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.
When I went through my 200-hour yoga teacher training (YTT), it was the first time I truly grasped the concept of Unwavering Faith. For me, that was like plunging off a metaphorical cliff of trust; I decided I didn't have anything to lose by deciding that the Universe had my back. That everything happens in perfect time. That everything I do - even the hard stuff - will be meaningful in the long run.
Despite my best intentions, I'll be honest: Unwavering Faith can be, well... wavering.
A theme that's been coming up for me lately is communication. With social media at our fingertips, sending a strongly worded email, or blocking an enemy on the internet is as easy as a click of a mouse. POOF! Confrontation avoided, situation "managed."
(And yet WHY are we still thinking about it incessantly?!)
To be "heard" in today's world, we labor for hours to craft the perfectly worded email to convey our perspective, when we know it's going to hurt feelings and perpetuate the problem. And while I won't pretend that I do this right every time, I have been working toward leaning into confrontation... or rather, conversation.
Yes. I'm talking about old fashioned face-to-face communication and vulnerability. (Gasp! Eye contact!)
During Yoga Hive's 200-hour YTT this past weekend, we took a class with Holly Purdy. I absolutely love her sweet energy, and dynamic flows. She read us the most powerful Mother Teresa quote, that profoundly impacted our discussion for days afterward. It speaks to this exact scenario — when we lean into clarity with those we're struggling with... sometimes we still find ourselves at odds and question whether to move forward at all.
Our faith wavers.
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
At times, speaking up and being our authentic selves is met with resistance. And it's hard to not think, "Well, at least I tried. I'll go back to the way I used to be." But the reality is that as we change, some people may not change with us. Should we just give up? I think you know my answer...
Be you anyway. Work toward open conversation. And at some point, agree to disagree and move on.
(Either that, or get your butt into a yoga class and let it go!)
I get asked what I do for a living a lot. I tell strangers I founded and own a yoga studio franchise call Yoga Hive. Unless they're already doing yoga, their response is the same, 99.9% of the time:
"Oh, I could never do yoga, but good for you!"
This idea that someone COULD NEVER DO YOGA baffles/amuses/intrigues me. It's simply not true for most of the population. Sure, you can CHOOSE not to do yoga. But "could never do yoga" just doesn't make sense.
So lets throw everything out the window that the world supposedly "knows" about yoga, and bust down all barriers to entry, including cost. I'm going to break this down once and for all so that you're clear on where I stand.
What is yoga?
Literally, the word YOGA means "union," or "to join". To me? Yoga is moving my body in a way that keeps my mind focused on the present moment. That translates practically as: Me staying sane, no matter what life throws at me. (Sounds nice, right?) Now lets get clear on the two sides.
What yoga is NOT:
What yoga is:
...see what I mean? Who can't do those things when we drop all the barriers?
Living the Dream. The Holy Grail. Freedom.
How are we supposed to pursue our passions and dreams while still participating in the daily grind? It’s a hard question to answer when “logic” takes over. We create mental roadblocks. “I won’t have enough money,” or “My family won’t be supportive,” or “I’ll never find what I’m looking for.”
Re-read that last paragraph. Those three statements are observations (perhaps with bits of truth woven in) but not necessarily proven facts... right?
Sure, all those things could be true. Keyword: Could. Meaning “could not” is also probable.
The ocean is salty. Fact.
The sun will rise. Fact.
I won’t have enough money to support myself if I choose to live a certain way. Opinion. Or... insecurity?
What I know for sure about the roadblocks we're SO GOOD at building: The LEAST risky bet I’m willing to gamble on is Myself. Especially when the stakes are high, I’ve proven to myself over and over again that I'm capable, resourceful and creative. Even in the hard times, with one hand on my forehead and no clue what the heck I’m going to do... I will STILL bet on myself. Because a day later, a month later, or years later, the significance of that perceived “mistake” ends up changing the course of my life for the better.
I think often about a particular email I sent last year. It was long, intense, and extremely confidential. When I clicked send, I had a moment of doubt, but there was no turning back. Turns out a handful of people read the email that I didn’t anticipate. I was mortified, angry, sorry, worried... all the emotions. FOR MONTHS. All for one stinkin’ email!
Flash forward to where I am today in that part of my life. No joke: That email was a massive catalyst for SO many people. There was plenty of pain in the process of reading it, discussing it, confronting it. Ugh. But as far as I can tell today (nearly a year later), everyone’s life has morphed into something more beautiful. We were somehow “set free” when I put those words out there. Could I see that beauty in the moment? DEFINITELY NOT.
But the moment came when I did see the beauty. And in times like that, I know that the magic of life is real.
If you reframe those moments of stumbling as “magic at work,” instead of “defining failures,” maybe you’ll be as excited as I am to attend The School of Life every day, cozy up to the poker table, and place a big fat bet on yourself.
Because YOU are the only thing you have control over 😜
WHEW! 🙌 Tuesday morning vibes
A few weeks ago, I spent the weekend in Salt Lake City for an essential oils convention, and I had the honor of hearing Immaculee Ilibagiza speak about her life, and her experience surviving Rwanda's genocide.
The folks in the BeYou program have heard this story, but it has moved me in so many ways that I want to share with all of you. I had zero expectations for her talk, and I was admittedly a bit surprised as her story was very centered on her faith in God.
(I'm not going to get into religion in this email. Please stay with me till the end!)
After meeting one of the men that killed her entire family (yeah, pause and read that phrase one more time and let it sink in), she was able to say to his face that she forgave him.
And I sat there listening, thinking "What the?" How could she do that? I'm someone who talks to my students a lot about these high level concepts — let go. Be free. Forgive. Be you. But until we (as teachers) get the words right, or speak the "language" of our individual practitioners, the cues may not land. I think about that a lot when I hear people speak. When I get really inspired/moved/weepy, it's a tangible reaction that tells me the speaker got their cues right.
Well I wanted to share with you her cue that landed. The one that really hit home for me on forgiveness. She cited the Bible. And regardless of your belief system or feelings about any Bible, I think we can all appreciate the words... which is exactly what I reference when I teach a class about the Hindi gods and goddesses... take the story for what it is. If it doesn't resonate, let it go.
The verse was, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do."
I've heard this sentence a million times growing up, but the way she explained it sounded so reasonable. And when you're listening to someone who spent over 90 days in a tiny 3'5' bathroom in Rwanda with eight other women, knowing that at any moment they could be found and killed — and also knowing their entire families were already dead... somehow the words stick a little more.
She said, "It wasn't the first part. Because 'Forgive them?', I have no idea how to do that. That's what I'm trying to figure out, and I was just so angry."
She went on, "It was the second part that I could feel in my heart. 'They know not what they do.'"
She explained how it resonated with her so deeply, this idea of people — people with love in their hearts — there's no way they could knowingly kill men, women, children, neighbors... unless they didn't truly understand what they were doing. And sure enough, when people — even those with love in their hearts — are commanded by the government to go out and kill, then they might just do what they're told.
They know not what they do.
So if you're anything like me, and that lands just a little bit in your heart, perhaps you can take that out into your world today. Its a heavy concept. One that might not land with you. But for me? When I get frustrated, or hurt in my life — big or small, my hope is to come back to this idea. To recognize that however hurtful something is — through words, texts, emails, any mode of communication — on some level, I can work toward forgiveness because if they knew the level of hurt I'm experiencing, there's no way they truly know what they're doing.
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.