"Making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision." (Paulo Coelho)
this life time for me has been a series of full circle moments. experiences, events, dreams that start, meander in all different directions and at times are put on a shelve until further understanding is available. when the moments come back and the lesson is revealed – its a full circle moment for me – an A-Ha moment.
in 2012, i stood peering out at this very ocean with much angst and trepidation. It was my return from one of the most soul enriching experiences of my life – traveling abroad alone for 2.5 months – allowing my mind and my heart to be blown wide open by so many enriching experiences and people whom I had met during my time.
Now, i was heading “home” to start the next adventure – but, standing on that beach that day, I honest to goodness had NO idea what that next adventure would look like. Travel was in my blood – it had reshaped my DNA and gave me so many life lessons. What next? How do you compete with this?
I had to figure out what I would do for work (real world was knocking), where-o-where would I lay my head each night for sleep and so many other thoughts that I was able to neglect thinking about for those 2.5 sweet and precious months until my feet his the sand on a US beach. REALITY WAS CRASHING LIKE THE WAVES.
Re-entry back to my ROOTS was one of the hardest things I had to deal with. I felt as though I no longer fit with anything (ideas, people, places, thoughts) that I had left behind. And, as exciting as that was – it felt lonely and terrifying. So, I did what always comes natural to me – I started running my arse off to find my way. Running for me is truly a practice of meditation (I don’t sit well – but I run well).
I decided to start my own company (http://www.bibuz.com/) – a variation of all the jobs I’d ever had in the technology world merged with a general do-gooder attitude and heart. Connecting people, technology and creating COOL stuff. BizzBuzz was started in a lovely Dallas coffee house in 2012. It’s been a true labor of love – SO many LESSONS learned – some that left me lying on the couch in the fetal position and others that literally made my heart pop out of my chest with excitement. It matters not what we are delivering (because we can deliver anything) – it is (and always will be) about the PEOPLE that I get to create with.
I reconnected with Joe (my former husband) and now beloved life partner (cause this guy just totally gets me). He’s my rock. Our journey started at an early age with him being my first real life crush (age 11 for me). We chuckle these days as we sit together in our tiny RV knowing that we were destined to be together throughout this life time. We lift each other up, we push each other to new levels of experience (we are going to learn to fly fish over the summer in the same river that Brad Pitt once displayed beautiful fly fishing) and daily we work at being two perfectly imperfect humans who make mistakes, have strong emotions (all coupled with living in a tiny space). It works.
We’ve moved to another state (Boulder, CO) and loved it for about a minute (enter RV). We’ve adopted a four legged guy into our world – we can’t even imagine our life without him.
I had NO idea what or how any of this would transpire as I looked out into BIG BLUE (with utter trust because believe me my knees were shaking in 2012).
I once shared with a friend this term that I’d stumbled upon many times in my life – ta·bu·la ra·sa (defined: an absence of preconceived ideas or predetermined goals; a clean slate.). As I stood on the beach that day – I had a clean slate and as daunting as the task would be – I got to start creating again – which today continues to be a try something, test it, revise, revise again, take what you like, leave the rest, rinse and repeat.
So, as you can imagine standing on this beach yesterday with my love(s) after submitting a proposal to a client – my heart was full. My life is full. That doesn’t mean it is easy – because trials are part of the journey (the 41 year old me gets this).
We know NOT what is next for us. we take it one day at a time. we work hard | we play hard (a motto that a partner Mark Sneed at KPMG taught me to live by) and we ENJOY THE JOURNEY (a motto that my dear friend Jim Trent taught me).
dream higher than the sky and deeper than the ocean.
Todays update today comes to you from Monterey, California. The location where we plan to hang out for a few months (as long as the fishing is good – more on this later). There is much to see and do here in California and with an added bonus of Joe getting to hang out on a big commercial fishing boat for a few months (Bucket List Item # 222 – CHECK) while making money and working his arse off – we are pretty excited about letting things un-fold at there very own magical pace.
We’ve made the transition from big suburban house in Dallas (1999 – 2007) to living apart exploring our own forms of minimal living (2007 – 2014) to a 400 square foot studio space in Boulder, CO (2015) and now we our living in a 29foot RV – our home on wheels! We learn something new every single day in this vain of living – which keeps us hungry for me.
Our first few weeks in the RV were FANTASTIC:
We spent a few weeks prior to hitting the road “tethered” to Joe’s mum’s place. It was great because it allowed us to get our feet wet in RV living whilst still having all the fine luxuries of being connected to a the true mother ship (the mother ship = full washer and dryer, home cooked meals and hot showers). After a few weeks of living in the RV while being connected – we were ready to hit the open road and figure things out on our own. I have to give big KUDOS to Joe on his ability to navigate his way directly into the driver’s seat of this RV and take off to three different states! He did let me drive for like 2 minutes before we hit the open road – I’m now experienced. Truthfully, there is a great deal of work that has to be done to set up and tear down and prepare for the next trek. I think we’ll get better and better as we move around more – for now, we’ve successfully navigated the terrains.
