Karuna: Hi, I’m Karuna, I’m the founder and executive director of Mind Oasis, and this is meditation, happy hour, tea talk and truth with Karuna. And my guest today is Sara Mai. Sara Mai How are you?
Sara Mai: I’m good. I’m good. How are you?
Karuna: Good. Where in the world are you right now?
Sara Mai: So normally I live in southern Baja in Mexico, but I am in Fort Worth, Texas right now, visiting family. So it’s been a summer of travel, which has been really nice.
Karuna: Yeah. So where all have you. Have you gone?
Sara Mai: Well, I came back, I came up to Fort Worth the start of the summer and then drove from here all the way up to New England to visit my family there. So I’ve been to New Hampshire and Vermont, and that was just fantastic, really cool, beautiful weather and gorgeous scenery. And then back in Fort Worth now and then eventually headed back down south to Mexico
Karuna: And tell our listeners or viewers about your little family. Who do you have?
Sara Mai: Oh my gosh. Well, my family is myself, my husband and our two dogs. Our two doggie kiddos.
Karuna: What are their names?
So they are Sport and Bijou. And yeah, thanks to the dogs I’ve put like at least six thousand miles on my car this summer because if they come with us, we have to drive everywhere. So it’s definitely, you know, something traveling with dogs, but they’re great.
Karuna: Awesome. So we know one another from studying the Dharma, and I would just love to hear a little bit. We’ll get to the Dharma part, but I’d love to hear a little bit about your life and sort of what brought you to a very yogic path, though you also study Tibetan Buddhism very intently as well. So just kind of tell us how you got to where you are today.
Sara Mai: Yeah. Oh my gosh. Sometimes I don’t even know. It’s like I just landed here. And then there’s also like this weird sense of like, I’ve always been here, like, I’m exactly where I should be, you know? But I guess, like the short of it is kind of like, I’ve always been athletic, like my whole life has been kind of in this world of fitness. So it kind of made sense that I came to the Dharma through yoga and I came to yoga through just purely physical intention. You know, like none of this yoga philosophy stuff like just want to be more flexible, you know? So, yeah, I was kind of like this weird meeting of like like, oh, like I was doing yoga and I realized like there was this whole other layer to the yoga practice. But at the same time, like in my personal life, things were falling apart and it was like, Oh, you know, I was starting a meditation practice that was like, in my mind, totally separate from yoga. You know,
Sara Mai: And so it was like eventually those two worlds just came together and like one helped me learn about the other. And I think because I’m so like physical and how I learn, that’s also how I teach. And so it’s kind of like, you know, I can’t imagine teaching like meditation or the dharma without teaching yoga, you know? That’s the short of it.
Karuna: Awesome, awesome. So let’s deep dive into you and Mind Oasis for a moment here, and then we’ll kind of swim backwards from there. I was thinking about this time together, and some of the places I’d like to go is how you ended up in Baja Sur. Yes.
Sara Mai: Mm hmm.
Karuna: I’d love to hear a little bit about surfing. I’d love to hear a little bit about dirt biking, like there is a bunch of you. I was thinking, You know, all of my guests are lovely, but sometimes I have guests that I know a little bit more. And so I’m I’m excited to hear kind of like the the deep dive into some of the little things that I know about you, right? So we’ll get there. But just in case people don’t have a ton of time. I’d love to first talk about the mini workshop that you’re bringing, because this I feel like all of our listeners, all of our listener’s friends, partners, family, Maibe even their dogs should come to because it’s all about a morning practice for more restful nights. And when I look around at our world, I see I see a deeply sleep deprived society.
Karuna: Now, having said that, my bedtime is 8:30 at night and people kind of laugh at that, but I have to tell you, I go to bed at 8:30 at night. Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night for like a half hour or so, and I just do a little practice of little meditation or whatever. And then I go back to sleep and then I get up at 5:00. In my morning ritual has turned into that I go for a run at 6:00 and it’s right at the break of dawn and it’s really made my days so much more sparkly is the only way I can describe it.
Sara Mai: Yeah
Karuna: And I’m a little tired because I think the COVID the COVID has exhausted us all. So there’s this underlying exhaustion, yet I really try to take care of myself in terms of sleep. So from there, tell us all about the workshop and also why on earth this is important to you.
