Tag Archives: Yoga

Digging into Roots to Clear the Throat Chakra

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Who knew I’d need to dig deeper into my roots, my past, in order to clear the throat chakra? I naively thought that I’d “let go” of my upbringing and relationship baggage. I mean, I did part of the Course in Miracles. I prayed for 21 days for those who had hurt, neglected, ignored, betrayed, disrespected me, etc. I lit a candle and imagined their higher selves healing and vibrant and I said ‘I forgive you’ for 21 days. So, I thought that I had cleared my root chakra, let go of the past, and was daily clearing all chakras through my yoga practice, while speaking my truth, clearing my throat chakra, through my writing. Not quite. I had more digging to do.

Many say the past is the past, stop obsessing. I get it. And it is. Except when it isn’t. When we zoom forward in warp speed, ignoring our past, acting as if it’s all good and we don’t deal with it, clear it, truly forgive, find courage to move past fears to manifest a healthier future, then the Universe has a way of putting people and events in front of us to relive the feelings of whatever we need to feel and work through, (similar to what we experienced before), in order to truly step up, face it, confront it and move beyond it.

Does that make sense? I’ll be more clear. If someone was rarely heard or seen or allowed to have their feelings as a child, they will likely grow up into an adult with blockages in their throat chakra. This fifth chakra is about truth: speaking your truth clearly, succinctly with kindness, feeling safe to be seen and heard at all times, and knowing that it is safe to feel what you feel, to need what you need, and to set healthy boundaries with those aren’t supportive or uplifting. A child who was scolded when trying to express feelings, or who was made fun of when speaking up, or yelled at when trying to speak up, will develop a throat chakra imbalance as an adult. (And it’s worse for those who experienced physical abuse as a child and then weren’t allowed to express sorrow/anger openly, or distance themselves from abusive adults afterwards.) These imbalances can manifest in different ways in adults. Experts say typically most men may not express their emotions easily, may steer clear from confrontation or may not be able to comfort loved ones in need or be truly intimate. Women may go through periods where they don’t talk, only to find their voice, but talk on an on about things that don’t get to the heart of the matter. They can become passive aggressive and rarely find courage to tell others how they feel, what they need succinctly, or ask for that raise, or the help they need. Their issue isn’t always from a sense of not feeling worthy, it can be lingering PTSD,  literally a knee-jerk withdrawl, from fear of speaking up due to irrational fear of abusive consequences. Women with throat chakra blockages typically gossip instead of being forthcoming or direct with individuals. Men may shy away from all communication and find means to avoid uncomfortable feelings. Both men and women may seek habits or addictions to ‘not feel’ emotions, or they try to avoid any situations that aren’t superficially happy. When confronted, they may lash out, say cruel things, or worse, become physically abusive, mirroring their childhood. Men, especially, shy away from true intimacy, even though they crave it and need it. Women may disregard healthy men for those who are emotionally unavailable—triggering their need to make that man love them, see them, hear them—subconsciously trying to heal their childhood unmet need. Most with throat chakra imbalances pretend everything is ok. They lie to themselves or others. It’s all good. They may stay in stale or abusive relationships for fear of speaking up. They may volunteer too much, exhausting themselves. They may snap at their children too much, not respecting their children’s individuality as it threatens their lack of individuality. They may stay in jobs that don’t pay well or provide advancement, for fear of asking for more. All pictures on Facebook are positive and bubbly and happy. Both men and women who need to clear their throat chakras avoid situations or people who are living their truth, because it mirrors that they are not.

Phew, that’s a lot. And it manifests in a host of dis-eases from thyroid imbalances, fatigue, sleep deprivation, adrenal stress, asthma, addiction and depression, according to experts. The good news is that it can be cleared. Yoga; deep breathing; guided meditation on forgiveness and letting go; writing to confront those in the past; chanting; diet changes, therapy are all ways.

I discovered my lingering imbalance over this past month that I’ve been in an intense hot yoga teacher training that has required me taking two classes a day, while also training, and teaching my other classes. The heat is a metaphor for all that is uncomfortable in life. Breathing deeply to stay calm and out of panic is crucial for enduring hot yoga. The mirrors force embracing the truth and acceptance for yourself, exactly as you are. The sweat is the manifestation of letting go all that doesn’t serve you. Hot yoga changes a person from the inside out, unlike all other forms of yoga. It is impossible to drink alcohol heavily, chug coffee, eat heavy foods or abuse any substances and withstand 105 degree classes successfully. The body no longer craves comfort food either. And a community builds with others who are not perfect physically, yet come together to burn off stress and find stillness. From the beginning of time, cultures have sought out heated dens or saunas for healing, burning off demons and shedding what doesn’t serve. There is no ability to pretend. There is no where to hide. Sweat falls down faces with no make up and the body can no longer be covered by much clothing as it weighs you down in the heat.