WITHOUT HISTORY, THERE WOULD BE NO FUTURE
A little bit of history for those of you who stumble upon our musings. Joe and I have been told that we have an incredible love story. I admit – our story is pretty damn cool – alas, it wasn’t and hasn’t always been an incredible love story. It has been filled with many great opportunities to learn, grow, make mistakes – then, RINSE AND REPEAT!
Joe and I were married in 1999. We quickly began our trek to living the american dream – we secured corporate jobs, purchased our first home and immediately started working on having a family. During our marital years, we experienced pretty much every major loss you can imagine – with the exception of a either of us having a major illness.
We lost jobs due to corporate lay-offs (both of us in the span of one month at one point on our journey). We discovered that we would never be able to have children of our own after years of expensive fertility treatment. The toll these losses took upon us truly rattled us to our core. But, we had survived all of it and were able to keep all the fine possessions that we had accumulated all the while our souls had started to shift.
Our version of the American dream was changing at a rapid pace. In 2001, I would receive the early morning phone call that was the final loss that would ultimately rattle the doors of my soul so loudly that making a change became the only food my soul could swallow.
The passing of my beautiful mother during the midnight hours – the 4:00 a.m. phone call to tell me that she was GONE (at age 45). My mother was my best friend. She was my confidant. She was my cheerleader. She was my BELIEVER! She made me see things that I couldn’t see – courage and faith in myself. Her passing continues to color the view of my world daily.
The next few years for me were beyond 50 shades of grey – dark days followed by days of simple survival. Ultimately, this was a wake up call to LIFE. There was so much I hadn’t done in my 28 years of living and I knew that time wasn’t something I was promised. I also realized that possessions weren’t something that I’d ever be able to take with me – experiences, I could create and hold onto experiences. So, that is what I set out to do.
Joe and I divorced in 2007. Our divorce (yet another major loss in my life) brought me once again down to my knees lying on the bathroom floor begging to know my purpose. I was committed to figuring out how to use all of this loss to create the life I wanted – which by the way, I had NO idea what it would look like at that time – still don’t, which means I get to implore my creative side until I figure it out.
I spent the next seven years immersed in therapy, training and running marathons, hours and hours of meditation and yoga followed by the shedding of layers and layers of trapped emotions and also belongings (a whole bunch of STUFF that I was holding on to) that was no longer serving me.
My Benjamin Button years of doing everything in reverse – we get there when we are meant to get there. I returned to UNI and earned my degree, sold everything I owned and traveled around southeast Asia for several months, started a non-profit that was focused on educating women in third world countries and started my own company. It was a busy and productive seven years. It was hard, scary and soul rocking stuff – but, I made it through smarter and a bit more thick skinned (oh. yes, there were the moments on the couch when I didn’t think I could go forward).
I also discovered my love of sunsets and sunrises during this period. For the record, they have always existed but I’ve never noticed because I’ve been “busy my entire life”. I was also ready to share all of this with a partner. After many nights on beaches around the world watching the sun make its grand entrance into the ocean – I wanted someone to experience it with.
And, as luck would have it – Joe and I had kept in touch during the seven solo years. Even in our divorce and the years that followed, we had continued to help each other out when and where we could. To make a long story short, we found our way back together in 2013 and haven’t looked back since – actually, we’ve only looked forward and worked as hard as we could to follow our dreams.
There was a time during the years of our divorce when Joe and I sat together and had a discussion. During this time, we talked about how simple our life had been when we shared our first tiny apartment in Dallas. We were focused on living and not on material things. It was TRUE! After all the loss we had experienced, we had also talked about chunking everything and buying an RV to hit the road. But, if you know anything about CHANGE – it doesn’t happen overnight – in fact, it can take years!
This is most definitely a high-level overview of our walk together. And, it is a somewhat sugar coated vision of how things went down – there was a beginning, there was a middle and there was an end. We learned many lessons during each of the phases and we are incredibly thankful that the roads of our life merged again and we are able to travel onward together.
The moral of my story is this… Loss of people, places and things has taken me into the deepest and darkest parts of my soul! It has broken open my entire heart and left it bleeding – alas, it has given me a great perspective on LIFE – love it! love them! love every single moment, every single flower, every single sunset and sunrise. Make the most of it. You don’t get to take ANY of the material items with you – thus, always choose an experience.
In the next update – we’ll share the story of our RV (and introduce you to Joyce and Willie) and our first 14 days on the road (New Mexico, Las Vegas and California)!
With great gratitude, Brandi J. Joe & the Big Red Dog named Bleu.
It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog. And, there really is no better time to update unless you have something new and novel to share!
So, I share with you our entry and lack of plans for 2016…
We launched into 2016 and hit the ground running. We spent the better part of 2015 living in the beautiful and delightful city of Boulder, Colorado (arriving on January 29th, 2015 and departing on December 20, 2015). Life check list # 988 – move to a new city and live there for a year. CHECK!
Our experience in Boulder was delightful! We made and met some life long friends, shared several craft beers with locals and learned about life journeys (my favorite part of being a global citizen – always the people you meet along the way).
We lived in three different areas in/around Boulder – spending the first three months tucked in the belly of a mountain with a river that flowed right outside our front door at a lodge (the A-Lodge – a cool lodge that two rockin locals have taken over), a vacation rental home in North Boulder (close to the dog park – Bleu was in heaven) that was a beautiful tri-level home and reminded me of the amount of time it takes to clean something that has three levels (a good reminder), and lastly in a 400 square foot open space studio.