Sara Mai: Yeah. Well, I’m right there with you on the 8:30 bedtime. I am a huge believer in going to bed early, you know, waking up early. God, the morning is like the most magical time of the day. I personally think it’s like quiet, and there’s just such a good vibe about the morning. But yeah, this is important to me because if we’re not getting enough sleep, it doesn’t matter what the heck else we’re doing to try to improve our lives or our health or happiness, like it’s not going to work like sleep is like the absolute foundation of everything, and you can have the healthiest diet and you can be meditating and exercising. But if you’re not getting enough sleep, like none of it is going to matter, you know? So I think it’s really important for people to realize that because we can, like, run ourselves ragged, like trying to do all these healthy things that and for not sleeping, it’s like, Really? What’s the point? Like, our central nervous system is just like totally stressed all the time. So, so sleep, we need it. And then I think a lot of like when people are having a hard time sleeping, a lot of the focus tends to be on, well, what are you doing like the two hours before bedtime, you know? But I think really like sleeplessness is part of the cycle that doesn’t have a beginning. It’s not like, Oh, your sleeplessness started two hours before bedtime. Like, can we go back further back, further back, further back. So I think what we do first thing in the morning and how we wake up and how we set up our day is like really impactful when it comes to how we’re sleeping at night. So the mini workshop is going to be like a little five set morning routine that can hopefully help you sleep better at night and just have a better day too.
Karuna: Yeah. So it’s interesting how I came to I don’t know how I came to the 8:30 thing, except that when I went on my month long meditation retreat. In the desert, I stayed in a trailer and I would meditate all day, basically go insane by four, not sure if I could make it another day, but then I was like, OK, all you have to do is make it to bedtime. So having an early bedtime was really convenient because then at four o’clock, when I was having my daily freakout, which I had every single day, I knew, OK, well, if I can make it until eight and then I’m brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed and then I go to bed and I would have like a little practice in bed before I went to sleep. So going to bed early at 8:30 was convenient because it shortened my day. From that, then the other times I went out to the desert to retreat. I stayed in a kind of even chintzy trailer. And so I was really at the mercy of the cycle of the day and what I realized through that by not having like all the electricity and the heat and the air conditioning and everything. Was how more balanced I felt in the cycle, the rhythm of natural daylight and natural nighttime. Can you talk about that at all?
Sara Mai: Yeah. Oh my gosh. Well, I love that you use the word balance because you know, that’s what my October workshop is all about. Is this equanimity. So I love that you use that word. But yeah, we are so like removed from circadian rhythm in our crazy, busy, stressful lives. And I think, you know, it’s like the water you swim in and we don’t really even realize like how much that this is affecting us until we do something like go out into the desert where, you know, there’s Maibe not electricity or the when it gets dark, what can you do, you know that kind of stuff? So yeah, like the becoming more in tune with how our bodies have developed to best express themselves after like thousands and thousands of years living without technology and without electricity, I think is only of benefit to us as just like happy, healthy human beings.
Karuna: It’s interesting that you bring up the the amount of time as human beings we spent like not in electricity or Wi-Fi or anything like that, because I think sometimes we forget how when you look at the timeline of humans and what we’ve just most recently been exposed to, like what a dynamic shock that must really be to our nervous system. And we just because we’re highly adaptable human beings, here we are. You know, we survive. But but, you know, do we survive because there’s a lot of people who I’m friends with and myself included, when I have to go into an office, which I do a couple of times a week now. I’m in my pain body by about one o’clock. And it’s real, and I don’t know if it’s the unnatural light or I’m thinking it might be more like the EMF field, but it’s real. And so, you know, I don’t know if we’re really thriving or if Maibe this is a source of a lot of our pain in this world, actually, whether it be physical or emotional or psychological.
Sara Mai: Yeah, yeah. No, I had the same thought. It’s like, are we are we surviving or we’re surviving? But like, are we really thriving the way that we could be, you know? Yeah. And, you know, sleeping better and really like giving your body, letting your body see what a drastic change that is and how much it can improve your life is, you know, Maibe the first step and just letting go of even more of the things that just keep us off balance or on edge constantly.
