Vacation vs. Travel and What's THE PLAN?

Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God. -Kurt Vonnegut

 On the open road from Marfa, TX to Carlsbad Caverns. I had to stop and take it all in.

On the open road from Marfa, TX to Carlsbad Caverns. I had to stop and take it all in.

I'm writing this on the road. I'm traveling for a week through the southwest. It's so inspiring and quiet; the natural surroundings are jawdropping and change drastically every 100 miles or so. You can hear the quiet. I am writing next month about self-reflection; different ways to check in with yourself and deep reflecting techniques. I am doing that work now so I can write about it later. It's very challenging to not splice some of that work into the current post. I'll try my best to stick to "resting and renewing" which is this month's theme. 

I am traveling, but today starts my vacation. I don't use the words travel and vacation synonomously as others do. I think that when we parse apart differences in things and experiences (in a loving way, we're talking about trips here) we are able to pinpoint what worked for us in an experience and why. Then we're able to make better decisions for ourselves more precisely. For instance, travel and vacation. I am a teacher and like all of you reading this I LOVE TO LEARN! I love going to places I've never been before (the older the better-I love history) and walking around, taking in as much as I can. I usually try to go abroad or in nature. I love big US cities and small cute towns. That's traveling to me, and I like to live the Rick Steve's way and "travel like a local." AND sometimes that's taxing. My brain gets full, I get tired, etc. 

I need a vacation from my vacation.

Vacations to me are for relaxing and pampering myself. I love going to resorts and hanging by the pool, eating out, getting massages and facials and body scrubs... my vacation is coming up guys I'm really excited. I need it after this trip! HAHA.

The reason I bring this up is because last week we talked about "to-do" guilt: making a long list of things you think you'll like to do. We usually think these things will make us happy but we really feel trapped by them in the present when we just want to watch TV and sleep a little more (or have a mimosa on a Tuesday morning; you're a teacher-you want that juice you drink that juice!) The seperation between vacation and travel allows me to feel guiltless about doing nothing when I'm on vacation and craving self-care.  

AND I've been traveling. So, I have been dealing with a little guilt or questioning about the plans I made vs what I end up doing (I am reflecting on which it actually is: guilt or queston-can I feel guilty that I MAY not do something in the future-I actually think I can..and did yesterday...anyways). I've come to realize that self-care is a part of every-day life and it needs to extend to traveling too. My issue this trip isn't the countless to-do lists. I was ok with skipping Roswell, NM and Bottomless Lake State Park (it is pride month, I don't think anyplace should be bottomless, wink), but I found myself rushing. I'm 80 stories underground in Carlsbad Cavern calculating: if I go to Roswell it'll be two hours more, and then will I be able to be at camp by 8...then eating at 9... YOU LITERALLY SEE THE STRESS BUILDING. 

I should have been enjoying the caves, I did enjoy the caves-it was awesome and I was present most of the time-but those little moments continued to build for me. I felt rushed and like I didn't have enough time; and maybe in that day I didn't...but in actuality I've been in my little Fiat for 7 days to drive ONLY 28 hours so I HAVE A LOT OF TIME. It's the plan I made in my head (ego) that was telling me I didn't. It also made each destination and accomplishment and me a failure if I skipped something.

 It is really reminscent of how I feel at school come October... that's when I start feeling the crunch: students start to plateau in there academic progress and others start pushing boundaries... and I have seven months of school left and feel like that's not enough time. In reality, I've seen kids "click" and in April they're all the sudden on grade-level. I've learned to accept those behavior challenges as an insight into my students' personalities and situations-most of the time I can turn a challenge into fun (NOW-it took practice). However, in the moment and in daily reflection I will feel time-pressure IN OCTOBER because of THE PLAN. THE PLAN can be made by you or someone else... but YOU must remember that nothing goes according to plan. 