During the past 5 weeks, many things have bubbled up into my throat chakra, especially during camel poses and other back bends, in the heat. I’ve realized that it’s hard for me to let go of those who trigger my upbringing. For instance, I’ve dated someone off an on for years who says he loves me, but then goes through periods where he ignores me or disregards my feelings. It’s as if the Universe put this person in front of me, like a soul mate to force growth, so that I can speak up, since I wasn’t able to speak up as a child. And perhaps this person has an imbalance, or a fear of intimacy or a hard time dealing with uncomfortable feelings, or just isn’t available for a deeper, fulfilling relationship? Regardless of why it isn’t working, instead of letting go, my inclination has been to understand before being understood and to reach out—only to relive a passionate connection that is followed with distance and neglect. It results in time and time again of feeling unworthy, small and unloved. Now I see it as a way for me to speak my truth, state my needs to feel safe, loved and comforted during hard times—not just loved during happy, fun times—and to LET GO with love. There is no reason to hold on, to struggle, to try to force being seen or heard. Letting go, allows space for reflection and  space for the right person to float in. It sounds easy, but throat chakra imbalances from childhood neglect, makes it psychologically hard to do. The balanced throat chakra knows when to speak up and when to stay silent and let go. But it requires diving back into the roots, feeling to heal the pain, so the cycle can stop.

The power of yoga. The power of breath. The power of meditation. The awesome power of heat. The power of writing. The power of speaking and living truth.

We are all spiritual beings living this physical existence. Everyone in our life is meant to be there. Some karmically choose us, with so much love, to propel us further. It’s a trip to embrace that idea: that those who hurt us in this lifetime, may actually be the ones who love us the most and push us closer to our truth and purpose.

Love & Light  ~

Laura x

Laura

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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

Finding Light Within Loss

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Photo by RickyLesser.com

It’s nearly impossible to find the light, any light, when lost and in pain. Any platitude will ring untrue, like a well-intentioned stranger who says, “It’s God’s plan, dear,” or “Let Go & Let God.” Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is really mis-understood. What a person ‘intellectually’ and ‘spiritually’ understands, is not felt within the body of someone who has been traumatized. Ask any veteran. Ask any survivor of horrific abuse. It leaves a water mark that I believe melts into our muscles and settles into the deep subconscious within our bones that whispers in another language—but one that triggers our insecurity, our doubt, our sense of not belonging, our sense of not being enough. One yoga class, one therapy session, one confession, one psychic healer isn’t going to fix it. Post traumatic stress is something triggered by the body, from something buried deep within. And sometimes, we aren’t even cognizant of what that is, if it’s been blocked out.

Think of the person who ducks every time she hears a car backfire because she was a young child in a war-torn area where her parents were shot. Her heart is racing, palms sweating, and she might manically race to get away from the noise—to the point of running into the line of cars. She isn’t conscious of why she is fleeing, but the noise has triggered a buried memory that she never processed fully and her body is forcing her to feel the fear, feel the anxiety, feel the terror. The problem with PTSD is that, if not treated, this flight or fight mechanism repeats over and over until a sane person is no longer sane. The woman who has been attacked, for instance, may try to shake it off. Years later, she may have a full-blown panic attack in a parking garage when her car door won’t open. Her body, reliving a time when someone grabbed her, will start an internal revolt until she is bent over, throwing up, or passes out. This same woman may begin to suddenly leave restaurants or night clubs if her friends don’t return from the bathrooms on time because her heart is racing and she can’t look other men in the eyes. Her body is forcing her to feel—but it isn’t from a healthy sense of intuition. It’s from blocked pain that has nothing to do with the reality of the present moment.

No one likes to feel pain, or relive pain. Some people may have even disassociated with what they were going through, like a child who was abused, in order to survive. Years later, she may not understand why she won’t allow men to touch her. Again, it’s the body’s memory. It’s the body echoing out through our senses to force us to feel, in order to heal. But feeling sudden panic and reactivity, spurs insanity.

That person becomes paranoid, makes bad decisions, is untrusting and desperately seeks a way to end the torture—which can make alcohol, or any escape, alluring. When trying to kick the escape habits, that person can start to isolate, become severely depressed or even suicidal.

When we can grow compassion for someone suffering from PTSD, then we can foster forgiveness for whatever escapes that person sought out—even those that caused our own suffering. Because it isn’t personal. He or she was in severe pain they couldn’t endure anymore. Period. End of story.  It wasn’t about you or me. And they didn’t mean to hurt us.

For 5 months I’ve lived every day wondering if my sister was still alive. It’s been excruciating. We both lost our mother last May and one of the last things I remember her saying at our mother’s funeral is how mom always reminded her: “there’s someone for everyone dear.” The someone my sister found hurt her badly, beyond comprehension. And she just got lost in the trauma. I won’t go into the details.

Two weeks ago I was convinced my sister had died. I grieved the loss. I cried so hard. But I also remembered her light. It’s so bright. It shines all over my house in every room with some bizarre trinket, picture or perfect gift, (usually an exotic frog of some sort, long story) that she has given me over the years. I recalled the way she played piano and sang. How rebellious and creative and genius she was. How compassionate she was: always rescuing animals and strays of any kind, lol. After two days of grieving, I found out she was alive! And I spoke with her for the first time in nearly 5 months too. She’s now getting the treatment she desperately needs.

She may think that she’s lost everything, but she hasn’t. Her eternal light is burning so bright. Her future can actually be strengthened from this, if she lets it. As a therapist, she’ll be able to help even more people, especially those going through PTSD, because she’s been there. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing.

