Tag Archives: acceptance

Gratitude Saved My Life

photo-138

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Namaste,

Laura xo

Advertisements

Today

(Dedicated to my friends on the verge of divorce.)

What if, just for today, I loved you for exactly who you are?

What if, just for today, I decided that my joy was my own to create, and not connected to you at all. Today, my joy does not depend on your mood, your smile, your behavior, or you doing the dishes, or any other chore for me. Just for today, my joy, my bliss, is independent of you.

What if, just for today, I decided my job wasn’t to fix you, control you, or try to get you to be more like me.

What if, just for today, I asked for help, but without any conditions or any criticism.

What if, just for today, I decided to give myself to you, with such reckless abandon, that it leaves you breathless and without a clue as to what you did to deserve it.

What if, just for today, I decided that you didn’t need to ‘do’ anything, or ‘be’ a certain way, to deserve some reckless, playful love.

What if, just for today, I remember what drew me to you, what I adore about you, and I tell you what I still see, what I still respect, and what still drives me crazy about you.

What if, just for today, I don’t interrupt you, correct you, or keep record of any past wrongs.

What if, just for today, I let myself be vulnerable and raw? Instead of getting mad, shutting down, turning away or stomping off, I will pause, breathe and say: “I need you. Hold me. I’m sorry. I love you.”

Today, I will not fight with you.

Today, I will focus on being a better me and let you figure out your own journey.

Today, I will respect you enough to make your own choices.

Today, I will love you without worrying about tomorrow, or what ifs.

Today I will breathe deeply and be present.

Today I will be patient.

Today I will listen to my heart and quiet my mind so that I do not feel the need to ‘do’ anything, or react, or panic.

Today I will be grateful for you, for this journey, and for all that we have created: the good, the bad, the frustrating, the joyful, because it is teaching me something valuable.

Today I will try to realize that I chose you, I chose this journey, this lesson, this experience so that I can grow. You loved me so much that you let us have this, have all of this.

Today, I will hug you because no matter what, we are blessed.

X & O

The Death Grip of Holding On Too Tight

woodyallen

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

A New Perspective on Love

I wrote this post two years ago and looking back on it, it seems more important today, for my daily life, than it did then. I love ah-hah moments, but only when they resonate so loudly they alter my vibration permanently. I don’t always act lovingly or say loving things when I am frustrated. My thoughts aren’t always loving and forgiving toward myself or others when I’m hurt…but I am aware. I do take deep breaths and I do say I’m sorry when necessary, lol! On Valentine’s Day, I’m reposting this as a Valentine to you, my friends, and hope your day is filled with moments of authentic love for yourself, your friends, your pets, your children, your family … and life. 🙂

***

This I know for sure: Love isn’t defined by what someone can do for me or give to me. And it certainly isn’t a prize for being pretty, or smart or playful or wealthy. Love can’t be measured by how selfless I become either. Giving till it hurts, or putting someone else’s needs always above my own, isn’t necessarily a good marker of true love. (Maybe we have no choice with our children, though :-)!) But in romantic love, we have to remember to love and respect ourselves too, right?

Initially love may just spring from a feeling. A spark. Maybe even just from a look, a touch, a kiss. But to sustain love, there has to be more than attraction and chemistry, don’t you think?

Lately my mind has been wandering into existential waters. As I prepare to teach my first Valentine’s heart-opening Hatha yoga class, I find myself grappling with what love is and what love isn’t. I’ve come to believe that sustained love lies in the subtlety of how we speak to one another—much more than what we actually say. It’s about speaking kindly and respectfully, at all times, even when voicing concerns. I’ve always loved the James Taylor lyric: “It isn’t what she’s got to say, or how she thinks or where she’s been. To me the words are nice the way they sound.”

I also believe that love is tied to how gently and compassionately we live—more than by any grand gestures we make. Therefore, I’m leaning toward the definition of love as a type of vibration—a frequency—that effects how we sound and move and treat each other. It also controls how and who we attract into our lives.

