When Your Spirit is Weary, Where Do You Go?

By Leigh Hopkins, Viva Institute

Ten days ago, my spirit took a vacation.

I use the word “vacation” euphemistically in place of its shaky stepsister: grand mal seizure.  It happens to me sometimes—although this was the first in a long time.

As I was regaining my wits in the ER, a loved one asked me, “Where did you go?”

pink_mountain_1600x900Without pause, I quietly responded, “I went to the Pink Planet, where I sat inside a crystal mountain for a thousand years.”

Later, I laughed at the response, but with it came a deep inner remembrance of that place: cocooned in a blanket of pink, thinking of nothing, wanting for nothing, safe and at home in silent reflection.

Until today, I have shared this news with only a few close friends because it is so jarring. The collective response has been “Are you OK?! What did they find out? Why did this happen?”

I am OK. They didn’t find anything. They don’t know why it happens.

In Hmong culture, the name for seizure translates to “when the spirit catches you and you fall down.” This description makes sense to me. Sometimes, my spirit is called home.

The first time was September 2007. I was working as vice president at a social policy think tank, and had just finished convening a stressful meeting when I checked out. I lost consciousness for 30 minutes. When I woke up, I couldn’t remember my name, age, or phone number.

In exchange, I returned with memories of a world beyond this one, and since that time, everything has changed.

Viva_FINAL_SQGREEN_RAW1Within weeks of the first grand mal seizure, I became a raw vegan. Six months later, I created Viva Institute – initially as a fun diversion from my day job to support my new food habit. Soon, spurred on by a love of my new outlook on life and a passion for this new way of being, I sold my house, quit my fancy job, and set off on what my friends jokingly refer to as the “Lesbian-Vegan Version of Eat, Pray, Love.”

The last time I had a seizure was in 2010, just before my Brazilian wife Helena and I bought an organic farm and opened a raw-vegan retreat center in the mountains above Rio de Janeiro. Perhaps the enormity of what would come overtook me, and my spirit flew away for reinforcements.

That time, I came back with the clear message that I needed to write it all down. I launched the blog “Live Your Bliss,” and 3,000 daily readers later, a writer was born. (If you were one of those 3,000 — thank you, I love you, too!)

By the time I met neurosurgeon and author Dr. Eben Alexander (author of Proof of Heaven) at an NDE conference, I was living an entirely new life. I learned that my experience isn’t uncommon – many of us who have seen the world beyond return changed. When Eben and I compared notes at dinner, we agreed that after an experience like a Near-Death Experience (NDE), there is no going back to the “old way.”

hands-holding-flowerIn November 2011, my world was rocked again. Just as Viva Institute’s retreat center in Brazil was booming, the unthinkable happened: Helena was diagnosed with cancer. In August 2013, her spirit went on to rest in a place that she tells me is “so much better than you can imagine!” I have seen it, and although it is not where any of us wanted her to go, I agree. É maravilhoso.

Over the past year, I have spent much of my time in silence, grief, and wonder, working it all out in my head…trying to understand what this curious life has in store for me next. The steamy colors of the intense Brazilian landscape gave way to the gentle hues of a soul who seeks peace in the infinitely generous present moment.

Last weekend at Oprah’s “The Life You Want” tour, author Elizabeth Gilbert spoke to an audience about the tricky business of following your passion. She asked them, “What if you don’t have an easily identifiable passion?”

Or in my case, what if your passion came unglued?

Gilbert urged listeners to follow their curiosity, instead. “Follow it,” she said. “It might lead you to your passion or it might not. You might get nothing out of it at all except a beautiful, long life where all you did was follow your gorgeous curiosity. And that should be enough, too.”

When I read this quote, I thought of the many of you who have written to ask me about purpose and passion, death, loss, and the pursuit of enlightenment. Through your letters, I see that my life experiences, combined with this curious ability to walk between worlds, have revealed a new kind of purpose.

full moon_cornViva Institute has become a harbor for spiritual rebels and curiosity-seekers. Our “virtual retreats” give honor to the unanswerable, the unthinkable, the strange, and mysterious, while encouraging all of you to stay fully present to the many wonders of this blessed time and place.

For all of us, there are times in life when the heavens peel back the curtains to reveal a starlit pathway – a bright constellation of hope when we pilgrims have lost our way. It is a promise that we are never alone, and a reminder that sometimes, soul-searching deserves a vacation.

There’s no time like the present.