Those who blame, shame, or ridicule anyone who has lost their way, due to PTSD, are heartless bullies. Compassion requires that we all take a moment to think about what someone else has gone through—to imagine their pain, their anxiety, their stress—and to think about ways to extend a hand, lighten their load, lessen their pain. Once we do this, even if it is a prayer we say, a candle we light, or a note we send saying we are thinking of that person, we return to love.

Compassion always returns me back to the amazing power of love. I can no longer stay mad at you, if I love you. If I love you, and realize that nothing you did was intentional to hurt me, than I can forgive you and fill my heart with love and acknowledge your light. Whenever we are back in that space of love, that space of light, there is no room for the ego or blaming or shaming or criticizing or ridiculing. And in that light, we are one, we are equal.

This experience, like others when I’ve lost loved ones or friends from sudden tragedies, reminds me of how fragile we all are. Even so, we all have an eternal light with lifetimes of knowledge and grace within us. If we allow ourselves to feel the pain, bless it, acknowledge it, enter stillness, and risk asking for help when we need it, we can actually feel our light as bright as the sun.

May we all find our way to loving each other, as the sun loves the Earth, without asking for anything in return, except for the blossoming of our potential, like wild flowers on a hillside.

With so much love and gratitude,

Laura x

He Left You, Don’t Abandon You, Too

 

This post is for the single mom who wrote to me privately after reading my post Being Worth The Effort. Our dialogue broke my heart. When you wrote: “I’ll never feel worthy of a man’s love,” I could tell that your mind was made up. There was nothing I could say to reach into that depth of pain and change your mind. Platitudes don’t work.

The pain that a woman feels after being cheated on and abandoned with little children to take care of is unbearable. It sinks deep into your bones. And it’s very hard to come out from this feeling positive and trusting and hopeful—or worthy of a good life. But it is possible. And you’re on the right track. I know because you are feeling it. The women who run from it, point fingers, blame, drink a lot, date a lot, are masking the pain. And there’s no shame. We all do what we can to survive. You are going to get through this.

I don’t have all the answers. I know what worked, and didn’t work,  for me. And I want to share this as the club we are in, the full-time single mom’s club, is one that no one should comment on unless they have membership. To say our lives are hard, is an understatement. To say our lives have more meaning than most is also an understatement. To that end, I focus. I am the rock for my kids. I, like you, am the one who cooks, cleans, shuffles back and forth to school & practices and who has very little social life because of a lack of support. We are the ones going solo to games, celebrations, helping with homework, staying up all night when they are sick. We have no weekends off, unless there is help from family. Sometimes family isn’t always uplifting help either. We are bombarded with guilt and exhaustion and loneliness.

But please promise me that you will never, EVER, say you are not worthy of a man’s love again. What your husband said to you as he was leaving shows his level of consciousness. Shame on him. Don’t let what he did—or what he said to justify what he did—eat away at your soul. It’s easier said then done. I know. This is also a club whose membership is one that few want admittance to. But it’s our journey. And when you come out on the other side, I hope you’ll feel as lucky and as hopeful as I do today.

With that said, I know how painful it is, especially with really little children. I get it. You are tired. You are lonely. But you are also so very special and strong. Your children love you endlessly. They are safe because of you. They see the world with love and peace because of you. Their father, if he shows back up in any way, will still be the one who gave them up, who left, who put another woman or selfish needs above them. YOU, are showing them that they are more important than anything in this Universe. Is there anything more precious than that?

Intellectually you get that, I know. But when you’re in the trenches and exhausted and sleep deprived, it’s hard for the message to sink in. Just keep going. Your children are babies. It’s hard to garner a really good perspective when feeling alone, abandoned and exhausted. I so remember those days. I don’t like to think about them anymore. But I will share them for YOU. I will share them because 7 years ago I was where you are now and am in such a better place today. I, too, had nights when I was up and down with a baby alone. I recall sobbing into my pillow while breastfeeding and praying my older child wouldn’t hear. I had no idea how I would make it. Who to trust. When my ex left he said horrible things to me, like I wasn’t enough. When he left, we had an 8 month old and a devastated 7 year old. The things he called me to justify what he did, aren’t suitable for this forum. But they ate at my soul. Between exhaustion, depression and little sleep, after a year, I nearly broke down. I began having panic attacks. I fell down on a city street with the baby in a bjorn. No one helped me up. I remember seeing stars on the walk home and thinking how badly I wanted to call my mom, then riddled with Alzheimer’s. I had never felt more alone. I didn’t want to ask for help or tell anyone, because I feared it would sound like I was having a pity party.

