Tag Archives: mindfulness

Gratitude Saved My Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Namaste,

Laura xo

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Lessons from a Frustrating Day

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photo by @rickylesser

When everything goes wrong, God is still Good.

God is indifferent, but not uncaring.

The dolphins still play, the sun still sets, the stars still shine, even if I can not see them.

There are trails to hike, trees to climb, clouds to dream under, even if I can not find the time.

When someone steals from me, God is still Good.

If fires rage, God did not cause them.

If he never calls again, God is not to blame. And I am still enough.

We are all in this together. The one who steals from me, the one who abandons me, and the ones who lift my spirits. We are all God’s children. We are all each others teachers.

When everything goes wrong, God is still Good.

There is much to learn. How did I respond when I didn’t get my way? How did I shake or tremble or shut down by another’s hurtful behavior or frightening choices? Did I stay graceful when speaking my truth?  Can I find gratitude or a lesson within what feels like a never-ending chaos of activity and whirlwind of needs to be met? Did I pause at the end of the day and reflect with kindness? Can I still embrace forgiveness? Can you?

I have much to learn. I am grateful to be able to keep going. It is a miracle I can fall asleep knowing that no matter what happens to me, or to you, God is still Good. Love is still alive. I detach and focus on Love.

Season to be ‘Kindful’

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My five-year-old son yelled for me to come upstairs this morning yet again. He was really excited while listening to the “ta dum da dum dum” Christmas song.

“Hurry, mommy! You’re going to miss it!”

So, I stopped brushing my teeth and slowly climbed the stairs back up to the den for the third time that morning. Every time I tried to get ready for the day, he’d yell for me to come back up. He’s beside himself about Christmas this year.

“Do you know what Christmas is really about, mommy?” he asked with an infectious smile. Since he’s going to a Catholic preschool, I answered, “The baby Jesus?”

“Nope. Well, maybe. But that’s not really it. Know it?” His eyes widened and he had this ‘I one-upped you’ look on his face. “Hmmm, what is it about?” I answered.

“Well, it’s not about the presents and stuff. It’s kindful. You know, being kindful.”

I just love that. All my aggravation about our slow-moving morning faded as I kissed his forehead and thought about his new word. James has inherited my inclination to create words. My whole childhood was filled with merged words or dyslectic sayings that only I or one of my sisters could understand. But isn’t ‘kindful’ just wonderful? To me, it’s kindness married with being mindful and joyful at the same time.

And it’s such a good reminder for me right now, too. (My best teachers always surprise me.) It’s only December 2nd and I’m already finding myself stressed with an over-stretched schedule. There are at least five violin concerts, soccer practices, games and parties for me and both boys. There are Christmas travel plans to be made, (or not) and of course the biggies for me: my final two weeks of yoga teacher training and the book I’m writing. Phew—The book I’m writing—When do I find the time to squeeze in a bit more work on the sixth chapter? My most emotionally draining and engaging chapter so far. Dropping in feels like landing on the moon and after an hour or so of writing, I feel dazed and unfocussed on immediate needs and scheduling, as I think on heavy topics and characters filled with angst.

So…as I typically ramble on before getting to a proper point… I’d like to encourage all of us to take moments out of each day this month to be kindful. We can only do so much. I, especially, need to be kindful to myself. I’ve been through a lot lately. And, like many of you, I may not get as much done as I’d like. But if I can be kind, mindful and listen to my children, maybe throw in a few giggles, that will infinitely mean more to them than having the perfectly decorated house or perfectly orchestrated holiday. Right?

Isn’t it amazing that my five-year-old has become such an insightful teacher for me? What if I had stayed focussed on not being late for preschool and refused to go upstairs this morning? Think of what I would have lost. Later this morning, as I was getting James dressed, he looked at me squarely in the eye and asked, “Ok, who are you?” I answered my little buddhist boy by saying: “I’m your mommy filled with love.” Since he’s entered the age of being afraid of transforming monsters, I knew where this was coming from. He asked again, “Really, that’s who you are?”