So as I focus on what to address in my first Valentine’s yoga class—I realize that I don’t want to just talk about and teach poses to keep our hearts open. Yes, it’s important to trust and be open to new experiences—but without a good dose of self respect and inner core strength, we may just keep staying open to all the wrong people and opportunities. Maybe it stems back to our programming as a child, or by us feeding off of the energy of people who are the closest to us.

Maybe a lot of us may have fallen into lower vibrations due to negative childhood programming—which, if not released, feed and spiral into critical thoughts. These critical thoughts about ourselves and others just end up attracting toxic friends or partners who keep us in this status quo of a negative environment. If it sounds a bit heavy, bear with me and just think about it. How many of us as children have heard conversations from adults like: “For once, can you just listen to me?!” “Why do you always do this?” “Honestly, you look ridiculous.” “If you make it on time, it will be a miracle.” “NOT NOW! Jesus. You always nag me right when I’m on deadline.”

You get the idea. Comments such as these hurt. They place us on a lower frequency of thoughts filled with shame, low self esteem, insecurity, fear, anger, lack of respect—and these ripple into adulthood. Think about the couple who bicker constantly over such trivial things as too much hair in the sink … (Yeah, we’ve probably all been there at some point.)

So my ever-evolving definition of love starts within. How we treat each other—or allow others to treat us—triggers negative frequencies where love can’t live or last. What we mirror, or think, we attract.

I’ll leave you with these thoughts as I wrestle with my definition of love this Valentine’s day:

Love expands. Love elevates. Love enlightens. Love embraces growth. Love accepts. None of this can happen in a sea of critical or belittling comments or thoughts.

Clearly, I haven’t figured it all out. (Who has?!) But I do know that attracting someone kind, healthy and gentle requires that I be kind, healthy and gentle in my words and my thoughts—which includes how I treat and think about myself! This actually requires strength and a trust in my inner voice—as much as an open heart.

So, this Valentine’s week, I am defining love as a vibration—a frequency—that I have to tune into. Just like a violinist tunes his instrument in order to play heavenly music, I have to tune my inner strings—my inner awareness—to hear the right chords that allow me to play in a key that allows for a loving and conscious life. Do I speak lovingly and kindly to my loved ones? Do I speak lovingly and kindly to myself? Am I accepting of others? Am I accepting of myself? Am I truly forgiving? These are questions that will help me get in tune—so that I can live in a frequency of love.

What do you think? Does this resonate with you? If not, how do you define love?

Letting them Go to Embrace the Journey

IMG_0979

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Holding the Reflection of Our Compassionate Light

Jnsunset

The sun shines down, and its image reflects in a thousand different pots filled with water.

The reflections are many, but they are each reflecting the same sun.

Similarly, when we come to know who we truly are, we will see ourselves
in all people.

amma the Hugging Saint

This month I’ve been challenged to hold tightly to my compassion for others, while allowing myself the breathing room of making loving, yet firm decisions.

We all contain our own unique and direct link to God, our Higher Power, the Universe. Not one of us is more ‘Divine’ than another. We communicate, we grow, we change, we express ourselves differently. Yet Each of us is, and can be, a reflection of the same sun, the same light, the same Source we all come from. Light can’t reflect in running water easily and it’s impossible to see our own reflection in turbulent waters…we must find stillness. When I find that stillness within, I then can hear my compassion for others—I feel that light within them and me.

Each class I teach ends with me saying the light in me honors the light in you. It’s a deeply spiritual belief that I hold. I believe that we are all each a reflection of one another. Yet at times, such as this month, I had to detach, take a step back, to protect myself and my boys. We are all reflections of each other, yet some may be battling mental illness, addiction to drama, drugs, alcohol, depression…and not behaving in ways that are for their, or anyone else’s, highest good. I know I’ve had days when I’ve said something I didn’t mean—usually when I’ve pushed myself too hard, been racing around with a million activities for my boys, and have not been meditating or doing my regular practice of yoga.

