So I’ve been getting headaches more frequently than normal the last few months. At first, I chalked it up to stress or the travel. And then I got frustrated... distraught... I went through denial that it was a thing. And then came the day I allowed myself to wonder the dreaded question: Could it be coffee?
Cringe with me: “Nooooooooo... NO! It can't be! I can’t give up coffee!”
But after the last migraine, I decided it was worth a shot to not have to experience headaches like that anymore. As I write this, I’ve spent over two weeks without coffee (and I’m still living!). And this small example in my own life reminds me of something the great Yogananda once said to a student.
A tiny bit of background: Paramahamsa Yogananda's autobiography — titled Autobiography of a Yogi — is one of the most iconic books in yoga today, about his life spent bringing the yogic teachings from the Himalayas to the west in the early 1900s. (You'll even find it on our yoga teacher training required reading list because his Kriya Yoga practices and Meditation Technique are from the same lineage as what we learn in Yoga Hive's YTT!)
In Awake, the documentary about Yogananda’s life, there’s an interview with one of his students where he recalls a conversation with Yogananda — the one that popped into my head this morning. The student was asking his teacher what he's not allowed to do as a student of yoga.
Yogananda: Do you smoke?
Yogananada: You may continue. Do you drink alcohol?
Yogananda: You may continue. Do you enjoy the opposite sex promiscuously?
Yogananda: Well, you may continue!
Student: Wait a minute. You mean, I can come up on this hill ... with all these wonderful people ... and study these teachings, and I can go back down there and do all these things?
Yogananda: Absolutely! But I will not promise you that as you continue to study these teachings that the desire to do these things won't fall away from you.
That’s just it: On the path of yoga, over time, our preferences change. What charms us refines. Sometimes the people we surround ourselves with changes, too.
At first, this can seem abrupt and unfair. Why is this happening to me?! Why am I the one that has to live without this person, this food, this drink, this activity? Or in my case: Why coffee? Why now?
What I’ve learned through yoga is that change is ultimately good in all its forms, and that life doesn't happen TO us. It happens FOR us. Looking at life that way shifts everything — and it doesn't eliminate the inevitable pain of being a human sometimes... but it does eliminate unnecessary suffering. Change becomes a surefire sign we’re moving forward, and everything is (always) working out.
This is a yogi's evolution.
It’s not that I don’t love coffee anymore — I had a delicious decaf Americano at Coffee Traders this past weekend. (And conveniently, all the studios are stocked with my favorite, subtly caffeinated Green Tea!) The point is that coffeewas becoming a crutch. Yoga teaches us to release attachment, and that’s exactly what I knew my body needed.
Although my body's demands don't stop at merely giving up coffee; this decision has led me down another path of self-discovery, changing my skincare and makeup routine to non-toxic products, creating new essential oil blends, employing the healing modalities of functional medicine, acupuncture, and chiropractic to adjust other things happening within.
My point is: The body knows.
I bet you, too, have heard that voice in the back of your mind begging for something you know is good for you. Or begging you to stop a habit you’ve had for years. Or a deep desire to try something new.
And like me and coffee, who knows! It’s not: I’m giving up coffee as long as I live. If I looked at things that way, I’d go crazy… and I can be super stubborn, so I’d probably have a coffee just to spite myself.
Rather, giving up coffee and walking this path is just for now, until I — or my body — feels like I need a change again.
So wherever you’re at, maybe this will be the nudge you need to make that change your body has been asking for.
I'll never forget the day: I was 16 years old, and it was four days after I'd gotten my drivers' license.
It was early evening, and I was driving my car, listening to Softcell - Tainted Love. The beats were on full blast, and I can even remember the sunglasses I was wearing. I'd just earned a lead role in my school's musical, so I was headed to an evening rehearsal. The midwest September sun was just on the horizon at eye level — not a cloud in the sky. The sun was blinding.
So blinding that when I turned left to cross what appeared to be an empty lane of on-coming traffic, I didn't even see the motorcyclist I accidentally cut off... until he crashed into my car.
