Category Archives: Travel

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

Advertisements

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.

Photo Essay: A Path Unfolds

IMG_1031

Photo by: Laura Roe Stevens

Where is her heart leading her? Is she listening? A path emerges from the depths of her despair. Will she follow it? When she hits rock bottom and has nothing left, she has nothing left to lose. No one to please. No one to worry about. Will she follow this path? Or will she stay safely stuck, tucked away in her narrowing mind of grief that closes all doors, folding her further into darkness.

This is her pivotal  moment. This choice can change everything. Will she choose it? She has an inkling that it just might make everything that happened—every God damn shitty thing done by those who loved her most—almost make sense.

But only if she gets on that plane. Only if she follows the nudging of her  heart. It feels like running away. It is. It feels like giving up. It is. It feels terrifying. It is.

Finally, when she can no longer get up in the morning in the same house decorated with sinister smiles peering behind photos in every hallway, she’ll know what to do. When she’s finally had enough of being left with the mess; being left to walk alone past the empty nursery; being left with the trinkets of 15 years of betrayal and longing mixed within memories pushing her six feet under, she might muster up the courage to go.

A path is unfolding. And because she no longer cares whether she’ll live or die, she may just get on her first international flight and leave everyone and everything she’s ever known behind.

 

Photo Essay: Diving Deep

us3water

For the next seven weeks, as I dive deep into my creative writing and finish my next novel, Between Thoughts of You, I won’t be posting articles on this blog. Instead, I’ll publish photos from my multiple trips to Italy and Hawaii, as my novel occurs mainly in Tuscany and in Honolulu. One agent describes the premise of my book as: “Think of it as The Descendants meets The English Patient.” Well, sort of, not really. Flash backs for the characters also occur in Northern California and Japan and New York. I used to live in New York, so will drum up some photos, but have never been to Japan. My son travelled there with his father, so if I’m able, will post a few of his pictures. 🙂 Every day that I am writing and editing my novel, that I intend to finish at the conclusion of my Yoga For Writers Workshop I’m hosting, I’ll post a photograph. I hope you enjoy them. 🙂

As always, I am so grateful for all who follow or read this blog. ❤

Manifesting B A LA N C E = More Play

photo-132

B A L A N C E

 

In yoga it’s a daily mantra that we use physical metaphors, such as hand stands or Warrior 3 poses, to represent. Off the mat, in civilian life, it’s the juggling act of not tipping the scales too much into work verses play. Balance represents the Yin & Yang of our existence. I find that when I’m ‘on’ with the kiddos for months on end and working at a hectic pace, the minute they are with their dad, I have to literally restrain myself from going a little nutty. I have SUCH an urge to dance, be naughty, to travel somewhere random, you name it, I crave it. Right now, I’m in a dancing mood, lol.

LOVE this! My mood currently. ha ha

 

 

And it’s just because I’m not currently balanced.

Living in Europe was refreshing as I saw so many balanced people. People who drank one glass of vino with their meal each night and wouldn’t finish the glass if they didn’t like the wine, for instance. Europeans also take more than 6 weeks of holiday time, on average. So they have a lot of leisure time, do nothing time, be present time, decompress time, play time. In America, most of us (from my perspective, including myself!) work until we are drained and then party over-the-top to blow off steam. We can get attracted to relationships that mirror that up and down drama too, to help us FEEL alive and out of a monotonous grind.

If I just played a bit more on a weekly basis, doing what I love: dancing, jogging, hiking, playing between the long stretches of work … I’d have more balance. That’s my goal for 2017.

I just dropped the boys off at the airport after being on for months and right now, I’m craving a European or Greek holiday filled with a few weeks of just pleasure, writing, dancing, laziness, drinking and eating naughty food or all of what I mentioned. 🙂 I’m manifesting this in the new year. 🙂 Sometime in Summer 2017.

greekvilla

I’ve been drooling over this Greek Island villa for 3 years! I found it on Airbnb…built by a British shipping magnet, it has two old buildings, with surprise rooms with rope ladders and hidden door ways…pools, sauna, tennis courts, basketball courts, jacuzzis, a huge outdoor eating area and kayaks. It is the only estate on the entire little island. It comes with a driver and cook who live off site. So, I’ve been trying to manifest this for three years, waiting for the right time, the right person to come into my life, the right circumstances … and I’ve decided that I’m just going to do it. The time is now.  There are no ‘right’ circumstances. At $116 a person/a night, it’s not bad ey? And it’s perfect for kiddos as they can scurry up and down the Cliffs, run amuck on the island without supervision and adults can hang at one of the pools or outside spots for yoga, wine, dinners, swims. … So, I’m manifesting this playtime that will either be a retreat for yoga and writers, a newkindofrebel.com retreat … or just fun with families and kiddos.