Karuna: So let’s get to your your your workshop that you’re offering in October. But I just want to say that the mini workshops that we offer on Mind Oasis, including the one with Sara Mai, which is called A Brief Morning Practice for More Restful Nights, which I just love, is on Sunday, the twenty sixth of September and it’s at 10 a.m. Central and there are just 30 minutes. And if you sign up and if for some reason you’re not able to make it live, though, you should definitely make it live. But if you’re not able to, they’re recorded. And so that’s really cool because you can also go back and visit them, or you can watch or listen to the recording after. So that’s the twenty sixth of September, and that’s a Sunday. So tell us a little bit more about your your workshop that you’re offering in October around equanimity and just if you will Sara Mai. Will you define equanimity for folks? It’s one of those words we think we know what it means, but I feel like there’s a lot of misunderstanding.
Sara Mai: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And really, that’s kind of what the workshop is all about is like getting into like what is really equanimity for us and coming to me. This word equanimity, which is so fun to say, by the way. You know, it’s like really about just like being centered, being balanced, feeling stable, not. You know, constantly being pulled up and down, right and left side to side, whatever, what have you. It’s it’s about being centered and being calm. And the workshop, we’re going to sort of explore what equanimity is and why it’s so important and how it can have an influence over our lives, and we’re going to do that exploration through discussion and talking, but also through meditation and a full one hour, Maibe a little more, a yoga practice. So we’re going to get into our bodies and into our minds and on our mats and really define for ourselves what it means to not be vulnerable to being constantly pulled off balance, you know?
Karuna: You mentioned Sara Mai that you are a lifelong athlete and that you know you have the “flexi” genes. So I just want to know is is the workshop appropriate for all levels or is it really designed for yogis?
Sara Mai: Yeah, no. It’s definitely appropriate for all levels. Yeah, yeah. So we’re going to do we’re going to do a movement, but it’s going to be suitable for anyone, even if you’re not like a daily yoga handstand person. So yeah, it’ll be it’ll be suitable. And of course, I’ll offer modifications up and down, but it’s really just about like using the body to explore and question and feel.
Karuna: Yeah, yeah. And I love like coming full circle back to where we sort of started, you know, at one point in your life, like yoga physical, meditation mind, and then you’re like, Oh, they’re connected. And and what I love about that is that you’re the most perfect person then to share how they connect with others who Maibe are still like in the stage where they’re like, I don’t know, I’m a meditator, but I don’t get the whole yoga thing or I’m into yoga but like, I don’t really understand like why we have to do the mind thing. So I love that, the name of your workshop is Remaining Balanced in a Topsy Turvy World. I’d love to hear a little bit about your topsy turvy world. I think anyone would have to be hiding under a rock not to have felt it for the past year and a half. Can you talk a little bit about your experience with, you know, a year and a half of COVID and isolation and all the masks, vaccines, no vaccines, no masks? I mean, there’s a lot of stuff out there. How’s it been?
Sara Mai: Yeah, it’s I’m trying not to swear.
Karuna: Oh, you can swear. Fuck yes! Swear. There we go. I just opened it up for you.
Sara Mai: It’s been really shitty. You know, it’s been a really shitty past almost two years, pretty much two years for a lot of people, myself included. I mean, it’s been, you know, obviously there’s paradox in that, you know, it’s been crap and I’m still in the crap. But it’s also a lot that’s happened that has really shifted my reality in the most beautiful, amazing, magical ways. You know, so I think, you know, I’m. Yeah, I think we all have this experience of like, you know, things aren’t things aren’t perfect and things go wrong and things fall apart and this happens all the time and it’s like really, really happening to us now on like a level where we’re all like, Oh, like more aware of it, I guess, you know? And I think that, you know, a big thing about why equanimity is so important is because it helps give us this resilience in this way to like, tune into ourselves for a sense of stability where it doesn’t matter what’s going on around us in the outside world or what’s happening to us, so to speak. Like if we can embody equanimity, then we can navigate all these ups and downs without feeling like we’re just being thrown around, you know? And that’s important because. You know. Change is here to stay. You know, there’s always going to be something and even, you know, God willing, COVID goes away or what have you like, there’s going to be the next thing. So I think what we’re really being shown like if you want to work on stability, like now’s the time now is a really good time.
