“Hot day? Restorative Yoga”

secondchances-6It was about 1PM on a very unusually hot fall day, close to 90 degrees, in the heart of Downtown L.A.’s business corridor. I had left my office on the corner of 5th and Flower, walking east toward the Biltmore Hotel, which takes up a large part of the city block, to run a lunchtime errand at the Jewelry Mart. As I crossed the street toward the north side of the Biltmore, I observed a phalanx of film crew trucks lined up, blocking the street access all around the area. The Biltmore Hotel has always been one of the most locally sought-after filming locations in the city, archiving classic film scenes like the Fabulous Baker Boys, in 1989, starring the Bridges brothers, Beau and Jeff, with the famous piano scene played by Michelle Pfeiffer as Susie Diamond, sexy in red, shot at the Rendezvous Court of the hotel.

I noticed out of the corner of my eye a young, tall, muscular homeless man leaning against the building by the service and mechanical stairway, where the sidewalk narrows. As gentrification encroaches on the city, the population of those without shelter, food and basic necessities has reached epic proportions. I also noticed ahead, on the sidewalk, a group of about eight film crewmen in work boots, standing by, waiting for their next action command. I walked toward the crew, while passing the homeless man leaning against the wall. Suddenly, my passive observations became real life action. The homeless man leapt from the wall, thrusting me against the movie truck parked at the curb, blocking my forward motion, and in an angry rage, spewed a big gulp-sized wad of spit on my face, neck and torso. Attacks like this take the brain a few precious seconds to recalibrate to fight or flight mode, emoting a “you are in danger” signal that causes every hair on the body to stand at attention. While what happened next was a blur, this I can confirm; pulling from years of yoga, I stood tall in Tadasana, or mountain pose, and looked my attacker in the eye and calmly, with my sword down, said to him, “ Why would you do something like this to me?” As I did this, an energetic and physical separation occurred instantly, as what only could be described as an angelic presence separated him from me and caused him to recoil and move back, while his wide eyes and flailing arms motioned, he screamed out, “ I am sick of all you bitches, I hate you all!” It was at that moment, knowing I was safe, although disgustingly violated, that I began to seek “physical” help. Not one of the crewmembers came to my aid, all managed to disappear. There were no police anywhere, and so I wandered into the hotel, where a very kind security guard came to help. By this time my attacker was long gone, vanishing into the fabric of LA like a cockroach slipping into a wall crack out of sheer survival.

A few days after my attack, I noticed a pattern of violence emerging, as NCIS actress Pauley Perrette’s Hollywood homeless attack became front-page news. Her situation, similar, yet far more violent, portended a disturbing and dark energy emerging on our streets. Men standing near her, witnessing the attack, too, did not aid her. Are we becoming that immune to violence in our society or so apathetic that when a fellow human is in trouble, we look the other way? I suppose the answer to this is far more complex to solve and dissect than this writing will allow.

I had no idea how an event like this would reshape my future. While I had heard of PTSD, I had mistakenly categorized its symptoms as reserved for people who had seen serious combat or actual rape or assault. I was jumpy. Anyone coming around my peripheral vision, like a valet parking attendant, caused me to jump out of my skin. The incidences worsened and I knew I had to find a way back to balance, healing and forgiveness, or this episode would haunt me forever. Fortunately, years of metaphysical and spiritual training and experiences allowed me to move through this horrific encounter and find the pearl of wisdom in it. And one of those pearls of wisdom became a restructuring of my daily yoga practice to include restorative yoga.

Restorative yoga falls into a special category of poses that have the ability to completely nourish and replenish our body-mind-spirit connection. These postures are usually supported by blankets, blocks, straps or other props and held for several minutes at a time. The more your body is fully supported, the deeper your ability to relax and surrender and settle in. Do note that while the body may find comfort in the pose, the mind can be a bit trickier to coax into submission. This takes time, especially compounded by a traumatic event like the one that happened to me on the LA streets.

The time you devote to this will be worth it in the long run. Gradually, you will find peace, forgiveness and a sense of calm and soon you will notice the return to a more balanced state of being.

There are a few great restorative yoga teachers in LA, in addition to my own private classes, which I would highly recommend:

Christopher Barbour (Equinox, Marina del Rey)

Andres Salcedo (Equinox, Power Yoga, Santa Monica)

Amita Stark (Bhakti Yoga Shala, Santa Monica)

Kimber Tiernan (Life Yoga Garden, Santa Monica)

Lori Tierney (private and retreat classes)


Ahhh, Grasshopper!

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 2.58.09 PMIn previous columns, we have explored the dynamic symbolism and influence found in the natural world, and particularly those represented by the animal spirits. They often fly, jump, hop, crawl, swim, saunter and leap into our lives at the most pivotal time, generally when we have a big decision to make, and are grappling with two paths on that fork in the road we call life.

I found myself in just such a position last month, as I had two big decisions to make and each involved a considerable amount of time and money, two precious commodities in short supply in my world. I was casually told by the property manager of my apartment building that rent for my lease, ending in December, was going to go way up. Similar units in the building were going up more than $700.00 per month. No rent control here! I decided to start looking for another place that would be in line with my budget, but not without some serious soul searching as to why I seemed to move so often…always with good reason, but move nonetheless!

The second big decision centered around making a commitment to sign up for a nine-week yoga teacher training that was to meet on the weekends, which were actually the only days I had to really decompress from the intensity of the work week, and usually I could only manage to clear part of one weekend day anyway. I have taken many rounds of yoga teacher trainings with multiple instructors, as I felt it would give me a diverse and well-rounded exposure to study with more than one teacher. I also discovered that the teacher trainings were like mini yoga retreats. They became “my time” on the calendar, meaning a time I could devote to myself, the yoga practice, to meditation, to the stillness we all so crave, living in the constant energy of Los Angeles’ urban setting.

I found a wonderful new residence in the form of a fully renovated triplex close to the Marquez area of the Pacific Palisades. I could actually walk to the Self-Realization Fellowship on Sunset, one of my favorite sanctuaries! I toyed with a Downtown LA move, but the energy of the Fellowship seemed to be calling me strongly, so I opted to move into the triplex. And I asked for a sign about the yoga teacher training.

