Category Archives: WORDS

When Your Book Deal Falls Apart

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There are always two ways to look at things. Always. Some of my favorite authors were rejected multiple times by publishers and agents before getting a break. And my writing mentor in graduate school in New York, Barbara Probst Solomon , told me years ago to hang every rejection letter from every agent and every publisher on my bedroom wall. She insisted that I should be proud of trying. She also had to read, edit and approve my first novel, Lucifer’s Laughter, in order for me to graduate from the writing program. I’m not sure if the novel was her speed, but I’ll never forget her words of encouragement. It was a murder mystery/suicide plot with a southern main character in a little town of Maine. In short, it was nothing she would likely pick up on her own. But she said to me: “You’ve done this before haven’t you? You can tell a story well and move it along. Keep at it.”

In a world that is hyper critical and loud, like New York, that was the kindest encouragement I had ever received during my four years there.

So, I’m sharing my rejection story with you in honor of my thesis advisor, Barbara. In short, a lot of life and a lot of fear occurred in between that time when I was in New York penning my first novel and now. Journalism jobs, marriage, international life, divorce… Four years ago I began writing fiction again in earnest.  My second novel has only been read by one agent and one top editor at a publishing house. Barbara, if she still advised me, would likely say I haven’t tried hard enough. I was lucky to have an introduction to an agent right away. It didn’t pan out, but then I reached out to the top editor of a major publishing house directly, and to my amazement, she said yes she’d love to read my book! It took five months to hear back, but this kind soul wrote a very thorough letter to me last Wed. It was like a soft break-up with someone you really like, but just aren’t in love with. She told me I was a good writer and lyrical and careful with word choice, but that Southern main characters have to be so engaging that she falls madly in love. She wasn’t in love with the main character and I have too many characters. She wants a more simple novel to publish right now. Uriel’s Mask has a lot of action and goes from the end of slavery (inspired by a true story) to the 1980s, so it is more plot driven and reads like a movie. I learned about the type of novel she’s looking for and it’s not as large in scope.

So, this week was hard and I was working such long hours and juggling a lot that I didn’t have time to digest this news properly. I’m sharing it with all of you because I want my fellow writers to realize that it’s just the process. If I am too scared to hear these honest dialogues from those in the industry, I will never grow. Maybe the book just wasn’t a fit for this particular publisher? Maybe she’ll read my next one, which is drastically different and not southern AT ALL.

Maybe I need to do what most do, and mail 15 to 20 copies to agents all over the country? Maybe I need to consider self-publishing if it costs the same amount as spamming agents? All I know is that I can’t give up and neither should you if you receive one rejection letter. All I know is that I’ve been writing and publishing work since I was 18 years old as a journalist with the Red & Black newspaper. Writing is what I do. Yoga helps me do it better and live longer and healthier. In my Yoga for Writers Workshop that I’m leading, I will bring in my rejection letter, as well as all the drafts of the query letter that I created to finally send to the one agent and the one editor who responded positively and requested a copy of my novel. It’s a process. It’s a business. And the best part is telling the stories. I’ll keep writing Between Thoughts of You, my 3rd novel, but also squeak in time each month to mail out one query letter or two for my previous novel. I think baby steps and practice will make it all a little easier. Have a beautiful week. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Keep focused and out of drama. And keep striving. Laura x

Here are some more posts on writing that I hope inspires you!
Want to be a great writer? How you live matters.
First creative writing conference with kids in tow!
Boldness has no expiration date
How yoga helps you create
 Breaking through resistance

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Photo Essay: A Path Unfolds

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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

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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. ❤

Breaking Through Resistance

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Resistance is a “Force of Nature”, a Universal Law, like gravity, according to author Steven Pressfield. In his book, The War of Art, he explains how resistance appears to everyone through fear, procrastination, distraction, anxiety, thoughts of not being worthy or good enough, etc. Steven writes that we all have our own unique creative genius, but this force called resistance often keeps us from expressing it. It’s the force that keeps us from changing careers, running a marathon, writing our novel, starting a business, even falling in love.

Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday replayed her 2013 interview with Steven this week, as his 15th novel, The Knowledge, hits book stores. Clearly, Steven is not slowing down or  giving in to resistance. Here is what he has learned in the 40+ years of tackling this force:

Resistance is strongest as we approach the precipice of our dreams, or are on the verge of growing spiritually closer to the highest version of ourselves. Watch this amazing short video clip as Steven describes “The Six Things We Resist Most in Life.”  

If this clip doesn’t launch, here is the quick list of where resistance hits most:

  1. The launching of any entrepreneurial venture (profit or nonprofit).
  2. Any diet or health regime, especially an activity to tighten abdominals.
  3. Any program of spiritual advancement.
  4. Any program to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction.
  5. Education of any kind, even in the endeavor to help others.
  6.  Any act that entails commitment of the heart, such as the decision to get married, to have a child, to weather a rocky patch in a relationship. ANY movement away from petty EGO-based viewpoint to something more noble, “to be generous, to be kind, to be open to love,” according to Steven, attracts much resistance.