The time is now.

This I know for sure: 2016, with all its losses, has taught me to take control of manifesting my future. So that includes creating balance, incorporating more  fun, healthy love and work that feels like play.

What does B A L A N C E mean for you?

Seriously, I’m interested, so chime in. 🙂

AS Always, thank you kindly for reading my meandering prose. What would I do with all these rambling thoughts swirling in my little brain. No wonder I have to run, bike, do yoga and still write it all out. ha ha

Love & Light … AND have some playful fun this week 🙂

L. xo

100+ Follows!

tickertape

WOOHOO!! I received word a few weeks ago that I reached a milestone of 100 followers…I believe it’s 104 today. Isn’t that amazing? I’m so grateful to all of you who read my musings and who are on this journey with me as I evolve into a more conscious human being and navigate this world of mine as a single mom, yoga teacher, writer and budding novelist. Phew! That’s a lot isn’t it? Geez. And that doesn’t even touch my day to day life juggling needs as a FT mom and being single: striving to stay positive, focussed, motivated and find time to eek in a little fun, love, travel, adventure. You know, what we all seek—the spice in our rice, the music that makes us want to dance, or the moment our heart races when we recognize a person as a dear friend or potential ‘one’ that makes life so much more than just life. You know?

 

So, thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you—new and old followers—of NavigatingVita. Since I started this blog August 26, 2011 a lot has changed in my life. My divorce became official. I broke up with a man that I thought I might marry. (The first man I had kissed in 15 years since my husband, so maybe I needed more experience dating too…) I joined a support group. I began and finished 4 yoga trainings. I now teach yoga. I wrote a novel. Yup, after taking a 15 year hiatus from creative writing after I completed my first novel in grad school, well, I jumped back in. I wrote a novel that was inspired by a true story uncovered when I was a newspaper reporter in the North Carolina mountains, moons ago. And, I started writing another novel. (See excerpt here.) I’ve travelled a lot: England, Italy (3 x), Spain, Czech, Hawaii (3x) Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico…And stumbled upon some cool experiences, such as being on the Queen Latifah show as a Contestant # 3 for her Dating Game Show. A well-intentioned neighbor, who happened to be a producer for her, decided I needed help finding a date since I rarely get out except to take or do yoga. It was a hilarious experience! And even with the help of Queen Latifah, her bachelor chose the grandmother out of the three contestants because she was the one who talked dirty and promised sex on the first date. (Men, is that all that it takes? Maybe for another blog post, but seriously?! My kids were watching too, could NOT go there. Hmmm.) Here I am last Feb. embarrassed after Queen Latifah tried to insinuate that I was a southern good girl, but not that good. Go figure. Still didn’t get the date! Probably a good thing. 🙂
The Queen Latifah Show Season 2

So, what can I say? Life is good. Life is challenging. Life can be upsetting and then suddenly delicious. It can become overwhelming and tedious and boring and then suddenly beautiful without words sufficient to express that beauty or the enormous amount of gratitude felt. Throughout it all: throughout the disappointments of agents not accepting my work, and then the high of one who does— or the boy who breaks my heart so completely that I can barely function … And of course my boys who are my anchor and mean everything to me. Throughout it all, I write as a means to seek, to find my center, to garner a balance, catch my breath and to embrace compassion, patience and forgiveness. And…still find time to dance and travel—at least once a  year! This is what motivates all my blog posts in one way or another. Even if indirectly as I am somewhat private. If I write about how to discover your worth and uncover hidden, sabotaging beliefs, trust me, it’s because I need to write about that topic due to poor or impulsive choices. If I write about how yoga enhances creativity and helps bash self-doubt, it’s likely because I’m teaching too much, not practicing daily yoga and therefore, finding it hard to carve out time every day to feel entitled to write that novel. Who do I think I am, right? So, I often write about what I need to learn. It’s the same when I teach yoga as each week there is a theme to my classes: forgiveness, acceptance, surrender, strength, combating anger, staying open, trust, faith, etc. You get the idea. I teach and write about what I need to learn. And if any of this has resonated with you, I’m truly honored.

