Category Archives: Travel

Becoming a FIERCE Female

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Finding FREEDOM : ALIGNMENT : DHARMA

Two and a half years ago I stepped away from what was potentially a six figure + deal with a national network reality TV show. I told only a few friends, as I knew most would think me crazy. I’m a single mom. I’m raising two boys in LA. But the TV show, from the producers of The Biggest Loser, focussed on divorce drama. It was why I had stopped monitoring and contributing to single mom chat boards for Dr. Drews Lifechanger’s show. And it’s why I switched the focus of my blog from single motherhood. That topic limited my life, defined me, attracted negative ranting, encouraged victimhood and drama that makes all participants get stuck in the past. I walked from being in a major reality TV series because it was focussed on divorce and single motherhood and I was convinced that all the pain I have lived through would be drug back up on national television and relived and rehashed in a negative light—instead of in a sustaining, inspiring way. Sure, I was cheated on and left just after having a baby. And yes, my husband was in multiple other countries with his ‘girlfriend’ while I raised two boys alone. The producers loved my story of embracing yoga and forgiveness—so they said—but were fascinated by me being alone with two young boys, while my mother was also dying, and of me giving up my editing jobs in order to better care for the boys. In the end, I knew scenes would be manipulated to create drama, foster retaliation, increase outrage and bitterness, etc … dashing all my efforts to forgive and to move forward mindfully and lovingly. Maybe I lost a lot of money, but hey, my ex and I are good friends now. He isn’t a ‘bad’ person. We are better apart. It takes effort to see that and to move forward and to strive to not always live in a black and white strict viewpoint and to always put children first. What I have learned over multiple yoga trainings, traveling solo across the world, and through my meditation and writing practice, is that we have to free ourselves—by lovingly setting those who hurt us free—in order to thrive. To thrive means being happy, hopeful, joyful, vibrant, healthy, present, abundant. Isn’t that what we all want? Why do we then sabotage our happiness by holding on to grudges and negative, distrusting thought patterns and habits? Saying no to the producers (who kept offering more money!) was my first major step into truly letting go of the past, stepping into alignment, integrity, forgiveness and Dharma, or purpose.  If you’re a single mom in pain, or just a human who has been hurt repeatedly or is depressed by life that feels heavy, this article, which outlines my new book Becoming a Fierce Female, is for you. Much love.

Ten Steps to Become FIERCELY HAPPY:

