To the ones who talk smack about their bodies. This article is for you. And it's for the ones who buy celebrity/beauty magazines. It's also for the women who subscribe to social media sites that tell you in one article you're perfect exactly as you are, but their next post has an article telling you how to "dress to hide your flaws" and has ads for how to loose 39 pounds in 10 minutes. (TIP...stop that nonsense and your happiness quotient increases...trust me, I'm a recovering People Magazine subscriber and it's a better life without it.) So without further ado...
I'm starting a new revolution. It's called "Your Thighs Heard You Call Them Fat and Now They're Sad So Throw Your Goddamn Scale Out, Apologize to Your Thighs for Being Mean, and Don't Even Think About Talking Behind Your Boobs' Back Because Your Gorgeous Ass Won't Participate in Your Malicious Gossip Any Longer"
The title's a work in progress. But I hope it leads you to check your thoughts about your body and how you treat yourself, and brings deeper compassion and kindness for self and others. And seriously, get rid of that fucking scale - it blocks you from loving yourself. And honestly...subscribe to National Geographic, or buy anything by Pema Chodron, the Dalai Lama, Marianne Williamson, Eckhart Tolle or the countless other leaders in this revolution. Not into the spiritual stuff? I'm currently reading Amy Poehlers new book and have Lena Dunhams "on the ready". Both are funny and real ladies who speak their truth in an identifiable way. So there you have my blog post. Thank you for reading my diatribe.
Oh, and diets are stupid. They fuck with your mind and metabolism. Start noticing all the wonderful ways you contribute to growing more love and kindness in the world...and if you aren't adding love and compassion, what exactly are you adding? And for the planets sake, please start serving up some love...and eventually, you won't be able to not treat your body with this same loving kindness.
And finally, sorry for swearing. I just really care about you.
Namaste: My divine essence honours and embraces the divine in you and in this recognition we are one.
Last week I wrongly called a mans character into question and hurt him deeply. I let pain from a past relationship skew my perception of this wonderful man who I had been dating for a while. I was wrong, even though my reasons for doing so seemed obvious to me at the time. Once I realized my mistake I felt like a total asshole and tried making amends to no avail. I waffled from mentally chastising myself to wanting to shut-down completely with fistfuls of M'nMs and one more glass of wine. I kept wondering what he must think of me. What a disappointment and let down I must be to him after such a wonderful couple of months together.
On my way to a photo shoot at Rathtrevor Beach a few days later, I stopped at a red light only to notice that this man was also stopped at the light on the other side of the highway and he was facing me. I just about died. Rathtrevor is not far from his house so I was certain he would assume I was stalking him out of desperation or something.
It was January 30th and I was freezing. Families were beach combing in winter jackets, but I peeled off some layers and began warming up. As my body moved, I could sense the grief of the passed few days rear its head, and was wondering if it was going to overwhelm me. Eckhart Tolle said "Emotions are thoughts that we feel in the body. If we sit with sadness in the body without going over details with the mind, we start to sense that on the other side of sadness is peace."
I felt my body expand into poses bigger than I normally did and with more ease and strength than I'm accustomed too. I could feel an internal shift happening, but although I felt better I didn't leave it all on the mat and I was packing some home with me. Internal transformations don't always happen while I'm on the mat. Sometimes they create the space for transformation to occur once we're finished.
And that's what happened that evening when Jess sent me the pictures online. As soon as I saw them it was like I was having an out of body experience. I was recognizing myself for the first time. I saw myself... Lesley. But I was also the observer of this woman who is Lesley. It was as though I was able to watch her and be her at the same time.
As the watcher, I didn't see the poses through her body. Instead I felt them. The poses she struck didn't mask the pain and the smiles couldn't alway hide the sadness behind her eyes. As I looked at this woman in the picture I could see she wasn't doing poses she was looking for a way out. She wanted to crawl out of her skin. She wanted out of this pain. She thought she was taking responsibility for the pain she caused, but in actuality she took on the pain itself. It's what she's always done. Her shame had grown disproportionate to the mistake. The remorse she felt for hurting this man released a grief she had been harbouring for years. Residue of past mistakes she'd made. This wonderful woman was reduced to defining herself my her mistakes.
She had devoted her life to fostering peace. As it turns out this was to help others feel it. She had glimpses or moments of it from time to time, but she would never fully experience peace if she were to continue feeling so ashamed. How could this woman feel she wasn't worthy of the same light and happiness she guided her students toward? I wept and wept and wept for her. She was so clearly a woman of great compassion with absolutely none for herself. Her current pain began to crash into ancient self loathing and the resulting explosion poured out of her. Her body shook violently. Great and powerful sobs escaped her mouth and I felt her collapse into exhaustion for what felt like an eternity. In this stillness she became aware I was watching her, I sent her all my love and compassion and she closed her eyes and welcomed it claiming peace for the first time. This was the moment that she witnessed the divine essence within herself and in that recognition we were one.
