Tag Archives: yoga

The “Me Time” Medal: a week of wellness


What does it take, I wonder, to just…stop?  To stop the madness of pushing buttons and swiping, clicking, scrolling from one screen to the next, taking trains, planes, and automobiles here and there and everywhere, booking that appointment up against the one before it and the one after it…instead of taking that hour to…eat?  Take a walk?  Stretch?  Or not do anything at all except…breathe?

I never thought of myself as a multi-tasker.  I left the rat race before I ever fully joined it.  I moved to a place that people yearn for, but only after they’ve lived in the “real world,” building careers and relationships and families in cities and suburbs– the Montana prize at the end of it, not the beginning of it.  Still, my kids make fun of me now during our Facetime calls.  “Let me guess, Mom.  You’re doing twenty-five thousand things at once.”

“Me?  No.  I am not.  I’m just…you know…running my business.  And writing two books.  And getting ready for my next retreat.  And paying my bills.  And booking my Haven Writing Retreats.  And getting my wood for winter.  And researching the best and cheapest snow blower because I’m not going through another Montana winter without a snow blower.  And…”

They roll their eyes and laugh at me from my laptop on the kitchen counter, so it’s almost like they’re here again, doing the same thing.

“Huh.  Am I really that person?”

“Uh…what do you think?” my daughter says.

“You’re a chronic multi-tasker, Mom.  Admit it,” my son says.  “And it’s getting worse.”

“We’re worried about you,” she adds.

“Oh don’t be worried about me!  I love my work.  I love all of it.  And now that you’ve all fledged the nest, I’m told that there’s this thing called Me Time.  I think I could get used to that idea.  Oh, and don’t let me forget– I made Bolognese sauce and froze it last night.  For Christmas.  Oh, and I need to book your flights.”

“Mom.  We’re old enough to book our own flights.  And are you really taking care of yourself?  I mean, are you sick?  You sound sick.”

“Oh, it’s just a little cold.”  I’ve been holding it back, but I let out a bone rattling hack.  “Sorry.  What were you saying?  Oh yeah.  Flights.  Well, I’ll pay for them.  I’ll give you my credit card.”

“That cough sounds nasty.  You need to take a day off.  Have you even eaten today?”

“I had a smoothie this morning.”  The tides have turned, I guess.  I tell them that I’m fine.  I’m just run down.  I’ve just finished the final touches on my novel (coming out in March 2020!), and I’m working on another memoir, and have been doing non-stop consulting for my Haven Retreat alums and preparing for back to back fall retreats. And I’m going to Chicago to do events. And I have a cold.  “My energy level is fine.  It sounds worse than it is.”

I.       Am.         Lying.


The truth is, I’m sick as a dog.  I got back from my last business trip, and hit the wall.  I’ve been lying in bed for three days with a roll of toilet paper, (ran out of Kleenex), various and random tinctures and likely-expired remedies (my eyes are too goopy to see the fine print), Mason jars of water and Emergen-C, Tiger Balm, and something called Gypsy Cream that my friend made and which my raw nose really likes.  My eyes ache so I can’t effectively look at my computer.  I’m too tired to drive into town for supplies.  I haven’t been this flat-out ill in years.  It reminds me of being sick as a child—all set up in my parents’ bed watching The Price is Right and All My Children and General HospitalOnly there are no parents to take care of me now.

I make that thought go away and try to think light, un-pathetic things, like:  Do people even watch soap operas and game shows these days?

In the last three days, I’ve tried to find out—to make myself succumb to brain mush.  To let this cold be a gift of…Me Time.

I last about three minutes.  All those commercials with the women in creased khakis and pressed linen button-downs, happily scouring their white bathroom floors with one errant strand of hair fallen across their line-less foreheads.  Bleck.  Those women don’t exist and if any woman on earth thinks they do…they are in for abject and relentless PAIN when they wake up from the dream.

I turn the TV off so quickly, so allergically, that I wonder:  Was I in some sort of a motherhood dream?  Have I suddenly woken up, now that the last child is gone?  Because I’m in a lot of pain, and not just in my lungs.  It’s in my heart.  Not the one that beats.  The one that wants it all back, just for one day.  Those little babies climbing all over me so that there’s no time to do anything other than just blissfully be with them.  The ones who are telling me now that I’m a serial multi-tasker.  The ones who are worried about me.

IMG_3782I stare at the almost empty woodshed.  The snow will be here before I know it.  I really can’t let the snow stack up this year.  And I really need to get those airplane tickets for Parent’s Weekend.  And I have three business calls that I really need to take this afternoon.  I’ll just push Mute when I have to cough.  How hard is it to take calls in bed?  They won’t know, anyway.  They’ll think I’m in some sort of writerly Montana She Shack.  With distressed barn wood and black and white photos of Hemingway and Gertrude Stein and Anais Nin.  Instead of balled-up toilet paper all around me, and pillows which have lost their cases in the mayhem of all this tossing and turning and coughing and blowing.  And self-pity.

But this cold won’t let me lie to myself.  It only lets me lie in bed.  Just like my children have prescribed.

When I have the energy to move, I make bone broth and tea and slog up to bed again.  I’ve lost my sense of taste.  Even my lover, Earl Grey, tastes like mucus.  Everything tastes like mucus.  My head feels like it weighs twenty pounds.  I should probably cave and take cold medicine, which I hate.  But I don’t even have cold medicine in the house.  I’ve always told my kids that we should feel our symptoms so that we are true to them.  “We need to honor our bodies, not pretend we’re fine, when we’re not.”  When did I become such a hypocrite?  Was it the minute I dropped my second child off at college and came home to Empty Nest?

My kids text me later.  “You okay?”

This is new.

“I’m fine,” I repeat.  “I’m about to take a nap.”

Which I don’t.  Instead I stare at the rain on the roof, trying to think Me Time Empty Nest thoughts:  I need to search ebay for a cheap snow blower.  Does that count?IMG_3782

And then, in the way back of my mucus-y mind, in my grandmother’s southern drawl, I hear:  “Dear.  I’m worried about your mother.  She works too hard.  She needs to take a rest.”  I remember thinking as a child that, based on the sternness in my grandmother’s brow, we had a real problem on our hands:  that my mother might even die from hard work.  That maybe there was no medal at the end of all her achievements, even though it seemed like she was going after one.  She always seemed like she was medal-worthy to me.  But my grandmother’s worry felt more important than any work—even change-the-world work.

My God.  Are they worried about me the way I was worried about my mother?  Am I passing the baton to my kids and are they insisting that this incessant hard-work-to-the-point-of-self-violence gene needs to end?

Because, just like her, I’m always throat-high in a project.  Or three.  Or yes, maybe even twenty-five thousand.  Always more blue blocks on my Google calendar than white ones.  I heard Joan Rivers say on a talk show once something to the tune of, “When I have an empty calendar, I’ll know my life is over.”  Am I like that? I wonder, watching the gutters do their job.  Frankly, they look tired too.

I don’t think of myself as a workaholic.  I mean, I live in Montana.  I work in my pajamas a lot of the time– don’t even own a business suit.  I drive a totaled truck and stop it often, on the side of the road, to take in the unabashed beauty of big sky country.  I spent years playing with my kids on the floor, reading with them and singing with them and snuggling with them.  Yes, I worked out of the home, but I was always just a few steps away if they needed me, and once they went to school, I worked on my career, yes, but I never missed a recital or a school program, and hardly missed a game.  I was that mom.

IMG_3782But now that they’re gone…have I put the pedal to the floor instead of allowing myself to be in neutral for a while?  And…if I’m being brutally honest…do I really want to get to know myself again, outside of my motherhood and my work?  And while I’m at it…since I can no longer bury myself in my motherhood, have I now buried myself in work so that I don’t have to be in this thing called Empty Nest, the memories lurking in every surface of this home?  Most of them so joyous.  Some of them, so not.  Am I going to be a total disaster at Me Time?

