Category Archives: YOGA

The Heart: Submerged in Mystery

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Photo by Toni Frissell

“You were a risk, a mystery. And the most certain thing I’d ever known.” ~ Beau Taplin.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.” ~ Albert Einstein.

“Love is the way Messengers from the Mystery tell us things.” ~ Rumi

***
Underneath the surface of our daily lives—concealed beneath a hundred smiles and practical choices—its faint heart beat lingers, quietly pulsing and pulling us back into its orbit of truth. The mystery of love: for all its impractical, unwise, and disruptive qualities, contains an element of the mysterious, surviving in an eternal space beyond the physical realm. It is a timeless, yet terrifying space, that intellect strongly neglects, and the heart fully embraces and recognizes. It is the ‘Ah, it’s you,’ feeling upon the first hug, the first touch, the first scent that lingers at the nape of his/her neck. It tells you you’re home. It belies logic. It lives within the waters of intuition. And it exists within you long after the physical experience or relationship ends.

Australian poet Beau Taplin captured its essence for me with this line: “It’s a frightening thought that in one fraction of a moment, you can fall into a kind of love that takes a lifetime to get over.”

Maybe not everyone experiences this kind of love in their lifetime? But I’m convinced they know if they have. That’s been my experience. When it ends, it’s shattering. The idea of never touching, seeing, or being with the other person is brutal. It’s hard to go on. And what happens within that space of misery, is also a mystery. Trying to avoid pain, many of us can try to make intellectual ‘safe’ choices, like being with people we don’t love in the same insanely passionate way. Or maybe some choose to be with someone because of what they can do for them, or because they would be more accepted by family, or it just feels like a safe bet. But it could be farther from the truth as it short-changes your heart. Not taking the risk for love, over time, haunts us. Memories of our true love, or the longing for this love, will linger within us and bubble up to the surface eventually. Even if our safe relationship lasts a lifetime—think of the married couples who are miserable, treat each other with disdain, yet stay together for the sake of the children, or due to financial fears. What lingers underneath the surface? Who do they think of at night when their partner barely touches them anymore? Love will find a way to survive. It resides deep within us, like a longing whisper.

This mystery is what I write about in my novel Between Thoughts of You. An old man on his death bed, finally admits to his hospice caretaker, who happens to look like his true love, that for 60 years he has never stopped thinking about a Japanese woman he fell in love with during World War II. Riddled with guilt for leaving her, the old man, now in the final stages of lung disease, keeps having lucid dreams of his true love, forcing him to face the truth. Here’s an excerpt from my novel, that I’ll be sharing with agents and publishers this weekend in San Francisco (wish me luck!). In this scene, the old man recovers from a vivid dream and reveals his secret to his caretaker.

Excerpt from Between Thoughts of You: Chapter 3

忘れられません

Wasure raremasen: Unforgetable

“She’s here. I mean, I smell her. It’s so God damn real. You know what I mean?”

Lulu thought of her sweet Lani’s smell. The scent had been so real in her dreams that it often lingered a few seconds after she had awakened.

“I might,” she replied softly. She started to take his pulse and placed the oxygen reader on his finger, ensuring that his oxygen levels were OK. The old man began to cough, too.

“Take it easy,” Lulu advised, sensing that the conversation might rile him up. When she reached for the nebulizer, Pops put a firm hand up saying no. With a sense of urgency on his face, Lulu decided it could wait a few minutes.

“My dreams of her are so real, I can even feel her touch as I’m waking up. I feel her soft hand on mine. She had the softest God damn little hands. They were like doll hands. Light as a feather. And I smell her. Jesus I smell her!”

Pops closed his eyes and breathed in. Lulu couldn’t help but smile in response to his dramatic energy.

“She smells like goose down. I know, odd. But that’s her smell. Soft and innocent. I wake up needing her so bad.”

The old man’s eyes looked searchingly into Lulu’s. 

