Tag Archives: meditation benefits

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.

harrys-maze

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

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Grounding Roots While Reaching For the Light

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Reaching for the Light by Laura Roe Stevens

Today I received two messages that I clearly needed—completely and utterly  perfect for me at this moment. The first came from a friend in Italy, another single mom who painstakingly takes care of her seriously ill young daughter’s every need. The quote from Khalil Gibran: ‘Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.’

Then, for some reason, I received a free copy of Deepak Chopra’s 21 Days of Inspiration—part of his bestseller The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.

Today’s ‘inspiration’ about transformation is based around the metaphor of the beloved Sequoia tree. Again, how perfect for me, as I have been intrigued and mesmerized by these ancient trees and took a trip to see and hike among them. I even bought sequoia puzzles and blocks from my sons, as I am fascinated by the fact that these 3,000-year-old trees, older than Buddha, can only exist with the presence of fire. The heat of the forest fires release their seeds and clear away smaller trees that might block sun light from their roots.

My book, that I’m having difficulty focussing on at the moment, is quite literally centered around the mysticism from ancient trees. Not entirely, but it starts in this manner. I wish I could share a sneak peak within this blog, but a literary agent told me not to, so I’ll listen to her advice.

While the book is not based at all on my life or my childhood, I have always been affected by trees. As a child, I would escape the madness or chaos or fighting that might be occurring within my large household and run away to lay beneath 200-year-old pine trees. Our house bordered an old horse and tobacco farm and I would quite literally run past abandoned slave quarters and a tobacco-curing barn and then walk for ages on the then-empty horse trails, lined with soft pine needles. When I was finally exhausted, I would lay underneath a tree, my head resting on the moss that blanketed its knotted roots, and look up into the sky. The fingers of the trees would touch and move softly, letting in rays of sunlight, bits of blue sky. The shade helped me escape the usual oppressive heat of the South and if I laid still long enough, sometimes a deer would gently wander past. It was my heaven. Laying against the roots of trees that had witnessed likely atrocities from slavery, and perhaps moments of joyous horse-back riding, I wondered just what else had occurred or who else had shared this spot with me in the past. I didn’t know that I was meditating, but my eyes would close half-way, as I’d sleepily watch the limbs sway far above me. There were no other sounds except that of water trickling in the near by stream, leaves or pine needles rustling from deer, rabbits, squirrels or chipmunks. But most certainly, and steadily, like an ocean tide, I’d hear the soft, whispering wind from above. Although I was only a young girl, I think on some level, I recognized the metaphor in the moment that I sought over and over again when I needed to escape. And that is:

– Beauty Exists.

– Distance yourself from chaos, addiction, toxic relationships.

– Find stillness.

– Listen.

– Strengthen your core, your roots.

– Although rooted in who you are and what you want, strive to stay aware, mindful, accepting and grateful—especially for those lessons taught by those who have hurt you the most.

– And, most importantly: bravely, tentatively, reach for the sky, the light, and toward baby steps to manifest your dreams.

Happy New Year all ~

Laura xo

Is Success a Destination?

Photo by: Laura Roe Stevens

Photo by: Laura Roe Stevens

My apologies for being gone so long. To say life has been nutty lately would be an understatement. As a recap: the last two weeks of August my boys were with their father and I had delicious, rare alone time at home working feverishly on my new book. It’s southern, semi-historical fiction and a lot of fun. I was really in the groove. It was amazing to have the freedom to write, work out, take walks, etc. I was SO excited when the boys returned, however. For two days beforehand, I organized the house, their toys, books, etc. I prepared meals like veggie lasagne, freezing half. I was determined to start the new school year on the right foot. School would start, I would focus 3 to 4 hours a day on my book with the goal of getting through half of it by October.

Little did I realize that I was entering a crazed period. The first week with my boys should have been an indicator of what was to come! School hadn’t yet started, my nanny was away that week, and to add insult to injury, my freezer broke. Repairman couldn’t come for two days. I lost just about everything.

Second week, school still had not completely started for my oldest (we had one day off and one half day for some reason with two intensive back to school nights!) and the preschool for my youngest wouldn’t start until Sept 9th—and only half days till Oct. 1! I also had five articles to write for clients. Oh BOY! No work on my book could be done while I struggled to finish two cancer articles, one pregnancy article and begin two more bylines for an author/client. I was very grateful for the work, because as luck would have it, my car broke down. And when I say broke down, I mean completely broke! I had wanted to sell it and get a hybrid this Fall, but in this condition, there was no way. The transmission cost $3,500 and required me to be without my car for a week. During this time, I had also started yoga teacher training. All the times were not completely convenient for me or my babysitter. Some morning training started at 6:30 / 7a.m.

