Lesson from the Islands

I just got back from Hawaii yesterday.

I spent a long weekend in Maui. I was there for a wedding. They call it getting “Maui’d.” I enjoyed that pun probably too much.

I feel somewhat behind on things. That’s likely thanks to the intense travel I had for a couple weeks before this trip. I don’t have to travel again until early next week. Woot. Go me.

I realized this morning I wanted to share the lessons I learned from my trip to Maui. It wasn’t a pure vacation since there were some marriage-oriented obligations. But those were easy and fun. And I spent the few days I was there at a condo that was right on the ocean, so I went to sleep and woke up every day to the sounds of the ocean waves.

I always like to be “productive.” I like to get something out of or make the most of almost any situation. So with four or so days off-the-grid just hanging out with minimal obligations, I wondered what lesson I have to show for it. What can I share with the world that is life-changing from these precious few days letting my brain fully let go and just enjoy?

It’s actually pretty simple. The lesson is relax.

Relax.

That’s it.

There’s so much we can’t control. There’s so much to see. They’re so much to linger on and dawdle over. There’s so much in this world to enjoy.

Sure, packing up and living on the islands isn’t the trajectory for most people. Though I loved it, I am happy to be back (with my dogs). I’m happy to be in a place where my industry thrives and able to take advantage of many opportunities around me. But that doesn’t mean I need to be tense about it all. I can enjoy and relax even without going to sleep with ocean sounds every night.

The environment on Maui caters to relaxation. So if we know it’s possible to reach that level of relaxation, why not do whatever it takes to allow elements of that external environment and the lesson it provides to internally cultivate that same feeling? 

Even with all the beauty, you can still be stressed on Maui. And even with all the chaos, you can still be calm in LA.

Or wherever you are.

Just relax, baby.

Relax.

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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.

Barn Yoga

I don’t know when I started considering myself a yogi. If you’re not too precious about it, I supposed anyone who does yoga once and enjoys it can be considered a yogi. I think I always hesitated because I can’t do an unassisted head or handstand for very long before flopping sloppily to one side and most of my stretches end at other people’s starting positions. But I think I’ve finally accepted that, despite my shortcomings in the positions – or asanas, as they’re called – I can finally embrace the title of “yogi.” Also, I just called them asanas, did you catch that? I’m such a true yogi.

Vocabulary aside, I’m finally comfortable being considered a yogi mostly because I now seek out doing yoga with different people in different places, no matter where I am.

At least, that’s what led to me to my barn yoga experience.barn yoga 3.jpg

I was touring with three comedy fellows in upper Pennsylvania when we all drove by a tiny little storefront that said “Barefoot Yoga.” I was intrigued and we all googled it immediately. Actually, I probably didn’t because I was too busy staring out the window in awe of the greenery that surrounded me. And one of the fellas was driving. And the other fella I don’t think was interested. Come to think of it, I think only the one guy did the googling and reported the results to the car for the rest of us to feel like we had, also, found out the information.

Was this important to the story? Nah, probably not. But what is life if not frivolous?

Anyway, it became apparent to us (thanks to whichever google sleuth brought us the information) that there was a class available the next morning that wouldn’t conflict with our shows. I immediately wanted – nay needed – to go.

I should have said “neigh needed” since this is a post about barn yoga and horses live in barns. Alas and alack. Add it to the list of writing regrets I pile up every day.

The morning of the adventure, I took time to actually run for the first time in a long while. I went at an insanely fast pace according to the treadmill I was on. I also realized that the treadmill was absolutely broken and couldn’t go at a very fast pace, despite what the readings were saying. But you’d be surprised how much confidence you can gain even if you know you’re being lied to.

Though it maybe wasn’t a seven mile run at a 6 minute mile pace (as the treadmill suggested), I was sweaty and I was ready. In the end, only one of the fellas I was traveling with joined me for yoga. The others had their reasons. But, hey, it’s yoga. It’s honestly the only activity where it’s genuinely the thought that counts.

Boy oh boy was I glad that I had a buddy for this experience, too, because it was a total delight. We entered the studio (which was a small converted barn) and immediately took our shoes off because that’s what it looked like we should do and I like to follow the rules. I couldn’t help but let my overwhelming enthusiasm take over when Teresa, the teacher we saw online, walked up to us in the flesh. We were new to the class and new to her, so I of course made it a goal to become her new best friend. Within no time, I was wandering the studio, taking in the beauty of the space and all the crystals in it, and explained happily what we were doing there. After me berating…err, um, enthusiastically talking to her for a bit before class, Teresa became almost as excited about the start of class as I was.

barn yoga 2We set out our borrowed mats, blankets, and blocks in the locations Teresa set out for us (neither of us had any idea where to place ourselves because we didn’t know where she’d be sitting or anyone else would be sitting…it was a mild meltdown until we demanded she just tell us what to do). I got a spot under a hanging crystal, so I was as happy as can be. Soon, a few locals trickled in and we started up class.

The details of the class itself are likely only interesting to the nerdiest of yogis. It was definitely more traditional, slower, emotional based yoga that I do enjoy dabbling in on occasion (rather than my usual intense, sweaty, get down into it yoga). The most telling pose was when we all got into “Goddess” position with a small squat and our hands in specific mudras that reminded us to feel connected while letting anxiety, worry, and doubt fall by the wayside.

Yeah, your hands can provide that kind of confidence. Our bodies are pretty amazing.

The whole class was excellent for relaxation and Teresa definitely did something by choosing those positions that made me leave there feeling grounded and a little emotionally lighter. Teresa seemed to delight in having us in class as much as we enjoyed the class. We took pictures afterwards to commemorate the occasion.

mi tour 4

Later, when my partner and I were a little out of our comfort zone for a particular project we were working on, we put our hands in mudras, got in goddess pose, and let Teresa’s wise words of letting go of what you can’t control take over so we could do our best and let the experience be what it was.

I guess what I’m saying is, if you ever get the chance to do yoga in a converted barn, do it. And, hey, even if it’s not converted, it’d probably be pretty fun. Assuming, of course, you’re a dedicated yogi like me.

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.

mi tour 8

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. 

mi tour 2

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?

mi tour 6

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.

mi tour 9

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. 

mi tour 5

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.