Yoga: The Inside Truth 


Yoga is practiced all over the world in one form or fashion. It has metamorphosed from an ascetic practice of a small group of men to a secular range of many. Ironically, women now dominate the landscape of mats. And, with that, the assumption that females are the flexible ones pervades or ‘stretching’ is not equated with strength. Found not to be true with the men of Western culture man enough to hit the mat. And, the ability to identify a yogi stereotype has near vanished.

In the past 100 years, the influence and styles of yoga have expanded exponentially. There’s a niche for what inspires you. For those who practiced it in the 1960’s and 70’s, they were gazed at with tilted heads of amusement. Now, it’s so mainstream, people are giving excuses why they’re not doing it. Doctors are suggesting it to patients for an assundry of ailments…and it’s really helping. Good health is manifested from within and all it takes is to swallow a pill of effort. The physiology of your body will put it to work. Science is amazed at the positive impact on the brain/body and the dots connected to wellness keep expanding.

What makes it different from running, boxing, and every other cardio-dominated exercise? The answer is as vast as you are flexible. And, flexibility is a word to be used loosely. It is beyond the physical. Your practice will change you and you will change what you practice. That is energetic flexibility….the best kind to feel.

Secret 1: As a physical being, you are a vast array of condensed energy in cellular form. Breathing creates space. Not only in the body’s tissues, but in between continuous chains of thought. You feel relaxed after a practice because you moved out of a tight physical space or broke a monotonous chain of thinking. Even if you don’t touch your toes; if you’re at peace where you are in a pose, you are advancing. It’s hard to tell the ego to shut up because we need it to prevent complacency; but, we must remember that it’s not the CEO of your energy. Maybe the CFO for the body; but not The Boss above higher matter.

Secret 2: Yoga is a personal art. You’re in a constant state of change at a molecular level. In time, it becomes visible. To think you can stop the energy/body from transforming with time is delusional. (Surgery can erase some lines…but, good news is that you can slow time’s gravitational impact with yoga.) And, if you master living in the moment every moment, you have achieved enlightenment! If not, no worries, you’re going to feel better than before you stepped on the mat. The way you move, the way you breathe, the energy you vibrate…all of it deepens your practice of yoga and living.

Secret 3: Yoga teaches you the beautiful tapestry of breathing and moving. The alchemy of the two create a unique force. You feel your individuality intertwined with the whole. Once you get the basics of poses down, you think beyond the superficial. Poses are guideposts. Your gaze turns inward. The finer details of what you are, what you can/should change, what you can become becomes more apparent. Physical fitness is created by emotional and mental fitness. Be ready to be stronger than expected. As you stretch and strengthen your energy, your definition of personal growth will push you to pursue edges beyond the mat. 

Secret 4: You are your best teacher. We are provided guides to direct us in unfamiliar areas; but, intuition is a reliable source. Pay attention to your body. In yoga, slight discomfort is a safe means of testing the unfamiliar. If pain speaks, listen to the message and back off. Pain is the body’s brilliant design of communication to prevent harm. ‘No pain, no gain’ is a misnomer. 

Secret 5: The poses are in a continuous state of change. There were originally 32 poses. Then, as yoga was introduced to the West, more was added by various sources. As a matter of fact, some of the contorted poses that seem to be for the best yogis only came from the circus. The double jointed folks were able to do the unthinkable. Somehow, a few poses got on the yoga tether. That is why flexibility needs to be redefined in the yoga practice. You can practice yoga for a lifetime if you do it with awareness and an understanding of what’s true and what’s done for show. Big difference. 

Last, but so not the least,…breathe. It is the breathing that gives life to the moves and poses. It is what gives you life. And, when it it is all said and done, isn’t that what we’re here for? Enjoy your practice of everything. You might surprise yourself along the way.

Seasoned mat lovers or virgin folks alike, welcome to your practice. Perhaps we will meet in that sweet space between nothing and everything….it’s heaven on Earth. 

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Life of No Regrets-Goodbye with Love

forgive

I love you. Good-bye. 

Two declarations preceded by a story. The roles played can so draining. The script is often repetitious. The rehearsing can go on for too long. Characters adding nuances come and go, but, the lead role is always played by you.

We all have stood on this mysterious stage. It’s a rite of passage. It’s uncomfortable as it pushes the familiar aside. It’s a spiritual leap into the unfamiliar. You have to toss outdated scripts. Improv from the heart and it happens. The curtains lift. You stand unabashed. You raise up your arms…liberated; then, bow in gratitude and humility. The drama is over. 

There is no audience. No applause. No pictures. Not one word spoken. You don’t know why it took so long. It doesn’t happen on demand. You can pray or meditate about it. But, forgiveness rises when effort transforms to effortlessness. When the energy of forgiveness circulates through you, it feels so natural…simple…common sense. Yet, for some reason, serious work had to take place behind the curtains. People say, ‘forgive, but don’t forget.’ I beg to differ.

Forgiving is for getting free. And freedom from the past is the only way you can move up. Dwelling on what you remember only takes you back.

Forgiveness helped me say good-bye to my father with love. His once brilliant mind darkened by pessimism. Infused with alcohol. His brain of regrets used me as the target. It was his mind’s war. But, somehow, his wires entangled mine.

Yoga and meditation unraveled past emotions of anger and sadness. A girl always wants to be loved by the first man in her life. Blaming my birth for the death of his life is a tough dialogue for a 9 year old to process. But, life is not a script from Hollywood. So you have to re-write your past for the ending you need. I was 42 when I learned the secret of editing. 

Meditating on  compassion and no expectations opened my eyes to see through his eyes. An unfamiliar quiet guest knocked from inside my heart. Forgiveness arrived. Decades of negative emotions vanished. Suddenly, I wanted to help save him from himself. 

I started to visit the father I hadn’t spoken to in years. Once a connoisseur of engineering the skies, he was now broken down. He was in bad shape. Lost what he desired his whole life and actually had…love. Beautiful wife and daughter in a second marriage. He proudly stated their love child was his gift. And, she truly has been a gift to many. But, his lack of self-love trumped the love he had for them and his son.  Amazing how he had so much and was blind to it. He is not alone in this lack of vision.

