Tag Archives: Life

Happy Place

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Oahu, overlooking where From Here to Eternity was filmed.

Is it possible to actually BE happier someplace else? Is happiness found within a destination? Certainly, it can be argued that some locations, cities, countries, just exude a culture or an energy that resonates, inspires, or relaxes, don’t you think? In my mid-20s, I LOVED New York City. I thrived on the vibrant energy, the fun, and being able to see concerts, plays or opera in the park in the summer—or using my student discount ID to see amazing musicians. I loved the food, the multi-cultural vibe and all the writers and dreamers and artists I met in school. Today? I don’t love NYC so much. It’s too noisy. It’s too far away from the ocean. It’s filled with too many rude people who yell at old people if they are too slow in grocery store lines paying their bills. I know. I lived there. And I’ve lived in London, Atlanta, Maryland, and had small stints in Florida & Maine. I grew up in North Carolina. I’ve travelled throughout most of the States, as well as nearly all of Europe, Scandinavia, the Soviet Union and have twice been to India as well as vacationed in Peru and Mexico and Costa Rica. I’m a lucky traveller. None of these places, however, I would consider moving to. Not any more. At one point, I considered moving to Barcelona. Two years ago I even stayed in a central apartment with a roof deck where I slept many summer nights. I visited the International school too. I had thought, intellectually, that being closer to my ex-husband in London, would be good for the boys and we could all learn Spanish, and still be in a warm climate. I had loved visiting before and even had a girlfriend living there with her family. That was the intellectual viewpoint. After living there for two weeks, however, I realized that while I loved all the artists and the liberal vibe and being near the sea, I didn’t quite mesh with the culture. I adored the big dinners and how everyone seemed to love spending time together. There were no snapping at children, for instance. None of that rushed American anxious energy. BUT, and it’s a bit BUT, smoking was everywhere. Meat was in every meal. Loads of drinking. And it was expensive. I wasn’t sure I could start over again there. Visit again? Yes. Live there? No.  And to be fair, I wasn’t always ‘happy’ there, or visioned a way to be.

Why am I sharing all this? Because after my 4th vacation in Honolulu, I’m starting to see Oahu as my 2nd home. It just feels right. Like a good relationship that defies intellectual reasoning, it just feels good—and I feel good—when there.  After I landed yesterday at LAX, I felt some stress immediately. Some may laugh, as I live right on the beach in Hermosa. I decided to go for a walk on the strand. It was 4:30 p.m. and sunny, warmish for here. I grabbed some water and took off. The walk to the pier was met with loads of drunk beach goers and a few cat calls from decks from guys who likely cat call any gal walking by in shorts or a bathing suit. Why did this cause me anxiety? Because I’m not a partier. When in this environment, I get a little anxious. I’ve always been like that. A small group having a picnic, no problem. But crowds and cat calling, no thanks. When I got home, a friend going through a divorce came by. The anxiety was high. She’s going through a lot. He has another girlfriend immediately, they are going through all their assets, it’s fear, anger, abandonment. She isn’t taking care of herself and having a very hard time staying positive. She won’t do yoga or walk regularly or eat well. She is overwhelmed and it’s hard for me to see as I feel helpless. I am helpless. Thank God I am no longer triggered to what I went through when my ex left me with a baby. I’ve literally worked though it all with yoga and forgiveness. I can see that it was the best thing for me as God did for me what I couldn’t do for myself and I’m now teaching yoga and writing creatively. My friend will find the blessing in her situation, eventually. But not now.  And her situation mirrors the southern California culture or energy, or accepted requirement to always stay young, to always be beautiful. It can be a competitive and insecure environment to live in as a woman. After said friend left, a neighbor came by, a wonderful soul, who loves to party, but has a good heart. We’re very good friends. He wanted me to meet his new girlfriend. It was awkward immediately as she gave me a ‘stank’ face after assessing me and complained to him that she didn’t want to meet me. She was loud about it, as she was tipsy and holding her glass of vino as she was getting into the car. I agreed to drive them to a party. It was now 6 p.m. The vibe was competitive and definitely not peaceful. He was trying to be cool, but she wasn’t comfortable and had too much to drink. They were off to a party where likely some of our mutual friends would be. I had no interest in going, as I wanted to get up early, unpack, make an Easter brunch for the boys and do some writing, NOT hung over. Does that make me not fun? Does that make me boring? And why did I get a ‘stank’ face when I was nicely driving them somewhere? And why won’t my dear friend breathe and take care of herself better so she can get through this time? Why do I feel anxious within minutes of being home? Why do these situations make me uncomfortable? These are the thoughts and feelings that flood in, based on outside factors or energy or events. Clearly, I don’t totally feel at home living here. Last night I had nightmares too.