And as I answered him again, that I was his mommy filled with love, I realized that in each moment I have the opportunity to answer him and my older son, by my actions. Each time I yell, or refuse to listen, or get frustrated and snap while in the car, I’ll be telling them that I’m a different version. So, it’s my time to stop, breathe and be the version of me they deserve.

You know, sometimes when we stop, breathe and stay in the moment—even if it means being late for an appointment—we open ourselves up to possible moments of joy and insight, that may stay with us a lifetime.

I may not write again in this blog before the holidays, as I’m working feverishly on my book Uriel’s Mask. So, I’ll take this moment to wish all of you ‘kindful’ moments. Next time you’re stuck in aggressive or slow-moving traffic, rushing to a party or an appointment, or frantically shopping, I hope you think of this post. Take a breath (like I will be doing) and think about the big picture. What sort of moments are you cultivating? Are your children in the back seat? Are they listening? Are you listening to them? What really matters in the end? Is it all of the presents under the tree? Or is it our presence? Is it what money can buy? Is it what neighbors think? Is it trying to meet expectations that others or family have set for you? Or is it trailing your own, mindful path?

Here’s hoping that we all take babysteps toward kindfulness this season.

Happy Holidays! x

A Moment To Pause

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The boys and I hiked up to the top of one of the highest canyons in Malibu to get this vista of Catalina Island and the vast Pacific Ocean. Taking a moment to pause, especially when at a distance, can truly give you a better vantage point. It’s easier to put things into perspective when you give yourself that distance and that moment to take it all in.

Lately I’ve been thinking that this is applicable to everyday life—although it takes much more effort. Trying not to react instantly, or to flare with anger, or to over-react—takes more than just patience. I think it takes practice. Ironically, in order to have a better relationship with those I care the most about—I’ve come to realize that I need to find a little bit of distance, or detachment, to create a mental vista for clarity and calm.

Maybe this sounds a bit nutty for some of you? But have any of you suddenly become irritated with your child who is not listening to you and who continues to do something that you’ve asked him or her not to do? Do you find that, without thinking, you snap, yell, grab an arm or say something that you wish you hadn’t? It’s easy to do isn’t it? When I react instinctively, I can literally feel my heart beat faster, my breath get fast and shallow and all clear thought escape the building.

It’s now mid-January and I’ve determined that the best New Year’s resolution for me is to try, not only to be more present, but to carve out the ability to be calm in the midst of storms. (I don’t want my children to carry with them memories of a parent who ‘loses it’ on a consistent basis.) To do this, I’m going to try to take a deep breath and count to five whenever the munchkins start misbehaving. (Unless of course, it’s a dangerous situation, like one of them running into a street!)

As my yoga teachers and Deepak Chopra have all shown me—it’s almost impossible to overreact while breathing deeply. Try it with me. Take a deep breath and fill up your lungs completely. Hold it at the top and count to five slowly. Now, breathe it out, slowly and deeply. Can you imagine your heart or mind racing while you’re doing this? It’s virtually impossible.

I was reminded twice this week of how important this breath break is. The first was a yoga teacher who said she wanted to focus on finding a pause before reacting. Her goal for the week was to pause during stressful events in order to choose the right reaction, instead of reacting. Then two days later, I snapped at my boys. After trying to get James to sleep for two hours unsuccessfully, his big brother comes into the room, making too much noise and knocking over and spilling the humidifier. Was it the end of the world? No. What did I do? Overreact and chastise him. Of course, I immediately apologized, and realized how I should have reacted.

Hopefully, taking a deep breath, holding it for the count of five and slowly letting it go, will give me the vantage point I need to then deal calmly with any stressful moments with the kids—or in life in general. I’ll let you know how it goes!

If Mindfulness Transforms CEOs … Imagine How It Can Help You?

Photo by: Administrador Galeria Uninter

Photo by: Administrador Galeria Uninter

Mindfulness expert and former General Mills executive, Janice Marturano, helps CEOs and corporate executives across America manifest their dreams and better manage their stress, their personal lives and business communications through mindfulness meditation. So, it’s no wonder that I reached out to the founder and executive director of The Institute for Mindful Leadership for advice. We all know that single parents juggle more than most. Those of us who are working full-time, as well as juggling the lion share of parenting needs, can feel drained, frazzled and out -of-control. Ironically, Marturano, who spoke with me today via a phone interview, explained that finding “moments to pause,” which teaches us how to be present, is the to key to bettering all our relationships: whether those are with co-workers or our children. Her work with Fortune 500 executives is garnering much word-of-mouth recognition, and just last week, Arianna Huffington personally invited Janice to write for HuffPost. (Read her first HuffPost column here.)