WE SURVIVED LIVING IN A TWO TINY SPACES WITHOUT INJURY (with a 20+ day road trip from Colorado to Texas, Texas to New Mexico, New Mexico to Arizona, Arizona to Las Vegas, Las Vegas to California, California to Utah and back home to Colorado – the trip to the ocean was necessary for each of us – o.k. maybe more so me – but we got there!).
Our conclusion – A BIG RIGHT ON, HIGH-FIVE, HAPPY DANCE – we CAN DO THIS! And, we figured out that we LOVED being on the ROAD and moving around at our leisure (more on this… stick with me).
The last place we lived in Boulder required that we enter into a one year lease commitment (I remember the day the woman shared this information with me – my palms got sweaty and I lost my breath – wait! what! a commitment of one year! thankfully, we were able to find a sub-lessor at literally the 11th hour that got us out on financially sound ground – we think, still waiting for our final deposit).
We knew our longer term plans included small space living and we needed to test the waters to see if “we” – (we = J and I) could manage living in a small / open space – we all survived but learned some truly valuable lessons.
Side Note: One of the major caveats that I expressed when we added Bleu to our life was that he be “WELL TRAVELED” – Bleu has proven to be adaptable to just about ANY situation we have exposed him too – in any location he is placed – from the streets of San Fran, the canyons of Utah to our family and friends hearts and homes – where he quickly learns to navigate the terrains and find the treat and the treat holder in each domicile).
Learning Lesson # 1: But, there were other learning lessons that we learned whilst living in Boulder. We LOVE summers in Colorado! We love the people of Colorado! We love the views of Colorado. We love the craft beers of Colorado! We love that Colorado has a FESTIVAL for EVERY THING (there is even one called the Frozen Dead Guy festival – no kidding!)
We strongly dislike (scratch that – we HATE) winters in Colorado. J and I are NOT (let me repeat that so it will truly sink in – we are NOT cold weather people). Of course, it doesn’t help that I don’t even have it in me to dress appropriately for Colorado winters or cold days. I was told on multiple occasions during our time in Colorado that wearing layers of clothes would help me adjust to Colorado living!
The best I could muster up on cold days – a heavy sweat shirt, a beanie (more of a tropical beanie than one for warmth), a scarf, shorts and flip-flops! – true signs of a sun chaser or beach gal!
These are our LAST photos taken in Colorado!
What you don’t see is the utter and complete JOY in my heart knowing that we ARE about to abort the snow season of Colorado to embark upon chasing sunshine. In true form, Bleu was the only CHAMP OF COLORADO COLD LIVING – he was one (the only ONE) of the three of us that didn’t mind the snow days in Boulder (which didn’t bode well for J and I and walking the big GUY – favors were traded for who would walk Bleu – you do what you have to do to survive).
We were truly blessed by J’s mum (who is like the stalker of all weather channels in the WORLD – in fact, we don’t even worry about planning for weather these days because we know we will receive a text to let us know of the current and three day weather forecast in ANY city that we are heading towards – she is truly our guardian angel for all things weather related).
On that same note, she couldn’t bare the thought of us being cold – hence, there was a constant stream of packages including beanies, hoodies, leggings, boots, gloves and my MOST favorite thing which she secured from a yoga boutique – leggings with a hole in the toe area that allowed my calves to be warm whilst wearing my flip flops on the cold days (did I mention she is our guardian of all things weather – the temps and the clothes to ensure we survive).
Learning Lesson # 2:
THE WORLD IS OUR OYSTER! I fell madly and deeply in love with traveling and living little to have more experiences after spending a few years traveling abroad.
I love meeting new people (continues to be my MOST cherished things about the traveling life – THE PEOPLE).
I love having new experiences in new and cool places. I love getting lost in a city and working to navigate my way around.
There is NOTHING better than arriving in a new city and figuring out how to navigate the terrains of a new city.
Boulder, February, 01:
I remember our initial days/months in Boulder. We would drive around utterly lost – yet, always able to find our way around (traveling abroad alone teaches you that you can find anything you need – well.. there was that time in Indonesia that I spent days trying to find sanitary items – but, I eventually found them!).
J and I hadn’t met any of the super cool locals – hence, our social calendar was wide open. We’d google things and then go find them. We’d load up on Sunday and take off for hours of driving with our mouths and eyes wide OPEN taking in the VIEWS (the vast and glorious views).
I traveled to Boulder in 2010 and placed some of my beautiful mum’s remains in a stream that ran down the mountain (it was the first of many letting go moments with my darling departed mother). I remember calling J from the mountain to tell him what I had done – to which, he promptly replied – GOOD FOR YOU – she doesn’t need to be in the top of your closet any longer. I was able to take J to that exact place and share of that time in my life (this occurred during my SEVEN SOLO YEARS).
Upon my return from my last round of international travel – spending 6 months total in Indonesia and India, we felt as though we were ready to settle into something a little more routine.
You don’t know what you don’t know until you try what you don’t know.