  1. FORGIVENESS. Forgiveness is like five steps in one. If you only achieve one step on this list, this is the most important one to foster more happiness in your life. Just know this:
    Forgiveness is NOT being a doormat.
    Forgiveness is NOT saying what someone did is OK.
    Forgiveness is NOT taking a person or job or circumstance back.
    Forgiveness IS breaking the chains that bind you, that tie you up mentally and spiritually in the past of hurt and suffering.
    Forgiveness IS FREEDOM. It is saying to the person who has hurt you: “You must have been out of alignment with God and your higher self when you did that. So I forgive you. But it was so NOT OK to treat me or any other human being that way, with so little compassion, that I am dropping the event and you from my consciousness. With love, I set you free. I set myself free.”
  2. Stop Talking About Past Wrongs. Every time you do this, you are telling the Universe: “More Please.” And then the big U is happy to dish up more assholes, more car accidents, more liars, just to help you prove that you are right. Stop it. Focus on the positive in your life. Sure, you may want to try to understand how you attracted a certain person or circumstance into your life, but talking smack about the person only puts you in the same lower vibration. Nothing good comes from making yourself a victim. The seeds of success are in every setback. Find your power and MOVE ON.
  3. Be Present. This is easier said than done. Take baby steps: Focus on the person talking to you and put down your phone. Notice your surroundings. Stop multi-tasking. Strive to listen. Life opens up and miracles only happen in the present moment. Don’t miss out.
  4. Be Positive. This is easier said than done as well. Maybe you are depressed by sad news in the media or by a sick friend or by a recent tragedy. Life is always in session. I know. (I expand more on this in my book as I have witnessed murder, been attacked and have friends and family members who have been as well.) But what positive can you focus on today with gratitude? Make a daily gratitude list. Even if it just says water, food, bed. It’s a start. Every day, seek gratitude and seek how you can become a better person who uplifts others and is empowered to make a difference.
  5. Meditate daily in stillness. If you want to radiate light, you must become still .We are 85% water, but water can only reflect the sunlight when still. When our nerves and thoughts are negative, reactive, choppy, boiling, restless, NO light can be reflected from above. Still your mind, still your heart, and listen to your inner guidance and watch as you bloom and lighten up your heart chakra. (More in my book, with guided meditations.)
  6. Ask how you can serve, not how others can serve you. Every day when you wake up, just mentally ask the Universe how you can be of service in order to get into alignment. Marianne Williamson said it best when she said to envision yourself as the faucet, not the water, for the Universe to flow through. Even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do as your profession for the rest of your life, start slowly and simply. Ask: ‘How can I best serve today?’ Maybe the answer will just be to smile at strangers. To give someone a parking space. To offer assistance to a senior. To listen. Start small, always with gratitude.
  7. Find Your Dharma. Explore (unapologetically) all that you love to do in life. Music, art, sports, etc. Find ways to incorporate it into your life. Single full time moms, you can listen to your favorite tunes while you cook, watch videos on art, travel, take a class or join a Meetup group. Take the time to embrace your passion. It’s why we are here.
  8. Get enough rest. It’s hard to stay positive, grateful, present, calm compassionate, forgiving if you are running on fumes. Get 8 hours of sleep a night.
  9. Take daily inventory. Before you go to bed, ask the Universe (just mentally) where you could have done better that day, or where you fell out of alignment with your highest self. Without judgement, ask to have whatever was out of alignment removed. Maybe you weren’t patient. Maybe you snapped at someone. Maybe you were being a perfectionist and controlling and not listening to your child or friend. Whatever it was, when you see it in your minds eye, forgive yourself for being human and say, “thank you. please help me remove this.”
  10. Exercise daily. I’m a passionate yogi, everyone knows that. But I don’t care what you do, just find something you enjoy and get moving. Take the stairs at work. Walk on your lunch break. Jog. Swim. Just get the blood flowing and the endorphins going every day, so you can feel serotonin flow and sweep negative cobwebs from the corners of your mind as you lower your stress and slip into your bliss!
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My latest in MindBodyGreen :)

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I’m thrilled to share my recent article published in MindBodyGreen.

This stems from our Easter trip to Honolulu when I was able to visit an organic farm that also provides college scholarships and training to Hawaiian youth. I was conducting research for my next novel (Not a book about the Hawaiian region, which the MBG editor incorrectly inserted into this article, lol! But another novel (fiction) that happens to have a huge chunk of the story occurring in the Western Hawaiian mountains and on a co-op farm.) The boys and I spent a day on the farm that is backed by Michele Obama and Jack Johnson for its efforts to help impoverished youth garner education and to boast the health and wellbeing of all Hawaiians.

Here’s a link to my article that is the beginning of MBG’s summer series about travel with a purpose. Click the link below. Mahalo. L xo

Transformative Travel: How A Trip To Hawaii Changed One Family’s Entire Food Philosophy

 

The Power of Deep Stillness

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I’m having a hard time integrating back into the cacophony and anxious energy of Los Angeles after a contemplative weekend deep in the Northern California redwood forests at Ratna Ling Buddhist Retreat Center. Here I am yesterday saying goodbye, feeling completely refreshed, on my deck enclosed by lush woodland. The stillness and silence and peace ran deep this past weekend—at first surrounding me, embracing me—then sprouting from within. Just listen to the sounds of life sustained by these ancient trees. Maybe cut off the TV, close your door, put in earphones, shut your eyes and listen again.

