From August to December 2015, I worked on my master’s thesis and professional project in journalism: a project documenting what it meant to be a woman working in Colorado’s independent music industry in 2015. I wrote about my research, interviews and study into the topic on a regular, weekly basis (with corresponding mini tumblr posts) on the aptly titled blog, That’s What She Said. Have a peek below…
My name is Lauren.
I’m a writer, editor, multimedia producer, photographer and educator.
Questions? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
The following was published on 10 September 2013 on www.oregonsportsnews.com.
I’m naturally a high strung person; I always have been. I consider myself easygoing, openminded, and wholeheartedly accepting, but I am an archetypal Hermione Granger. I tend to care too much for my own good, sometimes resisting the natural flow of life without even realizing it. Maybe one day a light will dim in my mind, inspiring me to just let go, but today was not that day. Tomorrow might not be either and I’m okay with that; I have homework to do.
It takes me a long time to feel resistance when it seeps into my being. Sometimes I think I’m open and aware before realizing I’m thinking too much. I’m judging. I’m judging myself, my actions, and I’m even judging myself for judging myself.
That chaturanga sucked. Elbows in.
You can downdog better that! Lock it up!
So… hum. So hum. Sohumsohumsohum. I AM. Focus!
Stop thinking so much and just savasana already. Breathe. Relax. Stop, brain!
“You are the least yogi yogi in the world,” a good friend said to me after practice one night.
Here’s the thing: I’m a passionate person and I’m an intense person. I like caffeine – maybe too much. I like bungee jumping. One time in college, I hitchhiked to Morocco for spring break. I tend to push myself to extreme limits, but I’m still a Hermione; I am me. That judgmental voice in my brain tends to remain a little cautious, even when I’m living at my edge. I find it hard to turn my brain off and give in to gravity; to trust the ways of the world and just allow myself to be. Maybe this means I resist a little too much, a little too often.
Resistance can serve us, however; it can be our ally, helping to tune out negativity. It can help us do what we want and ultimately, that is what is important. In the end, if we are not living our lives according to our own truths – our svadharma – what is the point?
If I choose a strong practice one day go with that nit-picky voice in my head telling me to keep my elbows tucked and my belly in, then that may serve me in the moment. If what I’m searching for counteracts what I’m being told I “should” do – either by myself or anyone else – then following that feeling may serve me best, both on and off my mat.
At my yoga teacher’s training, we meditated for two hours every day. Meditations sometimes led to visions that didn’t make sense at the time. In between detailed plans of what I’d eat for lunch that day, I’d often see myself free falling backwards into darkness. Sometimes a hand would reach out to me. I could only assume this meant something at the moment, but as time goes on, it’s making more and more sense.
There is power in giving in; going with the flow; and doing exactly what you want. No one is going to stop you from doing things your way except you. If you put your best self out there – your free flowing, natural, true self, without forcing or resisting anything – others will feel that. People will see how much you care and will have ultimate respect for that rather than stopping you. Rather than living in self-judgment, caution, and resistance: give in. Give in to gravity. Give in to yourself. Resist the can’ts, shoulds and should nots of the world; but don’t resist yourself.
Six months after witnessing myself fall into oblivion, this is my practice.
The following was published on www.oregonsportsnews.com on 27 August 2013.
I’m starting graduate school today. It’s a day I’ve been waiting for nearly six months. It’s been six months of uncertainty and busting my butt. There were several months of vulnerability and some well-earned cynicism thrown in for good measure. It hasn’t been an easy road, but I do have more patience, a new tattoo, and an even better sense of humor to show for it. My devotion to my practice got me through it and although it’s been a challenge, everything I’ve learned along the journey made me a stronger person. In the words of a new yogi friend, “It’s all a practice.” A practice I am extremely grateful for.
