Tuesday, December 14, 2010

An African Prayer

as i prepare to bring a small group to africa in 2012 for a yoga & cultural immersion educational adventure i am reminded of one of the most powerful days from our trip last april...

evan and i had both long been exposed to poverty (his first exposure came during his peace corps years and mine as a young volunteer for third-world house-building projects), rural ethiopia was beyond our imaginations.

one village in particular stands as a monument in my heart to do something - anything - to bring further awareness to the disparity of resources between the first and third worlds.

many of the children in this particular village had leaky noses and open wounds. they smelled of feces. their clothes were filthy. their bellies were swollen tight like small brown drums. one boys eyelids were blistered shut from an infection that i imagine could have been helped with a simple antibiotic.

a 15 year-old mother holding her six-month old baby approached me. she spoke to me in a language i did not understand and then held her child up to me. the baby’s eyes were tired and worried, like somehow he knew he'd been born into a hard life - somehow he knew he would grow old before his time. i reached out for the child, but then...stopped.

in my naivete i had not understood what the young mother wanted. she didn't want me to hold her baby. she wanted me to take her baby.

i politely replaced my hands at my sides. “your child. your child.” i took a few steps backward. the mother persisted walking towards me, nodding her head to say that it was okay for me to take her child. she said the only english words she knew. “you. you.” she the baby inches from my face.

in that moment i thought, why not? why not take that child away from this village to a place where it would have a worldly education and access to medicine and the best food on the planet. i could provide an environment - emotionally and materially - for this child to live a vibrant, healthy life. a voice within said, it would be selfish for you not to help this child out of this mess.

but was this really a mess? was this rural poverty really the sob-story that my mind had made it up to be? what if rural living was a necessary part of the balance on the planet?

i could feel myself becoming guarded and confused.

so what if the roads to this village aren’t paved. can you imagine a world where every road was paved? the destruction! so what if the houses are made of mud and dung? can you imagine a world in which every house had laminate counters? our landfills are already overflowing with non-biodegradable products.

and what of education? the fact is that not everyone should be educated behind a desk. some people must be educated in the fields and farms. some people must stay connected to the earth’s rhythm, not just to the momentum of industrial and electronic revolutions.

and, further more, not everyone can have access to medication.

wait, what? why not?

i wait for my mind to justify that one.


over 2,000 children a day who die from diarrhea in africa.

though it is always easier to justify someone else's suffering above my own, that is unjustifiable.

evan called my name, “lauran! time to go.” i turned to seem him getting back into the truck. "okay."

i faced the young mother for a final time. “i know you can’t understand a word i’m about to say, but i can't take your child. i wish you health and happiness. i will pray for your life and for the well-being of your baby. i'll pray for you." and then i left her and the baby in the mud.

never had prayer felt like such a cop-out.

as we drove away from the village thirty children ran after our car. they waved their arms and hollered with high-pitched squeals. i couldn't take my eyes off of them - their small bodies hurdled over the earth, their limbs flailed and the yellows of their eyes were set ablaze.

prayer was my only means of sanity. may all beings be free of suffering. i prayed until they vanished out of sight. may all beings find happiness. i prayed til our car touched pavement again. may all beings be content. i prayed til we arrived back at our $8/night ethiopian hotel and then, in the privacy of our room, i curled up in evan’s arms and cried myself to sleep.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pura Vida in Costa Rica!

“Lizzy, no, sweetie. Don’t eat the butterflies.”

We arrived in Costa Rica nearly a week ago. Eight pieces of luggage, two dogs and two adventurous spirits. For the last five months Evan and I have been working towards this move. Finally, it is here.

Our pups, Lizzy and Quito, made the trip with the expected amount of stress. Now that they are off the plane and safely on the ground they are happy to smell the tropical soil and chase the mariposas (butterflies).

Evan and I are ecstatic and humbled to have made this dream a reality. He is now heading up the Latin American micro-finance projects for Whole Planet Foundation. After 2.5 years in Ecuador in the Peace Corps, integrating with the Costa Rican culture is as natural as breathing for him. Over and over again I hear the locals say to him, “You speak Spanish very well! Very natural. Where are you from?”