When I went back to work, my baby, now 2, kept getting sick, three emergency room visits within a year. (I found out later it was due to toxic mold in our house.) I was at my wits end. I was up all night. My first boyfriend post separation was jealous of my time with the kids and with work and the pressure nearly killed me. He urged me to quit my job due to my stress and health, but was overly involved and threatening about it, suggesting he might even cheat from lack of seeing me. It triggered my need not to let things fall apart. The needless guilt I carried over for not ‘being enough’ for my husband was projected onto this man unconsciously, and I put him first and resigned from a job. I wasn’t stable due to the lack of sleep and from not taking enough time to heal before I started dating. I lost friends because of it. I apologized, but the damage was done. In the end, people who haven’t experienced this sort of trauma, and it is a kind of trauma, just can’t understand. Keep your head up and don’t try to make people understand. Here is a list of things that I feel strongly about, that helped me. Hopefully these will help you on this journey too:

  • Fake it till you make it.
  • Tell yourself your life is great when you wake up. Seriously, do it. “Thank you for an amazing life. Thank you for another day. Thank you for my babies. Thank you for this bed, this apartment”…these are what I used to say.
  • Smile every time you leave your house. Make it look easy until you start to feel like it is easy. People will wonder what your secret is. Let them. Don’t let them know you cried yourself to sleep. Don’t be ashamed of it, but just know you are moving forward. Smile like a Cheshire cat with a secret, because you DO have one. Your life is going to be great and on your terms, very soon.
  • Trust in the Universe. I know, it’s hard, but try it anyway.You have a journey and an important reason for being here. You are divine, eternal. Trust you will be OK.
  • Be patient with your kids and remember they are gifts from God. Count to 10 if they tantrum. Mine had colic. Put him in a swing or crib and take 10 deep breaths before coming back. This, too, shall pass.
  • Tell your children they are special. Tell them you love them, every, damn day.
  • Tell people how wonderful your children are, even on days when they have tantrums.
  • Write in a journal the funny things they do or say so you can give them to them when they are older.
  • Take a lot of pictures of the kids smiling, of you and the kids smiling.
  • Every time you smile, remember your smile is an awesome achievement! Your ex can’t take away your right to be happy. Wear your smile proudly.
  • Write in a gratitude journal every night, even if you only write: ‘I am grateful I ate dinner.’ It’ll snowball until you are bursting with gratitude.
  • Find a way to exercise and get out of your head. Even if you take the stairs at work, or buy an exercise video and do it in the morning or night. Maybe put the little ones in a stroller and run in the morning. Find a way to get endorphins flowing.
  • Swap babysitting with a friend.
  • Join a library and join a free reading group for the kids or for you! If they have a career group with your library, or speakers go, it’s free!
  • Start exploring every thing you liked to do before you had kids. Make a list and a dream board.
  •  Join a Meetup group for meditation or hiking or picnics with other single parents.
  • Join support groups, but limit your time in ones where parents are bashing their exes or wallowing in their stories without figuring out ways to improve their lives. You’ll get lost in their stories and their fear may linger into your day.
  • Don’t bash your ex EVER in front of the kids.
  • Avoid going out with friends who drink too much or talk smack about their exes in front of your kids.
  • Begin your own traditions. Kids love them.
  • Be super selective when you start to date. Avoid men who insinuate your children are in the way. Break it off with anyone who belittles you or drinks and is obnoxious in front of your children. Your children will ONLY see people being respectful to you from now on.
  • Find a spiritual practice. Whether it is  yoga (I know that’s expensive, but check out cheap online yoga or DVDs!), church, meditation, a positive therapy support group, etc. Find a way to surround yourself with messaging that you are enough.
  • Don’t tell your story to everyone. Many people won’t understand or will freak out about it. It’s human nature to want to point fingers, to find reasons to explain something. She must have done something. Or she wasn’t a good wife, etc. because then it assures them that they will never have to go through anything similar. I tried to talk with a friend who asked about my situation and she kept saying things like, “You must have had a clue you were in a bad marriage” or “There must have been signs that he wasn’t happy.” That conversation poured salt into my wounds and no, I hadn’t a clue and we were happier than most of our married friends. Go figure. So, be very careful who you talk with as the ‘talk’ may end up making you miserable. You don’t need it.
  • Remember, sometimes shit happens and it’s not a reflection on you. YOU are NOT to blame for your husband’s infidelity. AT ALL.You are both on your own journeys. You are worthy of love and of having a faithful husband. We can’t control what other people do, but we can control how we respond to them. Remind yourself of this during the divorce process as it gets worse sometimes before it gets better.
  • Get a weekly game plan. By Sunday you will be so exhausted you might cry when watching cartoons. How can you get a break? Is there a daycare at a church? Even if you sleep while they are in daycare an hour, it’s worth it! Do you have a supportive bff who could watch the kids for an hour while you sleep?
  • As you start to heal and find moments of happiness, strength and health, don’t get discouraged if some of your friends aren’t supportive or happy for you. It reflects their consciousness, fears or that they are stuck in the victim role. Some want to be miserable with others. Some want to have complaining buddies. Don’t go there. Just drift and say a prayer or light a candle for them. We ALL deserve to be happy, healthy and at peace.
  • Post the word RESPECT in all caps on your bathroom mirror. You have been through a lot. Respect yourself. Not many can do what you do with as much grace and love. I’ve seen CEOs & olympic athletes fall apart when their kids have tantrums. What you do is HARD.
  • It will get better. Life will become easier. Believe that.
  • The love and patience you show your children, will come back to you.
  • Your children will never, ever forget what you do for them. They are worth it and you are worth it.
  • No man will ever bring you happiness and a feeling of worth. Not completely. And That’s OK. Be happy anyway.
  • Breathe deeply every day and know you are getting closer to your best life, your best self.