To me, resistance is very much like the law of hiking long distances. If you’ve ever hiked for days with only a compass and a topo map, you know this law. The hike will be at its most treacherous point: raining, fog, encounters with wild animals, etc. a few moments before you find your way, or make the clearing that lights your path. That’s Resistance to me. And it requires that we just keep going. We just keep doing what we are meant to do to grow, to evolve spiritually, to embody love, to create art, to fulfill a goal; any goal.

Those dreams that are the dearest to us ignite the loudest resistance due to this Universal Law. The good news is that since resistance is a force of nature, that means the voices in our heads saying we are not enough: ARE NOT US. They do not represent our souls, our highest selves. Resistance is an outside force must be pushed through, faced, in order to rise to a higher level of being, a higher level of consciousness, to LIVE our Purpose. To face resistance, we just simply have to “put our ass where our hearts want to be,” as Steven puts it, meaning, just do it. If you want to write, write. If you want to love someone, push aside your EGO and just love him or her. If you want to start a company, keep taking baby steps and start it. If you don’t know what you want to do, just meditate and start dreaming and exploring what you like in life without judgement. 

When I heard Steven Pressfield’s Super Soul Sunday interview, SO many bells went off.

Steven, who has written 15 books, as well as screenplays, said he, too, felt resistance his whole life. It took him nearly 20 years before he began earning any money from his writing. It took many years before he allowed his writing to be his vocation rather than his avocation—meaning before he just started writing every damn day. It required a shift in thinking. A push through resistance. He had to mentally embrace that he was a professional writer and each morning just go to his desk and sit his ass where his heart wanted to be. Once he started writing, all fear vanished as he entered the Universal flow of being exactly where he was supposed to be to create art, to be a conduit of something greater than himself. If you’ve ever lost yourself in creating something, you know what that feels like. Time floats by. You are so in the zone. You forget yourself, your troubles, time, and you focus on being a conduit of creation. It’s a dreamy state to be in.

I could so relate. Listening to this interview last night, I realized that I had major resistance to push through. I hadn’t written a word in my next novel since May. In early May I had flown my mother-in-law in town to watch the boys and I spent a week away writing every day. I had accomplished so much. Then my mom died. I returned on my birthday at the end of May, with summer approaching, I allowed myself to focus on my boys; their activities, and earning as much money as I could via journalism articles and teaching yoga. But at the end of the day, it was resistance in the form of distraction, fear, the need to be the perfect mom, the need to prove that I can take care of myself financially, the need to not feel, as I was filled with grief that I couldn’t allow out.

“Resistance is the highest as we come closest to manifesting our purpose.” It’s so true.

Last night, in a quiet house, with the boys in London, I picked up Between Thoughts of You, my latest novel, and started writing. Soon as I was back in the zone again.

If you are encountering resistance, just do the thing you fear. Just do it, without thinking too much about it.

Steven says resistance occurs whenever we are close to evolving in any way. So we resist allowing love in. We resist committing to marriage. We resist being compassionate, kind and giving when it means a friendship will deepen into something meaningful. We pause after we commit to starting a new career. We allow ourselves to get stuck. Why? Because that means we would evolve into the person we ultimately already are. We would reflect our highest self. Resistance is a force of nature that occurs as we approach this significant step onto the path of our growth.

Just do it. Sit at the chair and write. Sit by the easel and paint. Call the girl. Show up. Keep going. Cook that souffle. Take a class. Go on the interview. What do you have to lose?

Love & Light ~

Laura xo

The Death Grip of Holding On Too Tight

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This post is dedicated to all I have a hard time with letting go. Even those that I just mentally hang on to, maybe especially for them. 🙂

So, I find myself on this Tuesday morning in my house alone. It is quiet, except for construction workers getting ready for a day in the sun building the beach mansion across from me for a wealthy Sketcher family member. (I try not to get angry about it, but it’s blocking my view of the ocean as I live in an original surf shack, one of the few, sigh.) And then of course, I can hear the ever-present surfers slamming car doors excitedly, filled with energy, ready to run to the surf and tackle waves. I love them in a way I can’t explain. No, it’s not for the abs and sexy shoulders gals. It’s because they remind me, that every day is new. You’ll see excitement in the old guys and the young ones who can’t wait to find out just how tough or soft the waves are that morning. This spot in front of my house is never the same. It may look the same, but underneath is magic. A full moon appears and the ocean responds with so much energy you can feel the electric pull along with all those trying to ride. The sun sets, especially in winter, and it’s exploding apricot and violet and cinnamon just at its edge and I’m filled with gratitude with my neighbors who watch with me while sipping their wine. (I sit in the sand, they sit on the balconies of their mansions, but we are all the same in that moment.)