I’m thrilled to include this Q&A with Janice, who not only changed my brother’s life, but is helping to demystify mindfulness meditation and bring it to the masses:

NV: Mindfulness meditation is certainly getting a lot of media coverage these days. You’ve been an expert in the field for over a decade. What do you think about all the articles that are out there now?

JM: Quite frankly, a lot of what’s out there is just garbage. So many people say that it’s [mindfulness meditation] about feeling your breath or doing deep breathing. And that’s just not it.

NV:  I hear that all the time too. So, if it’s not about breath, what is it?

JM: It’s just not that simple. The real power and richness [of mindfulness meditation] is that it’s a journey. … Take 10 minutes every day and just feel your breath. Don’t try to do deep breathing, just feel your breath. When the monkey mind chatter begins, and the mind takes a hike to your to-do list or an upcoming meeting, just gently re-direct it back to your breath without judgement.

NV: Well, I’ve been doing this for a few months now and I’m still trying to figure out exactly how this will help me.

JM: It’s in the re-direction of your wandering thoughts back to your breath that starts the capacity to get us present—with our kids and our work colleagues. You’re going to be able to find what I call “the purposeful pause.”

NV: Ok, so this teaches me to later stop letting my mind wander, or check texts, or think about the next article I need to write, while I’m chatting with my children?

JM: Exactly. You learn to be present, and they notice. Just like colleagues or employees notice when they are truly being heard.

NV: That’s powerful. I’m sure so many of your clients from Fortune 500 companies may feel like they just don’t have time to sit and meditate. I know some single moms who feel like that too! What do you say to that?

JM: Fifteen years ago I was one of the only women to become an officer in my company (General Mills, Inc.) ever. I wasn’t a single mom, but I was certainly a working mom and understood the stress of juggling and the demands of keeping all the balls in the air. Who has time to meditate? … When I went on my first retreat [with General Mills] Jon Kabat-Zinn was my first teacher! (Insert laugh here). Jon created mindfulness stress reduction techniques! Anyway, on our first day he says, “we’re going to be practicing for an hour.” I about died! Now, I wish it could be for longer. But for most of us, finding 10 minutes a day, or even 5 minutes twice a day, is a great start. And, for those really busy executives, I tell them to find time while they do other things. You can meditate when you brush your teeth or when you’re in the shower.

NV: Okay, you’re going to have to explain how I can meditate while I brush my teeth. I always imagined that I need to sit on a cushion with my legs crossed and my hands facing upwards.

JM: I teach all levels. If someone thinks they are too busy, I suggest they find ways to make something, like brushing their teeth, a meditative experience. So, you focus your full attention to feeling the brush, tasting the toothpaste, listening to the sounds around you and you keep re-directing your thoughts back to the present moment when they wander.

NV: So you can do this anytime. I try to find 5 minutes in the shower in the morning, when my kiddos can’t reach me.

JM: Sure, the shower is a great place. I started saving money on conditioner costs by meditating in the shower! [Before utilizing mindfulness techniques] I used to have my whole 10 a.m. meeting in the shower with me! And as I was lost in my thoughts, I would forget that I already conditioned my hair and would condition it twice! Now, I clearly don’t do that.

NV: I imagine that this little example sort of crystalizes how being mindfulness, or finding moments to pause can help us in all areas of our life.

JM: Yes, exactly.

NV: Thanks SO much for your time! I’d love for my readers to also check out your article A Mindful Calendar—as executives and stay-at-home moms a like—can benefit from this organizational article. Thanks again for your time and your valuable contribution to our world.

