Category Archives: spirituality

Offline a Month, and Life’s Good

September 24, 2017 marked a full month without ANY social media. Not even one peak. Not one news feed scroll. Not one ‘like’ for a picture marking an event or moment in my life. Not one announcement made to a wide group of ‘friends’. Yesterday, however, I had a moment that felt very odd. A beautiful model who was taking hot yoga with me, after class, posed half-naked for a selfie in front of our mirrors.

(Here’s a fun article in HuffingtonPost: The Phenomenon of the Selfie and Look at Me Duck Face.)

The woman, who had her camera aimed high so she could have her entire wet body beside our mirrors in the picture, giggled and said ‘bear with me, I have to do a social media photo bomb.’ I literally stepped away and out of the camera’s view laughing nervously. I suddenly didn’t like the fact that there’d be thousands (she is a model) of her ‘friends’ in our yoga class and possibly seeing me sweaty and tired. Yoga isn’t about sex. It was a knee jerk reaction of mine to get as far away from her as possible. See, I had forgotten about ever wanting to invite in hundreds of strangers into my day to approve of me or ‘like’ a post-workout sweaty body. Was I ever like that? Probably. And that worries me. Of course, her pic will probably garner attention for our studio. Maybe. Will any of her ‘friends’— likely men, lets face it, she’s gorgeous and posed half naked and wet—come into the studio or take one of my classes? Not likely. No harm was done though. It’s just funny how I reacted. A month earlier I would have likely friended her and ‘liked’ her picture saying “great workout!” or something to that effect. Yesterday, after a month off, I just wanted OUT of the picture and didn’t feel comfortable having strangers injected into that moment which for many was about pushing themselves into a positive mindset and healing. Yes we wear little clothing in a hot class, but that’s because of the heat. What a shift in my thinking! I’ve become much more private. That’s clear. I’ve become more selective about who I share information with and who I share myself with. That’s the biggest shift. I care more about the vibration of a person I encounter face to face and whether that person makes me feel at ease or makes me smile, or is kind and having a bad day. When I feel that natural attraction to someone like-minded, I make a point of speaking more or reaching out more, or doing something to lift their day. I’ve become better friends with certain yogis at my studio, for instance who are going through challenges and are facing them with courage and laughter. We have long chats. We’ve known each other for nearly a year, but now I’m even more mindful and pay attention to their lives and we share a lot with each other. These relationships mean more to me and I don’t really want to invite strangers into our moments, as silly as that sounds.

As for my 15-year-old son, who is also off social media now, he’s had moments where he said he felt isolated from friends—you know, no more snap chat or Instagram. But we’ve also had heart-to-heart conversations about what he doesn’t like or miss on social media. Like the fake accounts where kids post pics of drunk hookups or drunken or pot-filled moments. And before he quit social media, he witnessed some bullying by a popular kid calling a girl names, making fun of her appearance and it bothered him. I love my son. He’s an old soul and he knows what he likes and what he doesn’t like. So this offline month he stared an ebay business, opened up a checking account and also created a website that is really gorgeous. He’s also learning about investing, so all the money he makes, he can invest. At school, he’s made a point to sometimes sit with, or walk with, an autistic kid who gets shunned. He knows he’s popular and his kindness might inspire others to be nice to the kid too. I’m really proud of him.

So what have I been doing this month? A little of the same: writing, yoga classes, juggling the demands of my boys. But I’m not on social media listening to hundreds of voices and feeling like I need to get involved in the chatter or be seen. I’ve had heart-felt conversations with yoga students, started a cleanse with one, and have heard from a few old friends. I’ve had a Saturday night date with my youngest, walking on the pier, going out to eat and not once did I scroll my feed or snap a picture for my ‘friends’ to like. It was just the two of us and I even forced myself to pay attention to his Star Wars and MineCraft rants. 🙂

Now that I’ve detoxed and no longer miss my social media addiction, this next month ‘should’ be even more productive. I’m hoping! I have big plans. I’m editing Between Thoughts of You, my next novel, and am teaching even more yoga classes and will be going to Vegas with my boys for a huge soccer tournament, visiting my sister who now lives in CALIFORNIA! and will be throwing a party for my youngest who is turning NINE on the 24th. It’s hard to believe. Life is still as busy and as challenging as ever, but it’s more mindful. It’s more peaceful too. When I tune out all of the noise, I can tune into my own voice, my own heart, and listen more carefully to the voices that mean the most to me: my family, my closest friends. I play more music too, that’s been fun. I’m still not cooking however! I hate all the cleanup late at night, but we do sit down at the table and chat over my awesome salads and Trader Joes meals. lol

Life is Good offline.

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Offline Worldview

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So it’s been nearly 3 weeks since my oldest son and I turned off all social media.

Here’s my update:

The first week, I missed it. I might have said that I felt more mindful, but I had those moments when I wanted to check my feed. You know, the times waiting in the school line, or half time at soccer games, etc.  I didn’t check, not once. But I had the urge. I wondered if my exotic-traveling friends had posted amazing pictures that would convince me to plan my next trip. I wanted to see those gorgeous yoga poses and read those preachy, yet spiritually-in-tune quotes from my yogi friends that are meant to uplift and garner more students at the same time. I also liked seeing those pics from my friends who are in love. I’d chuckle from my worn-out, over-worked mom friends who’d go all out and post party, happy-hour rants. You get the idea. I had gotten into the habit of listening and watching all these lives unfold (or how they’d like me to see them unfold.) Sometimes I even felt like I was being a bad friend, as I was so out of the loop. I couldn’t see those rants or requests for prayers for a sick relative or get a birthday reminder. I also worried that I needed to post about my new and expanding yoga class schedule or post pics of my kiddos for relatives to see.

