So I have been dreaming of going to this villa in Greece for F O U R years. I decided to plan a yoga & writer’s retreat here for 2018 and then got the surprise of my life: this villa estate on Evia, which is usually booked a year in advance, had a cancellation and opening THIS AUGUST. After calling a few of my yoga & writer friends who said hell yes, I booked it.
Kinda crazy. But hey, life is meant to be lived. And when I get the road signs, the green lights, the serendipitous moments, I pay attention. In last night’s yoga class with beautiful yogis I’ve been teaching for 3 years, two more signed on. One sent me this beautiful text saying:
“After my mother died, I vowed I would travel more but can’t seem to ever get away from work. I’m BEYOND excited and feel so blessed to have this trip of a lifetime! I cried last night with joy.”
Isn’t that amazing? It seems that there are quite a few of us going on this trip who have dealt with the pain of grief or health issues this year and need some FUN and PEACE.
This villa is quirky, unique, gorgeous and hand-crafted. It is a living story, and you know how much I love stories. Once I heard how it came to existence, I was hooked. The owner’s father was a British shipping executive with a hobby in building and carpentry. He discovered this island, that is an hour ferry ride from Athens, and literally bought a huge chunk of it. Then he built three buildings that have adjoining outside spaces with long tables for his friends to come and spend weeks together.
The man loved food and entertaining and children. His daughter almost had to parcel up the estate or sell it outright once the economy started to tank. Instead, she decided to rent it out to keep it in the family. I’m so happy she did! It’s perfect for entertaining and large dinners and then wandering solo, exploring and time alone. If kids, or big kids come, there is a lot to do! There is a basketball & tennis court, rope swing, kayaks and hiking trails down to the ocean. Every room has its own entrance, bathroom and view of the sea. Of course there is an infinity pool, jacuzzi and Turkish steam bath.
And because it is so remote, the estate comes with a driver and a cook.
The driver can take people to the other side of the island that has bars and populated beaches, or to the ferry to go to Athens for sight seeing. The cook will make amazing, authentic Greek dishes every evening. And the price is right. With the Greek economy the way it is, this villa retreat is much cheaper than going to Palm Springs—well, without the airfare! (but that’s not bad right now either!) So come join us. Send me a note and I’ll give you the full details as we only have 4 spots left. There will be yin & beginner flow yoga daily, 3 writer workshops that you can attend, or not. Every thing is optional so there is plenty of time for writing, hiking, swimming, reading, doing nothing, or perhaps sinking into a tub with a view that helps you dream BIG dreams. 🙂
I am a yoga teacher trained in therapeutics. I’ve also been a journalist, editor and writer since I was 18 years old. Lets just say that’s a long time now! I find yoga, especially the ujjayi breath, essential to clear my head. It wipes the junk out, blows away the spider web of tangled thoughts or the distractions holding me back—looping thoughts I may cling to in order to NOT focus. Yoga, the sweat, work out and breath, helps me clear my mind, be more present, less fearful and therefore, better focused to write my books, or write blog posts or magazine articles. I’ve been working at a hospital in Los Angeles for three years now. Not everyone can experience the clearing power of a yoga work out. Some are stuck in chairs or attached to machines. I created a technique that marries deep yogic breathing with writing exercises geared to clear out unconscious stories and looping fears that can hold people back. When I work with cancer support groups, not only do we breathe deeply and do a little chair yoga and meditation—we write. The power of the writing exercises can not be over-stated. It is especially healing for post traumatic stress. I know. As someone who has experienced PTSD from violence and abandonment, I know how serious and debilitating it can be. Those who’ve experienced trauma can’t just ‘get over it.’ And my last article for TUT: “Five Ways You May be Addicted to Your Wounds” struck a chord within therapy circles. I received feedback such as you can’t just ignore trauma or PTSD. I agree. No you can’t. My previous article was written for those who lick their wounds for years after therapy and support group help, in order to garner sympathy, stay stuck, not have to work hard or to try to make others responsible for their own well-being. It wasn’t for the those who have just experienced trauma or who have just recovered memories of trauma. In my experience, finding a good therapist and a support group can be life saving. Yoga, meditation, even just walking weekly with a friend, are also incredibly healing. Take it slow.