Why am I sharing this? Because lately, I’ve been away and my mind became cluttered with negative energy and fear. I’ve missed just watching these daily rituals in my hood that remind me that every day is filled with raw potential and it demands that I get in that flow and out of my house and my head. (a hard task for a writer!) This morning I find myself writing in my empty house and listening to the world outside that is asking me to join in. But I stay inside as I find myself hold on mentally to those I love. How are my boys, now away and with their dad for the first time in what, five months? How is my friend who is suffering from depression? Why hasn’t another dear friend gotten back to me? Is he ok? Is he mad at me? Am I a good enough friend? And then there is this, that I’ve been hanging on to for years…why do I still want to hear from that person who is clearly wrong for me? Sigh. These thoughts swirl in my mind. So instead of going for a run on the beach, or doing my yoga routine or the 22 pushups I’m doing every day for 22 days as a challenge, I’m sitting with my thoughts, my worries, and allowing them to just be. Today, I will embrace them. Then I’m going to let them go. (And really let them go, as I have to leave to teach some beautiful souls fighting cancer. It’s hard to not be in the present moment with those who are acutely aware that today may be their last.) But back to my lingering, looping thoughts of those I just won’t let out of my heart and mind…When it comes to my friends and those who I need to let go, I will see them in a golden light. I will see them as free and happy and I will mentally lift them up to the clouds. When it comes to my children, well that’s a bit harder.

For the longest time I thought letting go meant I was a bad mother. But in reality, I don’t own my children. I can love them and give them guidance, but then I have to let them follow their own path. I adore this passage by Kahlil Gibran:

“Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.”

 

When I hold on it takes the mental form of worrying or being filled with regret or longing or what ifs. It’s a form of fear. It’s a form of distraction, as it’s keeping me from embracing the new day, the new potential, the new chance to ride my own wave and get into a flow with the Universe.

 

Jack Kornfield, renown Buddhist author and monk  said in his article Letting Go:

“In the end we discover that to love and let go can be the same thing. Both ways do not seek to possess. Both allow us to touch each moment of this changing life and allow us to be there fully for whatever arises next.”

And I’ll add that allowing ‘whatever arises next’ is not in ANY way a form of disregarding or disrespecting the love you have for others. For a few months now I have been letting go some very dear souls and it is a loss. A deep loss. But they need to follow different paths and I want them to be happy. It’s that simple. If you love in the truest sense, you want everyone to be happy. Not happy doing what you envision. Not happy being there for you always. But happy in the way they define happy. So I love them and want them to do what makes their hearts sing, even if that is without me in their lives.

Once I start letting go, others come in. But for whatever reason, when I start to let others in, I feel a bit unfaithful to those who used to be such a big part of my life. It’s silly. It’s another form or getting in my own way and stopping the flow or current the Universe wants me to be in. This weekend I’m meeting some beautiful souls. They are even staying with me, although I don’t yet know them. They are yoga teachers from the East Coast who are dear friends with a new friend of mine I met in Peru. These guys have started a clothing line and need a place to stay as they go on photo shoots, etc. to promote it. Every time we speak or text, it’s quite funny as we are in sync. Both have to go to meditate and get more sleep after being in or teaching a class. They are definitely sweet souls and new friends with viewpoints I get and a positivity that is infectious.

My friends from my TUT trip to Peru are coming in as well this week. One of my yoga students has given us her house in Topanga—only one of my favorite places in LA or the world! How lucky am I?? I’m beyond excited to hike and practice yoga and just reconnect with these new girlfriends that I adore. And on Monday, my soul sister I met last summer in Barcelona is coming in. She is a new friend, yet an old one. It’s hard to explain. It’s like we knew each other before or have been friends a very, long time. So she’ll be here visiting till Wed. and may go to classes with me, hang on the beach. I’m so very lucky to have such soulful friends. The connections are pure and deep and it’s what I’ve always wanted.

So, I pause today, feeling my feelings of loss. I will accept that I miss some people who are precious to me, still very important to me, yet aren’t in my life right now. I accept that I miss them. I accept that they still have pieces of my heart with their names on them, pieces that will always be theirs. But I do not own them. And they do not own me. I will accept these feelings that I have. Even the ones where I worry that I’m being unfaithful by embarking on new friendships. I am not. I just miss them. But they are on their own journey. I respect that. Love is free. Love is simple. Love just requires us to love, accept and let others be happy on their journey. The only crime is when I don’t love myself enough to let myself be free, fly, flow, and seek out a new day with new opportunities, new friendships. So to love others freely, requires that I love myself with as much compassion.

My habit for the past year, every day when I wake up, is to mentally say to myself: thank you for this new day. May I love well. May I live presently and please God, let me let go.