I read this beautiful quote today from my friend’s organization Spirit Rock Meditation Center . I reminds me that with each day—with each conscious breath—we can begin anew. It all starts with compassion for ourselves and a willingness to let go, to forgive and to let go of our stubborn resistance to change.

spiritrock

Awareness is key. Where do I need to begin anew? That’s a big question, but I’d say mainly I need to put an oxygen mask on myself first, before helping others. For me, daily meditating, yoga and writing help me (try) to be patient, let go of expectations and find beauty in the present moment. As a single mom, a daily practice of self care is hard to achieve. But it’s worth it. I made a commitment on October 20th, after recovering from a crazy month and weekend that left me depleted mentally, physically and spiritually, that I’ll DO yoga every day for a month. I teach, but I’m going to practice daily. Some days I’ll just do a 10 minute flow at home. Some days I’ll just stretch with yin poses. Other times will be power yoga—which especially fills my body and spirit with the positive energy and knowledge that I do have power over my own life, my own choices.

And this month required a lot of effort to consciously choose decisions, rather than fall into default reactions or fear. It was hard, but bore beautiful lessons. For instance, I learned the following:

I can’t control whether a stranger continued stalking me daily and my family. … I can, and did, call the police, installed a security unit and borrowed a friend’s dog for protection.

I can’t control a former loved one’s sudden anger, outbursts or unkind words. … I can pray for him and distance myself.

I can’t control someone who hurt and lied to me. … But I can walk away, speak my truth and still wish that person well.

I can’t control not getting enough time off from full-time single parenting … But I can take breaks, I can meditate, I can take a bike ride, I can do yoga, I can hire a sitter, I can slow down.

I can’t control whether people I care about don’t take care of themselves or allow others to abuse them. … But I can love them anyway, I can pray for them, and I can try to not enable or judge.

I can’t control how disease ravishes my cancer yogis or my mother. … But I can pray, provide comfort, breathe deeply, be grateful for their presence in my life.

I can’t control the steady requests for myself to volunteer or activities for my boys. … But I can say no or find other parents to help with carpools.

I can’t control whether an agent gets back to me about my book. … But I can continue to pitch others and write my 2nd novel.

It’s all about finding balance and not losing gratitude. My goal is to hold myself and others in a reflective, compassionate and humbling light. When I’m hurt, threatened, or when I don’t take care of myself and jealousy, depression or a pity party creeps in—it’s a reminder to pause and take better care of myself so I can see my reflection and the light of others in the stillness of my heart. In this space, I am convinced that I will remain ever teachable, humble, (mostly) calm and inspired, determined and grateful.

Life is beautiful. Even more so when trouble hits—as the light of love and those who are filled with love for me, shine more brightly. I am so grateful to my senior and cancer yogis who teach me to live with positive gratitude and strength. And I am forever indebted to my dear friends, whose presence makes my life feel musical and in sync. You know who you are, dear friends, and I love you.

Have a beautiful, light-filled month. ((( ❤ )))

Got Power?

photo by @rickylesser

photo by @rickylesser

Where is your power? What represents it? Is it your car? Is it your house? Is it your job and who reports to you? Does it stem from giving a husband or a wife a “honey-do list” of chores a mile long? Is it in your job as a parent “guiding your children?” i.e. telling them what to do, who to be, what to think? How’s it all working out for you? Do you feel powerful? Maybe. For a little while.

Authentic power doesn’t come from how much money you have or with the ability to boss minions around. Authentic power can’t be created by trying to control someone else, either. Shaming, blaming, criticizing, cajoling, nagging, belittling—none of these control tactics will change another person’s behavior or thoughts—and especially not make a dent in their addictions. That’s the kick. Addictions can’t be managed because they trigger a chemical reaction that make a person crave that substance, or hormone high from a behavior, again and again and again. They give a temporary relief, a ‘time-out’ from life or feeling whatever a person doesn’t want to feel or think about. I’ve been there. Alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, food (sugar!), porn, multiple dramatic relationships, gambling, compulsive shopping—it’s all a way to distract from whatever ails a person. They all distract from feelings of sadness, from trauma, from betrayal, from neglect, from frustrations, lost dreams…whatever needs to be felt, gets stuffed or shuffled or juggled with drama, things, substances. And there is NOTHING you can say or do to stop another person from doing any of it. Some are offended by that. Some don’t believe addictions are real. I’ve heard some, who continue to try to change a person, say: “If he loved me, he wouldn’t do this (insert alcohol, cigarettes, porn, compulsive shopping),” or, “If he cared about having a good life or this family, he wouldn’t drink every night” or “She chooses to binge eat every night. No one put a gun to her head. It’s disgusting.”