I had no nightmares in Hawaii. The sliding glass doors to the patio were open every night, with warm, reassuring breezes and ocean lapping sounds filling our apartment. Sometimes distant luau dancers could be heard, or the local musician singing at a Waikiki beach bistro. Sure there was partying, but nothing bothered me. There were no cat calls from out of control drunk boys. There were no stank looks from insecure women. It was chill on the beaches, we met cool people hiking and in town at local restaurants. It felt creative and the vibe, wherever I went, was chill. There is a deep reverence for nature and the sea and culture. Sure there are partiers, but there are just as many chill people relaxing side by side with them.

I always feel happy there. Last week, whether I was writing my 9th chapter of Between Thoughts of You, (my next novel), or whether I was in Waikiki or a North Shore beach, or wandering through a remote ranch or hiking in the woods, or up to a volcano. Yes, I was on vacation, but this is my 4th vacation. After coming back home and feeling the pressure and the anxious vibe that is LA, I booked two more weeks in Honolulu via airbnb for late June & early July while the boys are with their dad in France. I have a hard time blocking out the noise and the energy and the fears here. It makes it harder to write. For instance, as I was putting my youngest to bed last night, I worried about him growing up here. I worried about how expensive it is here and how I can’t buy a home. I worried about the quality of men who ask me out. There’s only been one in the past 4 years here that I’d ever want to really be in a relationship with. I’m picky. And it’s because of the boys. This world in LA can be extremely focussed on the external and how things appear, not how they feel. I want to be with people who feel good. People who like to just hang with their kids, be with them, enjoy simple things.

So, while experts, yogis & psychologists all claim (understandably) that happiness is “an inside job,” where you live matters. I understand that To BE happy, one needs to find strength, worth, inspiration, trust, safety, balance, joy, forgiveness, etc. all within. I’m a yoga teacher and a writer and I talk about this stuff every week. (For good reason, I teach what I need to learn, lol!) I love chakra trainings and chakra classes and often my students don’t even realize how I change the class last minute based on the discussions and energy I hear and fell before class. If there are a lot of anxious people who have been dealing with change or illness or relationship stress, we definitely do grounding poses. I talk about the first chakra: being safe, grounded, rooted, supported, trusting, etc. You get the idea. So I’m a firm believer that happiness—and our health—is our own responsibility. But shouldn’t we, or I, notice when I ‘feel’ off in a certain location? Who we surround ourselves with and where we live—what energy and culture and norms exist there—can directly affect our core, our balance, our center.

I feel better in Oahu. I feel at home. I don’t feel pressure to BE anything other than I am. I can write there. I can relax there. I could easily teach yoga there. I meet sweet, gentle, people every time I’ve gone.  So while I can’t move for the next 4 years, as my oldest is thriving in high school here, that doesn’t mean that I can’t go back and forth as often as I can afford to. So here’s to manifesting my next book deal and buying a little cottage by the sea to write my next book! In June, I’ll be staying at a cottage in Ewa Beach, checking out a different location, far from tourists, and writing every day, editing my first draft of my next novel. To say I can’t wait, is an understatement!

As always, Mahalo for reading my meandering prose.

Chime in: Where is your happy place? Do you have one?

Love,

Laura xo

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Navigating Joy & Sorrow in the Labyrinth

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Last night I had a gold thread dream. It’s this lucid dream that sometimes happens with me. I let it. I’m aware, yet the gold thread keeps creating a scene for me. I am not in control and I can ask questions as it keeps moving, sending me a message. Bare with me. I’m not on drugs or was drunk! 🙂  So, this enormous maze or labyrinth was being formed. As it was being formed, it was like I was in it.  Then we rose high above it, reminding me of the labyrinths I saw in Peru, except this one was much larger. I could see the formation that was intricate. I could also see a bus or large image enter it. This image just kept moving and trying to navigate its way through. We were watching, like spirit guides, hoping for the best.

The night before I had dreamed of a friend who just stopped, he decided to check out. Literally, a cash register drawer opened and closed shut as he faded away. He was going to talk with me, then walked away, like walking away from life. I woke up at 4 a.m. frightened for him.