We moved to Boulder because it was a magical city where I had gone year after year during the later part of my years in Dallas. Denver is a short flight from Dallas and a 12 hours drive from Dallas (if you leave at 4AM Dallas time / you arrive at 3PM in the afternoon in Boulder). The city was a magical place for me that I could get to quickly. I loved the energy of Boulder. I loved the mountains. It was the place I always yearned to call home.
Having the opportunity to share this move with J in our first full year of reconciliation (for those of you new to my life journey – J was my husband for 13 years of my life – followed by a seven year separation (a.k.a. divorce) and a reconciliation that began our life partnership and friendship in 2014) was an exciting adventure!
The BIGGEST LESSON we learned – we are NOT a one ZIP CODE family!
We are explorers. We are sun and beach chasers (we will always love those of you that love the mountains).
So, fast forward to March of 2016 – We PURCHASED a 29 FOOT RV (a tiny home on wheels) whom we have named Chasing Sunshine. We will be hitting the road to California in a few days! J will fish on a commercial fishing boat (a true LIFE LONG DREAM OF HIS) and I’ll be working with my office mate, Big Bleu whilst continuing to build my digital nomadic business (www.bibuz.com) of delivering GREAT work from the roads of the USA (i’ve delivered from the beaches of Bali, the mountains of Peru, the hotels of India and most recently the island of Maui).
Following that – our plan is to NOT have destination PLAN – We’ll say YES to invitations and see where the roads of the US will take us!
Stay in touch with us. Visit us!
The dream of purchasing an RV and living on the road has roots dating back to 2007 (pre-divorce) for J and I. I’ll share more of our journey to RV living in future updates.
My journey with Team in Training started long before I signed up for my first marathon. I received a Team in Training mailer in 2005. I placed it in my files and looked at it often -thinking, someday, I’ll make my way to the starting line.
The bucket list items was to run a marathon. The goal was to do it with team in training where every step had a purpose.
I did not have a personal connection to anyone who was presently going through blood cancer treatment. Alas, I loved the fact that people were running marathons (getting healthy) and with every step they took they were raising money to find a cure.
Fast forward to 2007: I signed up and ran my first marathon with Team in Training. I gained so much from the entire experience. It was life/game changing experience for me. I met some of the most incredible people.
A few of these people have become life long friends. All of this occurred during my first training season with Team in Training. During my first training season, I met families who were going through chemotherapy treatment. I met young children who were battling and going through chemotherapy. It made the miles that I had to cover seem like nothing compared to what they were enduring to gain a chance at life.
The stories inspired me, moved me, and made me want to keep running for change! RUNNING to find a CURE!
They ARE and continue to be the REAL HEROS in my journey!
I ran my first marathon in April. I immediately signed up to be a mentor during the next training season. I wanted to give back. I was inspired and wanted to inspire someone else to cross the finish line and keep raising money for a CURE.
Again, these memories have changed me forever. At the end of this season, I signed up, raised money and ran another marathon with team in training in San Antonio.
I moved away from Dallas and returned to Uni after my third season with team in training. I continued running on my own with the goal of qualifying for the Boston marathon.
During this period, I covered many miles, states, collected many medals and the ability to proudly claim 5 full marathons and 35 half marathons. Running on my own was a good venture for me – alas, there wasn’t the feeling of connection or the feeling that I was running for CHANGE and a CURE during my solo marathons.
The goal of running a marathon is not one to be taken lightly. In fact, it is like committing to a second job. You have to train and run many miles during the week. The rewards of running a marathon – both mentally and physically are hands down worthy of the second job (especially when coupled with raising dollars for a great cause)!
My personal journey of training for a marathon with team in training and training on my own were noticeably different. Covering the long miles with my team in training team members and our common and shared goal of raising money to fund and continue to search for a cure for cancer made every mile (both long and short) mean something more than personal record (not that this isn’t important — it is!) or another medal.
In 2011, I crossed the finish line of the San Antonio marathon.
This marathon is and will always be my MOST MEMORABLE MARATHON.
I have long held the goal of qualifying for the Boston marathon on my list of things to do during this lifetime. I had the honor and privilege of guiding and encouraging two of the finest athletes to the start/finish line of a full marathon during this season while training for my own personal goal of qualifying for the Big Boston marathon. I was not connected with team in training during this training season (at least I didn’t think I was – big smile!).
Race Day 2011 – San Antonio marathon occurs in November of each year. It also happens to be a Boston qualifying race. The race starts and I am making great progress at the 13.1 mile mark.
I feel strong, courageous, and confident that I can in fact reach my qualifying time.
But. Life happens. In the middle of reaching for a goal – life happens!
I am now at mile 14. I still feel strong and confident in my own race. My goal is within reach ( I can smell it, I can taste it). I look to the right of the road and see the familiar purple jersey of a Team in Training team member.
Remember, I am not running as a team member this season. Alas, one never forgets the feeling of wearing the purple jersey and the spirit of the TEAM.
The man is laying on the ground. He is dehydrated and struggling with massive leg cramps (something any seasoned runner might be aware of!). I run past him and say a silent prayer and well wish that he makes it to the finish line. I cover a few more steps! I realize that I have a choice. I can keep running my own race or I can turn back and help my team member.
I chose the ladder. I ran back to him. Got him off the ground and walked him to the first aid station where we administered salt packets and electrolytes to keep him going.