Last month a friend in Barcelona hared that a waiter brought their table a free bottle of champagne one glorious afternoon. A man, sober 10 years, said that while looking around at all the beautiful, smiling faces at other tables who were sipping exotic drinks by the sea, he hands began to shake violently. “Why can’t I be like them?” he thought. When he told the waiter to take it back, he said it was the first time in many years that he was “gutted.” He was so tempted, haunted, by the thought of having a sip that he had to excuse himself  because if he had one drink, he’d have to have more and more and might end up divorced and on a park bench again by month-end. Where is his power? In knowing that he is powerless over his addiction and in getting help. But no one can do it for him. No one can shame him, or blame him or criticize him into it. Why would they want to? This beautiful person knows he isn’t like social drinkers. By embracing his powerlessness, he can embrace his authentic power.

Where are you powerless? That’s our theme for our first Recovery Yoga class today at 2 p.m. at Haute Yogi Manhattan Beach. Join us!

I am powerless over what another person chooses to do—or say—or think—or be—in this life. If that person is my partner or family member or best friend, it may be excruciating to watch—especially if they habitually drink, smoke, neglect their health, binge eat, gamble, make bad choices, etc… In fact, the more that I try “to help” i.e. suggest, criticize, nag, cajole, beg for whatever I want (therapy, exercise, better choices) the more likely it is that this person will resent me and continue with these behaviors. And when it comes to addictions, like the dis-ease of alcohol, I am truly powerless. If a person refuses to get help, they won’t be able to stop. Even if they say they will. Even if they go a month sober, even if they only drink on weekends, without help, without support, without therapy, the ‘dis-ease’ builds until it’s a gnarly chemical compulsion, needed, in fact, to stuff pain, mimic joy, mimic normalcy—and they will reach for it again and again. It’s not in my control. It’s not in their control. It isn’t “manageable.” I can’t save anyone. And putting my life on hold, my dreams on hold, my goals at bay in an attempt to rescue anyone, is surely another means of distraction, right? That’s co-dependency and it’s a wicked “dis-ease” as well.

So what can I control? What can you control? Where is our authentic power?

I can control my thoughts. I choose to spin negative thoughts into positive ones. 

I can control what I put into my body.

I can meditate for 5, 10 minutes a day.

I can find a way to exercise every day. (Can you? Even if it means taking the stairs at work, power walking at lunch…there are many options.)

I can stop criticizing, myself or others.

I can allow others to help me.

I can choose who I hang out with and who I live my life with.

I can create boundaries with those who hurt me.

I can choose a peaceful environment: what I watch on TV, what music I listen to, is within my power.

I can forgive others AND myself for not being what I needed them to be. (Read that again, it’s HUGE.)

I can breathe deeply, count to 10 and respond, instead of react, when drama emerges.

I can learn how to be present and be a good listener.

I can focus one hour a day on one of my dreams (and “not listen” to any of the negative or insecure thoughts that may linger or may have been said to me about it…for one hour, I can go for it and have fun with it.)

I can create traditions with my children: gratitude lists at bedime, love bombs at dinner, family game night or movie night…

I can dream, visualize, manifest as I meditate and write.

I can let go of expectations.

I can accept others for exactly who they are—AND love them, AND myself, anyway.

I can do one good deed a day, or week, without letting anyone know about it.

I can cut off my phone and my computer for a few hours every day.

I can de-clutter and give away what I don’t use: cluttered house=cluttered mind.

I can try to understand first, before being understood, or being right.

I can control what I say. I can ask myself the following before I spit out whatever is on my mind: “Is it kind? Is it true? Does it need to be said right now? Does it need to be said by me?”