The series of events that happened after this moment set the course for a pivotal direction in my life. The man lived and recovered, thank God. The guilt I felt, the pain he dealt with, and the actions taken to rectify the situation aren't relevant to this story.
What's relevant for the specific purpose of this email is how subsequent events shaped my view of the world for the next 15 years of my life.
The day after the accident, hand-written signs appeared around my high school that bashed me (by name) for what I had done, including cruel, personal jabs about my character and my family. I was mortified, ashamed, and devastated.
I can pinpoint this as the moment I started unconsciously worrying about what other people thought of me. Not the people who matter (the man, the authorities, etc.), but people who are irrelevant to the story. The people who anonymously write signs and plaster them all over our high school. The people who made comments at me under their breath in the hallways. The people who have no idea who I am, or what exactly happened — who have never spoken with me, face-to-face.
When I went to college two years later, it was like I got a blank slate — no one knew me and my stories. I could start fresh. But things like this don’t just get flushed down the toilet of existence. They get tucked into a corner until the time is right to overflow. Unbeknownst to College-age me, I spent those years living with that same underlying “truth” that it matters what people think about me.
It wasn't until I started walking the path of yoga 10 years ago (not just making shapes with my body, but yoga as a way of life) that I began to see the impact of this event. I may not have been physically injured in the crash, but I had stayed so deeply entangled with this idea that other people's opinions of me matter to my success or failure.
For so long, my problem was my past. "I'm sorry for what I did. The signs people made about me screwed me up." But what took me so long to realize was my role in the creation of (and continued power given to) that problem by allowing it to screw me up. The isolation and guilt I felt as the wrong-doer, fear and unnecessary concern of what others were saying about me, and seeking validation to support my position… all of those things aren’t me. I am not defined by my past. I am only right now.
Let me say that again, because it’s so freeing:
I am not defined by my past. I am only now.
This is Self Realization—the ultimate goal of yoga.
What's mind-blowing is that Self Realization cannot be pushed on anyone. We see this in action every time we watch a loved one suffer (and incessantly try to help "fix" the situation, to no avail). Self Realization couldn't have been forced on me back in high school... or in college. And can't be forced on you simply by reading this email. That’s why it’s called SELF Realization. It’s the Realization of the Self — through no other means other than the SELF. Whether it takes 15 years or 15 minutes to see the Truth, it needs to be self realized.
Looking back, am I incredibly sorry for what happened? Yes, always have been. Can I make it go away? No. Did the entire situation shape my world which has brought me to this place I am today? Yes.
And that’s how we change our past. We simply change the lens through which we look. Every experience in our lives shines a new value as we look into the review mirror… and at any moment, we can use that lens to change course and drive in a different direction.
And you know what? I think that's the point.
When I think about trust, I imagine little building blocks, stacked up in towers. Each person in my life has their own tower. And each block represents trust.
I've been listening to Brené Brown's latest book, Dare to Lead on Audible lately, and she talks a lot about vulnerability and trust. I love how she reminds us that long-lasting trust is not necessarily built by big, sweeping accomplishments or acts. Trust is built in the small moments over time. The little blocks we stack on top of one another, showing the depth and height of trust we have for another human. It's the little things... when someone remembers your birthday, or notices your new haircut and gives you a compliment. When someone does something they know you need before you even have to ask. Trust can be built by someone just showing up for you.
And just as easy as it is to place a block on top, you (or someone in your life) can knock that entire fragile mountain over with one swipe of your hand. And then we begin again, from scratch.
For our purposes in studio classes, workshops, and especially with programs like BeYou, BeStill and Yoga Teacher Training, we are building trust within. We are slowing, stacking the blocks (maybe blocks we've never stacked before!) one on top of the other, building trust within ourselves that the shapes we're making with our body, the thoughts we're journaling, or what we're feeling is OK. That what we're digging into is a good idea.
And then the ultimate: We get to a point with our mountain of blocks that we simply trust. Everything in our life is always working out — even when it seems hard... no, scratch that. Especially when it seems hard. Somehow, someday, we'll see the light in those moments of darkness.