Karuna: Yeah, yeah. And I love that because COVID was very difficult in our home. And while it was very busy for Mind Oasis, we like to say we were kind of cool before, like everybody else had to hop online. We were doing that since 2017, so we were really well poised to pivot and to be a resource and to be helpful. But. You know, I live up in the mountains with my husband and my two dogs in a home, and so we kind of live in isolation, but we have like two or three things we really like to do. We like to go to a restaurant one or two times a week. We like to go to the movies to like once every couple of weeks. And then I kind of like to go and, you know, I guess, to a restaurant for like some appetizers on my own. Apart from that, like we hike, ski now, we motorcycle. So we do all of these things really that are isolated to start with. But those few things that we would go out and do in society. We’re like a lifeline in our relationship. And for me, like my mental health, I like to. I think we’re both kind of introverts, even though I appear extroverted. I believe we’re both introverted, right? So like for me, I like to be in public, but anonymous, which is oftentimes why I’ll like just go to the bar and like, have an appetizer. And I’m just kind of in the scene, but I don’t have to like, do much other than just show up. So for during the time of COVID, those few little things that were not available was so hard on us.
Sara Mai: Yeah.
Karuna: The stability of my meditation practice, of my yoga practice, of having community in Mind Oasis was amazing. But my when you were talking about like, it’s been shitty, the emotions are still there. And I think that that’s what people are learning about. And I’m excited for your workshop. Let me just say when it is. It’s the 10th of October, it’s a Sunday. It’s two and a half hours and it starts at 10 a.m. Central. And again it’s called, Remaining Balance in a Topsy Turvy World on the 10th of October. And the way that you find both of Sara Mai’s workshops, is you go to mind Oasis and there’s a tab that says Learn and you’ll just scroll down and you’ll find both of them there and the workshop is free. And then there is tiered pricing for, the mini workshop is free, and you’ll find tiered pricing for the the other workshop. So this is all to say. Tying it back to equanimity and what you’ll be offering people, it’s like, I don’t think equanimity means denying the experience, the experience can still suck. The emotions can still suck, but are the emotions going to sweep you away? Yeah, yeah. So talk a little bit more about that and then I want to get to your dirt biking.
Sara Mai: Yeah, yeah. No, I’m really glad that you said that. I think there’s definitely like this misconception that to be in a state of equanimity is like to be in a state of indifference. You know, like like, I’m just so detached. Nothing can touch me. Nothing can bother me. And it’s like, you know, that’s a problem. That’s a problem, because that’s not like what it is to be human. And, you know, we have this full range of emotions. I mean, to me, equanimity is more about just this total radical acceptance. Like if I can look at the situation for what it is and kind of observe from a distance, you know, I can realize like, Oh, this is shitty, but I’m but I’m not shit, and I don’t have to be like in it and pulled around by it and thrown off balance by it. I I can see it for what it is, and now I know what I have to work with, and I can also give myself self-compassion for experiencing this like wide range of human emotions, which is totally normal, you know, versus going, Oh, well, I’m never frustrated or angry or thrown off balance because I’m so spiritual or what have you. Like that’s B.S., you know? So, yeah, so I’m really glad you said that about the misconceptions about equanimity. And of course, we’ll talk about that more in the workshop.
Karuna: Amazing. So again, you go to Mind Oasis.org and you’ll go to the Learn tab and you’ll find both of the offerings from Sara Mai. One is in September, her mini workshop on how to get a more restful night’s sleep for real by practicing in the morning and then remaining balanced in a topsy turvy world. Her workshop she’s bringing in October. Ok, so before we get to the the most important part of all of my podcasts, the question I ask everyone. Talk a little bit about surfing and dirt biking and all the amazing sort of edgy sports you have participated in.
Yeah. Well, if there’s one positive thing for me that came out of the pandemic was that I all my work shift to online only, and so I up and moved down to Mexico, where I surf as much as possible. I live on literally like one of the world’s greatest surf points and a really small town that nobody will ever have heard of.
Karuna: So don’t share it because then everybody is going to show up. It’s going to be an outside magazine. Do not say it.