But by the second week I felt free. So did my 15-year-old. We both weren’t seeing those pictures from old friends who had parties that didn’t include us. Who needs that? We didn’t have reminders of what isn’t cool about us. My 15-year-old is not drinking or partying yet, a lot of his friends are. He wants a scholarship, straight As, soccer prowess. I am a single mom who is now teaching 6 a.m. weekly hot classes and weekend classes and helping to manage a yoga studio, while also writing and schlepping to schools, practices, back-to school nights, doctor appointments, etc. I am in good shape, but I am not glamorous. My ex lives in Europe, so no weekends off, or help for me. Seeing the posts from other single mom friends who get weekends free, used to sort of haunt me. I adore my kiddos. But seeing what others are doing, made me question my future and my present and took away a tiny breath of strength and core confidence. I know that I’m strong and happy with my life, exactly as it is, even if it may be challenging.

It also dawned on me, as I was writing my final chapter of Between Thoughts of You, my next book, that I have way too many voices in my head. Maybe not voices, but points of view. And mixed in with that, I had this little push of myself with each point of view. Maybe that sounds confusing. Basically, social media created this need for my opinion to be heard or for my life to be seen and approved of at all times. If a ‘friend’ posted something sad, I felt the need to respond with an appropriate emoji or a comment if it was a real friend. And then if I was at an event, I’d post a picture and within hours would be curious about who approved or ‘liked’ it. It became important what other people thought about what I had just experienced. I imagine that what other people think can become even more important for teens who are establishing themselves or finding their way. The other part of the mix is this altered reality that had become a part of my daily life. People who would never invite me to parties or for tea, or who I barely know, had become a part of my daily world. Seeing what they were doing, feeling, or were with, had become a part of  my life, say, while I was in the car waiting for my eight-year-old at school. When he’d pop in, I might be distracted about something political or racist that was said, instead of focussing on that sweet and pure voice in the back seat. The obvious take away: taking time to keep up with people who aren’t really in my life, is taking precious focus and energy away from my family: my two boys.

Besides, it takes up a lot of energy too. Maybe their lives seem more glamorous, more successful, more sexy, more free, etc. Do I need all that competition or worry? My life is exactly as it is supposed to be right now.

So, the first week I was off social media I was writing a scene (for my novel) with Lulua`ina [loo loo (w)ah’ ee nah] aka Lulu, and it hit me that I made her do something that I would do. It was completely out of her character, but totally in mine. I stopped and thought about it. I think it stemmed from a need, or a habit of putting myself out there on social media, to be seen and to be approved of. Without that outlet, I was pushing myself upon this character. Lulu would never contemplate falling for a certain man who wasn’t spiritual, wasn’t over his ex, drank too much, and came from a family that valued money and power at any expense. She came from a strong Hawaiian spiritual family who respected the Earth, their ancestors, karma, giving back and living honestly and humbly. Once she saw this person’s background, just because he wanted to change and loved her, she wouldn’t be conflicted about staying friends. She is strong, has supportive roots and knows exactly who she is, even in a crisis. So even though she is young and lonely, she has a core strength beyond her years, based on tight family support and spiritual beliefs. I never had support growing up and my spiritual strength and confidence came later in life. When younger, I would doubt myself and listen to friends and be swayed, betraying my intuitive voice. I put myself in her shoes at her young age and betrayed her character. 

So, I changed the scene. She regretted kissing him and vowed not to ever again. Period. The talk ended in her mind. No conflict. No need to call her Nan and discuss. She knew what she needed. Lulu needs a strong person with a strong sense of character and spiritual awareness to match her own. In the end, the conflict will be about her husband and childhood best friend.

Does this have anything to do with social media? Yes, I think it does. The constant need to have other’s approve of ‘me’ puts ‘me’ too much on my mind. I’m better off focussing on my work, my kids, and on what I think of situations, events and the people in my life—the real people who are actually in my daily life.

Here’s to a more mindful and present existence.

Love & Light ~

L. x

 

 

Eight Days OFF Social Media

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So, it’s been eight days since my 15-year-old son and I quit our social media addictions. For my high schooler, the cons have been not knowing what his buds are doing and being off snap chat and being outside the inside jokes. He switched his snap chat addiction for more youtube video watching, on topics such as saving and investing or on relationships. Hmmm. For me, there really hasn’t been a down side. Isn’t that amazing? Last weekend I edited all of my chapters of Between Thoughts of You, my favorite novel out of the three I’ve written. Sounds arrogant to say that, and I’m not claiming to be the next Hemingway, I just adore my main characters. I L O V E them so much. Lulu feels like the woman I want to be and the old man she cares for, the grandfather relationship I never had (both my grandfathers died before I met them.) Plus, the culture of Hawaii and all the history I researched makes me excited to go back. So, there’s that. AND, I’m teaching more yoga classes and working more at the studio so I feel more present and grounded. I had an awesome class last Friday night (happy hot hour @ 5:45 p.m. my new one) then met up with one of my best friends from college who was having a birthday party. And no one saw any pics! (Gasp!) I didn’t worry about whether any of us were photo worthy, looking good, or showing we were having fun. I’m clearly more in the moment, except when I’m writing, and then my mind is traveling through my characters to Italy, New York, Japan or Hawaii…but I’m not telling more than that at the moment! LOL

So, even though my life is pretty much the same, I’m more focussed, centered and less in my Ego. I’m more present. I’m not concerned about whether the pace of my life is moving too slow or whether I ‘should’ be having more fun or doing more, or seeing what friends are doing that I’m not. Right now, it’s boys, yoga & writing … every damn day. Sprinkled in between are the laughs, the phone calls or texts, rather than instagram or facebook likes or comments, and in-person connections that I’m excited about. 🙂 No comparisons. No drive to get ‘likes,’ which are never a substitute for off-line attention, appreciation or conversation, right? If someone really cares, they’ll reach out. Period. I also haven’t been distracted by my feed and prevented from doing what needs to get done. As a full-time single mother juggling work and kiddo activities, getting sucked into social media means less time to take care of me or this house or the boys. I even got the carpets cleaned—no more gross stains! And hired a handyman and squeezed in some fun posting a picture and seeing who approved of it. Here’s to more offline productivity and mindful fun. I’m teaching an extra class tonight and ordering dinner instead of cooking and cleaning. Not a bad deal.