I don’t own this life. I am only passing through. I don’t even own this body. So just because I love my children or love family or friends doesn’t mean that I own them either. My love isn’t a chain. It doesn’t mean they are forced to DO anything. They are free to live how they choose, even if that way hurts themselves or shuts me out or goes down a path that I never considered. I let go with love. I wish them well with love. Because in the end, love is all about letting go. It is all about acceptance and not just validation or meeting my needs. If I truly love someone, anyone, then I want them to be happy. It’s as simple as that. And only those who are wild and free and following their dreams are truly happy. Those who feel chained or trapped out of obligation can never truly be content.

Just my wandering Tuesday morning thoughts, straight from my heart, filled with love.

Have a beautiful day,

Laura

100+ Follows!

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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

Sneak Peak of my next novel: Between Thoughts of You

I am infinitely curious about love. What defines love? Is it a feeling? Is it action? Can it truly last a lifetime? Why do some with a lukewarm type of love stay together for a  lifetime—yet others, who seem to have a more passionate love—fall apart? And can someone truly love another, yet lie and belittle that person at the same time? What kind of love is that? If behavior is hurtful or disrespectful, how can love still exist? How can we trust that the person we choose to love, we choose to be faithful to and to build a life with, really loves us in the same manner—or will continue to choose to love us during hard times?

People who rush into marriage say silly things like, “I just knew!” But for those of us who ‘knew’—and years later were cheated on, lied to, disrespected—we come out of it on very shaky ground. Can we really trust our intuition and gut feelings about another person again? How do we know our next partner will keep his/her promises? How do we know we can trust what we think is real? Maybe it’s all a sham, in the end. When reality suddenly shifts dramatically, it’s hard to trust. When lie upon lie upon is revealed, the person who lied and cheated may feel relief to no longer be living a lie, yet the person cheated on sinks into a despair, questioning everything. “Was he really on the phone with his dad when we were lying in bed after making love?” … “He said he loved me every fucking morning before work. It’s such bullshit. Our whole life was bull shit.”
Questions and maddening thoughts swirl. After the questions fade, a deep malaise can settle in.

That’s where the main character of my next novel, Between Thoughts of You, is when the novel begins. She is numb. She feels hopeless. And she has no idea that her life is about to change forever by an old man—by the secrets kept by an old man. His trust in her—his choice to let her be the only one to hear his deepest secrets kept from friends and family for more than 55 years—will literally transform her.

But first, let me introduce Lulua ‘ina, aka Lulu, to you in this mini sneak peak of the novel I’m writing. I’m obsessed with Lulu. I hope you will be, too. 🙂 This tiny scene is told through the eyes of the old man she takes care of. Six months earlier in Honolulu, her baby suddenly died. Three months after, her husband left her for her best friend. To say she is disillusioned and heart broken is an understatement. Lulu fled Oahu at her first opportunity. It was also her first time leaving Hawaiian soil. She felt as if she had nothing to live for, so taking the job as the sole hospice nurse of an old man wasn’t a hard decision. She has no resentment for the round-the-clock care she now gives, because she no longer has any needs or expectations for her life. Right now, she wants to fulfill an old man’s wish to die on Tuscan soil. That’s what she thinks. Little does she know, that his dying wish is really to find the one person he can tell his deepest secrets to.

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“The old man leaned onto his left shoulder, as if sizing her up with a better view. Lulu had a round, pale and yellowish face with eyes that were both almond shaped and long, slim at the same time. These were her genetic features given to her by her mother who was half Japanese and half Hawaiian.

With moss green eyes, a tall forehead, a pointy chin and freckles she was named for, Lulu was clearly a genetic mutt. The day she was born, her grandfather named her “Lulua`ina [loo loo (w)ah’ ee nah] which means freckles. Lulu grew to have long, thin black hair (also like her mother) but was tall, angular and boney, unlike the rest of her Hawaiian family. These traits, she was told, were thanks to her German father, whom she never met.

Her appearance fascinated the old man. The moment he saw her picture on her application, he demanded that his sons fly her out so he could meet her. Her resume wasn’t terribly impressive, they argued. She’d get homesick and want to run back to Hawaii. Their arguments fell flat. It didn’t matter that there were nurses in Italy, he had to meet her. And when she walked into his bedroom that afternoon, with all his boys sitting around his bed, the old man knew she was the one. She was who he wanted to die with. She was the one he would tell. Just like that, he knew. Partly because of her Asian traits. And partly because he sensed the sadness beneath her calm demeanor, like a storm that needed to brew. And the old man loved brewing storms. He loved drama of any kind. And he especially loved beautiful women who needed to be rescued.

“You’re heart-broken,” he spat out. “Anyone can see that.”

She blinked in response.

“Dreams will come back to you, when you start to heal. Then, you’ll be ready for their messages.” He rose an eyebrow before saying, “You know what I mean?” His signature catch phrase.