My sign came a few days later as I was walking up the freshly painted white stairs of the unit I had rented. I couldn’t help but notice the bright green, very long grasshopper waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs. I was there to meet the wireless Internet installer and upon further study, he told me that I had to return to my old apartment for a piece of equipment. As I jumped into my car, I noticed that my grasshopper friend had planted himself firmly on my windshield. I backed my car out of the long hilly driveway and turned left onto Sunset Blvd., heading toward Barrington Avenue in Bentwood. With speed and wind to 45 mph, I thought for sure the grasshopper would fly off the windshield. I made it over to my old apartment, retrieved the router, and then rushed to get back into the car to make my way to the new place. Much to my surprise, I noticed that the hitchhiking grasshopper had stayed on the windshield, returning all the way back to the new apartment. Now all this felt very profound to me. Was I indeed receiving a relevant sign urging me to “take a leap of faith”? Here is what author Ina Wolcott wrote about the great grasshopper totem animal:
“Grasshoppers/Locusts medicine includes jumping across space and time, astral travel, new leaps forward/leaps of faith/jumping without knowing where you will land, leaping over obstacles, ability to change careers quickly.

There are 10,000 or so species of grasshopper, they are cold blooded as all insects are and are more mobile when it is warmer. Each species has their own unique song. However, only the males are able to sing with a few exceptions – the males sing to compete for female attention. The power of sound and song is part of grasshopper’s medicine. It is an ancient method to use song to alter ones consciousness and communicate with animals and spirits. There are some Native American songs that date back 20,000 years. If grasshopper has leapt into your life, maybe you need to recognize where you come from, to go back to your roots and to honor your ancestors.

Grasshopper is the Chinese symbol of good luck and abundance. Anyone with this power animal has been given the ability to take chances – to act on a whim and jump right in. For them things may not progress step by step as they do for other people progress – but rather extremely fast. When taking that leap simply trust your own instincts on when to make the leaps. Listening to your inner voice and responding to it will lead you to positive outcomes. Don’t be afraid to make that leap, remembering all the while that Grasshopper’s only ever jump forwards and never backwards.Needless to say, grasshopper quickly became my new favorite animal totem!

Kwai Chang Caine, the Shaolin monk mentored by Master Po and played by David Carradine in the film, sheds light on where the term, Ahhh, Grasshopper came from: “One of Caine’s first instructors was the blind master named Po (Keyed Luke). Po considered Caine his favorite pupil and behaved more like an elderly grandfather. Caine was given the nickname “Grasshopper” by Master Po; the reference was from an exchange where the still ignorant young Caine asked the old blind master how he could function without seeing. Po asked Caine to close his eyes and describe what he could hear. Caine explained that he could hear the water flowing in a nearby fountain and birds in a nearby cage. Po then asked if Caine could hear his own heartbeat or the grasshopper at his feet (Caine hadn’t noticed the insect until that moment). Incredulous, Caine asked Po, “Old man – how is it that you hear these things?” Po’s reply was, “Young man, how is it that you do not?” From that point on, Po affectionately called Caine “Grasshopper”.

The move is behind me, and today I wrapped one third of the yoga teacher training, all because of a green grasshopper crossing my path in a very profound and prolonged way.Keep your heads up and perhaps the animal kingdom will soon be talking with you too! The question to ask yourself is not how long they have been “talking” to you, but indeed, how long have you been listening!


August: Five Silver Pockets Full!

Regardless of the hype and conflicting reports on the Internet about this August 2015 comprising an alignment of 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays, once in 823 years, (Chinese silver-pockets-full legend) the facts do remain that indeed this is the line up for the month. Perhaps the real gift in all the rhetoric is that this special aligning of 5’s is getting us to think about our resources, whether they be our personal monetary situation, our planetary resources, or abundance, in all its forms. It’s an opportunity to take stock in all things that feature our abundance and welfare.

Perhaps you have an unusually large bank account right now, but are feeling deprived in the relationship area of your life, or your health has taken a toll. Accumulating all that “wealth”, and spiritually you feel a void. August, the mid-way mark to the year is the perfect time to pause and reflect on the year’s goals and make some minor or even major tweaks to your life. Time to re-set the course and steer your ship of life in the direction that affords you balance and happiness.

Personally, I find even the smallest daily changes to be the most powerful. Others prefer to play larger and overhaul in a big way! Ultimately the changes you make and how they are initiated is up to you. The question we often find ourselves asking is this: what is the most important change we can make if we only had ONE to select?

This is where stillness and meditation come in. As the great Master Teacher, the Buddha suggested, all the answers we seek are indeed within us. Indeed.

Turn off the iPhone ringer, lock the front door, unhook the land line, if you still have one, dim the lights, light a candle, burn some sage or palo-santo (refer to previous articles for more on this practice), light your favorite incense, sit comfortably on your favorite couch, chair or meditation cushion. Remember you do not get more “spiritual points” for sitting cross-legged on the floor in agony. Are you meditating to sit (and to “look cool”?) or sitting to meditate? (to find answers). The latter, of course! Many of us lose sight of this fact and think nothing is happening if we are not sitting a certain way, wearing the latest yoga outfit or holding our thumb and index finger together. Meditation is as unique to each individual as a snowflake that falls from the sky…no two are alike. It’s your practice.

In fact, feel free to skip all the foreplay mentioned at the beginning if you prefer to meditate with noise and bright lights, or dislike incense, etc. Find what works for you. It’s not the method; it’s the intention and repetition that will garner results over time.

Once you settle in to a comfortable position, eyes closed, begin to simply watch your breath, listen to the rise and fall as it goes in through the nostrils and out again the same path. Allow the inevitable noises, smells and other distractions to be acknowledged, and then simply return to the breath, again and again for as long as you are able to stay and just be. That may be a few minutes, twenty, thirty or all day.

Now comes the tricky part. The part of all this that gives you the information you are seeking – that message you are looking for. For some it will come in the form of actually “hearing something verbally”, as in a conversation with a friend. For others, it may be a “gut feeling” or sensation, like goose bumps on your arms, legs or all over. I t may be an actual vision or picture in your minds eye, or it might be all three, or a combination of two. If you happen to have a journal nearby, which I highly recommend, take a few minutes post meditation to jot down your first thoughts, sensations or visions. Herein lies the pearl, the answer, the juicy part of all this inner work you just did. You might be surprised at how simple the suggestion is! Whatever is revealed, it is magical because it comes from the source of your own inner wisdom, your own personal compass.

As an example, I have been slowly working on ramping up income and clients for my new business, all while choosing to stay in balance with personal health, and in a way that also allows me to honor my own personal spiritual practices, like yoga, meditation and chanting. As a Feng Shui practitioner, I also know how important our personal space can be in reflecting balance to us and how important our surroundings are in attracting that which we choose to bring into our daily experience. Perhaps as a “nod” to the validity, however anecdotal or superstitious August’s “silver-pockets-full” declaration of abundance is, I was guided to drive to Downtown LA ‘s Chinatown district and walk the streets chatting with the local shop merchants until I found the tallest, healthiest money tree to replace one I had gifted to a good friend. I placed it in a regal position in the Southeast corner of my living room, blessed its abundant magnifying properties and, almost immediately, calls for new projects and proposals came flooding in. Word came from a company that owed me money that it would be deposited on Monday, and a check came in the mail. Perhaps you would say that these things would have happened anyway, without the “money tree” and my Chinatown sojourn? My reply to that is that now its time to go and water that money tree!