I thought I could create the ironic twist in our story…the one who imprisoned him set him free. Happy ending for all. 

You could say alcoholism killed him; but, I beg to differ. Drinking was the bridge he’d cross to escape from his fixated focus on exciting glory days. The ball and chain of the past shackled him.  His drinking drowned him in shallow waters. 

I watched it from my beginning to his end.

Neurologically, excessive alcohol deteriorates the brain’s ability to properly function. The areas responsible for emotions and memory, the hippocampus and amygdala, shrink and atrophy to chronic overdoses of alcohol. Damage to the hippocampus and amygdala deteriorates the person you are and can be.

New memories don’t form and old ingrained ones go on auto-repeat. There is no delete.

That is what my father did. Ironic that he destroyed the two same parts of the brain I had removed to live. We even shared the same birthday. The Cosmic Writer loves metaphors and ironic coincidences. 

I hoped my “enlightened thinking” could dig him out of his living graveyard. I gave him meditation discs, books of inspiration, begged him to take advantage of VA benefits to de-toxify. Even after dropping him off to do his 72 hours in jail for a DUI, I thought he’d come to his senses. He was 65 years old. 

He’d nod to acknowledge my advice. And, resume talking about the downfall of government or his prime days as a pilot. Thirty years later and I was listening to the same stories. The only change was names in political leadership. The essence of conflicts stayed the same. History is so repetitive.

 He chose to hold tight. I had to let go. His grip of the past made me see my own.

The time had come. I touched his shoulder and asked to talk about something important. He paused. I held an empty bottle of Canadian Club and asked him to admit his source of regrets. His eyes looked at the bottle, then the floor and he shook his head to say no. It was 10 a.m. and he was trembling.

He wouldn’t answer the question I never openly asked. And I had to do what I wouldn’t regret. 

I thanked him for all he taught me. I thanked him for my strong work ethic. I thanked him for teaching me how to stand up for what’s right. I thanked him for my education. I thanked him for not guilting me for epilepsy in childhood. I thanked him for his fighter pilot nature to dare.

I told him I could not enable him. If he would acknowledge his problem and get professional help, I’d be there. If not, I had to say goodbye. I was his child; not his therapist. Silence divided us.

We stared in each other’s eyes. I saw respect and resignation. He broke the silence. “Valerie, thank you for what you have tried to do; but, I’m not going to change. I’ve done all I can in my life and I am tired. I know you understand me. You always have.”

We reached a mutual impasse’. I understood the purpose of saying goodbye. No tears. No yelling. No clenching of teeth. No more sense of obligation on either side. 

He admitted he took his anger out on me because I was strong. He saw the lost parts of him in me. In that confession, I realized his anger was his bodyguard for sadness. 

I hugged him with love and said good-bye. Before walking out for the last time, I turned with reserved hope only to see the man I knew from the past. He had switched the television station to the news sharing the travesty of the day and sipped his breakfast. He was no longer aware of my presence. 

Three months later, the police called me as next of kin to identify the deceased. Surprise or shock was not one of my reactions. It was relief. He was finally free.

On the way to his funeral, the radio was turned on to fill the silence. The Jimmy Buffet song my father sang every night started. My husband and I glanced at each other and knew it wasn’t coincidence. The chill in the car gave us goosebumps despite the August heat.

I listened to every word on the way to church.  As my husband parked, Jimmy sang “some people claim there is a woman to blame, but I know it is my own damn fault.” It sounded different. It was my father singing that last sentence.

He sang what I never thought I’d hear.

The fighter pilot, once called Stevie Wonder, dropped a late bomb confession…that his life mess wasn’t my fault.

And, that is what I remember best. The rest is history.

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Life of No Regrets-Spiritual Friends 


“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.” -Rumi

Spiritual friends assist the growth of each other and the world at large. You can’t go looking for one; both of you must have an element the other needs. It is beyond academic or mastered skills. It’s unspoken affirmation to stay the course of intention or a pause to recharge. This connection transcends definition; but it is mutually beneficial.

Unlike beloved friends, family or mates who we share our emotions, dreams, challenges, laughs and lives with, a spiritual friendship appears and vanishes as needed. It cannot be labeled or expected to exist, grow or end by defined earth rules or understandings. It is in this shared space, energy does the ‘talking’.

You probably have had one or two in life, but didn’t know how to define it. It is hard to explain; but somehow understood. The connection has a positive influence on both sides. Temporary or long term, development at a higher level is the end result. It is a win-win.

Yoga stretched my originally perceived parameters…physically, mentally, spiritually. The practice of teaching yoga became a springboard to higher frequencies. It was my initiation into the fraternity of spiritual friends.

After two years of teaching, I didn’t want, but felt the need to teach a private client. The desire emerged out of nowhere…which I later understood is the source of everywhere. You hear these elusive quotes from centuries ago; but don’t really get it until you have a real taste of the words. When you read what you’ve read before and your jaw opens to sigh ‘oh’ and your thoughts come to a standstill,  you’ve lived the message.

I had no idea how to start,  what to charge, or who to ask…I just had a strong intention to do it. So, I wrote it down and let it go. The message was received.

The Cosmos sent a student yogi within 2 weeks of intention.

I taught a night yoga class at the same YMCA where I fell in love with the practice. My class had a lot regulars and an occasional new comer.  The lights were dimmed and the music was a sweet flow of the 70’s. My eyes saw the class as a whole, not as individuals…which was a blessing. I tuned into the energy of the class and started the practice.

Fifteen minutes later, Sun Salutations caused my peripheral vision to notice long arms extend higher than the whole class. Looked like his fingertips could touch the ceiling. I glanced and had a fleeting guess of recognition. I worked the room to adjust people in poses and could not resist assisting this mysterious warrior. One look and my guess fog evaporated.