As you're working through your own yoga practice, meditation or just trying to survive your week, remember: You've spent weeks, months, even years building that mountain of trust in your life up to this point. So changing that way of life to practice more yoga, eat healthier, or spend more time in silence (or any other shifts you're working on) might feel hard. And you may feel defeated, just as often as you feel elated. Keep those building blocks in your mind, and remember that as you learn to trust, you place another block on the top. While I wouldn't say to you "go easy on yourself," I would say: Don't dwell on it if you've missed something, or if you've knocked your mountain of blocks down in one swoop.
Accept it, and begin again. Every mountain begins with just one block.
You've heard it before. You might have seen (or used!) the hashtag #BeHereNow. Maybe you have a T-shirt with that phrase written on it. Finding moments of pure presence is something we all strive for, isn't it?
(And forgive me for a longer email today... I'm in teacher training mode. Our YTT starts in just two weeks, and I geek out on stuff like this!)
I'm going to let you in on a secret: "Being fully present" to a yogi isn't the end-goal. Rather, it's the means to living an enlightened life... every single day, every single moment. Let me explain.
One of the most important bodies of work in the yogic tradition is Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. (His name is pronounced Pah-TAHN-jah-lee.) The sanskrit word Sutra can be thought of similar to our English word suture, which the internet says means "an immovable junction." And instead of referring to something medically related (as we would in English), the Yoga Sutras are the stepping stones for how to walk the yogic path, and they build on one another. Each sutra cannot exist without the sutra before it.
So it stands to reason that the first of 196 Yoga Sutras is the most important one: Atha yoga anushasanam. It translates to: Now, yoga begins.
And here, when Patanjali says "yoga," he doesn't just mean striking a warrior 2 or a down dog. Yoga — as Patanjali intends it — refers to a way of life that is all yoga. In fact, in the entire Yoga Sutras, he only mentions asana (meaning poses that we practice on our mat) three times! Thus, yoga truly is a non-dogmatic way of life we can all walk within ourselves, for ourselves, as part of this great collective consciousness.
Before my recent trip to India, I understood this first sutra... but I don't think I truly felt the depth of its power. My teacher, Anand Mehrotra describes this powerful NOW in a podcast I was listening to this morning, and I wanted to include a snippet for you. Anand says:
"You see, it all begins now. This is the most powerful moment that exists in time. For that's the only time you will ever experience: This moment, here and now. So if there has to be a beginning, it can only be now. Just like the wake of the ship; when you look behind the ship, you see the wake. But realize that the cause of that wake does not lie in the past. The cause of that wake is the ship in the present moment. It is THIS moment that is the cause of the past and the future. It is not the past which is the cause of this moment. You have to realize that. That it all begins now."
And that nugget about the past not causing this moment is HUGE! Let's read that again,
"It is not the past which is the cause of this moment."
How is that possible? Our lens.
We each have a lens that we're viewing the world through. An ever-changing lens, that can morph when you have an epiphany, or come to an understanding. Your entire worldview shifts. We even have a lens when we're clouded in a state of emotion, rather than a state of stillness.
Let's look at an example: Imagine people who were once proponents of smoking cigarettes. Today, we know this is wrong on many levels, and smoking is a direct cause of many aspects of dis-ease. But years ago, for many, smoking was the "now."
After we started understanding smoking was bad for our health, our lens changed. What once was right was now wrong. The fact of cigarette smoking happening didn't change... the idea ABOUT cigarettes changed. Thus, we can change our lens and thus, our view of past in the blink of an eye.
Or, for some, that lens is still in the process of changing over the course of many years, battling addiction, understanding, disease, and so on. For others, knowledge of the facts of smoking hasn't changed the lens at all; the smoking goes on.
Knowing that the past does not cause your now (remember the wake of the ship!), is it possible to — in the here and now — shift your lens and view moments in your life through a different lens? Even if your answer is no, I would encourage you to think instead: Not yet. And know that everything — even our shifting worldview — is happening in perfect time. Be gentle with yourself... and enjoy NOW!
