Girona: 2,000 Year Old Jewel

Gironabridge

Somehow, I forgot to publish this post I wrote a month ago!! That tells you how my life has been catapulted into the American warp-speed pace again…These pictures and memories gave me a huge pang in the gut. Can I go back, please???! I’m jammed with what feels like a million activities for my bored children this summer and my own work writing and teaching and then the ‘other work’ us moms do: cooking, cleaning, entertaining, organizing…I haven’t taken a yoga class in two weeks, even fell asleep with my youngest last night—or rather, can we say I crashed out in his bed after bedtime story?!—and woke this morning, disheveled, racing to do more with the goal of squeezing in maybe 30 minutes for me. Which is what I’m doing right now with this blog post. Sigh…

I’m so grateful for the experience of a slower culture, it’s ancient traditions and history. And yes, I do want to go back! I hope you enjoy this and it motivates you to step outside of America and our face paced, distracted culture to experience a slower rhythm for a week or two in the future. :-)

Catalan Girona is a 2,000-year-old jewel. I am so grateful that I splurged on a tour of this ancient city. My morning started out boarding a high speed train to a tiny town, Figueres, near the French boarder to see the Salvador Dali Museum. It was interesting, and I loved hearing about the Surrealist’s bizarre life. But the next stop, Girona, made my heart sing.

GironawallThis city, which pre-dates Roman times, is gaining American familiarity as it is where much of HBO’s Game of Thrones  is being filmed. My amazing tour guide explained that in the first century BC, the Romans built a fortress with an almost triangular perimeter (a kind of acropolis) known as Força Vella. The fortress was very well protected by a defensive rampart built from large stone ashlars. This was the first city enclosure and it remained unchanged until the year 1000. This is an extension of the wall. Below, is theForça Vella with parts from the original section in the first century.

Gironaoldbridge

The Cathedral has sections that date back to the 11th century, making the nave and the stone glass windows some of the oldest in existence. GironachapelGironaCathedralinsideWhat is wonderful about this Catalan region is how vibrant it still is and how proud the locals are. Our tour guide, who lives in Girona, said: “Nearly no one leaves and no one considers themselves Spanish. They are quite independent Catalans. Eh?” She had a cute way of saying “Eh?” at the end of statements that seemed important to her—like a nudge to get me to understand, rather than a question.

Gironaflags

The city center has dramatic views with quiet but steady winds that seem to whisper the history of this city. I could imagine life there more than 1,100 years ago when Charlemagne overtook the Moors, to the Roman times and then later to the Catholic expulsion and “conversion” of the Jews.

Gironacenter

History definitely is alive and flourishing in this city, which now depends on tourism for much of its economy. I loved the immersion in thousands of years of struggle and culture, that is rare for an American to experience. It’s in moments like today when I feel with complete certainly that I am a mere speck of dust on the timeline of this Earth. Being in a place like Girona, or Montserrat (where I visited last week) helps put life in perspective. We are mere specks of star dust, with such short lives. It reminds me of two important things. First, how important is the petty stuff, worries and ingrained habits? Seriously, I need not take myself so damn seriously. And Second, life is so very short. I spent most of the 10 hour excursion today with an old French couple, Henri and Violet, married 50 years now, who relished every minute of the Dali and Girona tours. They were so grateful to still be able to go up cobble stone pathways, or steps and take in the views. Henri had a pace maker and had also undergone spinal surgery. He was a lucky man to be there—and he knew it. The two were holding hands, laughing, asking so many questions and were such a delight for me to be around. It was a joy to see the city through their eyes. As much as they could do—hiking up to the top of the center wall wasn’t possible. But they were able to see and do so much and were so happy just to be alive and to be together. And their love for life and each other was contagious.

GironaHenrinViolet

Our tour, that required that we hike in 95 degree temperature, ended at 5 p.m. in the city center where locals were just beginning to come back out and cool off. Talk about joy for living! This little boy ran up to me and splashed water on me, while singing something that I’m sure was a taunt to get me to follow suit. His father laughed and laughed. (Something I’m becoming so fond of, how I see more parents laughing, rather than scolding, their children in Spain. It’s a refreshing difference from America.) After I shot this picture, the boy dragged me to the fountain where he splashed me properly! That’s the way to cool off!