What would it take for me to actually…enjoy this Empty Nest?  This Me Time.  People tell me that it’s time to be selfish.  I have a friend who said, just before my son left for college, “I’m going to check on you every week and see if you’re doing something just for you.  Something new and different, to get to know yourself outside of your motherhood and your career.”

“I’m planning on having more time to write and publish books.  And travel.”

“I don’t mean writing.  Or traveling.  I mean at home.  Something you haven’t tried before, right where you live.”

“Like what?” I asked her, truly blank.

She smiled.  “Like…tango lessons.  Like…fly-fishing.  Something just for you.”


“I take a bath every night.  Does that count?  I can’t get enough of Modern Family and Anthony Bourdain (may he rest in peace) re-runs.  There are stacks of books on my bedside table.  Which I read hungrily.  I write every morning.  These are all ways of taking care of myself.  Aren’t they?”

“Mmmmm.  You need to do something…new.”  She knows.  She believed in newness so much that she left her job in Chicago and moved, solo, to Montana.  I’ve never seen her so happy.

IMG_3782Lying here, blowing my nose and feeling so inert, so unproductive and blob-ish– I wonder if I thought that there would be a medal at the end of motherhood.  Like graduation.  Like people would stand up for you and clap and give you a fancy scroll that you can frame and hang on the wall to prove your hard work.  And I wonder, since that doesn’t exist, if I have just succeeded in transferring all of that gumption, all of those hours that I’m no longer parenting day to day, into my career.  Sure looks like it, I think, staring at the rain.  And it also sure looks like my body’s not having it.  At all.

And I read what I wrote last year at this time, when I was preparing for my first bout with Empty Nest. I was sick then too.

“So I give in and just allow the last seven weeks to flicker by like a home movie on my bedroom ceiling:  I dropped my son off at college, came back, and two days later began my work marathon.  I worked intimately with over fifty women in my five day and one day retreats and workshops.  I gave them everything I possibly could give.  I loved it like I loved…well, my motherhood.  I always do.

But in planning my fall schedule last year, I must have been absolutely terrified of Empty Nest because from September to December, there were pretty much only blue blocks on my Google calendar.  No white ones– not after 6:00 am or before 8:00 pm.  And no green ones at all– the places where my motherhood used to live.  I colored everything blue with Work.  I don’t remember doing it.  But I must have looked at those white spaces and gone Marsha Brady, filling it all in to the brim.  Never a moment to stop.

And now…surprise:  I’m sick.  It’s such a beautiful sunny snow day.  I could be out playing in it instead of lying here feeling miserable.”

Now, I breathe in and let out a long emphysema-sounding sigh.  What if I use this illness to practice on?  What if, just for this week, I cleared those blue blocks to white space, and didn’t fill them with anything?  I mean really…nothing.  Not even the Food Network.  Or Netflix.  Or even a bath.  My retreat season is coming soon.  All of the blue blocks are things that can wait, at least a week.  What if I allowed myself to just lie here and watch the rain on the roof and feel my infected lungs rising and falling and let myself feel grateful for each breath that doesn’t erupt in a hack.

For one solid week…what if I didn’t write anything or read anything or do anything or try to be anything, outside of well?  What if this white-spaced nothing…is the medal?  The Me Time Medal.  What did Winnie the Pooh say?  “Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.”  And then, after I’m over this cold…what if I keep it going—this commitment to the white blocks of nothing?  Sure, there’ll be blue blocks.  I like it that way and my bank account requires it too.  But what if I learned to value the white just as much?

IMG_3782I ask us all, because I’ll just bet that you can relate:  Do we have to get sick to stop?  Or can we just stop for no reason other than:  we know we need to.  We know it’s good for us.  We want to be good to ourselves.  And if we are…maybe the “medal” is wellness.  Happiness.  Peace.  We can at least try.

So for just this moment: 

Just…let your chest rise and fall. 

Feel your heart beating. 

Let your heavy head fall back. 

You don’t have to hold it up right now. 

Something can hold you.

I’ll try it too.  Today, all day, right after I do this writing thing that I know is good for me, but that I also know is still a way of doing not being…I’m going to let my head fall into pillows, close my eyes.  Breathe.  Be.  And let my body heal.

Maybe tango lessons next week.  Who knows.

Now Booking Haven Writing Retreats Montana  2020!

One RARE spot just opened for the Sept. 25-29 retreat…

Come join me in Montana and find your voice! Write your book! Court your muse…all under the big sky.  You do not have to be a writer to come to Haven.  Just a seeker…longing for community, inspiration, support, and YOUR unique form of self-expression using your love of the written word!

February 5-9
May 6-10
June 10-17
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September 16-20
September 23-27
October 28-November 1

Go here for more info and to set up a call with Laura! 







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The Art of Being Led


I went to Morocco alone for a month to find “that girl” again. I’d grieved my Empty Nest for the six months I gave myself.  A grief “gift,” I called it. I observed the end of this stage of my full-time motherhood in committed vigil.  And I realized that I can live with dinners for one and a very quiet house, (even if it’s been heavy on Mrs. Maisel, Chef’s Table, and Anthony Bourdain re-runs. Okay, and Modern Family too). I’m glad I’m not driving carpool or slinging mayo and peanut-butter at 7:00am or racing to a lesson or a school meeting or a game, too often borrowing from my kids for my work, or vice the verse, and usually coming out feeling “less than” somewhere, no matter how hard I try to be all things for everyone. Except maybe…me.

I haven’t felt that way in six months. There’s been elbow room. My blood pressure is down. I’m taking long baths again. I’m reading poetry again. I’ve grown accustomed to waking and going directly to my writing and reading in that soft trance of dawn before the day steels/steals the muse. I have much more than a room of my own. I’m writing a new book or two. I’m getting a novel published in a year and I have the intuitive space to give it the finishing touches it deserves. My Haven Writing Retreats and Workshops are filling fast. The future feels bright. And Morocco was my deep bow for what I feel was the most important work of my life:  raising two stunning young humans.  I am so proud of them both…  But mothers don’t get diplomas, and Morocco was mine, so it was much more than a trip.  It was a pilgrimage to find out who I am now.

But just before I left for the airport in Minneapolis, on a quick layover to visit my son in college, I dissolved into his arms and wept. It was the last place I wanted to come undone. I wanted to be his kick-ass mama going off to see the world, head high, energetic and ready.

He looked at me somewhere between stunned and horrified and said, “Mom. Out of all the people I know, you are the most capable of pulling this off! Why are you crying???”

I bit my lip and swiped away my tears. “I’m just…a little…scared.  It’s not that I’m afraid of traveling alone. I can’t wait for that. It’s that…I’m afraid I won’t find my joy again. My wonder. My smile. I’m afraid I won’t know what to want without being the mother or the teacher or the caretaker of something besides myself.” I cracked a fake smile. “I’ll be fine. It’s probably just the lack of Vitamin D and the excitement. Stay in touch on our What’s App family group, promise?”

He nodded, but slowly.

What I didn’t tell him was that I was actually afraid of holing up in a hotel room and not having the courage to join in the throng of the world out there beyond my Montana bubble. This aroused righteous refusal from my inner critter, ranging from good to bad to ugly.

Don’t be so dramatic. When have you ever been that person? You’re a throw the window open and leap out into the streets kind of person. You just haven’t done it on your own for a long long time. Like…since you were nineteen, traveling in Europe, Turkey, Greece, the former Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. You can find her! She’s in you!

And then she’d morph into a posse of people in my life—the loudest and least helpful: Why are you going to Morocco of all places? And why are you going alone? Why don’t you go to Paris like most women your age?

The Paris card ruffles my temerity feathers. “I said it when I was nineteen and I’ll say it now: I love Paris. Who doesn’t? But Paris is easy. I need to go someplace hard. Where my habits and world view and thought patterns get all stirred up and spit out and even forgotten, to make room for new ones that don’t sabotage me. That serve me. I am doing what the poet Emma Mellon suggests. I am going to allow myself to be spelled differently!”