It was a man of significant achievements. A retired professional athlete with coveted trophies, one of his college’s greatest players and a man loved, respected and admired by many…was in my humble yoga class.  Truth be told, Michelangelo could not have carved a more magnificent creation of man’s body. He was in the front row and I didn’t even notice him until he raised his arms.

I brought class in child’s pose for a few breaths just to catch my own.

I told myself he is a person just like everyone which is true. But, people of repetitive major accomplishments are not exactly like everyone else. They have a force many dream about. Or, read countless books to find the ‘secret’. There’s a blend of elements within them that manifest results. Once sparked, it takes on a life of its own. I wasn’t thinking of him, per se, I was subconsciously wondering how to achieve this type of greatness.

I made a conscious decision to not play favorites in assisting. I stayed authentic. But, seized opportunities as they presented themselves to help him with a pose. When opportunity taps, open the door.

After class, people came to say their good-byes. He was the last to approach me. He said he enjoyed the dynamics of my teaching and asked if I taught private classes. I told him, as fate would have it, I was seeking private clients interested in deepening their practice. We exchanged numbers and set the game plan to start.

I never dreamed my first private yoga student would be a person of his caliber. If you’ve read The Alchemist, you’ll understand the meaning of beginner’s luck.

What can I teach him? What could yoga do?  How can I be good enough? I’m still a rookie! My old nemesis, fear, was trying to stalk me. And, I read my intentions diary and my understanding of ‘be careful what you wish for’ became clearer.

I meditated to stay the course of my intention. Words rose to my mind from my heart. “He approached you because of who you are…have faith in yourself. Teach from the heart and all will fall into place.” I ended up teaching him for years.

I taught what I knew; but found courage to take risks in teaching new approaches I found beneficial. Each practice was unique but the results were the same. Balanced energy. Organic insight. Refuge in the field of now. My deepening practice spilled over into his and provided him clear space to just be.

He had the wisdom to practice yoga as an athlete to improve flexibility and minimize injuries. But, when the career ended, the purpose of his practice and life changed. He had to stretch muscles far beneath the surface. My yoga teaching alchemized with him to transcend standard, mainstream methods.

His new rookie status and organic nature was fertilizer for my newly tilled grounds. The first seed to quickly break ground was inner confidence. As I learned pearls from my Om away from home, White Lotus Foundation, I’d be excited to teach it to him because I knew he’d get it. And, he did. We shared this happy wonder of discovering and building something great within ourselves as individuals and as guideposts for the worlds we lived in. Two totally different lives, purposes, and backgrounds…balanced in this mysterious field.

Together, we exchanged auspicious, unspoken roles as teacher and student.

Choose your craft of passion. Practice with conviction. Learn from multiple sources. Integrate skills to create your personal interpretation. Listen to intuition. Set time to be still and chill. Close doors to rooms no longer nourishing to you. Walk through doors that open for your intentions. Remain humble, no matter how accomplished.

Do what inspires you. It inspires others. Continue growing. Master fearlessness. Water the goodness of another. Meditate to levitate. There’s an invisible field called the matrix and “the field is the sole governing agency of the particle.”(Einstein) In this space of awareness, the physical and non-physical are not so far apart. Meditation practice takes you to this space when you least expect it.

And, last, but not least, toss expectations. They limit your imagination and potential realities.

I’ve had numerous private clients since him. But, like a first love, I won’t forget my first spiritual friend disguised as a private student. It put an energy in motion and I keep daring myself to explore beyond vanishing edges. It made me better and quickened my ability to help others who appeared shortly after our connection.

I am officially fearless. The balance on the edge of measured time and the immeasurable teaches me greatness is not always awarded a trophy. True greatness is hidden in hearts you’ve etched a mark in by sharing your innate and polished gifts.

Namaste, my friend 🙏

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Life of No Regrets-That First Time

Our doubts are traitors and makes us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.” ~Shakespeare

The first time is not always the best. But, we remember ‘firsts’ best because desire was stronger than fear. Most of us remember that first kiss. That first love. That first intimate experience. Emotional intensity and novelty are benchmarks of initiation and memories. Firsts are a springboard for opening that portal of bliss. Motivation to surpass the last. 

I remember my first yoga practice well.  Let me just say, I’ve had better.

Established yogis know teachers influence that first experience. It’s like going on a blind date. You summoned the courage to go out. You’re literally laying on the mat with naive hope. Vulnerable. Feels like everyone is watching. Yoga is a dare in the beginning. Not with others, but with yourself. That secret is an important epiphany. Its easy to understand why some try yoga once and don’t do it again. But, don’t let the heart’s wealth be limited by your ego. Or, a shallow first time. The right one will come at the right time.

I chose to lose my yoga virginity using the contraception of correct alignment. Upon entering the studio, it didn’t feel right. Don’t’ assume, you’re just nervous, I told myself. At the front desk, I told the person it was my first yoga class. I filled necessary paperwork, was shown where to get a mat, where to put my shoes and where to set up. No further information. It was a class of ten people sitting on their mats…waiting. It was quiet. In a heavy kind of way. 

The teacher entered and everyone sat up to attention. A foreign language was spoken and people assumed a position. I watched and did my best to duplicate. For a first timer, I thought I was doing okay. Wrong. Minutes into the practice, my name was called out and it was pointed out how I was doing the pose incorrectly. The teacher came over to adjust me. I was her Rubik’s cube.

Half way through the hour practice, I had been used as an example of how not to do a pose 3 times. Each correction was prefaced with my name. Well, everyone knew who I was now. Felt like covering myself with my blanket.

Pulling on inner confidence, I found humor in being the example of incorrect alignment. I excel at imperfection. My virginity on the mat was lost without love. I wanted to find that love I knew was out there. Ironic how history repeats itself at numerous levels. I hurried to leave without being noticed, but, my first date wanted the last word.

The authoritative voice  stopped me in my tracks. “Valerie that is not the correct way to fold the blanket.” I  stared at her…and what is the right way?

As if she read my mind, the teacher gestured someone to show me how to properly fold. I saw people in my peripheral vision shake their heads in bewilderment. I felt cheated. I was ready to go. I lost my virginity to a jerk. But, got that first time out of the way and a least had a baseline to move up from.