GironaboyAfter my train ride back to Barcelona with Henri and Violet, we hugged, kissed and exchanged contact information. Henri kissed my hand saying it was a joy to be together. And that’s the wonder of traveling. You never know whose path you’re going to cross or how they will affect you in a wonderful way. I was afraid to travel by myself initially, but am so glad that I opened my heart up to new possibilities, new horizons, new experiences and new friends!

blessings multiply when in gratitude

Laura Roe Stevens:

Love this. ((( <3 )))

Originally posted on livingthroughtheheart:

i work with children with cerebral palsy.  i don’t know where to begin in explaining to you the blessings these children give to this world.  they are the constant reminder to me of all the gifts money can’t buy.  the smile, the glee, the bright eyes, the pure joy they emit when i walk into the room, or when they see the simplest things in life, like a butterfly landing on a nearby blade of grass.  they don’t ask for much, just a hug, eye contact, a simple gleeful ‘hello’, someone who may just pause to let them know they aren’t forgotten, that they are not only worthy of love, but they are pure love.

this weekend my daughter, riki, who works for espn, was able to get her hands on some extra tickets to the opening ceremony of the special olympics, which she wanted to be able to give…

View original 294 more words

Got Power?

photo by @rickylesser

photo by @rickylesser

Where is your power? What represents it? Is it your car? Is it your house? Is it your job and who reports to you? Does it stem from giving a husband or a wife a “honey-do list” of chores a mile long? Is it in your job as a parent “guiding your children?” i.e. telling them what to do, who to be, what to think? How’s it all working out for you? Do you feel powerful? Maybe. For a little while.

Authentic power doesn’t come from how much money you have or with the ability to boss minions around. Authentic power can’t be created by trying to control someone else, either. Shaming, blaming, criticizing, cajoling, nagging, belittling—none of these control tactics will change another person’s behavior or thoughts—and especially not make a dent in their addictions. That’s the kick. Addictions can’t be managed because they trigger a chemical reaction that make a person crave that substance, or hormone high from a behavior, again and again and again. They give a temporary relief, a ‘time-out’ from life or feeling whatever a person doesn’t want to feel or think about. I’ve been there. Alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, food (sugar!), porn, multiple dramatic relationships, gambling, compulsive shopping—it’s all a way to distract from whatever ails a person. They all distract from feelings of sadness, from trauma, from betrayal, from neglect, from frustrations, lost dreams…whatever needs to be felt, gets stuffed or shuffled or juggled with drama, things, substances. And there is NOTHING you can say or do to stop another person from doing any of it. Some are offended by that. Some don’t believe addictions are real. I’ve heard some, who continue to try to change a person, say: “If he loved me, he wouldn’t do this (insert alcohol, cigarettes, porn, compulsive shopping),” or, “If he cared about having a good life or this family, he wouldn’t drink every night” or “She chooses to binge eat every night. No one put a gun to her head. It’s disgusting.”

Last month a friend in Barcelona hared that a waiter brought their table a free bottle of champagne one glorious afternoon. A man, sober 10 years, said that while looking around at all the beautiful, smiling faces at other tables who were sipping exotic drinks by the sea, he hands began to shake violently. “Why can’t I be like them?” he thought. When he told the waiter to take it back, he said it was the first time in many years that he was “gutted.” He was so tempted, haunted, by the thought of having a sip that he had to excuse himself  because if he had one drink, he’d have to have more and more and might end up divorced and on a park bench again by month-end. Where is his power? In knowing that he is powerless over his addiction and in getting help. But no one can do it for him. No one can shame him, or blame him or criticize him into it. Why would they want to? This beautiful person knows he isn’t like social drinkers. By embracing his powerlessness, he can embrace his authentic power.

Where are you powerless? That’s our theme for our first Recovery Yoga class today at 2 p.m. at Haute Yogi Manhattan Beach. Join us!

I am powerless over what another person chooses to do—or say—or think—or be—in this life. If that person is my partner or family member or best friend, it may be excruciating to watch—especially if they habitually drink, smoke, neglect their health, binge eat, gamble, make bad choices, etc… In fact, the more that I try “to help” i.e. suggest, criticize, nag, cajole, beg for whatever I want (therapy, exercise, better choices) the more likely it is that this person will resent me and continue with these behaviors. And when it comes to addictions, like the dis-ease of alcohol, I am truly powerless. If a person refuses to get help, they won’t be able to stop. Even if they say they will. Even if they go a month sober, even if they only drink on weekends, without help, without support, without therapy, the ‘dis-ease’ builds until it’s a gnarly chemical compulsion, needed, in fact, to stuff pain, mimic joy, mimic normalcy—and they will reach for it again and again. It’s not in my control. It’s not in their control. It isn’t “manageable.” I can’t save anyone. And putting my life on hold, my dreams on hold, my goals at bay in an attempt to rescue anyone, is surely another means of distraction, right? That’s co-dependency and it’s a wicked “dis-ease” as well.

So what can I control? What can you control? Where is our authentic power?

I can control my thoughts. I choose to spin negative thoughts into positive ones. 

I can control what I put into my body.

I can meditate for 5, 10 minutes a day.