In the labyrinth dream last night, I realized that this symbol was for all of us. It is the quintessential image for life. How we all must navigate our way through dark times to the light and how these times will continue to fluctuate. It’s our ability to keep going, to keep taking baby steps forward—even when we are lost or alone or without any encouragement or faith—that matters in the end. Who musters up the courage to keep going? Who asks for help or reaches out? Who sinks into despair or hides under a mask of false pretenses in fear of letting others know they are struggling too, until their ‘hidden’ struggles manifests in addiction or illness or some other outlet to fill the gaping hole? I know, I’ve been there.

As the gold thread dream started to move, I began to wonder if the person, or persons, in the maze or intricate labyrinth would get stuck? Like Harry Potter’s maze, once inside the high dark hedgerows, without the perspective above to see how it would end, would the person just sink in despair? Taking baby steps forward with blind faith and no real indication that I’m on the right path, is hard for me. Mostly on weekends, after a long work week and without breaks from kiddos, I can sink a bit. Even with the tools that I’ve found, such as mediation and yoga, just the months on with the kiddos and long work demands can leave me drained and a bit blue. Loneliness can sink in on weekends too, even when I’m enjoying hanging with the kids. I admit that I miss the husband best friend thing, of hanging out after the boys go to bed. I don’t miss the ex, just the feeling of having that best friend to chat with. But if I focus on what I don’t have, I tend to lose grip of what I DO have. And I know that. That’s when I have to be ever mindful to just rise out of my little maze of looping thoughts to garner perspective. To realize that my situation won’t last forever. That I’ll find the me-time again, that I’ll find the time to finish my book, that I’m just in a hectic full-time solo parenting and working period in my life with little time for a social life. But it won’t last forever. And I do have beautiful yogis and friends at work who I adore. I am lucky that where I work and what I do is so enjoyable and fills me with purpose. So I mentally need to take a break through 10 to 15 minutes of mediation daily in order to rise up above the dark corridors of my daily looping thoughts or dark lonely moments, to garner perspective.

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Once I have perspective, I can then re-engage and start taking those baby-steps to navigate my way through those pathways again. The lucid dream, like the native indian myth of the hopi man in the maze, was a reminder to me that life is meant to be a challenge. All lives have turbulence. Most people experience sorrow, loss, disappointment, frustrations, and sometimes senseless violence. It’s hard to just keep going in dark times. Isn’t it easier to just sink and say ‘I give up,” get cynical and start thinking ‘what’s the point?’ or ‘why bother?’ But that’s exactly what I have to fight against and picture a positive end result, like a professional athlete visualizes the win. Maybe my end result is just big picture items, like more joy, more love, more time to write, more time to travel…so I just keep going, visualizing that they all start flowing in and getting on my path. And when I’m back in that faithful zone, synchronicity begins: I meet that new friend who is on the same path as me, or that creative opportunity opens up, or that person who supports my vision gives me support that lifts my mood for weeks. It happens and is happening. I remind myself of these amazing synchronicities when I feel blue.

Keep the faith people. (I say this to myself too.) And to my friend, you know who you are, what did Khalil Gibran say? “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” I’m here for you.

L. x

Manifesting B A LA N C E = More Play

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B A L A N C E

 

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

LOVE this! My mood currently. ha ha

 

 

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

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

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

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

greekvilla

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

The time is now.

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

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

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

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

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

L. xo

Becoming Gracefully Strong

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I dare you to find an athlete who is stronger than a a petite graceful ballet dancer. I remember working with football players when I danced and one linebacker growling at me: “This is HAAARD!” as he tried to leap. Yes, it is hard. Ballet dancers, especially, know that grace and strength come from hard work on oneself. The strongest person in the room is not always the biggest person—it is the one who can endure the most, who can continue to try to dance, even when in pain. Here are some more thoughts about strength:

Strength is never loud. It isn’t controlling. It isn’t angry. Or forceful. Or threatening. A strong person doesn’t hurt another for his own gain. Words of strength never belittle, or bully, or make fun of another. A truly strong person doesn’t boast, hold grudges, manipulate, or try to get even.