I, on the other hand, studied French for ten years. So at this point no hablo espanol. Luckily there are many similarities between french and spanish so I trust the language will come quickly.

We’ve made friends with a local Costa Rican couple, Fehdra and John. Evan calls them our “Costa Rican twins”. Fehdra, the woman, is a yoga teacher and John, the man, is a mountain bike fanatic. Yep, twinsies.

Though Fehdra doesn’t speak much english and I speak hardly any Spanish, we understand each other loud and clear when it comes to our love of yoga. During a recent dinner, she and I dominated the conversation with our enthusiasm for the practice of yoga. Yoga, like math, is a universal language.

As they say in Costa Rica, Pura Vida! (Pure Living! Pure Life!)

Friday, August 13, 2010

New Season

It came on sudden. The immediate urge to not do, to do less and less, to create more "white space" in my life.

Previously every moment, second, hour was packed with some event, task, meeting, obligation or activity. And, previously, I liked it this way. Business demands were exciting tasks that provided the opportunity for me to be a "solutionist", a leader, a visionary. Where shall we relocate the studio? What new teachers will we bring into our community? What new workshops will we offer? These questions had once filled me with the thrill of an entrepreneurial spirit & the rush of achievement.

Previously I had accepted all invitations to b-day parties, engagement parties, sporting events and ladies nights. My social calendar was pregnant. I considered this loving evidence that I was deeply involved and connected to my community - a community that I adored and cherished.

But something new was happening now. Something had grabbed a hold of my waist and firmly sat me down. Sit here and breathe. Do not get up. Breathe. Sit. Be still.

I didn't listen at first and consequently I was getting a lot of diarrhea. I continued not to listen and tried to continue my previous work load, but the more I did the more discomfort arose within. A strange feeling started to gnaw at me. It gnawed. It stabbed. The diarrhea got worse.

Come to find out that this sharp gnawing is what some people call anxiety. I had never experienced anxiety like this before. The simplest tasks would trigger it. I'd sit down to check my email and WHOOSH-BAM my heart would start to race, my nerves would get shot and my over-all general irritability would sky-rocket. The result of this was often a hot current of anger and exhaustion just below my surface. The slightest bit of traffic or interruption could trigger the lava to erupt in a volcanic explosion at my surface.

(On a side note: Don't you remember when email was a funny-loving, happy cyber-experience? Do you remember when email brought you friendly notes from people who loved you? Now email is a black-leather-pants-wearing task-master named Hilda. Every time I open email my email she screams, "Do this! Don't do that! Do more of this" Whip! Whip!)

I remember one morning being in a face-off with 'Hilda' when Evan came in and asked, "Hey babe, what kind of eggs did you cook today." I stumbled out of my cyber-anxiety and blurted back, "I don't know...eggs!" I said it as if his question was a big imposition on my morning. "Ahhhh. Mmmm," he said back-peddling down the hall to the bathroom. He didn't emerge til he left for work.

Pressure cooker. That's another good description for anxiety. I had once danced gracefully with the demands I put on my life. And those demands had been the perfect form of elevating my professional career, my yoga practice, my interpersonal relationships and my relationship with myself. But right now those same expectations and responsibilities were no longer serving me.

I no longer thrived on the busy-bee pace.

Then a friend calmly told me, "You're in a new season now. You can't hold back the winter months, but you can enjoy the falling snow."

Slow down
. The new season whispers. Slow down.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Message vs. The Method

This a calling for Peace.

I grew up with two sets of parents. One set of parents was deeply immersed in the spiritual-ritual world of Native American tribal wisdom. With them I danced Eagle Dances and Sundances. With them I participated in countless sweat lodge ceremonies and full moon pipe ceremonies. With them I studied what is known as “Medicine Wheel” teachings, teachings that assist our understanding of the inner and outer universe through 8 directional qualities. There was great wisdom there.