“I even heard her voice this morning, calling me Yuki. She called me Yuki,” he explained with a sheepish smile.

“So he does have a secret,” Lulu thought. Most of her hospice patients told her at least one secret. Some might be small, such as secretly not liking a cat that a daughter had given her. But some were huge, like being gay and never telling their spouse. She had gotten used to hearing and keeping secrets. It was part of the job as a hospice nurse; to listen and not to judge.

The old man’s head fell back slightly onto his pillow, as his right hand instinctively lifted. His index and middle fingers straightened and touched, rubbing back and forth like he was rolling a cigarette between them. Lulu imagined that he often had long conversations with friends, while smoking cigarettes and drinking cocktails.

“Who are you talking about?” Lulu finally asked, demanding more clarity.

For more than 60 years, he had not said her name. Not once. When he did, it came out as a whisper: “Kiyomi.”

A sense of relief seemed to wash over the old man’s face after he spoke her name aloud.

“She was the one. I mean, no one has ever come close. You know what I mean?”

Lulu blinked, wondering if Akoni was her one and only, then decided not to go there.

“Of course, when you’re young and with the ONE, you’re just, you’re-I mean, you’re so God damned young and stupid you tell yourself that there will be other women like her. Like they’re just waiting for you everywhere, on every street corner and bar. But they aren’t.”

Pops looked contemplatively over Lulu’s shoulder, out the window facing the driveway lined with cypress trees. He placed a cloth up to his mouth as if he would cough, but just cleared his throat politely.

“I was so stupid to let her go. I mean. I knew. Deep down I really knew she was the one the moment I laid eyes on her. It didn’t matter that I was only 20. She was like this Japanese princess. I laid eyes on her and just couldn’t breathe. Like now,” the old man laughed a little. “Like God damned now.”

The conversation was riling him up. Pops started coughing so violently, his shoulders crashed up and down on the bed frame. Lulu had no other choice but to give him his nebulizer and to leave the room to finish making his breakfast. If she stayed any longer, he would just keep trying to talk.

It had turned out to be a gorgeous morning, so after his treatment, Lulu decided to wheel Pops out to the patio for his favorite brunch: eggs benedict and orange juice and toast. Apparently, on Sundays Pops liked to re-create the regular brunch he had in New York. The old man adored traditions. Yet, Lulu noticed that he hadn’t seemed to miss his homes in Rome or Manhattan—or his boys, or his wife—much at all. That perplexed her at first. Now that she had heard his heart was with another— and for nearly sixty years—her curiosity was peaking. 

Once the old man settled into the patio area and ate at least half of his meal without any signs of distress or coughing, Lulu leaned in. “I have to hear more about this Japanese princess. Where were you? Who was she? I thought you had been married forever?”

So, the old man started to tell his long love story. But in his fashion, he began telling it a bit lop-sided. He started the tale of his greatest love affair, after it had died.

“I married the boys mom, but I didn’t love her.” Pops looked around like he was at his favorite restaurant in New York or Rome, fearing someone might overhear his confession.

Lulu instinctively placed a hand on top of his and said, “You can trust me. I won’t tell a soul.”

Pops smiled and blushed. He really loved Lulu. He couldn’t explain how or why, but it felt as if he had known her before, or in another life. Or maybe he was just old and dying and needed to finally tell someone? Either way, he knew he was safe with her, so he continued:

“I mean I liked their mother, but Fran didn’t hold a candle to Kiyomi.”

Lulu wasn’t able to hide her quizzical expression. She just never understood why or how any man could ever marry a woman he didn’t love.

“See these were different times. I returned from the war and suddenly was making money. I mean, Real money. That’s a long story for another time. But, see, my mother was very patriotic. You’d think she’d been born in America, the way she acted.” Pops began to giggle, then continued in a high-pitched voice, imitating her: “‘No son of mine’s marrying a Jap! Just get over her.’ She had said that to me so many times it should have painted it on the kitchen ceiling!” The old man sighed.

