When you invest in a big trip what happens? You get off the plane or out of the car expecting new experiences. And are usually enlivened by result. (Our Austin trip over the weekend to celebrate my bday + anniversary aka Birthaversary was definitely enlivening. I’m showing off my b-day present in the pic above.)

While I love meditation I also love nervous system resets which require even less from me than sitting on a cushion.

Travel is a red bull for my consciousness. I don’t have to do anything, other than plan and embark on trip I desire, and suddenly boom, I feel more awake than ever. Taking in the environment, looking for ways the unfamiliar is slightly familiar.

While taking in the sites, sounds, and tastes of East Austin my mind kept running through places I’ve lived to try to make sense of the landscape which was quite mixed: bohemian vintage shops next to light industrial complexes. Gorgeous eco-village-ready contemporary homes next to dilapidated turn of the century behemoths. 

I found myself thinking… “Well this is a little like East Dallas. And sort of like parts of Bloomington, Indiana (a college town I lived in my twenties) or this vegan café reminds me of some of the fresh fruit joints in Nicaragua.” This process of finding the familiar in the novel is actually good for our brains and a trap-door into mindfulness.

While in this zone, my senses feel highly attuned to where I am, as if I’m drinking it all in though eyes, nose, mouth, pores even. Yet it doesn’t feel like effort. It is one of those “doing by not doing” experiences… and it leaves me with an awareness of being exactly where I am, and that where I am is exactly where I should be.

This is delicious.

Now, while traveling I almost always experience a sort of emotional detox at some point in the trip. When I slow down, boom up pops emotional content I didn’t fully digest the first time around like floaty toys in the bathtub.  Rather than fighting this sensation and trying to force an “I’m on vacation and damn well am going to be happy” approach, I’m learning to lean into the sensation. To make some space for it, get curious about it even. Usually a walk in nature or a nap is enough to turn the tide so that I can begin again to enjoy the fun.

It turns out the heightened degree of presence which we bring to travel is a great approach to life.  And it works in reverse. In fact, if looking for the familiar in the novel is good for you, so too is remembering to look for the novel in the familiar.

Try it right now.  For the rest of the day instead of looking for what you expect something to be, notice the subtle differences. These don’t have to be epic to be noteworthy. Really everything is changing all the time, so if we remember that it is easier to receive even small new experiences with more attention.

This is our stress-grounding practice #5: Make Every Day a Trip… by Looking for What is Novel.

For example, I thought my afternoon today would be full of email but now my Internet is not working so instead I’m writing to you which is much more fun. That shift in my schedule was unexpected.

New bamboo sheets are drying in my dryer as I speak… filling the house with a slight, bamboo-y scent. I don’t think I’ve ever smelled that smell before.

Before my Internet broke I read an online excerpt from and ordered a delightful book on labyrinths (see details below about live event tomorrow, Sat 6). This morning I’d never heard of this author and now I wish I could make a fire in my fireplace and invite her over, put a drink in her hand, and plop at her feet so she could tell me her life story + wisdom. (This is not an uncommon feeling– I get really excited when I find an insightful author.)

See… life is always changing and offering up new experiences, even as we move through familiar schedules or “regular” days. Perhaps its not labyrinths or even books which light you up, but whatever it is it simply makes life more pleasurable to pay attention.

So I hope to see you Saturday (did I mention it is free?) if you live in the Dallas area. 

And wherever you live I wish you a week full of beauty and surprises.



PS My Jan coaching calendar is taking shape and I’d love to have you in it. If something in you feeling ready to shed a layer and move lighter into 2015 then lets talk. Seriously I have gone through transformational shifts all by my lonesome and also done it with an experienced coach or guide and it is so much sweeter to have someone remind you that you are not in fact crazy and that it is worth enduring the discomfort of growth for the fruit it brings. So if you are feeling an intuitive nudge please reach out with questions or schedule a complementary session to talk more. It all gets easier with some support– we simply aren’t meant to do this inner work alone. xo

All-Ages Labyrinth Workshop

Need a moment of calm amidst holiday madness?

Join Courtney of Bird in Hand Coaching for an All-Ages Labyrinth Workshop on Saturday Dec 6.

Location: 1215 Turner Ave, Dallas TX 75208 (Labyrinth located outside at Kessler Park United Methodist Church.)

Price: Free!

Time: 9-11AM (drop-in any time)

Bundle up, bring the kids, dog and/or a friend and join us for this relaxed workshop. Learn more about the history of the labyrinth (a curving stone path) and ways to engage this ancient contemplative practice to calm your mind and nurture a sense of peace within.

Walk the labyrinth yourself and linger to enjoy hot cocoa and conversation. Participants will receive a printed guide with tips for how to use the labyrinth as well as a mini bottle of Frankincense, an essential oil which calms the nervous system and is a great complement to meditation or prayer.



Courtney Pinkerton, M.Div & M.PP, is a holistic life and leadership coach and the founder of Bird in Hand Coaching. She holds dual masters degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School, is the host of the Summer of Meditation Challenge and publishes a weekly e-newsletter on real-world mindfulness practices. Courtney teaches regularly on the Enneagram, meditation, and conscious approaches to leadership and parenting. She lives in Oak Cliff, Texas with her husband Richard Amory where they try to keep up with their three young children and remember to water their garden boxes. Courtney can be reached at

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