After two relatively sleepless nights traveling across the country, I sat on the bed of my hotel room in Nashville earlier this week and closed my eyes for meditation. It wasn't 30 seconds in that I heard them...
Birds. Chirping outside my window.
Such a simple moment. Even as I realized they were there, they were gone — it was a fleeting experience that could have so easily gone unnoticed. But it didn't... and that makes all the difference.
Hearing the birds, or looking up into a clear night sky filled with stars, or seeing a pale, translucent moon on the horizon in early evening… these tiny moments represent pure presence. Noticing those little things can transport my tired, monkey mind into a silent, pure field of awareness — like the flick of a switch.
But I didn't always recognize this.
A few years ago, I spent most of a hot, Montana summer with Sean, building a tiny cabin on our property for a show on DIY/Discovery called Building Off Grid. And when I say building a house, I mean literally Sean and I (along with some incredibly generous friends) out there with our bare hands: Building. A. House. (Mind you: Without any experience building other than a yurt!). Our timeline was tight — the network gave us three months. THREE MONTHS.
Let’s just say I have incredible respect for those who make their living building homes.
But that summer was stressful in many ways — the house was one thing. Sean had just gone through a second autoimmune diagnosis of Lupus, and a broken ankle during the build process, which he’s very open about. Yoga Hive was still very fledgling and I was working my buns off to figure out how to best serve our communities.
I was burning out.
Until the day I heard the birds —which didn’t happen until after the TV crews were gone and the house was built. I remember thinking, “THIS! This is what I was missing!”
Hearing the birds transports me out of future worries… away from past regrets… straight to the present moment. And I still use that technique to this day; when in doubt, turn to nature to flip my perspective. It's almost so simple, it seems too simple. But as I gain more life experience each year, I realize over and over again that the simplest things are often the ones we need the most.
(And if you absolutely can't hear the birds? Then, yoga!)
Hands down: Worst feeling ever.
It was Sunday afternoon, and I was sitting in my hotel room in Washington DC before catching my flight back to Montana Monday morning. I was laying in bed, exhausted from a 3-day Riding On Insulin ski/snowboard camp with kids, and I hopped on Instagram to post about my upcoming Chakra workshop (tonight in Whitefish!). I noticed @YogaHiveMontana had a new message.
It was a sweet note from a friend, who mentioned she was waiting outside the Columbia Falls studio for me, wondering if everything was OK.
It was a slow connection for my brain to piece together... I wasn't sure exactly what she meant. Had I made plans to meet her there? I hadn't seen her in a while. What classes were happening at the studio? Did an instructor miss their class.....
UGH. There it was: It was me.
For the first time in nearly four years of running Yoga Hive, I spaced on getting a sub for my 10:30am class on Sunday morning in Cfalls.
[Can you feel it, too?] Instant sinking feeling in the gut... followed by a few minutes of research on who had registered online, and then many more minutes sending apology emails, texting around to see who could have been waiting outside... all the while just feeling like garbage.
I know we're all human, and these things happen. I even tell new Yoga Hive teachers it happens at least once to everyone, and we expect that it shouldn't happen twice. Now I can say with confidence that it's even happened to me... and I know how it feels!
But how do we own up to our mistake, and transform that awful feeling in the gut to something positive at the end of the day?
Monday morning, nearly a day later, I was still beating myself up about it. I knew I needed to pull out of that negative headspace. Coincidentally, I got an email that morning from Danielle Laporte. She's currently running a free online course for her Firestarter Sessions content, and the first line of her email was, "Mistakes happen."
You can say that again!
She goes on, "Big, dumb, stupid, lazy mistakes. Fat frickin’ messes that you will regret for a very long time. And no affirmation or predeterministic thinking will change the fact that you’ve done wrong. And when you can get that real about it, you don’t need to waste energy protecting your ego or pouring on the sweetener. You can use that energy to clean up the mess and love yourself while you’re doing it."
DLP closes that paragraph with the best nugget that I SO needed to hear:
"Failure only turns into a lesson if it shifted your perspective or the way that you behave. It’s not a gift unless it transforms you."