May your August be one of abundance, peace, joy and time for the personal practices that garner inner balance for you! Namaste!


We’ve got your number: The ancient practice of Numerology

This month’s edition of DTLA Life Magazine is all about the numbers! We are marking the historic 10-year anniversary of the publication, so it seemed fitting to focus on the ancient practice of Numerology. If you think about, life revolves around numbers: your weight on the scale, medical numbers for how healthy you are from BMI to cholesterol, your fit bit tells you the numbers, you wake up to a number on a clock, your rent payment on the first of the month, dollars you earn, dollars you spend, years you mark every birthday watching as those numbers go higher and higher and you wonder where the time went, to keeping score on just about everything in life. Even grades in school have gone from letters to numbers! Getting into college is about the numbers on the SAT and that, oh so elusive, 4.0 plus that can get you in or out of your targeted university.

Football scores, baseball, basketball, the Olympics, Dancing with the Stars, your credit score and on and on. Every day we measure ourselves with a number. We decide if it’s a good number or a “bad one”, like negative numbers in our checkbook are “bad” and positive bank balances are “good”. Our Doctor tells us we dropped two pounds on the scale and immediately it’s a “good day”; conversely, if the scale isn’t our friend that day because of the numbers, it’s a “bad” day. We give out our phone number on a piece of paper to that cute guy at the bar, hoping he will call and our emotions rise and fall depending upon the outcome. We coin phrases like “I’ve got your number” and “When my number is up…”, “catch 22”, “behind the eight ball”, on “cloud nine”, “Fifteen minutes of fame”, “seven year itch”, “ménage a trois” and many others.



It seems we measure everything in life by the numbers. Let’s take a look at why!

Numerology dates back thousands of years with some variations to be found in most cultures throughout history. The science of the numbers has been taught by some of the most respected mathematicians in history, even though many have dismissed it as a “pseudoscience”.

Many ancient cultures including China, Japan, India, Babylon and Egypt were familiar with numerology long before the Greeks and Romans adopted the practice.

Pythagoras, a Greek mathematician and philosopher circa 569-470 B. C. and generally the one considered the originator of the still popular Pythagorean system, believed that all reality is mathematical. He viewed the vast universe as being comprised of various mathematical patterns and was a vehement proponent that all things can be expressed in numbers, that all corresponded to energy patterns of vibrations, each with specific meaning.

The vast teachings of Pythagoras were adopted by the scholars Socrates and Plato, and studied by early Christian scholars, including St. Augustine. This ultimately led to its expansion during the Renaissance, and numerology continues to be studied and practiced today.

Numerology can be simply defined as the historic study of the relationship between names, birthdates, and numbers. In fact, the word numerology is derived from the Latin word “numerous” meaning number, and the Greek word “logos”, meaning thought and word. The Greeks today might be well served in revisiting this ancient practice. Perhaps it might aid them in shedding light on their present financial situation and help them find a way out!

In Numerology, unlike Astrology and Tarot, a person’s birth name, as well as their
birthdate, have significant influence on their life path and personality. Calculating these significant indicators is a simple and straightforward process.

To calculate the Life Path number, which is based upon an individual’s birth-date, you would use basic math to add up the numbers in the date and then reduce it down. For example: January 23, 1973 looks like this: Jan = 1 + 25 = 2 + 5= 7 + 1 + 9 +7 +3 + 2 + 0 + 2 , 1 + 7 + 2 + 10, reduced 1 + 0 = 1 . The person with this birth-date has a Numerology # of 1. Number 1’s have a mind of their own, demand complete freedom and have powerful drive and determination. They don’t let anyone or anything get in their way once they make up their mind and set their sights on a goal. They are great providers for their loved ones while demanding great respect and attention.

Our great magazine is celebrating 10 years, which in numerology is the vibration of a One! Happy Anniversary to the publisher, Alex Limandri, and all the wonderful contributors of this great publication. Indeed it is #1 in Downtown LA news and lifestyle views!

Resources and for personal Numerology reports:


Urban Totem Animals: Messengers of Spirit

Navigating life in an urban environment, like Los Angeles, is not without its set of challenges. Surrounded by millions of people, concrete, traffic, noise, pollution and hectic daily schedules with work and family, finding time to catch messages from the spiritual world can prove frustrating. I work with many clients that ask for a sign, some type of way to find that indeed they are not alone, and that there is an unseen realm inhabited by benevolent beings, Angels and guides helping them to steer the ship through uncharted waters. “If only I had a sign that I was on the right path”, they say. Signs can come to us in a myriad of forms and can intensify over time as we acknowledge them. From license plates to numerology, to feathers and coins on our path, signs seemingly abound everywhere. The early inhabitants of our area, the Native American tribes, had a system for improving their connection to the Great Mystery, and to all of life. Native American “medicine” is an all- encompassing way of life, because it involves walking on the Earth Mother, in perfect harmony with the Universe.

According to Legends of America: Native American totems and their meaning: “A totem is a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol of the tribe, clan, family or individual. Native American tradition provides that each individual is connected with nine different animals that will accompany each person through life, acting as guides. Different animal guides come in and out of our lives, depending on the direction that we are headed, and the tasks that need to be completed along our journey.”

Native beliefs further explain that a totem animal is one that is with you for life, both in the physical and spiritual world. Although people may identify with different animal guides throughout their lifetimes, it is this one totem animal that acts as the main guardian spirit.

With this one animal, a connection is shared, either through interest in the animal, characteristics, dreams, or other interaction.

This Animal Guide offers power and wisdom to the individual when they “communicate” with it, conveying their respect and trust. This does not necessarily mean that you actually pet or spend time with this animal, more that you are open to learning its lessons.

For some, knowing their totem animal is almost an innate process. It’s as if they’ve always known, inexplicably drawn to a particular animal, or having a special feeling for the animal’s energy. For others, they wonder how to discern what their animal totem is.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re wondering what your animal totem is:
• Have you ever felt drawn to one animal or another without being able to explain why? This could be any animal, including birds and insects.