New Friends on My Journey

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Photo by: Laura Roe Stevens

Taking baby steps onto my path, my journey to open up a future living my dreams, can be scary. But what I’ve been learning over the past two and a half years especially, is that as I move forward into my truth to live an authentic life that reflects my soul’s purpose, I meet people on the way who instantly feel like family. It’s a beautiful thing. As a single mom of two, it would be very easy for me to just continue with a traditional job and ensure that I have a safe life. But three years ago, after recovering from my divorce, I still felt as if my soul was sinking, getting buried into a life that wasn’t my own. I wasn’t myself. I longed to trust myself and not continue to do the right thing or be who others might want me to be. I took an intensive yoga teacher training and  reconnected to my inner voice. That voice can get drowned out by the needs of children and the expectations of others. I connected with soulful, supportive friends, like my yoga teacher and was able to find the courage to explore my heart’s desire. Just before that training began in September 2013, I had started writing creatively again. I’ve been a journalist and editor since I was 19 years old…but I stopped writing creatively after my first son was born. I wrote a book in graduate school, then met my husband soon after. And I began living for my son and for my husband— trying to ‘be’ what was expected of me to be the best mom I could, while also bringing in income for the family. The divorce woke me up. It didn’t feel good, but now I see that it was necessary. I had lost my way. My inner voice was silent. I was listening to other’s limited beliefs about who I was or what I could accomplish or the kind of life I should be living.

The past two and a half years have been amazing. Two more intensive yoga trainings later, and after creating a supportive writer’s group with friends who also feel like family, I finished my novel Uriel’s Mask and am half way through my next novel Between Thoughts of You! It’s funny how life works. For me, once I began to take baby steps into my authentic life and really trust the Universe, I began meeting others on similar soul-searching journeys. It’s beautiful. I love the synchronicity. It’s like the Universe saying: “See? I told you you aren’t alone and it’s more fabulous when you step outside of your comfort zone and into your purpose, isn’t it?!”

This week, Tory, of the GingertAle blog sent me a long note that made me cry. She said that my posts felt like words from a guardian angel as she’s now a single mom of a three-year-old and trying to launch a new career. She said she just needed the inspiration to keep on her journey, to not cave to other’s limited viewpoints on what she could accomplish. She sent me this post: “Live Deep and Suck the Marrow Out of Life”. Read it. It’s beautiful. As she takes baby steps into her dreams, while also striving for balance to take the best care she can of her daughter, she’ll discover friends along the way, like angels, to inspire and support her. I know I have. 🙂 I’m so grateful for them, too.

For instance, last summer I met another writer, Ann Marie Frohoff , who has written three novels and is working on a documentary and another non-fiction project while also a dedicated mom. She lives in my home town! I met her randomly when on a date to a concert. The date and I decided we are better off friends, but I met Ann through one of his friends. I love when these things happen. Just knowing she’s out there writing every day, has been a huge inspiration to me.

Also last summer, while the boys were with their Dad in London & France, I decided to go to Barcelona, (my ex flew me to London with the boys, so it was a short, inexpensive flight!). I found a  roof-top apartment via airbnb that allowed me to have panoramic views of the city and water and even sleep under the stars! Had I listened to anyone who lamented that it isn’t safe for women to travel solo, I wouldn’t have had such an amazing journey. I did yoga every morning, wrote, explored the city. It was hard sometimes being alone, but I was able to take the art tours I wanted and to go up to the mountains of Montserrat. On one museum tour, I met a beautiful soul, who is now one of my best friends. She’s from San Francisco and was traveling solo after a break up. We couldn’t stop chatting and ended up going out to eat, to the beach, on a sailing cruise and then to a support group she had found. She’s coming to visit me this August. We chat quite a lot supporting each other as she is also starting a new career and on a similar spiritual path. Definitely a soul sister.

I’ve been an avid TUT.com fan since the Notes from the Universe first began. Mike Dooley’s notes resonate with me, especially after I had an apprenticeship with a medium and life coach in 2012. So, at the last minute, I decided that I’d take the risk and go to the TUT Peru trip last March. It was a trip that was a little out of my budget, I didn’t know anyone there, but I felt compelled to go. I’m so glad I did! On that trip I met so many soulful and fun friends. Two are visiting me this August as well, while  the boys are with their dad. One is also a yoga teacher and the other is originally from the South and very creative. We just ‘get’ each other.

