Can you hear the birds?
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.
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.