The good news is that over time, you can start again. You can re-write your life. Your past doesn’t define you. The way we interpret our life stories is everything. And this lives in our subconscious. These writing exercises are designed for those who may be stuck, such as dating men who continue to cheat. Or for those who experienced trauma years ago, yet never healed, because the spin they put upon the life experience is limiting. If you think you are resilient—you are. If you think you learned a valuable lesson and have moved on—you have. The stories we tell ourselves about our past experiences have a tremendous impact on our future. But often, we aren’t even aware of what we tell ourselves, as it’s subtle. It’s mutted. Sometimes it isn’t even words, so much as knee jerk reactions and attitudes we adopt to skew our world view and lower our vibrations.
So even after years of therapy, and even after an acute awareness of what you have been through and why you do what you do—you may still subconsciously be telling yourself negative stories. Intellectually you may know that you are safe, or that all men don’t hit or cheat, or that you can get another job, or that you are competent, or that you can lose the weight…Yet, subconsciously, you may be telling yourself a stream of fearful thoughts that support a very limited and negative outlook, not allowing you to live your best life. Your anxious thoughts may also be flooding your body with cortisol, the stress hormone that can cause a host of dis-ease. Here are a few examples from my hospital work: someone lost a family member in a car accident 20 years ago and refuses to drive. Ever. She watches news every night. She needs to control everything and everyone in her life. She has such high anxiety that she develops debilitating fear over doing anything new or leaving her house. Her subconscious mind tells her the world can’t be trusted. The world isn’t a safe place. Her health declines. She gains weight. She isolates. She drinks too much coffee. She doesn’t sleep well. Her blood pressure rises. She began to have irregular heart beats. Spots on her skin developed. She developed another cyst. When she started chair yoga (her doctor recommended it and then arranged for transportation), she said her life was over. Our writing exercises reveal her unconscious thought patterns: “It’s scary out there. I’m not safe. People can’t be trusted. I always get sick. I wish I could die.” Once I had her negative thoughts, I created positive affirmations for her to say daily in the mirror and to write daily in her journal that would spin the stories: “I am healthy. I trust the Universe is unfolding exactly as it is meant to. All is well in my life. Joy flows through me with every breath. I love my life. I am safe wherever I go.”
A private yoga client is recovering from the trauma of infidelity. She begins to tell herself “all men cheat.” Every man who she goes out with she becomes extremely suspicious of and begins snooping, reading texts and emails—even when the man has done nothing to merit such snooping. She creates the vibration that attracts another cheating or lying event. Her last boyfriend begins to lie to her about being available for dates and starts seeing a woman at the office. Writing exercises reveal her internal dialogue: “Of course! All men cheat. See? This is what the Universe wants for me. Fucking Universe. Look fat women in my neighborhood are married 20 years, yet I can’t find a good man to date. Others have love, I see it all around me, I’m not lovable. I’m not deserving.” Her mirror & written affirmations: “I am deserving. I love you. I approve of myself and deserve faithful love. I love you, I really love you. I trust the Universe has my back.”
Re-writing your life stories, the spin we put on them, our unconscious beliefs we keep telling ourselves, can be transformational. First, you have to discover what your stories are. From there, you re-spin them. Here are some writing exercises that I give my yoga clients who are going through trauma such as abuse, abandonment, divorce, cancer…I know from my own experience, these are eye-opening and can help you move past the old stories you tell yourself—and into the future you want.
Find a comfortable spot, a couch, bed, favorite chair. Close your eyes. Rest your hands loosely in your lap. Have a pad of paper and pen near by. Take a deep breath through you nose and fill your lungs completely. Try to count to five or six. Hold it at the top for as long as you feel comfortable, and then slowly let it go through your nose, making a slight vibrational sound in the base of your throat. This is ujjayi breath that calms your central nervous system. It make the sound of the ocean in your ears, or like you are trying to fog up a mirror with your mouth closed. Do this breath five times. Yes, five times. Open your eyes, pick up the pen or pencil with your opposite, non-dominant hand. Put it in position on the paper. Ask yourself, ‘What am I scared of?” (Another good one is: I Believe…) Allow yourself to write four to five things (first things that come up), with the hand you do not normally write with.The next day, do the same as above but ask yourself “What Do I need to Bring into my Life?” Then, allow yourself you write with your non-dominate hand four to five things. I do this every year. My last one I put up on my bulletin board. In scratchy big letters are the words: Strength. Determination. Hard Work. Every Day.