• Does a certain kind of animal consistently appear in your life? This doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical appearance; it could be represented in other ways, such as receiving cards and letters with the same animal pictured over and over, unexplainable dreams of a particular animal, watching television and seeing the same animal featured time and time again, or actually having the animal show up.”
Following is a sampling of some totem animals right here in our urban back yard, a brief description of the “medicine” they carry, and their meaning:

Crow: justice, shape shifting, change, creativity, spiritual strength, energy, community sharing, and balance.
Cougar: leadership, loyalty, courage, taking responsibility, foresight.
Coyote: the Trickster; intelligence, wisdom, guile, innocence, staying in the present moment.
Deer: compassion, peace, intellectual, gentle, caring, kind, feminine, innocence.
Dolphin: kindness, salvation, wisdom, happiness, playfulness, deep emotion.
Hawk: messenger, focus, visionary power, seeing the overall view, receptivity, heightened awareness.
Owl: clairvoyance, astral projection, magic, both black and white, illumination, messenger, keen insight.
Wolf: loyalty, perseverance, success, intuition, spirit.
Whale: wisdom, keeper of the ancient knowledge and earth history, sound, intelligence, kindness.

As you call upon the essence of these amazing and local messengers, you will immerse yourself in complete harmony with their wisdom, their medicine or teaching. They are here to assist you as you navigate the “Good Red Road”, or lessons of vulnerability, being human, and seeking wholeness with all that is. They are part of the true pathway to power. Their power lies in the wisdom and understanding gained from one’s role in the Great Mystery and in honoring every living thing as a teacher.

“We have not inherited the Earth from our ancestors, for indeed, we are borrowing it from our unborn children” ~ Lakota prayer


Always the Giver? Time to pause and receive!

We are programmed at a very early age to share our toys, to help others, to not be focused on self, that self-absorption is a “bad thing”. Self-sacrifice builds character, we are told. This programming has a simple flaw in it that many of us carry into adulthood-that flaw is balance.
We live in a dual Universe. Where is the balance in always giving? Balance occurs only when we not only give, but also receive. Many of us have forgotten how. This is especially true for those of us that have adopted a caring attitude for others, for society, for humanity, for our cities, our country and our world. We spend countless hours working on projects that help those in need, those less fortunate, the earth, the drought, not to mention the giving we do in our daily work lives, as parents, or care takers to elderly parents. I am not suggesting we stop these efforts, I am simply giving us permission to “fill the well”, to restore balance, to receive. For in that balance, we are able to keep going, to achieve our altruistic goals, from a place of restoration and balance of self…a place of self-love.

Many of us are afraid that if we shut off our cell phones, skip a few hours or a day of work, or play hooky from life, we will miss an important opportunity. Actually the opposite is true. By going 24-7 we run the risk of burn out, dis-ease or worse!

Author Alana Fairchild, in her guidebook, “Sacred Rebels” (Blue Angel publishing) states, “From a place of nourishment you will more effortlessly create, live and love with greater energy and thriving, pulsing passion. The earth rests each night so it can greet the sun again each morning with the spectacular living art of sunrise. Allow your-self to switch off, step away, close the laptop, switch off the phone, and just be with yourself for a little while. You will return and be more efficient and effective. Rest now, play now, and work later. Forget your worries for a while. Switch off. Do something else. Let it all go and it will all flow.” Fairchild reminds us of the famous French Impressionist painter, Monet, as he sat in his garden on a warm afternoon. He was napping lightly on his garden bench, with the sunlight dappling gently through the straw hat resting over his face. It was soft and warm on his closed eyelids. He sighs contentedly. A nosy neighbor poked his head over the fence, keen to know what the brilliant artist was up to now. “Sir, you are resting!” the curious neighbor called out. “No”, responded Monet, wriggling to get even more comfortable on his reclining garden chair. “I am working.” He relaxed further as the mild breeze tickled the hair on his forearms.

Monet returned to his garden the next day. Consumed by the urge to translate his feelings onto the canvas, he painted with great energy and focus. He was inspired and paint flowed. Again the nosy neighbor poked his head over the fence. He called out, “Sir, you are working!”

“No,” said the artist, barely pausing with his brush, “I am resting”.

Following are two receptive yoga postures that are easy to integrate into your practice, or perhaps they will inspire you to begin a simple practice of receiving:

Yoga postures that open us to receive:

As Sally Kempton states in Yoga Journal (2-29-12), “Just as each yoga posture you practice affects you psychologically as well as physically, these hand and arm gestures, combined with an intention to be receptive, can help you train yourself into a receptive mode.

The Cup: Form a cup with your hands, wrists, thumbs, and pinkie fingers together, letting the other fingers splay open. Place your cupped hands against your chest, over the heart center, with the sides of the thumbs touching the chest. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, with the sensation that the breath is bringing energy and light into your body through your cupped hands.

Arms to the Sky: Standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart, hold your arms at your sides, about 6 inches from your body, with your palms out and your elbows relaxed. With an inhalation, gently let your arms float up until they form a wide funnel, fingertips pointing at the sky. Keep the arms relaxed as your face tips upward slightly.

Let yourself embrace the space, with the sense that you are opening to and welcoming in the energy of the universe. Slowly draw your arms down the front of your body, with your palms open, until your arms are about a foot away from your body. Then let your arms relax at your sides. Repeat twice.”

As you embark upon your conscious “receiving” practice, keep a journal beside your nightstand and take time to jot down any feelings that surface. Perhaps some judgment or shame may bubble up. Embrace these messengers and keep reminding yourself that each day is your day to receive the bounty and gifts of the Universe that holds you it its loving arms!


Culture and Workplace – Joining the Dots

Culture. It’s a word of many uses. In science, medicine, anthropology, even cuisine. It’s also sociology, and the way it interprets our ability to interact with each other. Every action requires a cultural memory to succeed. Where we were born, how we were raised, how we conduct ourselves in all situations. Culture is principals, values, beliefs, and it impacts not only ourselves, but where we work as well. And companies have egos, just like humans. Competition breeds it.

Every company has complexity, in that many people from any background are brought together each day, with the intention to perform their best efforts as a group to help each other achieve and prosper. The larger the company, the more complicated such efforts are. That’s where corporate culture comes in.

All companies have a culture. Whether it originates from the top, the middle or the bottom, it’s there. Ordinarily, corporate culture begins with a founder. He or she brings a philosophy, an attitude, and a way of thinking, to start a business. Those hired tend to agree with their boss – else they wouldn’t be hired. Henry Ford is one example. Steve Jobs is another. Culture can come from the middle. Say a company has lost its leadership. That happens in war, when a draft or voluntary service deprives a company of top management. In World War II, many American and British companies were run by those in the middle – women, elderly males, even teenagers, ran the factories. Culture can emanate from the bottom too. In many companies, unions and especially those in Communist countries, workers made policy, and elected their bosses.

Today, corporate culture is expressed in various ways. Unions are diminished. Democracy is more apparent as technology becomes significant – those with technical skill are free to leave when the culture of the company courting them better suits their nature. Office work must appeal, to hold on to a company’s most valuable asset – which goes home at the end of the day. Everyone knows about Google, or Apple, and any other corporation where you can bring your dog to work. But what of the other workplaces, the 9 to 5 operations that must create an atmosphere that most workers, if not all, can look forward to arriving at each morning.