Life is Good offline this first week.

Love, Light, Fun & Balance ~

L. x

Embracing Chaos

Heartgarden

So, I cried today. Hate to admit it. Maybe a little over the weekend too. Life is hectic right now. I’m trying so hard to be mindful, but I’m doing so much solo, somethings gotta give. There was a gas leak because my landlord didn’t install the dryer properly. That was scary. And then trying to get my son and pick him back up from beach camp every day this week (school starts Sept. 6!!) has been stressful. First I take my oldest to school by 7 a.m., then I’m racing to the studio to open it in the morning, get it cleaned and ready for the 9 a.m. class, then race with my son to the beach drop off spot and then back and it takes an hour at least with parking being nutty. It feels like I just can’t get it all together. I raced so fast to pick him back up by 2 p.m. the other day that I nearly ran a stop sign. I can barely leave the hot studio before 2 with all the work that needs to get done. Most afternoons and evenings involve racing to pick up my oldest, then soccer practices, then taekwondo, then my yoga classes I teach (that fill me with gratitude and peace). I don’t know what I’d do without the yoga. Because I literally feel like I’m teetering on many days. My landlord laughed at me the other day and said “girls can do anything boys can do, you’ve got this.” That was his way of getting out of doing something that needed to be done at the house that is in disarray with lots of things still broken. I thought I’d cry. I can’t handle one more job. I’m still writing too, so yesterday I had to finish an article, and edit another chapter in my spare time. Ironically, like yoga, the writing centers me. I just wish I could figure out how to balance all the family demands a little easier and find more time away from parenting when I need to.

So I missed a dear friend’s funeral last weekend because I couldn’t get sitter coverage and my ex is rarely free. It was a family friend who helped take care of my mother, an aunt to me my whole life: she did my hair, she made my prom dress, you get the idea. Family. I’ll send a letter, it’ll be ok. My oldest was in a soccer tournament anyway, so 5 games Saturday and Sunday and I needed to be there, the boys were super aggressive. But I may miss my real aunt’s funeral at the end of Sept in Maine, and even though my ex will be in the States, he is choosing not to help. Something’s gotta give. After cleaning the studio and two races back and forth for the beach camp pickups, then back to the studio, after cleaning it, I just sat down in the girls locker room and cried. Probably because I’m tired. Probably because I feel so unsupported.

It’ll be ok. It always is. I’ve been doing this solo parenting gig for 8.5 years, right? I’ll dip into savings again and hire a sitter and go to Maine. It’s worth it.

Life is hard now, but as Buddha says, it doesn’t stay hard forever: “Life is a circle of happiness, hard times and good times. If you are going through hard times, have faith that good times are on their way.” Buddha

For the rest of today, I will mindfully be present and grateful that I am safe, I am healthy, that my boys are amazing, healthy and happy and that I am mainly surrounded in my life by sweet, thoughtful yogis. I am thankful to have kicked the social media habit, too, as I need not compare my life with others. This is my life right now. Today is hard. Tomorrow will be better.

Love & Light ~

L. x

My Son’s Challenge: No More Social Media

woman_closing_laptop

So my fifteen-year-old son says to me earlier this week, while watching a tapped recording of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet chatting about success and the importance of reading: “I think I’m going to take a year off.” Earlier that afternoon he had been watching a video about how the brain works and how to strengthen it, you know, during his break from homework. It’s only the second day of school, so I’m thinking he means, after graduating from high school, he’ll take a gap year, like some of his friends in London do.

“Where do you want to go?” I ask.

He looks up with a smirk.

“Off social media. Think about how much more productive I’ll be. You’d be.”

Wait, what? I’m hearing this from my snap-chat addicted teen? Ok, that is all I need to hear. I. AM. IN. Starting Monday, August 28, 2017, my son and I will no longer be scrolling feeds or posting pics and checking who ‘liked them’. Not even to promote my classes or my articles. Nope. Not even to brag about my sons. Not even to say happy birthday. (Sorry buds, I wish you happy days, but not via a written message on Facebook or Instagram, for the next year anyway.) I’ll still write here in my blog and will update my yoga class schedule and may publish a few scenes from chapters of my latest book.

But my son is right. We both spend too much time online. He snapchats like mad, the minute he’s in the car, even while walking to the dinner table. And I spend far too much time on traditional social media when I need to focus more on what I’m trying to manifest: getting my next novel edited and getting both books published. My yoga classes are also my passion, (I’m such a Gemini) and I need both the silence and writing and the rigorous exercise  in a room full of yogis to keep myself sane and able to deal with the heavy demands of being a full-time single mom. I really don’t have the time to get side-tracked by seeing pictures of what friends are doing, sometimes creating anxiety within me about what I am not doing. Everything is happening exactly as it is supposed to, even when it feels overwhelming. Especially then. Social media makes me question that and waste time when I could remain fired up about my life and my goals and reaching them.

While I was in Greece earlier this month, hosting my first yoga & writer’s retreat, I nearly finished my 3rd novel. Wifi was iffy and I focussed on writing and yoga every day. I had no desire to scroll feeds. But I was also not working at the yoga studio, schlepping to schools or soccer practices or taekwondo or grocery shopping or cooking or cleaning. It was a luxury to have so much time. Coming back has hit me hard. But there are so many ways to cultivate and manage time. Dropping social media may just be my, and my son’s, ticket.

According to SocialMediaToday.com, teens often spend 9 hours a day on social platforms, with 30% of all time spent online and 60% of social media time spent via a mobile device.

The average adult will spend nearly two hours (approximately 116 minutes) on social media everyday, which equates to a total of 5 years and 4 months spent over a lifetime. Experts expect that number to grow and add that “currently, total time spent on social media beats time spent eating and drinking, socializing, and grooming.”

Wow. Sad isn’t it? And that’s me. I may post a pic to promote a yoga class and then get sucked into my feed. I can lose track of time. Social media is soooo enticing isn’t it? Who doesn’t want attention or positive notes from friends? It provides another way of reaching out to, or attracting others too, which can be very addictive—especially for those of us who just don’t get out much.