I can open up my heart, take healthy chances, ‘get out of my head’ and open up to new experiences, new friendships.

What can you control? Where is your authentic power? Join us, as we meditate, flow and sweat while thinking about one area of our lives that we can control. We will breathe into that intention for the week and feel the power of letting go of what we can not control and embracing what we can: our own lives.

The light in me, honors the light in you ~ Namaste

Looking Into My Mother’s Eyes

momnW

I walk into the Alzheimer’s facility with a somewhat brave face. After being buzzed in, I force a smile, force small talk, to yet another new administrator, before making my way into the cafeteria. The small tan room with light tan round tables, is before me. Everything is neutral, as if bright colors might offend those with memory impairment. I behave like this is just another day, no big deal. I haven’t seen Mom in a year, but pretend I am prepared. Mom is hunched over her wheelchair. A nurse is trying to feed her. I sit down and introduce myself to a new nurse whose name I forget instantly. She says this is her first week on the job. Mom strains to turn her head and eyes me, but doesn’t smile. She turns away in slow motion, moving as if under water, as if I am not there. The nurse tells me that Mom loves music. I tell her that she used to play piano by ear, up until a few years ago. She promises to play more music for Mom tomorrow, classical instead of country.

The nurse places a small piece of salmon on a fork and touches Mom’s lower lip with it over and over again until she licks the spot, but closes her mouth reflexively. This goes on until Mom finally manages to open her mouth, even if just barely. The nurse then pushes the food inside. As I watch, I wonder when the day will come when Mom can’t chew, when she can’t swallow.

In between bites, Mom grinds her teeth like a delayed response, a late synapse connection telling her mouth to chew at the wrong time. How frustrating that it happens when nothing is in her mouth! How frustrating and terrifying this whole damn disease is. I try hard not to imagine Mom waking in the middle of the night confused, not knowing where she is, not knowing  who anyone else is around her.

But, that’s not likely to happen anymore. She no longer appears anxious or frightened. She’s in the late stage of the disease.

The nurse leaves and I begin chattering on, showing Mom pictures of the boys from my phone. Pictures of my life in California. Of course, she doesn’t look at the pictures, but at me. Mom sort of chuckles as I try to feed her. I bribe her with a small piece of a warm chocolate chip cookie. It takes three touches on her bottom lip before Mom can open her mouth. I gently push it in. Only half makes it inside. But she smiles. Mom still loves chocolate. She can’t move her hand, but her eyes look down at it briefly, so I place it up on the table and put mine on top. She smiles again briefly, then stops.

And then she begins to stare.

Mom stares deeply into my eyes. I lean forward, forcing myself not to look away. I continue to gaze back just as deeply into those eyes of hers that are a shade of blue I’ve never seen before in anyone else. They are as blue as western corn flowers or a Tiffany’s box. Who knew a color could break my heart.

As I am staring back, I fight tears and remind myself that she is in an infantile place now. She is in a beautiful state of purity, innocence, trust. Looking into Mom’s eyes, I can remember exactly how it felt to stare deeply into my sons’ eyes when they were both newborns. I’d lie with them and stare so deeply that I’d ache. I’d tremble with how remarkable the knowing is. How raw, how powerful it is to be so open, so pure, so trusting.

We are all born in this perfect state. And that’s why I believe in oneness. We divide, distrust, judge, criticize, separate, as we age.

But when we are born, we have this ability to love with abandon. We don’t judge. We love who we love and it has nothing to do with what they look like or wear or own. We aren’t ashamed of our feelings, we embrace them. We scream when hungry, cry when we need to be held—we know we deserve love and deserve to be taken care of. Somewhere along the line, maybe in elementary school, we start to lose that knowledge.

We lose touch with so much as we layer on fears, doubts, judgements, anxiety, hurts, grudges. And it’s hard to be happy, to be at peace, to be creative, to be playful, to give love, to receive love, with all those layers weighing us down.

I adore how toddlers and preschoolers live unabashedly too. They embrace who they are and what they want! A tutu with cowboy boots and a martian mask—hell yes! No toddler cares what another person thinks of them. They’ll grab a jar of paint and just stick their hands inside and relish in the gooey feeling and then paint their arms and legs because it just looks cool. They’ll dance, spin, rock it out, screaming to their favorite Barney tune.

