Strength is the new Beautiful

cracks

I snapped this picture three years ago when hiking up Machu Picchu. It’s just like me to stoop down and notice ferns peaking up out of weathered, ancient stones that are stomped on by thousands of tourists. The baby ferns growing between the cracks get stepped on daily by hundreds of people clad in hiking boots as they race up to the top to see ‘the vista’ everyone comes to Machu Picchu for. Yet the ferns continue to grow, like a gift of forgiveness to those who crush them. Cracks are beautiful. And people who show their cracks to the world are a blessing for those of us who try to hide our own.

I shot pictures of wild orchids peaking out from dead tree branches too. I’m obsessed with fragile beauty. It is vulnerable. It is hopeful. It is a living example of gentle strength that I hope to embody.

orchidmp2

An orchid blooming from a downed tree branch, is surviving—and blooming—against staggering odds. It encourages me to try to bloom where I am right now, no matter the circumstances, no matter how many times I have failed in the past, no matter the risks. To continue to bloom for a short, trying period, is an expression of gratitude for this tenuous life. It humbles me to see it. After failure or rejection, I tend to bury myself in my covers for days. I want to hide from the world. But to hide is a form of shame or fear. I can’t be seen if I hide. I can’t be rejected either. I may be safe, but I can not let you see me. There is no way you can see my flaws, or feel my love, or understand my fears, or even read my writing for that matter. Nor can I experience you, if I hide where you can’t find me.

So even though I’d rather not emerge in an authentic way—I’d rather not take the risk of failure or rejection—I will remember what nature teaches me. Every attempt to grow, to bloom, to show up, to keep going, is an act of faith, and love, and gratitude. If I can accept my cracks, and my fragile life exactly as it is right now, beautiful things may begin to emerge beneath the surface—that were likely there within me all along.

Keep going friends. And please encourage those who are striving despite the odds. Love those who show up in your life who are vulnerable and who reveal their imperfections. They are the ones who will accept you, as you are, and give your heart wings.

Love & Light,

Laura xo

 

 

 

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The Journey to Love

skandosina

“This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.” ~ Rumi

 

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~ Melody Beattie

 

“Beauty without Grace, is the hook without the bait. ” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

 

“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” ~ Marianne Williamson

 

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Please note my new yoga teaching schedule changes:

Mondays:
* 6 a.m. 1 HR Hot Yoga, Beyond Bikram Hermosa Beach
* 4:15 p.m. Yin/Yang (part restorative, part balance/ Iyengar, non-heated, all levels, seniors encouraged. Malaga Cove, Rancho Palos Verdes (dm me if interested)
* 6:15 p.m. Pre-natal Torrance Memorial Medical Center, near ER. (dm me if interested, recurring 8 week series, however, drop-in upon request.)

Tuesdays:
6:30 p.m. 1 HR Hot Yoga, Beyond Bikram Hermosa Beach

Please check BeyondBikram.com schedule, as I sub many Wed. & Fri. 6 a.m. classes, as well as weekend. Wed. – Friday are now committed writing days for me.

Have a blessed week,

Laura xo

 

Giving Birth with a Baby in the Playpen

I’m having another baby!

Yup. I’m writing another novel. And it feels like I’m seven months pregnant while taking care of a toddler who is scooting every which way dangerously while learning to walk. My novel Between Thoughts of You is currently with a publisher and an agent (who are both considering it). I’ve worked so hard on it between December and March, re-editing the manuscript after so much input received from writers, publishing house editors, and agents at The New York Pitch. (I’ve been to a few writers’s conferences, but attending the Algonkian is like garnering a PhD in publishing in five days. It is that intense,  informative, and humbling. Advice from Paula Munier  was just brilliant.)

 

So, while Between Thoughts of You is with an agent and a publisher, I just can’t sit around getting into fear and anxiety over whether a Big 5 pub will pick it up or not. So I’m writing again. My next book is nothing like my previous three. It is written in the first person. It is a double psychological mystery with twists and turns until a surprising convergence at its end. It contains elements of the metaphysical, but they are not sensed until the later half of the book. The basis for Orbiting Jupiter is how sudden trauma and grief can alter the brain in significant ways—sometimes projecting us into other dimensions. By that I mean, something miraculous can be birthed from being blindsided, if you allow it. The blunt knowledge that NOTHING in your life is as you thought it was, or as it was taught to you—can explosively open up your mind to possibilities never considered.

