I played on.
Finally, on yet another turbulent flight from Kentucky to Iowa after tornados were spotted not far from the runway, I clutched the hand of the man sitting next to me, an Indian executive from Pepsi who was flying to a meeting.
Suddenly it was all crystal clear.
After a decade of traveling alone and very little to show for it, I was so done with life.
“Sir, I said. I don’t even know you. But I have to tell you, I’m over $50,000 in debt, I have no idea what else I am trained for, but I can’t do this anymore.
Without flinching he asked, “What is your name?”
“Bari, I know you will figure it out.”
I took a month off the road to live in a Zen monastery in California’s Muir Woods. I washed dishes and I got up every day at 4am to meditate. (For anyone curious about this kind of life, for what it’s worth, I can tell you it’s way easier to work your butt off touring and traveling the Midwest than rising every day at 4am and working like a slave at a Zen monastery. But that’s for another day.)
I finally got back to New York City scared, broken and pretty alone. My friend Sadie Nardini had become quite a yoga star, and suggested I take her yoga teacher training. Throughout my touring in the Midwest I was always doing yoga, standing on my head in the middle of parking lots (I was very good at headstands!) getting my yoga on in front of random Comfort Inns off some turnpike. Yoga was essential to my wellbeing. It had also helped rescue me from nearly debilitating anxiety throughout my 20s. So in other words, yoga was never something that was far away from me.
Well, that training wound up opening up a lot of doors for me—literally, figuratively and spiritually. It put me in a much better frame of mind. And much more open and in tune with my potential. Just because I had struggled earlier and hadn’t exactly reached my potential, well, that didn’t mean I couldn’t make a shift now into something better, right? My ears were tuned for the next step, for a big step, and I was listening for hints.
My buddy John Medeski from the awesome band Medeski, Martin and Wood had a cabin in the woods in Woodstock, NY. Woodstock was already very dear to my heart, as I’d written most of my “adult” songs there. He said I should go to the cabin one weekend and try to write a couple of kids songs because he had just gotten a deal with a kids label and he thought I would be suited for it.
So in the fall, with $2,000 left in my checking account, a mound of credit card debt and a very unclear future, I went up there with just my guitar and for two days, I wrote songs for my niece.
My little niece Mikayla had luckily been born while I had a break from the road, and every possible minute I could spend with her, I did. I took her to her first concert. We had so many sleepovers in her Dora Bed! I was the one who discovered she liked mangos when she would only eat 3 things! I was an aunt with a car seat. She was the daughter I didn’t have. We were so close. Two peas in a pod.