Thank you for being on this journey with me.

I’m sending so much love & light & laughter to you all. Life is a trip—and one only worth navigating with dear friends. Thank you for the support.

With gratitude,

Laura x

Finding Comfort Outsize the Zone

WandMomNice

Photo: June 2008, Nice, France

When I was 15 I convinced my father to let me travel throughout Europe for an entire summer. Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, England and Ireland. I had been to London when I was 11, as my dad had taken a temporary academic position there, and that’s probably what got me interested in traveling more. But I’m still amazed that I had the curiosity and drive to pursue that European tour and convince my father to pay for me do it at such a young age! It meant that I had to leave all my friends, my serious boyfriend and my family in North Carolina during my sweet 16 summer.  None of my friends had traveled internationally. No one was encouraging me. I just saw a random ad about a high school student program that allowed kids to travel together around the world to promote peace and understanding. Not one teacher suggested it. I think I just stumbled upon the ad on a bulletin board and thought ‘Yeah, I’m doing this.’ Amazing. This was pre-cell phone days too, people. No Facebook either.

I was talking with my oldest son tonight as he has friends here in California who don’t know the difference between a city and a country or a country and a continent. One friend thought London was a city within France and wasn’t sure where Paris was…My son didn’t understand how a kid who makes good grades would be so unaware. I had to remind him that he was unique. Since his father lives in Europe and we, as a family, used to live in London, this 14-year-old has traveled throughout the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, Austria and Switzerland. He’s a lucky and smart kid. And he doesn’t always see eye to eye with his So Cal friends. So I reminded him that they likely haven’t had the opportunity to travel. But then I thought about my junior year in high school. Why did I want to go abroad? I had a boyfriend who loved me—and that I’d have to leave for an entire summer— an eternity for teenagers! Plus, my friends weren’t particularly interested in traveling past the North Carolina coastline. I really don’t know why I wanted to jump outside of my comfort zone. But I did have access, at an early age, to meeting people from all over the world.  My mother’s and father’s friends and colleagues from the academic world talked about their travels. I had exposure to people from differing backgrounds. My dad’s colleagues in his department at Duke University were from all over the world. Having them over for dinner was fascinating. I recall the time a Chinese couple came to visit who spoke no English. It was eye opening. And I realized, at an early age, that travel equaled excitement. You never knew who you might meet. And the other thing I realized was that there are more kind people who are similar to me, (despite speaking another language) than there are those who want to hurt me in this world. It’s liberating to know this. It frees a woman to consider traveling alone and not being marred in fear. My parents, by virtue of their occupations, taught me that. It lessened my fear. My trip when I was 16 opened my eyes, even more than my trip to the UK when I was 11.

 

There are so many reasons why, but I’ll give you one example. I met a sweet couple in Russia who were so poor they couldn’t afford to go on a honeymoon after their wedding. The bride, who worked at the hotel where we stayed in Leningrad, talked with me every night for a week. She was only 3 years older than me. I gave her make up and stockings and even did her hair. I don’t remember her name, but I know that I helped her feel beautiful on the week she was married. Her gratitude and tears made me feel so much love I thought I would burst. It was infectious. Wherever I went that summer, I met other kids with similar hearts and desires and quirky senses of humor. Friends from Denmark, England and Ireland visited me for years afterwards.

 

Why am I writing this today? Well, I’m thinking about so many things. The terrorist attack in Nice and my last trip there eight years ago while pregnant with my youngest. William was only six years old and had already traveled more than most Americans. That trip was wonderful. I was pregnant with hope and love and possibility for our growing family. Yet I stepped outside my comfort zone even there. Going to markets alone with William and trying to speak the language. (Yet, discovering the real language was always one of love.) People would smile as I let William smell lavender or rosemary or explained what mussels were or let him try particular cheeses. I loved those markets. I loved the mountain town of Eze above Nice. I loved the love I felt there and felt within. Travel is like that. We see those who we think we have nothing in common with, only to realize that we have everything in common with. It’s so simple and so true. Love is alive and well and always will be.