My next class was another yoga studio with a different philosophy. It was okay; but, I wasn’t feeling it. The teacher was demonstrating moves I couldn’t have done in high school. Early on, my definition of flexibility was beyond physical. And, my lack of it was noted in class. I felt like the poster yoga step-child of how to do a pose more ‘advanced’ after this class. 

The blanket ghost stalked me. The teacher took what I folded out of my hands, re-did it and said, ‘this is how to fold a blanket’. Oy Vay! What is up with this anal folding technique? If we were texting back then, I’d be messaging SMH.

Third time was a charm. I saw the YMCA near my house had yoga classes. I went to a random class and within minutes…I was smiling from ear to ear. The teacher was funny…he took his time in guiding poses…he didn’t point out imperfections of poses. He focused on potential of poses. I learned to breathe. I learned to relax while moving. I fell in love with the mat. I exhaled relief in Savasana. 

And, no mention of the blanket! To this day, I smile as I fold one imperfectly. Yogi defiance. 

I kept returning to the mat. I was starving for the energetic nourishment.  The more I practiced, the more ravenous my appetite. I could feel it happening. Every practice or meditation or breathing exercise released an unknown misalignment. My strength grew multi-dimensionally. Changes were taking place beyond the physical. I was in love.

Three years of practicing yoga sparked me to teach others the alchemy of yoga. Too many people were intimidated by media images. I was now a rebel with a cause.

I signed up to take a teacher training course. It was crazy. I felt like a virgin. A rookie once again. But, I graduated and 9 years later, still make it a point to teach with TLC. I want a student’s first time to be so good, they recall losing their yoga virginity with fondness. 

And, I don’t tell them how to fold the blanket. Breaks the bliss…IYKWIM. (If you know what I mean)

Shakespeare was on to something when he wrote, “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.” If you practice with that philosophy, you’re destined to gain far beyond your initial venture and get some sweet bliss.

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Life of No Regrets-Staying Alive

“We can try to understand, but we need somebody to help us…somebody to help us care…to help us stay alive.” ~Bee Gees


Ever had a ‘life crash’ break you in so many places, you wondered how or if to stay alive? It’s quite a conundrum. We sometimes get so lost, we don’t know where to turn. Maybe go fetal. But, hang on. That’s when somebody appears. And, sometimes, that somebody is someOne.

2005. Onslaught of panic attacks one year post brain surgery. Couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t eat. Couldn’t think straight. Convinced each panic attack was a heart attack, I’d clutch my chest with both hands to stop the pain. Breathless moments caused by Fear knocking the wind out of me. I started hoping not to take the next inhale. I went to a psychiatrist after numerous visits to my MD. He said my heart was fine. It was my mind that was killing me.

Learned years of medication taken to subdue seizures have a major impact on the endocrine system and brain’s frequency. My panic attacks started shortly after I weaned myself off the neurological chemicals. Drugs not only prescribed for epilepsy, but also depression, bi-polar disorder, anti-psychotic and sedation of the brain. No wonder I felt crazy. My brain forgot how to dispense from its own pharmacy.

Driving home after my second therapy appointment, I saw a bookstore I passed all the time. It felt like someone had taken over the driving and next thing, I am parked. There was something I had to find. Didn’t know what, but trusted my gut.

As I strolled the aisles, my eyes gravitated to a pink meditation CD. I knew nothing about meditation…but, instinct told me this was what I came for. I bought it and raced home. I was excited and didn’t know why.

The instructions were simple. Listen with headphones, breathe, observe thoughts emerge to awareness and drift out of awareness. Perfect. 

I sat with palms face down on the arms of a comfortable, reclining chair. Ready for relief, I pressed play. Eyes closed, a soothing frequency of music massaged my brain. In minutes, I felt my mind lighten. My first aware experience of an energy shift.

Then, expansive bright, white light filled my internal vision. The room got cooler. I sensed my skin respond with goosebumps. But, I wasn’t cold. Rather, I felt a warm presence blanket me. The music frequency guided me to a deeper, quiet space. You hear about people seeing their life in near death experiences. Well, this must be what its like because life flashbacks played on my mind screen. It was in technicolor and I had a front row seat.

I saw myself learning to ride a bike for the first time. The daring kid in me was far out in the ocean. I could feel the buoyancy of the waves. I saw events I forgot. I saw people I recognized, but couldn’t name. I watched life flash up to Patti (my best friend) and me dancing on couches in college. I even heard us singing. The past came alive. 

Patti came back! Her death three years prior left a void no one could fill. Our friendship was sacred. We were supposed to grow old together…complain about the body changes…laugh about it…and keep loving ‘our’ daughter as she practiced life.(read Cellular Connection to understand). But, Death doesn’t see age as reason to go to the next door. So, I did my best to hold this re-run moment. 

The scene of us dancing to Staying Alive vanished. Silence. 

A panoramic white light was quite a sight. It was reassuring and familiar. 

Then, I heard her. She whispered…“You need to live your life.”

 I heard her voice, loud and clear. I felt her presence. Not wanting to break the connection, eyes stayed closed, thoughts  spoken on a telepathic line.

My mind’s voice begged her to come back. With calmness, she said: “I never left you. I am always there. You have a life to live…I am here. Live your life.” Sacred silence of holding space. She said the same words again.

I sensed our time loan was ending and my logical mind was full of questions. “What’s it like on the Other Side?” “Are you happy?” “Why did you leave without saying goodbye?” “I can’t do this without you.” No answers, but loving presence.

She reiterated with more emphasis, “I have never left you. I love you. You have to live your life.” Somewhere deep within, I finally understood. The fear tactic was a rite of passage. The dis-ease was to break ruts of past emotions and uninspired intention. The purpose of her visit was fulfilled. She didn’t say goodbye…

The bright light in mindspace faded to sunlight on my eyelids. The room was warm again. The sound of meditation music returned to my ears. She was gone.

More precisely, she returned to a higher frequency. And, I believe she got her wings.