But here’s the rub: when it becomes a big distraction, keeping me from my purpose or my focus, then it needs to go. At least for a year. All I know is that when I’m at the yoga studio or teaching a class and I have my phone off, I love how truly connected I feel to my yoga students and how much more alive and engaged I feel. True connections, real conversations, are what matter. If I better manage my time, my focus, my intentions, outside the studio, say when I’m spending time with my boys or writing, just think how different things can be? Who knows what I’ll accomplish this year off? Definitely my taxes. (I know, not very sexy, but hey, I don’t want to get arrested!) Perhaps I’ll write a 4th novel after editing and sending out my 3rd. I plan to add more yoga classes to my weekly schedule. I’d like to master holding a long handstand and paddle boarding, (if I can convince someone fun to teach me who can also help keep me warm, since the Pacific Ocean is TOO cold for me!) … And I need to take small get-a-ways over weekends, like camping with the boys when they don’t have soccer. A trip back to Hawaii, my happy place, would be amazing too. Most likely, I’ll go back to North Carolina with a UHAUL and bring back my mother’s piano I inherited and give dear friends and old neighbors who have lost a lot recently a very big hug.

My oldest son is planning on making straight As, even in his AP class, and learning more about investing while he makes small ventures into that world. He wants to play soccer more competitively on his club team and hopes to land an awesome girl (he’ll hate that I said it, but it’s true!) He will continue to perform in the symphony, playing violin and wants to also learn how to play piano, get his driver’s license and start a summer business for Manhattan & Hermosa Beach goers (details top secret!)  His energy is infectious.

My youngest son wants to compete in taekwondo and write and illustrate his own book about a robot to be published and given to his elementary school library. He also wants to camp out with me and maybe paddle board and see a dolphin or whale up close. 🙂 Both boys are hoping I’ll allow them to adopt a dog, that they’ll have to help walk. … So we’re all on board for this year off social media! Isn’t that a kick? Wish us luck!

If you’ve kicked social media, chime in with your thoughts. I can’t wait to see what this year has in store for us. And for those whose birthdays I miss online, happy birthday. 🙂 Family members who want pics of the boys, send me a text, call me, and pics will be coming your way!

I suddenly feel untethered. What a Cool feeling.

Love & Light ~

Laura x

 

5 Reasons To Do Hot Yoga

sweaty, woven  bodyLast month I graduated from hot yoga teacher training at Haute Yogi Manhattan Beach, and am now teaching 60 minute Bikram and Hot Fusion classes—a big shift from my Vinyasa and restorative background. The owner Tiffany, who I admire greatly, casually suggested that I’d ‘like it.’ Taking two 105 degree classes a day throughout training, and now teaching, I am simply amazed at how my life is shifting in powerful ways. I was intimidated at first by the 105 degree temps and the little clothing. In hot yoga, with sweat pouring down and mirrors, there is no where to hide stretch marks or imperfection. It is remarkably honest, challenging, strengthening and humbling. And it will get you out of your head, razor focussed on the moment and on surviving, like nothing else. This training, this studio, came into my life after tragedy hit my family. Other forms of yoga that I taught and practiced wasn’t quite getting me through the stress. Without this intense focus, I may have slipped into a dark place, bad habits, and a spiraling outlook. Hot yoga forces me to stay strong, healthy and channel my passion, frustrations, stress in positive ways, like no other form of yoga. But there is so much more to it.

Here are the top five benefits of a hot yoga practice:

  1. Strength: If you can handle hot yoga, you can do anything! Twisting, balancing, stretching in 105 degrees, while keeping calm and breathing deeply, shows you are stronger than you know. You have the ability to handle extreme situations calmly and with determination.
  2. Confidence: Wearing next to nothing in a hot room full of people and mirrors is intimidating at first, and then liberating. There is no way to hide flaws. Traditional yoga clothing weighs you down. Heavy make up will run in your eyes. You may feel extremely self conscious and vulnerable in your first class (I did!), but the more you look in the mirror, noticing stretch marks or scars as you move, the more you accept them—as you feel the love and support and acceptance from others who are practicing boldly, flaws and all, in front of you. It is raw honesty, acceptance, and a path to self respect and love.
  3. Grace: Balancing in extreme heat is like a delicate dance. When mastered, it reflects elegance and an inner grace that you embrace within.
  4. Healing: Heat opens up the connective tissues and allows our muscles to stretch more easily. This aides in injury recovery. Anyone with a torn hamstring or rotator cuff, for instance, will feel immediate benefits of increased mobility and flexibility from the heat. Inner healing comes as well, as a heated flow is a moving meditation that requires fierce concentration, placing the yogi in the moment.
  5. Healthy Habits: To practice hot yoga regularly, one is nearly forced to reduce or quit bad nutritional habits. The body doesn’t handle the heat well when dehydrated or filled with carbs, sugar or fatty foods. It’s nearly impossible to drink a lot of caffeine, smoke or drink alcohol heavily, for instance, and work out without nausea or dizziness. (Clearly, people with high or low blood pressure, or heart conditions, should be cautious. Studios like Haute Yogi are key to maintaining optimal health as all teachers are trained well and encourage breaks and hydration.) What happens off the mat, however, is where the nutritional magic happens. Hot yogis often change their habits to perform better in the heat. It’s so beneficial when people reduce consuming fatty, fried foods, meat, sugar or alcohol because their body just feels better, performs better, without it. Another perk? Hot yogis sleep well and are more relaxed the days they practice.

 

The Definition of Kindness

teabag

This teabag wisdom is perfect for me right now. Perhaps for you too? So many women are taught to ‘be kind’ and put others first. ‘To understand before being understood’ is a great concept for people who tend to be self-centered. But those of us who give till it hurts, by putting others’ needs before our own, don’t need this mantra.