 

So tonight I’m thinking about how I’ve always stepped outside of my comfort zone from an early age and it’s not easy to do and doesn’t really get any easier. People will tell you to still travel or embrace adventure and new things, but getting out of your head and fear is hard. For me, I just force myself into it and then since I’m so polite, I feel compelled to follow through. Which is hilarious. But, the over-thinking about what scares me is what drives me crazy. I typically decide to do it (whatever: travel, new adventure), force myself into it an then steep in the fear until the day I leave. It’s like when I signed up to be a camp counselor teaching canoeing, and then had to learn how to canoe! It’s so me. It was terrifying until I took that first lesson, or watched others do it and then entered into the adventure.

It’s the part in the mind that’s the hardest to overcome. So I just sort of jump and then say ‘oh shit’ and hustle to figure it out later. I’m not sure if it’s a great strategy for all aspects of life—but if you’re worried you’ll never leap into an adventure, it forces your hand! I’ve done this so many times…tomorrow at a huge surf party in San Onofre, will be another.

I step outside of my comfort zone all the time here in Southern California trying to make an effort, or trying to be social, or trying to take a chance on love, or trying to fit into this surf / volleyball / beach culture that I didn’t grow up in.

I just have to remember that whether I’m here on the beach with surfers feeling judged by how I look in a bikini—or whether I’m in a bistro in Europe feeling judged for not being able to speak 3 languages or not being as up-to-date on international politics as the others at the table—it’s all the same feeling. It’s a fear of being judged. It’s a fear of not being enough. It’s a fear of not fitting in.

When I step outside of ‘trying’ to fit in and just embrace wherever I am as a new adventure, I remember that we all have hearts that beat and pulse blood in the same manner. We have the same desires deep down. There is no reason ‘to try.’ I will be present and I will be me and I will listen to others and smile. That’s when the magic happens. I won’t try to pretend that I’m anyone other than who I am. When I just connect with others I realize that’s what we are here for. That is what matters. That’s where the magic is. We are all so similar. I see me in you and you in me. Even the parts I don’t want to see…Especially those parts.

Today I am open to all that is possible. I can’t stop the pain and the sorrow from all the chaos in the world today. The fear from these events can cause me to crumble if I let it. Instead, I choose to embrace light and health and exploring new friendships, while still saying a prayer for those in need and in sorrow.

 

 

 

Letting them Go to Embrace the Journey

IMG_0979

My boys are flying to Germany solo tomorrow. From there, they will be met by their dad and then fly to Austria for a week with him and his girlfriend. I flew with them to London this past summer so my oldest wouldn’t have to navigate the airport and any gate changes AND his little brother, who can be demanding, by himself. From London, they flew a short flight to France to see their dad and I did my own vacation. We met back up in London and flew back together. I could tell my oldest was super appreciative. Clearly, their dad lives in Europe. lol. Well, this Valentine’s week, the boys are flying solo. It’ll be an 11 hour flight. There may be a gate change. There may be a little drama with my youngest. And my oldest, the super hero in my life, is in charge, yet again. It’s a lot. My oldest is 14 going on 45. He is my compass. He is more of a man than any man I currently know. His heart is huge, yet his sense of morals and strength of conviction surpasses his heart. He has helped me with his little brother so much over the past 7 years since I’ve been a single mom. I hire sitters. I try not to rely on him too much. And I hate that he’s in charge now. He will make an amazing dad some day. He may tease his little brother at home, but I know he’ll look after his little brother in the airport. He won’t let his little brother go into a boy’s bathroom solo, or wander off. He’ll even try to entertain him on the plane if necessary. For 11 hours. Wow. That’s a lot. And he doesn’t mind. Because that’s how bad he wants to see his dad again.