That’s where corporate culture comes in.

“At Google, we design our workplace to build community, to increase velocity, and to inspire and motivate, while eliminating friction and focusing on employee health.”(1)

Case4space’s research says:
“A healthy culture is the key to engagement, innovation, resiliency and growth” (2)

• “More than 70 percent of the workforce either hates their job or are just going through the motion.”
• Half of all office space is wasted
• The number of people who suffer chronic disorders – caused or exacerbated by the workplace –is alarming, scandalous, and exorbitantly expensive.” (3)

Warren Buffet has said that “Culture is hard to measure and it can’t fit in a spreadsheet. For that reason, investors, particularly those with a value bent, often totally ignore it. That’s a mistake.”(4)

Simon Sinek, author and TED presenter, is quoted as saying; “Humans don’t do their best work when they’re stressed out.” He makes the case that the stress of the workplace sets our adrenal system on overload, degrading our health and has caused the rise of chronic diseases in our time (5)

Rex Miller, in “Change Your Space, Change Your Culture,” (Wiley, 2014) says, “American business loses a trillion dollars a year because we do not know that life in integrated. Personal health, safety, marriage, family, commuting, finances and other burdens and crises are integrally related to our ability to achieve and produce.” (6)

Sustainable Design

Brian Barth, author of The WELL Building Standard Has Arrived – An Inside Look At The Next Generation of Sustainable Design, tells the story of Paul Scialla, of Goldman Sachs. Seven years ago, he thought; now that we’ve learned to design buildings that are healthy for the environment, isn’t it time to start designing them to be healthier for people? “Sustainability’ was being used and felt there was a bit of a gap in thought,” he says.

Scialla talked to architects and designers, health experts, real estate professionals, and scientists in fields ranging from ergonomics and acoustics to sociology and psychology. He learned that humans spend an average of 90% of their time indoors and that indoor air quality in approximately 70% of buildings is worse than outdoor air quality. Some connections are straightforward—most people have experienced the off- gassing of new carpet or wall finishes, for example, and understands that the release of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can lead to headaches, nausea, and fatigue. The wavelength of light used to illuminate our workspaces during the day can lead to sleeplessness at night; the design of stairwells can entice us to use them or predispose us to head for the elevator; even the color and texture of wall coverings can influence whether we feel perky and productive throughout the day or bored and disengaged.

“Real estate is the largest asset class in the world with $150 trillion value, globally,” Scialla says. “What if we looked to intelligently infuse that with the fastest growing, and arguably most important industry—health and wellness—in itself a $2 trillion annual spend?” Scialla formed Delos: a research platform, technology incubator, and wellness real estate company. The Delos advisory board is comprised of political and cultural thought leaders, including former HUD secretary and U.S. senator Mel Martinez, CEO of U.S. Green Building Council Rick Fedrizzi and actor Leonardo Di Caprio.

WELL Building

“We’re linking health effects to solutions through elements,” says Nathan Stodola, director of the WELL Building Standard and a mechanical engineer by trade. “For example, a number of cohort-based studies show that people who walk 3,000 steps more per day will have certain benefits to their cardiovascular system over the long term, while other studies show that when you design spaces like ‘X’, you’ll get people to walk more.” 102 performance metrics were established in seven conceptual arenas: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. Our modern healthcare system focuses on addressing health after sickness has already struck a person. But with the increased prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer—not to mention the immense costs of treating these ailments—the healthcare community has put more and more emphasis on lifestyle-oriented and preventative approaches to health. The WELL Building Standard provides a way to apply this line of thinking to the built environment and has emerged through a rigorous three-part peer review process. A committee of scientists, each with very specific areas of expertise, was convened to establish minimum benchmarks for the quality of water, light, air, and other components of the built environment that directly affect human health. A team of design and construction industry professionals analyzed the implementability of the standards, giving feedback on the best way to incorporate them into current building practices. Finally, a medical review board gave suggestions on how the standards could be implemented for the greatest leverage on public health outcomes.

Delos launched a two-year pilot program in which a number of projects were designed and built using the standard, which provided real world feedback on what it takes to implement the criteria across a number of building typologies. There are now offices in Pittsburg, condominiums in Manhattan, hotel rooms in Las Vegas, restaurants in California, Colorado, and Illinois, and more that show how healthy buildings look, feel, and function in these contexts. CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate development company, built a new global corporate headquarters in Los Angeles as part of the pilot program in 2013, becoming the first office space to do so. Other pilot projects tested the concept in the retail, multi-family, institutional, and mixed-use sectors, including sites in Melbourne, Shanghai, Mexico City, and New Delhi. As of early 2015, nearly 15 8 million square feet of what has been termed “wellness-infused” real estate has been built or is registered for certification— about 30% of it overseas.

In 2013, Delos launched the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) to administer the WELL Building Standard, which is now available to the general public. IWBI is partnered with the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), the organization responsible for LEED certification according to the standards of the USGBC, who is now providing third-party certification for the WELL Building Standard.

IWBI is not a for-profit or a not-for-profit company. It is structured as a Public For Benefit Corporation B-corp, a new corporate structure in the US that is intended to balance profitability with public benefits. IWBI will direct at least 51% of net profits toward charitable causes related to its mission of health in the built environment. IWBI is collaborating with the USGBC to build the William Jefferson Clinton Children’s Center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, an orphanage and model for resilient construction techniques that will be built according to LEED and WELL building standards.

The LEED-WELL Connection

The LEED-WELL connection emphasizes that project managers seeking LEED and WELL certification will experience a highly streamlined process in registering and certifying their projects. There are about a dozen metrics where WELL overlaps with LEED and the Living Building Challenge. A project can be certified as WELL Silver, WELL Gold, or WELL Platinum, and the web portal for uploading information for one automatically populates the relevant fields for the other. LEED has become a straightforward business case based on the dual benefits of reducing energy consumption for both the environment and the bottom line. Where LEED pays for itself in lower utility bills, the payback for the modest investment in the WELL Building Standard comes in the form of human capital, which has significant fiscal implications in itself.

Translating those figures to square footage costs, annual operating costs in an office building could be $3 to $8 -per- square-foot, while corporations could spend around $300 to $800 per square foot on their employee expenses (salaries and benefits).

“Occupant satisfaction in the building is as big a part of the WELL Building Standard as overall health,” says Stodola, citing poor acoustical performance and thermal comfort as the two biggest areas of complaints in the office space. If air quality, lighting, ergonomics, and overall health and human comfort are improved, average employee sick days will go down and productivity will go up. Version one of the WELL Building Standard is optimized for office spaces, especially Class A owner-occupied buildings that are likely to pursue LEED certification.