Said in another way: When no one in your life is as they portray themselves to be, how do you then navigate previous rules for trust and engagement? Maybe what we see and hear and touch is no longer an accurate portrayal of reality.  Maybe there are different elemental laws of physics, like an internal compass tapping into an invisible source, to steer you onto your true path. What is there to lose? When clergy, parents, friends, lovers, co-workers, etc… betray, violently pursue their greed, wield control at any expense, criticize those who dare to be different, worship wealth—and are still considered the gold standard for ethics and morality within society—what kind of society is that? When a person crashes into the dust of that harsh ‘reality,’ if they don’t fall prey to drugs and alcohol, other worlds can slowly begin to surface. Surprising psychic doors can open, shifting awareness. Visions into other eras, distant dimensions, alternate lives—can emerge.

 

If a person is discovered in this expansive state of consciousness, that western medicine and science can’t explain, he may be placed under psychiatric care. His state of mind, or explained experiences, may be defined under the umbrella of exhaustion, mental collapse or psychotic episodes. I’m fascinated by documented stories where people suddenly remember a stranger’s life with utter clarity, as if it had been their own. There are cases of amnesia after extreme stress, that compellingly show how a traumatized mind alters in order to enter into a less stressed, livable state. I’m just as intrigued by stories of children of abusive parents, or within violent foster homes, who develop telepathic abilities, or empathic skills to alert them about their care-givers next moves—like Darwinian traits sharpened or re-engaged to help them survive dangers at home.

 

I love this phase of writing. I don’t love the phase of pitching, marketing, and stressing about getting published. It’s part of the process, so all my author friends tell me. But I prefer this one. The one of creating, researching, writing the story. I do hope that Between Thoughts of You, my previous novel, gets picked up, develops legs and runs. But until then, I’ll complete Orbiting Jupiter. 

 

The idea of self-publishing keeps getting presented to me, however, I’ll put that on a shelf for now. It’s an over-whelming concept for me that sucks all the creativity out of my soul. I don’t see how I can keep writing and creating if I’m over-seeing printing, marketing, self-promotion, distribution, sales, etc. while also being a present full-time single mom who has other jobs to pay the rent. Right? So I’ve decided to finish this next novel before entertaining the self-publishing prospect. For now, I’ll keep creating and will see where it takes me. It’s the only reality that fits my life.

 

Have a beautiful day.

 

Laura x

 

 

Yoga + Meditation + Gratitude = Longer, Healthier Life.

Pulse

 

Here is my latest cover article for Pulse Magazine. I write for a lot of magazines, so why am I posting this one on my blog? Because it is for a traditional hospital publication. It reiterates what I’ve known for a long time. There is now NO doubt that yoga, meditation and a gratitude practice lengthens life, improves health, boosts mental outlook, and reduces pain and the intensity of disease. I love when I get the chance to write, research, and interview experts on topics I’m passionate about. I began doing yoga and meditating more than 10 years ago due to a bad back, a nasty divorce, and the stress of rearing a baby and a young son solo. The journey has helped me battle auto-immune disease and dark moments. I have taken multiple yoga trainings and now teach, while also free-lance writing. My life is more positive. I feel joy on the daily. I am more patient and more present with my boys. And I see how much yoga has helped my yoga students who are in pain from cancer or arthritis or injuries.

Now physicians and scientists in the West confirm what I have felt and seen through many studies conducted at Harvard, the Centers for Disease Control, UCLA and elsewhere. Some studies showed how meditation and a gratitude practice helped to reduce cancer tumors and/ or the intensity of pain and side-effects from cancer treatments such as chemo or radiation. Other studies showed an increase in memory from meditation. Others showed how meditation, especially, increased the capacity for joy and reduced depression.

 

One day I envision an America where therapeutic yoga and meditation classes will be a standard benefit offered within corporations and covered by medical insurance policies. Lowering stress means reducing toxic cortisol and glucagon hormones within the body. It is widely accepted within western medicine that cancer grows within acidic environments. It is also known that a flush in cortisol, (that happens when individuals are stressed or anxious or angry) causes the gut to not thoroughly digest vitamins and nutrients correctly. This flush of cortisol also tightens connective tissue which reduces the flow of our lymph system and makes us more vulnerable to the flu. Stress also increases inflammation, ramps up blood pressure, creates tension headaches, muscle spasms and even increases the chance of stroke and heart beat irregularity. Taking preventative care of ourselves ought to be a primary concern—and not just for the privileged and wealthy in this country. I’m glad to know that yoga and meditation is now taught at reduced rates in hospitals (where I also teach) and community centers, as yoga studios can charge high rates. Most yoga studios, however, will also offer low-fee community classes once a week, which I highly encourage people to try.