Plans are just thoughts that we sometime put on paper. We are present and plans are about the future. Unless you can predict the future (get at me!) then you need to give yourself (myself) some more slack about sticking to the plan. I love to plan- most teachers do-like I said I love to learn and especially when I'm traveling planning helps me learn cool stuff. AND just because I put it in a plan doesn't mean I HAVE to do it-I still have the knowledge of what I've learned. Also, it'll probably be there on your next trip-if you really missed it that much you'll make sure to see it. 

I'm going to take one step further into the spiritual realm now: what if the disruption or incompletion of your plan was meant to be? I think it is. 

On Wednesday I was planning to go to a collapsed grotto outside of Austin, TX called Hamilton Pool. It looks so beautiful in pictures! It's hot and I love to swim. However, it was closed to swimming due to bacteria and the site was full of tourists so I couldn't get in. After a quick look around I found another beach-really close to my camp ground. IT WAS AWESOME and I totally remember thinking THIS IS WHERE I SHOULD BE RIGHT NOW. There was a restaurant on a cliff nearby and because I was already near the campground I set up my tent earler than planned and got some great views and some awesome food (they had Poutin! a personal favorite!). 

 Stopping to explore some rock formations in New Mexico put me behind schedule but well worth it!

Stopping to explore some rock formations in New Mexico put me behind schedule but well worth it!

On Saturday, I left Marfa, TX and traveled to Carlsbad Caverns. The scenery changed and I wanted to get out and explore some more before Carlsbad. Once I got to the caves, at the time I'd planned on leaving, I was stressed about making all my stops that day. My final decision was not to do them-I was tired, I didn't have energy to swim at bottomless lake and I really just wanted a spaceship sticker for my cooler from Roswell-So I went a quicker route to my campsite for that night. I discovered, by cutting through the mountains, that New Mexico has a little ski oasis right in the middle-that includes the longest zipline in America. It was so beautiful. I no longer felt rushed and was able to stop and get some coffee in a cute little ski village. I was more excited and happy in the moment than when I thought of my PLAN to go to Roswell. 

 Not a tent. Ashram turned into cabin at The Desert Sanctuary. 

Not a tent. Ashram turned into cabin at The Desert Sanctuary. 

 

Last night, I was supposed to camp at this abandoned Ashram in the middle of Arizona. It is really cool. I recommend you check out Desert Sanctuary if you are passing through Arizona on Rt. 10 and need a place to stay before Tuscon and Phoenix. I was supposed to camp-but I really got in a bad mood on my drive. I was frustrated by my packed little car, the heat, the driving... I broke down in tears when I hit the gravel road that had been ravaged by recent rain thinking my car was going to be torn apart. I was tired from hiking that morning and a little underhydrated. I was in a state by the time I arrived. I practice containment, when it's appropriate, so I tried to be my best and open when meeting the host. After a quick tour of where to set up my stuff, I said I'd just hang out by the pool for awhile, and take a nap to avoid setting up my camp in the heat ...and I made a joke that I was tired and wished I had a bed at that moment... well, he had a bed, in the old circular prayer room. Nobody was staying there and it was only $25 dollars more than camping-SOLD. And it's beautiful and inspiring and I got some much needed rest and relaxation while still in the desert. 

So, although I like making plans, I believe the universe has a better plan and I am not powerful enought to defy the universe. 

So let's wrap it up. Stop feeling guilty for not doing enough on  your trips this summer. Ask yourself what you need, a vacation or to travel. Then, when you get there go with it... if you don't want a massage don't get one, if you don't want to hike sit down. If you wanted seclusion but decide that you want to go out-do it! If things don't go according to plan that's just your higher power saying  LISTEN and she'll give you what you really need.

June: Rest and Renew

"What are you doing this summer?"

-"Me"

 Sometimes accomplishing a personal goal or bucket list item makes me feel alive. This is a picture of Angkor Wat at sunrise-a dream come true and something I'll always remember. However, sometimes, we put too much pressure on ourselves to ACHIEVE. I hope this post helps you explore what really brings you happiness this summer... what will leave you renewed for another school year .... and stop the worrying about the rest.