I proceeded to run/walk the remainder of the race with this man who was running his first marathon while raising funds for the TEAM (the TEAM that I had once been a part of and would always be a part of).
At mile 24, I saw a group of TNT mentors on the side of the road. They saw the purple jersey and gathered around this wonderful man. I made sure they would be with him until he reached the finish line. They promised to take good care of him and get him to 26.2.
I continued my own race to the finish. Boston was no longer within reach for me – Alas, it was no longer the goal!
I crossed the finish line and found my friend waiting for me. He immediately approached me and asked me: “what the hell happened to you out there?” I had no words. I sat down on the ground and cried. I had no words to describe what I had just been blessed to be a part of.
It was the race of my life! To get to stand beside and watch the human spirit come alive in this man will forever be imprinted in my heart!
I have no idea if I would have qualified for the Boston marathon on that day. Anything is possible in the remaining miles of the great race of a marathon (and life in general).
The great things about running with Team in Training is the team spirit! One never forgets being a part of a great team!
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
Run Like Hell. No one is getting out of this thing alive! Follow your heart. Follow your dreams. Give until it hurts.
I recently completed my annual thirty day yoga challenge with myself! This is the second year that I opt’d to challenge myself to sign-up at a studio and go to thirty classes in thirty days.
It brings me great joy to be able to share with you the findings of this ongoing experiment. And, to inform you that I will in fact keep this experiment going.
I started practicing yoga ten years ago. Prior to that, I had attended one yoga class when a colleague invited me. I hated it. My colleague was a former ballet dancer and looked so graceful on her mat. I couldn’t hold a pose and felt as though the class would never end. I left and vowed to never (ever) attend a yoga class again.
Fast forward a few years, I was a member at a little YMCA in Arlington, Texas. I worked out religiously at the YMCA. One particular evening, I decided to find a class instead of hitting the equipment in the gym. The only class that was available was a yoga class. Against my better judgement, I entered the room, found my mat, and have never looked back. Yoga has become a regular part of my life now and I could not imagine my life without YOGA.
But, my yoga practice has changed during the course of the last 10 years. I remember a time when I could not handle the thought of a practice that did not have some form of spiritual wisdom for me to graciously slurp up in 1.5 hours. A class that did not end with a long meditation was not even yoga (even though I never enjoyed sitting meditation)
Yoga became a form of religion for me and in a sense the dogma that I once held around my religious beliefs held true on my yoga mat. Now, I realize that I like my yoga as I like my religion. – many forms, many ideas, many different movements, some with music, some without music, some in the heat, some without heat. The choice is always mine – to take what I like and leave the rest.
Last year, I challenged myself to thirty days of “hotter than hell” Bikram yoga. It was new and it was different. I had just returned to the country from 5.5 months of humanitarian work and traveling around India alone. My foundation had been shaken during my travels and it was DAMN cold when I returned to the states. Thus, I loved the heat of the Bikram rooms. I also loved the fact that since my sleep patterns had been totally high-jacked upon my return (waking up at 3AM each morning) – Bikram was available at 5:30 each morning (it was warm and it was early). And, in many ways – I loved the fact that it was so structured. The same poses done in the same sequence each time for ninety minutes was comforting. The world around me has been spinning around so fast – but, for ninety minutes of a given day – I knew exactly what I was to do. I knew deep inside that Bikram and I were not destined for a long term relationship – but, I enjoyed the hell out of the thirty days. Bikram is not for everyone (including myself). But, I truly respect and honor those that are drawn to the practice.
On the 29th day of my thirty day challenge with Bikram – I was so exhausted when I climbed on my mat at 5:30 a.m. – I went through the first series of poses – then, promptly laid down in savasana for the remaining 60 minutes of the class (something I had never ever ever done in my life). I was DONE! I telephoned a friend following the class and asked if she thought It would be o.k. for me to count that 29th day – being that I had laid out in savasana for the entire practice. She confirmed that she was counting it as a class. But, then, day 30 arrived – I went back for two ninety minute class before calling it quits with Bikram. We were done. I was happy with the experience. Thankful for the practice and ready to be on my way.
So, this year – it was time to seek out and find my next thirty day challenge (which by the way are most notably found by the big sign hanging out front that says – 30 DAYS FOR $30DOLLARS). And, it might not come as a surprise that my life was in another major transition when it was time to embark upon the next 30 day challenge. We arrived in Boulder on February 01, 2015. We knew no one and had no definite plans upon our arrival in Boulder (this has become our new normal and we love it!).
This year it was thirty days of BAPTISTE yoga! I have to share with you – I LOVED every single moment of Baptiste (even considered becoming a monthly member – commitment not made at the time of this writing – times, they are changing)! Bikram has many elements of all the lineages of yoga that I have ever partaken in and enjoyed the fruits of. It had moderate heat (not the temps of a Bikram room), but enough to really make you sweat. There were some elements that were always the same – thus, you knew that at some point during the practice, you’d get to said pose – But, it allowed the teachers the flexibility to add their own flavor and style (which I loved – it wasn’t a cookie cutter with the same things being said over and over).