Blank stare. “Well, I think Paris is fabulous.”

You just have to let go, or as I’ve said for many years: allow yourself to be misunderstood. Even though you want to say, At least I’m not going to Syria alone. Or certain parts of suburbia. Wink.

I just smiled in those moments…so seemingly stalwart on the outside, but so puny and scared on the inside. And even worse, the fear wasn’t about the usual things people are afraid of when they travel. I was scared of not being able to spell myself any other way than what I’m used to. Which for the last six months, with the exception of my retreat work which I adore, has been pretty emotionally…well– low. And that is far more terrifying to me than the prospect of a terrorist attack. (And p.s., party-pooper posse: There have been way more terrorist attacks in Paris, than in Morocco!)


I arrived in Morocco at night. I chose the oldest city, Fes, known for its authenticity and “rawness.” I’d done my homework and knew that the Fes medinas are labyrinthine, thin corridors where you get lost lost lost and have to ask for help, but only from shop keepers and women. Not because it’s dangerous, but because you might be brought to a dead end, and asked for money before you’re guided to your destination. I wasn’t afraid of that. I think what I was scared of most was asking for help at all. Even if I ended up in a dead end and I needed to pay for it. I’m just not good at asking for help.

So I’d arranged to be dropped off in a parking lot and met by the small hotel (riad), as cars don’t drive in the medinas. Donkeys, yes. And bicycles. The driver had kind eyes. I’d soon learn that Moroccans have kind eyes as a rule. A man appeared with a cart, piled my luggage into it, and without a word, walked into the dark medina, winding past cats and closed doors until we arrived at a wooden door with a knocker in the shape of a hamza (hand of God). The owners were out of town.  The manager spoke enough English to tell me so, but that was about it. It helped that he had a terrific smile and a girlish cackle for a laugh. He showed me quickly to my room with huge ceilings and a tile floor covered by one long Berber rug and stately antiques, no heat, and quickly took me up to a small dark room where my place was set in a corner of what looked like a professor’s study. There were books everywhere and a low table with a brass candlestick holding a flickering candle.  He motioned for me to sit on the pillow-covered bench, and I did.  And he left.  No other people in sight.  Dead quiet.  Dead dark.  I reminded myself:  this was the sort of moment that I’d longed for.  To be far away and out of control and having to trust in the central goodness of people.

He came back with a huge tray filled with what I soon learned were Moroccan salads—vegetable dishes full of spices like cumin, ginger, turmeric, sweet paprika, saffron, cardamom, cinnamon. Dishes of olives and a basket of bread. I thought it was dinner and that was just fine by me– it was delicious! But then he came back with a lamb tagine with apricots and almonds and couscous and the most musky heady sauce. I devoured all of it, like I hadn’t eaten a meal in days. And I started to feel a coming alive with this food in this dark room, alone by candlelight.  I slept in sweaters with a hat, since there wasn’t any heat.  I felt a little kick-ass.  A little puny.  But I wasn’t scared.  And I wasn’t sad.  I felt far away from my life and like the happiness pump was being properly primed.

Then it was morning, and I heard what I’d in-part come to Morocco to observe. Adhan: the Call to Prayer, an hour before dawn. I sat in bed, and then folded over into Child’s Pose and listened to this voice, stirring the dark cold and the waking faithful, and I felt it stirring what had felt so dark inside me.

I lay there like that for a long time, and then tucked back under the covers, keeping my mind as empty as possible.  If I was going to find my joy, I needed to keep the regular noise OUT.  As dawn slowly emerged, red, blue, amber, and green shapes cast themselves across my room, moving with the sun. Then there was a loud knock on my door. “Madame! Breakfast is now!”

I’m not really a breakfast person. But I could hear this man standing outside my door, and I quickly put on some clothes and stepped out into what was a gorgeous courtyard, open to the sky, with stained glass windows casting the same colors all over the two stories with intricate green and mustard yellow and black tiled floors and walls, and a fountain in the middle with orange trees and light! Song birds! And a little table set just for me looking over the 1500 year old medina of Fes. Fresh squeezed orange juice, Moroccan tea with a lovely silver teapot and a velvet cozy over its handle. Palm dates. Yoghurt, goat cheese, thick dark honey. Sweet potato jam. Three kinds of bread: flat, crepe, pancake. I smeared the goat cheese on the pancake, and drizzled honey on it and ate it and I felt it again: a shade of happy.

“Come, Madame,” said the smiling man, and he led me down to the courtyard where an elegant, tall man in a traditional hooded djellaba robe and striped scarf waited. My guide. The riad had suggested it in our email correspondence. I’d resisted it. Getting lost was a good thing, yes? “I like to do things on my own.  I’m a good traveler.”  But they had insisted, “Not in the Fes medina.”  So I’d succumbed, but I wasn’t happy about it.

“I am your guide for the day,” he said in a sort of British accent, smiling with his kind eyes and salt and pepper well-groomed beard.

I looked into his eyes.  This was not a typical tour guide.  There would be no selfie-stick.  This man’s eyes had centuries in them.  Immediately, I gave myself to his care, with a relief I didn’t know I needed.

There began this coming alive that never arrived in one big rush. But in small moments when I would catch myself smiling, and usually following someone who had been designated to help me find my way. I followed this man for two days, eight hours each, all around the bustling sardine-peopled medina and outside its walls too, learning about artisanal arts, still so alive and well in this country– the hammering of copper pots, grandfather to son to son, in a small square, the ancient tannery, still operating as it had from the start, with pigeon droppings as the key ingredient, holding a bundle of mint to my nose. Following his long and stalwart steps to the oldest university in the world, University of Karueein, founded in 859 AD. Showing me the signs of Muslim tolerance in the mosaic designs—an observance of the line of Abraham, from Moses, to Jesus, to Mohammed and the eight gates of Paradise. I caught myself smiling as I skipped forward to keep up with him, weaving around fast-walking women in hijabs and kaftans buying butchered lambs hanging from hooks, and chickens from cages, and spices in pyramids on stands next to a mind-blowing variety of olives and preserved lemons. Dodging bicyclists and donkey dung. And so many many cats. He was the first of a host of guides/teachers/sages who led me through Morocco.  I will never forget him.

IMG_888738e6e069-467d-4547-ad70-620b04d96547And I got used to it– this being led. I’ve never hired a guide in my life. Not for anything. “I can do it alone.” Why? How does doing it alone make you more powerful?  I never could have possibly learned all that I did without these guides, yes about Morocco and culture and humanity, but these guides also brought my smile back.

The man who drove me to and from the Blue City of Chefchauen in the Rif mountains and stopped at groves of olive trees and orchards of oranges because I lifted my camera to the window and he wanted me to stop and soak it in. His country. Where they till the fields with donkeys and horses. “No tractors,” he smiled proudly.

The woman in Marrakech who taught me to cook tagine and pigeon pastilla, and who when I said, “I don’t have anyone to cook for anymore,” excused herself to run to the market and buy me a small red clay tagine to take home. “For one,” she smiled, also a single woman.

And the man who walked me through the thin alleyways of Marrakech by night to eat like a local in spirited hole-in-the-wall places that I would never have had the guts or know-how to navigate, to eat sheep’s head tangia, (I did not eat the eyeball, but the cheek was heavenly), snails, prickly pear, street food that I would never have dared to try, unless Bourdain himself popped it into my mouth. (Turns out he was a fan of these same dark alleys and nighttime haunts).

And the woman who bathed me. Who lay me on a hot marble slab in a hamaam fired by olive branches in an24a62db0-f1c5-4f49-a075-cfa74751034f oven below, covered my skin in a black soap mask, and scrubbed me with a kessa glove…almost everywhere, noting the layers of dead skin that I didn’t know I needed to shed. It hurt. And it healed. I walked out feeling new. “Every week,” she said, smiling, and gave me the cleaned glove to bring home.