I jumped up and down on my bed out of sheer joy when I found out I was accepted into grad school. It was pure exhilaration. I was deep into my yoga practice and in love with my life and friends in South Korea, but I was ready to head “home” to America. This letter of acceptance could only be equated to receiving an owl from Hogwarts. Future stability had been granted to me; I had a way “out.”
A way out of what? I was only slightly aware of the complete black hole of the unknown I’d soon launch myself into. As the days neared and the fear of the unknown settled in, the stability and love I grew accustomed to in Seoul seemed to shatter. I flew out of the country and my adopted family was torn away from me. It felt like I was separating from five pieces of my own soul; it was pure heartbreak.
Yoga has helped me heal. No matter how much I struggled to find a regular physical asana practice while traveling and moving around the world, the core of my practice has continuously grown stronger. Yoga kept me motivated; it kept me passionate; and ultimately, it kept me going through the tough challenges.
Yoga teaches present moment awareness. It means unity. Unity of the body to the mind; of breath to movement; of our souls to the universe and to all that is around us. Everything is connected. Nothing is separate. My practice is constantly teaching me to let go of a desire to control. We cannot control future situations or anyone else’s thoughts, words, or actions. We can only be responsible for our own actions and attitudes toward situations.
My teacher once said, “The power of present moment awareness can heal everything – goodness and virtue will enter into the moment.” I’m finding this to be true more and more lately. What will be will be and our lives will continue to flow on; however, each action, reaction, and the energy we cultivate will affect everything around us. This is Karma. This is also known as being a decent human being.
We cannot change the past; we cannot change the future. All we can do is here and now. Whether that is on the mat or off makes no difference.
With pure gratitude and an open heart, Namaste.
The following was published on www.oregonsportsnews.com on 19 August 2013.
A few months ago, an old beau told me I was messy. I took offense to this because messy makes me think dirty, and dirty means smelly. That’s gross. I’m none of those things. I am a classy lady, dammit. A classy lady with a lot of papers on my desk.
I thought back to this conversation and back to He Who Shall Not Be Named. Although we’ll forever be connected by a complementary distaste of stupid people, a love of good music, and a set of matching tattoos, I’m finally at peace with why we’ll never “work out.” But that’s how Karma works, isn’t it?
I have big, huge ideas. I have life goals and dreams so big that I can’t contain them inside a neat little box with a bow in the recesses of my brain. My desk reflects this in its constant clutter. No matter how hard I try to keep it aesthetically tidy, it’ll forever be a realm of organized chaos.
Some people like their lives to be compartmentalized. They like neat little containers for their things: their papers, their knick knacks, their thoughts, their ideas, their time and their life plans. I’ve realized that I’m not one of those people. My ideas don’t fit into nice little drawers. I don’t have a solid five year plan. The house in the suburbs with the family and the cubicle job is not in my foreseeable future. That future looks more like a Jackson Pollock painting in my brain. For now, I’m grateful that Future Me will at least be attending graduate school for the next two years.
That’s not to say I don’t plan ahead – in fact, I do just the opposite by working my butt off everyday – but who’s to say that the HR department at my dream job will decide to hire me after graduation? Or that my home will still be here tomorrow? Or that my dreams, goals, and life will take me in the same direction as I’m feeling now?
Yoga has taught me to move with my breath and to flow. That is Vinyasa; that is my yoga practice and my life is no different. I can breathe through difficulties. I can conquer resistances I didn’t even know I carried. Walls can melt away, allowing me to expand, open, stretch, and grow in ways I didn’t even realize were possible.
Once we start putting our lives into boxes, however, we contain and put limits on ourselves; we can no longer flow. We must use labels. I’m a student; I’m a teacher; I’m a daughter; a sister; I’m 24; I’m brunette and short. These are superficial; they’re impermanent and they can change in an instant. Except the “I am short” part. That’s forever.
Ask yourself – despite these ever-changing labels – who am I? If you can remove the superficialities and the impermanence, the only thought you may hear is silence. I am. I exist. “That is the point,” explained my teacher. “Once you can touch the present moment, there’s nothing else to do. That is enlightenment.”