 

All weekend, I became more reflective, less talkative and deeply relaxed. I meditated, took silent walks, sketched, read, wrote, and yes, did amazing daily yoga classes with soulful Gloria Baraquio. (For those who wanted more, there was a sound bath with Lauri , essential oils workshop, sacred texts talk, sacred art class, FOOD (and more delicious FOOD), a library full of Tibetan literature and art, as well as a variety of massages and therapies to indulge in at theMandala Wellness Center.) For me, however, this weekend was mainly about reconnecting with nature. As a little girl who was raised in the South on property jutting against a horse farm, I used to sneak into the woods, the pre-Civil War trails, and lean against the trunks of huge pine trees with roots softened by emerald and sage moss and icy white lichen. I’d listen to the wind make shushing sounds through the branches above, as winking bursts of sunlight pierced through. Sometimes a deer might wander over curiously, just as they do here at Ratna Ling.  This past Memorial Day weekend I welcomed a relief from the intensity of LA. As a child, however, I sought nature as a refuge from the loudness of our house with its large family. older siblings who’d fight, or parents fighting, or TVs and stereos on simultaneously, teenager phone conversations, usually drama of some sort. The energy was too charged for my sensitive ears. The sounds in those southern horse trails were similar to those of the redwood forest, and just as calming, yet still vibrant with activity; a celebration of life. In Ratna Ling I could hear mocking birds, wood peckers, sweet singing Wrens, bellowing toads, screeching crickets, scurrying geckos—all creating a mesmerizing chorus. On my birthday I sat on the rustic deck of my cabin reading, and at one point, a huge butterfly landed on my book. Another moment, a large turkey vulture landed on a branch a few feet away. I watched as a momma mocking bird dive bombed it over and over, likely protecting a nest, finally bothering the vulture, 5 times its size, to spread its mammoth totem pole wings, shading my chair on the deck, as it flew away. The energy felt in this forest was calm, peaceful, purposeful, relaxed. My mind cleared of distractions. I focused. Thank goodness there was no cell reception. I needed this mental clearing.

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Perhaps that’s why returning to Los Angeles was especially hard. The high-pitched beeps and announcements at the airports, then screaming tourists at a local fair, loud intoxicated fiesta goers in my beach town, neighbors blaring music and TV news that wafted through my window like toxic gas—all creating a stunned anxiety within me. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t relax. Even talking with a friend, at first, was jarring as I could heard her blender going, her TV on, her dog whining, then barking, the dish washer sputtering to a start, some more water flowing in a sink, all as we spoke on the phone. Am I like this? I worried. And the answer is yes. Yes I am. I expect that most Americans juggle. We rush, do, do more, multi-task, barely listen fully, worry, pile on more commitments that we can’t complete and keep going—while allowing ourselves to be bombarded by anxious news announcements, or negative talk shows, eliciting a fight or flight response within us and amping up our cortisol. It’s no wonder we can’t hear our intuition. Our center for calm and knowing and creativity.  It’s no wonder every-day life that is hectic creates confused, interrupted thinking. It’s hard to finish projects in this state of mind. It’s hard to prioritize and focus on what’s really important, what your Dharma is, rather than seeking object referral or approval. We have to clear out the noise, sweep away the distractions, center ourselves and listen without judgement to what comes up. Our frenetic life, especially for many parents who are frazzled by over-scheduled activities and interruptions, can feel the drain. I didn’t know how drained I was, until it all stopped and sat still and I breathed deeply. There is another way to live.

Today, I miss the woods. I miss the simple focus. I miss going to sleep with the sounds of crickets and waking to birds singling as the sun rises, illuminating redwood limbs reaching toward each other, like fingers making an ink stain on my window. I thought a yoga class would help me integrate, but the music was too loud, the thumping music was too loud and a teacher was screaming over it. I wasn’t relaxed when I walked home.