And my GOD…the horse guide on the beach whose only English word was gallop, and I did. On a Barb Arabian stallion, at low tide, not a rock anywhere, just hard wet sand for miles.  And he filmed it, galloping alongside me, and gave it to me as a gift.  I’ve watched it probably a hundred times.  I look as free and as happy as I’ve been for a long long time.  And I felt that way too.

There were so many other people who guided me, taught me, showed me. And I so happily followed. Most of them took my phone out of my hands and said, “Good place for photo,” and took several of them. “Beautiful,” they said. “Look.” Normally I don’t look at photos of myself. They pain me. But they were insistent. “Look!” I looked. With each photo, from each guide, there was a new width and depth to my smile. Lit from within like the hamaam.

I also heard it from people when I had wifi and checked in online along the way. “Your smile! You look so happy! You look so different!”  And yes…some of them were the naysayers!

I hadn’t known I’d let my six months of sadness show. And as I was saying goodbye to Morocco…the fear washed in again.  I was scared again.  What if it comes back when I go home?

Answer:  I’m not going to let it.  That’s all.  I am the gatekeeper, and yes the guide, to my joy.  But…in going home, I’m going to remember to ask for help, find masters and teachers and guides, and open myself to being a joyful follower.

I made these photo collages as a reminder.  Every shot, taken by my guides: (and when I say “guides”…that means all of the kind people who met me lovingly along the way.)Image-1-1

If you are longing to radically rearrange yourself, whether or not you have the ability to go away somewhere bright and new for a month, I highly recommend that you do things way out of your comfort zone. And that you find a kind guide that can show you the way. You don’t have to do it alone.

***I will be writing an extensive piece about my month in Morocco with helpful links and tips for a publication near you, so stay tuned…

One of the best ways I know to be spelled differently, is to come to a Haven Writing Retreat in Montana!

March 20-24 (full)
May 8-12 (full)
June 12-16 (two spots left)
June 26-30 (one spot left)
Sept 18-22 (now booking)
Sept 25-29 (now booking

Go here for more info!  




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Writing is Yogic

yogaI believe that having a committed writing practice not only helps us process life, but also helps us shed old thought patterns so that we can move forward in our lives.  I believe it helps us to be well, get well, and even prevent illness.  I believe that writing is a transformative and therapeutic tool.  Does that mean that it helps us feel better?  Not necessarily.  Sometimes writing through our life experiences and musings can have us feeling worse.  But here’s what happens most of all, and why I do the work that I do in my Haven Writing Retreats and Workshops:  It gets those stories and thought patterns out of us so that we can look at it all and decide what we want to do with it.  Burn it in the fireplace?  Bury it in the garden?  Put it in the compost heap?  Turn it into an essay or a poem or a novel or memoir or short story or letter or email or blog post?  Or let it back into our psyche, like a welcome guest, willingly and deliberately giving it nice thread count, organic down pillows, and a room of its own with a view.  I’ve seen the act of writing change lives over and over again.  Many of the people who come to Haven practice yoga, and compliment that practice with writing.  This Haven alum has taken both of these practices to the center of her life, as both a yoga instructor, and a published author.  I loved her take on the yogic aspects of writing and Haven.  And I hope it will help you bring writing into your life as the powerful practice that it is.  yrs. Laura

We have just a few more spaces left on our 2016 Haven Writing Retreat calendar!

September 7-11 (full with wait list)
September 21-25 (one space left)
October 5-9 (spaces left)
October 19-23 (spaces left)

To schedule a phone call to learn more about the retreat, go to the Contact Us button here.

Why You Should Count Writing as a Daily Practice

by Andes Hruby– originally published in yoganonymous

Laura Munson is the author of the New York Times and international bestselling memoir, This Is Not the Story you Think it is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness. While this book is not about yoga, its principles are yogic, showing a woman using self-reflective Tarka practice to write her way through a marital crisis. Tarka is derived from the Sanskrit word that means to focus on reason, conjecture, logic, and contemplation.

“Daily Tarka is my way of processing life,” Munson says. “Using it during a difficult time brought me into a great place of harmony, self-realization, and surrender. I never dreamed it would become a bestselling book.”

The success of her memoir brought her into the public eye as a sought-after speaker in the wellness circuit, with messages of empowerment, personal responsibility, and emotional freedom, and eventually inspired her to begin Haven Writing Retreats.

“Over and over I heard, ‘I want to use writing as a transformative tool too, but I don’t feel creative. I don’t have a unique voice.’ I knew I could help change that.”

Munson believes that having a regular writing practice is as essential as yoga and meditation in the path to mindfulness. It has worked. Haven is highly ranked among the top writing retreats in the US.

“How can you be in touch with your Om if you don’t know what your voice sounds like?”

Haven was unlike any workshop I have attended. First at Bennington College and later at Columbia, I spent years critiquing work and having my work critiqued: they can be cruel circles of banter.

“All-too-often workshops focus on what’s wrong. At Haven we step outside of good, bad, right, and wrong, and step into what’s possible and powerful about each person’s voice. You don’t have to be a writer to use writing to navigate this heartbreaking and beautiful thing called life. Just a seeker. Having a supportive teacher and positive community is crucial.”

While Munson is not a dedicated yogi, she believes that yoga and writing work together. “Writing helps you gain new self-awareness, while yoga helps get you out of your head and into your body to move the energy through.”

At Haven, Munson starts her workshop with a simple quote: “Writing is my practice, my prayer, my meditation, my way of life, and sometimes my way to life,” and she is clearly on a mission to bring writing into people’s lives whether or not they care about getting published. “I think writing should be up there with diet and exercise in the realm of preventative wellness,” she says with fire in her eyes from the ranch in Montana where she leads her retreats.

Haven is a unique combination of group writing, work-shopping, personal writing time, and afternoon activities: yoga, meditative silent walks, bountiful vegetarian food, and one-on-one sessions with Laura. In the morning class, we write through a series of guided exercises, helping us free-fall into our most emotional material. “The stuff that keeps us up at night.” We fill our books to the brim with scribbles, illegible notes, scenes, and a few tears. In the evening class, each of us has the opportunity to receive constructive feedback for our work.


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Munson is stalwart throughout the day, making sure that we focus on writing. “Trust that the writing will be your guide if you breathe deeply into it.” I tell my Monkey Mind to focus on my breath, to go gently, and I do.

Munson chants: “Focus on the scene, focus on what isn’t said, focus on the details. Build the world so I can feel it and touch it and know it like you do. Don’t tell me about it. Show me.”

I respect Munson for not dipping into therapy the same way I respect this quality in yoga teachers. We’re here to be motivated to create a new, empowered, inspired, and committed writing practice, and Munson delivers. I am arm-in-arm with my muse, feeling the gift of what she has promised: a safe place to create in the wilderness of Montana.

I let go of being a professional writer, a yoga instructor, and all my fitness certifications. Munson has taken the snobbery out of being a writer and reminded me that writing is a tool for mindful living.

While Munson has been widely published and completed extensive media tours both in the US and internationally, she is not fooled by her own success.

“My job is to help you find your unique way of saying what you have to say. Your truth. Your quiet resonation with the universe. Your Om.”

Poses that increase creativity:

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Andes Hruby

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Andes Hruby has spent 30 years as a certified fitness instructor in five disciplines and graduated Columbia University with an MFA in writing. The American Council on Exercise accredits her as a Health Coach, Personal Trainer and Group Exercise Facilitator. To better balance her body Hruby began her training in the Ashtanga community under Beryl Bender Birch, David Swenson, and Nancy Gilgoff. Hruby was previously the NBC Fit Guru of Connecticut, and for over a decade was the owner of Studio Blue: Fitness Made Fun. She currently writes a lifestyle and fitness column forConciergeQ and has been a contributor at: Glamour, Elle, Allure, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and numerous on-line zines and blogs. She was featured as one of “20 Female Yogapreneurs to Watch” on YOGANONYMOUS.