 

 

With much Love & RESPECT,

Laura xo

How To Save Your Back @ Work

 

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As a veteran journalist, blogger, editor and budding author, I know a thing or two about what happens to a person’s low back and neck after sitting for hours on end. In fact, my back blew out four times before I finally found yoga. I recall lying on the floor moaning to my husband. I literally could not stand up. I had to take Motrin around the clock (and I HATE taking anything.) I was forced to take off a vital week of work. As the editor of a publication on deadline, I just couldn’t take that week off. So, I still found ways to work with my laptop by my head, my body prone on the floor, the phone on speaker by my ear. Ridiculous.

 

I am still a writer, but I am now also a therapeutic yoga teacher with 500 training hours. I still write for magazines and am writing my second novel, but I also teach yoga each week at Torrance Memorial Medical Center to those battling injuries and with corporate clients. I help people of all ages acquire better posture and alignment, while increasing flexibility, strength and balance. My yoga supports my writing. It’s a symbiotic relationship for my health and sanity! For instance, it is impossible to sit for long stretches without causing the hamstrings to tighten and begin to grip on the hip bones. If a person’s spine is, in any way, out of alignment, such as with one hip slightly higher than the other, a person can start to feel pinches in the low spine. To add insult to injury, anyone who sits in a hunched over fashion (and who doesn’t when bending over a computer?) compromises the important psoas muscle across the low back. Added strain builds as the spine compresses and arches in an unhealthy fashion. Work your way up from this hunched over the computer position. The shoulders are rounded in (kyphosis), causing the shoulder blades to curl and the rhomboid muscle that runs between the shoulder blades and down the spine, to harden and flatten. Years of this positioning now makes it hard to sit upright. It actually feels better to have a rounded back like a tortoise shell. It’s harder to sit up straight. And, the poor neck! With the 10 to 12 pounds of weight from the head leaning forward, the middle of the back of the neck begins to ache as well. Add stress, too much caffeine, mental pressure from difficult deadlines, and likely the muscles around the sides of the neck and tops of the shoulders are tight and vulnerable for additional injury. Does this sound familiar?

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Don’t fret! Luckily, the body is miraculous in its ability to heal. Watch my VIDEO INSTRUCTION showing a simple chair exercise that really helps! Do this chair cat/cow asana 5 times a day, for 5 reps each. Even if co-workers laugh, it’ll save your low back, stretch your neck and abdominals. If you add in deep breathing, you’ll significantly lower your stress and garner more clarity—allowing for a calmer perspective once you get home and hopefully, a better night’s sleep too! If you are facing a tight deadline and know you’ll be sitting for hours on end, I encourage you to watch my video and try this asana.

If you have more questions, get in touch. If you try this, get back to me and let me know how it feels! AND, if you’d like me to come into your corporate setting to offer more tips, or to teach a lunch hour restorative yoga class targeting low back, neck and wrist relief, please contact me for my rates. Have a beautiful day.

Holding the Reflection of Our Compassionate Light

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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.

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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. ((( ❤ )))

Making It, or Faking It? The Messy Journey to Authentic Healing

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Sometimes I wonder if I’m actually living authentically, as I strive to do, or am still people pleasing and rushing into the idea of forgiveness and acceptance. As a yogi, meditator, writer and single mom navigating this planet, I hear messages constantly that are meant to help in times of crisis. Sometimes these messages fall flat—as there is an underlying note of criticism. For instance, if I can’t forgive and forget instantly—does that mean I’m less evolved, or am letting others down? Does that imply my “energy or vibration” will attract more negative experiences if I can’t immediately accept that “everything is happening exactly as it is meant to, for my highest good?”

Why am I exploring these yogi and self help sentiments? Well, there’s nothing worse than a healer who just throws platitudes against the wall when someone is truly suffering. Since I’m now teaching students who are fighting cancers and living bravely with chronic pain and debilitating injuries, it’s critical that I dig deep and try to relate to their struggles. For that reason, I’m starting to re-examine how I deal with my own struggles. Five months ago I was hurt physically by someone I thought was my friend, and someone I thought I was in love with. In my attempt to heal emotionally, I rushed toward forgiveness and acceptance—instead of allowing myself to feel the pain: the emotional hurt of betrayal, sadness, anger. When I reached out to a few well-intentioned friends, I was told things like: “everything happens for a reason,” or “maybe you needed this to wake up and be done with bad boys,” or “you have to forgive in order to heal,” or “on some level you knew he was like that.”

And then later in yoga classes, I heard these platitudes over and over again: “everything that happens to you is for your highest good,” “you are responsible for everything and everyone in your reality,” “forgiveness is the attitude of the strong,” or “happiness can only exist in acceptance,” or “when you keep your vibrations high, you only attract those on a high vibration.” That one really cut to the core, as I know that I’m insanely kind, forgiving and giving. Too much so…

I almost gave up yoga during this time of healing. I ran a lot to very loud music in my ears. I biked so hard I thought my chicken legs would explode. I also immediately forgave the person who hurt me and then, when I started having flash backs, I wrote a scathing letter crucifying this person’s character.

It’s the perfect example of why no one should rush into forgiveness without working through feelings—without recognizing them and honoring their soul. It’s okay to be damn angry when someone treats me like crap. Who deserves that? And it’s also okay to not understand what the lessons are in the experience right away. I try to remember this when with my students. How can I say everything happens for a reason to a student who is dying and will never see her daughter get married? What good will that do for her to hear a statement like that? None.