Finally, last week, as the crescendo, someone hacked into my email system, compromising clients and friends and family—even nearly fooling my ex-husband into giving him money—pretending to be me having an emergency. My computer had to be shut down, the FBI contacted and an expert hired to fix and clean my machine. All this delayed my projects and even infected one of my editor’s machines.

Sigh.

So, what valuable life lessons did I learn during this period? Plenty!

Lesson One:  Prepare/Plan ahead.
From the freezer incident, I learned how great it was to cook ahead of time. With many of my frozen foods thawing, I began to cook with abandon, preparing marinated chicken dishes, cooking meats and fish, making sandwiches with cooked meats, and having every meal accounted for the entire week. Life went smoother. Similarly, the computer incident taught me that while some things can’t be helped (we still don’t know exactly how the hacker gained access to my account), I can back up my important documents with a new hard drive.

Lesson Two: New Beginnings are Energizing.
Cleaning the freezer, I realized how much I had kept in there that I didn’t use for years. Throwing out the old and cleaning the freezer, energized me. As I slowly restock the freezer, I am conscious about what I put in and what I will actually cook within the week.

Lesson Three: Let People Help You.
The car incident and my yoga training needs taught me to ask for help when I need it and to accept that help. I have no problem helping others. I do, however, feel badly about asking for help. But friends often want to and are honored when you trust them with important things, such as your children. As a single mom without family nearby, I need to reach out more. I started doing that and am grateful for the car borrowed and the help with my kids on days that I need it. I know that I’ll respond with love and assistance in the future.

Lesson Four:  BREATHE.
Sure, I had a lot of expenditures and demands on my time and stress that didn’t allow me to focus on my goal of putting in more writing on my book. I did, however,  keep my cool. I credit that completely with yoga and meditation. Instead of snapping, getting distracted, thinking (too many!) negative thoughts, etc. I took deep breaths and centered my mind. Daily yoga (even if at home for 20 minutes) and 10 minutes of meditation each morning or evening stilled my mind. I have to distance myself from all that stresses me and all that is out of my control, to garner the perspective I need to focus on all that is possible.

Lesson Five:  Slow Down.

If you’re stuck in the fast lane, spinning from moment to moment—something HAS TO GIVE. For me, these weeks were crazed because I had so many school and athletic demands for my oldest son and a preschool getting out at 11:45 a.m. daily for my youngest. ( Oct. 1st, we start full days!) It seems that California schools start later and ease into their year more slowly than East Coast schools. That’s just life. I also had soccer games and deadlines and yoga training. At the time, it felt like I couldn’t say no to any freelance projects as the car breakdown and all the school payments from PTAs and ed foundations and other multiple requests, meant that I could have easily spent nearly $6,000 additional this month alone. Now, I’m slowing down. There’s no reason to take every assignment or go to every event or contribute to the point of insanity.

Lesson Six:  Success isn’t a Destination, It’s a Daily Journey
As Andre Agassi said in a recent interview (Q&A in the October 2013 issue of The Red Bulletin): success isn’t a destination. “Setting goals and always meeting them doesn’t make you happy. It’s how you feel every night when you go to bed.”

“Success isn’t what comes out, it’s what you put in,” says Agassi. “Doing things completely or not at all. Caring about what you do. …  Don’t lie to yourself and look for shortcuts. Success isn’t a result. Success is a way of living you choose for yourself.”

Lesson Seven: Concentrate on What You Can Do

Instead of letting fear take over when stressed, focus on what can be done. For me, I could worry about losing clients or worry about paying all the bills and berate myself for not logging more pages in my book. Instead, I chose to concentrate on my strengths and what I could do—triaging daily what needed to be addressed. Agassi put it perfectly in his advice for child athletes (which is applicable to all of us setting goals): “You should concentrate on the things that you can influence—you can control your attitude, your work ethic, your concentration. If it’s windy or hot or something aches or you’re tired from the match yesterday, then you have to accept it.”

For me, each day, I have to concentrate of being present with my boys. Listening to them. Being in the moment at dinner, or during bathtime. It all counts. Making sure I don’t freak out, and am a good role model. That’s what matters most, at the end of the day, this matters so much more than whether I logged 10 pages. I will, however, log more pages as my schedule allows.

