issues.

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  • Kelly

    I kinda’ thought I couldn’t love you more… and this post just makes me reconnect with the total unlimited nature of my heart.  Get ready to receive, girlfriend.  

  • Jocelyn Hallman

    JB, this is beautiful! That Bon Iver video is amazing too.

  • Rodger Constandse

    What an awesome adventure! Combining such a spectacular place with a great group of people must have made it extra special. And thank you for sharing the 12 ways along with the tool!

    • jennyblake

      Thanks Roger! Yes — the people are what made it truly magical — and being unplugged for 7 days didn’t hurt either :) So glad you enjoyed the post and template! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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  • Peter Carr

    Wow great post Jenny. This makes me want me to Live Big! 

    • jennyblake

      Thanks so much Peter! Glad you liked it :)

  • Sara Plummer

    Your posts are the most helpful thing I have read. Love you soul sister. Keep kicking ars.

    • jennyblake

      Thank you so much, love! Hearing that from you means the absolute world to me. You are one of the most well-read, thoughtful people I know, and it’s my honor to get to share a corner of your brain :) Love you!!

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