They also trust that the Universe has their back. Have you ever seen a toddler just fall backwards on purpose and giggle as adults scramble and run across the room to literally have their back, break their fall? Those little munchkins know that the Universe will care for them, that the Universe has their back.

We are all born knowing these truths, until sadly, some adult doesn’t show up or doesn’t care for us, or other people hurt us and then we build walls. As I said, we pile on judgement, hurts, guilt, anxiety, fears, grudges, criticism, doubt until there is no room for joy, for trust. It’s like wearing 10 coats on a summer day and wondering why we can’t run freely in the surf.

These thoughts, or some version of them, race through my mind as I am looking into my mother’s robin’s egg blue eyes. So I allow myself to try to channel my inner preschooler. I allow myself to enter into a staring contest like the ones I used to have with my sisters or my childhood bff when I was little. I lean in and tell myself to just go there. Who’s going to blink first? I think, so I won’t cry.

After we stare for what feels like five minutes, although I’m sure it is only two, she smiles. I can see kindness, inquisitiveness behind her blue blue eyes. She doesn’t know who I am, but she still feels, she still tries to connect. Someday I will just get a blank stare in return. So today, I am grateful and I am heartbroken at the same time. But mainly, I am grateful. The same eyes that used to be filled with so much fear, so much anxiety, so much stress, that they would dart around a room, are now at peace. They calmly stare deeply into mine. She is smiling. She is trusting. She is peaceful.

Last year when we did this, our foreheads touched and she said I love you. This year, she can hardly speak. She doesn’t know who I am, but wants to. I ache with the purity, the openness, the trust I see in her eyes that won’t look away.

Making It, or Faking It? The Messy Journey to Authentic Healing

rippleh2O

Sometimes I wonder if I’m actually living authentically, as I strive to do, or am still people pleasing and rushing into the idea of forgiveness and acceptance. As a yogi, meditator, writer and single mom navigating this planet, I hear messages constantly that are meant to help in times of crisis. Sometimes these messages fall flat—as there is an underlying note of criticism. For instance, if I can’t forgive and forget instantly—does that mean I’m less evolved, or am letting others down? Does that imply my “energy or vibration” will attract more negative experiences if I can’t immediately accept that “everything is happening exactly as it is meant to, for my highest good?”

Why am I exploring these yogi and self help sentiments? Well, there’s nothing worse than a healer who just throws platitudes against the wall when someone is truly suffering. Since I’m now teaching students who are fighting cancers and living bravely with chronic pain and debilitating injuries, it’s critical that I dig deep and try to relate to their struggles. For that reason, I’m starting to re-examine how I deal with my own struggles. Five months ago I was hurt physically by someone I thought was my friend, and someone I thought I was in love with. In my attempt to heal emotionally, I rushed toward forgiveness and acceptance—instead of allowing myself to feel the pain: the emotional hurt of betrayal, sadness, anger. When I reached out to a few well-intentioned friends, I was told things like: “everything happens for a reason,” or “maybe you needed this to wake up and be done with bad boys,” or “you have to forgive in order to heal,” or “on some level you knew he was like that.”

And then later in yoga classes, I heard these platitudes over and over again: “everything that happens to you is for your highest good,” “you are responsible for everything and everyone in your reality,” “forgiveness is the attitude of the strong,” or “happiness can only exist in acceptance,” or “when you keep your vibrations high, you only attract those on a high vibration.” That one really cut to the core, as I know that I’m insanely kind, forgiving and giving. Too much so…

I almost gave up yoga during this time of healing. I ran a lot to very loud music in my ears. I biked so hard I thought my chicken legs would explode. I also immediately forgave the person who hurt me and then, when I started having flash backs, I wrote a scathing letter crucifying this person’s character.