You can reach her at:


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Haven Winter # 7

What is inspiring you?  I hope that you can ask, in the dormancy of winter:  what would happen if I took a stand for myself?

This is the seventh in a series of guest posts:   For the last few winters, I’ve offered up my blog as a place for writers to share. I believe in generosity.  I also know how important it is for writers to write.  To that end, I’ve spent a few weeks posting the alive and brave words that people who have come to a Haven retreat are willing to share.  Read these words.  Consider this experience.  Play around in curiosity and wonder.  I hope that my blog will honor all of us who sit in the intersection of heart and mind and craft that is writing.

That’s what I’m doing.  Quietly.  For these weeks.  Please think about taking this time for your heart language.

Haven by Maria Rodgers O’Rourke

Here’s the story of when I lugged a stack of notebooks across the country in the dead of winter, headed to Whitefish, Montana and the Haven Retreat.

I brought two of them (black and white composition books) to our first writing session. Like a kid at a new school, I hugged them tightly and tried to look confident. I left a Smash journal, filled with artsy-decorated blank pages, in my room. The cheap notebooks were for my first drafts, I thought: I’ll transfer my edited versions to the Smash later.

In our writing sessions, Laura welcomed us and our stories with open arms. My body relaxed into the daily writing routine, healthy meals, comfortable rooms, and the snow-covered grounds. My creative self snuggled into this haven space and took some risks. One afternoon, our yoga teacher asked, “So how’s it going?” and patiently waited for our response. The room held a small group of us, strangers just days before, and I felt safe. My heart in my throat, I blurted out that my golden retriever was dying, and sobbed. We cried and shared our stories of loss, lifting the grief that I dragged from home like so many notebooks.

With such healing going on, by the third day my writing sessions were producing real gems. Rough and honest, the drafts revealed my voice, stretching out like a bird opening its wings. That day I added the as-yet-unused Smash journal to my stack. After breakfast, we settled into our meeting room, which was awash in Montana winter sunshine, each window a postcard of evergreens on snowy hillsides. Sipping her tea, a fellow Haven-er noticed my notebooks. I explained about drafts and revisions and critiques, but my words trailed off as these once-hidden thoughts came into the light. I felt silly, but she smiled and said, “So, your first drafts aren’t worthy of the pretty pages?”

She nailed it. Turns out I only needed one notebook. The first draft is where the inner critic succeeds in dismissing a clever idea, or discouraging the hopeful writer, or quieting a fledging voice. To get out of our own way and get that first draft on paper is a victory. And they are worthy of pretty pages. All my Haven Retreat first drafts, clippings, and photos are secure in the Smash journal. When my creative self needs it, I flip through the pages and feel Laura’s embrace. At Haven, every first draft is beautiful.

Haven by Stephanie Maley

Writing was something I did for myself. Pages of self discovery, life experiences, and dreams, splattered flimsy journals. Now as a professional photographer, I knew I needed writing direction. Laura Munson’s words spoke to me in a personal way. After reading her book, “This Is Not The Story you Think It Is,” I felt connected. I knew I could learn from her. When she offered a writing retreat, I leapt at the chance to attend.

Short on trust and long on self doubt, I journeyed my way to Montana. Being at Haven was like bathing in warm light. From Laura’s squealing delight at meeting me, her faithful blog follower, until I boarded my plane for home, I felt loved and accepted. The attentive staff, vegan meals, snuggly down beds, and daily “love” mail from Laura, wrapped around me like a moth’s cocoon.

I took risks in this Haven. I shared secrets. Dressed in PJ’s, surrounded by my fellow retreatents and a hearty fire, I opened the pages of my heart. Words poured forth and bounced back with objective suggestions. Each of us reaching out to one another. My love of the power of words deepened. Story after story filled the smokey air. Raw, flesh- tearing, and humorous words kept us riveted.

Our group marches forward, together. We share our writings and seek advice from one another. Our private Facebook page keeps our connections strong. Some of us have been able to see each other beyond Montana. We cheer from the sidelines for each other and keep the Haven spirit alive. When my own writing progress stutters, I am reminded that I am still loved and accepted.

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Haven Winter Series # 6

What is inspiring you?  I hope that you can ask, in the dormancy of winter:  what would happen if I took a stand for myself?

This is the sixth in a series of guest posts:   For the last few winters, I’ve offered up my blog as a place for writers to share. I believe in generosity.  I also know how important it is for writers to write.  To that end, I’ve spent a few weeks posting the alive and brave words that people who have come to a Haven retreat are willing to share.  Read these words.  Consider this experience.  Play around in curiosity and wonder.  I hope that my blog will honor all of us who sit in the intersection of heart and mind and craft that is writing.

That’s what I’m doing.  Quietly.  For these weeks.  Please think about taking this time for your heart language.

Silencing the Head Noise by Lindsay Henry

Everything in my life felt cluttered:  My bedroom, my desk, my stack of Things to Do.

My mind.

My mind was constantly cluttered. Cluttered with thoughts. Ideas. Dreams—dreams of hardcover books with my byline telling tales buried deep within me.

When I learned my new favorite author Laura Munson hosted writing retreats in Montana, I decided to go. Maybe this will help me get out of my chaotic mind’s way, I thought. I wanted to take my writing seriously, to be amongst others like me, and, at 25-years-old, do something adventurous. Step out of the box. You know, really take the bull by the horns, carpe diem and all that.

It was the end of February when I breathed in Montana’s fresh air and stepped my boots onto melted snow, ready for this retreat. I set my eyes on Laura Munson and we embraced in a hug that felt more sisterly than first–time-meeting.

The next few days, I bonded with my fellow Haven retreaters over writing activities and green tea, conversation and quinoa. Laura was lovely, gently guiding us as we stepped out of our own ways to get thoughts on the page. The writing activities, the feedback, the friendship ….It was exactly what I needed.

On the second day, my brain was bursting with inspiration. Then I went into the yoga studio, and my mind was blown.

I signed up for yoga as one of our non-writing retreat activities. Joined by two other retreaters, we walked into the gorgeous yoga studio with glass windows overlooking the Montana landscape. A petite woman with a calm, kind face named Arlisa was our instructor.

Clothed in sweatpants and uncertainty, I stepped onto the studio hardwood floors, my socks sliding as I grabbed a yoga mat. My brain chatter was already going: “Don’t fall on the floors; don’t forget to finish that writing sample; are you going to read it to the group later? Maybe you shouldn’t; it’s not very good.”

As soon as Arlisa spoke, though, my brain quieted. I was surprised. After years of listening to my constant stream of chaotic thoughts, I welcomed the peace as we stretched.

Near the end of the session, Arlisa instructed us to lie on our backs. She spoke in a calm voice. “Picture a ball of light,” she said. “Send that ball of light throughout your entire body.”

Half-asleep, I lay still on my yoga mat. Suddenly, a small voice whispered, “You are seeking approval. Let it go.”

The voice wasn’t like my normal brain chatter. It wasn’t commanding or stern, nor matter-of-fact. This voice was kind and gentle. Familiar.

My heart’s voice.

Yoga allowed my chaotic mind to be silent long enough so my heart could speak up. And when she spoke, she spoke clearly.

I carry that lesson with me to this day. Despite the brain clutter and chaos, my heart has a voice, too. Since that day, I try not to forget to sit still and listen.


Upping the Ante by Mary Novaria

“UP THE ANTE ON EXPOSING YOURSELF” was scribbled across the back of page seven.  Oh, I felt plenty exposed already, having dared to share snippets of my fledgling memoir, the quintessential work in progress that was nowhere near finished and, in fact, was scarcely begun. But it’s hard to ignore a command given in all caps and Laura Munson had dared me to bare my soul. She may as well have asked me to go skinny-dipping off the dock. Could I possibly expose myself as audaciously as those geese that declare dawn each day at the ranch? Where, before the moon has even set, they honk and flap and skitter in a vee knowing full well it’s their job to rid the morning fog from the surface of the pond?