If you’re the type of person who enjoys arranging your life into boxes, then by all means, organize away, my Type-A friend. Every once in a while, though, see how it feels to peek over the edges of the walls. Breathe some air. Maybe jump on top of that box, stretch your legs, and keep this Tibetan proverb in mind:
“Tomorrow or the next life, you never know which will come first.”
Om shanti & Namaste, friends.
The following was published on www.oregonsportsnews.com on 9 August 2013.
Why are you here?
For whatever Karmic reason, this question that has come up innumerable times throughout the past year of my life. Sometimes the answer is simple and mundane; sometimes it’s cloudy and convoluted. Other times, the answer is simply handed to me, as if Big Brother has been watching me or reading my thoughts.
This happened one day in Yoga Camp during a minor existential crisis, in which I jottedWhy am I here? into my notebook. The answer came to me from a friendly voice across the room.
“You’re here to wake up. Realize your fullest potential.”
Big Brother in this case was in fact not a creeper or terrifying government watchdog, but a teacher I look up to with great respect and admiration. He announced the answer I was searching for as if directly on cue. It was my last day of yoga philosophy class in Thailand.
I began intensive yoga practice last year with just that intention in mind – long before learning about sva dharma, burning Karma through meditation, or the “auspiciousness” of full moons. Although I started practicing yoga when I was twelve years old, it wasn’t until last fall that I realized I needed to commit to a change in my life. I decided that change would be through yoga – a practice I’d long felt connected, but never fully committed to.
Sva dharma, a Sanskrit word for our natural state, is why we’re here. In other words, it’s You Doing You. Why else should we be here than to live life as our truest selves? To be “all that we can be” and reach our highest potential, as my teacher would say?
Sometimes that means taking a step back and simply witnessing all that is in order to “wake up.” For some of us this means silent meditation or practicing in a yoga class while for others it may be running, biking, swimming, CrossFit, or simply “alone time” to decompress.
While it may be difficult to take the time, patience, and silence away from daily life, it’s a vitally important aspect of why we’re here. Are you here to work overtime and stress eat while worrying about bills? Are you here to watch Keeping up with the Kardashians reruns? Or are you here to commit to a greater potential? To “wake up” to all that you’re capable of?
“There is nothing you can do to gain happiness,” my teacher said. “Happiness is in your natural state of being. Be in the here and now. That is yoga.”
As I continue my yoga practice on and off the mat, I encourage you to do the same. Work hard; sweat; find some kind of practice. Take a moment of silence and unearth what speaks to you. Don’t just ask why you’re here. Discover your yoga, your sva dharma. Go do you.
Sat Chit Ananda and Namaste, friends.
The following article was published on www.oregonsportsnews.com on 25 July 2013.
Yoga is my quiet time. Rather than laying comatose in bed with a package of Oreos and the complete series of 30 Rock on Netflix, I attend yoga class to decompress. My practice is a time for me to feel good about myself, my abilities, and to push my physical body just past the limit I usually think possible.
So when a song comes on during class that reminds me of an ex-boyfriend, I may need to stifle the urge to punch the teacher in the face.
I moved back to the United States nearly five months ago. I constantly find it hard to believe that I’ve been back this long and I’m still struggling to accept the differences between a culture I grew to love in Asia, and this culture I grew up with and returned to. It’s also been a constant battle to find a steady yoga practice within the United States. Perhaps it’s just part of re-adapting to American culture, but I’m really not used to everyone talking so much during yoga.
I’ve become faced with the seemingly obvious, but sudden realization about yoga classes in this country: they’re all about language. I come from a yoga background and personal practice in which I avoid speaking during class or listening to any words but right, left, hand, and foot at all costs. If it doesn’t involve a body part I should move, I don’t really want to hear about it.