IWBI is in the process of developing precise standards for retail, sports arenas, institutional environments, multi-family housing, and healthcare facilities, but in the meantime, the first WELL AP classes are forming to educate design professionals on using the standards in practice. CBRE recently published the results of an employee survey given after one year in their LEED Gold, WELL-certified office space in Los Angeles: 83% of employees say they feel more productive in the new building; 90% would recommend the new space to colleagues; 92% feel the new space has a positive effect on their health and wellbeing.

Haworth, an architectural interiors manufacturer using the WELL Building Standard, is carrying out similar studies at their Mexico City, Shanghai, and Los Angeles showrooms. “We’ve built process maps to calculate the time it takes to conduct typical work tasks and have developed statistical methods to see if any of the changes to the physical space had an actual impact to speed and time of business processes,” says Dr. Mike O’Neil, senior researcher at Haworth. Haworth is also collaborating with Delos to develop monitoring devices that will collect real-time data on performance measures like air quality and how people are actually using the space and “beam that back to the headquarters to make sure we’re in compliance over time,” O’Neil says.

The WELL Building Standard is about operations as well as physical design; recertification will be required every three years. “WELL will look similar to a LEED Gold or LEED Platinum building because of the biophilic design where you’re bringing nature into the space, but for me the biggest difference I see is in behavior and workplace culture,” says Steven Kooy, global sustainability manager at Haworth. WELL may be a new way of building, but there is one person who has extensive experience with what it’s like to inhabit a WELL-certified space.

The New Status

Herman Miller’s publication, WHY, in an article written by Drew Himmelstein, reported that when the Sears Tower was completed in 1973, the upper floors of the world’s new tallest building were designed with recessed spaces that intentionally maximized the number of corner offices. Architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill bet that offering more plum office assignments for top executives would make the upper floors, with their already prime aerial real estate and expansive views, even more desirable for business tenants. Forty years ago, such offices were in such high demand that architects looked for ways to add more corners onto buildings. It’s striking, then, that for many of today’s top companies that once essential feature of corporate facilities is increasingly obsolete. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t have a personal office; he works in an open workspace with other employees. Count Jack Dorsey of Square, Gilt Groupe’s Michelle Peluso, and Virgin’s Richard Branson are among other chief executives who’ve joined the office-less class. In 2015, some of the most eye-popping, up-to-date offices from Silicon Valley to Sydney, embrace designs where entry-level employees brush elbows (and espresso cups) with executives.

“Status is a fundamental human motivation—it’s evidence that the group values us,” says Tracy Brower, Director of Human Dynamics and Work at Herman Miller. Traditional offices found plenty of ways to reinforce those motivations, giving high-status employees private offices with better views and guarding them from the rest of the staff with administrative assistants. But why has the tide turned on this approach? Brower explains: “On the human side, you’re challenged by the difficulty of connecting to other people and to work—providing that essential feeling of belonging—and on the facility side, you’re being asked to extract greater and greater value from every square inch of real estate.” In other words, an assigned private office—closed off, and underutilized—sounds ideal until you look at the bigger picture. “Status used to separate us from others. Today we better understand that you actually experience status within groups—this also contributes to why we’re seeing more and more open office environments.”
Brower was part of a team that researched what motivates people at work as part of the development of Living Office, Herman Miller’s new approach to realizing higher-performing, human-centered workplaces. They identified six key human needs—security, autonomy, belonging, achievement, status, and purpose—and are using these to help guide organizations toward purposeful choices in office design.

The Chicago staff of CBRE, a commercial real estate services firm, recently moved into a new light-filled office occupying three upper-level floors in a tower in the city’s central business district. Most of the office’s sit-to-stand desks are in an open workspace that provides clear visibility of other coworkers and the sweeping views outside. The private offices, which are unassigned and called “Offices for a Day,” are plated with glass and are available for any employee’s use through a reservation system. In the corner spaces, there aren’t desks at all, but areas designated for collaboration. No one has an assigned desk. The space couldn’t be more different than the company’s previous location, which consisted of perimeter offices and workstations divided by high panels toward the center of the floor, according to Lauren Brightwell, senior project manager at CBRE. The office got little natural light and overlooked a parking garage. Even so, Brightwell says, some senior executives were reluctant to move.

In order to recognize individuals who once had the status of a private office and to showcase their accomplishments, a prominently located media wall now displays employees’ awards and achievements. These are effective ways to reinforce status without relying on traditional office design, Brower says. “The physical environment is only one set of factors to consider,” she adds. According to Brower, status can also be conferred holistically through managerial methods (like providing mentoring and increased leadership opportunities), and access to updated technology, tools, and resources.

Healthier Outcomes

Building employee relationships company-wide can be incredibly valuable to a business, according to Scott Doorley, creative director at the Stanford and co-author with Scott Witthoft of “Make Space, A Guide for Designing to Encourage Creativity”. When the Macquarie Group, an investment bank, redesigned its headquarters in Sydney, Australia, it was driven by similar product concerns, according to Amanda Stanaway, a principal at architecture firm Woods Bagot, who was the lead interior designer on the project. Macquarie’s offices had previously grouped its employees by department, creating what Woods Bagot terms “command and control silos,” where employees had assigned areas they were expected to work in during office hours under the watch of the team’s managers. But the bank was concerned that the rigid design, which kept employees in different divisions apart and placed managers in visible positions, hindered the speed at which the bank could bring products to market, Stanaway says. If, for example, the financial services team developed a product without ever collaborating with the tax experts, the product might easily have unforeseen tax implications and need to be reworked.

In Macquarie’s new offices, no one has assigned desks or offices, and employees naturally group themselves based on the project they are working on at the time. Each employee has a locker and access to a variety of workstations that facilitate both individual and collaborative work. The result is a client-oriented office culture that also saves money by using space efficiently—a priority in Australia, where commercial office space is at a premium. (11).

On the other hand, in an article in the Washington Post, on December 30, 2014, a personal essay by Lindsay Kaufman said, Google got it wrong. The open-office trend is destroying the workplace. Workplaces need more walls, not fewer. “A year ago, my boss announced that our large New York ad agency would be moving to an open office. After nine years as a senior writer, I was forced to trade in my private office for a seat at a long, shared table. It felt like my boss had ripped off my clothes and left me standing in my skivvies. Our new, modern Tribeca office was beautifully airy, and yet remarkably oppressive. Nothing was private. On the first day, I took my seat at the table assigned to our creative department next to a nice woman who I suspect was an air horn in a former life. All day, there was constant shuffling, yelling and laughing, along with music piped in through the PA system. As an excessive water drinker, I feared my co-workers were tallying my frequent bathroom trips. At day’s end, I bid adieu to the 12 pairs of eyes I felt judging my 5:04 departure time. I beelined to the Beats store to purchase their best noise-cancelling headphones in an unmistakably visible neon blue.”