So, instead, I meditate for allowing a space to heal. I meditate with my students for love. I give lavender shoulder and head messages. I tell them they are strong. I tell them they are loved, infinitely. I tell them they are brave. They are beautiful. They are deserving of love and light. I tell them that shitty things have happened to them and me, but we deserve better and they have the support they need. We meditate on letting healing light in—letting it penetrate the cells of their body to wash away all the scars, the hurt, the cancer. And at the end of the class, I realize that while I may be providing a service, they are actually saving me.

I ran across this brilliant post “How to Hurt” by Angry Therapist team member Padhia Avocado. 

It’s worth reading the entire post, but I’ll quote a few paragraphs that resonate deeply for me:

“We need to shift in the way we judge pain. It is not possible to simply “get over something” that affected you in such a way that it changed who you were and the understanding you had of your world,” she explained.

“Time does not heal all wounds. Wounds can heal on their own, but only if they are superficial. Deep ones need attention and special care. The parts of you that hurt can’t see the outside world and use the logic of comparison to heal. Shame and judgment of pain only makes the injury worse. That forces you to hide your own truth from yourself and that leads to many other problems.”

Amen to that. Her next paragraph makes a lot of sense, too. I know that I sometimes get frustrated when I’m not healing fast enough. I recall feelings of bitterness springing forth, surprising me, as I thought I had “already dealt with this!” Well, it’s time to let the perfectionist go. Everyone heals at a different pace. And as long as I am not marinating in the feelings, dwelling in them, recalling them often, I’m just honoring my existence. I feel because I exist. It’s that simple. And it involves no one else.

Padhia wrote: “Other’s judgment of how “you should feel” is irrelevant. … Our inner time is very different than external time. Years may pass between things that happen in the external world, but time doesn’t work like that on the inside. … You can’t talk yourself out of the things that hurt you deeply. To be free of them, you have to learn to hold space for your feelings. Allow them to be what they are in a way that you are not feeding them (so that they gather more volume and take you over) but rather letting them bloom, so that they can then die down. Listen to the messages in them while they are blooming, and go down the paths they are calling you to go down. Only then, can they evolve into lighter feelings of acceptance, healing and gratitude.”

And that’s really the key. As a good friend and therapist told me, there’s a fine line between self exploration and self absorbance. To allow my feelings to exist—no matter what they are—without blowing them up into something bigger, or hiding them and shaming them—I will heal. I feel it already. I’m on that path. And what I’m learning, is that when I allow myself to be okay with feeling angry, sad, disappointed or angry—when I sit with it, recognize it—I begin to acknowledge my worth and honor myself. I don’t need to rush to forgiveness and to “finding the lesson” to prove that I’m evolved. First, I need to sit with the feelings, tell myself that it’s not okay for someone to hurt me and that I’m going to grieve first.

This process doesn’t create victims, martyrs or self pity party holders. In order to let these feelings morph into acceptance and forgiveness, they have to be seen and heard and felt—like a dear friend who listens without judgement. I’m convinced that those who don’t allow themselves to grieve will get stuck in a life with unrelenting bitterness and fear.

As Khalil Gibran so eloquently wrote: “your joy is your sorrow unmasked.”

The only path to joy is through feeling and acknowledging sorrows. Once recognized, the sorrow can be let go—allowing space to live again, to try again, to love again, and to let joy float back up to the surface.

Namaste ~
Laura

The Year to Surrender

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I read this quote today from The Buried Life“Don’t be afraid to let things fall in or out of place.”

Simple, yet profound, especially for those of us who struggle to make things happen, or to control our lives. This I know for sure: it takes strength to not push, to not force, to trust in something bigger than ourselves, to wait, to listen, and to see what evolves. This type of advice used to make me cringe. It seemed so passive, as if telling a person to sit around and not DO anything to manifest their dreams.

But I now see that’s not what this message implies. 2014 was a year of hard and beautiful lessons for me. What I know now is that the biggest accomplishment, the highest goal to attain to, is to follow my inner voice,  my boundaries, my dreams, my intuition, and my journey home to myself. So that takes courage to continue walking towards dreams. It takes energy. But then it requires that I release heated expectations, or nagging thoughts filled with worry, or any mental struggle that can come from wanting something to emerge, or to develop, in a specific way. It requires being still in moving waters. Trusting the flow is going to take me where I’m meant to go.

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Louise Hay said it perfectly: “We must place our order in the cosmic kitchen, and then let it go. Don’t follow the waiter to the kitchen and hover and make sure he places your order correctly and that the chef is cooking it per your specifications. Make up your mind, place your order and then trust that it is being filled.”

For me, this is about trust and surrendering to the process, in all my relationships, my goals, my dreams. And if I do nothing to make these dreams come true, than likely they won’t. But if I take babysteps each day, put in a little effort, and then trust the process and let it go—who knows what could happen? I have to let that cosmic waiter take my order to the Universal kitchen. And then surrender. Surrender to the process. Surrender to the possibility that the results may fall within my expectations, or outside of them.

