Tag Archives: meditation

The Power of Deep Stillness

treesnlight

I’m having a hard time integrating back into the cacophony and anxious energy of Los Angeles after a contemplative weekend deep in the Northern California redwood forests at Ratna Ling Buddhist Retreat Center. Here I am yesterday saying goodbye, feeling completely refreshed, on my deck enclosed by lush woodland. The stillness and silence and peace ran deep this past weekend—at first surrounding me, embracing me—then sprouting from within. Just listen to the sounds of life sustained by these ancient trees. Maybe cut off the TV, close your door, put in earphones, shut your eyes and listen again.

 

All weekend, I became more reflective, less talkative and deeply relaxed. I meditated, took silent walks, sketched, read, wrote, and yes, did amazing daily yoga classes with soulful Gloria Baraquio. (For those who wanted more, there was a sound bath with Lauri , essential oils workshop, sacred texts talk, sacred art class, FOOD (and more delicious FOOD), a library full of Tibetan literature and art, as well as a variety of massages and therapies to indulge in at theMandala Wellness Center.) For me, however, this weekend was mainly about reconnecting with nature. As a little girl who was raised in the South on property jutting against a horse farm, I used to sneak into the woods, the pre-Civil War trails, and lean against the trunks of huge pine trees with roots softened by emerald and sage moss and icy white lichen. I’d listen to the wind make shushing sounds through the branches above, as winking bursts of sunlight pierced through. Sometimes a deer might wander over curiously, just as they do here at Ratna Ling.  This past Memorial Day weekend I welcomed a relief from the intensity of LA. As a child, however, I sought nature as a refuge from the loudness of our house with its large family. older siblings who’d fight, or parents fighting, or TVs and stereos on simultaneously, teenager phone conversations, usually drama of some sort. The energy was too charged for my sensitive ears. The sounds in those southern horse trails were similar to those of the redwood forest, and just as calming, yet still vibrant with activity; a celebration of life. In Ratna Ling I could hear mocking birds, wood peckers, sweet singing Wrens, bellowing toads, screeching crickets, scurrying geckos—all creating a mesmerizing chorus. On my birthday I sat on the rustic deck of my cabin reading, and at one point, a huge butterfly landed on my book. Another moment, a large turkey vulture landed on a branch a few feet away. I watched as a momma mocking bird dive bombed it over and over, likely protecting a nest, finally bothering the vulture, 5 times its size, to spread its mammoth totem pole wings, shading my chair on the deck, as it flew away. The energy felt in this forest was calm, peaceful, purposeful, relaxed. My mind cleared of distractions. I focused. Thank goodness there was no cell reception. I needed this mental clearing.

treecircle2

treetops

Perhaps that’s why returning to Los Angeles was especially hard. The high-pitched beeps and announcements at the airports, then screaming tourists at a local fair, loud intoxicated fiesta goers in my beach town, neighbors blaring music and TV news that wafted through my window like toxic gas—all creating a stunned anxiety within me. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t relax. Even talking with a friend, at first, was jarring as I could heard her blender going, her TV on, her dog whining, then barking, the dish washer sputtering to a start, some more water flowing in a sink, all as we spoke on the phone. Am I like this? I worried. And the answer is yes. Yes I am. I expect that most Americans juggle. We rush, do, do more, multi-task, barely listen fully, worry, pile on more commitments that we can’t complete and keep going—while allowing ourselves to be bombarded by anxious news announcements, or negative talk shows, eliciting a fight or flight response within us and amping up our cortisol. It’s no wonder we can’t hear our intuition. Our center for calm and knowing and creativity.  It’s no wonder every-day life that is hectic creates confused, interrupted thinking. It’s hard to finish projects in this state of mind. It’s hard to prioritize and focus on what’s really important, what your Dharma is, rather than seeking object referral or approval. We have to clear out the noise, sweep away the distractions, center ourselves and listen without judgement to what comes up. Our frenetic life, especially for many parents who are frazzled by over-scheduled activities and interruptions, can feel the drain. I didn’t know how drained I was, until it all stopped and sat still and I breathed deeply. There is another way to live.