It’s the perfect example of why no one should rush into forgiveness without working through feelings—without recognizing them and honoring their soul. It’s okay to be damn angry when someone treats me like crap. Who deserves that? And it’s also okay to not understand what the lessons are in the experience right away. I try to remember this when with my students. How can I say everything happens for a reason to a student who is dying and will never see her daughter get married? What good will that do for her to hear a statement like that? None.

So, instead, I meditate for allowing a space to heal. I meditate with my students for love. I give lavender shoulder and head messages. I tell them they are strong. I tell them they are loved, infinitely. I tell them they are brave. They are beautiful. They are deserving of love and light. I tell them that shitty things have happened to them and me, but we deserve better and they have the support they need. We meditate on letting healing light in—letting it penetrate the cells of their body to wash away all the scars, the hurt, the cancer. And at the end of the class, I realize that while I may be providing a service, they are actually saving me.

I ran across this brilliant post “How to Hurt” by Angry Therapist team member Padhia Avocado. 

It’s worth reading the entire post, but I’ll quote a few paragraphs that resonate deeply for me:

“We need to shift in the way we judge pain. It is not possible to simply “get over something” that affected you in such a way that it changed who you were and the understanding you had of your world,” she explained.

“Time does not heal all wounds. Wounds can heal on their own, but only if they are superficial. Deep ones need attention and special care. The parts of you that hurt can’t see the outside world and use the logic of comparison to heal. Shame and judgment of pain only makes the injury worse. That forces you to hide your own truth from yourself and that leads to many other problems.”

Amen to that. Her next paragraph makes a lot of sense, too. I know that I sometimes get frustrated when I’m not healing fast enough. I recall feelings of bitterness springing forth, surprising me, as I thought I had “already dealt with this!” Well, it’s time to let the perfectionist go. Everyone heals at a different pace. And as long as I am not marinating in the feelings, dwelling in them, recalling them often, I’m just honoring my existence. I feel because I exist. It’s that simple. And it involves no one else.

Padhia wrote: “Other’s judgment of how “you should feel” is irrelevant. … Our inner time is very different than external time. Years may pass between things that happen in the external world, but time doesn’t work like that on the inside. … You can’t talk yourself out of the things that hurt you deeply. To be free of them, you have to learn to hold space for your feelings. Allow them to be what they are in a way that you are not feeding them (so that they gather more volume and take you over) but rather letting them bloom, so that they can then die down. Listen to the messages in them while they are blooming, and go down the paths they are calling you to go down. Only then, can they evolve into lighter feelings of acceptance, healing and gratitude.”

And that’s really the key. As a good friend and therapist told me, there’s a fine line between self exploration and self absorbance. To allow my feelings to exist—no matter what they are—without blowing them up into something bigger, or hiding them and shaming them—I will heal. I feel it already. I’m on that path. And what I’m learning, is that when I allow myself to be okay with feeling angry, sad, disappointed or angry—when I sit with it, recognize it—I begin to acknowledge my worth and honor myself. I don’t need to rush to forgiveness and to “finding the lesson” to prove that I’m evolved. First, I need to sit with the feelings, tell myself that it’s not okay for someone to hurt me and that I’m going to grieve first.

This process doesn’t create victims, martyrs or self pity party holders. In order to let these feelings morph into acceptance and forgiveness, they have to be seen and heard and felt—like a dear friend who listens without judgement. I’m convinced that those who don’t allow themselves to grieve will get stuck in a life with unrelenting bitterness and fear.

As Khalil Gibran so eloquently wrote: “your joy is your sorrow unmasked.”

The only path to joy is through feeling and acknowledging sorrows. Once recognized, the sorrow can be let go—allowing space to live again, to try again, to love again, and to let joy float back up to the surface.

Namaste ~
Laura

Finding Courage to Stay on Course

Take-control-of-Your-Life

I recently read an inspiring quote from a friend, (I’ll paraphrase): “All the shit, drama and pain you’ve dealt with in life has prepared you for this present moment, this present action, this present course.”

It’s so true, right? Well, sometimes. It’s only true if each painful experience propels growth. As long as I can see that each time someone has hurt me, hasn’t seen, or heard me, or said something cruel, or treated me without respect—it was exactly what I needed in order to find my boundaries, my self-respect, my strength, my confidence, my kindness, my direction. And even when I hurt others, or typically myself, if I can learn to forgive, have more compassion and ‘own’ my issues, I’ll become stronger and closer to the person I want to be.