I fear exposure. What if I’m exposed as a fraud? Revealed as one who merely pretends to be a writer, but who isn’t one… not really? Beyond the writing, what if I’m exposed as someone who is, well, a rather flawed human?

My mother once asked how it was that I became so close to my best friend. “We got naked together,” I said, meaning we’d bared our souls, shared our secrets, confessed all—especially the not-so-nice things that are unworthy of a Hallmark card. We’d stripped down to the barebones truths and that gave our friendship an authenticity born of trust.

Exposing one’s self can be dirty business. Even if I could spin a fairytale like silk or cloak an adventure in a superhero’s cape, the fabric wears out eventually. Then, there I am with my remorse exposed and the ante upped in stories that are ugly and raw: I slapped my teenage daughter… I was embarrassed by my mother’s dementia… I binged and purged… The truth will be written in drops of blood, for to expose myself is to pierce my heart.



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Haven Holiday Giveaway

Giveaway Basket-December 2013

Announcing the winner of the Haven Holiday Giveaway!

I have never experienced more personal gratification in putting together a basket of love, spirit, and much good work– all from people who have touched my life.  Each of these people had an idea.  A far-fetched idea, some might say.  None of them let that get in their way.  What you see here is not just a bevy of incredible products, but hours of heart language, and miles of creative flow.  I want to thank all the  contributors.  Check out their information below and spend some time seeing what they do.  Maybe you have a “far-fetched” idea.  Maybe you long to bring it into reality.  These people hold the torch and say, “welcome.” 

Happy Holidays from Haven.  May you find haven during this magical time of the year. 

yrs. Laura

This gorgeous Giveaway basket includes:

A priceless collection of some of my very favorite things…to keep your heart hearth warm through the holidays and beyond…including a 10% discount on a Montana Haven Retreat in 2014!  Sign up here and win!

Welcome to some of the things I love!  I own all of these gorgeous creations and incorporate them into my life as often as I can.  They help me to focus, feel balanced, stay mindful, intentional, and grounded.  And they also feed my muse.  Each of these very special products has been birthed by powerful people who have come into my life and deeply inspired me.  I invite you to check out their web-sites and consider their creations in your holiday gift-giving.  And I encourage you to dig deep into your creative self-expression and follow your own passion wherever it leads you!

Giveaway Gift Basket:

A signed first edition hardback of my New York Times and international best-selling memoir:  This Is Not The Story You Think It Is:  A Season of Unlikely Happiness

2014 Montana Haven Retreat (selling out fast)!!!  10% off a retreat experience that will inspire your creative self-expression, nourish you, and re-charge your muse.

Great Northern Powder Guides:  10% off the cat ski adventure of your life in the stunning back-country of NW Montana.  A truly powerful Montana Moment!

Jessica Ricci Jewelry:  Silver Temet Nosce ring (Know Thyself)

BijaBody: BijaBody Nightly Beauty Tea, Deluxe Discovery Set with a sample of BijaBody’s protective Daily Body Serum and regenerative Anti-Aging Body Treatment, in a gorgeous, hand-make canvas bag

Clovis Jewelry:   Gold-filled Horseshoe Necklace

Glacier County Honey:  Two Montana-made large pine cone beeswax candles

Jennifer Schelter Yoga:  Inspirational Vinyasa Yoga DVD from one of the country’s best yogis.

JAMU Spa Products:  Ginger Spice Spa At Home (organic ginger massage and body oils and Balinese ‘boreh’ body scrub)

The Zen of Slow Cooking:  Organic whole and ground spice blends crafted for your slow cooker and designed to infuse a little zen into your kitchen.  Shopping list, recipe & zen reflection included.

And the randomly selected winner of the Haven Holiday Giveaway is: 

Heather Higinbotham who blogs at: http://justbegooddogood.blogspot.com/ and does wonderful work for Montana here!

Thanks to all of you who entered.  There are more giveaways to come in 2014 with more of my favorite things!



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The Radiant Retreat– March 24-31– Join me in yoga and writing on a white sand beach…

So….you know when you have this idea? And it flashes in your mind and your rib cage flickers with heat. And you catch yourself smiling because you can see the whole thing play out in your mind like it’s being projected on the inside of your forehead? There you ARE! On a BEACH! With one of your best friends and a group of fellow journeyers, sharing and playing and doing yoga and writing. And there’s no judgement or meanness. You are free. For the first time in a long time you feel absolutely free.

And then in come the police. NO no no. You can’t go to that beach. Who do you think you are? You can’t afford to give yourself that gift. You’re supposed to be saving for your kid’s college fund. You’re supposed to be at your office on your computer not missing one deal, never mind one text or Tweet or Facebook update or email. You’re supposed to be RESPONSIBLE.

Well what if you can call a week in Tulum, Mexico with one of the best yoga instructors in the country and a New York Times bestselling author, and a group of kindred spirits…all coming together to inspire your body/mind to nourish itself…the ULTIMATE in responsibility? What is more responsible than taking a stand for your health–mind, body, soul? What is more powerful than making a deliberate move toward awareness and healing? Being blithe? Heck, maybe you’ll do a cartwheel on the beach.

It was the idea of that cartwheel (and no don’t hold me to it!) that got me thinking that I would make this investment in my well-being. My dear friend Jennifer Schelter, yoga goddess and so much more (read below), invited me to be the writing leader on this amazing retreat she’s been holding for the last five years. I saw the mental movie. Then I felt the police putting out that fire in my rib cage. And then I asked this powerful question:

What makes me most happy? Kind people. Writing. Beaches. Helping people to wake up to their creative selves. Moving my body around in nature.

And so after I told her the list of reasons why I couldn’t join her in Tulum…I interrupted myself and said, “Actually…I’m in. Count on it.”

We’ll spend our mornings in yoga practice.  And our afternoons at the intersection of heart and mind and craft that is writing.  We’ll find where we are stuck on the page and maybe even where we’re stuck in life.  We’ll do exercises that nimble the muse and tap into our creative voices.  We’ll breathe our writing ALIVE on a white sand BEACH!  I positively cannot wait.

Here is the info. There’s still space. Come give yourself this gift! Cartwheel not required.

The cabanas

The restaurant

Jennifer Schelter-- Yoga goddess and dear friend

Retreat led by: Jennifer C. Schelter

A leading expert on the mind-body connection, well-being and creativity, Jennifer Schelter was called “One of The Most Inspiring Philadelphians” by US Airways Magazine 2009, a “Real Goddess” in the “People Who Make the News” by The Philadelphia Inquirer, and “Best Yoga Instructor of 2007″ by PhillyFit Magazine. Her innovative work champions mind-body awareness and the integration of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs for optimal health, performance, and focus. Her clients include Fortune 400 companies, Wharton Business School Advanced Management Program, and Authentic Leadership Training.

In addition to teaching Vinyasa yoga and meditation, she’s a life coach, playwright, author, actress, and entrepreneur.

Jennifer is the founder of Yoga Schelter; the premier yoga studio in the East Falls sections of Philadelphia and Yoga Unites®, a non-profit whose mission is to inspire individuals and engage communities in yoga, meditation, journaling, and dialoguing as tools for health and transformation. She leads over 1,200 people annually at Yoga On The Steps for Living Beyond Breast Cancer on the Philadelphia Art Museum steps and Freedom Plaza, Washington D.C. contributing to the success in raising over $300,000 in donations. In 2004, Living Beyond Breast Cancer Organization, presented her with the Community Vision Volunteer Award for “taking yoga off the mat” by envisioning and creating a one-of-a-kind event “Yoga Unites.” “Through her generous spirit, Jennifer inspires all women affected by breast cancer to breathe, stretch and move towards wellness.”