Despite its obvious problems, the open-office model has continued to encroach on workers across the country. Now about 70 percent of U.S. offices have no or low partitions, according to the International Facility Management Association. Silicon Valley has been the leader in bringing down the dividers. Google, Yahoo, eBay, Goldman Sachs and American Express are all adherents. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg enlisted architect Frank Gehry to design the largest open floor plan in the world, housing nearly 3,000 engineers. And as a businessman, Michael Bloomberg was an early adopter of the open-space trend, saying it promoted transparency and fairness. He famously carried the model into city hall when he became mayor of New York, making the “the Bullpen” a symbol of open communication and accessibility to the city’s chief.

These new floor plans are ideal for maximizing a company’s space while minimizing costs. But employers are getting a false sense of improved productivity. A 2013 study found that many works in open offices are frustrated by distractions that lead to poorer work performance. Nearly half of the surveyed workers in open offices said the lack of sound privacy was a significant problem for them and more than 30 percent complained about the lack of visual privacy. Meanwhile, “ease of interaction” with colleagues — was cited as a problem by fewer than 10 percent of workers in any type of office setting. In fact, those with private offices were least likely to identify their ability to communicate with colleagues as an issue. In a previous study, researchers concluded, “the loss of productivity due to noise distraction…was doubled in open-plan offices compared to private offices.”

The New Yorker, in a review of research on this nouveau workplace design, determined that the benefits in building camaraderie simply mask the negative effects on work performance. While employees feel like they’re part of a laid-back, innovative enterprise, the environment ultimately damages workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction. Furthermore, a sense of privacy boosts job performance, while the opposite can cause feelings of helplessness.

Kaufman continued, “As the new space intended, I’ve formed interesting, unexpected bonds with my cohorts. But my personal performance at work has hit an all-time low. Each day, my associates and I are seated at a table staring at each other, having an ongoing 12-person conversation from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s like being in middle school with a bunch of adults. Those who have worked in private offices for decades have proven to be the most vociferous and rowdy. They haven’t had to consider how their loud habits affect others, so they shout ideas at each other across the table and rehash jokes of yore. As a result, I can only work effectively during times when no one else is around, or if I isolate myself in one of the small, constantly sought-after, glass-windowed meeting rooms around the perimeter. If employers want to make the open-office model work, they have to take measures to improve work efficiency. For one, they should create more private areas — ones without fishbowl windows. Also, they should implement rules on when interaction should be limited. For instance, when a colleague has on headphones, it’s a sign that you should come back another time or just send an e-mail. Headphones are the new closed door in offices. And please, let’s eliminate some music that blankets our workspaces. Metallica at 3 p.m. isn’t always compatible with meeting a 4 p.m. deadline. On the other hand, companies could simply join another trend — allowing employees to work from home.”

So what is it to be?

Rex Miller says “Part of a leader’s job is to provide a safe place for employees. A safe place is marked by relief, hope, focus, and achievement.” He goes on to comment, “Many people go to work with their life in shreds. They are barely hanging on. Whoever you are and wherever you work, people around you seriously struggle with special needs kids, long commutes, economic pressure, teenager and marriage problems, health challenges, single parenthood, aging and infirm parents. Many people are stressed before arriving at the workplace. Ignoring these real-world problems is a very expensive mistake. The toxic bottom 20 percent of employees costs U.S. businesses $550 billion a year, stress drains another $300 billion, chronic health conditions balloon to over $1 trillion, and working in sick buildings adds another $60 billion.”(9)

There you have it. We’ve heard from experts –social scientists and CEOs aiming to reform our sometimes backwards approaches to workplace harmony, and an employee who doesn’t agree with the professionals.

Culture is indeed as the thing that distinguishes a happy workplace from an unhappy one. But as mentioned before, culture is what culture does. It’s all relevant and no iteration of it is the same as another.

(1) Change Your Space, Change Your Culture-
(2) Case4space
(3) Rex Miller, Change Your Space, Change Your Culture
(4) Warren Buffett, Change Your Space, Change Your Culture
(5) Simon Sinek, Change Your Space, Change Your Culture
(6) Rex Miller, Change Your Space, Change Your Culture
(7) Brian Barth, author of The WELL Building Standard Has Arrived, Barth
(9) Rex Miller, Change Your Space, Change Your Culture
(11) WHY, a Herman Miller publication


Why Retreats are Good for the Soul!

I was having breakfast last week at the trendy new “ish” Ace Hotel, in Downtown Los Angeles, with a lovely woman, who was planning her 50th milestone birthday retreat. She had been referred to me by another retreat client that had spent a week with me in Maui for a yoga retreat I had hosted some time ago, for a group of very busy executives.

Our conversation turned to planning her special time away from the busy-ness of her day–to-day life, and we discussed what she could “expect” on her journey to Sedona’s red rocks and vortex energy centers. In our early discussions, she had wanted a group retreat experience with some of her closest friends and family joining her. Gradually, as we talked, her focus shifted and she decided it was best to simply go alone, with herself, and with me as her guide, to the most special places Sedona has to offer -a lone vision quest.

We spoke about some of the things that were driving her need to step away from her routine for a few days, and hopefully to come back with a renewed sense of purpose and clarity. Having hosted and attended retreats with hundreds of guests/attendees myself, I knew all too well that the pivotal decision to step off the wheel of life actually begins the true process of finding your place on your wheel of life. We planned to participate in a Native American shaman-led medicine wheel ceremony while in Sedona, so the metaphor on the wheel of life did not go unnoticed by me.

According to the Four Winds Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to cultivating conscious community by offering indigenous perspectives, values and ceremonies, the Vision Quest “is a rite of passage in many Native American cultures. It is one of the most universal and ancient means to find spiritual guidance and purpose in ones life. A vision quest offers clarity into the next phase of life.” Traditional vision quests involve days of fasting in nature within a sacred altar, after extensive preparation, to be able to receive the messages from Great Spirit that await them. It is a challenge of faith, physicality and focus. It is a powerful time to align with the Great Mystery of life.

Before someone is ready to take on a truly authentic Vision Quest, a gentle introduction into the indigenous ways, ceremonies, culture and stories is suggested. The “urban vision quest” we had planned took into account that this woman, seeking a mid-life rite of passage, had never experienced any of the traditional ceremonies, or had never been exposed to the intensity of a vortex area like Sedona’s. The experience would be no less powerful and life altering. The alignment of our energetic connection began immediately after she said “yes” to the experience.