Like the splashes from a water fall, I have to wait to see where the pool forms, where the waters converge and divide. Perhaps my dreams, our dreams, will manifest in exactly the way we want? But maybe, just maybe, if we open ourselves up to the possibility that they can manifest into something far more beautiful, far more unexpected, we might just float into a pool that is wilder, more tangled, more rooted in the unknown—until it rings the truth of something meant to be. … But only if we let go, with excitement, with gratitude.

So, friends, here’s to a 2015 filled with joy, excitement, gratitude, anticipation— without rigid expectations, fear or worry.

Namaste ~

L. xo

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.”

Who’s In Charge Around Here, Anyway?

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Don’t you just love that line? I used to hear it from customers when I was a hostess at a 4 star restaurant in Manhattan. While in grad school, I worked four nights a week at a famous restaurant in New York—where some customers would become absolutely irate if they didn’t get their regular table by the window, or if they had to wait a few minutes, or God forbid their favorite dish was no longer on the menu. I remember that time in my life like it was yesterday— as I’m fairly shy and love to people watch. I was soaking up my city experience as I wrote my first novel. The bartender, a Russian actor and co-people watcher, and I would compare notes at the end of the evening over a glass of Sambuca. We swore we’d write a screen play someday—especially after members of the Russian mafia started meeting in the back room to gamble. (But that’s for another post.) Day in and day out there were so many compelling stories. Like the Eastern European couple who came in every night. They never spoke to one other, but the husband would periodically bang the table, to which his wife would respond by cutting her husband’s food or pouring his wine. Every week we’d get a Wall Street businessman on a hot date who would show up and yell and scream and insist he had a reservation—which, of course, he didn’t. (But his ranting and raving always garnered two free drinks at the bar.) Then there was the man who brought his mistress every week on a Wed and would give me an extra $100, so I wouldn’t mention it when he brought his wife every Saturday. (I split his tip with the wait staff.)  You get the idea. Manhattan restaurants are the perfect fishbowl, or cesspool, to watch human nature in action. Most of what I witnessed each week was a huge dose of ego mixed with the illusion of control.

 

And it is an illusion. In Manhattan especially, money—or the image of wealth—can buy you a table by the window, or a kiss on the cheek by the owner of a restaurant. It may even “buy” you a hot date with someone wrapped up in creating, or having that image. But it is hardly authentic power. Even the most powerful, (and by that, I mean the commonly accepted definition of accumulating wealth or being a decision maker in business or government) can be brought to their knees. Think about it. So much of our lives is completely and utterly out of our control. We are humbled again and again by the sheer force of nature—by earth quakes, hurricanes and floods. Every day disease, accidents and addictions tear apart lives and families. There is no control over when or if these types of events will strike us.

 

This is widely accepted. What is not typically accepted, however, is our lack of control over one another. I see it everyday—even in laid back Southern California. This I know for sure: we are all powerless over what people may do or say. Yet, why is it that so many of us still strive to ‘help’ our loved ones, or change them, or expect them to be or do things differently? Why can’t we accept each other for who we are—no more and no less? Why is acceptance so hard?

 

My best guess is that it’s hard to accept that someone you love, say a child or a sibling or a lover, is making toxic choices or doing things to harm themselves or others. Or, maybe it’s just hard to see someone change or grow in ways that make it hard for you two to still be close. Maybe once acceptance settles in and there’s no attempt to change, there’s nothing left but to drift away or detach with love. I think that’s the fear. It’s hard to let go.

 

So instead of letting go, so many of us cling on and hold tighter and just get dragged away from our center, or let others control us. In relationships, especially when I was much younger, I allowed others to try to change me or wield control over me. I have no idea why. Have you experienced that too? The family member or boyfriend or girlfriend who constantly criticizes  or nags or belittles in order to get you to change something about yourself. Maybe it’s about a career choice, or what is eaten (or not eaten), or about spiritual beliefs, or liberal views, or what is worn, (or how little is worn) or any other habits someone disapproves of, etc. It all comes from a need to control. It comes from one person thinking they know best. Or it comes from someone else’s jealously and a need to keep another reigned in. Maybe it comes from insecurity? Fear? Or selfishness? Or perhaps it comes from a person who expects to get what they want, even if it’s at another soul’s expense. I don’t know.

But maybe it isn’t always so cruel. I’m not completely innocent, but my attempts to ‘help’ others likely stems from a bit of naivete, or the hopeless romantic in me. I know I’ve tried to help others who are hurting from addictions or who say they are desperately trying to change and ask for help—even when doing so hurts myself. Slipping into co-dependency is easy to do, especially when love is involved. And it can become a type of control, even if misguided and well-intentioned.

 

Even so, I feel sympathy for those in relationships with subtle, or not so subtle, attempts to control one another. You know, the ones who constantly nag, cajole, manipulate, guilt, demean, belittle, demand, shame, blame, complain, etc. in order to get what they want. Some even resort to yelling or threatening—all to get someone to do something—stop doing something—or be someone else.

Sigh.

 

I thought of all these type of relationships as I struggled to think of something meaningful to say last week when I taught the first yoga class in a 12 step yoga workshop I’m participating in. If you’re a member of one of the 12 step groups, than I don’t need to tell you that the first step is admitting to being powerless over alcohol and that your life has become unmanageable. Well, that’s a bitter pill for some to swallow and for others, especially those who are not alcoholic, it may feel just wrong. I get that. I’m not an alcoholic, but have family members and loved ones who are. I  know how powerless it can be to live with those who are out of control. But when you think about it, we are all powerless over so many things. If you just take out the word alcohol, and input the words “over others” the first step is for everyone. Your life will become unmanageable if you’re still trying to control others.