She is the producer of “am awake,” an audio yoga CD and DVD, “The Art of Vinyasa Yoga”, and is the founder of The Radiant Retreat at Maya Tulum, internationally recognized as one of the finest wellness destinations.

Amnesty International produced her one-woman-show “Love Lessons from Abu Ghraib” in 2009 at the Capital Hill Arts Center in Washington, D.C., the Regional Conference in Harpers Ferry, VA. and Haverford College. The show, recently produced by InterAct Theatre, received rave reviews on Radio Times, NPR in February 2011.

She loves her cat Shumba, and is currently writing a memoir based on her global adventures.

Writing Led by: Laura Munson, the author of the New York Times and international bestselling memoir This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness (Amy Einhorn/Putnam 2010) which Book of the Month Club named one of the best books of the year. It has been published in nine countries and has been featured and reviewed in Vanity Fair, Elle, Redbook, Time, Newsweek, Washington Post, Publisher’s Weekly and many other newspapers, magazines, and online venues across the globe. Laura speaks and teaches on the subjects of empowerment, personal responsibility, and emotional freedom at conventions, universities and schools, writing retreats/workshops, and wellness centers. Her work has been published in the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, O. Magazine, The Week, Huffington Post, Redbook, Woman’s Day, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, More Magazine, The Sun, The Shambhala Sun, Big Sky Journal and others. She has appeared on Good Morning America, The Early Show, WGN, many NPR stations, Hay House radio, as well as other media including London’s This Morning and Australia’s Sunrise. She lives in Montana with her family and horses.

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One Woman Show

I hear all the time “I want to write a book but I don’t have time.”  Or “I want to write a book but I have small kids.”  Or “I want to write a book but I have to work fulltime.”  Or “I want to write a book but I’m afraid of what my mother will say.”  I don’t have a lot of sympathy for these comments.  If you want to do something that badly, then do it.  Find a way.  I believe in the pure intention behind the phrase “I want.”  I believe more in the act of creating.  And I believe that we are the ones that get between the two and block our own way.

I have a friend who blows me away with her clear intention and ability to create her life and thereby inspire other people to do the same.  She is transformation in motion.  Yoga teacher, life coach, actress, artist, yoga and meditation retreat leader…phenomenal presence.  I am so proud of her and I want to share what she’s up to these days:  a one woman show.  Just in case it was on your “bucket list,” here’s a word from Jennifer Schelter about how this came to be.  Hopefully it will inspire you to move outside of wishing or wanting…and into creating.  And if you’re lucky enough to be in the Philly area, go see it!

Here’s a trailer to the play

To read the full interview about the entire process of how it came to be  Click here:

What Made Me Write and Perform “Love Lessons from Abu Ghraib”?

by Jennifer Schelter

I guess, you could say, I am the Queen of transforming needless suffering in to something beautiful. And “Love Lessons from Abu Ghraib,” is just that, with a big dash of “I needed to heal my own depression.”

The process of alchemizing depression, anger and sadness into calm, forgiveness and love, is required of an artist. And I take that seriously. I am the artist of my own life. Each day I get a blank canvas. Each day I get to create who and what I will experience. I was in pain and depression after listening to one of the most eye opening experiences I’ve witnessed: Listening and meeting former torture victims. I needed to heal my self.

This play is relevant because torture doesn’t stop. You turn on the radio or TV and out it comes– tons and tons of stories and language, spewing atrocities and violence. I don’t watch or listen. I watch and read it when necessary. I’ve got enough going on between my own two ears. The average person has over 60,000 thoughts a day. 75-85% of them are disempowering and negative. I’m interested in mastering and living in the 20-25% life affirming and empowering thought zone – gratitude, laughter, gentleness, balance, vision, seeing opportunities and possibilities. I call it my “Let’s see what beauty I can create and love life” diet.

People all over the world are tortured in numerous ways. You don’t have to be in Abu Ghraib to be tortured. There are a lot of tortured souls, faking happiness, staking their lives on things that don’t sustain them, depressed, anxious, unfulfilled, not listened to, unacknowledged, conditionally loved, alienated, and isolated. If more people were unconditionally loved, supported, valued, nurtured to play, have fun, be passionate, forgive, and excited to participate in learning new ways of seeing them self and their lives, violence would shrivel like a raisin. You can’t praise and judge simultaneously. Unless we look at the subtle ways we beat our own self up, it will never stop.

Given the recent shooting in Tuscan and President Obama’s statement, “…at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do -– it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.”

“Love Lessons” is my way of taking a moment to talk to my self and others in a way that heals not wounds. It’s my way of forgiving this imperfect job we all have: Being human. My way of understanding and learning is to dialogue, write and study a subject until I feel transformed. Physical movement or kinesthetic learning is part of my process and part of yoga. I study to master how to transform thought into an embodied experience of feeling “divine and free” and have fun while doing it! I’m grateful for having the opportunity to be an actress, playwright, meditation, yoga teacher and life coach. These combined passions and professions have saved me and given me grace when I most needed it. I don’t know what I would do with out physical movement, creativity and Mother Nature. That combination is literally “My God” and offers me the ability to be able to sit with the darkest and lightest part of humanity and myself. The physical body, heart and mind are an alchemical vessel.

I’ve held a lot of pain over the years and I’ve learned how to transform all of it into something practical, useful and beautiful. And because of that I’m really in love with fun and humor right now. It’s my intention that students feel their own inspiration and freedom as well. I think the dark and light inform one another. But it ain’t an easy road or journey. The contrast makes for awareness of how they compliment one another. The dark grit feeds the light grace and new growth. You don’t get to heaven eating angel food cake.  Although, I’ve tried. Flowers only grow and bloom when first planted in dark soil.

Obama recently said, “And I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.” Well, I took that statement apart and substituted “I” and “My.”

So it reads: I believe that for all my imperfections, I am full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide me are not as strong as those that unite me.

In Sanskrit Yoga means, “to unite”. I stand for any and all creative practices that unites a person in their own definition of goodness. And I know that how I treat my self and others is entirely up to me.

For more information:  http://www.InterActTheatre.org and www.yogaunites.org

Love Lessons Trailer


Written & Performed by Jennifer Schelter
Directed by Anne Zumbo

WHEN: January 29 – February 13, 2011

Saturdays @ 4 p.m. & Sundays @ 7p.m.
WHERE: The Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia
INFO / RESERVATIONS: InterAct Theatre Company Box Office

Phone: 215.568.8079
Online: http://www.InterActTheatre.org

Philadelphia, PAInterAct Theatre Company continues its 23rd season with the special engagement of LOVE LESSONS FROM ABU GHRAIB written and performed by Jennifer Schelter, which begins performances on Saturday, January 29 at 4:00 p.m. Inspired by interviews conducted with Iraqi prisoners of war, LOVE LESSONS offers a unique perspective on spiritual survival and how victims of trauma overcome the pain of their past while learning to move on with their lives.

In 2006, renowned Philadelphia Yoga teacher and performer, Jennifer Schelter was invited by Lierman Trust for Humanitarian Law to accompany humanitarian lawyer Susan Burke on an expedition to Istanbul, Turkey, where she collected testimony from tortured Iraqis who had been imprisoned at Abu Ghraib. Schelter’s role was to offer her expertise in mind-body connection and integral growth practices as a form of healing to the former detainees. Inspired by the improbable bravery and beauty of the stories she witnessed, Schelter used her unique artistic language, expertise in Yoga, and spiritual growth to craft LOVE LESSONS FROM ABU GHRAIB, a one-woman performance piece that chronicles not only her own personal journey but those of several Iraqi prisoners of war. Often using light-hearted humor to heighten its drama, LOVE LESSONS is a unique and touching play that examines the repercussions of torture and the different ways we attempt to heal ourselves.