I’m so grateful for all those on my journey. Some have read chapters of my novels and given me support and guidance that is priceless. I’m not one used to anyone giving to me. I like to give to others, it’s who I am. But I’m realizing that by allowing others on my journey to give to me, I can give back in numerous ways, and hopefully inspire them as well. We all need a little support to confirm we are on the right path, or that all will be OK. It’s scary to climb out on a limb reaching for a dream. But what I’m learning, is that it’s also so very rewarding. The journey means I’m alive. I’m excited. I following my truth and doing exactly what I love, every damn day. I’m writing. I’m teaching or doing yoga. I’m living with the two most important spiritual teachers in my life, my two boys. Sure, I’d love for my books to get published by a mainstream publisher, or the love of my life to finally find me …but you know what? Where I am right now, is so sweet. I’m beyond grateful for this beautiful life and the soulful friends I’m making on this journey.

If you are taking the first few baby steps onto your journey, consider me a friend along the way. If you’re following your heart, your intuition, your purpose—what lights up your soul—you’re on the right path. And you just might discover that the journey is as magical and the destination. 🙂 I know that’s how I feel.

LOVE & LIGHT XO

 

Editor & Yoga Teacher: Like Peas & Carrots

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Photo by Chloe Moore Photography

I’m up for two editor jobs. Two really interesting editor jobs. And both can be done mostly from home. Amazing. I’ve gone through one round of interviews that were both positive. I put it out to the Universe that I’d begin work with a magazine or webzine full time by September if there wasn’t movement on my book getting published. Alimony ends Sept 1st. I have two boys to take care of full-time. And I’m a writer. It’s what I do—and have been doing as a journalist, blogger, editor, most of my life. I used to say that writing was how I communicate best. I’m not completely sure that’s entirely true anymore. It may be how I relay my thoughts, interviews, stories, figure out my viewpoint. But it isn’t a two-way conversation. It isn’t heart-felt, healing connection with others. Not like yoga. Which is why I plan to continue teaching at least 3 classes a week after I start my job. Maybe that sounds nuts to some who are thinking she’s a full-time single mom too! But I can’t imagine my life without these classes right now. Five years ago I would never have believed that I’d be writing this, but maybe I communicate authentically in a healing and very real and present way through my yoga classes.

All I know is that the past two years of teaching has taught me incredible things about myself. My life may even be more stressful on some levels, but I am less stressed, more confident, more grateful, more open to love, new experiences, and much more trusting of what comes. So  those that I help, are actually helping me. I learn so much from my yogi friends about what it truly means to be brave.

I teach therapeutic & restorative yoga and meditation at Torrance Memorial Medical Center. Each class begins with a lot of pranayama so stress can be lowered and energies centered. Then I always ask what’s up. It’s a bit group therapy. Some have fallen. Some have lymphedema flareups. Some have other injuries related to hip or knee replacement surgeries, or the need for them. Others are going through the real pain and severe anxiety of caring for a dying spouse or family member. It manifests in severe headaches, spasms, major muscle cramps in the neck, back, shoulders, gut. I’ve devised flows that include modified yoga poses, balancing postures, T’ai Chi, visualization, acupressure holds, chakra alignment breathing… to help each issue. It’s part yoga, part physical therapy, part group therapy. The cool thing is that I keep learning. For instance, what I’ve learned about what the hamstring, IT band, iliopsoas & rhomboid muscles do to an aging, stressed out individual is just cruel. They work in tandem like rusted rubber band bullies gripping on the hips and back. And those who are swelling due to chemo and radiation from years ago, are still dealing with its feisty unpredictable, lymphedema flares. Finding a way to allow the lymph system to flow just gets me juiced. No pun intended. During one class, I watched the arm of a sweet yogi reduce its swelling size by half after we kept opening up the muscles of the sternum and collarbone and upper arm over and over like we were all doing synchronized swimming circles with deep breaths.

It’s transformative—and mostly for me. I see every week how important deep breathing, meditation, stretching, finding space to re-align body and attitude are. And while that may sound depressing to some—to work with this demographic instead of with the youthful in yoga studios—it is the exact opposite. I couldn’t find more inspiring, uplifting friends on the planet to hang out with 5 hours a week. Honestly. They are like family.

A dear yogi has been in the hospital for 25 days, staying by her husband’s bedside. Her husband had a quadruple bypass-and spine surgery. She finally took her first break and came to my Monday night class. I shared something that a yoga teacher told me in a class earlier that week: that tension is temporary, change is constant,  but bliss is possible. Ananda, bliss: a state we can achieve from deep breathing, stretching, re-aligning heart, body, muscles, soul—trusting the Universe with gratitude—is so attainable, even during stressful times. I received a text from her today saying that she told her husband and the nurses in the ICU, who then posted: “Tension is temporary, Change is constant, but Bliss is possible” on the nurses station wall. Wow, I love the ripple of the positive vibration!

