Deliberately Taking the Hard Way

I spent this morning playing at the City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri. If you haven’t been, go. I don’t care how old you are, you need to experience it at least once in your lifetime. It’s basically a large welded windy weird and wonderful playground for kids of all ages (and that includes grown-ass kids aka adults).

My body is sore and I have bruises everywhere. I loved it.

All around the City Museum are choices. The whole experience is really just a series of choices. From the moment you walk in, you choose which area you’re going to explore. They’re mostly interconnected, but unless you’re an expert at it, you don’t always know where one place will lead you.

There are all kinds of choices in every area. You can stay on the outside and enjoy some of the sights and sounds available from outside of the jungle gym-style area. Or you can take some of the easier stairs and other routes that don’t require too much physical work. Or, you can take some of the more mysterious and exciting tunnels that are often dark and confusing and it’s purposely unclear where they lead.

That’s my favorite mode. Go the hardest and weirdest route I can find. If it looks like I *might* even be able to get through, I’m trying.

It’s by far the most fun.

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I feel like we often choose the easier route in whatever decision we’re making. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel some ease and some flow into your life. I’m not saying we have to choose hard things because we need to feel like something is difficult to get enjoyment out of it. But I do think sometimes we miss out by choosing the path we can see and/or the one of least resistance. 

Resistance can be good for us. It can be good to us. It’s a wonderful teacher that forces us to push ourselves to the limits. And, in those limits, we can see the truth… which is that they aren’t really limits after all. They’re just arbitrary limits we set on ourselves.

I mean, sure, sometimes you actually can’t fit in a tunnel. Your body is physically too big to get through a space. I get that. But for the most part, you are able to do a lot more than you thin you can. You’re able to push yourself past where you think your own boundaries are. Then those new further boundaries become the new goal to push past as you continue to grow and change.

I’ve been thinking about this concept a lot. I don’t always love to do things that I do. I do love the growth that comes from choosing to do them. And so I get over the petty hurdle of actually doing whatever it is I’m doing in order to reap the hefty benefits.

For example, when I’m in my routine (and not traveling like a maniac), I’m a very early riser. I get up, journal, meditate, read, go to the first yoga class of the day, then come back and start my day with my family. By the time 9 or 10 am hits, I’ve accomplished so much, had a ton of quality time, and my brain is ready to be incredibly productive for a while.

But let me be clear: I don’t like getting up early. I don’t like anything about it. I need my sleep, so in order to sustainably get up early, I go to bed early. This means I miss out on a lot of things. And if I have to be out, I’m often tired too late into the night. I love to sleep in and I don’t always get to cuddle with my dogs or my hubs first thing in the morning. Instead, my ass is out of bed quickly so my alarm doesn’t wake them.

And I don’t like it. But I do love what it gives me so I do it anyway.

At the City Museum, I don’t actively think “I can’t wait to bruise my knees and body as I attempt to go through this tiny tunnel.” Instead I think, “Oh, that’ looks fun I wonder what wonders that will lead me to.” And I take it.

Even if that tunnel turns out to pop up right next to a really easy path, I enjoyed my harder road because I knew it challenged me. And I got to see something others won’t. And I got to push myself past my own boundaries. And, hell, sometimes taking the longer route is fun just for the whimsy of it – and whimsy doesn’t have to explain itself to you or anyone else.

I’m not saying make your life hard. But I guess I am saying if opportunities that might be more challenging arise, think about what lies on the other side of them. If it’s worth it, do it.

There’s only so much satisfaction that can come from coasting.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes that seems to fit this perfectly:

A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.

 

Above the Clouds

One of the most powerful visuals I remember learning when I was first learning how to meditate was the idea of your thoughts being like passing clouds. Usually you hear this when you’re learning Buddhist-based meditations, which I probably was. But the truth is, so many good meditation teachers this same idea (and I’ve always been pretty voracious about learning so I like to learn multiple styles at once…so who knows where I first heard this).

It’s often been repeated to me. I’ve always loved it. I’ve loved the idea that if you allow a thought or feeling to enter, you can simply observe it as it passes through your mind, letting it pass as easily out as it did in.

I’ve always found a calmness in looking up at the sky and the clouds. Even when the earth itself seems dirty or chaotic, there’s a calmness to the clouds. In their meanest form  (like thunderstorms or hurricanes or lightning) they’re still incredibly beautiful.

I’ve been back at traveling season for me lately (hence the belated post today). Traveling is not easy on the body. It’s not easy to find good nutrition. It’s a lot of weird hours and time spent in cars. It’s a lot of negotiating with your travel companions and attempting to find balance when and where you can. I didn’t get any (any!) yoga classes in this year. (I did a couple small sessions on my own in my hotel room, so I did something but stillllll) I didn’t get too much sightseeing in the beauty of nature. I got a few adventures and stolen moments away. But I’ve got a lot of projects on my plate and a lot of personal ambition to satiate. So I often felt frustrated, even if it was just an undercurrent.