“See, I made the mistake of telling my mother, after I returned to New York, that I was in love with this Japanese girl. My mother went Bofo. She went crazy. It took her less than a week to start rounding up pretty Italian girls in the neighborhood for me to date.”

The old man rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders, like what could I do?

“I was only 22 then and making a lot of money and really stupid. I mean, the boys’ mother was a looker. I’ll give her that. But nothing made me want to hold her. I mean, she was bossy and flashy. And LOUD. So loud. Key could barely whisper and I’d always hear her, or lean in so I didn’t miss a word. Fran was always yelling. I don’t know.” He shrugged his shoulders again and then took a sip of his orange juice that Lulu had poured into a champagne flute to be festive.

The old man then shifted into a more serious mood and looked off in the distance, as if sizing up how to best explain what he’d say next.

“If I could do it all over again I’d change everything. That’s why the boys can never know. Never. See, I’d marry Kiyomi. I still love her so much it hurts inside. Isn’t that crazy? It’s been what, 50, no 60 years. Nuts.”

The sun had risen, getting too bright, causing the old man to squint. Tuscany in September could still be hot. Lulu helped lift Pops out of his chair and handed him his walker. “Lets get a little exercise around the property, before going back to bed,” Lulu suggested. Walking on the gravel would be tricky for him, she had decided, but it would also be a good way to provide a focus for the old man. He’d have to concentrate fully on exactly what was before him, and not behind him. Lulu loved the moments that were fully present, like dancing or painting—neither the old man could ever do again. This little treacherous walk would require all the focus he could muster.

They stopped in the shade by the pool, so he could catch his breath. The old man had been panting and trying to hide how hard the walk had been for him. Lulu wondered if she had pushed him too far.

The old man leaned into an old knotted olive tree and looked up at Lulu with such love in his eyes it caused Lulu to blush and look away. Although he hadn’t told her, Pops had been thinking that if he had married Kiyomi, they might have had a daughter, or granddaughter that would have looked like her. The old man touched Lulu’s face gently, turning her gaze back to his, before asking an impossible request:

“I want to die smelling my Kiyomi. Feeling her hand on my hand. I know you understand. I can feel it. I don’t want the boys here. Just you, me and Key, OK?”

Lulu touched the old man’s hand with her own, tears welling in her eyes.

“I promise,” she said, making a promise that she had no earthly idea how to carry out.

###

 

 

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Kindness Week Challenge!

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This week, January 22 – January 26th is “The Great Kindness Challenge” at my son’s elementary school, Hermosa View. We’re taking it very seriously in this household, as I’m encouraging both my sons to participate. Yesterday, I put a few extra quarters in my meeter before I left and today gave a nearly frozen homeless man my Starbucks gift card with $12 remaining. Ideally, we’re supposed to check off all that’s on the following list. Wouldn’t it be great if more adults participated? Want to join? Here’s our list:

-Smile at 25 people.

-Take a treat to your local firefighters.

-Do a household chore without being asked.

-Donate something to an animal shelter.

-Take a board game to play at a senior center.

-Read a book to a younger child.

-Make a thank you card for your librarians.

-Entertain someone with a happy dance.

-Create a family gratitude jar.

-Cheer for every player on both teams. (good luck Super Bowl Sunday!)

-Deliver a special gift to a child in the hospital.

-Make a new friend or welcome a new neighbor.

-Send a card or gift to a military family.

-Walk a pet, ask first.

-Go a full day without complaining!

-Hold the door for someone.

-Learn to say thank you in 3 languages

-Embrace your family with a big hug.

-Teach something to a younger sibling

-Write or draw a loving note for someone.

-Make and display, “Kindness Matters.”

-Raise funds and donate to your favorite cause.

-Breathe, stretch and think a happy thought.

-Cut out 10 hearts and leave them on 10 cars.

-Donate needed school supplies.

-Thank a bus driver.

-Leave a flower on someone’s doorstep.