Here’s to a low stress and blessed week.

Namaste ~

Laura

 

A Writer’s Space to Breathe, Create, Inspire & Elevate Consciousness

 

This was my home office in London when I was a Parenting editor working remotely for a San Francisco-based publishing house. I was the first editor there, so helped shape the entire webzine, then became the parenting and pregnancy editor. I was also freelancing for other magazines and newspapers. All I know is this: I produced here. I was inspired here. One of my New York colleagues said she didn’t know how I managed to edit nearly 15 freelancers and columnists, write my own articles, do research, read books to review, attend meetings remotely at various times of the day and night and find time to raise my son and freelance for others. But I did. And it seemed effortless. My days flew by. I was in the zone. The vista, over-looking our garden in Notting Hill, didn’t hurt. I’d see pigeons on the trees, neighbors walking dogs, and sometimes, in winter, without the abundance of leaves on the 200-year-old tress, I’d even see the London Wheel. During times of writers block, I’d just stare out the window and after a bit, (now I know I was meditating) it would elevate my consciousness, spark ideas, and lift my thinking to what is possible—and not that of anxiety and fears.

This office space, married with my strict daily routine, fostered the ability to crank out deadline after deadline. Since I’ve moved to Los Angeles, had a baby, got divorced shortly after, I’ve struggled with both my office space and a daily routine. I no longer have a dedicated office space, as I live in a small beach cottage, so the desk is in the den. I still freelance for magazines, companies, and publishing houses. I’ve written two novels. I’m not insane. I’m doing okay. But I haven’t had that dreamy office space and I struggle with a strict daily routine. I’m trying to re-create it as best as I can. But I tend to write in my bed, here. I like the privacy and being away from a frisky kitty, but it’s a horrible place to write! I have papers strewn everywhere. There is no white board or desk calendar. The den desk in Los Angeles is tight and I have to deal with my boys and my hyper kitten. I spent quite a bit of money to turn my one-car garage into an office, but it has termites and black widows and is scary. It’s not my perfect space. Yet, how much does it really matter? Didn’t I create from coffee shops and libraries when in New York?

 

While feeling frustrated about the situation, I recently re-read Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott and The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield (These are must reads if you are a writer!) Both authors have amazing advice. Anne is humorous and I adore her candor and wit. Steven gives staggeringly revealing advice about the physics of fear. With that said, both agree writers over think it. We just need to write, wherever we can, every day. Yup. Create that daily habit and, as Steven said: “Put your ass where your heart wants to be.”

“If you want to write, plant your backside in front of the typewriter. Don’t get up from the chair, no matter how many brilliantly-plausible reasons your Resistance-churning brain presents to you. Sooner or later your fingers will settle onto the keys. Not long after that, I promise, the goddess will slip invisibly but powerfully into the room. That’s the trick. There’s nothing more to it.”

Although I miss having a designated office to write in, I will get my ass in the chair, not write in bed. (Even on days when I have autoimmune flare-ups). And, I will imagine that I am still a full-time editor at a publishing house, on daily deadlines, only taking breaks for the occasional yoga class that I teach or for a beach walk to garner inspiration from the Pacific.

I may no longer have the vista across London, but I can create that space in my mind— that feeling of expansion—and give thanks for this moment, this reality that flows with my words as I channel gratitude, guides, characters, universal angst onto the keys and into my next novel. And it all starts with simply putting my ass in the chair.

L xo

Living w Autoimmune: 3rd Day of Challenge a Wipe Out

Still under the weather today, the 4th day of the challenge…I’m grumpy from no coffee, tired, fingers tingling. My older son has a date tonight (super cute) and it’s just me and my younger. My saturday night date gets to help mommy with chopping veggies as my fingers are still not working totally the way I want them to. Getting better though. Plan is to eat an omelet…then popcorn with our movie. No candy. No soda. Still healthy, right? I know. Sort of. Definitely not a home-cooked meal, but I need rest. I have to get completely better by Sunday to see my next Tennessee husband perform, Justin Timberlake. jk sort of! My older son bought us tickets for my birthday. So NO MORE Flare-ups! And going to JT is worth not eating a home-cooked meal for. 🙂

Hope to be back on track Monday. If any of you deal with managing flare ups and trying to cook every night, send me a note.