Co-dependency is a sickness. It’s learned, usually from a very early age, within a family dynamic. But society as a whole (especially in the South) can push women to support, volunteer, and basically put way too many others’ needs first, at the detriment of their own dreams and sometimes their own basic needs. So many women and yoga teachers (lol) are co-dependent or are people-pleasing helpers. It’s great to be compassionate, but it’s not great to be taken advantage of, is it? So the Universe will keep sending the exact experiences we need to learn important lessons to help us grow into stronger more self- compassionate people who stop letting in, or doing bidding for, pushy or selfish takers.

Breaking old habits is hard. Finding strength to calmly voice myself, set boundaries, or walk away when I am de-valued—no matter what my timing may be—puts me on the right path to self compassion. Most often, in a situation that arises when a person goes back on their word, in work or in friendship, I don’t speak my mind directly due to a fear of confrontation, or maybe an underlying feeling of not being worthy. It’s irrational. It’s likely linked to how I was raised where direct confrontation wasn’t allowed without some sort of punishment. So I often don’t respond immediately when I should, and a few days or a week later, when I have time to think about it, I re-group and find the courage to address a situation. Often that’s in writing. Maybe because I hate fighting and shut down. And maybe because some manipulative or dramatic people might start crying or complaining or making excuses for their bad behavior and I might not finish saying what needs to be said. Other times, I have this knee-jerk fear of being yelled at or hit, which is also irrational. (I’m working on it.) And the Universe keeps sending me situations and people where my ‘kindness is taken for weakness’ like the Rihanna song.

But I’m determined to work on my throat chakra and speak more clearly and directly the moment things go awry, as it shows that I value my time and myself and even the person causing me anxiety if I speak boldly and give them a chance to respond. So, the moment a client says he will not pay me for services rendered and agreed upon and accepted, for instance, I need to speak up and invoice again. The minute an agreement isn’t honored, or a contract not adhered to, I need to speak up clearly and calmly. When someone doesn’t follow through with a promise or lies to me, in friendship, I need to speak up. And if that isn’t received kindly or respectfully, I need to walk away. It’s as simple as that.

Walking away can be so hard when strong feelings are there, but I was reminded today during a conversation with a good friend at the studio, that we lean towards what we are comfortable with. I’ll explain. My friend lamented that so many women still seek bad boys, just like in high school. But I thought about it and said, “No, they seek what they are used to, what feels familiar. When they realize that what feels like home isn’t always good for them, they change.”

Think about it. The man whose mother was overly critical will likely feel at home with, and date, a critical, bossy woman. It’s the same as the gal who might have been verbally abused, or witnessed abuse in the home. She might become attracted to a difficult man who is hot and cold and not always kind. She may become focussed on changing him, understanding him, or earning his love—reflecting unmet childhood needs.

But once people ‘get it,’ they really get it. Maybe the Universe gives us experiences so we can feel those unmet childhood needs and then release them by ‘getting it.’ Once I ‘get’ that someone’s proclaimed love isn’t healthy if their love is neglectful, controlling, confusing, dishonest, shut off, or whatever the case may be, I allow myself to ‘get’ what true kindness is—what ultimately I believe we are all attracted to on a deep soul level.

True kindness is priceless. It gives space to those in your life to be themselves. It gives space to yourself to explore your dreams, speak your mind, be seen and heard and accepted, exactly as you are. True kindness is about strong action, not words. A person that shows up for you, is there for you, who listens without trying to fix, or control or manipulate, is a gift from the Universe. When we value ourselves, we value the uniqueness of others more, honor agreements, are more respectful, and are more accepting and open.

Kindness starts inside. And I’m realizing that it may not look like what was shown to me in my youth. It’s not about volunteering all the time at my child’s school or outside appearances. It’s about modeling self-worth, self-discipline, mindfulness and closeness at home. It may mean I have to say no, and remit invoices and stop someone mid-sentence when they go back on an agreement in the future. (And hopefully, less of those experiences will be drawn my way.) It may also mean walking away, yet again, from someone I love whose love isn’t loving or kind. Because if I’m loving and kind to myself, I won’t accept being with someone whose behavior is neglectful or hyper critical or controlling—all making me feel bad about myself. Staying with someone who hurts me, is just a form of procrastination, as it thwarts me from stepping into my dreams and into the highest version of myself.

What I’ve come to believe is that any thing, situation, or person, who constricts another’s heart, is there to teach a hard lesson. When a person keeps returning to those things or situations or people, it’s soul-crushing. The action of returning to abusive situations or people says more than words ever could. It says I’m not worthy of better and I’m going to waste time with this pain and not be able to reach my dreams or live a peaceful life, being authentically me. It is self-sabotaging—even when the intention is one of ‘rescuing’ or ‘helping’ a loved one. Especially then. Even if it’s rooted in fear of the unknown, because that isn’t trusting the Universe to provide or feeling worthy of receiving healthy loving situations and people in our lives. We are all deserving of love, joy, friendship, support and respect, just for being alive.

 

I’m grateful for the lessons that I’m learning. I’m grateful even for feeling and seeing the pain of staying in bad situations and comparing that to the pain of setting boundaries and walking away from them. I can try to work with someone and cringe when I set boundaries and ask for them to honor agreements, or my time, but in the end, it’s what is necessary for me to respect myself and my family. And it’s the same with love. I can love someone dearly and still walk away. I can see their goodness and potential, but realize that they will continue to hurt me because of where they are in life. Walking away is actually harder to do when you still care, but in the end, no one can ‘fix’ another. We can only love each other and love ourselves. Walking away from who hurts (or bad boys, as my friend likes to judge) allows me to make space for someone and for situations that feel good, uplift, is respectful and where I’m valued.

I’m grateful for all of my mistakes and blunders as I try to find my way to a stronger, authentic, self-compassionate space. And thank GOD for the women in my life who are showing me what strong kindness is. You know who you are!

 

Here’s to Love, Light & Bad-Ass Kindness

 

Digging into Roots to Clear the Throat Chakra

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Who knew I’d need to dig deeper into my roots, my past, in order to clear the throat chakra? I naively thought that I’d “let go” of my upbringing and relationship baggage. I mean, I did part of the Course in Miracles. I prayed for 21 days for those who had hurt, neglected, ignored, betrayed, disrespected me, etc. I lit a candle and imagined their higher selves healing and vibrant and I said ‘I forgive you’ for 21 days. So, I thought that I had cleared my root chakra, let go of the past, and was daily clearing all chakras through my yoga practice, while speaking my truth, clearing my throat chakra, through my writing. Not quite. I had more digging to do.