So I guess it’s a good thing I was asked if I’d like to come back to Ratna Ling to host a yoga and writers retreat later this year. I get to return and I get to take some dear writer friends with me. I can’t wait to introduce them to this haven that will allow them to get centered, ignore their fears and focus on their writing, their unique stories they all are compelled to share. We’ll flow to vibrational yoga, breathe deeply, take meditative walks in the woods, enjoy Tibetan meditation movement with an expert … and write from a place connected to Source. Stay tuned, as I work out the details. Proceeds will go to Dharma Publishing, created by Ratna Ling’s founder, Tibetan Lama Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche, who has spent more than 45 years preserving sacred texts, literature and art. I’m honored to support such a worthy cause, while helping fellow-writers tap into their inner voice, find peace, calm, stillness, confidence. I’ll write more later when details are sorted. 🙂

In the meantime, maybe you’d like to join me this week as I meditate with the intention of re-claiming stillness, letting go of distractions, and finding mindful focus while at work, while at play. Here’s to a week where we can feel calm, peaceful, playful, free, content, loved, secure, safe, inspired, centered, clear, balanced and compassionate.

Love & Light,

Laura xo

Sending Prayers to Big Island

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2017 Hike to Kilauea

I’m taking a moment today to send love and prayers to those in Hawaii affected by the earthquake and Kilauea volcano eruptions. My heart goes out to all whose homes have been damaged and to children and elderly now in shelters.

I’ve donated directly to the Red Cross Hawaii chapter (information below). If you’d like to help, here is some information:

AT&T has activated their text-to-donate line. To donate via phone, text REDCROSS to 90999. That text will send $10 to the American Red Cross and their recovery efforts to assist Hawaiian residents impacted by the eruption and subsequent earthquakes.

The $10 donation will appear on your monthly phone bill.

Donations may also be made directly to the American Red Cross Hawaii Chapter by clicking here, or calling (808) 739-8109.

For those who have never been to the Big Island, here are some photos from last year’s trip, showing the majestic, other-worldly landscape of the Kilauea volcano and lava, bolder fields on the way to Kona. Aloha. ❤

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MUCH LOVE & ALOHA HAWAII ❤

Hawaii w Kids: Locals, Farming, Aloha, & a lil Me TIME!

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On top of Koko Crater!

I love Hawaii. I think everyone knows that by now, lol! Three weeks ago I took the boys back to Honolulu for our sixth visit. Who would think there was more to do and see? There was SO much more. It was a magical trip for this single mom. It was partly a working trip for me, as I’m writing my fourth novel which occurs mainly on a farm in Hawaii (Read about Orbiting Jupiter HERE.). I also sold a story to MindBodyGreen (to be published in May, so I can’t go into too much detail here) about an organic farm in poverty-ridden Wai’anae, on the western side of Oahu, that also provides scholarships to teens and internships to college students.

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William picking mangos at the farm.

What I can tell you, is that the boys and I got to farm with a youth-leader there, mulching  in the heat and learning, not just about organic farming in a dry region, but about the struggles most Hawaiian teens growing up in this poor area of Oahu, go through. My boys who live in a bubble of wealth in Hermosa Beach, learned what it’s like when most friends drop out of school, get mixed up in drugs, have high rates of pregnancy, can’t eat lunch, can’t go to college because they can’t afford it, etc. We learned how diabetes and heart disease is the highest in this region, than any where else in Hawaii. Once abundant, we now also discovered that quality fruit and vegetables are scarce, mainly because the military cut off the west side’s main water source, diverting it for their needs, so growing is a struggle. The boys loved gardening and creating their own organic lunch later and the connections made were priceless. 

Just down the mountain road from the farm is this amazing, deserted beach. Can you just say WOW?