The following is a slideshow of the photoshoot that began my transformation into recognizing the still conscious energy that resides within me and in all beings...it is in this energy that we are one. Namaste
Many thanks to the amazingly patient and resilient Jessica Boyd for taking these pictures and helping me on my journey back to wholeness.
Yoga teaches us to explore and discover who we are in each pose. Do we muscle our way into the pose to get it just right? Or do we hold back out of fear of falling or looking awkward? Are we approaching our practice the same way we approach life? One reason the poses are so bizarre is to make us feel insecure or off balance until we can find comfort in what was once uncomfortable.
Stepping into the unknown can feel so frightening. It leaves us flailing and grasping for something familiar. But sometimes the more scary thought is “What if I never take that leap...what if it’s always going to be like this?”
Over a year ago I had that thought and Anais Nin’s quote came to mind “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud, became more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” So I did something about it...I leapt, and it worked out. I made the choice to step toward a better future for myself and my son and life has been pretty sweet because of it.
Since then, I’ve met or grown closer to so many supportive and wonderful friends. People that are so kind and funny and just great to be with. I have a wonderful career that I love and it truly fills me up. My son is thriving and my dog is happy with his new home and new routine. And my family...forget about it, they’re incredible. So at the beginning of this year when an opportunity came up for me to leap again, I didn’t take it at first. I was finally comfortable. I was barely beginning to settle in after my big leap and hardly had a chance to catch my breath before this knew thing came up (at least that was my excuse). And this new thing required a boldness that I just didn't think I had. I couldn't get past my fear. But in that paralyzing moment, I wondered what my 80 year old self would tell me if she could. She’d tell me to ball-up and go for it. So I did! I wish I could say that it too had a happy ending, but this time it didn’t work out as I planned. I was mortified and my immediate self-talk was not good. Rejection isn’t fun. There’s a sting to it at first that feels like a shameful brain-freeze. But when I went to yoga the next day. My teacher said “be courageous enough to let go.” So I began that. I started letting go of my mental lecture...“You look like an ass, why did you say that? You’re an idiot.” I knew none of that was true. I’ve worked really hard to become okay with who I am. I just didn’t feel okay that day. However, my 80 year old self thought I was a fucking rock star because I went for it. And although I didn’t love that awful feeling, I’ll never regret the leap. And I haven't let it hold me back since. Some leaps are hit and some are miss. But when I miss, I know it's not a mistake. It's corny to say they're learning opportunities...so, I guess I'm corny. And truth be told, I'm getting good at recovering from the misses...they just aren't as devastating anymore. And it sure beats sitting on my ass wondering what could've been. Writing this now, I imagine my 80 year old self is cheering me on. I can rest comfortably knowing that, and I’m so glad I’m making us proud.
The more I leap the more I really get what Philip Yancey said "I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse." It is my hope that you already recognize this, and you leap all over the place. If not, I hope you recognize your own value in moving toward a life that will shake off all the bullshit so you can live freely as the amazing person you truly know yourself to be. May you never be afraid to be raw and true...no mater how uncomfortable that can be at times. May you never let yourself down by not trying. May you never wonder "what if". May you take that flying leap and discover who you really are and what you're really made of...it's fucking brilliant. I promise.
A wise woman who was travelling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveller who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveller saw the precious stone in the wise woman’s bag, admired it, and asked the wise woman to give it to him. The wise woman did so without hesitation.
The traveller left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the jewel was worth enough to give him security for the rest of his life.
But a few days later he came back, searching for the wise woman. When he found her, he returned the stone and said, “I have been thinking. I know how valuable this stone is, but I give it back to you in the hope that you can give me something much more precious. If you can, give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone.”
I'd like to share a portion of a letter I wrote to the yoga students who show up to my classes and inspire me day after day. I wrote this when I was going through a difficult time. Without knowing it, they helped me navigate through confusion and uncertainty so I could learn, and then ultimately overcome the pain and confusion. They lead me to so many discoveries about truth, courage, kindness, and discipline. For that, and so much more, I thank them.
Dear Yogis and Yoginis,
...And despite all your wisdom, you show up to my classes and sit in front of me and indulge this thing I call playtime, and what others call an occupation. You let me share new things I've learned, and you share with me too. I ask you a question and you respond so we connect, and it feels so good to grow with you. I ask you to try a pose and you oblige, so I smile. I feel like a little girl putting on a show in the living room for her family. Then you smile too and join me on this journey even though you know how it ends...with our hearts beaming sunshine and minds wide open to the world we travel to, time and time again. A journey that circles back home into the stillness at centre where it all began millennia ago, or was it just yesterday? We can have such fun, or it can be really hard. You never know what shenanigans I'll bring, how hard I'll ask you to work, what wounds I'll ask you to poke. But you always show up and I'm never alone.