Sometimes accomplishing a personal goal or bucket list item makes me feel alive. This is a picture of Angkor Wat at sunrise-a dream come true and something I'll always remember. However, sometimes, we put too much pressure on ourselves to ACHIEVE. I hope this post helps you explore what really brings you happiness this summer... what will leave you renewed for another school year .... and stop the worrying about the rest.

This is my first blog post to encourage you to #getyourguruon. It's summer, and we as teachers, get this time to rest and renew. BUT what does that look like for you? 

All to often I've squandered, or felt like I've squandered, my summer vacation in the dark bedroom where I feel safest. Also, I'm really freaking tired after the school year and sometimes I could sleep for days. 

Some other readers may have children, and as school won't keep you busy, they sure will! We can often overschedule ourselves, or fill our schedule with our kids' priorities, but not our own. 

There is little resting and renewing during summer break for most teachers. 

Let's change that. 

This month we'll explore ways that will help you process your school year (and more if needed), rest and regain your energy to GIVE (we GAVE all of ourselves and attention to our students all year, we have to GET that back!). We'll also explore common traps that keep us feeling tired when the school year starts. 

First, I'd like to start by encouraging you to recognize BOTH the PRESSURE  you're putting on yourself to enjoy, relax and renew this summer (it seems counterintuitive but trust me... teachers know how to stress-out about fun) and the GUILT you know you feel when you're school-breaks don't meet your expectations. 

Often, we want to shut out the school year and "take a break." We'll feel guilty when school stuff pops into our minds. We'll get angry when we get that email (but you didn't take your work-email off your phone now did you, Claudia?).

Last year, I was on a beach in Thailand and I watched this dude meditate for like hours ... when he got up I asked him how he could turn off his mind for that long- I often struggle to quiet my mind. He said, "There should be no struggle. You're having the thoughts you were meant to be having, have them. Then let them go." 

Seriously, he said that to me and then walked away to get a Thai massage. I was shook. What do you mean? I'm supposed to be secretly crazy and obsessive? 

YES. It's healing.

This message started showing up for me everywhere and it's the concept of making space. Making space for more than one thing to exist. I want to quiet my mind AND I need to make space for the fact that I need to have some thoughts ....having the thoughts, experiencing them and letting them go will actually give me peace of mind eventually. If I struggle to stop these thoughts from racing through my brain, thoughts I need to have, they'll come back stronger. Think: Path of least resistance... let 'em be. 

Also! Be kind to yourself, don't feel bad for thinking about school "all the time." 

Now, about all things you've decided to do this summer:

Instead of putting pressure on yourself to do things, ask yourself how you'd like to feel this summer? at the end of the summer? before school starts? whatever... Frame your question how you'd like but make it about what you need or how you want to be. 

This subtle change takes the pressure off of you doing so much. We often plan to work out everyday, cook 6 meals at home, have 3 happy hours a week with girlfriends, watch all the movies and read 100 books because we think this will make us happy (and sometime, we think accomplishment in our personal life will fill or balance the emotional hole we may have been neglecting all school-year). 

Realize you just want to be happy. 

Then, ask yourself, "what will make me happy today?"  Then, DO THAT! 

It sounds simple, but objectively, ask yourself how many times you've been miserable because you had already decided what would make you happy without actually asking yourself... that 6AM bootcamp was expensive AND YOU ONLY WENT TWICE. 

You WILL notice some new and positive patterns emerge. You may work out regularly and eat healthy and enjoy it (ah, the 2PM spin works way better for ya? You better get it!) read that book and actually go to the pool. AND you'll probably feel less guilty about your naps and you won't be running yourself ragged. (I do my best post-reading naps at my apartment-complex pool).