Today, I miss the woods. I miss the simple focus. I miss going to sleep with the sounds of crickets and waking to birds singling as the sun rises, illuminating redwood limbs reaching toward each other, like fingers making an ink stain on my window. I thought a yoga class would help me integrate, but the music was too loud, the thumping music was too loud and a teacher was screaming over it. I wasn’t relaxed when I walked home.

So I guess it’s a good thing I was asked if I’d like to come back to Ratna Ling to host a yoga and writers retreat later this year. I get to return and I get to take some dear writer friends with me. I can’t wait to introduce them to this haven that will allow them to get centered, ignore their fears and focus on their writing, their unique stories they all are compelled to share. We’ll flow to vibrational yoga, breathe deeply, take meditative walks in the woods, enjoy Tibetan meditation movement with an expert … and write from a place connected to Source. Stay tuned, as I work out the details. Proceeds will go to Dharma Publishing, created by Ratna Ling’s founder, Tibetan Lama Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche, who has spent more than 45 years preserving sacred texts, literature and art. I’m honored to support such a worthy cause, while helping fellow-writers tap into their inner voice, find peace, calm, stillness, confidence. I’ll write more later when details are sorted. 🙂

In the meantime, maybe you’d like to join me this week as I meditate with the intention of re-claiming stillness, letting go of distractions, and finding mindful focus while at work, while at play. Here’s to a week where we can feel calm, peaceful, playful, free, content, loved, secure, safe, inspired, centered, clear, balanced and compassionate.

Love & Light,

Laura xo

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The Gift of Goddess Wisdom

athena

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

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

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

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

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

With Love & Compassion this Holiday season ~

Laura xo

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom: A State of Mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace, love & freedom ~
Laura xo

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

You are the PATH: Loving from the Inside OUT

rebelwithin

Everything you seek is within. This is what the world’s wisdom seekers say. And it’s true. But that may be hard for you to feel where you are right now. Most of us seek ‘things’ from others. We have been given messages from a very early age that imply someone will save us, complete us, rescue us. The prince on a white horse is you. The angel to save you from your reckless ways and addictions is you.

YOU are the PATH.

To some, that feels like a lonely journey. I understand. This message does not suggest that you live as a hermit meditating your days away by yourself in a remote mountain village. A journey to wholeness does not require such sacrifice. But in order to attract unconditional love, acceptance, compassion, support, forgiveness from others— you must first give it to YOURSELF. As Deepak Chopra says, “You can not receive what you do not give yourself.”

If you look to others to complete you, to fill an empty void, you ultimately become frustrated, disappointed and filled with ego-centric self loathing and victimhood. When we seek external approval, success, money, or another person who may ‘fit’ a long laundry list of what we think we want, we become lost and disconnected to what really matters in life and to our true self.

Ask a cancer patient what is important in life. Another healthy and playful moment with their child? Another hour snuggling in bed with their lover? Feeling sun on her face while sipping tea in a favorite chair with a beloved pet in her lap. Walking with a good friend out in nature. These moments are what fill us up. We connect with our highest self in these times. And we connect on a deeper level with those we love, because we are reflecting our highest selves. We are connecting in a pure, authentic, vulnerable manner.

So we must peel back the layers, the fears, the wounds that keep us from living purely and authentically. Create a loving relationship with yourself first, then you will find your PATH, find your TRIBE and begin connections on deep levels.

One reason people have a hard time keeping connections with others is due to a fear of vulnerability. We fear being judged. We fear being abandoned and hurt because we have been abandoned or hurt in the past. But the reality is that in order to truly love and be intimate with others, we must be free from the chains of fear. We must love ourselves so fiercely that no one can truly keep us from our center again. Then we know that we will always be safe whether alone or with another. From a fierce, rebel heart, we can connect on a pure level.

So how do we get there? It’s a journey. A journey through meditation, yoga, breath, writing, activity of any sort: running, dancing. For me, meditating has been remarkable. I find stillness and meditate, whether guided with DavidJi or Deepak, or on my own. I feel silence and sit with my feelings and begin to repeat over and over a silent mantra to connect with my light. My favorite is: I AM. SO HUM in Sanskrit. I repeat this over and over and like a whisper from the Universe, whatever follows I AM, I know I already am, but just need a reminder of: I AM LOVE. I AM LIGHT. I AM POWERFUL. I AM ENOUGH…I set my timer to 11 minutes. When I come out of it, I feel connected to all that is and deeply to my eternal light.