A strong person has already surrendered, accepted her situation and her role in it completely, and has forgiven her teachers—especially the cruel and harshest ones. This must happen before she can then begin the process of becoming strong. For me, it’s a process that will likely continue to unfold for the rest of my life. Today I saw a picture of myself from six years ago and it shocked me. I must have been 85 to 90 lbs, although I was trying to hide it wearing a baggy skirt and boots. Holding my nearly 2 year old in my arms, I was faking a smile. All the emotions flooded back in. I was broken hearted, tired, scared, worried, fearful. I had been taking care of two boys alone for nearly 16 months and I was with friends and trying to pretend that everything was OK. I was in a nasty divorce with an ex living abroad with his girlfriend. My mother was slipping away with Alzheimer’s. Some friends and a few in my and my ex’s family  were telling me things like I wasn’t capable and should give up. They reminded me that it was too hard; that I’d fall apart; that I would fail; that no one would want me with kids full time; that it wasn’t financially feasible to pursue a career in my field AND take care of them solo; that LA was too expensive; maybe I should take my ex back, etc. etc.  The fear and anxiety and anger and victimhood and martyrdom swirled around inside me like a raging storm. Until one day, while exhausted on the yoga mat in savasana (meditation), it all finally stopped. I could hear a little whisper that said “ENOUGH.”

This rock bottom place allowed me to sit still, acknowledge the people-pleasing storm I had allowed myself to create, and to realize that it was time to walk away from the drama. As the fog lifted, I began to listen more to that inner voice and to take baby steps into finding my strength and my core vision. If you are finding yourself knocked down by a sudden turn in life or are just unsure of your path, these steps may help. I’m sharing them with the humble intention that I may be of service. Steps to Find Your Strength:

  1. Listen to you inner voice. This requires finding stillness. In the beginning, it required power yoga, running and biking with tunes. I had to exhaust my body before I could get out of my head, lay in stillness and meditate. Find what works for you. A walk in the woods or on the beach alone. Lighting a candle and sitting in the dark. Taking a bath and closing your eyes while taking deep breaths. Just listen without judgement and allow whatever needs to surface, to surface. Maybe that requires journaling. But make this an alone exercise. No chatting with friends who may try to sway you.
  2. Acknowledge. Be honest and own up to your role in your situation. Do this without being too hard on yourself. But it’s important to not always be pointing fingers at others and playing the victim. What role did you play? For me, I was co-dependent and other’s happiness was more important than my own. Another’s vision for my life, was more important than my own. What role did you play in your current circumstance?
  3. Accept. Accept your life, your circumstances, your family members, your loved one, right now, for exactly what it is and who they are. Try to change nothing about circumstances or people. Do this without bitterness, without blame, without shame, without judgement. It’s hard. But just try it.
  4. Surrender. Surrender your life to a higher power. If you are not religious or spiritual just surrender to all that is. This is your way of saying, ‘I surrender to something more powerful than myself to help me, to guide me, to let me know that I am not alone.’ For me, it felt powerless at first. But once I surrendered, and asked my angels for guidance, I started to see where I did have power, over finding my own way, finding my own voice, following my heart, finding my courage. … Surender first, you’ll love what then comes.
  5. Dream. Start to dream. Make vision boards. Just go through magazine pics and cut out what you like. If you’ve been controlled for a long time,  it may be hard to even know what you like. This is fun. What designs, what colors, what music, quotes, etc. do you like? What do YOU WANT? It’s a step towards saying you are WORTHY and DESERVING. Make lists of dream jobs, without attaching to them and see if they are all in a creative field or analytical or health-oriented field. Focus solely on what you like, what you’d love to explore: Italy, Greece, India? Put those pics on your board without a thought about finances. This is dream time. Have fun. Play your favorite music while you do it.
  6. Trust. Trust the Universe, God, a Higher Power to take care of you. Say affirmations every morning in the mirror: I trust the process of my life. I trust that my life is unfolding exactly as it is meant to. I have faith that I will always be taken care of. I trust my voice, my vision, my heart. I am capable and I trust I am led and guided every day. I am safe. I am loved. I am abundant. I trust that only those people who want the highest good for me will float into my life. I trust myself. I trust the Universe. I trust, therefore I will not try to force anything, opportunity or person. Those people and opportunities meant to be in my life will float in with ease and grace.
  7. Take Baby steps. This is where I mainly live right now. (I did a cha-cha with Trust for years, ha ha! And I know I still have more dances with trust in my future!)  Just know this: Strength isn’t loud or forceful. It doesn’t require perfection either. It just builds by taking baby steps in the direction of your heart. It requires courage. So, for me, it meant writing another chapter, then another, until my novel was finished. It meant that I had to have thick skin for rejection and edits and to then send my novel out to more editors and publishers.
    It also required taking multiple yoga trainings, trusting my voice, finding confidence, and teaching class after class. Both writing and teaching yoga are equally frightening to me. But how wonderful is it that six years ago I whispered to myself that someday I’d like my career to involve my writing and teaching yoga. I love the creative and cerebral and spiritual aspects of each. One allows me to go inward and have the alone time I crave and need. The other provides the community and family and social outlet that I also need to thrive. As a single mom without much support or family or free-time, it’s critical that I take care of my health and not become a hermit by being alone too much. It’s the Yin and Yang of my existence. I love my life so much. I’m still taking baby steps. Another book to write. Yoga classes in bigger studios to tackle. Maybe a yoga retreat? Maybe more ways to explore my trust issues with loved ones…It’s never ending. Where can you take baby-steps today? Do you want to apply for a new job? Want to explore going back to school? Want to join a MeetUp group to go hiking or attend music or art shows? Take a few baby steps and see what emerges.