When I travel, I have to be in a lot of airplanes. I’m a decent flyer. I’m not great, but I’m not terrible. I can handle it. I’m usually the first one to jump at the slightest turbulence and like to grab my seats to help the pilot concentrate to get us through it… but otherwise I’m alright. I have my methods for getting through it.

But as I was flying this time and letting my brain wander while staring out my window seat (my preferred seat so I can see we’re still in the air during turbulence), I had a thought that connected my love for meditation and my frustrations on the road. I remembered that every small frustration is something that can simply be observed, learned from, and let go. I realized that the frustrations are often a result of my own expectations or something happening in my own personal life or from my own personal perspective. They have nothing to do with anyone being “out to get me.” They just exist. And if I see them, allow them to come in, and let them go, I’m giving them as much power as the thought I treat like a temporary cloud during meditation.

And…get this.

When you fly, you’re often relatively smooth after you get up above the clouds. Even if you’re escaping rough weather, it’s typically close to where the cloud cover is. And some of the roughest parts of even smooth flights are when you’re getting just above the clouds.

Because… you guys the clouds are what keep us from seeing clearly.

Sure, I’ve been in intense thunderstorms where I saw our big plane hit by lightning on the wing several times and have often prayed to whatever god was listening for a second chance at life even when my plane was above the clouds. But typically the meanest weather and the roughest air is when you’re at or below them.

So I’ve been forcing myself to see every frustration as a passing cloud, even outside of my meditations. When I’m really in a good headspace, I become genuinely curious about the frustration. I wonder where it’s coming from. What underlying belief is it bringing out in me? Do I really believe that or is that something I’ve been programmed to believe? And do I want to keep thinking that? What does this emotion feel like in my body? Where does it live? Have I ignored it before and there’s a lot of residual emotions in that particular location? And so on…

Once I had the cloud realization about flying, I’ve been able to approach it with a lot more patience and surrender. The air will be whatever it wants to be. I can’t control it. I can simply experience and learn from it. And I can wait for the moment we clear the clouds and enjoy the “cruising altitude” for however long it lasts.

The Road

There’s an allure and a charm to being “on the road.” I had never experienced it before my recent fall tour. I had done shows on the road. I had traveled for shows that were outside of where I regularly travel. But I hadn’t yet set out on a trip saying “you’ll start here, finish elsewhere, go a bunch of places in between without stopping by home for a prolonged period of time.”

Would it be like On the Road or more like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? I haven’t read either, so I wouldn’t know even if it were at all like any part of them.

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I had plenty of adventures along the way that I may share individually. But overall, here’s what I learned: Every tour is as different as every day. And touring, just like life, is exactly what you make it. Because you’re out of your element, you can choose to be overwhelmed or you can choose to harness the newness and experience it fully.

You can stay in generic hotel rooms or you can check out haunted Air BnBs. You can wait for the hotel’s continental breakfast or you can grab some trail mix and swing by a waterfall before you hit the road. You can order takeout and watch Netflix in your room or you can go swimming in a pristine lake before a delicious home-cooked meal. You can work on your computer before or after your shows or you can seek out a bar that serves a local whiskey and ask the bartender, who loves to stretch his groin around while he talks, for ghost stories. You can hang in a coffee shop and scroll social media or you can see if a local nearby park is worth exploring. 

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You can get upset about a last minute cancelled show or you can take advantage of a free day and exhaust yourself at a unique imagination-fueled all-ages gymnasium-style museum. You can watch a movie or you can teach yourself a choreographed dance. You can get an extra hour of sleep or you can see the morning fog hover over Valley Forge.

You can get to the airport extra early or you can hike to a mountain top. You can listen to the radio or you can curate a badass playlist that will make you lose your voice from singing along or maybe even let yourself feel emotions freely because why not?

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At every opportunity, there’s a chance make the most of your life. Around every corner is a choice. And sometimes, sure, the healthier choice might be to relax, unwind, and be lazy. But much of the time, the easier choice isn’t the one that make your experience memorable – on tour and in life.

The choice to just chill and scroll your phone won’t ever create the kind of invigorating and inspiring memories that make you even more insatiable for everything life has to offer even when you return to your normal routine.

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By going out of your way to YOLO the crap out of every day as if it’ll be the last time you get to experience it, even if you know (or hope) that the same opportunities will present themselves the next day. You still do whatever work you need to and you do it well. But the in betweens, the respite, the moment before the inhale or exhale – that’s where the choices happen. And that’s where the magic lies.

It reminds you of the frequencies you can feel and experience and see when you don’t settle into the patterns your body and brain find the easiest. It reminds you that you can have enthusiasm for daily experiences, and that enthusiasm will translate to more exciting daily experiences. And maybe even manifesting double rainbows. 

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The road shook me up like a snow globe and reminded me that life is way more interesting when you get out of your comfort zone. And, like a snow globe, you’re living your full potential after shaking up your insides and letting the bits settle where they will.

This took a turn for the gory and I don’t think I like it.

Whatever, you get the point.

Find a reason to do something different, no matter what the circumstance. Find something to explore. Lose a little sleep to to gain a little adventure. Make a point to make the most of it.