And on days I feel tired, or blue or, just feel sorry for myself, I think of you. I draw from our tenacity, and your kindness, and your vulnerability, and your strength. I feel your courage grow inside me, and it makes me weep. I cry, and cry, and cry. I cry for past hurts I let go of after holding so tightly. I cry for present fears, present blessings, and finally having presence-of-mind. I cry because crying is something I've become quite good at. Not because I'm a sorry mess, but because I'm free now. Tears flow freely when there's nothing to hide. And I cry, for I am humbled by your commitment. I am blown away by your acceptance. And I cry because your giving of Self and Soul is staggering. And I want you to know that I see you. Always. I see you, and I'm cheering for you.
I see you overcoming anxiety, depression, cancer. I see you deal with homophobia and bigotry. I see you when you struggle in class until tears sting your eyes. I see you laugh too, even while undergoing chemo, and divorce, and the loss of a loved one. I see you let go of resentments and abusive relationships, addiction and even prostitution. And I see the shame the relapse brings. I see the mental illness you've been plagued with and the love, and compassion, and forgiveness you offer in spite of it. I see you struggle in your wheelchair and how you curse your numb legs, your shaky hands. And I heard you whisper "fuck!" so we made it our class mantra, shouting it until we howled with laughter. I heard you say you’ve slowed down since your diagnosis, so much so, that you see the birds playing in the trees now, you feel the sun on your face. I saw you "take a break" from yoga classes, and I see you back at it with hesitation - what will it reveal this time? And I saw some of you week-after-week-after-week, until I could see you no longer...your work here on earth was done, but I feel you so deeply moving through my heart.
Wouldn't you agree then, that It makes sense that I would bawl like a baby? For your tenacity takes my breath away. And when I'm done the crying...the cleansing really, I blow my nose. Then I grab my mat, my water bottle, and my phone with all my quotes. I come to class and there you are again. My pillars of strength, my sisters and brothers of silliness, my comrades of compassion...my great and important teachers. I wish you could see how much you mean to me, how you fill up my heart and show me more about yoga than I could ever share with you. I wish you could see how much I love you, just in case you couldn't feel it.
For all you've taught me about kindness, and spirit, and courage, and patience, and empathy, and risk, and yoga, and love...thank you ten thousand times. I'm humbled and honoured to walk this path with you.
Believe me when I say “I see you.” Because I do. I see you. I see your divine spark, and I bow to you with love, with respect, and with reverence.
Yours lovingly in truth, Lesley Lawrence Certified Yoga Sharer
1) to be quiet. 2) to be quiet and listen. 3) to be quiet and listen all the way to the end. 4) to open my ears. 5) to open my ears, so my heart opens to kindness. 6) to open my ears and my heart to kindness so my mind becomes free of judgement and criticism. 7) to rest. 8) to rest and heal. 9) to rest and heal so my open heart and mind can be put to good use. 10) to wash my hands more often so I don't get a sore throat.
Sore throat, I don't like you much. But thanks for the lessons all the same. Get well soon, Lesley
When life is trucking along smoothly and there aren't a lot of hiccups on the road, it feels like my yoga practice just takes off. I’m lighter, stronger, and more balanced. When life feels shitty and hard I need to change my yoga practice so I don’t deplete my already low or anxious energy. Yoga is a therapy we can turn to to transform our difficult practice into a grounded, smooth, open-hearted one. It helps even out the breath, stretch away tension in the body and mind, and brings lifes’ rough patches into focus so we can manage them more effectively. Yoga can be your best friend when you go through the biggest challenges of your life. It has been for me...
Growing up in Alberta was tough in the winters. Not being a skier, there was really not a lot of purpose for me to be around snow except to shovel it. So although my husband made a lot of money at his job there, we decided to leave and settle on Vancouver Island - our version of paradise. We were happy to take a drop in pay if it meant spending more time together as a family.
Within a year of moving, my son got sick. It became necessary to pull him out of school, quit my job, and help nurse him back to health. The struggles he went through would be enormous for a grown up, but he was just an 8 year old boy. He doesn’t feel comfortable with me sharing his story. After all, It’s not mine to tell. But I can say that he’s a champion and the strongest person I know - I’m not sure I would have got through the scary places he had to pull himself out of. He did it with grace, strength and his usual sense of humour. A sick child will bring any parent to their knees. Thankfully, my close family members and my yoga practice picked me up and dusted me off.