Lesson Eight: Be Kind To Yourself

Beating myself up will never help me accomplish my goals. Sure, I could have handled some things better. I could have backed up my computer, for instance. I could have stayed up till 1 a.m. and logged more pages in my book. But rehashing all of my mistakes and beating myself up doesn’t do anything. Over the past month I’ve really been introspective and honest about past mistakes and while that can be helpful when trying to improve, it can also be destructive if I let negative voices into my mind and constantly berate myself. Instead, as I drift off to sleep, I say to myself: I am doing the best that I can. I am exactly where I am meant to be right now. I am enough.

Final Lesson: Laugh Every Day

Even during all the mess, I love that my four-year-old, especially, makes me laugh. He demands that I look at him when he makes silly faces. He dances. He prances. He tickles. He skips. We have secret codes and games that make us laugh. Our latest is when he starts talking gibberish like Mr. Chatterbox and only I know what he’s trying to do as it’s our favorite bedtime story. We also have a daily competition on who loves each other most. “I love you more than an eagle!” he says. I respond: “I love you more than a pelican!” These moments last a lifetime. They sustain me. I only hope that as my little one gets older, I can keep finding ways to laugh a little each day—in spite of how my day may proceed.

Meditation Ain’t For Sissies: Trust Me

Ok, so I can’t exactly report that my first day into the 21 day meditation challenge has been a complete success. (But I’m still hopeful I can turn it around!) In my goal to learn how to quiet my mind and become a consistently calm parent, I signed up for the Deepak Chopra’s 21 Day Meditation Challenge. My boyfriend decided to do it with me—as we both like yoga, but find the meditation part difficult. For me, it’s insanely hard to stop my mind from wandering. Have you ever heard Ellen Degeneres describe her mind chatter during meditation in a yoga class? Well, that’s really close to how my mind works. Since she mastered her problem and now actually does transcendental meditation every day—I figure, I’m not a lost cause, yet!

But if today is any indication, it clearly isn’t going to happen over night.

During our first day of meditation, Deepak led us in a discussion about abundance for maybe 5 minutes and then asked us to clear our minds and meditate. I tried so hard to clear my mind. I focussed on the mantra: “Today, I behold all the abundance that surrounds me.”  When we started, he said, “Let go of all thoughts and go within.”

He then said “So Hum.”

He repeated this slowly and rhythmically and told us to repeat So Hum mentally if we ever got distracted to bring our focus back to our breath.

So Hum.

Suddenly, a vision of the king of the lemurs in Madagascar 3 popped into my head. I see the silly lemur and his enormous brown bear girlfriend riding a tricycle in Rome.

“Who does that lemur voiceover?” I think.

“How fun would that job be? God, I love those movies.”

So Hum.

I breathe deeply, think of nothingness … and find my eyes open. I take a quick peak at my boyfriend to see if his eyes are open. They aren’t. I close mine again.

So Hum.

“Is he asleep?” I wonder.

“He said he didn’t sleep well last night. Didn’t he say he got up at 1:30 a.m.? Who does that? And why couldn’t he go back to sleep?”

So Hum.

“Didn’t that article in Cosmo say most men masterbate whenever they wake up in the middle of night to help them fall back asleep? Why is that? I don’t know of a single woman who would do that. Seriously. I just wouldn’t think of it. I always pick up a book.”

So Hum.

So Hum.

I take a few more deep breaths.

Without realizing it, I’m gone again: “the Laker tickets’ll go up. I need to buy them now for W. (my son’s birthday present) But which game? What if they lose? They’ll probably beat Sacramento. But maybe that would be a boring game. Isn’t San Antonio a better team to watch? Whose up on the NBA that I can call?”

So Hum.

I take two more deep breaths—and really try to clear my mind—YET again.

“Is this normal?” I think. “Why can’t I’ let go of my thoughts?’ (I think ‘let go of my thoughts’ in Deepak’s accent.) Where would I go? Would I actually go anywhere? Would my thoughts go somewhere? Wouldn’t I just fall asleep? And wouldn’t my thoughts just become dreams then? I mean, I’d still be thinking. I wouldn’t just let go of my thoughts and have my mind stop functioning, right? Wouldn’t it be dreaming at that point?”

Ding.

And it’s over. Just like that. I look over at my boyfriend’s face with his eyes still closed and hope that he has actually fallen asleep. But he hasn’t. He looks up with a refreshed smile on his face and I fake one back.

This will get easier, I think.

Right?