Sometimes the things that make me happy can stress me out. I love to travel; but planning the perfect trip is a cycle that leads to stress and anxiety that I know all too well... I have even experienced guilt after going half-way around the world because I didn't see one certain temple (totally discrediting the entire rest of the trip!). 

"You can't see everything." and "Wherever you are, be there." are two quotes and mindsets that help through my travel stress. There will always be a reason for me to return somewhere; how beautiful that a foreign place can capture my heart. How egotistical for me to think that I can experience all a place has to offer, even in one lifetime. By being present where I am, I can truely experience what'll make me happy at that time ...and that leads to the feelings I travel for. I travel because I get to be the truest version of myself-no expectations because nobody knows me. I love to learn and I love to experience new things. I love to see things in-person and feel what it feels like to be in a place I've only seen in pictures and film. It makes me feel alive and free. When I'm racing to catch a boat or see my 31st landmark that day- I don't feel so alive or free. 

So what do you need this summer? How do you wanna feel? 

Recognize where counter-intuitive patterns are at work in your own summer  habits and happenings, then choose to BE instead of DO.

And the next time someone asks you, "what are you doing this summe?" say, "ME!"

 

 #getyourguruon When I'm traveling and I become aware of my presence, and ultimately the joy that accompanies it, I try to keep this connection as long as possible. When I finally feel a disconnection with the situation I take a picture to remember. I have kept this as my computer background all year. A small moment I can return to as soon as I see this photo. 

#getyourguruon When I'm traveling and I become aware of my presence, and ultimately the joy that accompanies it, I try to keep this connection as long as possible. When I finally feel a disconnection with the situation I take a picture to remember. I have kept this as my computer background all year. A small moment I can return to as soon as I see this photo. 

The End.

The End. 

 me, 2012.

me, 2012.

Every kindergarten teacher has read these words over and over. As a student I learned to identify these words when they came at the end of a story, seperated from all the other text. My students can do that too...these may be the only two words they can read.

And that is how it feels, the end, seperated from all the other... easily identifiable. Yesterday, I left my school for the last time after more than six years. Everyday was a privelege, though sometimes it didn't feel like it; that's the struggle in the story though, right? And you can only see that at THE END.

It was so different doing everything for the last time: taking attendance, correcting excitable behavior, passing out folders, conversations with teammates who are friends who are really family. Talking about the future. It feels altogether seperate when it's the end; there is an appreciation that isn't normally there. Most of the day I was in tears! Everything set me off. I am not, and have never been, a man who is afraid to cry. And I was bawling. 

This was the first job I took after grad school. I was working and studying in Chicago and Houston, Texas was a bit of a change for me. Change is certainly what has defined this experience. 

I didn't come to Texas and all the sudden get stressed out. I think a lot of people see it that way when I share my story. No, I lived my life like a stressball for most of it. My third grade teacher told my mother that if I didn't chill out I'd have an ulcer by 10... she was about 14 years off but ....

My stress has always centered around accomplishment. That is when I remember feeling my best as a child, when I was winning and being recognized. That is a pretty intense moment, winning something and being rewarded. Yet, I didn't recognize that the intensity of that moment couldn't be achieved 24/7. Like an addict, I strived for that type of recognition all the time. Working myself into the ground and completing this cycle over and over with more depth, conviction and severity for about 28 years. The hard part for me and others to realize was that this was unhealthy. It seemed like I was driven and unstoppable. At an early age I learned that if my abilities weren't enough, if i couldn't win, I could play the victim for awhile. If something was out of my control, or done to me, if it was just bad luck - I could still be a winner - and actually if I used my ability to sacrifice and self-regulate hard enough to come back stronger and achieve my goals - I could OVERCOME and be a HERO. I wanted to be a god. I wanted people to look at my life and want to be me. Sound like someone you know? Sound like you? 