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Other highlights of this trip include hanging with a friend who now lives in Honolulu, her kiddos playing with mine. The coach for the Honolulu Bulls, met us in Vegas during a soccer tournament earlier, so invited my William and his best friend to practice with them on a steamy night for two hours in Honolulu. What a work out! The coach was so kind and most of the boys on the team gave William their info so they can follow each other on insta. None of them had ever been to California and asked my son SO many questions about girls and celebrities. 🙂 It was eye-opening for William as these boys, unlike the ones he plays with in LA, are super hungry and motivated to move up—as for some, it may be their only ticket to college. At the practice, there were adults and a few college players who were ‘mixing it up’ by playing with the teens, making it more challenging for them. The practice, also unlike the amazing facilities in LA, was held in an over-grown small field near tents of homeless. There had to be at least 25 homeless families camping just near the edge of the field. Just part of life in Honolulu.

What else? We hiked the Koko Crater! It’s a steep hike up an abandoned rail way, at points near the top, hikers see hundreds of feet below them, as they step on wooden planks. My 9-year-old was so scared that he shook and cried at points! But his big brother and I coaxed him on, helping him get over his fears. He was not a happy camper when he finally made it up to the top, but after he finished, he was ecstatic and beyond proud of himself, telling others they can do it, if he could. I’m proud of him too! 🙂

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post-crater hike wipe out!

This trip was really the perfect trip. It allowed us to meet with more locals, make new friends, explore little-known areas, even going to a Buddhist center downtown and a little known hole-in-the-wall eatery for yummy fish. I met with a realtor, got a few apartment tours for a possible move too, and even got asked to be a teacher at a yoga studio in Waikiki. How cool is that? And since I invited one of my oldest son’s friends, I had make shift babysitters one afternoon and escaped to relaxation: getting a massage (how I love groupon!), with time for day-dreaming at the spa pool after. What more can a mom ask for?

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Aloha until next time. ❤

L. xo

Underneath the Surface in Hawaii

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We’re off to Hawaii again! It’s my sixth trip back and this time, I’ll be re-visiting all the spots where magic occurs in my novel Between Thoughts of You. The boys and I are are exploring moving to Honolulu too. The freedom of being a full-time mom, means 100% custody and the ability to live wherever I feel the tug of my life pulse, where mana can be felt and built. So we’ll see. In this pic, the three of us are snorkeling in the gorgeous aquamarine waters of Waimanalo Bay. We arrived just after the sun rose, before tourists could scare away the fish and turtles. I can’t wait to go back!

Here’s a short excerpt of my novel when Lulu recalls her first kiss with Akoni as they swam in Waimanalo Bay. She is remembering this after Akoni, her husband, has left her. After he left her for her best friend—a mere three months after their baby girl Healani died mysteriously. Lulu is remembering this from Tuscany, where she escaped her sadness in order to care for a dying old man. She needed to leave reminders of her life in Oahu behind, yet she can’t. As the old man’s remorse engulfs him in a rabid lust for the love of his life, whom he abandoned after the War, sweet memories of Akoni flood back into Lulu’s consciousness. She must find a way to resolve her broken heart around the fact that a pure love can, and did exist, regardless of how it was destroyed.

CH 6: Between Thoughts of You

ko’u Pu’uwai : My Heart

The first time Akoni kissed Lulu, 15 years earlier, he had laughed afterward and said: “You didn’t know you’d fall in love with a prince today did you?”

They had been swimming in the clear, aquamarine waters of Waimanalo Bay. Lulu and Akoni were splashing around in Pahonu Pond, the ancient fish pond built hundreds of years earlier to trap turtles for the kings of Hawaii. Only royalty had been allowed to eat the turtles, others would have be killed for doing so. The wall, although weathered, enclosed a perfect place for keikis to swim safely. Lulu’s favorite spot in Kaiona Beach Park was just a 15 minute walk from Nan and Rusty’s farm in Waimanalo. Rusty had taught her how to swim there by getting her to ‘chase’ the fish in the clear waters. Out of breath, little Lulu had risen up with her over-sized goggles on, and through water droplets, had seen Rusty laughing and clapping for her. She had always felt happy there. She had never felt more safe and more loved, as Rusty’s uhane had surrounded the two of them like a warm blanket when they were together.

