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September 27, 2011

A Day in the Life of an elephant.

Thanks to our colleagues at New Hope media, I was just flown out, put up, and spoke at the Natural Products Expo in Baltimore, where green-minded companies exhibit their wares to consumers, would-be investors and groceries nationwide.

I'd never been to Baltimore (though I met Cal Ripken, childhood idol, at The Kitchen in Boulder two years back). And I've still never really been to Baltimore: I arrived at the airport, took a taxi with four fellow natural products friends to the hotel, jogged over to the Conference Center where the expo was held, jogged back, worked at my laptop all night, jogged back, toured the expo floor for hours, checking out some of the countless new and classic companies—spoke on a panel with three impressive journalists and publishers—jogged back, worked at my hotel desk, grabbed a taxi and made my flight just in time (despite the best efforts of the weather, traffic, and our friends at the TSA).

My trip was so quick because, unfortunately, the Natural Products Expo directly overlapped with the biggest Yoga Journal Conference of the year, in Estes Park, Colorado. So I went up to the YJ conference five days late, did two classes, saw a bunch of friends and colleagues, and left.

I was struck by three things at both conferences:

1. There is little distance, in these "mindful" communities, between business and path. Meaning, at the Expo, helping the environment goes hand-in-hand with making a good living. At the Yoga Journal Conference, the expo, the teachers and YJ itself are all in business—they're, you know, actual job creators. But they've chosen their business deliberately—they've chosen to try and make money in a fun, and beneficial manner.

2. Walk the Talk: both conferences try and do many of the little things that show they're in it heart-first. At the expo, the press room is entirely paperless. Some vendors offer samples in compostable containers. Many visitors, including myself, left with next to no "schwag"—we're not in it for random free stuff and samples. That's an important point—such expos can be all about plastic packaging and the landfill impact can be devastating. At the Yoga Journal conference, there's not a single plastic water bottle company, though YJ could make good money off such vendors. Instead, YJ works with the Green Yoga Association to provide free spring water out of water coolers all over the stunning mountain campus.

3. Most of all: the people. From Diana Mercer, Dianne Hanlon-Dryuff and Heather Smith to David Haynes and Todd Woloson, from my fellow panelists Sophie Uliano and Amanda Freeman (and moderator Mikal Belicove) to Sylvia Tawse and TJ Macintyre and the good folks at Method, Hope Hummus and Klean Kanteen (the greenest water bottle there is—for babies, too)—Natural Products inspired me. Human beings can be so quirky, beautiful, fun, energetic, thoughtful, supportive, frank...we're not so bad, afterall. And at YJ—from Seane Corn's emotional Yoga for Broken Hearts class (that dealt with the pain of death and loss) to Richard Freeman's remarkable knowledge paired with modesty that again rasied the bar of what I thought yoga is, to Elana Maggal, Alden Conant, Kasey Luber, Jessica Durivage, Yoshi Aono, Chelsea Roff, Chris Courtney, Nicole Duncan, Laura Hobbs, Seane Corn, Seane Corn, Seane Corn...the people there are fun, healthy, grounded, ambitious, savvy, open, positive.

It was a long 24 hours—or 32, rather—and I spent the next day working at home, quiet, absorbing everything, grateful that my work has got me to a place where I get to meet so many of those working hardest to be of benefit.

Yours in building mindful, non-corporate media,

~Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis
editor-in-chief, host, Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis

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