I finally understood death. It is only physical. My best friend’s love connection was so strong, she aligned our frequencies to meet. Maybe she snuck out to share this secret. Maybe she got a sacred hall pass. I cried. The tears washed my grief off. The affirmation that life really is beyond the physical opened a door of transformation and healing. I felt free. And, I was ready to live.

I know my dear friend guided me to that CD. She always had my back.

When sharing the experience with my husband, he mentioned yoga. Another new concept. Did a little research and sensed it was just what the doctor ordered. The Spirit Doc, that is. Like the kid riding a bike for the first time, I found balance on the mat. Breathing became pedals to pace the ride. I felt novelty and a need to dare myself…the same sweet emotion the young and naive have for a short time. 

Fear, panic attacks, sleepless nights…they all left. The mind’s housing lease expired. I had serious reconstruction to do and the next tenants would be selected with care. Starting with Gratitude in the penthouse.

So, at 41, I started dancing to Staying Alive with a bigger smile and wiser appreciation of the words. On the mat and off the mat, I try to be someone’s somebody. Pure and simple. Be that somebody when the opportunity presents itself. You will realize we dance better through life together. 

Major life changes from a single meditation. I’ve been dancing to the beat of Love ever since! 

Note: Here is a link http://www.soundstrue.com/store/healing-mind-system-2-0-715.html to the best meditation CD collection. Your mind/brain/body will thank you! 

Or, get the app #Insight Timer. Lots of choices to try from guided meditation to binaural music. Do it enough and you will understand its as important as brushing your teeth every day. Health and wellbeing is strengthened by healthy food and physical exercise. But, it starts in the mind/brain. The body will function to the vibe of the mind.

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Life of No Regrets-Cellular Connection 


“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” ~Anais Nin

1990. My dear friend, Patti, was selling Motorola cell phones when they flooded the business world. Anyone remember how they weighed like 2.5 pounds (felt like 10) and were 10 inches long and like 3 inches thick? Big phone symbolized big wealth. With $4000 to spare, you got a phone that held an hour of time fully charged. I remember holding one and shaking my head. “Who needs to be talking while in the car? This will never make it in the long run…” was my limited perspective. Patti was making great money and going on exotic trips for being a top seller. She was a natural. I worked the trenches managing a chain restaurant. I was lost in unnatural madness.

1991. I got pregnant in a rebound relationship. My jaw dropped as the pregnancy test wasted no time showing the plus sign. I was pissed. He was thrilled. Not being someone I wanted to be bound to for 18 years, all links had to be terminated. Appointment made. I was in no position to take on motherhood. At 27, I was working hard to climb the corporate ladder in the restaurant business to make real money. I never wanted a child. There was a big world to explore and I wanted to travel light.

 A  curtain of doubt draped my heart. Not guilt. Not regret. Something unfamiliar and unexpected. Patti and I talked the night before late into the night. I ranted and raved about the impossibilities of the situation. This was going to be a solo job and I didn’t want to serve a life sentence. I had just overcome financial debt from prior mistakes and was ready to enjoy more than just enough to make ends meet. No guy would ever want to date, much less marry me, if I had a kid. I was not going to fall under the single mom label. Crying, diapers, and feeding…oh my! This was so NOT me. I didn’t even babysit as a teenager…kids got on my nerves. 

But, the curtain wouldn’t open. Patti empathized with every statement. No judgement. All compassion. Hoping to stop this mysterious internal tug of war, I declared, “I can’t afford to raise a child…and I am not getting food stamps or whatever else single mother’s get to get by. Not settling. I’ve worked too f@@king hard. Not going down this road.” Thought that was it. 

Silence. 

Patti looked me in the eyes and said, “I will support you in whatever you decide. Just don’t let money be the reason. I’ll have your back…always. Know that.” Silent gaze of sacred friendship held. Then the curtain opened and light shone within. I cried because I knew the answer no matter how hard I tried to rephrase the question. Knowing it was going to be tough, I knew there was more to the equation than me. The conundrum of choices vanished and a big wave of courage rolled in. Amazing how life changes in a moment. (By the way, I am still pro-choice. It is very personal and the individual bringing a life into this world must be all in…there’s no take backs.) 

9 months later, Nature’s amazing charismatic arrangement of cells rested in my arms. A beautiful girl with large brown eyes seemed to tell me, “just wait, you’ll see why I tugged your heart”. Patti and I both held her together with amazement and joy. Oblivious to the father’s remark, “amazing what comes out of six inches”, as he sat by the window, I got busy expanding my life. Had some recycling of intentions and thinking to do. I never dreamed I’d do this; but, once again, I was wrong. Amazing how my wrongs have turned out to be just right.

The relationship was terminated and my life got rebooted. Most parents say they raise their children. I’m proud to say my daughter raised me. I became better at living, learning and most importantly, loving. Rachel is a natural. And somehow, in her magnetic demeanor, she enamoured the man I married 7 years later so much so that he adopted her. (She asked when she could call him daddy when we started to date. I told her to keep it between us and at her wise 5 years of age, she did. But, she did tell me  she knew he was the one, but she’d keep it a secret. I wasn’t so sure.) 

When he proposed, he kneeled to extend his hand as her daddy first. Her eyes sparkled to match her big smile. He gave her a necklace with a ring as his promise to be her daddy if she wanted him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and cried in a little girl’s voice…”oh Daddy…I love you…I knew you were my Daddy. Are you going to marry my mommy?” Her little hand grabbed mine and looked at me with hope and gratitude. I was speechless.

 He arranged dinner at Morton’s Steakhouse with his parents and two sisters to share this joy. To better appreciate the auspicious nature of this love, he was the brother of my best friend, Patti. Now, the sorority sister, roommate, God mother of my child,  soul friend who had my back was about to become family. She kept to her promise with Rachel and provided support in many ways when I fell short. I was crazy in love with Greg and couldn’t believe this was happening. It was unexpected and exceeded my imagination’s scope of possibilities. 

With humility and love, he bowed to me and asked if I’d share my life with him. He declared his love for me and Rachel to the family circle around us. The raw, organic energy of love opened my heart’s curtains so wide, I was blinded by the Light. 22 years later, we are so grateful to be riding this wave of life together. 