I can find a way to exercise every day. (Can you? Even if it means taking the stairs at work, power walking at lunch…there are many options.)

I can stop criticizing, myself or others.

I can allow others to help me.

I can choose who I hang out with and who I live my life with.

I can create boundaries with those who hurt me.

I can choose a peaceful environment: what I watch on TV, what music I listen to, is within my power.

I can forgive others AND myself for not being what I needed them to be. (Read that again, it’s HUGE.)

I can breathe deeply, count to 10 and respond, instead of react, when drama emerges.

I can learn how to be present and be a good listener.

I can focus one hour a day on one of my dreams (and “not listen” to any of the negative or insecure thoughts that may linger or may have been said to me about it…for one hour, I can go for it and have fun with it.)

I can create traditions with my children: gratitude lists at bedime, love bombs at dinner, family game night or movie night…

I can dream, visualize, manifest as I meditate and write.

I can let go of expectations.

I can accept others for exactly who they are—AND love them, AND myself, anyway.

I can do one good deed a day, or week, without letting anyone know about it.

I can cut off my phone and my computer for a few hours every day.

I can de-clutter and give away what I don’t use: cluttered house=cluttered mind.

I can try to understand first, before being understood, or being right.

I can control what I say. I can ask myself the following before I spit out whatever is on my mind: “Is it kind? Is it true? Does it need to be said right now? Does it need to be said by me?”

I can open up my heart, take healthy chances, ‘get out of my head’ and open up to new experiences, new friendships.

What can you control? Where is your authentic power? Join us, as we meditate, flow and sweat while thinking about one area of our lives that we can control. We will breathe into that intention for the week and feel the power of letting go of what we can not control and embracing what we can: our own lives.

The light in me, honors the light in you ~ Namaste

on the practice of patience

Laura Roe Stevens:

Patience…Something easy to have when filled with confidence and then like a lightning storm, can feel impossible during the thunderous flashes of doubt. I think I need a ball of yarn to untangle! Thanks Manette for this beautiful post! xo

Originally posted on livingthroughtheheart:

i used to think how wonderful if things that we wanted just happened when we wanted, like in the tv shows ‘bewitched’…or ‘i dream of jeanie’… wouldn’t it be cool if things just happened by magic. what i understand now is that it’s not what i want, so much as what it is i need to transform.

when i focus on the process, the journey, life – a series of lessons to learn more about myself and how i relate to others and to the universe.  i see life as the practice of patience.  if i’m focus on who i want to be like, what i want to acquire, what would make me ‘happy’, what i want people to think of me, what i want others to be like, i become discontent, frustrated, and impatient.

patience is having to wait for that something you want to happen, knowing you want it…

View original 485 more words

¡Mañana, mañana! I’m in Barcelona!

coffeeBarcastyleI am officially on mañana time…and loving it. After a few hectic and frenetic days in London …I am happy to report I am back to myself and feeling madly in love and at home in Barcelona. In less than two days, it seems that I’ve fallen in love with the heat, the slower pace and the unique rhythms of this city. Or maybe I just feel at ease here. (Here I am, just waking up and having a cup of coffee on the roof with a neighbor who asked sweetly if she could come up @ 1 p.m.)

I love my rooftop apartment where I can literally sleep outside (on what I call my yoga deck) with a bed and outside bathtub. I’m under the stars. I love that feeling! As I write, I can hear my neighbors having dinner at 10 p.m. on their roofs. Soft music, laughter and the clinking of dishes are the soundtrack to a gorgeous sunset each night.

sunsetbarca

It’s so relaxing. So peaceful for a city. No yelling or honking of horns like you find in New York or London. A band played tonight in the square. I could hear seniors cheer and clap to the music that wove spanish guitar and accordion, sounding like a Spanish polka. As I write, I can hear bells toll, a child bouncing a ball and sea gulls squawk in the darkness. My apartment is about a 20 minute walk to the sea shore. Earlier, I took a bath under a nearly full moon. My little yoga deck is practically hidden from neighbors with roof decks across from me—the bathtub area is in a private corner anyway!

privatebath

This trip is about testing my boundaries and tackling fear. I travelled quite a bit when I lived in London, but this is a solo trip as my boys vacation with their dad in France. I wanted to go somewhere cheap to fly from London, since I meet back up in London to fly back to California with my youngest. I booked this flat specifically because it was on top of a building, mostly outside, (I have about 400 feet inside!) in a residential neighborhood. I knew it was up 8 floors, so I packed only a carry-on and my yoga mat! No hair dryer. Only one pair of shoes! Very few clothes since I wanted a few books. I had to think about just what I need for almost 3 weeks away. I simplified.