Many say the past is the past, stop obsessing. I get it. And it is. Except when it isn’t. When we zoom forward in warp speed, ignoring our past, acting as if it’s all good and we don’t deal with it, clear it, truly forgive, find courage to move past fears to manifest a healthier future, then the Universe has a way of putting people and events in front of us to relive the feelings of whatever we need to feel and work through, (similar to what we experienced before), in order to truly step up, face it, confront it and move beyond it.

Does that make sense? I’ll be more clear. If someone was rarely heard or seen or allowed to have their feelings as a child, they will likely grow up into an adult with blockages in their throat chakra. This fifth chakra is about truth: speaking your truth clearly, succinctly with kindness, feeling safe to be seen and heard at all times, and knowing that it is safe to feel what you feel, to need what you need, and to set healthy boundaries with those aren’t supportive or uplifting. A child who was scolded when trying to express feelings, or who was made fun of when speaking up, or yelled at when trying to speak up, will develop a throat chakra imbalance as an adult. (And it’s worse for those who experienced physical abuse as a child and then weren’t allowed to express sorrow/anger openly, or distance themselves from abusive adults afterwards.) These imbalances can manifest in different ways in adults. Experts say typically most men may not express their emotions easily, may steer clear from confrontation or may not be able to comfort loved ones in need or be truly intimate. Women may go through periods where they don’t talk, only to find their voice, but talk on an on about things that don’t get to the heart of the matter. They can become passive aggressive and rarely find courage to tell others how they feel, what they need succinctly, or ask for that raise, or the help they need. Their issue isn’t always from a sense of not feeling worthy, it can be lingering PTSD,  literally a knee-jerk withdrawl, from fear of speaking up due to irrational fear of abusive consequences. Women with throat chakra blockages typically gossip instead of being forthcoming or direct with individuals. Men may shy away from all communication and find means to avoid uncomfortable feelings. Both men and women may seek habits or addictions to ‘not feel’ emotions, or they try to avoid any situations that aren’t superficially happy. When confronted, they may lash out, say cruel things, or worse, become physically abusive, mirroring their childhood. Men, especially, shy away from true intimacy, even though they crave it and need it. Women may disregard healthy men for those who are emotionally unavailable—triggering their need to make that man love them, see them, hear them—subconsciously trying to heal their childhood unmet need. Most with throat chakra imbalances pretend everything is ok. They lie to themselves or others. It’s all good. They may stay in stale or abusive relationships for fear of speaking up. They may volunteer too much, exhausting themselves. They may snap at their children too much, not respecting their children’s individuality as it threatens their lack of individuality. They may stay in jobs that don’t pay well or provide advancement, for fear of asking for more. All pictures on Facebook are positive and bubbly and happy. Both men and women who need to clear their throat chakras avoid situations or people who are living their truth, because it mirrors that they are not.

Phew, that’s a lot. And it manifests in a host of dis-eases from thyroid imbalances, fatigue, sleep deprivation, adrenal stress, asthma, addiction and depression, according to experts. The good news is that it can be cleared. Yoga; deep breathing; guided meditation on forgiveness and letting go; writing to confront those in the past; chanting; diet changes, therapy are all ways.

I discovered my lingering imbalance over this past month that I’ve been in an intense hot yoga teacher training that has required me taking two classes a day, while also training, and teaching my other classes. The heat is a metaphor for all that is uncomfortable in life. Breathing deeply to stay calm and out of panic is crucial for enduring hot yoga. The mirrors force embracing the truth and acceptance for yourself, exactly as you are. The sweat is the manifestation of letting go all that doesn’t serve you. Hot yoga changes a person from the inside out, unlike all other forms of yoga. It is impossible to drink alcohol heavily, chug coffee, eat heavy foods or abuse any substances and withstand 105 degree classes successfully. The body no longer craves comfort food either. And a community builds with others who are not perfect physically, yet come together to burn off stress and find stillness. From the beginning of time, cultures have sought out heated dens or saunas for healing, burning off demons and shedding what doesn’t serve. There is no ability to pretend. There is no where to hide. Sweat falls down faces with no make up and the body can no longer be covered by much clothing as it weighs you down in the heat.

During the past 5 weeks, many things have bubbled up into my throat chakra, especially during camel poses and other back bends, in the heat. I’ve realized that it’s hard for me to let go of those who trigger my upbringing. For instance, I’ve dated someone off an on for years who says he loves me, but then goes through periods where he ignores me or disregards my feelings. It’s as if the Universe put this person in front of me, like a soul mate to force growth, so that I can speak up, since I wasn’t able to speak up as a child. And perhaps this person has an imbalance, or a fear of intimacy or a hard time dealing with uncomfortable feelings, or just isn’t available for a deeper, fulfilling relationship? Regardless of why it isn’t working, instead of letting go, my inclination has been to understand before being understood and to reach out—only to relive a passionate connection that is followed with distance and neglect. It results in time and time again of feeling unworthy, small and unloved. Now I see it as a way for me to speak my truth, state my needs to feel safe, loved and comforted during hard times—not just loved during happy, fun times—and to LET GO with love. There is no reason to hold on, to struggle, to try to force being seen or heard. Letting go, allows space for reflection and  space for the right person to float in. It sounds easy, but throat chakra imbalances from childhood neglect, makes it psychologically hard to do. The balanced throat chakra knows when to speak up and when to stay silent and let go. But it requires diving back into the roots, feeling to heal the pain, so the cycle can stop.

The power of yoga. The power of breath. The power of meditation. The awesome power of heat. The power of writing. The power of speaking and living truth.