Like parenthood, not always smooth sailing; but, we stayed the course, weathered the storms and bask in the sunshine. The sun shines more than it rains. Like the personal practice of yoga, you’ve got to pursue new edges, be flexible, breathe, respect boundaries and do everything with good intentions. And, let each one have their own space to grow. This has worked on the yoga mat and our marriage. My best friend from a best friend. 

2017.  I have an IPhone to FaceTime with our 25 year old daughter in China who teaches at an international school. She’s in love, engaged to a great man, has lots of dear friends and is loved by everyone who meets her. I could go on, but, you get the picture. Never thought a cell phone was worth it when I first held one. But, I was wrong; had to broaden my perspective of potential.

 I discovered the best cellular connection possible. It has infinite data. And the heart connections continue to join the Love plan. 

 

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Life of No Regrets-Less is More


 “The real question is not whether life exists after death. The real question is whether you’re alive before death.” Osho

On New Year’s Day, we celebrate Father Time’s birthday. There’s collective inspiration to change, to improve, to grow. For a moment, you get brave enough to face what needs attention. Look close. You will see your state of impermanence. From conception to expiration, nothing stops changing. Growing pains isn’t just for kids. 

The classic intentions are to exercise, lose weight, eat healthier, better job, better relationships, quit self-harming habits. We know we need to nourish our bodies and minds. We’re juiced to scratch our goals off the list. Then what? Maybe you need to go beyond the superficial. 

So, what have I learned not just this year, but along all of Father Time’s birthday’s? (I wore my birthday suit for symbolic emphasis and to see if it’d get more reads.)

So here goes…9 ideas to integrate this year:

1. Don’t fear death. Fear not living. How you live is a daily choice. Write a mantra (purpose) for guidance. Update as desired. 

2. Time is most malleable in the present. Save the past for reference points, not baggage to carry. Outline the future; but, don’t be entrapped when the unexpected appears. It came because you are ready. 

3. We see a reflection of ourselves in others. What you love is a clue of perhaps untapped potential; what you don’t like is maybe, just maybe, a trait or habit close to home that needs to be purged. This takes awareness. Polish your awareness mirror. 

4. We are all strangers a few words away from becoming friends. Have courage to say hello first. Smile with metta…loving-kindness. Appearances are deceptive from the masks we wear. We all need love. It is the energetic water for growth. Hydrate daily.

5. Experiences with strong emotion and novelty are remembered best. We all have trauma, heavy energy from the past or now; but, the scales of “good” and “bad” balance out. Act on the good you  gleaned from the bad. It is the greatest challenges that beget the greatest opportunities. 

6. Some choices you make and some choices make you. Like the chicken and the egg, doesn’t matter what came first. What matters is what you do with it.

7. There is no single solution to any problem or quest. Use your triad of brains…the one in your skull, the one in your heart and the one in your gut. The best answers are not in words. (Tossing ideas with a good friend clears static too)

8. Practice loving without expectations. You can’t rule who you love. They are not here to complete you. They are here to love you. That, in itself, is a process. I know we’re all perfect, but there’s those days…

9. Doors open when you stop staring at the ones behind you. Be grateful. All served a purpose. Hope is individual and universal. Your growth fertilizes the lives around you. Keep growing up and outward. That’s Nature’s favorite direction.

Don’t waste too much time thinking and not enough doing. And, the more you discover, the more you realize how little you know. That is the infancy of true wisdom. Shed what weighs you down and build on what you know is true. 

Percolate on these thoughts and you might become less focused on completing a list and actually living in a way that doesn’t need to be marked off.

Less is More

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Life of No Regrets-The ‘Tweens’

“You can’t start a fire without a spark. I could use just a little help.” Bruce Springsteen’s song, Dancing in the Dark We call the years between 10-12 ‘tweens’before the teens; b…

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Life of No Regrets-The ‘Tweens’

You can’t start a fire without a spark. I could use just a little help.” Bruce Springsteen’s song, Dancing in the Dark


We call the years between 10-12 ‘tweens’before the teens; but, truth is, there are ‘tweens’ at the edge of each decade. One moment, you think you’ve got it together; next moment, you’re scurrying to escape emotional, physiological or physical brush fires. We run into others along the rings of fire. Some point a better direction to take; some douse excess flames and some flick a spark to enlighten unlit dry woods wasting space. 

 Lots of sparks and flames in younger years.  We’re having a plethora of first time experiences. That is why we recall the details of them best. Novelty of experience and intensity of emotion are chief memory makers. Remember that brain tip as you get older or bored.

Ah, the early twenties. I wouldn’t repeat that age; but, it’d be cool to visit the past to relive a day or two. Don’t want to mess with timing, so I write to remember.

1985. I lived in a dilapidated, brown 2 story house with five other people. We didn’t see faded paint, dry wall cracks or curling at the corners wallpaper. We saw a home with character. 4 guys downstairs; 3 girls upstairs. 7 bedrooms, 2 living rooms, 2 kitchens and a huge front porch. Originally white plastic lawn chairs were set on one side of the porch for quiet space to chill. Think stray cats hung out there the most.

 In the winter, we’d tape plastic with electric tape over the windows to minimize cold winds. In summer, doors and windows were left open to let the house breathe. My room, which was really the size of an expensive house’s master closet, had Springsteen’s Born in the USA poster taped on the wall so I could admire his backside while dancing in my darkness of growing up. And, to my eyes, he’s sexier now 30 years later. Truly the Boss. 

School by day. Party by night. I bartended to make money. Coolest job ever. Had a metal liquor measurer for aesthetics more than actual use. The better the tip, the better the dose. Being a bartender  was a sweet means of connections and learning. Did the waterfalls of stacked shot glasses, the flip and toss of bottles, and kept it flowing like a river. I loved the busyness…the shucking and jiving…the power to make people smile or ability to quick snap my fingers above my head to alert the bouncer to oust the unfriendly. Zero tolerance for jerks. Music, mixing and mingling…and a handful of cash when the night was over. Too sweet.