And this flat outside where I write, read, eat and do yoga, forces me to engage (important when traveling solo) and detach at the same time. I find myself staring at the clouds and seagulls as they pass by. I watch old neighbors tend to amazing rooftop gardens. I can see younger neighbors doing laundry and cooking or playing with children on their own rooftop oasis.

secretegardens

My neighbor’s large decks are amazing. On my little deck, I write. Often. I do daily yoga in insane heat, but with continuous breezes that feel like God’s breath. After bathing, I’ll walk very slowly into town to go to markets. I love wearing loose dresses—it’s too hot for anything else. I love smiling at people who smile back. My neighborhood is filled with bohemian artists with nose rings, dark makeup, tattoos—and also seniors who come out only at dusk to watch people from their balconies, while wearing smock dresses and old fashioned white linen shirts. The old and the new converge on this block, perhaps within this entire eclectic city.

narrowlanes

I am not in the main tourist area, and I am thankful for that. Yesterday I ate out alone. I normally hate doing that. I sat outside (it doesn’t get dark until after 10 p.m.) at a cafe table and just watched children run past, adults walking dogs, seniors playing cards. It was relaxing. An old man smiled at me, often. An old lady came over and asked me something in Spanish. I’m convinced she thought the blond girl playing with the water pump in the courtyard was mine. People are people wherever you go. Every southern city I have ever visited has been laid back. No rushing. Long conversations. No one was staring at their mobiles, except for the tourists, who were glued to them. I felt ashamed for that. I felt this way in Seville and in Tuscany too. Perhaps I am destined to return to a hot, slow-paced city again. Southern California, for all its sun, still leaves me cold by the icy Pacific breezes. Laugh all you will, but I had purple fingers after an evening beach stroll last week in Hermosa Beach! Plus, everyone is so busy. So very very busy in LA. I feel like I will move to a southern European spot someday. I know I could definitely live here.

On my first evening in Barcelona, I sat on my balcony observing how the neighborhood begins to percolate once the heat subsides. I noticed a neighbor drag out a large paint brush and bucket. She began to paint her outside patio wall beige. I naively thought she wanted a new color for her wall…I woke in the morning to find a screaming lioness mural across from me! How appropriate for my arrival, as I feel like I’m coming back to life after a long hard winter!

beigecanvas lioness mural

Until I muster the energy to write another post…Tener una hermosa noche! :-)

Looking Into My Mother’s Eyes

momnW

I walk into the Alzheimer’s facility with a somewhat brave face. After being buzzed in, I force a smile, force small talk, to yet another new administrator, before making my way into the cafeteria. The small tan room with light tan round tables, is before me. Everything is neutral, as if bright colors might offend those with memory impairment. I behave like this is just another day, no big deal. I haven’t seen Mom in a year, but pretend I am prepared. Mom is hunched over her wheelchair. A nurse is trying to feed her. I sit down and introduce myself to a new nurse whose name I forget instantly. She says this is her first week on the job. Mom strains to turn her head and eyes me, but doesn’t smile. She turns away in slow motion, moving as if under water, as if I am not there. The nurse tells me that Mom loves music. I tell her that she used to play piano by ear, up until a few years ago. She promises to play more music for Mom tomorrow, classical instead of country.

The nurse places a small piece of salmon on a fork and touches Mom’s lower lip with it over and over again until she licks the spot, but closes her mouth reflexively. This goes on until Mom finally manages to open her mouth, even if just barely. The nurse then pushes the food inside. As I watch, I wonder when the day will come when Mom can’t chew, when she can’t swallow.

In between bites, Mom grinds her teeth like a delayed response, a late synapse connection telling her mouth to chew at the wrong time. How frustrating that it happens when nothing is in her mouth! How frustrating and terrifying this whole damn disease is. I try hard not to imagine Mom waking in the middle of the night confused, not knowing where she is, not knowing  who anyone else is around her.

But, that’s not likely to happen anymore. She no longer appears anxious or frightened. She’s in the late stage of the disease.

The nurse leaves and I begin chattering on, showing Mom pictures of the boys from my phone. Pictures of my life in California. Of course, she doesn’t look at the pictures, but at me. Mom sort of chuckles as I try to feed her. I bribe her with a small piece of a warm chocolate chip cookie. It takes three touches on her bottom lip before Mom can open her mouth. I gently push it in. Only half makes it inside. But she smiles. Mom still loves chocolate. She can’t move her hand, but her eyes look down at it briefly, so I place it up on the table and put mine on top. She smiles again briefly, then stops.

And then she begins to stare.

Mom stares deeply into my eyes. I lean forward, forcing myself not to look away. I continue to gaze back just as deeply into those eyes of hers that are a shade of blue I’ve never seen before in anyone else. They are as blue as western corn flowers or a Tiffany’s box. Who knew a color could break my heart.