Have a beautiful weekend,
Laura xo

Day 2 of 21 Day Challenge to Cook 4 Kids: OY! Not Looking Good…

Video from last night. I’m beginning Day Three of this 21 day fat loss challenge (a cook for my children every night challenge) with a more positive mindset, especially on International Women’s Day. I will alter this challenge to fit my needs, empowering myself to focus on time management, goals, sanity. If it takes three to 3.5 hours to shop, chop, prepare, cook, clean-up, then it is NOT worth it to prepare home-cooked meals every night…not for single moms who also work within their careers and strive to have any sort of personal life or balance. What I seek is 30 minutes to sit down with my boys at the family table every night. But if we’re going in different directions all the time, I do not need to be working so hard…This challenge, just on day 3, is confirming this for me. More later.

Peace, love and support—especially to those special women and mothers across America who do far too much every day. Give back to yourself today and always. Lets make that commitment.

Love,

Laura

21 Day Home-Cooked Meal Challenge!

I signed up for a 21 Day Challenge. It’s officially a fat reducing challenge, but for me, it’s a home-cooked meal challenge, as it requires participants to cook each meal for 21 days. As a full-time single mom of two, that’s a tall order. We have activities. I teach yoga classes. Plus, I am also a writer.  During the day, I’m writing/editing novels, as well as articles for magazines and corporations I freelance for. The extra shopping and prep time and cook time and clean-up time, that goes with home-cooked meals, has always been hard for me. I’ve been a full-time single mom for ten years. I have a 10-year-old and a 17-year-old and everyone says life will get easier as the boys age. By that, my friends think life will become more balanced. But honestly, it’s not really that way, we just evolve into different types of activities and demands, etc. As I struggle to keep up with my identity, my sanity, my health, my dreams, picking up ready-made meals from Trader Joe’s or wherever, has been my time-saver. But so many people have been telling me for YEARS that the best way to be a good mom is to prepare home-cooked meals. We’ll see! Here are two videos from my first day, that did not go so well! LOL! Lord. We’ll see how tomorrow goes!

I was so hopeful in the morning…but then the day got a little crazy, and I didn’t get yoga in or, more importantly, my writing.

 

I’m trying to keep up my faith!

Is it this hard for any of you???

L. xo

Embracing the Divine Feminine within a #metoo & Hookup World

athena

Can we as women embrace the divine feminine within, while also demand to be taken seriously as an intellectual equal of strength and character? Most of my female friends will say, “Hell yes.” But I’m not so sure that my male friends will agree (amongst each other). A woman in a bikini who looks sexy, is also a person who may write articles for the New York Times, or creates legal briefs, or who rocks a baby to sleep. She is a person of infinite depth and has found a way to embrace her health, vitality and beauty, without negating her intellect, strength, and roles within family and society. It’s a delicate balancing act. Just because we want to be taken seriously, doesn’t mean we have to hide our beauty. It is not our fault that desire creates a beast within some men. That’s like saying a girl deserved to be raped if she wore a short skirt. Yet, somehow, I still feel that it is our duty, as women, not to feed that beast and to refrain from behavior that spurs affairs and/or abuse.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this. It is wonderful to feel sexy, healthy, vital, energetic—at any age. I also know that whenever I post a picture in a sexy yoga pose, the men who ‘like’ the picture aren’t necessarily reading the Rumi quote or noting my yoga class schedule below it. Right? Women feed into the objectification that is rampant. We do. But that doesn’t mean we deserve to be lied to, cheated on, manipulated, or God forbid, drugged and date-raped. There’s a huge leap in the male thinking brain from: she’s hot, to: I can, and am entitled, to use her as a physical toy and throw her away after. A good friend of mine told me yesterday that her first date after her divorce resulted in being rooffied. She woke up in her ‘date’s bed, not remembering a thing. She had only had one glass of wine at the restaurant. LORD. She’s in her fifties. This sort of thing happened a lot during my college years and my graduate school years in New York. I heard stories from friends often and I once ended up in the hospital after someone roofied me. Luckily, I wasn’t raped, but I passed out, hit my head in a restaurant bathroom and the cops were called.

I am taking a big sigh as I write this.

Have we not evolved?