I enjoyed the wisdom of all the teachers and tried my best to get to classes offered by each and every teacher without becoming attached to certain teachers. I gave myself permission to go at different times to shake up the routine – some weeks I went to the 6:30 a.m. class, some weeks it was the noon class – I gave myself FLEXIBILITY.
So, I will share with you 10 great things that came from my 30 days on the mat.
Without further adieu….
Gratitude: It should be simple to wake up each day and just be thankful that I am alive. Alas, I forget this on MOST days. The gentle reminder of hearing the word “gratitude” always bring me back to the richness and vastness of my human experience.
Checking In with ME:On one particular day, a teacher started the class by asking people to stop for a moment and check-in to see what they needed on this particular day. Without hesitation, my very first thought was calm the F*c& DOWN. Calm Down, Brandi. Life really isn’t as difficult as you sometimes make it out to be. This thought was immediately followed with an internal belly laugh!
Taking time to notice the world: I watched the sun rise each morning as I drove to the yoga studio (on the days that I opt’d for the early a.m. practice). It amazed me how often I forget to simply stop and watch that beautiful sun make it presence known to the world. Whilst I was living in Bali, sunset and sunrise were two of my top priorities. I never missed either of them. But, life gets busy and I get forgetful. Then, one afternoon, I was out running through the mountains. I stopped and threw tear filled eyes admired the beauty and awe of the mountains.
I can always come back to my breath: Life can be scary and overwhelming (as can holding a warrior pose for what seems to be an eternity) – But, I always have the option to slow down and come back to my breath – to give myself permission to stop what I am doing and take a breath.
Community: As any good student of life knows – community is all around us – you simply have to be open to embracing it and engaging with it. I met some really great yogi’s during my thirty day challenge. I have met many great people in yoga studios and classes all over the world. Many of whom I still keep in touch with in some way.
Making a Commitment and Staying the Path:My general nature is that of a Type-A machine — always searching for my next challenge. I equally love and loathe this part of me (but, it is me and I must find healthy ways to embrace these parts of me). Sure, there were days when I really didn’t feel like driving to the yoga studio and crawling on the yoga mat – But, I made the commitment with myself and I could not and would not allow that commitment to be dishonored. This is a valuable lesson that I take with me in all parts of my life. I often remind myself – I can do anything for XX amount of days – and, truth be told – I always felt like a TRUE ROCK STAR after every class that I took.
Restore and Relax classes are just as good as POWER: I took several relax and restore classes during the thirty day challenge. I once held the belief that if you weren’t sweating and exhausted at the end of a yoga class – you must not have worked hard enough! I utterly and thoroughly enjoyed holding poses and taking time to breathe!
Honoring & Acknowledging the teacher in all: It was a great honor to practice and hear the wisdom of each person whom lead a yoga class during my thirty day challenge. Each one of us bring such vibrant color, conversation and experience to the world. It was a true honor to be present and allow people to share this in community. To take the wisdom of each person who dared to sit in front of a class and be the guide. Namaste – I honor the wisdom in each of you.
The great yogic reminder: I have tight hips. I may always have tight hips. Thus, there are poses that no matter how long I practice – I may never (EVER) master the pose. And, this. this is OK. 40 years, people! It has taken every single day of 40 years of being alive to be OK where I am and with who I am.
Things Change. Perspectives Change. Do not resist the change. Honor where you are today: As I mentioned earlier, Yoga has been an evolutionary experience for me. My yoga practice has kept me grounded during some of the toughest times of my life and some of the most daring times of my life (arriving in a new country with my yoga mat). At one time, my yoga had become dogmatic. It had to be structured in a way that was catapulting me to enlightenment. My time was short here and I couldn’t be bothered with something that wasn’t moving the needle forward. Case in point, I used to get utterly and totally offended if a teacher would play mainstream music during a yoga practice – to the point of walking out of a class. – I realized the times of change had made there way onto my yoga mat when during my recent thirty day challenge – a great yogi walked in with a shirt that said: “Outlaw Yoga” on the front with skull and announced that he might have partaken in too many beers the night before – but it was time to get this “F&C****” yoga practice going! This great yogi shared some truly incredible wisdom in every single class that I partook with him. This great yogi infused some of the greatest music into some of the greatest mat time I have experienced. It was beautiful. It was different. And, I liked it.
My thirty day challenge is over. I am back on my mat with my home practice. And, I am ever grateful for the time and space that I participated in for thirty days. I love having a healthy home practice – it is incredibly convenient to be able to get on my mat at a time that suits me. But, there is much I will miss about being part of a community for 30 days. I am thinking of doing another 30 days with another totally new style of yoga.
Until then, being in great gratitude for the rest of my days is all I got.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
This week, I read a fantastic article this week that discussed the 9 reasons that travel makes you smarter (source citation: http://bit.ly/1JLyOdz). The article resonated with me on every level and I thought of the many ways that travel has increased my mind share, opened my heart and allowed my heart to explode with a great love of life that I had not previously experienced.
This also launched a trip down memory lane for me – memory is a wonderful thing when you can go back and revisit previous experiences that you created and didn’t realize would have a lasting impact on your life. Thus, I share with you some of the amazing experiences that I encountered when I started traveling.