As I am staring back, I fight tears and remind myself that she is in an infantile place now. She is in a beautiful state of purity, innocence, trust. Looking into Mom’s eyes, I can remember exactly how it felt to stare deeply into my sons’ eyes when they were both newborns. I’d lie with them and stare so deeply that I’d ache. I’d tremble with how remarkable the knowing is. How raw, how powerful it is to be so open, so pure, so trusting.

We are all born in this perfect state. And that’s why I believe in oneness. We divide, distrust, judge, criticize, separate, as we age.

But when we are born, we have this ability to love with abandon. We don’t judge. We love who we love and it has nothing to do with what they look like or wear or own. We aren’t ashamed of our feelings, we embrace them. We scream when hungry, cry when we need to be held—we know we deserve love and deserve to be taken care of. Somewhere along the line, maybe in elementary school, we start to lose that knowledge.

We lose touch with so much as we layer on fears, doubts, judgements, anxiety, hurts, grudges. And it’s hard to be happy, to be at peace, to be creative, to be playful, to give love, to receive love, with all those layers weighing us down.

I adore how toddlers and preschoolers live unabashedly too. They embrace who they are and what they want! A tutu with cowboy boots and a martian mask—hell yes! No toddler cares what another person thinks of them. They’ll grab a jar of paint and just stick their hands inside and relish in the gooey feeling and then paint their arms and legs because it just looks cool. They’ll dance, spin, rock it out, screaming to their favorite Barney tune.

They also trust that the Universe has their back. Have you ever seen a toddler just fall backwards on purpose and giggle as adults scramble and run across the room to literally have their back, break their fall? Those little munchkins know that the Universe will care for them, that the Universe has their back.

We are all born knowing these truths, until sadly, some adult doesn’t show up or doesn’t care for us, or other people hurt us and then we build walls. As I said, we pile on judgement, hurts, guilt, anxiety, fears, grudges, criticism, doubt until there is no room for joy, for trust. It’s like wearing 10 coats on a summer day and wondering why we can’t run freely in the surf.

These thoughts, or some version of them, race through my mind as I am looking into my mother’s robin’s egg blue eyes. So I allow myself to try to channel my inner preschooler. I allow myself to enter into a staring contest like the ones I used to have with my sisters or my childhood bff when I was little. I lean in and tell myself to just go there. Who’s going to blink first? I think, so I won’t cry.

After we stare for what feels like five minutes, although I’m sure it is only two, she smiles. I can see kindness, inquisitiveness behind her blue blue eyes. She doesn’t know who I am, but she still feels, she still tries to connect. Someday I will just get a blank stare in return. So today, I am grateful and I am heartbroken at the same time. But mainly, I am grateful. The same eyes that used to be filled with so much fear, so much anxiety, so much stress, that they would dart around a room, are now at peace. They calmly stare deeply into mine. She is smiling. She is trusting. She is peaceful.

Last year when we did this, our foreheads touched and she said I love you. This year, she can hardly speak. She doesn’t know who I am, but wants to. I ache with the purity, the openness, the trust I see in her eyes that won’t look away.

Timeless Images From Southeastern Appalachia

slavepic1

Slave Girl, Photograph, property of the NC Archives, Asheville, NC

“And when great souls die,  after a period peace blooms, slowly and always

irregularly. Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration.

Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us.

They existed.  They existed.

We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.”

Maya Angelou “When Great Trees Fall”

countryroad

I recently went on an excursion in the appalachian mountains in TN & NC. I love getting lost on old dirt roads where history seems to drip from the branches of trees. Getting lost here gives you a perspective that can rarely be found in today’s America filled with strip malls and manicured neighborhoods. I sought to find images of a history that wasn’t always recorded. A past that can be sensed and felt from the old dirt roads, abandoned farms and barns, stoic river banks. The backdrop for part of my novel Uriel’s Mask is from this region, and from the pain of those who existed a long time ago, but were never recognized, named, seen, heard. They may never be, but their past still subtly influences the story of our present—which is especially felt in this timeless region of the country.

Here are some more images from my journey:

kudzuhouse

How old is this house, now eaten by kudzu? What stories does it have? Only the trees and soil know, and they aren’t telling! I found this cabin on an old dirt road near Townsend, TN…I was lost, but so glad I found this, as well as a few wild turkeys and one small black bear!


