Patricia Bonelli

on New Directions
San Francisco, CA
It wasn’t until I entered my fifth decade that I fully realized my early dark and tortured times were an important part of my life.


Exclusive Interview

Profiles of Change: Patricia Bonelli

Since some of our listening audience may not yet know who you are, would you please tell us a bit about yourself.

As a teenage runaway and prostitute, I spent a lot of time on the inside of a holding cell. As a professional woman, I elevated myself to the other side of that same cell, becoming a member of the criminal justice system. While employed in this capacity, I played by the rules; however, I always realized that the degrees of separation between me and the “suspects” (defendants) were minimal. I used my former experience as a person in survival mode on the street as an asset to “keeping it real.” I had been beaten down and climbed out of the gutter at 17, believing that there was a better way, even as I was uncertain how to get there. I developed internal resources that broadened my capacity for working well with others and taught me how to manage. Through forgiveness and compassion for self and others, I learned how to move past traumatic events, process them, and let the lessons become advantages.

You are a great success. Because of what you've accomplished and where you are in life, what would you tell others to Inspire them today, regardless of where they are in their life?

I believe today has brought forth some significant challenges to help us shift and adjust our perspectives--the place from which we view. This new America has brought many of us to our knees. I am interested in where we will go from here. No blame or finger pointing--just acknowledgement of the challenges that surround us. Certainly, there is an opportunity for greater compassion. Some will become discouraged; others will look for distraction or objects of blame. My hope is that we use this opportunity to restore and build from the inside out, become people of fortitude: the very premise on which America became the land of opportunity. My suggestions: Walk in Confidence; Act in Faith; Forgive Without Hesitation; Give in Gratitude; Love Out Loud; Be 100% YOU; and Move Beyond Fear.

We all know that inspiration can change lives. Can you share a personal story of someone who inspired you and made a difference in your life or a defining moment or experience that inspired you or changed your life?

My strongest and most pivotal relationship is with God or the Divine. For me this relationship has been a bedrock of strength and security, both necessary ingredients in transformation. I do recall feeling significantly polarized when looking at the (unpleasant) relationship I was in, and I had to admit that it did not serve my highest good. Rather than taking action, I hesitated, asking myself if I wasn’t married, who would I be, who could I turn to, and even who would I put on my emergency card? In short order, though, I realized (yet again) that I had never been alone. It was then that I took a clean-sweeping moral inventory of what no longer fit or felt comfortable in my life and began to consider what I really wanted. I sat still and honestly asked my higher self how I wished to represent my best life.

I had some choices to make that required changes. Change is an interesting element because the more you resist it, the more the need for it persists. It is as if the universe is telling you to let go of the wheel just as you tighten your grip. Like many, for me this shift in attitude was easier said than done. You see, long ago I had learned to live an orchestrated life, graduating from a day planner to a pager and finally to a palm pilot. I relied on all of these devices to point me to the next activity or duty. For me, life was one colossal organizational chart. In those days before I knew how to access my higher self and God as resources, I used objects and events to give my life purpose and keep me encouraged.  And like many, I forgot to smell the roses along the way.

You make it look easy, but I'm guessing you've experienced challenges in your life. Can you share with our listeners how that has strengthened you to reach success? In other words, how do you overcome adversity?

I think when we can begin to view challenges as opportunities instead of disasters, we then can move through them with greater efficiency. In the earlier years, while I operated on auto pilot, anything beyond items on the “To Do” list appeared extravagant and perhaps selfish. Some days, when I got it all done early, I'd begin on the next day's list so that I could free up some time for more "to do’s." In those days, the time to even consider the consequences of my words, the impact of my actions, or the alignment of my actions to my goals seemed like a luxury. Even if I had had the time, I would not have accessed these skills. I was living a martyr quest instead of a vision quest. This is when I realized that a bit of madness had become concealed by the veil of false security--my knowing where to be and what to do rather than trusting or, dare I say, dreaming and going with the flow. I learned early on that to go with the flow could hurt me. What I did not consider was that this notion had been formed during my developmental and teen years. And my teen years represented a time of only limited coping skills, common sense, and maturity. Although I had grown into a functional adult, I seemed to hold core beliefs formed in and from the developmental years which no longer applied.

It helps if you can become OK with being uncomfortable while moving through the learning curve. Really, life’s lessons are not a whole lot different from those we learn in school. Before we had the aptitude to know the alphabet, it looked like a bunch of symbols, yet from these symbols, we learned to form words that serve to express everything in our reality.

We all have ideas on how to improve our lives, whether it be a new job, moving to a new city, or finding love, but change can be a bit scary sometimes. Can you please share an experience with us where you "stepped off the ledge" with only faith, and took a big risk, based only on your belief that you would succeed?