So, I’ve come to this place of just embracing their journey together. It’s not mine. In the past, I insisted that I fly with them and then I’d go on my own little vacation somewhere. I did this mainly so I could help my oldest. When he was 10, 11, 12, 13, I just felt he was too young to be in charge. Maybe it’s ok now? I was babysitting at 14. So this is just their journey. Besides, I have no desire to fly to Munich in winter and then fly back. Nope. I’m happy to stay here, do yoga, teach yoga, go to the beach and enjoy this insanely beautiful California weather and write. Yup, I need to embrace having a break! I need to trust that all will be ok. That no one will die on the slopes of the Alps. This will be my first Valentine’s week in a loong time not to shower my boys with sweet gifts. My mom used to do this with us, so I like to pass on the tradition. Hand-written cards, silly, inexpensive gifts, maybe a book that says how much I love them…and a lot of chocolate! So, this year, I’ll tuck some of those goodies into their suitcases and remind myself that all is well. All is working out exactly as it is meant to. They need their dad. They need more moments to feel his love.

My tea bag last night said: “Love Your Soul”. How perfect. For me, that means I need to embrace time off and my new-found contentment for who I am. I’ll spend the week with my yogis, writing, and walking on the beach. The European, frigid ski weeks were never my thing anyway. There was always too much meat, cheese, drinking, and this overwhelming feeling like I had to try to fit in, but never could. I don’t ski. I don’t speak French or German. I’d rather be doing yoga or listening to live music. And I hate the cold! My toes and fingers would get so numb it felt dangerous, so I’d hide away in my room reading and dreaming of sunshine. I’m living my sunshine. I’m living it inside an out. My healthy life by the beach, is just fine by me. It suits me. And my boys get the best of both worlds. If I flip my thinking, I can see that what many may think it a horribly sad story, is one that is quite beautiful. Maybe I needed to be hurt so badly, dropped so harshly on my ass 7 years ago, so I could wake up and start living an authentic life. I now wear the hippy clothes I like. I embrace my creative writing, my yoga and wellness, and try to be a human being and not a human doing. (As a friend reminded me yesterday!) I am now a much more centered person and in a way, it’s such a relief. It couldn’t have happened in any other way because I’m such a loyal person. I would have never ventured out on my own. So I’m realizing that I’m on a journey too. A journey to live life on my own terms.

My boys have their own journey and it’s not up to me to control it or thwart it. This Valentine’s week they get to be embraced by their dad who loves them. They get to have some fun on the slopes. They get to eat a lot of bacon and cheese and white bread–food they don’t get with me, lol! They need that. And I get to marinate in the realization that I’m living my life exactly as it is supposed to be lived. And I’m filled with SO much gratitude and joy for the authentic friends who are with me on this journey.

 

 

 

 

 

Points of Light

lacma

LACMA @ Night Photo by Laura Roe Stevens

On the first day of 2016 I meditated outside of LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) with a Zen Buddhist monk and my dear friend Lydia. The two of us giggled as we approached the monk who invited people via his Meetup group to a New Years Zen meditation between the LACMA lamp posts. There were two 30 minute sessions. I made it only through the first. Seikan, the monk, settled in immediately. It was impressive. He was as still and as straight spined as the lamp posts. His stillness could be felt. Immediate. Unwavering. Powerful. Lydia and I sat down near him, in this place close to the street and in front of the museum. It was too sunny at 2 p.m. It was hot. My feet were sweating inside my Uggs. Typical California winter. It had been cold that morning. Now it was hot. I hadn’t exercised yet, so was restless. I hadn’t journaled, so had too many thoughts that needed settling or releasing. I wanted to flow, run, dance, work out some wiggles first. Children were running around and in between the posts. I wanted to play with them and help the parents who were yelling in exasperated tones at them. I could feel their stress, their sadness and their frustration. The holidays were almost over. Relief would come soon. I could feel their need for that. I could hear car breaks squeal. The occasional horn beeped. Couples flirted as they walked past. Their energy was like a soft wind or delicate whisper of hope. Some people took pictures of us. I could hear the camera shutters or people up close whispering, probably with iphones. A man walked up and sat directly behind me and joined in. I could feel his presence before I actually heard him. He had been watching. Thirty minutes is a long time to meditate. After about 25 minutes, both my legs completely fell asleep and tingles were shooting up from my crossed ankles to my thighs. I tried to ignore it. Another shuffle behind me and the sense of someone’s energy jolted me as I realized my purse was in plain view. I moved it to the front of me and heard this person walk away. My left leg, the one with the pulled hamstring, started aching. I didn’t bring my meditation cushion, but rather my bolster, thinking it would be easier to carry around the museum later in my yoga bag. It wasn’t high enough, however, to allow a straight spine or a good distance to angle my knees downward. I caved. Within minutes of moving my legs into a straight position, I heard the bells chime. Our session was over.