FBroadRiver1

This stretch of the French Broad River in Asheville, NC seems to ache in a haunting way. Neglected from its former state of importance, few visit, and yet it rolls on as if a witness to those who died silently, nameless, near its banks.

oldbarn

If you look closely, you can see the U.S. Mail sign sliding into a Blacksmith sign of this TN barn near Townsend on a winding old dirt road.

horses

How I miss horses! Gentle, powerful, sensitive, soulful—better company than most people. It was hard to see so many neglected in the mountains. Not brushed, left alone for months. These were better cared for than others I saw.

barnred

Why do I love old barns so?

fieldbird

A typical scene between Nashville and Knoxville, TN.

streamI will always love how trees arch and lean in across streams, as if yearning to touch, to comfort one another. They are silent witnesses to all who have walked near or sat on their banks.

maskA mask found in Asheville, no name for artist, unsure of age.

My time in southeast appalachia is always special. This time I researched details for my completed novel Uriel’s Mask. I am so grateful to the librarians, historians and art preservationists who bent over backwards to help me! And also to my sister Elizabeth who got lost with me, giggling the whole time. Sometimes it takes getting lost to get on the right path to be found, right?  And thanks also to Georgene who looked after the boys so I could go on this adventure… Here’s a poem that has always resonated with me, as it strikes a chord of truth, especially for southerners who can sense how much of our painful history has slipped away without witness, into the soil, the river banks, the roots of trees—and even into the boards of old barns and cabins.

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.”

Hermann Hesse, Baume

FREE YOGA CLASSES ALL WEEK @ TORRANCE MEMORIAL!

jumping-for-joy1

Who said nothing’s for free? I’m SO excited to invite you all to try out free classes all week at two different Torrance Memorial Medical Center locations! :-) The hospital is introducing many new classes (including my post-natal!) and is offering a free trial this week. :-)

So, here’s the skinny—there’s actually a lot more than just yoga…You can also try out: Tai Chi, Pilates, Salsa Dance, Belly Dancing, and Muscle Strengthening classes too. Go to http://www.torrancememorial.org/classes or call: (310) 517-4711 to register or get more information!

I’d love to have you as a guest in one of my yoga classes! Here is my schedule for the week:

MONDAY 3/2:

4:15 p.m. Malaga Cove location: YOGA BASICS:
Perfect class for beginners, those with injuries, those recovering from minor surgery and seniors. This class will help you get back into or try out yoga, and will improve your balance, flexibility, strength and lower your stress levels.

6 p.m. Lomita Blvd location beside hospital: PRE-NATAL YOGA:
Calling all moms-to-be! Breathe through the stress, meditate, gently flow, prepare mentally for child birth, and just enjoy time for yourself with other pregnant moms.

7:30 p.m. Lomita Blvd location beside hospital: POST-NATAL YOGA:
SO important for those who have recently had babies! Meet other moms with babies your age, meditate, breathe life into your sleep-deprived bodies, laugh, dance, and learn how to safely strengthen your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. Lavender temple massages included. :-)

TUESDAY 3/3 NOON:

Noon/ Lomita Blvd location beside hospital: LYMPHATIC FLOW YOGA:
This gentle class boosts your immune system by targeting the lymphatic points throughout the body, allowing them to open and let the lymph system flow. This is a great class for those recovering from cancer, currently undergoing cancer treatment, or living with chronic pain from autoimmune illnesses. AND, it will give you a boost to just fight the common cold!

WEDNESDAY 3.4

5:30 p.m. Malaga Cove: YOGA BASICS:
Great beginner yoga class for ALL levels.

Hope to see you this week! Again, call the hospital (310) 517-4711 or visit its website. Or, if you want more information, just send me a note.

Have a beautiful week!

Namaste ~

Laura x

Making It, or Faking It? The Messy Journey to Authentic Healing

rippleh2O

Sometimes I wonder if I’m actually living authentically, as I strive to do, or am still people pleasing and rushing into the idea of forgiveness and acceptance. As a yogi, meditator, writer and single mom navigating this planet, I hear messages constantly that are meant to help in times of crisis. Sometimes these messages fall flat—as there is an underlying note of criticism. For instance, if I can’t forgive and forget instantly—does that mean I’m less evolved, or am letting others down? Does that imply my “energy or vibration” will attract more negative experiences if I can’t immediately accept that “everything is happening exactly as it is meant to, for my highest good?”

Why am I exploring these yogi and self help sentiments? Well, there’s nothing worse than a healer who just throws platitudes against the wall when someone is truly suffering. Since I’m now teaching students who are fighting cancers and living bravely with chronic pain and debilitating injuries, it’s critical that I dig deep and try to relate to their struggles. For that reason, I’m starting to re-examine how I deal with my own struggles. Five months ago I was hurt physically by someone I thought was my friend, and someone I thought I was in love with. In my attempt to heal emotionally, I rushed toward forgiveness and acceptance—instead of allowing myself to feel the pain: the emotional hurt of betrayal, sadness, anger. When I reached out to a few well-intentioned friends, I was told things like: “everything happens for a reason,” or “maybe you needed this to wake up and be done with bad boys,” or “you have to forgive in order to heal,” or “on some level you knew he was like that.”