Most definitely the writing of my book Owning Patricia: A Story of Breaking Free. It was here I stood naked, every blemish of my being revealed for all to see. My fear was that my life could be perceived as shameful, so I worked on shifting away from Ego’s need for self-defense. I meditated and asked God's voice to intervene and move me to do what was intended. And I came away with a complete affirmation that I had lived this life to share it as a resource--not keep it a secret. Some days, I’m still on the ledge with it, and that's okay; I am human and expected to make mistake in order to learn what works and what doesn’t.

I suppose while existing in the years of juggling the activities of my four children with a professional career, organization was necessary to keep sanity within reach.  However, as I stated earlier, I had grown dependent on predicting the order of next week(s)'s or month(s)'s events. Yes, admittedly, I sought comfort in the certainty that came with my flow chart of how life would look. From my flow chart, I manifested a false sense of security. I realized that if I could create disturbance through manifestation, I could also create flow. Therefore, I optimized my power and aptitude toward building a life where the focus was on internal development and peace, recognizing my light and illuminating my path.

How can others do what you did? 

My story was shared to encourage those in bondage out of darkness or secrecy, where they elude the beauty of fully embracing, loving, and accepting “all” of who they are.

When we own all of it, the love, transparency, and forgiveness (of both self and others) actually empower and add value to the totality of life's experiences—yes, as blessings! I believe we are all born with the ability to turn our difficulties into opportunities. This is the ultimate action of living in the light without shame, blame, or the need for insulation. We can begin by taking an honest look at our circumstances. We can own it!

Become the co-author (you and the divine) of your reality. Then begin to identify your relationship with fear. Look at what has stood in the way of what you want, holding you back. Then develop an action plan to begin to face the fear one step at a time… until you are living in it…moving through it and getting beyond it.

What process, steps or exercises do you recommend that our listeners could do right now and each morning, to improve the quality of their lives

Most often the worst occurs in our “theory” rather than our “reality.” Look in the mirror each day and say this six times (sincerely or not): "I am lovable! If I am not where I want to be, today is a new opportunity to get closer to what I want for me." Ask yourself what and where you experience the greatest joy in your life. Start doing those things that bring the life you want closer to you.

My personal relationship with myself portrays an arduous journey of evolving, shedding, chipping away, coming to know, learning to love, acceptance, and forgiveness. It is not easy; however, the alternative is far more exhausting and much less fulfilling. 

What's the greatest joy in your life?

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I would have answered by stating: Loving, Sharing, Giving, and Caring, summing up by adding, "being a contribution to others." Recently, though, my perspective has shifted from being a contributor to becoming a receiver. I have learned that, ironically, surrender and humility are on the same side of this equation. The shift to being a receiver after years of being a doer is not easy. However it provides comfort to your soul and empowers those around you. You begin to experience their unique abilities, witnessing the value in how they get things done. As a woman (wife/mother), most of my earlier life had been lived in acts of service towards others. In the second half of life, I am living to serve both others and myself consciously as a humanitarian so that I do not leave “me” behind or run interference in someone else’s life lessons. In receiving, we model a belief that we are worthy. This requires ongoing monitoring, given the fact that the old pattern of jumping in to fix others' circumstances is hard to let go of.

If you had to wrap up the wisdom of your life to leave as your legacy—call it YOUR BRILLIANCE—what important things that you've learned would you want to pass on to others?

The people you wish to please do not exist. They are an illusion created in your mind. This mindset can retard self discovery (who you are being) and implies containment within your limitations. Make a conscious decision to live YOUR life authentically. Begin by acting loving towards self with acceptance (and awareness) of all of you. From this platform, love flows freely without self interest, reservation, or attachment to results.

If you had just one more thing that you could accomplish in your lifetime, what would it be?

I am ready to share my message at a greater level and let God work through me to create a space for healing and teaching.
Today, I am calling on my god and the divine for a mentor who will assist this endeavor and lend his or her unique gifts and talents as a resource to build this reality.


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About Patricia Bonelli

My personal story is one of transformation. I began my training as a youth in the trenches of the San Francisco streets. From living as an unwanted child and experiencing degradation as a teenage prostitute, I emerged as a law-enforcement professional working cases throughout the Bay Area to San Quentin. I know that living in a survival mindset takes a tremendous toll. When I realized this, I shifted my energy from self-protection--i.e., worry--to that of a warrior--i.e., worthy. I stopped living life from the rear-view mirror, waiting and watching for danger to come my way, obstructing every opportunity; I discovered that faith and fear cannot walk hand in hand. I decided to work on myself and began to view myself as an ally--a resource--rather than living in apprehension of “what if’s.”