Find forgiveness for yourself. Feel what needs to be felt. You are eternal, divine and worthy of love just for being alive. You need not do anything but allow the light in.

Those who have been abused or neglected must feel the wounds to heal them. I know this from personal experience. Find a community, a tribe, a counselor, a support group and begin the journey back home to yourself.

Peace, love, non-violence, acceptance begins with you. You are the PATH. You are a REBEL. You are a Goddess. Nothing that has been done to you—nothing that you have done to cope with your past—defines you. The spark of divine light shines brightly within. Peel back the layers that cover it and shine.

The REBEL in me Bows to the REBEL in you.

~ Namaste

Laura xo

Today, I Choose Peace

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One of my yogis in last night’s class had a very heavy heart. Her son was a first responder in San Bernardino. She chose to come to class anyway. I’m so glad I didn’t cancel class for my son’s violin performance. I felt this need to be there for my students, so we just upped the hour of the class. I am beyond grateful. I learn so much from my students. This woman knew she couldn’t DO anything about the San Bernardino shooting that killed 14 and wounded so many more that her son attended to. But she could have chosen to stay home, watch the news, drink wine and live in fear, anxiety, sadness. Of course, we all need to grieve and to feel our sadness. But she realized that if she stayed home watching the news, living in fear and anxiety, maybe drinking wine, nothing would change except her own well being. So we  held class without lights at sunset. We prayed for peace. We meditated on gratitude. With every inhale, we breathed into all is well. With every exhale we breathed out, I choose Love, alternating with I choose Peace, and I choose health. It was a powerful class and a powerful reminder to me that in times of stress, anxiety, chaos and powerfully tragic events, we all have choices. Do I wallow in my feelings of powerlessness and drown my sorrows with alcohol or food or other substance … or do I breathe, feel the sadness and pray for hope, pray for love, pray for peace?

This is know for sure: whenever someone says “It’s God’s Will” or “Everything happens for a Reason” it isn’t always true. God didn’t want those 14 people to die. Just like God doesn’t want anyone to die or be injured from mass shootings by hysterical, crazed people. I believe that God gave us freedom—the ability to make choices. We have the control over choosing love over hate. We have the choice to get help if we are depressed. We have the choice over whether we drown our sorrows in alcohol or drugs and endanger others. We have the ability to get help if we are addicted. We have the choice of taking care of our bodies, our minds, our hearts. We have choices, even when it feels like we don’t.

I’ve experienced a lot of violence in my life and I know that God didn’t wish for my dear friend to be shot and killed in high school by a crazed stalker and not me. This week many years ago, I remembered to go to detention after school and my dear friend who got in trouble with me for being late to class, didn’t. It wasn’t God granting me life and forcing her to die. I am not that special. I was lucky. The stalker was waiting by our cars parked side-by-side and shot her 6 times. The stalker chose hate. He chose something incomprehensible. It had nothing to do with God—or me.

Exactly a year ago, my youngest son’s best friend and his mother were killed by an out of control driver as they crossed the street after a kindergarten Christmas performance. Had I gone, my son and I would have been walking beside them. Did God allow me to live and allow them to die? Of course not. I was lucky, yet again. The driver chose to abuse her pain killers and alcohol. Of course she didn’t mean to intentionally kill them, but she did make bad choices by getting behind the wheel of her car under the influence.

Today, with every breath, I choose to be grateful. I choose peace. I choose to be a conscious, loving mom to my boys. I choose to take care of my health, my heart and to surround myself with loving, healthy people who make good choices. I will NOT drown my sorrows and check out this holiday season. I choose love. I choose peace. I choose gratitude. These are my mantras as I meditate today, if you haven’t figured that out.  And I pray for all those who are suffering to feel this vibration of love. There are more positive, healthy people in this world than there are those who wish us harm intentionally, or who make bad choices and hurt us unintentionally. I choose peace. I choose love. I choose gratitude—with every breath. I hope you’ll join me. Namaste.

 

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. ((( ❤ )))

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.”