I worked through the Comfort Zoning worksheet she provided with the email to remind myself of the things I can turn to when I need to lift myself up (reply here if you want a copy — happy to pass it along!). Through that work, I remembered that for me, confronting failure and shifting my negative guilt into a positive outcome happens if I write about it... like I always do. Of course I'm going to be EXTRA cautious getting subs for future classes—that's a no brainer. But taking it one step further and helping others is the best way I can transform a mistake into good for the world.
So here I am. And I'm so sorry!
If you were waiting outside the Cfalls studio this past weekend and haven't received a personal email from me, please reply here and I'll do everything in my power to make it right. If this has ever happened to you at any time in the history of Yoga Hive and you feel we haven't made it right, reply here and tell me about it. Trust is built over the course of many small acts... and I know I speak on behalf of all our instructors at Yoga Hive when I say: We don't take our responsibility to you lightly!
And for anyone out there who has made a mistake of your own: YOU GOT THIS. Own it, do what you can to make it right, and move on. Let the guilt go by correcting your intellect and changing your behavior over time. [And it goes without saying: I know how you feel!]
When I was a kid, my mom told me I’d scream if I was left in a sandbox. I’d cry if I stained a new outfit. I absolutely couldn’t stand being dirty. To this day, every time I stain a new outfit (which is literally anytime I put something new on my body), I still have this fleeting moment of disappointment.
Flash forward to spending summers at summer camp. At camp, being dirty was the name of the game. Intermittent showers... playing outside 90% of the time... running around in the mud, dirt, sand, you name it. Dirt-phobia didn’t stand a chance, and I loved it. I felt like myself — more focused on my alignment with the earth, than being attached to material "things."
I was practicing the yogic principle of non-attachment before I even knew what a "down dog" was!
Then after my junior year in college, I stopped spending summers in Northern Wisconsin, and I didn’t spend a ton of time getting dirty. In fact, I was the Style Editor of a women’s magazine, so my job was the exact opposite of getting dirty. I shopped a lot. Spent all my spare money on clothes. I was indoors most of my days.
Unbeknownst to me, that weird, unexplainable childhood phobia set back in. I was attached to all my things — and I clung to them, and I incessantly aimed to keep free of animals, dirt, and messes. At one point, my closet bar literally collapsed under the weight of all my stuff.
Enter: Off grid living.
People ask me all the time why I choose to live off grid (defined as without access to city sewer/water and off the electrical grid). Why would someone who owns three yoga studios, works part time for a nonprofit, and splits her time between Montana, Alaska and Wisconsin, and needs all the time she can get, live in a way that takes… more time?
Excellent question. (And yes, there are days when I ask myself that, too!)
Sure, it's hard work. Chopping wood. Waking up to 40-degree (or colder!) mornings when the fire in the wood stove goes out. Struggling to start a fire because the pipes aren't drafting. Hauling 7-gallon water jugs in a sled up a steep hill. Riding a snowmachine or 4-wheeler miles from where I park my car... in the rain, snow, ice, mud or shine.
But truly, the benefits outweigh the challenges by a long shot.
When I’m on the grid, I’m less aware of my consumption, less aware of my surroundings, and to be honest? Less likely to go outside as often.
This is why I love living off grid because it helps me feel like myself. I regularly appreciate the wind. The birds. The moon cycles. The snow and rain. My days — and power source — are governed by the sun, and my survival is dependent on my own will, instinct and desire. I get that feeling I got at summer camp, year-round!
And if all those good vibes require some extra time? I’m willing to pay the price if it means I can feel the earth under my feet and see the stars overhead.
When else in history have we known so many random details about people’s lives? I know for me, at any give moment, I might know what my seventh grade teacher, my family friend in Sweden, and my neighbor are all having for dinner... right in the same moment. A photo posted Instagram shows her candlelit meal for two. Facebook shows his check-in at a local BBQ restaurant. The third is tagged in a photo next to a giant plate of nachos.