    With LOVE & LIGHT,

    Laura

 

 

100+ Follows!

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

 

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

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

Thank you for being on this journey with me.

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

With gratitude,

Laura x

Editor & Yoga Teacher: Like Peas & Carrots

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Photo by Chloe Moore Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be well,

Laura, xo

 

 

Creating a Gossip-Free House

laughingbuddha

I decided over the weekend, inspired by Goldie Hawn (yes, Goldie!), to institute a new policy in my house. My home will be a safe, gossip-free zone. Wow. That’s an exciting concept. When I think about it, I’ve been on this path for a while. For years I’ve strived to create a safe, supportive space at home—especially for my boys. Since they were born I make them say ‘gratefuls’ every night. We also do ‘love bombs’ at the dinner table, which is hilarious as my boys have to say something they love about each other. (This has become especially hard for my cool teen!)

I’ve also become more conscious of energy and feng shui. (This is a cool article for feng shui decorating tips.) Three years ago one of my best friends gave me the Chinese coins pictured above. These are to protect from negative chi and bring in prosperity. The laughing Buddha card I have in my bathroom I bought for myself. He seems to say “Yeah! The Universe Has Your Back!” I wanted to raise vibrations, even before meeting Andy Dooley last month—THE vibration master, who inspired all us TUTers in Peru. (Click his name to go to his site. He’s an awesome life coach!) I read that the laughing Buddha inspires happiness, vitality and wealth. Cool beans.

 

For two years now I’ve had this Buddha quote posted on my fridge: “In the end, 3 things matter the most: 1. How deeply you loved. 2. How gently you lived. 3. How gracefully you let go of the things not meant for you.”

 

I even feng shui’d my bedroom…So…I thought my house was in positive order. But as I was reading Oprah’s book, What I Know For Sure, I realized that I have to practice what I preach to really create a positive and safe vibration at home. I often remind William, my oldest, to stay away from people who are gossiping at school. I tell him that if they will put other friends down, they will put him down too. Just walk away from that. But do I always follow my own advice? The answer, if I am brutally honest, is no. But awareness, self-compassion and an open heart can be a conduit to change. I’m ready!

In Oprah’s book What I Know For Sure, Oprah describes how Goldie Hawn created a safe house, a gossip-free home as part of her work with Words Can Heal, a national campaign to end verbal violence. Goldie asked her family to exchange words that belittle with words that uplift and encourage. I love the idea! Oprah’s powerful video really sheds light on how easy it is for women, especially, to hurt one another.

Now my fridge has another quote on it, placed underneath the picture of one of my yogi soul sisters Angie Hall ,who also has this on her fridge!

B4Uspeak

We all gossip sometimes. But I’m going to work hard not to. And every time I go to my fridge, and every time my son embarks on his midnight munchie raids, we will both be reminded of the power of the spoken word.

With that in mind, I’m challenging my yoga students this week to join me in creating gossip-free houses. It’ll be hard. I mean, how many of us watch TV and say things like: “What was SHE thinking?!” But as Oprah Winfrey says, gossip creates negativity in the house where you want to feel the most at ease.

Oprah also explains that gossip is poison. Whether you are a social columnist writing about wardrobe malfunctions and which celebrity is cheating—or whether you are a person in pain by a loved one’s actions or betrayals—it all boils down to the same thing. Gossip is a negative hex. It shows that the person engaging in it isn’t trusting and is not trust-worthy. It shows that the person engaging in it is insecure or can’t find the courage to speak to a person directly. (That’s my issue, a fear to speak up directly.) Or that he feels like a victim. Even if you don’t intend to cause another person harm when you gossip—say you are trying to garner advice over a hurtful situation—most of the time you will. Clearly if something is weighing on you terribly, talk with your therapist, priest or trusted friend.) But in most cases, I believe talking about others nearly always causes harm, most of all, to yourself/ myself. Maybe you can join me in pausing, even during a conversation, to ponder these four questions before speaking:

Is it Kind? Is it True? Does it Need to be said? Does it need to be said by Me?