See what I mean? My students teach me about the power of a positive attitude, the courage to take care of oneself, and the ability to reach out to others in a positive community for support. There is nothing like deep Ujjayi breathing for an hour to lower stress, cortisol levels, and boost serotonin release from the gut. Add a lavender oil temple massage during savasana, meditation, and we all leave class feeling blissful, grateful, cared-for, trusting, and just a little be happier than when we walked in. That vibration carries over and lifts others around us. All yoga does this. But for me, my regular hospital yogis, make me feel amazing. I’ve seen such a change in all of them for the past two years. Most had never done yoga before. The seniors clearly aren’t doing handstands or vinyasa power flow. But, like after any restorative class, they walk straighter and with more balance when they leave. They are in better alignment. And they all seem to be dealing with their anxiety so much better. I love the love I feel when I walk into the rooms. It’s hard to describe. I love these people dearly. And every time I quote someone important about why we keep our hearts open, or why we focus on what’s working, or why we can start again with each breath, I’m reminding myself of these things too—usually at exactly the right moment. When we feel good—mind, body and spirit—it’s empowering. Yes brain-washed terrorists may still strike. Yes, a driver may cut you off. Yes, our loved ones die. We can’t control everything in life. But we can breathe deeply. We can force ourselves to stay vulnerable and to break through resistance, breath through our fears, make intentions and do so with loving supportive people who remind us, just by their presence, that there are more kind, considerate, caring people in this world, than there are nasty, vengeful, violent folk.

This is powerful. Positive thoughts are so much more powerful than negative or fearful ones. And they help us to be calmer, more present, caring and in tune with one another.

After I teach,  I go home, relieve the sitter and am a much better mom. And usually, on the nights I teach, I stay uplifted and grateful, even while I’m writing or working late into the night. I feel like the luckiest woman alive. And it all started with the sweet yoga teachers who kept reminding me six years ago to breathe deeply, know it’s all going to be ok, and to relax into and accept the space of NOW.

Have a beautiful day. Ironically, by my next post I may be back in the news full-time as an editor, but I’m advising you, just for a few days, to turn off daily news. Lets not focus on the tragedies we can’t control. Take deep breaths. Light a candle. Say a prayer if that helps you feel more at peace. If you can, put a drop of lavender oil into your hands, rub them, place your fingers on your temples and lightly make circles while thinking: Life is Good. All is Well. I am taken care of. I am So Blessed.

Be well,

Laura, xo

 

 

Exercises to “Re-Write” Your Life: The Healing Power of Written Reflection

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I am a yoga teacher trained in therapeutics. I’ve also been a journalist, editor and writer since I was 18 years old. Lets just say that’s a long time now! I find yoga, especially the ujjayi breath, essential to clear my head. It wipes the junk out, blows away the spider web of tangled thoughts or the distractions holding me back—looping thoughts I may cling to in order to NOT focus. Yoga, the sweat, work out and breath, helps me clear my mind, be more present, less fearful and therefore, better focused to write my books, or write blog posts or magazine articles. I’ve been working at a hospital in Los Angeles for three years now. Not everyone can experience the clearing power of a yoga work out. Some are stuck in chairs or attached to machines. I created a technique that marries deep yogic breathing with writing exercises geared to clear out unconscious stories and looping fears that can hold people back. When I work with cancer support groups, not only do we breathe deeply and do a little chair yoga and meditation—we write. The power of the writing exercises can not be over-stated. It is especially healing for post traumatic stress. I know. As someone who has experienced PTSD from violence and abandonment, I know how serious and debilitating it can be. Those who’ve experienced trauma can’t just ‘get over it.’ And my last article for TUT: “Five Ways You May be Addicted to Your Wounds” struck a chord within therapy circles. I received feedback such as you can’t just ignore trauma or PTSD. I agree. No you can’t. My previous article was written for those who lick their wounds for years after therapy and support group help, in order to garner sympathy, stay stuck, not have to work hard or to try to make others responsible for their own well-being. It wasn’t for the those who have just experienced trauma or who have just recovered memories of trauma. In my experience, finding a good therapist and a support group can be life saving. Yoga, meditation, even just walking weekly with a friend, are also incredibly healing. Take it slow.

The good news is that over time, you can start again. You can re-write your life. Your past doesn’t define you. The way we interpret our life stories is everything. And this lives in our subconscious. These writing exercises are designed for those who may be stuck, such as dating men who continue to cheat. Or for those who experienced trauma years ago, yet never healed, because the spin they put upon the life experience is limiting. If you think you are resilient—you are. If you think you learned a valuable lesson and have moved on—you have. The stories we tell ourselves about our past experiences have a tremendous impact on our future. But often, we aren’t even aware of what we tell ourselves, as it’s subtle. It’s mutted. Sometimes it isn’t even words, so much as knee jerk reactions and attitudes we adopt to skew our world view and lower our vibrations.