Of course, she would have her first kiss with a Hawaiian prince in that same spot! Rusty, who had been called this because of the strawberry hues in his hair, practically had predicted it. He had pointed off to Rabbit Island one time as he gave Lulu a lesson and had said: ‘Princes are buried there. Their spirits are smiling on you, little one, and will bring you your own prince some day.”

Akoni and Lulu had both been working on Nan’s farm that summer day. Rusty had died four years earlier and had been a close childhood friend of Akoni’s grandfather. They both had loved outrigger canoes. Rusty had become famous for carving traditional Hawaiian ones resembling what ancient royalty had been transported in hundreds of years earlier. He sold them humbly out of his barn by word-of-mouth referrals. Those in the know happily referred customers his way—as Rusty had been someone on the island people were proud to call a friend and to ride with. When Rusty died, Akoni’s grandfather made a solemn promise to Lulu’s Nan that he would always help to support her family. So, every summer after Rusty’s death, Akoni and his brothers and sisters worked on Nan’s farm. When Rusty had been living, the farm had grown corn and Nalo greens. Over time, however, the farm, called Rusty Patch, had become a popular tourist attraction. Set just at the base of the Ko’olau mountains and near the crystal waters of Kaiona, Nan decided to listen to friends’ advice who insisted it was perfectly located to attract tourists. So she started advertising the year after Rusty’s death and Rusty Patch suddenly exploded—selling tickets year-round to various events: a petting zoo, a pumpkin patch, hay rides, corn field maze games, watermelon races, even cooking classes.

That August morning, Akoni and Lulu had decided to take a break from selling mango and strawberry “nalo” lemonade to tourists and walked down to the turquoise waters. Splashing around in the keiki pond, Akoni suddenly began to talk. A boy of few words, Lulu stilled herself and paid attention.

“This pond was created for my ancestors,” he told her, raising an eyebrow.

Lulu smiled in response and teased, “So I’ve heard.”

“You think I’m being arrogant?”

Lulu shrugged. She had heard on the playground that Akoni’s family was related to King  Kamehamoa I, who had reigned Hawaii until 1819. But how many Hawaiians would have loved to have claimed the same? Besides, she had read in history books that King Kamehamoa had married more than 30 wives! So who documented all the children born from the 30 wives—and probably mistresses—200 years ago? Lulu decided that it would be hard to prove, or disprove, whether a Hawaiian family had actually been related to that King’s family today. But Akoni was handsome. And charming. He had grown into his chest. His skin was the color of cinnamon and smooth to the touch. She noticed that his eyes were soft chocolate with flecks of yellow. His cheek bones were broad giving his round face a distinct definition to go with his cleft-dented chin that Lulu suddenly wanted to bite that day. Lulu had known Akoni most of her life. She didn’t understand why that moment she felt such an urge to smell his neck or touch the place just between his collar bones. But she wanted to. Desperately. So she said nothing about his ridiculous claims of royal blood. And smiled silently back at him.

Akoni began to swim around Lulu and continued with his story.

“So, this pond was created to keep turtles for the Wakea or the ali’inui.”

“So Rusty told me,” Lulu replied.

“What if I told you that one of my great grandmothers was King Kamehamoha’s keopuolani?”

Lulu raised an eyebrow at him.

“We have artifacts at my house to prove it, but my mom and dad say it is arrogant to speak of it. They say it will cause others to not respect me if I boast.”

Akoni dipped beneath the waters surface, and emerged very close to Lulu’s chest. It had been a bit chilly that day. The clouds had come in and it started to rain lightly. She sunk down into the water to stay warm; just her chin peaked above its grey green surface. Akoni was down on his knees in order to look into her eyes. Her green eyes.