And then later in yoga classes, I heard these platitudes over and over again: “everything that happens to you is for your highest good,” “you are responsible for everything and everyone in your reality,” “forgiveness is the attitude of the strong,” or “happiness can only exist in acceptance,” or “when you keep your vibrations high, you only attract those on a high vibration.” That one really cut to the core, as I know that I’m insanely kind, forgiving and giving. Too much so…

I almost gave up yoga during this time of healing. I ran a lot to very loud music in my ears. I biked so hard I thought my chicken legs would explode. I also immediately forgave the person who hurt me and then, when I started having flash backs, I wrote a scathing letter crucifying this person’s character.

It’s the perfect example of why no one should rush into forgiveness without working through feelings—without recognizing them and honoring their soul. It’s okay to be damn angry when someone treats me like crap. Who deserves that? And it’s also okay to not understand what the lessons are in the experience right away. I try to remember this when with my students. How can I say everything happens for a reason to a student who is dying and will never see her daughter get married? What good will that do for her to hear a statement like that? None.

So, instead, I meditate for allowing a space to heal. I meditate with my students for love. I give lavender shoulder and head messages. I tell them they are strong. I tell them they are loved, infinitely. I tell them they are brave. They are beautiful. They are deserving of love and light. I tell them that shitty things have happened to them and me, but we deserve better and they have the support they need. We meditate on letting healing light in—letting it penetrate the cells of their body to wash away all the scars, the hurt, the cancer. And at the end of the class, I realize that while I may be providing a service, they are actually saving me.

I ran across this brilliant post “How to Hurt” by Angry Therapist team member Padhia Avocado. 

It’s worth reading the entire post, but I’ll quote a few paragraphs that resonate deeply for me:

“We need to shift in the way we judge pain. It is not possible to simply “get over something” that affected you in such a way that it changed who you were and the understanding you had of your world,” she explained.

“Time does not heal all wounds. Wounds can heal on their own, but only if they are superficial. Deep ones need attention and special care. The parts of you that hurt can’t see the outside world and use the logic of comparison to heal. Shame and judgment of pain only makes the injury worse. That forces you to hide your own truth from yourself and that leads to many other problems.”

Amen to that. Her next paragraph makes a lot of sense, too. I know that I sometimes get frustrated when I’m not healing fast enough. I recall feelings of bitterness springing forth, surprising me, as I thought I had “already dealt with this!” Well, it’s time to let the perfectionist go. Everyone heals at a different pace. And as long as I am not marinating in the feelings, dwelling in them, recalling them often, I’m just honoring my existence. I feel because I exist. It’s that simple. And it involves no one else.

Padhia wrote: “Other’s judgment of how “you should feel” is irrelevant. … Our inner time is very different than external time. Years may pass between things that happen in the external world, but time doesn’t work like that on the inside. … You can’t talk yourself out of the things that hurt you deeply. To be free of them, you have to learn to hold space for your feelings. Allow them to be what they are in a way that you are not feeding them (so that they gather more volume and take you over) but rather letting them bloom, so that they can then die down. Listen to the messages in them while they are blooming, and go down the paths they are calling you to go down. Only then, can they evolve into lighter feelings of acceptance, healing and gratitude.”

And that’s really the key. As a good friend and therapist told me, there’s a fine line between self exploration and self absorbance. To allow my feelings to exist—no matter what they are—without blowing them up into something bigger, or hiding them and shaming them—I will heal. I feel it already. I’m on that path. And what I’m learning, is that when I allow myself to be okay with feeling angry, sad, disappointed or angry—when I sit with it, recognize it—I begin to acknowledge my worth and honor myself. I don’t need to rush to forgiveness and to “finding the lesson” to prove that I’m evolved. First, I need to sit with the feelings, tell myself that it’s not okay for someone to hurt me and that I’m going to grieve first.

This process doesn’t create victims, martyrs or self pity party holders. In order to let these feelings morph into acceptance and forgiveness, they have to be seen and heard and felt—like a dear friend who listens without judgement. I’m convinced that those who don’t allow themselves to grieve will get stuck in a life with unrelenting bitterness and fear.

As Khalil Gibran so eloquently wrote: “your joy is your sorrow unmasked.”

The only path to joy is through feeling and acknowledging sorrows. Once recognized, the sorrow can be let go—allowing space to live again, to try again, to love again, and to let joy float back up to the surface.

Namaste ~
Laura

The Power of Sound: And How it Can Heal Families

Water exposed to the word Ubuntu: Zulu for human kindness.