1. Activates the Mind
The first time you travel to a new country is when you realize that most of your day to day life is lived on autopilot. The routine of your day you normally do not acknowledge like how you communicate, travel from home to work, get ready for work, cook your food, eat your food and go to the bathroom. I can imagine the shock of using a bidet for the first time and not knowing anything about it. The habits you have become used to that no longer require conscious effort to accomplish are gone. In a new place, your mind must be active and ready to learn much like a kid attending his first day in school.
My personal experience of how travel activated my mind. Traveling to a new land for me is exhausting and exhilarating! It is exhausting because it forces one to always keep an open mind – to remain in a state of “going with the flow”. I always return from an “off the grid” travel experience exhausted but filled with the great memories of my time away. In this great place of “flow” – serendipity occurs!
My first solo-travel experience took me to Bali, Indonesia. I was completely and utterly lost – yet, I felt completely at ease with not knowing. This came as a real shock to my control freak nature – the one who always needed to know the next step – the next task – the next to do that would be checked off the list. I carried along a 50 pound pack (looking back I took much shit – something I am still working on whilst traveling) that held my most cherished possessions (i.e. the things that were familiar to me).
I stayed on the outer edges of Bali during my 2.5 months of solo travel. I would move from place to place as people would recommend that I “go see” something in another area of Bali. I spent no time researching the places people would recommend – I’d simply pack up my bags, grab a taxi (until I figured out the mastery of driving a moped in Bali) and move onto my next destination. Each morning as I would wake up – I would say the following prayer silently: “Please take me to the places I need to go, allow me to meet the people I need to meed and share the experiences I need to experience whilst I am here”. There was so much freedom in having the ability to move from place to place at the drop of a hat. If I liked a place where I was staying – I could stay over for a few more days. If I didn’t like the place I was staying and playing – I could move onto the next destination. The freedom I found in those moments has NEVER EVER left me – I remain thankful! And, yes, I did learn to use an Asian style toilet during my stay.
This photo was taken during lunch with my family in San Francisco as I waited for my mid-night departure to Bali. I remember this moment and this photo as if it were taken yesterday. I had never in my life experienced fear and excitement in equal parts. I was excited for what awaited me on the other side – yet, terrified to leave the comforts of my life, my family, my friends – MY ROUTINE! But, I pressed through it. Now, I realize when FEAR and EXCITEMENT are conjuring up inside of me in life and I know that I must get on the other side of fear to see what awaits me!
Traveling to a new country expands our awareness and introduces us to greater diversity. It’s likely you might help a person pick up their home after a monsoon or help a child fight starvation. There are things happening in the world we can only imagine on our TV screens.
In 2011, I was invited on a humanitarian trip to South America. We were going into a remote village to assist 800+ men, women and children. A medical doctor accompanied us on the trip. Our mission was to build a much needed free standing classroom, vaccinate the children, cook meals and play with the children of the village. I NEVER in my life could have imagined how much this trip would change my life.
My life changed the moment we walked into this village. I truly had no idea that people living in third world countries had little to no access to some of the most basic human needs. I felt blessed to be an American and horrified that I lived with so much while others didn’t have the basic needs. The children were infected with intestinal parasites from not having access to clean water. But, there was something else that amazed and inspired me during this time – I felt a connectedness of the people in the village as we worked and observed their daily life. They didn’t have televisions or mobile devices – thus, you could find an entire family sitting together enjoying a meal where everyone was present. My life changed from the time spent in that village.
This little girl captured my heart the moment we entered the village. She was playful and afraid. She would come and find me every single day and then run the moment our eyes met. Her name is Cynthia. I have never forgotten this little beautiful little girl.
3. Connect to New People
If you are lucky you will meet a few people from different countries who will teach you about their culture. If possible, maybe a few pen pals as well! They can continue to share with you their culture and you can further practice a new language instead of embarrassing yourself at the local Chinese restaurant where you end up talking in a fake Chinese accent thinking they understand you better that way.
I met so many incredible people from every part of the world you can imagine during my solo-travels. Thus, I recommend everyone in this life time take a solo trip. A solo trip forces you to open up and meet new people (honestly, this was one of my favorite parts of traveling – meeting new people).
I spent equal parts of my time traveling alone and traveling with people from all walks of life. It never failed me – I would walk into a restaurant or coffee shop – sit down to order my coffee and the next thing I knew I was engaged in a conversation. I loved learning and hearing the views of my fellow human travelers. I realized that as different as we think we are – we are much the same – the human experience!
One of my most favorite encounters was a time I was sitting outside the Circle K in Bali enjoying a tea. A Balinese woman drove in on her moped. We exchanged smiles (a smile – the universal human language). She asked me my name. I told her. Then, without hesitation – she invited me to visit her family and her home. I didn’t even remotely hesitate – jumped on my moped, followed her home and shared an entire afternoon with this family.
I met these two amazing women during my 2012 travels. And, I connected with both of them again in 2013. They have become family. I met both of them in restaurants as I traveled alone. Then, I continued on traveling with each of them. You are truly never alone when you go.
4. Slows Us Down
One of the more obvious reasons to travel is to take a break from your life. Working, caring for a family, caring for a home, socializing, and responsibilities – they all contribute to our fast-paced lifestyle. Traveling offers the opportunity to live slowly and in the present. Enjoy yourself! Here you can see the habits in your life for what they are with a priceless clarity. It’s possible you might discover that 4 hours of gaming a day is not really a priority!