“Your eyes are now the same color of the water. I think you are a witch,” he said laughing. “You have put a spell on me,” he added.

And then he kissed her. Lightly. Sweetly. Lulu started to tremble. When he pulled his lips from hers, Akoni wrapped his arms around her saying, “You’re freezing!”

She responded, “No. I’m scared.”

Akoni laughed hard, before saying the infamous line Lulu would tell all their friends for years to come: “You didn’t know you’d fall in love with a prince today did you?”

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 For more excerpts of Between Thoughts of Me, or Uriel’s Mask, please click Words in the Categories side bar.

Have a blessed day.

Mahalo,

Laura xo

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

happyhawaiiface

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

GREECE BABEEE!

greece

So I have been dreaming of going to this villa in Greece for F O U R years. I decided to plan a yoga & writer’s retreat here for 2018 and then got the surprise of my life: this villa estate on Evia, which is usually booked a year in advance, had a cancellation and opening THIS AUGUST. After calling a few of my yoga & writer friends who said hell yes, I booked it.

WHAAT?!

Kinda crazy. But hey, life is meant to be lived. And when I get the road signs, the green lights, the serendipitous moments, I pay attention. In last night’s yoga class with beautiful yogis I’ve been teaching for 3 years, two more signed on. One sent me this beautiful text saying:

“After my mother died, I vowed I would travel more but can’t seem to ever get away from work. I’m BEYOND excited and feel so blessed to have this trip of a lifetime! I cried last night with joy.”

Isn’t that amazing? It seems that there are quite a few of us going on this trip who have dealt with the pain of grief or health issues this year and need some FUN and PEACE.

This villa is quirky, unique, gorgeous and hand-crafted. It is a living story, and you know how much I love stories. Once I heard how it came to existence, I was hooked. The owner’s father was a British shipping executive with a hobby in building and carpentry. He discovered this island, that is an hour ferry ride from Athens, and literally bought a huge chunk of it. Then he built three buildings that have adjoining outside spaces with long tables for his friends to come and spend weeks together.

Greeceoutside

The man loved food and entertaining and children. His daughter almost had to parcel up the estate or sell it outright once the economy started to tank. Instead, she decided to rent it out to keep it in the family. I’m so happy she did! It’s perfect for entertaining and large dinners and then wandering solo, exploring and time alone. If kids, or big kids come, there is a lot to do! There is a basketball & tennis court, rope swing, kayaks and hiking trails down to the ocean. Every room has its own entrance, bathroom and view of the sea. Of course there is an infinity pool, jacuzzi and Turkish steam bath.
Greecepool

And because it is so remote, the estate comes with a driver and a cook.

Greeceestate

The driver can take people to the other side of the island that has bars and populated beaches, or to the ferry to go to Athens for sight seeing. The cook will make amazing, authentic Greek dishes every evening. And the price is right. With the Greek economy the way it is, this villa retreat is much cheaper than going to Palm Springs—well, without the airfare! (but that’s not bad right now either!) So come join us. Send me a note and I’ll give you the full details as we only have 4 spots left. There will be yin & beginner flow yoga daily, 3 writer workshops that you can attend, or not. Every thing is optional so there is plenty of time for writing, hiking, swimming, reading, doing nothing, or perhaps sinking into a tub with a view that helps you dream BIG dreams. 🙂

Greecetub

Love & Light ~

Laura

Aumakua

 

lookin4hawaii

     Excerpt from Between Thoughts of You, my 3rd novel set in Oahu & Tuscany

      Hi’iaka i ka Poli o Pele protect this kiki

      Aumakua of the night,

      Watch over your offspring, enfold Lani in the belt of light.

Lulu had been told as a child that Kamakau taught Hawaiians the dead went either to a place of darkness called Milu or a place of light called Wakea. The Aumakua were the intermediaries between the living and the dead. Lulu had always suspected that her wise Nan was one of these.