Originally performed as part of the 2007 Philadelphia Philly Fringe Festival, LOVE LESSONS has earned praise from critics and audiences alike. Joy E. Stocke, executive editor of Wild River Review hailed LOVE LESSONS as, “a rare piece of theater weaving personal experience, research, and deep knowledge of yogic practice… a compelling story [that] is a testament to her gifts as an actress and writer.” Marian Robinson, host of “Philadelphia Evening Magazine,” called the play, “Extraordinary… the script was insightful, thoughtful, entertaining, illuminating, provocative, charming and everything all rolled into one.” Audience members Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter congratulated LOVE LESSONS as, “a very important message… presented in a unique, artistic and impressive way” and Elizabeth Gilbert, author of New York Times best-selling novel Eat, Pray, Love, said, “[Jennifer Schelter has] created a rapturous, captivating and somehow redeeming night of theater out of the darkest, most spiteful and shameful chapter of recent American history… a driving, impassioned, funny, innocent and riveting cry of the heart…”

To read an interview with playwright and performer Jennifer Schelter, visit:  http://www.interacttheatre.org/talkingwithjenniferschelter.htm http://www.interacttheatre.org/talkingwithjenniferschelter.htm.

February 6, 2011: Immediately following the Sunday evening performance of LOVE LESSONS, at approximately 8:15 p.m., Yoga Unites will host a panel discussion featuring experts in the field of creativity, health and wellness. Topics of discussion will include the meaning and importance of being a compassionate witness, how healing happens, the role creativity plays in the healing process, and how to cultivate and nurture creativity in the face of fear or pain. Line-up of guest speakers to be announced. The discussion is free and open to the public.



February 9 and 16, 2011: Stories That Need To Be Told: Share Your Heroes Journey, a series of workshops lead by playwright and actress Jennifer Schelter that explore the power of sharing one’s journey through storytelling, from written to spoken word. Using Schelter’s proven techniques of building humor, calm and confidence, participants will record their inner-most journey while practicing building a safe space, basic breathing and meditation, guided visualization, gentle yoga, and journaling and writing. Workshop one, entitled “Write and Embrace Your Story,” will be held on Wednesday, February 9, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., and will culminate with participants completing a short, written piece. Workshop two, entitled “Stand and Speak Your Story,” will be held on Wednesday, February 16, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., and will culminate in participants creating a short monologue that speaks of their heroic journey. The cost to participate is $40.00 per workshop or $60.00 for both workshops together. Reservations can be made through InterAct’s box office at 215.568.8079 or online at www.InterActTheatre.org <http://www.InterActTheatre.org/>  < <http://www.interacttheatre.org/> http://www.interacttheatre.org/> . No yoga, meditation, acting, or writing experience is necessary.

JENNIFER SCHELTER (Playwright and Performer) Called “One of the Most Inspiring People in Philadelphia” by US Airways Magazine, June 2008, “Best Yoga Instructor” by City Vote 2008, “Best Yoga Instructor 2007” by Philly Fit magazine, and “a real Goddess” by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jennifer Schelter is an expert in mind-body well-being, observational precision and peak performance modalities that get you calm, and your focused best.

Jennifer, founder and executive director of Yoga Schelter the premiere regional yoga studio in the East Falls section of Philadelphia, is a 500-hour Yoga Alliance Certified Experienced Yoga Teacher and Teacher Training facilitator. Besides her daily teaching schedule, her corporate clients include GlaxoSmithKline, Medtronic, Wharton Business School, and University of Pennsylvania.

She is the founder of “The Radiant Retreat”, a transformative retreat to Maya Tulum, Mexico (which she leads and collaborates with writer/performer Ann Randolph). She is the visionary of Yoga Unites®, a non-profit that provides tools for well-being, self-awareness and self-expression for underserved populations such as the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society – Youth Environmental Stewardship, Philadelphia Mural Arts and Arthur Ashe Tennis Center. Her leadership directs over 1,000 enthusiasts annually at “Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer” on the Philadelphia Art Museum steps. The event has become the largest, regionally-beloved annual event of its kind in the country. The production is growing in leaps and bounds and produces expanded revenues each year.

In October 2009 Jennifer, along with Phyllis Bookspan, founder of RYAH Yoga and Health, co-founded An Authentic Journey into Yoga, Health and Happiness: The Creation of A Successful Life, a 200-hour RYAH/Schelter-Yoga Teacher Training. She is also the producer of the audio yoga CD, am Awake, as well as the DVD, The Art of Vinyasa Yoga.

As an actress and playwright, Jennifer performed her one-woman tour-de-force, LOVE LESSONS FROM ABU GHRAIB, to a standing ovation at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival in September 2007, the Philadelphia Arts and Democracy Conference in June 2008, and was produced by Amnesty International at the Capital Hill Arts Center, Washington, DC, Haverford College, and Eastern Amnesty International Conference in October 2009. Additionally, portions of LOVE LESSONS, along with her short story, “The Michelangelo Effect,” were published in the 2006 summer edition of Wild River Review.

A member of Actors’ Equity and the Screen Actors Guild, Jennifer originated the role of Cat in the 2006 World Premiere of THE FAMILY ROOM by Nagle Jackson at Hedgerow Theatre. In 1998 she originated the role of Cordelia in the World Premiere of TAKING LEAVE by Nagle Jackson at the Denver Center Theatre Company, where she jointly accepted the Tony Award for best regional theatre. She has also worked at the renowned Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, as well as other leading regional theatres across the country.

Jennifer has traveled to Europe, the Balkans, Asia, Southeast Asia, South America and the Caribbean photographing the local personalities, and painting watercolors of landscapes, architecture, and animals. In the summer of 1997, she was selected for Art Retreat Week on the Island of Great Spruce Head, Maine, at the home of American Artist Fairfield Porter. She has sold her work to friends and patrons alike for years; those seeking aliveness and authenticity.
After graduating from Germantown Friends School, she attended Philadelphia college of Art and University of Syracuse in Florence, Italy. She graduated both from Connecticut College with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Oil Painting and the University of San Diego/Old Globe Theatre Program with a Masters in Theatre.

For more information regarding her inspired yoga, meditation and writing classes, integral growth coaching, and retreats for individuals and corporate clients, visit her award winning website:

ANNE ZUMBO (Director) is pleased to work together once again with Ms. Shelter, directing LOVE LESSONS FROM ABU GHRAIB, now in its 4th incarnation. After working for Melanie Stewart Dance Theatre, Anne studied physical theatre at the renowned Ecole Philipe Gaulier in London, U.K. Upon her return, she began creating socio-political pieces that performed for the Philadelphia Fringe Festivals and collaborated with Myra Bazell to write the script for EXTREME. During that time she also directed for and presented in small theatres around Philadelphia, and the Ritz Theatre in NJ where she began her love of teaching while working with the autistic and deaf students who attended their camp. She now celebrates her 4th year working with students with disabilities at Wissahickon Charter School, the country’s only urban school with an environmental mission.


Founded in 1988, InterAct is a theatre for today’s world, producing new and contemporary plays that explore the social, political, and cultural issues of our time. InterAct’s aim is to educate, as well as entertain, its audiences, by producing world-class, thought-provoking productions, and by using theatre as a tool to foster positive social change. To date, InterAct has presented 70 mainstage productions, including 30 World Premieres, two U.S. premieres, and over 30 regional premieres. The company has received 43 Barrymore Award nominations and 16 awards. InterAct’s mainstage productions have provided work for over 500 local artists. Inaddition to the 4-play mainstage season, InterAct Theatre’s major programming includes InterAction, a program of experiential workshops and residencies in area schools that utilize theatre as a tool to illuminate pressing social problems in the community; the20/20 New Play Commissioning program, an ambitious new initiative that will award twenty new play commissions over six seasons; and New Play Development, working closely with playwrights to develop plays that adhere to the company’s mission.



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