My other parents raised me, in part, in a service-based Presbyterian church with which I traveled yearly to Mexico, building houses in the slums of Tijuana. From the age of 14 to 22 I built seven houses for seven loving families. The act of service kept calling me back to the work. The love and inner transformation available to the Heart through service became apparent during those years. There was great wisdom there.

Today I find myself deeply integrated the in the practice of yoga. The practice helps me understand my body’s sacred geometry and how to align the body to experience visceral, mental and spiritual freedom. The practice enlightens me on my breath, assists my capacity to receive the gift of Life through the vehicle of the breath. The practice calms my busy-bee mind, assisting my capacity to sit in the Great Silence and Space within. The practice, like the Medicine Wheel teachings and the service projects, directs me into my Heart. The practice guides me home to that Great Love that's living through me. There is great wisdom here.

I share this because I practice a type of yoga called Anusara Yoga. And, like many other types of yoga today, the type of yoga (or the method of yoga) is getting more attention than the message of Yoga. When I hear folks saying “I practice ‘X’ yoga and it’s superior to ‘Y’ yoga”, I feel compelled to be a voice of remembrance for the MESSAGE versus the METHOD.

There are many, many, many methods...there are many, many different types of folks with whom different methods will resonate. Service, ceremony, Yoga, motherhood, fatherhood, Chi-Gong, Tai Chi, silence, prayer, mountaineering, gardening, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism...to name a few.

At the core the message is one: Life is a Divine gift. We are the creation of the Divine. Our lives are a gift for co-creating with the Divine. We are a miracle of Love. Our soul and the world are one. Love never leaves us. Love is always present. We can choose to stand IN Love and when we forget Love, Love is always there to Light the way again.

Be free of judgment and spiritual arrogance. Celebrate the rainbow of methods. Share the message of Love that lies at the Heart of each method. May every method assist people into their Hearts. May all methods return us to Love.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Woman, Finally

Time warp.
Highschool’s long over.
Crows feet now decorate your smiling face. You are dreaming of babies, babies, babies. You are ‘over’ having to be that all-powerful-famous-rich person and have moved on to being honest, living with integrity, devoted to love-based values and loyal to your family.
Loud music seems a lot louder than it used to.
Stilettos seem like an overall bad idea.
You don’t cancel plans with friends any more because you intentionally make half as many plans.
You’ve forgiven all the major criminals in your life.
You’ve forgiven yourself.
You’ve accepted yourself.
You respect yourself.
You still make mistakes, but they are no longer held up as evidence as to why you’re ‘not enough’.
You don’t pounce on your ringing cell phone anymore.
You canceled your ‘text’ plan.
You schedule email ‘hours’ a couple times a week and hike, play, make love, work, relax, teach, cook and enjoy life in the moments between.
You prefer reading to watching television.
You have a sharp discerning eye.
You’re not angry anymore.
You don’t speed when you drive.
You kindly let others into your lane. Why not? What’s the rush?
You make time for your friends.
You cook for your friends.
You listen to your friends.
You laugh a lot.
You are relaxed and you help others relax.
You stop eating long before you’re full.
You mostly choose colorful fruits and vegetables... and dark chocolate, the expensive kind.
You can afford a $5 chocolate bar - you’re all grown up now. And though you rarely drink, you can tell the difference between a Shiraz and a Cabernet.
Your husband loves you with a hug, not a cage.
He admires who you are and how you are.
He kisses you on the tip of your nose.
He kisses you everywhere.
Getting into bed with him is like landing softly in Love’s tender arms.
He’s your best friend.
Other women no longer scare you.
You cheer on the hot-bodied 19 year-old who bubbles over with gleeful enthusiasm for every subject under the sun. “You go girl,” you whisper to her. (And you send her a silent prayer of protection as you watch her sexuality spill unconsciously onto every passer by. She’ll learn.)
As for those women who glare with jealousy, who roll their eyes, who still gossip...your heart goes out to them.
You’ve learned to meet female cruelty with indifference. This was not easy.
You no longer strive to meet the demands of society or race to match society’s pace.
You take up yoga or move to another country to remember your natural cadence.
You discover space and quiet within you.
You discover a deep Peace - a Peace that words can not touch but that deeply touches those around you.
You embody Love.
People experience you as Love.
And this is enough.
You are Woman, finally.