All of this sounds groovy now, but when I’m in the thick of it with someone, it’s hard to keep in mind. But I’m learning that that’s ok too—maybe I’m letting myself feel more now, and not dismiss things so quickly in order to avoid confrontation. I don’t know. Here’s an example:

Someone recently hurt me by saying I needed to give up writing—that it would never work out and that I needed to move out of California or I’d be destitute within 3 years. Ow.

Ok, that was really negative. My eyes welled up with tears and my stomach felt like it had been kicked as I listened. (It didn’t help that this conversation came a week after I had been heart broken. But that’s not for this venue.) This judgmental tirade came after I said, happily, that I had finished polishing 150 pages of my novel…I was in shock as I listened to the negative rant. The old me, the me before daily yoga and meditation, would have likely not said anything, took more abuse, felt horrible, internalized this, doubted myself, and then finally complained to a few friends in order to try to garner some sort of support. The new me just looked at this person, felt the pain that was welling inside my stomach and said quietly that the conversation wasn’t kind. The conversation didn’t end, sadly, with more justifications as to why I would never get published and was living beyond my means…but in my mind, I knew I responded authentically and calmly—in the moment–(a big deal for me) and was able to mentally button up the judgement as unsupportive, fearful, negative.

I’ve been a journalist and writer for 15 + years and this person hadn’t read anything of mine or even a chapter of my current book or my first novel. And, of course, I won’t be destitute within 3 years!

Honestly.

But for some reason, over the past two weeks, I’ve come back to this conversation in my mind to see what I can learn from it. I’ve decided to dismiss the negativity of it. What you think is what you can manifest right?

But it struck a chord. I have half my novel finished and the rest outlined. I’m very excited and a few friends have read a bit of it to give me feedback. But since this summer, I have found so many distractions. I am to blame for allowing each and every one them. Between soccer games, homework, sickness, volunteer demands, friend demands, work, trainings, it can get hairy. But, at the end of the day, I am in control of my schedule. I am in control of my time. I am in control of my thoughts, my actions and who I choose to let into my life.

So with that in mind, I’ve decided that the reason why I keep floating back to this conversation is that I realize that I’m out of balance. It can seem almost insurmountable with kid demands, but there really is at least 2 hours a day to work on my book. And I can fit in yoga and mediation for my sanity. (All you single parents know just what I mean!) So, if that means that dishes pile up in the sink or that my kiddos don’t have rooms made or the perfectly-kept house, who cares?

I’m taking the steps I need to get published. I spent more money today (Egads! One more step toward destitution! ha ha) and signed up for the La Jolla Writers Conference next weekend. Yup, there are soccer games, a bar mitzvah, and my son’s birthday party to prep for. But I’ve decided that I have to put my writing goal on my to-do list each week. If it means missing a soccer game, or having a birthday party that isn’t perfect. So be it.

I’m so excited (and nervous) to go as many agents and authors attend this conference where they give feedback on work, have writer jam sessions, as well as listen to “7 minute pitches”.  So now I have to hone my 7 minute pitch for Uriel’s Mask—as well as polish my one page synopsis. But it’s what I need to do. If I expect an agent, who likely works 50+ hour weeks in this field to take me seriously, I have to push aside distractions and take my writing just as seriously. I even ordered new business cards.

So, I’m officially taking the plunge. And you know what? I’m actually thankful for the hard knocks this month…they are helping me to focus on my path, my journey and GET IN CONTROL OF MY LIFE.

I’d really love to hear from any of you out there who have had similar experiences where either fear or distractions kept you from finishing a project or keeping you from your art. How do you stay on course? Any single parents out there trying to carve out a regular schedule for an artistic project? PLEASE reach out. I’d love to share motivational strategies. Some days, I feel like I’ve run a marathon before 10 a.m. Lets share strategies to keep a daily schedule or to stay on track.  Thanks so much for reading! XO