Do your five ujjayi breaths. Set your phone alarm to two minutes. Pick up a pen and place it on the paper. Close your eyes. Write without lifting your pen. Just write anything that comes to mind. Let it flow continuously. This is a stream of consciousness exercise where you literally dump out all the “stuff” in your head. This is especially effective for those who can not exercise, or who may be suffering from an illness.I do it with them and it’s amazing what dumps out onto the page. Fears. Daily negative messages. Worries. Triggers. Distractions. Obsessive worries or compulsions. Targets of control. After this exercise, take a long walk if possible, breathing deeply. If walking is out of the questions, breath deeply and take a break, have someone push you in a wheel chair for instance. Upon return, turn the page in your journal and answer the following question: “If I died tomorrow, I would most regret not doing ________.
After doing both of the above exercises, I want you to write mirror and journal affirmations that you WILL DO daily for a month, at a minimum. Forty days is optimal. Write an affirmation that confirms the opposite of your negative belief. If you are afraid you will get sick again, your affirmation is: “All is well. I am healthy. My life is unfolding exactly as it meant to.”
If you need help identifying affirmations for you, I strongly suggest buying Louise Hay’s classic book: Heal Your Body. Louise Hay also has awesome apps for healing and free affirmations here: With Love & Light ~ Laura xo
Join me for basic yoga classes Fridays at 9 a.m. just south of the Neptune Lifeguard Tower, @ Hermosa/Manhattan Beach border: Sept. 18 – Dec. 18, 2015. Suggested donation: $10, but ALL are welcome!
There is nothing better than listening to the steady crash of the ocean, feeling the pacific breeze in your hair, watching a few surfers or dolphins float by as you flow, sweat, and breathe deeply into intentions that ignite your soul. What a way to start off the weekend too?! Lets beat the heat together. All that is needed is your yoga mat. These are basic yoga classes, for all levels of fitness, that will still ignite your heart, strengthen your body, increase balance, aid in prevention of injuries and just make you feel GOOD. It’s my happy pill. After we sweat and flow, we’ll lay in savasana, listening to the ocean, allowing our minds to find stillness so we can listen to our hearts, our inner voice that is never critical, never negative—allowing you to connect to your dreams, to your best self, to visualize your unlimited potential. That’s the magic of yoga. And a backdrop of the gorgeous Pacific ain’t too shabby. So, Join Me!
I’ll leave you with a powerful excerpt / affirmation from Louise Hay, who has been critical in my own journey to fitness and self love. This summer I spent a few weeks solo in Barcelona and read from her book You Can Heal Your Life every day as I did yoga from my rooftop with views of the Mediterranean Sea. The healing, the joy, the inspiration was incredible and hard to explain—some things in life must be felt to be understood, even for this writer! I hope to see you soon. Shoot me a message with any questions. Until then, have a beautiful week. Namaste. xo
In the infinity of life where I am,
All is perfect, whole, and complete.
I live in harmony and balance with everyone I know.
Deep at the center of my being, there is an infinite well of love.
I now allow this love to flow to the surface.
It fills my heart, my body, my mind, my consciousness,
my very being, and radiates out from me in all directions
and returns to me multiplied.
The more love I use and give, the more I have to give.
The supply is endless.
The use of love makes me feel good;
it is an expression of my inner joy. I love myself;
therefore, I take loving care of my body.
I lovingly feed it nourishing foods and beverages,
I lovingly groom it and dress it, and my body lovingly
Responds to me with vibrant health and energy.
I love myself; therefore, I provide for myself a comfortable home,
One that fills all my needs and is a pleasure to be in.
I fill the rooms with the vibration of love
so that all who enter, myself included, will feel this love
and be nourished by it.
I love myself; therefore, I work at a job I truly enjoy doing.
One that uses my creative talents and abilities,
working with and for people I love and who love me,
and earning a good income.
I love myself; therefore, I behave and think in a loving way
to all people for I know that which I give out
returns to me multiplied.
I only attract loving people in my world,
for they are a mirror of what I am.
I love myself; therefore, I forgive and totally release the past
and all past experiences, and I am free.
I love myself; therefore, I live totally for the now,
experiencing each moment as good and knowing that my future
is bright and joyous and secure,
for I am a beloved child of the Universe,
and the Universe lovingly takes care of me
now and forever more. All is well in my world.
AloneTogether: Single Moms Support Group (This is a closed group, please say you found their site from me, Laura Roe Stevens, when requesting to join.)
The UCLA Family Commons: http://www.uclacommons.com/
Single Parent Housing: www.SPAOA.org
Pell Grants For Mothers: PellGrants.ClassesAndCareers.com