I didn't know this was a bad thing. I'm a white and male in America, this type of thinking is praised! So there I was, six and half years ago in Houston, TX, walking into a school and I was ready to WIN ...whatever that meant. Because, that is just what I did, it was what I'd always done. 

In Houston, work became my life. It was hard to be a good teacher (win) in my new school; it was itself a new school. It had a lot of challenges, endless hours of work and at the heart of it-a mission. A mission to change the world, a way for me to be important. I was recognized at work because of my voracity and grit in a competitive environment. There was always something to do and I wanted to get credit. My personal life looked good too. I got a boyfriend and we moved in together. We swithced to a better apartment and got a dog. I was coaching teachers. 

I was miserable. 

I was in the young-professional capitol of America, working myself into the ground in a job that I really was passionate about but couldn't find joy in anymore. I had a nice-looking partner and a cute Christmas card and I hated my life.

I believe we all have a negative pattern of behavior; mine came out 100%. I began attacking those around me. I wanted to create distance. I began being really stressed out at school and distant; in my head blaming my co-workers and bosses for my own unhappiness. I couldn't understand why I had everything I'd always wanted...I could just take one more step and be an administrator and be a husband,  homeowner and dad. It seemed like the worst thing that could ever happen to me. I was confused but really confused so I thought I was angry...

...then my assistant teacher invited me to hot yoga. It was at one of those breaking point times-my health was bad due to stress and anxiety. My stomach was always in knots. I was creating problems at home. I didn't feel comfortable anywhere and I wanted out of everything, especially my head. 

In that hot yoga room... I wanted to stay forever. My ego became a benefit because I wasn't going to look weak and leave... even though I couldn't breath. I had come to this class because that seemed like what cool executive type ashley-olsens did, I WAS an ashley-olsen, I could make myself believe it... So I stayed, and it was silent, and my head was silent, and the instructor said focus on your breathing...

...and that was pretty much all I could do

and I did every pose and I sweat buckets and when the hour was over I realized I hadn't been able to think about anything but my breathing. It was such a relief! For the first time in my life MY HEAD WAS QUIET. I had a million things on my mind when I walked in, all the problems were solved. I had an answer for each one all at once. I swear. I got home, took a shower and I had the best night's sleep. I had the best day the next day. I went back and back and back to that hot room. I found my peace on the mat. I began to listen to what my yoga teachers were saying, I did a challenge at my studio, I bought a book... I began to connect with that voice that hated my life. It was the voice of truth, it was me. I learned to lean into this voice quickly and it has changed my entire existance. 

My change did not happen quickly, and it didn't happen in one fluid movement, there were ups and downs. However, when I began to listen to the voice inside my heart I began to make better choices for myself. I slowly learned to keep listening to the worries in my head but I knew I didn't have to believe them anymore. Instead, I began to explore where they were coming from and why  they were occuring. I began to recognize the little stories I told myself. Seeing them for what they were made them disappear. This allowed me to regain a peace of mind. This also stopped the negative behaviors associated with my fears from occuring. I had a fear that if I didn't accomplish anything then I wouldn't be worthy of love. So I worked myself into the ground at school. I had a fear that because I am gay I couldn't be taken seriously as an authority figure, that my place was to be fun and make people happy. So I always cracked jokes and undermined my own authority. I never thought that me, a small-town appalachian boy, could ever live up to what my students needed and I was scared everyone was going to find out. So, I gave more than 100% of myself at work and I had nothing left to give others. I didn't think I was worthy of love so I pushed away my partner for fear that he would eventually leave anyway.