Leigh Hopkins, September 2014

Leigh Hopkins, Viva Institute September 2014

Leigh Hopkins is the Director and Co-Founder of Viva Institute, “virtual retreat for the modern mystic.” She holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in Education and a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University.

To join Leigh on her next e-course adventure, REGISTER TODAY. Class begins Monday, September 29. New classes coming to Viva Institute later this fall. For updates, sign up for Viva’s newsletter.


Are your thoughts really your OWN? (How to tell when they’re NOT.)

by Leigh Hopkins

This morning I woke up full of energy — I was feeling happy and excited about the day. I decided to treat myself to a cup of coffee and the paper at my neighborhood coffee shop. I even found a perfect corner table by the window.

Within 5 minutes, I was feeling really funky. 15 minutes later I was downright depressed. As I walked home, I looked around at my beautiful neighborhood with its colorful gardens and cheerful people waving hello on their way to work. What could I be so sad about — what was going on?!

Whenever I experience a very sudden shift in mood, I have a habit of doing a quick personal check-in. Today, it went something like this:

What are you feeling so sad about?

I don’t know — maybe because I’m so busy?

But you LOVE your work.

I know! So it’s not that. Maybe it’s something I ate?

Nope, you’ve haven’t had processed sugar in a long time — sugar blues usually make you sad. You’ve been eating really well.

I sat down on a park bench to retrace my steps. This morning I woke up happy, walked the dog, went to my favorite coffee shop, sat down, and felt sad.

Then I thought about the table where I’d been sitting and suddenly it hit me: I had been sitting at my ex’s favorite table!  And knowing his schedule, he’d probably left the coffee shop just minutes before I arrived. Yikes — that’s it!

VIVAMEME-notmycloudPeople who are very sensitive (also referred to as “empaths” or clarsentients) can pick up on the emotions left behind by other people. In my case, I may not have been picking up on my ex’s mood, but it’s more likely that being back in his energetic field (something I chose to leave a long time ago) may have put me in a funk.

I decided to test my theory. While sitting on my park bench, I did a short clearing exercise to see if the sad mood would lift. Within 60 seconds, my usual cheery disposition was back. Just like that, my emotions belonged to me again.

If you’re someone who is particularly sensitive to the moods of others, you may be clairsentient — a “psychic sponge.” When you notice a sudden shift in mood, do a quick inventory and retrace your steps.

Some of the biggest offenders of psychic ick are grocery stores, restaurants, and social media — especially Facebook. If you regularly receive notifications from people who tend to post angry or depressed comments, turn off the notifications and check in on them on your own terms, when you have some extra light to give. You may be particularly vulnerable to the violent energy of TV news, so consider taking a break for a week to see if your mood shifts. After years of being a political news junkie, I have stopped watching the news altogether, and only receive my news online, when I choose to read it.

A final note:  chronic depression is a very serious illness, and last week’s news about Robin Williams’ death was very difficult for many of us. Energetic clearing or energy healing like Reiki can be a very important part of your regular wellness routine, but if you have been experiencing prolonged mood disruption, please seek additional support.

Your spark matters, and we need your light.

Leigh Hopkins

Leigh Hopkins

Leigh Hopkins is the Director of Viva Institute, a virtual retreat center for modern mystics. In 2010, she left a 20-year career in education reform and public policy to create virtual retreat center for modern mystics. From 2010-2012 Leigh ran Viva Institute’s retreat center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She has a Masters and Bachelors Degree in Education, is a Certified Usui Reiki Master, and has a certification in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University.

To receive updates on e-courses, join Viva’s mailing list

The Secret to Understanding Full Moon Dreams

by Leigh Hopkins, Viva Institute

I have always been a vivid dreamer, but during this recent supermoon, my dreams took on a lucid quality that practically shouted: “PAY ATTENTION!”

full moon_cornMany people notice that their dreams are much more active during full moons, and there are several reasons for this. One explanation is that it’s in our DNA to be in a state of semi-wakefulness at this time because our ancestors were more susceptible to predators hunting during full moons. There is also evidence that the body’s production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin is altered during full moons, which may explain disrupted sleep patterns and technicolor dreams.

If your dreams over the past few nights were troubling, take a few minutes today to quietly consider what the messages might have been for you. From an energetic perspective, full moons are an important time to let go of anything that isn’t helpful to you. On the other hand, there may actually be a very positive message within a turbulent dream. Write down the most vivid aspects of your recent dreams and look for patterns. For example, dreaming of death often indicates the end of one era and the beginning of something new.