To say the least, it was the most challenging time of our lives. Clearly it was scary seeing my son suffer through his illness. We didn't have time to make friends here before he got sick so there wasn't a lot of local support. I know I was a basket case, but I can’t imagine just how broken I would’ve been had I not had yoga to turn to. Just deep diaphragmatic breaths was all I could manage some days. For sure that was a factor in why I didn’t fly off the handle or crumble entirely. It kept me calm enough to find the right health care providers that could diagnose my son and help him recover...we fired a lot of them. But I could only focus on my son during that time. I wasn’t aware back then, how yoga could have brought my husband and I closer during this time of crisis. How the breath practice and poses could have helped him too, as he agonizingly watched our son struggle. Had I known then how yoga could heal relationships, my husband and I wouldn’t have drifted into zombified roommates passing in the hall. We could have been a more united front. It felt wrong, at the time though, almost selfish to focus on our marriage. I was so single minded in my search for a diagnosis, I spent every spare minute scouring the internet for answers to my sons health problems and read books that might tell us why this was happening. It was a huge challenge to hold a family together while maneuvering this strange labyrinth in a place we thought would be our sanctuary.
But when we had the right people in place, he was diagnosed and started to recover. It was a slow process, but eventually he was healthy enough to back to school. I began the task of building my teaching practice to start earning money to pay down our debt. Without my pay and the money we spent on medicine, tests that weren’t covered by health care, therapies and alternative treatments, each month we got further and further behind the eight ball. A debt that we're just now slowly creeping out of.
Once our son was fine and we assessed our finances, we were left with this marriage that felt like a dying fish flapping around the bottom of a boat. What do we do with it? Was a question we both asked. It occurred to me that yoga is the act of uniting, and I had been absent from my marriage for so long. It was time to move towards my husband, towards healing, and give our son a shot at happiness he deserved after going through his own personal hell. I’d love to say it was easy, but it wasn’t. Being gripped in fear for so long. my thinking was out of whack. In yoga we call these thoughts ‘Samskaras’. The more we have a thought, the more it becomes embedded in our mind and even in our physical body. Thoughts become habits and body holds habits that become our posture. Stretching the body opens the mind and brings clarity and freshness to situations. Like seeing them through a new set of glasses.
My friends in the yoga community began to really help me too. Over time I took Marma Treatments from Kim Mosiuk, a local Ayurveda Yoga Teacher from Koi Yoga Studio. Marma is a gentle treatment that releases or redistributes prana (energy) that has been stuck in the body, or provides prana to the body if it’s needed. This was very useful in helping me let go of fear and recognize how abundant, and rich, and full my life is. It helped me open my heart to my husband again. I saw him with compassion and recognized just how courageous he had been during our whole ordeal. Even though yoga means to unite, sometimes it feels like RE-uniting.
So, looking back at our time here in “paradise”, stats would indicate that after moving to the island our finances, health and marital bliss dropped to an all-time low. But you know, that’s where the magic happens...when you bottom-out completely. Down in the pit all mucky and sad, hurt and exhausted. That’s where yoga matters most. It can be your personal Red Cross. It kept me as healthy as I could be, so I could be strong mentally and physically for my son. Had I continued my usual power yoga classes during that time, I would have been a puddle of uselessness. I could only manage restorative poses, but they nurtured me and I shared them with my son from time to time when he could do them. And as we trudged our way through this medical maze, my son got stronger, our marriage got stronger (because my husband is a saint), and stats indicate we're a family on the upswing now. Despite the rough start here on the Island, we're a closer, happier family because of the struggles we’ve overcome. To some it might even appear that we are still struggling, considering our financial situation is not ideal. Some days it still seems insurmountable, but you can't put a price tag on the health of your child. He's happier and emotionally stronger than he's ever been..we all are.
For now, I'm cool with 5 year old sweaters that feel like a hug and 10 year old jeans altered to look like they're somewhat newer. Financial challenges are really a cake walk after watching your kid suffer. And I get to maneuver this challenge with my brilliant husband who is teaching me (and our happy, healthy son!) about being more responsible consumers. We may not have a fortune in money, but we are very, very fortunate.
Washington Irving said “There is, in every true womans’ heart, a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.” He was wrong, though. It’s in every strong man, and in every 8 year olds heart too.
Writing is like playtime to me. Exploring the nooks and crannys of my mind allows me to open to possibility, unbounded creativity, and truth. Sometimes it's messy. Sometimes it's angry. Sometimes it's lighthearted. Sometimes it's corny. Enjoy or dislike it as much as you want. Feel free to share. I'd appreciate that. Cheers, Lesley