-Be kind to yourself and eat a healthy snack.

-Call your grandparents or an esteemed elder.

-Walk or bike to school or work, to be kind to the environment and your body.

-Say thank you to a police officer.

-Bake cookies and share with a neighbor.

-Say good morning to 5 people.

-Pick up and recycle trash in your neighborhood.

-Take a family walk.

-Volunteer in the community.

-Say hi to someone who looks sad.

-Write a happy message on the sidewalk with chalk.

-Paint a kindness rock and randomly place it.

-Share food with someone who is hungry.

-Let someone go ahead of you in line.

-Help plant a garden.

-Reflect on kindness you have seen throughout the day.

-Create your own kind deed. 🙂

Offline & Off Alcohol … What?!

morningme

Good morning. I’m feeling raw and authentic these days, so why not post a naked face pic? ha ha … So here I am, no make up, early morning cup of joe, my last lingering vice. Five months ago, as some know, my 15-year-old dared me to go off all social media. I did. He did. We are both more productive—although his gaming time has gone up, LOL! I finished my 3rd novel, Between Thoughts of You (link to except on title), and sent it to an agent on Monday. Woohoo!! Fingers crossed! The day after Thanksgiving I gave up alcohol. I did this at the request of a dear friend. It was a good request. Alcohol didn’t serve me. There were too many times when I found myself around drunk friends and the chatter became negative or gossipy. Then there were the mornings after when I would still have to teach hot 105 degree yoga. Ow! Plus, I want to be someone my boys can look up to. Someone who still has fun, still enjoys her life, is healthy, vibrant and joyful—all without alcohol. So far SO GOOD. I don’t miss it at all. I enjoyed my 2nd New Year Eve at a yoga (last year) or meditation event where we all ended up dancing for hours and hours! A dear friend I met in Peru, when I attended Mike Dooley‘s retreat, (yeah, the source of Notes from the Universe and SO much more!) flew in. Beth and I attended Marianne Williamson‘s weekend retreat on forgiveness, miracles, finding your voice, vision, taking calm, yet powerful steps toward peace, etc. It was inspiring! We met people from all over the world and via her livestream folks tuned in from Israel, Syria, Egypt, Palestine—talk about powerful! Here’s a pic, post-midnight, of us dancing with Marianne Williamson, her party-goers and the Agape Choir.

Post midnight dancing @ Marianne William's NYE event!

I adore Marianne, a 65-year-old who looks 40 and whose powerfully strong light is feminine, strong and passionate. (I hope she runs for office again!!) I did The Course in Miracles a few years back and in my first yoga training four years ago, was given one of her quotes:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.”

**

It felt natural that I should attend her event, held here in LA instead of her usual New York venue. What I took away that was new, however, I will share with you. Pray for Donald Trump. Pray for all your ‘enemies’ and know that they have a light, a direct link to God, just as much as you do. AND, the only thing that is REAL, is LOVE. So what they are doing to hurt you, doesn’t represent them, their true essence, their higher self they were born intrinsically with (like you) and nothing they did or said that harmed you is REAL. As Einstein said: “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

It’s easier to forgive those who hurt me (or who I allowed to hurt me, it is the same) when I think this way. Maybe it will be for you, too? BUT, Marianne warns that talking smack about what they did, or even thinking negatively about what they did and/or ‘who’ they are, will hurt you too—as you enter into the negative illusion that isn’t REAL. LOVE is REAL. LIGHT (GOD LIGHT) is real. And it takes strength to embody both. Letting go of the baggage, forgiving and loving ‘enemies’, ourselves, and then doing something to change our world, takes courage.  I’ll leave you with some of the best quotes by Marianne over the NYE weekend:

“Everyone we meet will either be our crucifier or our savior, depending on what we choose them to be.”

“Get off the cross, we need the wood.”

“The warden, just like the prisoner, can’t leave the jail.”

“You can have a grievance, or you can have joy, you can’t have both.”