We are all spiritual beings living this physical existence. Everyone in our life is meant to be there. Some karmically choose us, with so much love, to propel us further. It’s a trip to embrace that idea: that those who hurt us in this lifetime, may actually be the ones who love us the most and push us closer to our truth and purpose.

Love & Light  ~

Laura x

Laura

Gratitude Saved My Life

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Every sun salutation series I teach in my yoga classes reflects my lifeline: gratitude. We end each sun salutation reaching up with our hands together, arms straight, stretching, reaching past imagery clouds to find light, inspiration, that we then bring into our heart space as we bow our heads and pause. We breathe in what has brought us joy, peace or even just a smile that day. We do this over and over until we have put together a list that is nearly 12 long of moments, people, projects, things, pets, events that we are grateful for that day. At the end of the series we pause longer, with our hands over our hearts, heads bowed, as we shift our vibration by thinking about what works. We focus on what is good, positive, flowing, beautiful, inspiring, supportive, comforting in our lives. It’s a powerful choice. And it has saved my life.

I can recall a time when what didn’t work would drive me crazy. And I’d focus on that one nasty comment or the inconsiderate actions done, or the hurt from real sorrow. But instead of finding the lesson in that pain and letting it ALL go, I became filled with resentments and a need to fix, control, make it better, understand, or be understood—which is another way of focussing on what isn’t working, instead of just allowing, accepting and letting go of what doesn’t serve and focussing on where the love is, the light is, the support is, the friendship is, the compassion is. These beautiful things and souls are in everyone’s life. It takes mindful effort to focus on them and not obsess on the negative, the toxic, the unhealthy, unloving people or environments. But once I do focus, and give thanks for, and give more time to the people, events, jobs, activities that fill me up with joy, acceptance, love, support, I suddenly find more of that in my life. And then giving feels like receiving, because I want to give to those who bring me happiness.

I’m welling up with tears by the sweet texts and notes from my dear yoga students this past week. Happy Mother’s Day wishes, thank you’s for classes they enjoyed and meditations that moved them, etc. My work feels like play. I’m in another yoga training right now with such an inspiring teacher and women. The focus is making me stronger, too, at a time that could tip me out of gratitude and into sadness or anxiety if I let it.  But how cool is it that instead, I have to take two hot classes a day (that kick my tush), attend training and teach to my teacher. At night I memorize dialogue, in between all my mommy demands, and I love every minute. Sometimes I need to have a distraction in order not to worry about what I can’t control. Can you relate? I can’t control disease. I can’t control violent events. I can’t control the president, geez. I can’t control what will or won’t happen to people very close to me who are fighting for their lives. I can only love them. And when I take care of myself, I can love them better. I can be more mindful after yoga, and be present with them without letting fears race. I can trust the Universe more, and trust their journeys and my own. I’m so grateful for the calm and trust and strength that yoga and meditation brings. I can love and accept others and even let go with so much love, trusting that we are all on our own paths, our own journeys, that are exactly as they are meant to be, for our highest expansion.

My heart is full this week. Yes I miss my mom who passed away this week last year. And yes I’m scared to lose anyone else close to me. I know death is an illusion, but damn, you can’t really talk with, smell, hug easily from the other side can you? It’s still a painful loss anyway you look at it. Choking away the fear is hard. Hot yoga classes, meditation, sweat, no alcohol, makes it so much easier for me to float back into a space of gratitude.

And having the best boys on the planet doesn’t hurt either! This Mother’s Day my 15-year-old got up at 5 a.m. (he thought I was taking a 6 a.m. class) and walked into town, bought me a mocha with coconut milk and a huge bouquet of flowers. My 8-year-old gave me an adorable picture and hand-delivered a chocolate cupcake and a juice box to my bed for breakfast. And you know what else? My ex-husband texted and offered to buy us brunch. How lucky am I?

So lucky. When I think about going to Hawaii this June to finish my next book—AND my yoga & writers retreat I’m leading in Greece this August—I’m BEYOND grateful. It’s amazing where life can lead me if I let it. If I’m open to allowing my dreams, and the right people, to float into focus, and then focus on them, the miraculous bubbles to the surface.

Here’s to letting in—breathing in—more: peace, calm, light, love, compassion, joy, adventure, strength, patience, friendship, acceptance—and a little wiggle room for fun.

Namaste,

Laura xo

Happy Place

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Oahu, overlooking where From Here to Eternity was filmed.

Is it possible to actually BE happier someplace else? Is happiness found within a destination? Certainly, it can be argued that some locations, cities, countries, just exude a culture or an energy that resonates, inspires, or relaxes, don’t you think? In my mid-20s, I LOVED New York City. I thrived on the vibrant energy, the fun, and being able to see concerts, plays or opera in the park in the summer—or using my student discount ID to see amazing musicians. I loved the food, the multi-cultural vibe and all the writers and dreamers and artists I met in school. Today? I don’t love NYC so much. It’s too noisy. It’s too far away from the ocean. It’s filled with too many rude people who yell at old people if they are too slow in grocery store lines paying their bills. I know. I lived there. And I’ve lived in London, Atlanta, Maryland, and had small stints in Florida & Maine. I grew up in North Carolina. I’ve travelled throughout most of the States, as well as nearly all of Europe, Scandinavia, the Soviet Union and have twice been to India as well as vacationed in Peru and Mexico and Costa Rica. I’m a lucky traveller. None of these places, however, I would consider moving to. Not any more. At one point, I considered moving to Barcelona. Two years ago I even stayed in a central apartment with a roof deck where I slept many summer nights. I visited the International school too. I had thought, intellectually, that being closer to my ex-husband in London, would be good for the boys and we could all learn Spanish, and still be in a warm climate. I had loved visiting before and even had a girlfriend living there with her family. That was the intellectual viewpoint. After living there for two weeks, however, I realized that while I loved all the artists and the liberal vibe and being near the sea, I didn’t quite mesh with the culture. I adored the big dinners and how everyone seemed to love spending time together. There were no snapping at children, for instance. None of that rushed American anxious energy. BUT, and it’s a bit BUT, smoking was everywhere. Meat was in every meal. Loads of drinking. And it was expensive. I wasn’t sure I could start over again there. Visit again? Yes. Live there? No.  And to be fair, I wasn’t always ‘happy’ there, or visioned a way to be.