This is perhaps the most important and valuable lesson that travel has taught me. It is OK to SLOW DOWN. It is OK to take a BREAK from life. I somehow missed that MEMO in life. It is also something that I have to try (really hard) to keep with me upon my return to the U.S.
This week has been a great example of how quickly I can get caught up in LIFE. I woke up this week and watched the beautiful sunrise over the mountains here in Colorado. Later that afternoon – I was out for a run and looked up and literally cried when I took in the beauty of the mountains as I was out running (holy shit – holy shit- so beautiful). The next morning as I was dashing out the door – I noticed a little purple flower that must be native to Colorado and is blooming all around me. There is so much beauty in the world – And, I cannot tell you how often I forget to STOP and ENJOY it.
Whilst traveling, sunsets and sunrises are always a top priority for me. I get up to wait for the sun to come up and I sit down to watch the sun escape into the vast ocean. Watching sunsets and sunrises during my travels was such a beautiful reminder to me that slowing down is important. Yet, I forget this when I get back into the busy life.
Sunset in Bali, Indonesia.
“People ask me, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is of no use.’There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behaviour of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron… If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.”
― George Mallory, Climbing Everest: The Complete Writings of George Mallory
As I crawled onto my yoga mat on Monday – I took a stroll down memory lane. It wasn’t intentional – alas, I started to think about the journey that I have been on with this yoga mat. This mat has become my security blanket – a refuge from life – the calmness and storms of life. A safe place for me to be still while the world spins around. Oh, the places I have gone on this yoga mat – both in physical form (as I landed on new terrains and explored new countries with my mat handing over my shoulder) to the mental places and feelings I have allowed myself to explore whilst being still on this mat.
Funny, I have crawled onto this very mat throughout the last 10 years of life – alas, on Monday, peering down from a downward dog stance – I noticed the indentions and the worn and tattered areas of my yoga mat. The place where my feet and hands land on the mat are worn almost to the ground. The corner of my mat is tattered and torn by one of the dogs who have accompanied me throughout life. There is an odor that comes from my mat – its not a good smell or a bad smell – perhaps a smell of all the sweat and at times tears that I have shed throughout the last ten years while being on this mat.
As I peered around at the other mats in the room – a splendor of colors and patterns, I thought – perhaps it is time for me to get a new yoga mat. Instantly, I changed my mind. I love the worn areas, the smells, the memories, the treks around the world – all of it done with this yoga mat hanging over my shoulder or on the floor of wherever I called home for that moment.
This yoga mat has been my security blanket – the place where I allowed myself to feel all the emotions of life – the place where I have allowed myself to dream of what life could be – the place I always yearn for when the world is spinning and spiraling around. I feel safe allowing myself to dream, discover, and explore on my yoga mat.
My world took a new shape in 2007. It started when I climbed on a yoga mat in a studio. The world slowed down. For the first time in a long time – I could hear myself think. And, I didn’t run from hearing myself for the first time in my life while on that yoga mat. The world slowed down for that one hour when I crawled on the mat. I kept going back for more. I allowed all the necessary yearnings to come forward. From that place, I made one of the hardest decisions of my life.
Instead of looking at all the external factors of my life (which is where I tried to find my happiness) – the yoga mat allowed me to really feel and hear the internal factors of my life – which was a place I equally feared and yearned for. I was afraid to look inside and listen to what my heart and soul was searching for.
Intuitively, I knew that I was about to go on a journey of the soul – yet, I had no idea where that journey would take me. Alas, I knew I had to go and explore. I lived at the crossroad whilst I tried to figure out which road to take – always going back to my mat to find refuge from the storm.
In 2007, I embarked upon a journey of healing. I started to heal from years of major and great losses in my life on the heels of the most pressing loss – which was a divorce. My family had lost so many people in our immediate family to tragic and immediate deaths – we walked around numb, shocked, and yet scared to death of who might be next. I had no idea how those deaths had touched my life. I had no idea how I changed the course of my life to try and find stability, balance, and structure after each of the losses. My family is strong. We were taught to be strong. To get up and to move on. In 2007, it all fell apart.
The grief came out like a volcano erupting. I was scared to death – but knew I had to face and go through the process to come out on the other side. My yoga mat was the place where I allowed myself to feel those feelings. The place where I allowed those feelings to make themselves known. I cried on that mat. I felt the sadness for the loss. And, I also allowed myself to start dreaming on this yoga mat (this is where my first seed of travel was planted).
In the years that followed, I left my corporate job to return to school full-time. I was determined to go back and live the experiences that I missed out on whilst dealing with life and loss. Again, I found comfort on this yoga mat. Eventually, I sold most of my possessions and boarded a plane to a foreign county.
At each of these twists and turns – when the world was spinning around me – I always went back to my yoga mat.
So, I have decided to keep this warn and tattered yoga mat. It has and will always represent a place of comfort. A place where I can allow myself to dream, slow down, and be where my feet are.
Yes, all this occurred in a 60 minute class! This. This is why I have such a special place for this old yoga mat.