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

Living Yoga: Tuning In

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The Living Yoga Retreat in Santa Ynez, Calif. this past week, was a soulful, simple, beautiful journey. I say simple, because it brought me back to the beauty of the basics. We all know the simple truths that ring true if we stop to acknowledge them. These truths, if followed, allow us to live by what tunes us into the beauty around and within us.  For me, this retreat, led by the beautiful and talented yogis Linda Baffa and Chelsea Welch, allowed me to embrace my inner rhythms. Waking at 6 a.m. every morning, doing a netti pot, going to 6:30 yoga and meditation classes, assisting with cook and cleanup, required dedication, effort and focus. The salt water cleanse and whole, fresh, organic vegan diet—cleansed my body and mind. I felt buoyant, yet grounded with focus.  This coffee-drinking, chocolate-loving gal, felt free and pure and happy. I found myself walking through pomegranate fields and just smiling. And like good witches of the West, we all meditated and flowed—focussing on our intentions and manifesting our dreams. Dream boards were made. A day of silence required inner reflection, painting, giggling, hiking. For me, I was able to determine what voice to start the sixth chapter of my book with. I had vivid, inspiring dreams. And, just as important, I connected with soulful, kind, fun, inspiring women.

Now that I’m back, what I have taken from this trip, (which I also felt when in Tuscany) can be boiled down in simple thoughts and pictures. Enjoy:

Slow Down. The Journey May Inspire You as Much as the Destination.

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Be Grateful for whats around the corner. Even bumps in the road provide valuable lessons for growth.

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Pay Attention. Hidden Gems Can Be Found In Your World.

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Embrace What Inspires You.

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You Can Make a Difference: Small Efforts Blossom.

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Pay Attention to the Signs:

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Your Legacy Matters. Pass Down Traditions.

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Listen To the Wind, Breathe Deeply and Tune into Your Truth.

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Sailing Into the Light of Compassion

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I took this photo on Monday evening, after an emotional weekend. My nearly 5-year-old son was sitting on our deck singing his favorite new song: “I Have Peace Like a River, I Have Love Like an Ocean” (so cute!). I looked up and saw this sailboat sailing into a tiny spotlight of light, breaking through rain clouds over the Pacific Ocean. I knew instantly that it was the perfect metaphor for me as of late.

Perhaps it’s all the long hours of yoga teacher training? Or, maybe it’s all the hip opening we’ve been doing lately? But something is breaking down walls. I find that in this past month of intensive training, I’m opening up my heart more than ever and releasing a roller coaster of emotions and long-lost memories. During a particularly long hip opening called frog pose (not advisable for newbies!), a memory of my ex-husband popped into my head. It was in the middle of the night four and a half years ago. He had gone to the nursery, changed our infant baby’s diaper and was humming as he walked back into our room. He handed the little burrito to me in bed so I could nurse him back to sleep. He kissed the baby’s head and mine, before turning back in. It was such a sweet memory.

After our six hour training session this Saturday, I thought about what other memories had been popping up lately. Some have been hard, from my childhood that was an ever-shifting alcohol-fueled tide. But some sweet too. One was of my dad, laughing and teasing me and one of my best friends he liked to call Beastie. I had forgotten how he would tease my girl and boy-friends in such silly ways.

What I’m realizing, as I mellow, is that it’s just as critical to recall the good along with the bad memories from those who have let me down. We are all such multi-faceted beings. Even those who have hurt me tremendously, have also been kind, silly and tender at times. This can be confusing, but for me, it helps as I piece together my past that for the longest time felt like shifting sands. It’s hard to leap forward with confidence, when the past resembles a shaking, evolving platform.

I think the hard part of recovering from a divorce, or any betrayal or lies,  is the internal confusion that grows. As I discovered the truth about events in my marriage, and even in my childhood, I started to question my ability to discern just what is real, or what was felt, or what can be trusted by others.

That’s why light bulbs flashed for me while reading an article by psychiatrist Anna Fels on Sunday. Apparently, many other people felt the same way, as her New York Times editorial Great Betrayals was the fifth most viral news article on the Internet that day.

