I’m not what you would call a jet setter, but I’m privileged enough to have seen some of the loveliest and most exciting places this country has to offer. Typically, we have a packed agenda on vacation— keeping everyone on schedule and in the know about what’s to come. That has its place. But my favorite way to experience a new place, by far, is to play it by ear.

No schedule.

No pressure to hurry to the next thing.

Just traipsing along, following my bliss, and staying open to the extraordinary.

This is the way my oldest child and I experienced New York City five years ago. Sure, we had a few places in mind that we wanted to check out, but most of our days were spent wandering, exploring, and delighting in the vibrancy of the city that never sleeps…

…without a plan.

One night we happened upon “Open Mike Night” at the Upright Citizens’ Brigade — the same room that raised Amy Poehler and other comic geniuses — and laughed until we were sick. The next day, we found a romantic, Bohemian book store in Greenwich Village, danced in Central Park to the music of minstrels, discovered “her old soul” at Serendipity III, and got gloriously lost several times.

She hadn’t yet finished her film degree, but that didn’t stop her from capturing the city through her lens. Moments that I’ll cherish forever.

Our trip later took us into upstate New York to bask in the nostalgia of Woodstock and down into Philadelphia to enjoy Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Gardens. We allowed ourselves to decide where we were going and what we wanted to do, moment by moment. Fully in the present, enjoying whatever came our way. We were mindful before I even knew what mindfulness was.

I had never traveled this way before. But now it’s the way I wish I could travel every time I pack a bag.

This past week, I determined to have another mindful, follow my bliss experience while in Crested Butte. One day I ventured into town on my own and strolled down Elk Street to find adventure. Making my way down the sidewalk, I determined to see, hear, and feel everything:

  • beautiful kinesthetic sculptures, spun into action by the breeze
  • the watershed flushing by, under a bridge that supported me
  • colorful wildflowers spilling out of their baskets, outside each storefront

This place will fill the soul with wonder, if you’ll let it.

At one point, I stepped into the Paragon Gallery, an artist’s coop, and found myself enjoying woodwork with engraved poems, quips, and quotes befitting the glorious locale. Emerson, Thoreau, and other staple voices paid homage to nature’s glory. But then I found a poem that so struck me to my core, I began to quietly weep right there in the gallery.

As I read and processed the images these words generate, I heard a masculine voice behind me.

That one’s mine.

I turned with tear-stained cheeks, to meet W. Tintera, local artisan, who just happened to be tending the store that day. He loved that I was so taken with his work, and we began discussing his writing process. In no hurry at all, I stood and listened to him explain the limitations of language when it comes to describing the mystical and majestic Rocky Mountains.

By themselves, words fall short of capturing nature’s beauty, but poetry ( or “word pictures”) comes closest to “doing it justice.”

His passion was palpable, and I was in complete realization that I had stumbled upon greatness.

As I “clock back in” to real life — schedules, trainings, registration, and everything else “back to school” requires for a campus administrator — I am taking with me the lessons that mindfulness has afforded. No, I won’t be able to move through the work day following my bliss. However, I will honor the magic of moments like these every time I allow myself to be…

fully aware and conscious,

actively listening to others,

mindful of my surroundings, and

open to the possibilities of the moment.

I’m ready, awake, and present. Bring it on.

My Year of Mindfulness in Education (MY ME) is a series of blog posts tracking my personal commitment to explore the practice of mindfulness over an extended period and faithfully record my personal and professional journey along the way.

My role as an instructional leader is the lens through which I examine the benefits of this discipline, but my larger hope is that this simple practice be adopted by educators on a larger scale and then incorporated into social/emotional lessons for use in the classroom.