It was an interesting way to start the new year. Am I a Zen meditator? Probably not, if I’m honest. I prefer mantra, kundalini or visualization-types of meditation. I like my eyes closed, not half closed, as Zen meditators do. For instance, on New Years, I listened to all the noises, felt the energies around me, and then silently kept saying to myself: Trust, Love, Accept…all things I need in the New Year. Zen meditators let go of everything, including themselves. Maybe I have too much ego? lol! Plus, I exercise a lot, so when I meditate, I want comfort. I want to slouch, or to lay down, or lean back against a wall. Seikan shared that he once sat in zen meditation for 20+ hours while in Japan with his master. That’s amazing!

What I truly enjoyed about the day was learning from this man, listening, and then silently recognizing my own needs, my own preferences. Lydia and I walked around LACMA afterwards. She gravitated toward the architecture exhibit. I loved recognizing models of buildings that I had seen in Spain, France and Italy, but overall, the little models of buildings didn’t move me. I gravitated toward the audio/sensory exhibit. I couldn’t move from Diana Thater’s Delphine room for a long time. Lydia left me and came back. It was like being dropped into the waters with a pod of dolphins. Multiple streaming videos of dolphins swimming and playing were on every wall. Lights shown through in a way that made me feel like I was swimming with them, but also in an angelic dream. Joy bubbled up to the surface and I wanted to play. I wanted to swim with the dolphins again like I did in Costa Rica and in Hawaii. I took picture after picture.

When I was a little girl, my godfather bought me a record of whale and dolphin sounds. I listened to it over and over again for an entire year. The mom whale called to her child differently than she did to family members. The dolphins flirted with one another, warned each other, called out. It was fascinating. Probably because I didn’t speak to anyone outside my immediate family until I was 11. And even within my family, I mainly watched body language and waited for an outburst or drama that I didn’t want any part of. I understood the subtle language of energy and behavior exquisitely at an early age. So of course I gravitated toward whale and dolphin family interaction and language! And suddenly I was in this room, remembering how I played the dolphin and whale sounds over and over when I was a little girl. (My Grease and Heart albums finally bumped the whales & dolphins! ha ha). I got so good I could tell the difference between joyful and sorrowful calls. Remember in Finding Nemo when Dory does all the different whale calls! Yup, I get that. So hilarious. (Here’s the Dory whale VIDEO of it for those in need of a laugh!!) I’m that nerd.

We left the museum after dark and as I drove away, I stuck my phone out of the side window (yes, as I was driving 10 mph) and snapped the amazing picture of the lamp posts. I somehow captured this Crazy beautiful last minute moment that would have past me by unnoticed. How often do I do that? Not recognize a moment or a person or an event or an activity that lights me up? Not until much later do I realize that that person, activity, event, etc. was in fact, one of my points of light?

And once I truly recognize what lights me up, what is my passion, what makes my life joyful, I can gravitate and lean in for more (or to give more.) So maybe I’ll never slow down enough to sit for hours on end as a Zen meditator. But I am finally slowing down enough to recognize my points of light. They are my authentic friends on a similar journey who accept me exactly as I am. They are my senior yogis I teach weekly who teach me more about how to embrace true youth: who are filled with more life and more gusto than most people half their age. Other points of light in my life? My sisters and brother, my children. Music. Yoga. Dance. It’s writing this post. It’s letting go.

What lights you up? What really brings you joy? For me it’s both connection and movement. It’s connected to literal lightness as my life has been way too heavy. It’s connected to playful moments. It’s part emotional, verbal connection and authentic friendship, but then again, it’s playful, silly connection with no need for words. I get that the most. That’s why I couldn’t move away from the audio/sensory exhibit. Having dolphins swim and play and twirl all around me, while listening to the water and feeling light swaying across the walls…drew me in. I wanted to jump in. I wanted to twirl and squeak and flip over and swim over and around each of them. I wanted to explore. I wanted to swim fast. And then crash on a beach and sleep lazily for an hour with a bff. Am I Zen meditator? Probably not. But here’s to exploring more points of light in the New Year! 🙂 ❤