“Those who act in a loveless manner (who hurt us) are not being Real. They are love, but have forgotten, or fell asleep. Us attacking them, or criticizing or not forgiving them makes us asleep with them. We must stay awake and forgive.”

“You are reborn in the instant you do NOT bring the past with you.”

“The EGO mind is like a scavenger’s dog, seeking your brother’s guilt. The Loving mind wants to see your brother’s innocence.”

“Forgiveness is a Radical concept. Drop victimhood that the EGO uses against you, against your sense of peace.”

“Jesus said, ‘I don’t have anything you don’t have. I just don’t have anything else.’ Remember to look at your problems, but deny their power over you. Fall in love with positive possibility.”

“Our potential is infinite.”

“The EGO wants suffering. The SPIRIT wants joy.”

“You must have already decided to not be joyous if that is how you feel. Recognize you actively decided wrongly. So choose again. Ask God to help you. HE will listen to your slightest request, your slightest willingness.”

So, I am signing off with one last thought. For me to forgive those who have hurt me in the ‘illusion’, I’ve decided to think of their beautiful light that shined inside of them when they were young children. I see their giggles, their little pudgy hands reaching for their mom’s necks. I imagine the way they must have looked wide-eyed at all who came near and smiled gooey smiles and stared deeply at the strangers with so much love, some had to look away. They still have this innocent light. I love this light. And I forgive them for behaving unlovingly or harmfully toward me because that wasn’t the essence of who they are. I love their essence. God loves their essence. And I love and forgive me for allowing them to hurt me, as I wasn’t protecting myself. Yes, only LOVE is REAl, so anything not loving, must be released with LOVE.

Here’s to Love, Light, Healing & Joy

Laura xo

The Gift of Goddess Wisdom

athena

I promise you this isn’t going to be an essay from yet another preachy yoga teacher espousing spiritual truths or pretending to have it all figured out—while confusingly showing off a sexy body. I’ve literally had it with all of that. I don’t have it all figured out. Not by a long shot. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve been so depressed that I didn’t know how I’d continue on. So I share my truth: I know, with all my heart, everyone has a struggle that you may not understand, or realize, so BE KIND. Compassion is the greatest gift any of us can give. And it doesn’t cost a thing.

AND for those struggling in silence this holiday season, find the courage to ask for help. You are a gift upon this Earth. Even if no one has ever told you that. You are. Even if you have been in environments where others treat you lesser than, they are wrong. You are a gift. Even if you are stuck in victimhood, you can get out. Find the strength to be compassionate toward yourself. Set boundaries with those who have hurt you in your life-or who you allowed to hurt you, it is the same. It can be as easy as just not texting back, not reaching out, not being available, without any drama. The Goddess wisdom I received in Greece this summer during my first yoga & writers retreat, came from simple thoughts, simple messages, while I meditated: Be love. Be compassion. Be open. Drop judgement. Be honest. Be yourself. Be playful. Be strong. Be consciousness. Be patient. Be creative. Dream. Dance. Jump. Swim. Stargaze. Sit in silence. Be grateful. Be more grateful for the lessons. Laugh. Hug. Kiss. Cry. Let go. Accept. Love harder.

So even if you’re doing all the right things and someone unloving enters your life and is hurtful, yet again, just know this is a loving nudge from the Universe, sending a growth challenge: do you accept this treatment? Or can you bless them and BLOCK them? We teach people how to treat us. Even family members (later in life.) We can choose compassion and choose to go where the love is. Love isn’t saying I love you. It’s compassion. It’s encouragement. It’s showing up. It’s presence, not presents. It doesn’t put you down. It doesn’t feel bad to be around. It doesn’t say you can’t, or you aren’t worth it, or you aren’t enough. It’s not constantly trying to change you, or lie to you, or use you, or impatiently push you to do things you don’t want to do. Love never physically hurts—EVER. It’s not frightening. It isn’t unconsciously abusing substances either.