I want my nieces to grow up into strong, self-confident, independent women who unabashedly embrace their sense of beauty and vitality. Just because many men want to hook up and treat beautiful women like objects, doesn’t mean we have to hide and cover up either. We just need to be smart, stay alert, and not drink during first dates or put ourselves knowingly into harms way. (See my interview  with Pat Allen, relationship expert, best-selling author of Getting to I DO and expert on Millionaire Matchmaker)

 

Pat, who was actually my therapist during my ex-husband’s affair, has been saying for years, what DeVon Franklin re-iterates in his new book The Truth About Men. That is, that men are not wired for monogamy. They have a lust problem. Not all men cheat, clearly, but all wrestle with desire, even when in love with their wives. Their lust struggle doesn’t go away. DeVon refers to male lust as “the Dog.” And in his book, lust is about power, as much as it is about female conquest. If a man can commit to his profession full-heartedly, he can commit to a woman and family, he explains. Society and the lack of good male or father figure role models, makes is easy for successful men, especially, to not look in the mirror and to continue to indulge the dog, even within committed relationships. An interesting side-note, men who cheat, according to DeVon, are those who were abandoned by fathers or had poor relationships with fathers. Women who cheat, however, typically have put up with too much abuse or neglect and leave a relationship. Men who cheat, are often not in bad relationships at all. Hmmm…So how, as women, do we navigate that one or the fear that it instills when we begin a new relationship?

 

Well, I don’t have an answer. I do know that really good men cheat and feel horrible about it after. But it breaks my heart when women, who have been cheated on, or lied to, ghosted, or made to feel lesser than by a man in their life, take it personally, by thinking they somehow aren’t worthy, deserving, or sexy, etc. And some men, justifying their bad treatment of women, can say horrible things. I know. I heard them, to the point that I believed that I wasn’t sexy or beautiful during my divorce. Yoga and my yoga trainings saved me and helped me to embrace my physicality as well as my spirituality and get back into my writing. I shifted gears and stopped worrying about what was said or done. I’ve since let that shit go. I don’t need to prove anything, but I do want to feel good for myself and remain vital, healthy, so I can be a strong single mom for my boys.

I adore Reese Witherspoon, my fellow southerner, who is strong, and beautiful and calls into question just what a powerful businesswoman is supposed to look like. When I was in college I heard a lot folks saying I was the character from Legally Blond. I covered the legal beat at the Red and Black newspaper at the University of Georgia. I was in a sorority, had long blond hair, wore make up, yet still wrote essays and interviewed supreme court judges for public radio and slept on the streets with the homeless during campaigns to effect change. Why not? What rules in society exist that stipulates that in order to be strong, intelligent and successful as a woman, you can’t wear sundresses, or make up? Or be sexy, and spiritual for that matter. Honestly.

This is what I want to say to my adorable nieces, and to my boys who I pray grow into men of character: respect the light within each person you encounter. If you treat others with dignity—and that means yourself as well—you will hopefully, never be in a situation that makes you feel less then, entitled to take advantage, or used. Communicate honestly, girls, by asking the man in your life what his intentions are. Don’t assume he’s committed. Don’t drink too much and put yourself into sticky situations where others can gain control. And, boys, if you see or hear something, like a fraternity brother bragging about date raping, or drugging a girl, stand up, like a man with character, and turn him in or challenge him. Think of your beautiful cousins and the daughters you may have one day. And don’t drink too much, as that can entitle the dog to bark, as DeVon says.

Friends, chime in. What are your thoughts?

Love & Light,
Laura x

Yoga for Writers Workshops

 

Forgive the ‘you knows’! Clearly, this was a one take job, lol. I’m a writer for a reason. I’ll need to practice before public speaking! California writers, for more information about my yoga for writers workshops held monthly, please send me a note. In these workshops, we do not read from our material, nor do we critique each other’s work. We start with a 30 minute gentle, non-heated flow that incorporates kundalini, hatha, breath work—all at a beginner level—designed to let go of fear and to level our energies so we can talk together more productively. We can then share tips regarding pitch letters, queries, proposals, synopsis writing, contests, agent responses (or rejections, part of life) and strategies to find time to write every day—especially important for those of us who have children and busy day jobs. We come together for support. IF two people connect and want to review each others writing, they can swap emails after. Workshop costs cover the rental fee for the studio, btw, so typically $15/each. Email me for more information: laura.roe.stevens@gmail.com.

 

Have a blessed day! Laura