And maybe you—and I—will become more mindfully conscious with our words.

Wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing?! ((( ❤ )))

Love & Light,

L. xoxo

Navigating Boundaries

Why is it harder to set boundaries with some people than it is with others? Have you experienced this? For me, it’s usually with a particular friend or boyfriend who I am rooting for as they struggle with hardships. I can see their potential. I can see their goodness. I can see that times are just really hard for them, so, if asked for help, I usually say yes. Can you relate? But the longer I help someone in need and see the extent to their crisis or struggle, the less likely I am to speak up about my needs. When I swallow what I need and am always available to help someone, that person loses respect for me, ironically while they may be asking for even more of me. And if this goes on for any length of time, say a person doesn’t get better or can’t support themselves, or becomes aggressive, needier, or abusive, I’ve teetered into really unhealthy territory. I’ve crossed over into co-dependency, when I should have set a boundary. (Sadly, I’ve had therapy for co-dependency and read many books on the topics too. Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More is amazing btw!) Clearly, I still have a lot to learn.

With certain people I can start to feel nervous or guilty just trying to say what I need to say, or do what I need to do. That’s because a pattern got set of me always being there for them and now that I’m aware of it, it upsets the dynamic of the relationship, even if it’s an unhealthy one. These people trigger my upbringing because I can anticipate getting yelled at, guilted or manipulated or abandoned, or all of the above, as punishment for voicing my feelings. So fear of being yelled at or abandoned is real for me. Even though I wanted to avoid these two things in my relationships, for most of my life, I attracted them. (But that’s another post, maybe!) I remember vividly being yelled at by an ex-boyfriend because I dared to stop during a road trip to go to a Target to buy tampons. It was a busy Target, I admit. The lines were insane, plus I had to find a bathroom and then get a drink in order to take a few Motrin. With traffic being bad, I was likely 45 minutes off schedule for arrival. The inconvenience of me not arriving at our weekend destination on time in order to help him unload his car and help settle a family member, out-surpassed my cramping and desperate need to ensure I wouldn’t soil my clothes. I was yelled at in front of others when I arrived. I should have turned around and drove home that evening. Lets just say it was an eye-opening New Years Eve for me. I set New Year’s Eve intentions to follow my dreams without guilt or fear of abandonment. Who knew that one incident set me on a course to write my book and begin yoga teacher training? The Universe gives me the lessons I need, if I pay attention, and if I’m willing to open my heart, to change. I didn’t yell back at my ex-boyfriend. I just asked to go my room and I journaled, meditated and set my mind to stop neglecting my needs.

 

But sometimes I cha-cha in life. I take two steps forward, think I’ve got the dance down, and land one thudding step back. It’s okay. I’m learning to set boundaries, even if I don’t say what’s on my mind always in the moment. Sometimes I opt for peace, especially if another person might not be open to hearing what I have to say without getting angry. I can set a boundary without saying a word. I can just distance myself, not always be available, not answer every text. (Folks in LA have that one down!) But it doesn’t feel respectful with someone I really care about. That’s when I often stumble. When I care, I can ask for space or a boundary by making excuses or justifications or apologies…In the end, it’s not necessary. As a good friend told me, it’s just a matter of me connecting to my heart that is saying I must check in and take care of me, my needs, my family. If a friend can’t respect that, or is angry, or confused about it and wanting to engage in a lot of dramatic banter, I shouldn’t justify myself or try to explain, or make it into a painful dialogue, no matter how much I love them. I shouldn’t have to. The lesson for me,is to speak my truth earlier, in the moment, regardless of how the other person responds. As long as I am kind and coming from a heart-felt place, it will all work out exactly as it is meant to.

If you can relate to any of what I just said, then this article “What are Healthy Boundaries” by Sharon Martin is for you. I love her list here, that I am re-posting, as it simplifies and clarifies what healthy boundaries should feel like:

healthy-boundaries-2

Wait, What?!?