Is there someone you need to forgive? Do you have a worry that is only feeding more worry…without any useful outcome? The energy of the full moon is a perfect time to release unhelpful thoughts and move on.

In the most positive sense, full moons are an excellent time for manifesting new ideas or learning something new. The dreams you had over the past few nights may be full of messages about where to begin. If you woke up today full of excitement about a new idea, NOW is the time to harness your creative energy and make it happen.

I’ve shared some of the details of my recent full moon dreams below in the comment section, and I welcome you to share yours. If you could use some assistance with interpretation, feel free to join Lightworkers Forum on Facebook, and we’ll be happy to help.

NEXT E-COURSE begins today! Flight School: Mediumship for Modern Mystics begins Monday, August 11. Register by noon on Tuesday, August 12.

Leigh Hopkins_bio fullLeigh Hopkins is the Director of Viva Institute, a virtual retreat center for the modern mystic. In 2010, she left a 20-year career in education reform and public policy to create virtual and physical spaces for people to connect with their “highest selves.” This work is her current passion.

From 2010-2012 Leigh ran Viva Institute’s retreat center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She holds Masters and Bachelors Degrees in Education, is a Certified Usui Reiki Master, and has a certification in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University.

Are you a Lightworker? (101 Signs)

A few weeks ago I asked the members of Lightworkers Forum to provide one word to describe a Lightworker. They gave me 101! Here are some of the words they came up with:

If this sounds like you, join me tomorrow night at 8 pm EST on VIVA Radio, when I’ll be talking live to speaker, author, and spoken-word poet, Kirk Nugent. Learn about Kirk Nugent’s mission to inspire others to find their passion and purpose. We’ll discuss how to remember your mission in a world that can often distract your from your calling.

VIVA Radio

Thursday, August 7 at 8 pm EST
Phone number: (425) 440-5100
PIN Code: 954713#

To submit a question for Kirk in advance, click here.
Space is limited to the first 40 callers.



  • Flight School: Mediumship for Modern Mystics Class begins August 11. Register now.
  • To reboot your spirit through plant-based foods, sign up for 30 Days Raw: Viva Institute’s Online Raw Food Course. Class begins August 25, go raw September 1. Register now.

VIVA Radio: With Special Guest Kirk Nugent

Topic: “Light Worker — have you forgotten your mission?”


Thursday, August 7 at 8 pm EST

Phone number: (425) 440-5100
PIN Code: 954713#

To submit a question for Kirk in advance, click here.

Host:  Leigh Hopkins, Viva Institute


During this 30-minute live call, Viva Institute’s Leigh Hopkins will talk with inspirational speaker, teacher, and author Kirk Nugent about his mission to inspire others to find their passion and purpose. Leigh and Kirk will discuss the topic of “Lightworkers,” and what it means to remember your mission in a world that can often distract your from your calling.

“Lightworker — have you forgotten your mission?” –Kirk Nugent

To submit a question for Kirk in advance, click here. Space is limited; submit your questions by 12 noon EST on August 7.

To listen to Kirk Nugent’s spoken word poetry, “Answer the Call (I Need You to Remember), listen below.

About Kirk Nugent

KirkNugent_outdoorsFor more than a decade, Kirk Nugent has served as a catalyst for change, challenging preconceived notions about success and self-actualization. Kirk started public speaking in poetry venues where he displayed a keen understanding of social and political issues delivered with his signature brand of infectious wit and frenetic energy.

Early audiences crowned him “The People’s Poet,” and the stage was set for Kirk to widen his speaking base to include college campuses, key note addresses for Fortune 500 companies, church ministries and empowerment workshops. He has spoken at venues across the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and the Caribbean.

Kirk continues to impact the lives of people from around the world with public speaking engagements, and live appearances, as well as with his books, The Unpopular Truth and Answer the Call, and also his two disc audio set, Pursue Your Passion.

Kirk celebrates his Jamaican heritage, which has fostered in him the global perspective of “Out of Many One People.” This perspective is a relentless endorsement of the idea that no matter where you are in the world, the innate right to chase your dreams unites all individuals. This is the philosophy which guides Kirk’s speaking engagements, and inspired Les Brown to proclaim, “Kirk is a poignant speaker who challenges us to step out in faith towards our dreams.” His ultimate aim is to help ordinary people create extraordinary lives.

Forgiveness Meditation: Who’s on YOUR bus?


In honor of Worldwide Forgiveness Day

This meditation is provided as it was told to me by Jon Peris, who lives in Abadiânia, Brazil (home of John of God).