 

And for those who have grown up with alcoholics, married one, or dated one, or ‘helped’ friends or siblings with the addiction, I don’t need to tell you how hard it is ‘to let go’. When life is always unpredictable, one strives to find stability, to help, and to control—often at the expense of personal goals, the ability to be spontaneous, to feel joy, to trust, to let go, and especially to ‘go with the flow.’  

 

That last line, which I hear often in yoga classes—”to go with the flow”—is a goal of mine. With that in mind, I decided to talk about my Outward Bound experience in last week’s yoga workshop on powerlessness. By 21 years of age, I had experienced WAY too much violence in my life—against me, against friends. I  had lost some very special people in my life. I was also a crime reporter in college covering murders and rapes and began to feel overwhelmed by fear and a sense of powerlessness. At the same time, I struggled to help take care of my mother who was slipping into depression after my father left.

 

It was a hard time for me, to say the least. With that in mind, I dropped out of school, worked full time for six months to pay for and go on a hard core Outward Bound. I wanted to wrestle my fears and gain confidence. Boy did I ever. And it happened while navigating class 4 rapids on the Chattooga River in Georgia. For three days all of us had to navigate this river in order to get to our next destination. For many in our group, comprised of many male athletes, this was the most challenging part of our experience. I guess because my life had been so insanely out of control for so long, learning how to navigate rapids came naturally. And, it seemed easier. There was a method to this madness. I learned my C and J strokes to control exactly where I wanted to go. I learned how to read the river: shallow areas were to be avoided.  Dark areas were the currents that would carry my canoe through the sweet spot of the rapid. I came to enjoy it. It was invigorating to struggle, navigate, and then to ride the current of the rapid. This was one challenge that my 100 pound self could do! It felt great.

 

Others didn’t have the same experience. The basketball player from New England, for instance, kept freaking out, standing in his canoe and tipping it over. And, to add insult to injury, he kept standing up in the river. You can NEVER stand up in a class 4 rapid river. I kept screaming to him to float, lift his feet. He wouldn’t listen. By the time I, or someone else steered toward him, his legs were bloody. He never listened and let his fear overcome him. By the third day, his legs were so mangled that medical assistance had to be called and he wasn’t able to play any games for the first two weeks back. Likely, he was used to calling the shots, making them, and being in control. His need to stand and stop the river was real.

I, on the other hand, was used to living in a completely out of control world where nothing I did mattered. I couldn’t stop a crazed shooter. I couldn’t stop a boyfriend who tried to kill me or himself. I couldn’t stop a rapist from almost killing a friend. I couldn’t stop a family member from drinking and making bad decisions. I couldn’t change the fact that a semi hit two friends head on. Nope. None of it could be changed by one single thing that I did, or didn’t do. Navigating the River, on the other hand, was like being given directions, or a map. That, I could handle.

 

Funnily, on the last day, my canoe partner, a large football player, jumped up when a big spider fell into our boat. He literally catapulted me out of the canoe. It was like a cartoon character of Olive Oil flying into the air, then crashing into a rock. I had a shiner for 3 weeks that turned from black to purple to this really groovy color of yellow and green all around my left eye. Again, so much is out of our control, isn’t it? But, hey, for three days, I had navigated that river and steered us through insane rapids and smiled crazy-ass smiles as wind blew through my hair and the current carried us down stream. I loved every minute.

After four more days of navigating mountains with only a topo map, I returned home, went back to school, took an internship in London, and began working at a newspaper with a renewed sense of just what I could accomplish. Basically, I was learning the serenity prayer: “God, grant me the courage to accept the things I can not change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

We can all learn our J and C strokes and the signs of the river in order to navigate our own canoes to take us where we want to go. It’s my metaphor for living out of fear and paying attention to what we can control: ourselves. We can control what we think, what we say, how we treat others, how peacefully we live, what we eat, how we take care of our bodies, etc. And we can take baby steps to follow our dreams. These things are in our control. They pave the path to authentic power.

 

There will always be things that we are powerless over. Maybe there will be those in our river flow who are careless—who fall out of their canoes and stand up in rapids, or who just don’t pay attention to the rapids they are being pulled in to. We can warn them and try  to help—but if we pay too much attention to saving them, we may neglect our own currents, our own destinies, and drift way off course. If we become obsessed with someone else’s welfare, we’re likely to get stuck in the mud bank, or dragged into rapids, or worse, crash. Conversely, there may be those who suddenly catapult us out of our canoes. But you know what? We have the choice and the ability to learn to float, to lift our feet, and to trust that the river will carry us safely until we can get back up and back into our canoes to begin to navigate again.

 

I know I write the way I talk—I meander and tell a long yarn, as many southerners do. If you read to the end, you should earn an award for patience! My final thought is this: here’s to navigating to the sweet spots of all of our rapids—to the ones that propel us through the chaos and to the soft currents that allow us to float, breathe deeply and enjoy the wind in our hair.

xoxo