Insert record rip (maybe too old school) or crashing sound here. Was I really in Hawaii last week? I return from my annual Thanksgiving with the boys in Oahu only to find myself slammed into the American frenzy that I so try to not slip into. Seriously, thank God for deep breathing as I almost had a panic attack last night! After returning from teaching 3 amazing yoga classes with grateful and soulful yogis, I began to get my calendar organized for the week. Many of you parents out there get this, but isn’t this time of year especially insane? Today, Tuesday, Dec. 1st, I had to sort out a lot of s*#t. Young at art at my youngest school is right when my noon yoga class at the hospital ends, crap, I have to reschedule FAST. I pick up carpool at the middle school, but wait, my oldest wants to try out for the school soccer team today AND he’s supposed to have a violin practice at the same time, cancel one. Wait, he also has club soccer practice tonight @ 7, but wait, my youngest has a tiger scout meeting at the same time. Shit. What about dinner? Rent is due. Oh, and I didn’t get paid yet from the hospital or one of my yoga studios. Oh, wait, I still have to get all the volunteer goodies for my youngest Christmas party at school this afternoon. Shit, his school sent an email saying they didn’t get tuition yet? How can that be? I can’t find paperwork because of the major leak onto my desk 2 weeks ago, when the toilet overflowed.  I’ll have to make an appointment with the principal. Wait, I have to teach yoga tomorrow night at the same time that my oldest has his Christmas concert. Oh wait, they have a dentist appointment too? And does my new sitter have a car? I can’t cancel my yoga class for my seniors, they count on me. Wait, can I shift it up 30 minutes? I have keys to the studio, maybe I can just do it this one time… I’ll call the entire class and see if they can come early. Can a few friends go to my son’s concert so someone is there cheering him on? I’ll email them… I’ll call the dentist to see if they have another day we can come in, my youngest has tooth that needs to be pulled. Oh, good they can, but wait, they now want us there on Thurs? My oldest has soccer practice and yet another violin concert at the hospital-his volunteer give-back this year, on the same day? AGAIN?  Oh crap, I have to sign both boys up for AYSO soccer today..my youngest hasn’t even done soccer yet. I’m a slack mom. And the negatives from our family photo shoot got wet and I can’t see which ones I like. I was supposed to order them while we were out of town, so now we won’t get to order Christmas cards this year. Great. Did I write the thank you notes for my youngest for his birthday gifts? I’m not being a good example. Slacker. And what will we have for dinner all week if boys have concerts, soccer & tiger scouts? Probably pizza.I’ll make them eat carrot sticks & avocado slices too…Still, I’m a slack ass yoga mom. Most of my yoga teacher friends would not be in this bind. I’m not living the life I should be right now. Where’s the organic veggie / vegan meal? Hmmm….activities for the boys, or home cooked meals at home. No in-between right now. If I was just more organized. If I was just a better mom. If I was just more focussed.

Wait, What?!? Um. Insert record rip right now. Deep breaths. And now the mind rant calms down and I remember that my ex, the boys’ dad, lives in Europe. I have no family here. There is only one person here, one parent, one set of hands to do all of these activities that feel like they are crashing on me, crashing on my sanity, weighing down any chances of time for myself, time to write, time for yoga, time for a personal life. And yet, my boys deserve to do all these activities. I want them to learn music. I want them to learn from being on a team. My youngest really needs to make more friends and scouts helps with that…Yoga has saved my life in so many ways. I have a choice to do ALL of these things—or not. It’s my choice. Yes, I want both of my boys to have activities. For the longest time I held out on letting my youngest do soccer or tiger scouts because I worried I couldn’t do it all, I couldn’t be in 3 places at once, or drive everywhere, and I’m right. I can’t. I just can’t do it all, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do some. I do want to volunteer at school. I want to get to know their friends and teachers. AND, I want to also have time for myself. Time for home cooked meals, time for my own yoga & meditation practice. Something has to give. Just last week I was in Hawaii connecting with my 2 boys. We hiked in the rain up a remote mountain on the North Shore, picked wild strawberry guava and noni (Polynesian immune-boosting, but smelly fruit!). We talked. We surfed. We hung out. We snorkeled. We swam. We talked about our dreams. And I have to remind myself that the hectic pressure that American schools and sports puts upon families can tear us apart. Something has to give. And it’s funny how judgmental the teachers & coaches can be when I do say no, or I do limit the boys activities…but that’s not my problem. And right now, I’m doing the best that I can. This week, I’ll go to 3 violin concerts (hopefully, as I may miss one), 2 soccer practices, 2 dentist appointments, teach art, volunteer supplies for a Christmas party, put together christmas cards (hopefully), teach 5 yoga classes, take at least 2 yoga classes (hopefully), meditate daily (non-negotiable), carpool, 1 tiger scout meeting, sell mistletoe for tiger scouts, writer’s group meeting, write at least 1 hour a day, oh, and maybe cook dinner, do laundry, hassle kids about homework and pray that it will all work out. And it will. That’s a choice too. Thanks for listening to the rant. I’m a lucky mom of two healthy & sweet boys. I’m a mom learning lessons about how much I can physically do. I’m learning that this time of year is insane and I don’t have to be perfect. An emailed Christmas card, is still a card, right? And for now, being aware of my limitations and my intentions has to be enough. Namaste ya’ll.