Why am I sharing all this? Because after my 4th vacation in Honolulu, I’m starting to see Oahu as my 2nd home. It just feels right. Like a good relationship that defies intellectual reasoning, it just feels good—and I feel good—when there.  After I landed yesterday at LAX, I felt some stress immediately. Some may laugh, as I live right on the beach in Hermosa. I decided to go for a walk on the strand. It was 4:30 p.m. and sunny, warmish for here. I grabbed some water and took off. The walk to the pier was met with loads of drunk beach goers and a few cat calls from decks from guys who likely cat call any gal walking by in shorts or a bathing suit. Why did this cause me anxiety? Because I’m not a partier. When in this environment, I get a little anxious. I’ve always been like that. A small group having a picnic, no problem. But crowds and cat calling, no thanks. When I got home, a friend going through a divorce came by. The anxiety was high. She’s going through a lot. He has another girlfriend immediately, they are going through all their assets, it’s fear, anger, abandonment. She isn’t taking care of herself and having a very hard time staying positive. She won’t do yoga or walk regularly or eat well. She is overwhelmed and it’s hard for me to see as I feel helpless. I am helpless. Thank God I am no longer triggered to what I went through when my ex left me with a baby. I’ve literally worked though it all with yoga and forgiveness. I can see that it was the best thing for me as God did for me what I couldn’t do for myself and I’m now teaching yoga and writing creatively. My friend will find the blessing in her situation, eventually. But not now.  And her situation mirrors the southern California culture or energy, or accepted requirement to always stay young, to always be beautiful. It can be a competitive and insecure environment to live in as a woman. After said friend left, a neighbor came by, a wonderful soul, who loves to party, but has a good heart. We’re very good friends. He wanted me to meet his new girlfriend. It was awkward immediately as she gave me a ‘stank’ face after assessing me and complained to him that she didn’t want to meet me. She was loud about it, as she was tipsy and holding her glass of vino as she was getting into the car. I agreed to drive them to a party. It was now 6 p.m. The vibe was competitive and definitely not peaceful. He was trying to be cool, but she wasn’t comfortable and had too much to drink. They were off to a party where likely some of our mutual friends would be. I had no interest in going, as I wanted to get up early, unpack, make an Easter brunch for the boys and do some writing, NOT hung over. Does that make me not fun? Does that make me boring? And why did I get a ‘stank’ face when I was nicely driving them somewhere? And why won’t my dear friend breathe and take care of herself better so she can get through this time? Why do I feel anxious within minutes of being home? Why do these situations make me uncomfortable? These are the thoughts and feelings that flood in, based on outside factors or energy or events. Clearly, I don’t totally feel at home living here. Last night I had nightmares too.

I had no nightmares in Hawaii. The sliding glass doors to the patio were open every night, with warm, reassuring breezes and ocean lapping sounds filling our apartment. Sometimes distant luau dancers could be heard, or the local musician singing at a Waikiki beach bistro. Sure there was partying, but nothing bothered me. There were no cat calls from out of control drunk boys. There were no stank looks from insecure women. It was chill on the beaches, we met cool people hiking and in town at local restaurants. It felt creative and the vibe, wherever I went, was chill. There is a deep reverence for nature and the sea and culture. Sure there are partiers, but there are just as many chill people relaxing side by side with them.

I always feel happy there. Last week, whether I was writing my 9th chapter of Between Thoughts of You, (my next novel), or whether I was in Waikiki or a North Shore beach, or wandering through a remote ranch or hiking in the woods, or up to a volcano. Yes, I was on vacation, but this is my 4th vacation. After coming back home and feeling the pressure and the anxious vibe that is LA, I booked two more weeks in Honolulu via airbnb for late June & early July while the boys are with their dad in France. I have a hard time blocking out the noise and the energy and the fears here. It makes it harder to write. For instance, as I was putting my youngest to bed last night, I worried about him growing up here. I worried about how expensive it is here and how I can’t buy a home. I worried about the quality of men who ask me out. There’s only been one in the past 4 years here that I’d ever want to really be in a relationship with. I’m picky. And it’s because of the boys. This world in LA can be extremely focussed on the external and how things appear, not how they feel. I want to be with people who feel good. People who like to just hang with their kids, be with them, enjoy simple things.

So, while experts, yogis & psychologists all claim (understandably) that happiness is “an inside job,” where you live matters. I understand that To BE happy, one needs to find strength, worth, inspiration, trust, safety, balance, joy, forgiveness, etc. all within. I’m a yoga teacher and a writer and I talk about this stuff every week. (For good reason, I teach what I need to learn, lol!) I love chakra trainings and chakra classes and often my students don’t even realize how I change the class last minute based on the discussions and energy I hear and fell before class. If there are a lot of anxious people who have been dealing with change or illness or relationship stress, we definitely do grounding poses. I talk about the first chakra: being safe, grounded, rooted, supported, trusting, etc. You get the idea. So I’m a firm believer that happiness—and our health—is our own responsibility. But shouldn’t we, or I, notice when I ‘feel’ off in a certain location? Who we surround ourselves with and where we live—what energy and culture and norms exist there—can directly affect our core, our balance, our center.

I feel better in Oahu. I feel at home. I don’t feel pressure to BE anything other than I am. I can write there. I can relax there. I could easily teach yoga there. I meet sweet, gentle, people every time I’ve gone.  So while I can’t move for the next 4 years, as my oldest is thriving in high school here, that doesn’t mean that I can’t go back and forth as often as I can afford to. So here’s to manifesting my next book deal and buying a little cottage by the sea to write my next book! In June, I’ll be staying at a cottage in Ewa Beach, checking out a different location, far from tourists, and writing every day, editing my first draft of my next novel. To say I can’t wait, is an understatement!

As always, Mahalo for reading my meandering prose.

Chime in: Where is your happy place? Do you have one?

Love,

Laura xo