 Spiritual-Adolescence

Spiritual-Adolescence

I studied a lot of texts in my journey and I did a yoga-teacher training. I began to accept and love myself which lead to a trust in myself. A growing of my intuition. An acceptance of some things I'd always felt about myself but pushed away. I began to realize how my sensitivities (which lead to so much pain in the past) were a gift and could help me connect deeply with people. I learned that there is an inate sense of justice and fairness born inside me that I am meant to pass on to my students. I began to release the stressful stories associated with work and my relationships. I started enjoying teaching as much as I'd enjoyed the idea of teaching when I chose this career path. My classroom began to look like my ideal classroom. My school began to look like my ideal school. I began to heal my relationship with myself. Others started taking notice. I was probably once, the most stressed out teacher in my school. To others, it must have seemed like all of a sudden I was wearing Birkenstocks and growing out my hair. I went through a spiritual-adolescence, and when I came through the other end people were, for the first-time genuinely impressed with ME. Just who I had become. I connected with so many teachers who wanted to free themselves from the stories holding them back; we all have them. Every teacher wants to be their best, no matter the current situation we all came to the classroom for an authentic reason. Teaching is a calling. But so many of us have a chip on our shoulder instead of a passion in our belly. I enjoyed helping other change the same jaded attitudes I'd had by asking them the questions I'd asked myself.

 Me, 2017, in Laos after a 6-year travel abroad hiatus. I stopped making excuses and started doing the things that made me happy.

Me, 2017, in Laos after a 6-year travel abroad hiatus. I stopped making excuses and started doing the things that made me happy.

By helping them see that the negative thoughts are just thoughts, and they don't need to be believed. We can correct every action we're unproud of, that doesn't seem right, because it's an action related to a thought and a thought can be changed. It's not real unless we believe it's real.

I had created a better reality for myself and that included helping others create better realities for themselves. I enjoyed helping teachers the most. We are teachers, we are role-models for an entire generation...or two or three. Imagine the benefit of a life-changing teacher. A guru. I wanted to help other teachers become that and I want to become that myself. 

There is always shedding when growing. Like a snake sheds its skin and a hermit crab chooses a new shell, there is something to be left behind when moving forward. My personal relationship shifted into a great friendship, but the romance had to be shed for us both to grow. I have enjoyed helping my teammates and bringing mindfulness to my school. This year I had the opportunity to leave "the grades" and I became a yoga and mindfulness teacher to our students. Yeah! My boss saw that much growth in me that she wanted to share that transformative energy throughout the school. Little did we know how much we'd need mindfulness by starting the year after Hurricane Harvey.

 First Conference

First Conference

I taught yoga weekly to teachers after school, too. I led PDs and even spoke at a few conferences. I also felt like the shift inside me needed a new home and the creativitiy that I'd been taught to supress needed a way out. I got great support from my teammates to make the next big decision. Ya'll I'm so grateful for your continued support and the momentum your feedback gave me in creating this project...because it led to THE END.

After much exploring, listening to myself, learning- including a fellowship with 4.0 Schools (shout-out).  I realized I wanted to share what I learned with teachers beyong my school. I wanted to have a job where I could engage my passions and creative side, I wanted to live in a city that inspires and supports my new healthy choices. Ultimately I wanted a new beginning. A new space to step fully into my personal power and lead with love. I want to find my tribe.

So with every The End. comes a Once upon a time... a new beginning.

This time ...

I am moving to LA and starting this blog as a passion and creative project to share what I've learned about school-based mindfulness.To promote community through offerings and services I can provide. To share my journey and hold me to account to living my truest most authentic life.

 Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles, CA

This blog is for teaching searching for mindfulness techniques to use with themselves and with their students. It addresses the unique situations and lifestyle of teachers; we give different energies and have different needs than our friends in other professions. This blog is also about promoting the joys and healing power of teaching. Teaching is a heart calling it's also a gift! What other profession allows one to connect with our inner-child; the time in our life when we started telling ourselves the stories that effect our unconscious decision making today. 

This blog is lifestyle blog for mindful teachers. It will promote whole-teacher care, life-long learning and balancing your life. It will promote travel, being in nature and healthy lifestyle living; as well as guilt-free living, making choices you'll love and loving yourself.  This blog celebrates teachers, our power to change lives and our collective power to change the world. 

Thank you for beginning this journey with me.