Sunday, May 2, 2010



Thus far, Evan and my time in Ethiopia feels like swinging on a pendulum from
extreme wealth to extreme poverty and back again. We’re driving
through impoverished villages and desolate landscapes in a Toyota Land
Cruiser, which I believe cost more than my college education. We’re
staying in tidy hotels that neighbor urban slums. We’re feasting in restaurants outside of street children beg for food. This constant undulation (from wealth to poverty and
back again) has an effect similar to going from North Dakota to
Ecuador, back to North Dakota and back to the equator. The physical
body goes into relative shock and becomes slightly ill before finding
equilibrium (equilibrium, might I add, is not guaranteed and I am
still searching for mine).

Currently we are in Hawassa where I
feel very much like a princess protected from reality high up in her
tower. When said princess decides that said tower
is starting to feel like prison, she heads down to Hawassa’s main
street for some third world urban site seeing. There she is bombarded
by homeless peoples’ coo for “one birr” (equivalent to about $.08),
broken English catcalls and an ocean of harmless but lingering eyes
into which she attempts to look with loving compassion, “We are all
one…We are all one…We are all one, Namaste”. After some 2 hours said
princess is exhausted by black clouds of toxic diesel fumes, the site of emaciated
nursing beggars and weight of the unconscious barrier
she has now erected around her heart regardless of any loving mantras.

And so said princess retreats once again out of poverty’s sight, into said
tower until said tower begins to feel like a prison at which time she
descends upon Hawassa’s main street for some (more) urban third world
site seeing…. (It goes on like this for 48 hours.)

Clearly I am deeply grateful for my tower even though I am still making peace with the feeling that I am a spoiled clean-sheet-loving American who somehow (through dumb luck or good
karma or stellar celestial alignment) won the metaphorical lottery.


Every country in Africa has been, if not officially colonized at some
point, altered by Europe’s long reach. For some reason this used to
really piss me off. Why can’t the West just keep to its own business?
Why does the West insist on tasting everybody else’s honey? Or sugar
or oil or timber? Turns out in the late 1800’s Ethiopia was the first
African nation to defeat a European power. “Hip, hip, hurray”, I
silently cheered upon learning this fact throwing up a fist-pump for
the people of Ethiopia. And then I learned about the “Red Terror”, a
bloody era when Ethiopia’s own military government over threw the
Ethiopian king, killed all his ministers and then proceeded, in the likes of
Nazi Germany, to murder over 500,000 innocent Ethiopian civilians. Let me clarify, they didn't just murder 'innocent' people, they specifically murdered the best and brightest, the intellectuals and innovators. They wiped out anyone whose intelligence or inner power might threaten the military's standing. Whoa. Ethiopians killing Ethiopians on purpose without cause? Maybe
being under Italy’s control wouldn’t have been such a bad idea after
all. At least then they could have blamed someone else for their
current state. (I don’t sound much like a yoga teacher any more. Honestly, I don't even know what "yoga teacher" means anymore. This is only one of the many aspects of my former reality that hardly seem 'real' anymore. “We are all one…We are all one…We are all one,

Anyway, power has pretty much been a game of hot-potato for last 100
years in Ethiopia. This constant changing of the guard, in combination with
severe droughts, high inflation, the recent tragedy of the “Red Terror”
and a lack of education and medical resources, leave millions of rural
and urban Ethiopians out to dry in the unforgiving African sun.

But you guys probably know all this. I’m just sort of having my 31 year old
mind shattered as the reality of Ethiopia’s “situation” bulldozes the
china cabinet of my naiveté. This destruction of my previous model of
reality, by the way, is excruciatingly uncomfortable. Necessary, I
know, but uncomfortable as hell. Basically the tidy box I had
designated as “Real” is now but a pile of wood chips and bent nails.
And here, amidst this rubble, is where I stand. “Okey dokey,” I look
around with my hand on my hips. “So where shall I go from here? “