((( ❤ )))

Finding the Sweet Space of Between

Photo by Chloe Moore Photography

Photo by Chloe Moore Photography

 

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to take a pregnant pause. That, and the reality of the gap between our thoughts and our actions. As a yogi, I’ve been told time and time again to detach and become a nonjudgemental observer of my life, especially as I meditate. Worded like that, it seems like something that must be done, or achieved—like a goal to work toward. But what if there is a literal space in our lives that just can’t be lived, pushed or achieved? What if there is a space that is just felt by sitting still and sensing what is—without doing anything? In this neutral space, one shuts down, surrenders, accepts, during a mini time-out from life.

As a little girl, every summer, (before Interstate 40 was completed) my family would drive through podunk, one stop-light towns in North Carolina, heading East to the beach. These tiny communities fascinated me. I’d hold my breath the whole ride through towns like Spivey’s Corner, the “hollerin’ capital of the universe,” and, of course, the town of ‘Between.’ As a shy little girl, no one in my large family even noticed me in the back seat holding my breath—my cheeks red, my neck strained. I liked the idea of time standing still—of holding my breath and emptying all my thoughts as I entered a space that began with a welcome sign, followed by a stop light and ended with a sign that usually said, “Ya’ll Come Back Now, Ya Hear?”. It was a kick to think that within one breath, one blink, one pregnant pause, I could then exhale and arrive at a new destination, a new town.

I was quite literally in a state of between. No other thoughts entered my mind. I didn’t worry about my big brother and one of my big sisters fighting. I didn’t think about my dad yelling at one of us, or my mom crying out in a nervous voice, “Please…Stop!” Nope. I just sank into a void of silence until I arrived into a new town where I exhaled and entered back into the chaos that was four kids in the back of a station wagon on a road trip.

John Green wrote about this space of between more eloquently in his book “An Abundance of Katherine’s.” The best-selling author of “The Fault in Our Stars” caught my attention in his lesser known book, as it ends with his neurotic protagonist, a prodigy teenager who keeps re-examining past relationships in order to predict future relationships, on an eye-opening road trip. His genius level IQ, married with expectations of grandeur and “mattering,” have Colin obsessed with playing God: predicting the future. He rarely, hangs out. He doesn’t stop working. He is possessed with creating a theorem that will prove he is important. At the end of the novel, Colin finally concedes the future is an unknown destination…one to be explored like a long road trip filled with surprises:

“As the staggered lines rushed past him, he thought about the space between what we remember and what happened, the space between what we predict and what will happen. And in that space, Colin thought, there was room enough to reinvent himself—room enough to make himself—room enough to make himself into something other than a prodigy, to remake his story better and different—room enough to be reborn again and again.”

I believe that to be reborn again and again, it requires more than just an awareness of a state of between. It requires marinating briefly in that space of acceptance to allow a much-needed pause from our lives. The space between, for me, is a mental time out into complete surrender of life as it is now—and of acceptance for me, just as I am, now. It’s a break within the mind between expectations and longings. It mandates that nothing is done, nothing is feared, nothing is forced, nothing is judged.

Who am I today? Who were you yesterday? Can you sit in the here and now and not try to edit the past or force a future outcome? Can you find an exquisite sort of beauty in lingering in a space where there are no answers, but rather a space of just being?

Take a mini vacation from all the chatter and when you arrive back at home in your body, see what comes to you. Who is drawn to you? What do you dream? What do you feel? We all rush around so much with minds struggling to catch up and thoughts that race. I’m guilty of that too…But just think: in one breath, one pause, we might just arrive into a new town, into a new vista, into new insights, into clarity, into knowing who we are and what we want.

I’m starting to feel that we are part of a cosmos that is intricate, yet delicate— powerful, yet tender…but only if we slow down enough to sense it, or sense ourselves within it.

And while I’m new at this, I think the end result is filled with sweet surprises. Surprises like: meeting new friends who feel instantly like family. Coincidences. Serendipitous encounters. Creative insights. Laughter. Lightness. And ultimately, hopefully, a life that flows.

 

As David Ji, my favorite meditation expert, would say: “See you in the Gap.”