I haven’t written about divorce or betrayal in a long, long time. There’s a reason for that. I’m focussing on my kids and my writing and moving on in positive ways. But Dr. Fels’ compassionate explanation of the psychological effects of  lies has resonated deeply with me. I don’t think I’ve read a more thorough article on the topic ever—and trust me, I’ve read plenty. Here’s why:

Dr. Fels explains eloquently why it’s so hard for those of us who have had been lied to, to move on successfully. We no longer have trust in our memories—in the narrative of our life. This erodes into a patchy, mental foundation, as we begin to mistrust what we see or hear or even experience in the present. In order to move forward, we have to put together the narrative of our past. And this takes courage and time to put the whole story line back together. It takes courage to own the good and bad times—regardless of what else might have been happening. And perhaps that part can only come after forgiveness truly settles in. At least, that’s how I see it.

Dr. Fels simply explains that the person who does the lying or betrayal can recover more easily as they have an intact past. This person knows exactly what she or he did and felt. And if remorseful, can recover faster and step forward refreshed and determined to begin a new. Typically, they garner more support, too, as everyone loves a come-back story. The psychiatrist gave many examples of betrayal, including a client who hid a massive debt from his partner for years.

The part of betrayal that hurts the most are always the lies. They eat away at the fabric of your past reality and the ability to trust what you sew in the future. For instance, a friend who has been divorced several years is still discovering more lies and betrayals from her ex. The continual drip of new information from friends and family keeps her on edge. Just what was real from their marriage? When they were on vacation did he mean what he said? They had a lot of fun times, did he not share them? Were they not real? When he wanted to venture into another business abroad, was another woman in the picture then, too? And what about their many friends who knew? Should she trust them now?

Dr. Fels explains:

“Insidiously, the new information disrupts their sense of their own past, undermining the veracity of their personal history. Like a computer file corrupted by a virus, their life narrative has been invaded. Memories are now suspect: what was really going on that day? Why did the spouse suddenly buy a second phone “for work” several years ago? Did a friend know the truth even as they vacationed together? Compulsively going over past events in light of their recently acquired (and unwelcome) knowledge, such patients struggle to integrate the new version of reality. For many people, this discrediting of their experience is hard to accept. It’s as if they are constantly reviewing their past lives on a dual screen: the life they experienced on one side and the new “true” version on the other. But putting a story together about this kind of disjunctive past can be arduous.”

As I read this article, I felt a wave of compassion roll over me like a mother rocking her child and saying “there, there.” Piecing together the past is arduous.

I loved that Dr. Fels reminds readers that the people who are lied to are NOT naive for trusting their partners and they were not” in denial and knew on some level”—both sentiments that misguided friends and family often say to the person in pain. The psychiatrist explains that friends become queasy about the lack of control victims of betrayal have—often making them to be less supportive or critical.

“But the betrayed are usually as savvy as the rest of us. When one woman I know asked her husband, a closet alcoholic who drank secretly late at night, how he could have hidden his addiction for so long, he replied, “It took a lot of work.””

Dr. Fels’ article, (without specifically stating it) reminds ALL of us to seek compassion. Life is messy. We are all multi-faceted and none of us are perfect. The person who is struggling to piece together their own narrative, especially, needs to find compassion for themselves. It’s okay if you don’t move on immediately or always behave with grace and forgiveness. This is hard work.

I feel blessed to finally be on the other side. And as waves of good memories start flooding in, I’m starting to own them. At first it confused me into thinking I wanted to return to my old life. There were many good times, after all. But now I know it’s just a way for me to be grateful for what I had and how I’m growing in my awareness and in my capacity for forgiveness and compassion. (And this includes for myself.) There were plenty of times when I might have been overly critical and less grateful than I am now. I’m owning them too—and moving on. But most importantly, when I recall a memory where I felt love and security, when in light of discovered events, it likely wasn’t reciprocated, I now allow it to be ok. I felt it. I lived it. And that memory can be owned, too. One person’s actions doesn’t necessarily negate your own feelings or hopes. And they shouldn’t be an excuse to shut down, and not trust or dare to love again. But it just takes time—and more importantly, it takes compassion.

I’ll leave you with this quote from one of my favorite Buddhist authors:

“The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes. ”
― Pema Chödrön