A related story of interest: The Power of NOT Holding It All (Together)

Avoiding Narcissists: Top NV Post

I launched Navigating Vita a little more than a year ago and, like with any anniversary, I’ve been looking back on this time in my life. In my effort to learn what resonates with my readers, I’ve also taken note of which posts are read more than others. If the most popular blog posts are any indicator—finding love and having a good laugh top your list. (And they top mine, too!) So it is with little surprise that one of my first written posts: How NOT to Date a Narcissist remains the all-time favorite: the most searched, read and commented on NV blog post.

Bloggers, by nature, delve into the world of self reflection. And we all can be a bit self absorbed at times, right? But someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)  has a condition that Webster defines as “having an inability to show empathy.” The Mayo Clinic site defines those with NPD as believing “that they’re superior to others and have little regard for other people’s feelings.” Their sense of entitlement can manifest into a myriad of behaviors that can be abusive both emotionally and/or physically.

If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a destructive narcissist and are back out in the dating world—than I don’t need to tell you that your *top* priority is to avoid falling for another one at all costs. The charming and chameleon qualities of narcissists easily fool people for months—sometimes longer. Wouldn’t it be easier to to end the relationship before you get sucked in and spit out? With that in mind, I sought help from an expert who could point out telltale signs many narcissists exhibit, even in the beginning phase of dating. Debra Cucci, MFT has become somewhat of an expert on this topic as she consults families and runs a workshop in Los Angeles to help women make better choices when dating. Her advice is eye-opening! Finally, there is a concrete list of characteristics that many charming narcissists share—warning signs to take note of during the first few dates. As we all know, Narcissists aren’t gender specific! This article will help anyone avoid falling for this destructive personality who could likely wreck havoc in your life and those of your children.

And after that heavy subject, I’m happy to report that my 2nd most popular post is light as air: 25 Reasons to LOVE Being a Single Mom. I LOVE this silly tongue-in-cheek article that is a compilation of input from *many* single moms out there. Sometimes life is just too hard. The weight of all that is dragging you down can just be exhausting and talking about it doesn’t always make things feel better, does it? In my effort to find how to fill my glass half-full, I started this list and reached out to more than 25 other single moms to see what they’re thankful for. Making this list not only filled my glass half-way—it over-flowed! Laughter truly is the best medicine. Here’s a post guaranteed to cheer you up, put a new spin on your situation—or at least give you a much-needed laugh!

Chiming in at # 3: is Relationship Guru Dr. Pat Allen Sets Me Straight! Also another early blog post. I reached out to Pat Allen, Ph.D., world-renown relationship therapist; best selling author (Getting to I Do) and the resident sex expert on TV’s  Millionaire Matchmaker. Since I was gingerly venturing out into the dating world, after a heartbreak, I thought, who better to help me (and other separated and divorced women) but the top expert herself! She provides simple advice to find Mister Right—and if you’re anything like me, you may just be surprised by how many wrong steps were taken in your search!

For those interested in NV’s top 10 stories, I’ve enclosed a quick run down below. What surprised me the most, when looking at this list, is that the majority of top posts include interviews with experts. I’m gratified that my network as a journalist has helped me reach out and garner interviews with those amazingly talented experts who can really help us in our efforts to find Mr. Right; show our kids love and compassion;  become better parents; examine infidelity; breathe through our anger; show compassion to others who are struggling; and find laughter in the every day. Thanks for reading and being on this journey with me.

Navigating Vita’s Top Ten Posts of All Time:

1. How NOT To Date a Narcissist

2. 25 Reasons to LOVE Being a Single Mom

3. Relationship Guru Dr. Pat Allen Sets Me Straight!

4. Connect With Your Children While They Sleep

5. Top 5 Mistakes Divorcing Parents Make

6. Is Cheating The Only “Rational Choice” for Married Men?

7.Newt Gingrich in Tuscany!

8. The Power of NOT Holding It All (together)

9. An Italian Mom’s Fight To Save Her Daughter

10. Domestic Violence During Divorce: Not a Rarity

Loving Counts

My prophetic little four-year-old said to me tonight: “Loving counts mommy.”

We had been hanging pictures up. I turned and looked at him. I actually blinked as I took in the simple notion, then replied: “Yes, it certainly does.”

What an incredible little man.