So even after years of therapy, and even after an acute awareness of what you have been through and why you do what you do—you may still subconsciously be telling yourself negative stories. Intellectually you may know that you are safe, or that all men don’t hit or cheat, or that you can get another job, or that you are competent, or that you can lose the weight…Yet, subconsciously, you may be telling yourself a stream of fearful thoughts that support a very limited and negative outlook, not allowing you to live your best life. Your anxious thoughts may also be flooding your body with cortisol, the stress hormone that can cause a host of dis-ease. Here are a few examples from my hospital work: someone lost a family member in a car accident 20 years ago and refuses to drive. Ever. She watches news every night. She needs to control everything and everyone in her life. She has such high anxiety that she develops debilitating fear over doing anything new or leaving her house. Her subconscious mind tells her the world can’t be trusted. The world isn’t a safe place. Her health declines. She gains weight. She isolates. She drinks too much coffee. She doesn’t sleep well. Her blood pressure rises. She began to have irregular heart beats. Spots on her skin developed. She developed another cyst. When she started chair yoga (her doctor recommended it and then arranged for transportation), she said her life was over. Our writing exercises reveal her unconscious thought patterns: “It’s scary out there. I’m not safe. People can’t be trusted. I always get sick. I wish I could die.” Once I had her negative thoughts, I created positive affirmations for her to say daily in the mirror and to write daily in her journal that would spin the stories: “I am healthy. I trust the Universe is unfolding exactly as it is meant to. All is well in my life. Joy flows through me with every breath. I love my life. I am safe wherever I go.”

A private yoga client is recovering from the trauma of infidelity. She begins to tell herself “all men cheat.” Every man who she goes out with she becomes extremely suspicious of and begins snooping, reading texts and emails—even when the man has done nothing to merit such snooping. She creates the vibration that attracts another cheating or lying event. Her last boyfriend begins to lie to her about being available for dates and starts seeing a woman at the office. Writing exercises reveal her internal dialogue: “Of course! All men cheat. See? This is what the Universe wants for me. Fucking Universe. Look fat women in my neighborhood are married 20 years, yet I can’t find a good man to date. Others have love, I see it all around me, I’m not lovable. I’m not deserving.” Her mirror & written affirmations: “I am deserving. I love you. I approve of myself and deserve faithful love. I love you, I really love you. I trust the Universe has my back.”

Re-writing your life stories, the spin we put on them, our unconscious beliefs we keep telling ourselves, can be transformational. First, you have to discover what your stories are. From there, you re-spin them. Here are some writing exercises that I give my yoga clients who are going through trauma such as abuse, abandonment, divorce, cancer…I know from my own experience, these are eye-opening and can help you move past the old stories you tell yourself—and into the future you want.

  1. Find a comfortable spot, a couch, bed, favorite chair. Close your eyes. Rest your hands loosely in your lap. Have a pad of paper and pen near by. Take a deep breath through you nose and fill your lungs completely. Try to count to five or six. Hold it at the top for as long as you feel comfortable, and then slowly let it go through your nose, making a slight vibrational sound in the base of your throat. This is ujjayi breath that calms your central nervous system. It make the sound of the ocean in your ears, or like you are trying to fog up a mirror with your mouth closed. Do this breath five times. Yes, five times. Open your eyes, pick up the pen or pencil with your opposite, non-dominant hand. Put it in position on the paper. Ask yourself, ‘What am I scared of?” (Another good one is: I Believe…) Allow yourself to write four to five things (first things that come up), with the hand you do not normally write with.The next day, do the same as above but ask yourself “What Do I need to Bring into my Life?” Then, allow yourself you write with your non-dominate hand four to five things. I do this every year. My last one I put up on my bulletin board. In scratchy big letters are the words: Strength. Determination. Hard Work. Every Day.
  2. Do your five ujjayi breaths. Set your phone alarm to two minutes. Pick up a pen and place it on the paper. Close your eyes. Write without lifting your pen. Just write anything that comes to mind. Let it flow continuously. This is a stream of consciousness exercise where you literally dump out all the “stuff” in your head. This is especially effective for those who can not exercise, or who may be suffering from an illness.I do it with them and it’s amazing what dumps out onto the page. Fears. Daily negative messages. Worries. Triggers. Distractions. Obsessive worries or compulsions. Targets of control. After this exercise, take a long walk if possible, breathing deeply. If walking is out of the questions, breath deeply and take a break, have someone push you in a wheel chair for instance. Upon return, turn the page in your journal and answer the following question: “If I died tomorrow, I would most regret not doing ________.
  3. After doing both of the above exercises, I want you to write mirror and journal affirmations that you WILL DO daily for a month, at a minimum. Forty days is optimal. Write an affirmation that confirms the opposite of your negative belief. If you are afraid you will get sick again, your affirmation is: “All is well. I am healthy. My life is unfolding exactly as it meant to.”
    If you need help identifying affirmations for you, I strongly suggest buying Louise Hay’s classic book: Heal Your Body. Louise Hay also has awesome apps for healing and free affirmations here
    With Love & Light ~ Laura xo