All at my fingertips, like I was there. (Except I wasn't.)
I had lunch with a friend a while back, and I congratulated her for a big award she won at her company. I was so excited to hear all about it when I saw it on Facebook — it was the first thing out of my mouth when we sat down to eat. She thanked me, and quickly shook off her smile and admitted, “Well, that’s not even half the story. What I didn’t post was how hard my year was leading up to that award. I’m exhausted.”
She went on, sharing how her life really was. It was such a simple comment—and I normally wouldn’t think twice about it. But when I left the restaurant, something clicked. My mind was blown as I realized she was right: Despite all our “connections” online, and despite how happy she looked with her award, we never have the whole story. We don’t even have HALF the story of someone else’s life.
An online connection can be great: It inspires a sense of curiosity. We want to connect with something bigger than ourselves. We are intrigued by things that inspire us.
But here’s the secret that applies to our life as yogis: More often than not, we’re reaching for something outside ourselves — seeking a pat on the back, an ear to listen to our woes, or a LIKE on social media, just to validate that we’re on the right track in our life. To avoid going inward (consciously or not), we get wrapped up in the “story” of someone else’s life online, when what we “know” is only a tiny shred of reality.
But what if we just knew that we were on the right track, without a shadow of doubt? What if we didn’t need (or crave) the external validation that we’re awesome?
Believe it: Meditation gets us there.
It improves our inward relationship, and consequently our relationship with those around us.
Meditation isn’t tied to any religion, requires no “body type” or “mental capacity.” You might have heard the word "mindfulness," and yes, the are elements of that... but this practice we'll learn isn't going to make your mind FULL. (If it does, then we have a problem!) It's going to get you into a place of stillness, emptiness and pure awareness. The only requirement is being human. If you’re a human being, you’re capable of shifting the way you live through meditation.
And here’s a fun fact: In the east, meditation and yoga aren’t different. They’re the same. They’re like yin and yang — meditation is as much a part of yoga as downward dog. Our bodies need to be still just as much as they need to be moved. Western marketing just altered things to be more “palatable” and separated the two.
So if you’re loving the yoga classes, and ready to take your practice to the next level, it’s time to stop wondering with a mind full of thoughts. Keep your curiosity. Instead, start wandering down your own path of meditation. Achieving regular access to that field of silence within each of us is the greatest gift we can give our body, mind and spirit.
My alarm went off at 6:30am, and when I opened my eyes, I couldn't see anything.
It was my first morning back from India, and with the sun rising around 10am in Alaska, the cabin was still pitch black when I woke. Disoriented and bleary-eyed after five flights (yes, 5!) and 35+ hours of travel, I laid there and started negotiating.
... with myself.
You've done this too, haven't you? Thought to yourself, "If I get to lay here for 5 more minutes with my eyes closed, I'll make 5 extra minutes for 'me time' later this afternoon. AND I'll go to bed early. And..... and.... [Before you know it] Zzzzzz."
Then you wake up an hour later, realize you missed your first appointment, the dogs are barking like crazy to go outside and you make the mistake of looking at the 14 text messages you've received before 8am.
Yeah. This was NOT going to be one of those times.
I was determined. I shut down all negotiations, sat up, brushed my teeth, splashed water on my face, and found my way to a comfortable seat on the couch, propped up on a pillow. I put in my ear buds in and ignored ever fiber of my being, begging me to crawl back into bed.
I dove into my daily 30-minute meditation.
That decision and commitment set the tone for my life since returning to the USA. After living with a routine in India from 6am to 9pm, out of my comfort zone, totally immersed in the yoga and meditation, I figured if I could bring home just 60 minutes of routine to my life, then my world as an entrepreneur, wife, sister, daughter etc. would change for the better.
I was right; change being the operative word.
For the last 10 years of my life, I was one of those people who, when asked about my daily routine, would laugh and admit nothing about my daily life was "routine."
You guys know this! (Especially if you've tried to set a coffee date with me.) Every day was different, "situations" would arise and I would deal with them the same way I always did, worry about them afterward — exhausted by the end of it, and move onto the next fire to extinguish. Yet, I thought things would get better. I thought my luck would change.