So many people, so many stories. Bartending was a crash course in psychology, therapy, personality analysis and sharpening of intuition. What I mastered as a bartender has served me more than any course in college. Amazing how many doors alcohol and a great smile opened.

One night after my shift, Patti, my best friend and roommate had a few sorority sisters come to our house to keep partying. I made mac and cheese for my 2 am dinner as I drank to catch up. Everyone was sitting around the table recanting the night’s events. Waiting for the water to boil, I leaned back against the stove. Nothing like talking about guys. We loved them. We hated them. They managed to exceed and recede expectations. They were the ocean in human form. I’m sure the feelings were mutual. Sex drive is about the only thing we had in common. It comes, it goes and we rode the waves. 

“Is it me or is it getting warm in here?” I asked. Laughter overlapped my voice. A minute later, I said louder…”it’s really hot…” and I back away from the stove and see smoke, but not the source of it.

Patti looks up at me and cries…”Val…you’re on fire!” No one moves.

In my inebriated state, I look over my shoulder and saw my big orange sweatshirt shortening as the slow fire was moving up it. I take a big inhale and blow over my shoulder. Fire still moving North. I blow harder half laughing at my stupid attempt. I run out of air and look at my friend for help.

Patti runs over and screams, “I’ll get it off of you…don’t move!” She slid the shirt up and off and stomped the remains until the small bonfire was out. She examined my back. No burns…no evidence of harm. My hair was a tad shorter in spots; but, nothing a trim wouldn’t fix. No harm, no foul. 

The girls stared at the burnt shirt on the floor and then up to the now topless me. Like a symphony breaks pause of silence in music, we burst in united hysterics. Just another event added to future giggle fests.

Patti was a year ahead of me, so she graduated first. College wasn’t the same without her. Indecisiveness and apathy brought me to a crossroads. Thanks to my mother’s pleas to finish what I started, I did. The thrill was gone and I was having adrenaline withdrawals. I found myself singing Bruce’s Glory Days with a deeper appreciation. It was time to be an adult. Still working on it…sounds so permanent.

College was a sanctuary of liberation rather than academic institution. And, believe me, I learned a cascade of knowledge no piece of paper could endorse. It was an educational push forward through the ‘tweens’ of adolescence and young adulthood. I didn’t know at the time how all the experiences would set my trajectory for the second decade of life or how certain moments carved out my future that is now. 

The moral of the story? 

Deep down, we’re that kid eager to discover or try something new. We’re that kid hiding a little box of secrets to share only with your heart’s BFF. We’re that kid not wanting to miss out on anything. We’re that kid that smiles inside and out when hugged with love. We’re that kid who is more often in a state of in between than permanence. 

We’re that kid who sometimes needs another’s spark to light up when perception is dimmed. Even Bruce Springsteen, the Boss, admits he needs a little help. No matter the age, the education, the accomplishments, the fill in the blank, we’re in this fire of life together. Don’t forget that naive kid full of inquiry. You might find that kid of earlier years stored some wisdom to dance alongside the unpaved trail ahead.

And, you might find yourself sharing light with others as they do their dance in the dark because you know we all need a little help.

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Life of No Regrets-The Unforgettable Stranger

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”is beyond yoga philosophy. It’s an awareness truth.

It Is A Wonderful Life is saved for Christmas; but, mirrors what most of us wonder. Do I really matter? How profound to be given a glimpse of now if you were never born. Or, better yet, a version of your life without the gift of another’s wonderful presence.  This story is to remind you of the power you have to touch lives and we are full of wonder when united.

1988. Graduated from college, promoted to management of the restaurant I bartended at. I worked ferocious hours to prove I could match the men. Told , ‘this is a good ole boy’s’ network and women in management was being tested. “You’ll have to work twice as hard to be respected” was the ‘off the record’ retort to my inquiry about protocol for future promotions and bonus incentives. Instead of being offended, I had youth, determination and a new aspiration. Intention to become one of the first female general managers of the company was set.

My work ethic and love of making others smile while on my shift kept me focused. My only distraction was my first love. It was unexpected, unprecedented and unbelievable.

He was the guy who came to fix equipment. The handyman. And he was very handy, indeed. Solid body with arms that couldn’t help but flash a bulge of muscle when it moved. Even his hands calloused by work  were sexy. Proved to be tough and tender. Sandy dark blonde hair, bronze skin year round, hazel eyes glittering mischief and a smile to match. Easy to laugh and walked like he didn’t have a care in the world. You couldn’t help but like him. He was a man’s man and some of the best eye candy I ever tasted.

I got to know him over a couple of years as he came almost weekly to repair something in the kitchen. Maybe I accidentally turned the wrong switch from time to time. Maybe I was teasing the Cosmos. Maybe it was teasing me.

Loved when he started coming to the bar on college football game days. Looked like a model for Levi’s the way they relaxed on his legs. While managing the madness of a busy shift, I’d watch him smile with others as UT Vols were winning or shaking his head if losing. I’d occasionally catch him looking at me and my imagination went wild. Direct eye contact sparked a heatwave. We took turns breaking the gaze. It was complicated….this wasn’t supposed to be happening. I was married. Not happily; but married nonetheless.

One day, he was fixing a malfunctioning grill and I was asking how it happens. Our chitchat morphed from business to casual. He asked if I’d meet him for a drink one night. It was time. I couldn’t resist. That night gave me courage to divorce a man I never should have married. It was over before it started. At 22, I lacked the guts and foresight to break the engagement. So, I consider my 16 month marriage a trial run.

Like a fingertip barely touching a row of tall standing dominoes, I fell for Larry. I gave him raises for his handy work every chance I got. We were crazy about each other. The insatiable desire of love and lust somehow crossed over in my work performance. Two years into my career and relationship, I got offered to open a new store in St. Louis. If I did well, I’d be next in line for general manager of a store of my own. I was 26 and back in the day, this was a big deal. Deep down, I didn’t care because all I wanted was a proposal from a man I truly loved.