Water exposed to the word Ubuntu: Zulu for human kindness.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Remember that little saying? Well, I just don’t buy it. I’d rather break my arm any day than to go through another episode of raw, explosive, uncontrolled anger. Why am I talking about this? Well, recently I overheard a parent yelling at his children. I became suddenly overwhelmed. My heart raced, tears sprang to my eyes and a deep, sinking, sick feeling overcame my body. The child had not done something right. Whatever he didn’t do, clearly didn’t merit this explosive, uncontrolled reaction. Nothing. Ever. Does. Intellectually, I’d guess that most of us agree. But this type of situation doesn’t stem from making a rational choice for peace. It is something that explodes, out of control, like a monster that breaks free in the heat of the moment  This dad screamed at the top of his lungs with such hatred that all I wanted to do was grab this child, hug him and tell him that it wasn’t his fault. Well, maybe he didn’t do something right, but he didn’t deserve to have his soul crushed or to feel unlovable, to feel worthless. I’ve experienced a few outbursts like this in my lifetime from abusive people who at their core, are kind, scared children who have been abused in the past—just reacting like their parents did.  It’s always a surprising flash that catches a child completely by surprise. Uncontrollable anger is terrifying. And when it ends, that angry person may act as if it never happened, but the effects on the target of rage lingers for weeks, sometimes years. It’s as if the words, and vibration of hatred, wounds in a physical way, to those unseen places—on a cellular level.

My hunch is on the mark. Now there’s scientific proof that sound heals—or kills. A few years ago I discovered Dr. Masaru Emoto a Japanese scientist, who played classical music and folk songs through speakers placed near water. He later experimented with heavy metal music as well as words of hatred taped to the sides of glass with water. He would then freeze the water to make crystals which he would then compare with crystalline structures of different samples.

watersick

When different musical pieces were exposed to the water sample, it formed unique beautiful geometric crystals. If he then played heavy metal music or taped words such as demon, Hitler, or “you make me sick” to the side of the glass, the crystal basic shape would break apart.

One of my absolute favorites is how the water responded to John Lennon’s song “Imagine”:

Water exposed to John Lennon's song Imagine.

Water exposed to John Lennon’s song Imagine.

Since our bodies are approximately 60 % water, it’s hard to argue that words and anger doesn’t hurt us physically as well as emotionally and spiritually. Dr. Oz recently did a show about uncontrolled anger that proved how it also hurts the person who can’t control their outbursts. A working mom of 5 children kept finding moments of road rage, of “being set-off” over little things. (To see a clip of this show, click HERE.) It was shown that she had no “me-time,” little sleep, lack of help and was basically a ticking time bomb. Her heart would race, her blood pressure would soar and she’d explode. Later, she’d be overwhelmed by guilt and communication broke down, making it impossible to teach life lessons, or help her children navigate mistakes or choices. It was compelling, as the woman was bravely honest and I’m sure she helped many parents as the person who has outbursts isn’t necessarily evil. He or she needs help. Dr. Oz suggested more sleep, exercise, carving out one hour a day for me time. YES. (And I’d say YOGA!! My life has changed forever because of it…)

And I’d also suggest introducing music. Let sound heal. We know that anger and outbursts hurt, so use sound to your advantage. Play music all the time in the house and in the car. Tune into frequencies of love, joy, silliness, beauty through music. Mix it up. Country, Reggae, Pop, Classical, Folk, it’s all good. And if you have the ability to let your children learn how to play an instrument, even better. I stumbled upon this TED X video called “This is Your Brain on Music”. Wow, so powerful. It showed how all areas of the brain, including joy, light up when playing music. Many light up when listening, but almost ALL areas of the brain— from problem solving, to logic and critical thinking—light up when playing music. Check it out: This is Your Brain on Music: 

We all have the ability to lower our stress, let go of unresolved anger, soften our voices, raise our vibrations—no matter where we’ve come from. Last Valentine’s Day I wrote an article about finding a Vibration of Love.  I had just been exploring sound and vibration and had read some of Dr. Emoto’s books. I recall thinking instead of looking for love outside of ourselves, create it inside and let it flow with every soft, compassionate sound voiced to friends, to our children, our loved ones. This sound heals and attracts those on a similar frequency. Clearly, we aren’t perfect and don’t behave in a zen way ALL the time. But we can become more aware, take care of ourselves, limit our triggers and alcohol, apologize when necessary, rebound, begin again…I’ll leave you with a simple line from that Valentine’s Day article I wrote last year, that seemed to resonate truth:

“I’ve come to believe that sustained love lies in the subtlety of how we speak to one another—much more than what we actually say. It’s about speaking kindly and respectfully, at all times, even when voicing concerns. I’ve always loved the James Taylor lyric: “It isn’t what she’s got to say, or how she thinks or where she’s been. To me the words are nice the way they sound.”

~ With Peace,

L.