Sara Mai: People have to research on their own. But yeah, I mean, it’s just one part of like this fantastic outdoor life that I really. Really intentionally cultivated over the past like five to seven years of my life, you know, like every decision I made, it was like, Is this going to bring me closer to freedom or take me further from it. And riding motorcycles is part of that, dirt biking is part of that, surfing is part of that and just teaching yoga and meditation and studying the dharma, it’s all part of that.
Karuna: So I’m going to give a little hint to the listeners or viewers here. One of the things that happens, I don’t know about surfing because I don’t surf, but I do ride a motorcycle. I do trail running. What else? I’m trying to think. Oh, I don’t know. I’m sure there’s other things, but. Well, and meditation and studying the Dharma, there is such freedom to be found in single pointed attention. And sports like that require a single pointed attention, in fact. During the U.S. Olympics, I got kind of curious about what kind of a meditation practice those athletes have to be able to have single pointed attention on whatever their sport is, but remain in field of awareness. So for example, I’m thinking of gymnasts, like you aren’t thinking as you’re flipping through the air about where you’re landing, you’re in the motion that you’re specifically in, right in that moment. But there is this equal field of awareness, which of course, that’s meditation practice, it’s single minded plus awareness, and then that brings the mindfulness, and I was like, Oh my gosh, all of those Olympians, they are like master meditators that just happen to be like also really physically so fit and talented.
Sara Mai: Yeah, yeah, well, I think it you know, so my my background and my past life is all in rowing, which is also one of those like I was a single scholar. So it’s also one of those like Introvert Sports, where you’re just doing the same motion over and over again, you know, and you’re really it’s like a meditative practice. And that’s for and with surfing and riding motorcycles, we talk about getting into this flow state and and you can get into the flow state through seated meditation practice. That’s what it’s all about. It’s like focusing on one. You know, things so intently, whether it’s your breath or whether it’s like a physical movement and repeat that focus until all the thoughts, all the B.S. just quiets down, and then there you are in this beautiful state of flow and connection. And I think that that’s, you know, like you were saying, yoga versus meditation. I think like hopefully people that meditate only can open to the fact of like meditation is a really physical practice. And then the the people that do physical practice, you know, for them to understand like their physical practice is really like about entering this flow state of mind, you know, big time.
Karuna: Yeah. So Sara, what’s your truth?
Sara Mai: Well, I’ll just follow in that same direction. You know, I think my truth right now is like encompasses this grand paradox that like right now, there’s a lot of stuff that is like not working out well right now and and it’s difficult times. And so I feel like I’m acutely aware that I’m like a work in progress right now, you know? But at the same time, I have this foundation of practice and this understanding that allows me to go well, I’m a work in progress, but like, I’m also perfect. Everything’s perfect, just as it is right now. Like, I’m exactly where I need to be and I’m doing what I need to be doing. And like all the stuff that even the stuff that I might label as crappy is like really teaching me something that I need right now, you know? So, I think that’s like my truth. My truth right now is like. There’s a lot of work to be done, but also everything is totally OK. It’s totally OK. Yeah.
Karuna: I love it. I love it, yeah. That’s just lovely. I got to see a really beautiful sunrise this morning, and it just lasted. By the time I looked away and I looked back, it had turned into Blue Sky, which was equally as beautiful. But you know, it was like pinks and purples and and I thought, Oh, that’s enough for today. Yeah, that magic moment was enough for today. Yeah. Yeah. Good. Ok, so Sara Mai joins us on mine Oasis with two offerings, one is free, it’s her mini workshop and it will be all about how to use morning practices to actually get better sleep, which you all need. So be sure to come and it’s on a weekend, so you have no excuse not to come and we record them. So if you can’t make it live, sign up anyway and you’ll get the recording. And then on Sunday, October 10th, she’s bringing this beautiful workshop called equanimity remaining balanced in a topsy turvy world with Sara Mai. And you’ll get to do both physical practices and there’ll be some dharma. There’ll be some discussion. Dharma is just a fancy word for some teachings and some meditation. Sara Mai, it was so lovely to spend time with you.
Sara Mai: Yeah, you too. I miss you.
Karuna: I miss you. So go to MindOasis.org. Sign up with Sara Mai. She’s an amazing human being, a dear friend and so much love to you, honey.
Sara Mai: You too. Thank you so much.
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