As both an English teacher and a devoted yoga practitioner, I find it easy to get caught up in language. My meditative asana time isn’t really set aside for me to hear your personal opinions about my ego or how I should let go of judgment, dear yoga teacher; it’s finally a time during my day when I don’t have to lend a friendly listening ear, so please, just shut up.
When I lived in South Korea, I found a teacher who I grew devoted to. I attended her classes every weekday. She didn’t speak much English. I loved her.
Korean Yoga Teacher: “It is cold today.”
Me: Yes, yes it is.
American teachers are different, however. Since moving back to the United States, I’ve had a hard time finding anyone similar.
American Yoga Teacher: “I was watching squirrels play this morning. Be like the squirrel! Play! Smile!”
Me: It’s hot as Hell in here and I’m sweating my face off, dude. Don’t tell me to play like a squirrel.
I loved my classmates and experiencing their different styles of teaching throughout my Yoga Teacher Training in Thailand, but not once did anyone talk about squirrels. Forrest Gump and double rainbow references? Plenty. Memories of ex-boyfriends via sad acoustic music? Thankfully not.
I know there are good yoga teachers in America, and I’m currently on a quest to find them. Beer-asana and Pink Floyd Yoga may work for some people, but they don’t get my chakras vibrating. So I’d like to know, what’s your experience with yoga classes in America? Have you found a teacher who you can devote your time and sanity to?
The following article was published on www.oregonsportsnews.com on 11 July 2013.
I recently started working at a preschool. One of my greatest and wisest friends once mentioned this and I’m constantly reminded of it now: small children are like tiny drunk people.
If you’ve ever been near one of these itty bitty, messy, wobbly, nonsensical, smack-talking tots, you may have an idea of what I’m talking about. They walk into things. They fall over. They’re loud and they get angry for no apparent reason. They have shmutz on their faces all the time and they don’t seem to care.
Now before I make these children sound like little psychos, I will mention that they’re hilarious and very kind, imaginative souls. They do use one phrase, however, which I can’t stand and have a personal vendetta against.
These two words seem to be a mantra for many of my students. This is particularly true at the age of five and below, especially when it comes to creativity, trying new things, andplaying.
“Draw a heart!”
My eye started twitching at the lack of “please” in this command. Did this five-year-old really not know how to draw a heart? And demand me to do so?
“I’m going to draw it here and then you draw it onto your paper, okay?” I told him.
“No, I can’t,” he replied.
“I need help on the monkey bars!”
“Oh! Did you try?”
“No. I can’t. I’m too little.”
I not only went on a rant about size, ability, and “trying our very best” at this point, but about feminism. To a three-year-old.
As I watched one of my two-year-old students teeter past me one afternoon, knocking everything over in sight, his complete lack of balance reminded me of my current mental state while practicing yoga asana.
Although finding balance is difficult, it’s a goal I strive for. My physical yoga asana practice has been calling for attention for months now and instead of thinking “I can’t,” I just need to know I’m ready. Although I’ve struggled to find a class, teacher, and studio I feel at home with, there’s no reason to give up and claim inability. All of the excuses in the world can fill up time and space in my head, but in the end, my hamstrings will continue to tighten, my body and mind will ache for its practice, and I’ll always feel that lacking and aching need for my missing daily asana time.
Although I’m sure I’ve used the dreaded “can’t” phrase more recently than I think, it’s one I consciously try to ban from my thinking. We are what we think and what we put out into the world will come right back to us.
There was a time last year when I did say “I can” a lot. I said it so much that I’m now a certified yoga instructor and y’know what that means? I can fix my tight hamstrings. I canbalance my own dang asana. So as I roll out my mat, step back into adho mukha svanasana, and hold for longer than is ever comfortable, my mantra will once again be I can.
The fact of the matter is, you’ll never be able to do anything unless you try. Stop making excuses. Stop expecting anything. Rely on that person who has always had it in them and start trusting yourself, because you’ll never be able to say “I did” unless you stop thinking “I can’t” (at least that’s what I’d tell my preschoolers if they’d listen).