Told him of my career offer, hoping for a counter offer. Didn’t happen. He didn’t want me to leave, but he didn’t want to marry. I had to make a choice. Stay for status quo or be strong and move up. Not a status quo person, I had to do the hardest thing ever…break ties with a man I cherished. He cried the day I packed. He cried the day I said goodbye as I got in the car. I told him I’d toss the offer if we had a future. He was honest. He couldn’t let go of his freedom…he loved me…he just didn’t want to marry or have another child. (He was 5 years older and had a beautiful daughter) I respected his honesty despite the pain. I had to leave to move forward.

I cried the whole way to St. Louis. Arrived to a new city with no friends and a broken heart. Had to live in a motel for a few weeks until my apartment was available. Money was tight. The alleged re-location package fell quite short of actual expenses. The restaurant was built out and I was in charge of organizing the kitchen, training the staff, getting food ordered, stocking and more. Worked 80 hours a week…basically worked, ate and slept.

Two weeks into the nightmare, I had spent all the money I had, which wasn’t much to begin with. The rental truck, gas, hotel expenses, broken lease expense, two months advance for apartment and other assundries maxed my credit card. My naïveté in thinking the moving per diem provided would suffice left me broke. The restaurant wasn’t even a source of food because it was being finished out. Payday was two weeks away and I couldn’t ask for an advance. I sensed an immediate dislike from the general manager and his chosen team. I came from the outside. And, like I said…female managers were being tested.

I needed money to eat. I never asked family for help. There was too much bitterness. But, I finally broke down to ask my dad if I could borrow some money until payday. I was that hungry. Told him the gist of the story and his response was “what are you going to do?” My response, “Figure it out without thinking family as a source” and hung up. I had like $10 left and went to the motel bar for free pretzels and a .99 cent beer. Sometimes the bartender had chips and salsa set out.  Beggars cannot be choosers and I was grateful.

I sat alone, sad, worried, wondering what the hell I was thinking when I said yes to the move. A tall, older gentleman stood next to my bar stool and asked how I was doing. I looked at him and said I was fine. He stared at me and asked again. Silence. He waited.

I broke down crying. I hit rock bottom at many levels. Apologized for eating all the pretzels. He smiled the warmest smile and handed me a menu…”get whatever you want…I will take care of it.” I couldn’t say yes and I couldn’t say no.

“I’ve noticed you coming here for the past week and you look worn out, malnourished and lost. I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t ask if you needed help. I am the general manager of this motel and something tells me you’re in trouble. I know you don’t know me and I don’t know you…but, I care.”

I felt his warmth and compassion. I opened up  and told him my story. I told him about the heartbreak, the transfer, the lack of money, the lack of residency, the lack of knowing what to do next. I had to catch my breath between tear fits. He listened, nodded and shook his head in disbelief. He pointed to the menu and told the bartender to take care of me. He excused himself after patting me on the shoulder.

He brought the hamburger I ordered and said not to worry about meals anymore. He said his wife would be cooking with my attendance in mind. He said their home was close by and I was welcome. I could do what felt most comfortable. After devouring the best meal in weeks, I went to meet his wife. He drove me to a beautiful home decorated for the Christmas season.

His wife was lovely. She greeted me with a hug. She served hot chocolate and cookies. The fireplace kept us warm as we talked like old friends in the living room. I was in disbelief of the kindness of strangers. Because of them, I don’t fear people I don’t know. Everyone seems to be a smile away from being a comrade.

They said they felt I was an opportunity brought to them to practice what they believed. Their two kids in college were coming in for the holidays and were glad to have my company. This family structure was very foreign to me and I had my doubts. But, they proved me wrong.

I stayed at the motel to sleep; but, when not working, I was encouraged to share meals with them…told to hang out and relax…or, rest if tired. I think I did sleep a night or two there because I felt safe and cared for. On Christmas Eve, the wife and her daughter took me on their last minute shopping spree. I didn’t have money to spend, but they made a point to tell me I was their guest and graced me with gifts. I tried to decline trying on a sweater they found. They wouldn’t allow it. It made them happy to give.

We spent Christmas Day together and I felt like I belonged. As we went around the table expressing thanks, I told them I had no idea how to repay them for their kindness. I couldn’t thank them enough for their rescue when I was my most lost. I’ve never forgotten what the man said.

“We don’t want or need you to pay us back. All we ask is if the opportunity presents itself and you are able, just pay it forward. Teach that to others and we will consider ourselves reimbursed with interest. Will you do that?”  He was humble in his request and I felt no pressure…but, instead desire for my chance to pay him forward. I promised I’d make them proud. He smiled and thanked me. Surreal, but, very real.

Two days later, my apartment was ready and I went to the motel front desk to clear the balance. I had gotten paid and had money in hand. When I asked for the ticket, the front desk said I had no balance. The room bill was taken care of. I didn’t understand and said that was impossible…I hadn’t paid. She blushed and in a lowered voice, she said the general manager wrote it off and told her to remind me of his small request. Wow. I had a good debt to pay forward.

I only lived in St. Louis for another month or so after I got in the apartment. I didn’t fit in with the management and I missed Rocky Top and the comforts of familiarity. I thanked the couple whose names I can’t remember, but, whose hearts I won’t forget. They taught me unconditional love and kindness. The stuff you see in movies, but don’t believe exist. I am here to say it does. These strangers changed my life trajectory. Without their conviction to walk the walk, I know my life would not be the wonderful life it has been and is. And, I have made it a mission to pay it forward for the past 25 years. I hope a few of my angels in need have continued the tradition.

So, be the stranger who befriends. Give without expecting payback. What you do or don’t do does matter. We wish we got accolades for the unknown acts of kindness…like an affirmation of reassurance. But, you do. It is just not always from your direct recipients. Pretty cool secret to hold under the vest that you’re among the elite tribe of unforgettable strangers.

Wishing you kindness year round. Life is too unpredictable to wait once a year to give. Make yourself unforgettable. Touch hearts with faith, hope and love. That is where the best stories come from….the strangers who are angels in disguise.

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