Sometimes it’s as simple as that. What counts in your life? Think about it.

What do you love most?

Your family? Your God? Your Work?

Does it show?

For me, love is essential. It is essential in every aspect of my life. My boys are everything to me. But I wonder if they always feel that from me. Saying that I love them is one thing. Showing them is quite another.

For a child, I wonder what defines love? It certainly has to be about more than saying ‘I Love You’ or buying cool toys. Kids always seem to cut right to the chase. They know who they can depend upon. They know who is kind. They respond to those who play with them, acknowledge them, listen to them, encourage them, take care of them, accept them.

I know that my two boys are the most appreciative when I’m present with them. They know when it’s time to turn off the computer or cell phone and just be with them.

Being present, however, is much harder than it sounds. The other day I had an insane tax deadline. I was up until 2 a.m. working, slept for three hours, and was back at it. At 7 a.m., as I was finishing my expense spreadsheet, my little guy comes into my room and starts to climb into bed. He ruffles my sheets and starts to crumple some papers and receipts. I yelled upstairs to my older son to take him up and put on Sesame Street. As he padded out of my room, I instantly felt remorse. If I had finished this project earlier, I wouldn’t have sent him away and just enjoyed some cuddle time.

Clearly, ‘loving’ requires a bit of organization and balance so that work doesn’t intrude on important quality time at home.

‘Being present’, according to mindfulness experts, also requires that you let go of anxieties and fears that distract you and pull you out of the moment. If you have deadlines looming, projects that need to be carried out, are going through a divorce or are facing health or personal challenges—it’s incredibly hard to clear worries from your mind and just listen to or play with your children, isn’t it? (For a great article about mindfulness, check out What Really Helps Make Mindfulness Work by Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.)

I’m still finding my way and started meditating on a regular basis just this past year. I’ve done yoga for years and find that it helps me clear my mind. The physical exertion and mental focus on intentions and goals allows me to let go of issues and anxieties that may whirl in my mind. I find that afterwards my mental slate is clear and I’m much more focused and calm that evening with the boys. I’m still a work in progress, clearly.

While I’m still honing mindfulness techniques, I have learned that it’s incredibly hard NOT to live in the moment when spending time with a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease. I flew to North Carolina last week to visit my mother who is struggling in what seems to be the final phase of the disease. She didn’t know who I was. She can barely talk or walk. I think she just thought of me as a friendly face. I had to force myself to always smile, relax, and think about what she needed or what would reassure her when visiting. I knew after each visit that she wouldn’t remember I had been there the next day. But I reminded myself that in the moments that I held her hand, or showed her pictures, or just talked with her about various things, that it mattered. It counted. Those moments were hard for me, but they brought her a bit of happiness—even if fleeting. And she deserves that.

On the last day I spent with her—on the day that I likely said my goodbye—my mom was ‘playing’ bingo with other residents. The woman who ran the game would call out the letter and number combinations. My mother, who doesn’t recognize her numbers or letters anymore, would put a marker on any letter/number combination. She apparently still recognized that four in a row allowed her to win—so she just kept putting four in a row. B-6 might be called, but she’d put her acorn on C-12, right beside another marker. I knew not to correct her.

“Wow, mom, you won again!” I’d say with a laugh.

She’d just smile. One time she looked at me inquisitively and said slowly, “I. Like. You.”

That was a big accomplishment as she typically speaks with just one word.

I replied “Well, I Love you.”

She looked at me like I was a bit crazy, giving me a one-over glance.

Later in the day, I went through her sweaters and found one that still fit. As I was putting it on her, she quickly smiled. It was as if she had been shaken and her eyes got wide with acknowledgment. She leaned into me and said, “Love.” I put my forehead to hers and a moment later she said “You.”

As I settled into my seat on my first plane during my trek back to California, I thought that it may be a long time before I got the chance to see mom again. It’s hard to fly back with the two boys due to expense. I know if I was closer I could do more, visit more. It was such a gift to hear her say those words. And in that moment, I know she meant it. In that flash of recognition, she knew who I was. It might have only lasted a second for her—but for me, it counted.

Even when brief and fleeting, loving counts most of all.