The Bus Theory

The “Bus Theory” is the simple process of sending love to all who we have encountered in our lives, either incarnate (alive) or disincarnate (deceased). This exercise is done alone in meditation, so you do not need for the person to be present in order to experience the healing benefits.

forgivenessImagine that you’re a bus driver, and you have the ability to place anyone you want on your bus. Begin by visualizing/envisioning all of the people who are closest to you, including those who have passed. One by one, as they get on board, hug them and thank them for what they mean to you.

You can seat peope wherever you’d like — it’s your bus.

Now invite/welcome people who have only been in your life briefly to join you on the bus, and thank them as well. Invite them to take a seat, and place them wherever you’d like to.

Then invite the people you or other people have had a conflict with. Greet them with a hug and say:

“Thank you for being in my life and teaching me what I needed to learn.
God bless you. I love you.” *

Consider the possibility that everyone you have met and everything that has happened to you in life was agreed upon, by you, before you were born. As you do this exercise, you will find that more and more people will come to mind. Where you place them in the bus may change the more you do this meditation.

* The Hawaaian tradition of Ho’oponopono has a similar approach, which includes repeating the same four phrases: “I love you; please forgive me; I am sorry; thank you.”

How it Works

Here’s an example of how this works in practice, in Jon’s words:

I explained The Bus Theory to a woman while we shared breakfast. She said, “I will do that in meditation before lunch.”

Lunchtime arrived, and as she came in, she said, “I tried that meditation, and I placed my sister in the front rows. It was not possible to hug her during the meditation -– she kept pushing me away.

I told the woman: Keep trying.

A few days passed…[the next time I saw her she said] “I’m going home. I’ll see you when I return to Abadiânia next time.

When the woman visited the next time, she came straight to me, saying: “You will not believe it! When I saw my sister at the airport, she hugged me, and I was able to do the same…it worked!”

Your Turn

Do you believe that it’s possible to shift a relationship for the better without directly communicating that person? Must forgiveness and acceptance of ourselves be part of the process? Is it possible to heal a relationship simply by working on forgiveness, acceptance and love in your own heart?

Do you have a forgiveness story to share? Tell us about it in the comment section.

What if Thelma and Louise had gotten a flat?

It must be the July heat. Recently, people have written me to say:

I feel so stuck.

My problems feel too big.

I don’t know how to explain it, but right now I just feel so small.

Does it feel like a relief to know that this is common? And that sometimes, it’s really OK to feel sort of blah — maybe even necessary?

VIVA MEME_smudgingUnfortunately, one of the catches of the “new spirituality” is that we’re led to believe that if we do the right thing, life won’t be as hard. The reality is that sometimes, life is just ho-hum and other times, it’s really, really hard. No amount of rationalizing, positive affirmations, meditations, or The Secret-like Post-It note-leaving, “I AM POWERFUL” statements are going to work.

There’s a voice hiding inside you that’s shouting, “Shut it, sister — save your New Age sunshine for someone else!”

During a recent road trip, I imagined what might have happened if Thelma and Louise had gotten a flat. Right at the moment when they were parked on the edge of the cliff, and Thelma looked at Louise with that wild look in her eyes and said:

“Let’s keep going.”

While I love Thelma and Louise, the implicit message is that if we haven’t felt fulfilled as parents or partners or professionals, or if we’ve been broken and stomped on and abused, it might be that the best option is to just hang it up. Seriously?!

Do you know what would have happened if you were Thelma and your BFF/partner/kid was Louise? You would have kept going.

One way or another, you always do. Don’t you? You stomp it out, cry it out, and remind yourself that eventually, things will get better. Then you wake up, put one foot in front of the other, and you keep on going. You find your way back to who you are with renewed perspective, a sack full of silver linings, and when you’re ready — maybe even some fresh inspiration.

You are not apart; you are a PART.

There is no hole; you are WHOLE.

Keep going, Bright One. You are mightier than you know.


Looking for inspiration?

VivaRadio_LGListen to Viva Institute’s live interview with inspirational speaker and author Kirk Nugent next week on Thursday, August 7 at 8 pm EST. I’ll be talking to him live on VIVA Radio — call-in information coming up next week.

For some rut-shaking FUN, join Viva Institute’s 3-week e-course, Flight School: Mediumship for Modern Mystics. Class begins August 11. Register now.

VivaLogoBlueLGTo reboot your spirit through plant-based foods, sign up for 30 Days Raw: Viva Institute’s Online Raw Food Course. Class begins August 25, go raw September 1. Register now.