I look back and think about how much energy I wasted on my phone, stressing about emails, or colleagues, taking things personally, or allowing negotiations in my head to run on repeat, justifying habits that weren't serving me anymore. I would resolve to go back to bed, or not go to that yoga class, or skip meditation to "catch up on sleep."
The only thing it seems I was committed to was remaining exactly the same, waiting for the world to change around me.
Flash forward to today, I've integrated a few simple rituals to my daily routine and they've made all the difference. And despite added to-do's, my capacity for growth, clarity, and happiness has expanded.
It's like the saying, "How you do one thing is how you do everything." Logic follows: Being committed — AT ALL COSTS — to a least an hour of quiet time every day gives me the stamina to be just as committed to all the other parts of my life.
The outcome? The world is changing, and I'm evolving with it. And there's one thing I know for sure:
Change is the ONLY constant in life. It's all we can truly count on.
Nature proves this to us every day as the snow falls, every month as the sun rises earlier and earlier, every season as the leaves change and the temperatures rise and fall. So for 2019, I'm committed to change. No more "situations I have to deal with... again." From here forward, there are only "experiences I can choose to be a part of."
“Your favorite teacher.”
Ah yes, one of my favorite security questions to answer for online password creation. I always answer it with the name of my first-grade teacher. When I think back to grade school, she is the bright light in my memory.
It’s funny though; as much as I remember all the love I felt in that classroom, I can also remember all the times I was disciplined in first grade.
We had these paper pockets on the wall with our names on them, and a bunch of painted popsicle sticks. Brown for a mild offense. Red for medium. Black sticks for really-really-really-bad-things. (Like, you were probably going to see the principal.) When we behaved out of line, we had to put the stick with the color of “severity” in our pocket on the wall, for everyone to see.
For the record, I never got a black stick in first grade. BUT. I specifically remember the one time (ONE TIME!) I got a red stick.
My best friend Lisa and I laughed out loud at a boy in our class because of something he said about a presidential race happening at the time. Of course, we were all saying things we’d taken from our parents, but I remember Lisa and I both had to put red sticks in our pockets for the day, as well as apologize to the boy in front of the whole class.
I was mortified. And disappointed in myself. And deeply sorry.
Funny how my favorite teacher is also the only teacher I can so vividly remember teaching me a lesson: That everyone’s experience is valid. That boy’s truth may not have been my truth (or any of our actual truths at age 6!) … but the difference in truth didn’t make either false. Truth is a dynamic word, and it stretches, bends and folds depending on who you’re talking to.
To add another layer, I realized (and continue to get reminded) that I learned this same idea over and over again throughout the years from so many people in my life. I now consider every single one of them my teachers. Initially, when I looked back on moments of hurt in my past — the misunderstandings, the hardship, the tough times… the fresh wounds were more difficult for me those situations as teachable moments. That’s the funny thing about pain; It can blind us when it’s fresh.
But when I spend more time in observation of those memories… and going even further back to the times I’ve transcended pain into evolution, I say things like “She taught me so much about business” (without needing to say: despite all the chaos that ensued because of it), or “He taught me to keep trusting my intuition,” (without needing to say: despite the hurt I felt when he told me I was wrong).
The toughest lessons — and most transcendence — came from my greatest teachers.
So this idea of “favorite teacher” … sure, honoring grade school teachers is always appropriate. But today, I’m so deeply grateful for all the teachers in my life, especially those who went through some of the most painful moments. With some, I’ve parted ways. With others, I love unconditionally, as I love myself.
Regardless of present company, I’m grateful for all the teachers.
Originally hailing from Wisconsin, Mollie is a cheesehead transplant to Northwest Montana, with degrees in Retail and Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Today, she lives off the grid, half the year in a Tiny House & half the year in a yurt — both of which she and her husband, Sean, built by hand. Nonprofit Executive Director by day, Mollie also owns and teaches at Yoga Hive — a chain of community yoga studios in the valley.