Make an intention this holiday season or New Years, like I have, to receive (or create) the gift of only allowing in those who are loving.

If the idea of Goddess wisdom seems too far-fetched for you, or too narcissistic, fake it until you make it. You are worth others making an effort for you. Don’t you make an effort for those you love? Why should the scales be so unbalanced? We have to give AND receive to balance our Chi. You are worth others being kind and honest and considerate and loving toward you. And if they aren’t able to, the Universe will send along others, if you block the unloving ones and LET THEM GO.

With Love & Compassion this Holiday season ~

Laura xo

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom: A State of Mind

bikerchicksThere I am, with my good friend Nathalie last night. Yup, biker chicks on Halloween. I had no idea how desperately I craved a sense of freedom until I got on the back of her bike and began navigating streets in the dark toward her friend’s house who was having a party. Just the fact that I was getting out was actually pretty novel. My ex had surprised the kids by flying in at 6 p.m. to go trick or treating with them. He lives abroad and sees the boys about 3 to 4 weeks a year. I suddenly had a night off. Nathalie, who is French, loves her bike and how it can easily navigate streets in LA on busy nights and makes parking a breeze. For me, it provided a rush of freedom—exactly how I feel when driving alone on a desert highway in the middle of the night at ridiculous speeds—or riding my bike furiously with tunes blasting in my ears. Funny, right?

But life has gotten so heavy over the years. I’m cooped up and worried about family and someone special who is hurt. And yet there is nothing that I can do. My yoga and my writing and meditation has helped a lot. Still. I’m in my head too much. I’m not smiling that much. My heart aches.

I adore my kids. I adore my life. Thank GOD for yoga and my writing, as seriously, without them, I could envision getting onto a plane bound for an unknown location and just not coming back—for a year—Or longer.

So last night, as the wind rushed through my hair and my friend Nathalie revved her motorcycle up a hill in the dark, I had smiled. Not just a little smile, I huge one. And it hit me. We aren’t meant to stay home and mope and be sad when others we love are hurting. Our sad vibration doesn’t change a thing. It doesn’t help them, or us. And I can’t help these dear people right now, nor do they want what I have offered. They are on their own journeys without me. I miss them. I can send them love, and then drop the eternal sad cloud I’ve been wrapping around myself and love myself too: do something that makes me smile and feel FREE.

Norman Maclean says it more eloquently than I can. I have this quote tacked up on my bulletin board above my desk where I write:

“Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is need and ask the same question: We are willing to help Lord, but what, if any thing, is needed? For it is true, we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give, or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them. We can love them completely without complete understanding.”

So, as Nat and I revved up her street last night, I made an intention. I will find independent ways to feel free every week. Whether that’s riding my bicycle at high speeds with loud music in my ears, or fighting my fear of cold water and taking surf or paddle board lessons, or just sneaking out to see a movie or to wander streets of a nearby neighborhood by myself.

The day in and day out of parenting can be a pressure cooker for sure. Doing it completely alone is harder and more rewarding than anyone can imagine. Some days are overwhelming with oppressive demands that make me feel as if I will never have a spontaneous or free moment again. Then there are the moments when my boys hug me, after I’ve seen a performance or a game, and we go out to eat and I take in their smiles and laughter and realize that damn, they are healthy and happy and I am loved beyond reason. It’s the yin and yang of my existence.

And yes, I’ve decided to buy a moped. Isn’t that a trip?

Peace, love & freedom ~
Laura xo

(and I’m still off ALL social media ya’ll!)

Offline Worldview

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

Here’s my update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s to a more mindful and present existence.

Love & Light ~

L. x

 

 

Eight Days OFF Social Media

offgrid

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

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

Life is Good offline this first week.

Love, Light, Fun & Balance ~

L. x

5 Reasons To Do Hot Yoga

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

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

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

 

The Definition of Kindness

teabag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Digging into Roots to Clear the Throat Chakra

exhale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love & Light  ~

Laura x

Laura