Need more?

Leigh Hopkins is the Director of Viva Institute.

22 Signs You’re a Modern Mystic

Are you a Modern Mystic? If you can relate to more than half of the characteristics on this list, there’s a good chance that you are.

    1. You see messages in everything.
    2. You discover that serendipity and ‘coincidence’ are everyday occurrences.
    3. Before making an important financial decision, you talk to your accountant, your retirement planner, and your spirit guides.
    4. When faced with an obstacle, you ask yourself “What is the true meaning of this situation?” You judge it as neither good nor bad, and actively look for the big picture lesson within the experience.
    5. You order palo santo wood in bulk.
    6. You actively seek time in nature so that you can converse with the plants, trees, and animals.
    7. You set stones and crystals in the window during a full moon, carry sage spray in your purse, and a pendulum in your wallet.
    8. You have no enemies, only teachers.
    9. You live with your feet on the earth and your head in the heavens.
    10. You stop someone from speaking so that you can listen to the voices in your head.
    11. When a 4-year-old tells you, “In my last life, I was a doctor,” you answer: “Would you mind having a look at this lump?”
    12. You understand that choosing kindness and compassion can often be both the most difficult AND the easiest choice in every situation.
    13. You never again wonder “if something is wrong with you” because of how you experience life. You know. You remember.
    14. You know that the answer is in the question.
    15. You understand Divine Order — that whatever happens, all will be well.
    16. You know that there are no right answers.
    17. You have inner peace, or quickly return to a place of inner peace, because you know down to your core that this life is only one dimension of reality.
    18. You know that there is so much more to you than your physical body, or this reality.
    19. You have moments where you see beauty in everything and everyone, and those moments begin to fill more and more of your time here on earth.
    20. You know that there is life before and after this one.
    21. You embrace your Past and plan for the Future, knowing that true peace comes from being fully Present.
    22. You know there is no beginning or end.

bird_green_circles_lgBased on this list, are YOU a Modern Mystic?  Viva Institute’s 3-week e-course, Flight School: Mediumship for Modern Mystics, was created for the purpose-driven, committed, soulful, passionate, curious and discerning truth-seekers like you. It’s about reconnecting with the intuitive part of yourself that knows that there is something that you came here to do. Learn new tools and ignite your unique spark. Then you can FLY.

Is Emma Stone a Modern Mystic?

“I think we should all open our minds and our hearts to magic.”

quarterThat’s what actress Emma Stone told David Letterman on the Late Show on July 16 . She went on to describe some of the paranormal and metaphysical experiences she’s had throughout her life, including her deceased grandfather leaving her quarters in unusual places.

Even better? David Letterman shared some stories of his own!

Are people waking up, or is it just human nature to look for someone to hold our hand on the mystic’s journey?

If you’re ready to walk that road, join Viva Institute in August for the next session of Flight School, Viva Institute’s 3-week Summer Camp for the Modern Mystic! It’s a chance to fully embrace the intuitive part of yourself that knows that there is something important that you came here to do.

Embrace your inner mystic.

Summer Camp PEEP Show!

Leigh Hopkins, Viva Institute

I spent the holiday weekend at a friend’s lake house, and as we watched the last of the fireworks burn out, we sat telling camp stories. Everyone had one:  the favorite counselor, the bizarre “theme camps,” the first camp crush, and even the camp they longed to visit but couldn’t afford.

I shared my favorite camp story, when my bunk was roused after midnight by a VERY racy counselor (think late 1970′s!) who stripped down, wrapped herself in bedsheets, and started a toga dance party. Imagine — about twenty 9 and 10-year-olds getting down to “Give Up the Funk.” Hilarious!

What is it about the steamy July air and sparklers that brings back the nostalgia for the free-spirited days of childhood? There’s something sacred about reconnecting with our summertime selves.

As we sat around the campfire Saturday night, we lamented that it has become so difficult to create space for this kind of freedom in our adult lives.

Over the past week, I’ve seen at least five people quit Facebook for a few weeks in an attempt to unplug and reconnect. It’s a trend, and one that I expect many will follow this summer!


This summer, give yourself permission to unplug breathe now and then — focus on what really matters(Oh, and if you’re longing for summer camp but can’t get away, consider trying this or this.)


VivaRadio_LGI promise to wear my toga.


P.S. To hear SIX free meditations, listen to last week’s first broadcast of VIVA Radio.