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Why Paula Abdul Is 'Living Life to the Fullest'

01/26/2011 at 12:25 PM EST

Why Paula Abdul Is 'Living Life to the Fullest'
Paula Abdul

Paula Abdul

Paula Abdul

Paula Abdul is feeling "blessed."

After more than 25 years of debilitating chronic pain – which began with a cheerleading accident when she was 17 – the former American Idol judge has been pain-free for almost three years and is now relishing her TV comeback.

"I have been incredible," Abdul tells PEOPLE. "Incredible for me is not being in pain, living life to the fullest without regrets and without worries of 'How am I going to manage this aspect of physical pain?' "

The singer-choreographer-television producer is hard at work on her current "labor of love," CBS's Live to Dance, a reality dance competition with no limits on age or type of dance – a show which Abdul, 48, says is "about celebration rather than elimination."

The show, currently in its semi-finals, is executive produced by Abdul, who also acts as a costume consultant, designer and mentor for the various acts who perform in a variety of styles from ballet to hip-hop and swing.

"I hope the audience gets the same experience that the acts are living out," Abdul says. "They will remember this experience as one that is aspirational and inspirational and that there is never a ceiling on creativity."

Inspired daily by the acts she encounters on her show and free of the pain medication that she relied on for so long, Abdul is now counting her blessings.

"It's 'knock on wood,' but it's also, 'thank God,' " she says. "I don't take one ounce of it for granted."

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