I recall a moment when she came into my mind’s awareness, and in that exact instant, my phone rang and she was on the other end of the line. At our Ace hotel meeting, I presented her with an offering of four specifically selected crystals I had wrapped for her, along with a fresh stick of Palo Santo, that comes from a mystical tree that grows on the coast of South America and is related to frankincense, myrrh and copal. In Spanish, the name literally means “Holy Wood”. Its properties for cleansing and healing are similar to that of sage. I told her that, as a beginning to her journey, to take the next few weeks to begin to listen, cleanse and begin to journal any insights about this stage of her life, and the messages from Great Spirit.

It is said that there is a Universal law of attraction at work here; that in order to manifest the experience we are choosing, we must first release it or “give it away” before it will appear in our physical reality. That night, after leaving the Ace hotel, one couple arrived with a beautifully wrapped box with purple and green ribbon tied around a fresh stick of Palo Santo. I opened the box to find the four crystals I had given my new friend at breakfast had returned to me that same night…an example of that Universal law at work? Indeed!

We all need to take time to step away from our daily routine, a routine that is increasingly becoming more and more accelerated as technology takes over. The natural environment provides much needed food for the soul, solitude for inner reflection and insight and time for self care. It’s an investment in the “bank account” of life and the dividends it pays are through the roof!

Lori Tierney is a free-lance writer and author of the book “Cougar Yoga”. She founded the Red Road Retreat company in 2006 and organizes individual and group retreat experiences. ( )


How to Maintain Your Yoga Practice During a Major Life Transition

“Impermanence is good news. Without impermanence, nothing would be possible. With impermanence, every door is open for change. Impermanence is an instrument for our liberation.” – Thich Nhat Hahn

Sudden and unexpected changes can happen to all of us at times when the flow of life is going along swimmingly well. Calm waters can turn to swirling river rapids in a moment, without warning. Change can show up in the form of a job loss, divorce, illness or dis-ease, loss of a loved one, an unexpected move, and the list goes on. We all strive for harmony and a peaceful existence as if we were preprogrammed that these traits are the benchmarks of a successful life, well lived. But life is often and frequently interrupted by sudden changes that can happen to any of us at any moment, leaving us feeling off balance.

For those of us that have found a regular breath-work practice like yoga, meditation, tai-chi or chi gong, maintaining a regular practice when life has turned everything upside down can derail even the most disciplined person. For those that have yet to experience the myriad benefits of a regular practice, it is often in times of complete life chaos that we decide to embark upon one of these life-changing paths of self-discovery.

Recent events in my own life put my seventeen-year daily Bhakti yoga practice to the test. The holidays sailed by with abundance in many forms; family, gatherings with friends and new projects at work to look forward to – projects that had been part of long standing relationships, with likable clients who really wanted me as a part of their team.

Suddenly, the owner of the property where I lived; a lovely guest house, with an ocean view toward Malibu, a very stern 92 year-old woman, who had lived there for 62 years, cornered me on the stairs to the laundry room the day after New Years and told me my mom, who was visiting, had to go! She said she had rented the property to one person, not two.

“When is your mom leaving?”, she asked bluntly? Now mom, at 88, had planned to return to a relative’s home on Maui after the holidays. The next day, we received a call from family, stating that she was not able to return to the island, as they suddenly had to sell the property! All this may not seem to be too much to handle, especially for the fact that I have moved forty-eight times in fifty years. Suddenly, my mom was on the verge of being homeless. Her only income being Social Security, at an amount that only slightly covers her heart medicine and food, there was not anything left for housing. Fortunately, I thought to myself, at least I have a good job, with a secure company, a contract through the end of the year. We would just simply have to move in together again and find a new place to call home.

Then, the next “sudden change” event in the series of mini- tsunamis happened…I lost my job. The details are really irrelevant to this article, but the fact was I suddenly found myself without any income, needing a place to live and one that would also accommodate the needs of an elderly parent.
This series of events showed me just how easily and quickly anyone of us could go from perceived security to being homeless in an instant. The events that followed and people’s reactions to my newfound circumstances ranged from friends hiring me to do work and paying me double, to friends I thought were close to me, shunning me like a pariah. Having experienced three divorces in my life, the reaction people had, even those I thought I was close to, replicated that of how often this type of change leaves people feeling uncomfortable, at a loss for words and hoping what you just went through won’t penetrate their world, much like the recent measles outbreak at Disneyland, the perennially “happy” place!

It is at times of change and impermanence that we need our friends and family most, we need our yoga or other spiritual practices, our community to embrace us. We need to be and to feel loved, not shunned. We need hope and encouragement. We need simple acts of kindness to help us through the moments of uncertainty.

As I write this, it has been six weeks since I have had a regular paycheck. I was downtown today interviewing for a new client and at the end of the meeting, the man I had gone to meet with handed me a parking validation and said, here, this will save you $40.00! To me , his gesture felt like $400.00!
I was never so grateful to receive a little green validation ticket in my life. I thought of the many instances we take these things for granted, to the point of expectation. Many great “pearls” have been given to me through this massive transition and transformation and the gifts continue each day.

As an avid yogini, I found that indeed my yoga practice was the sustaining element in this sea of uncertainty. It was, and continues to be the glue that holds my life together, even in turbulent waters. These four yoga poses will surely help you set your course to calmer waters as you ride through the most difficult of life challenges:

1. Modified Fish Pose (Matsyasana) for loss. “Loss can cause intense grief. This pose helps to open the heart and the throat chakra to help you be able to express your true feelings. Leaving unexpressed grief or anger in the body can lead to more complications and dis-ease. Practice this pose to keep the energy channels open and receptive to the “new” which is right around the corner”.
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2. Changes in the Home: Downward Facing Frog Pose (Adho Mukha Mandukasana)
“Any change in living conditions can leave you feeling uprooted and zap your energy causing interrupted sleep patterns. This version of Frog Pose helps alleviate the stress that accumulates in the hips and lower back from worry and fear”.
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3. Relationship Issues: Half Lord of the Fishes, aka “The Better” Half Twist Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
“Relationship transitions make us lose our footing. This can result from a love relationship or a job loss.
This twisting pose helps you keep your eye on the ground, while maintaining your own wholeness. You need strong roots, a flexible spine, and a wide-open heart—all of which help you balance time for YOURSELF, while you cultivate deeper intimate connections with YOU and others”.
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4. Career Change: Dolphin Pose (Makarasana)
“Career shifts bring in anxiety over new territories to master, grief from losing a past version of the self, and financial worries. This can strain all other relationships.
Dolphin pose requires a shift in perspective while maintaining a steady base for balance”.
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* With any yoga practice it is advised to find a great teacher to guide you through the poses safely! Please find a supportive teacher before trying these poses at home.


Self-LOVE is all you need…how to be solo and survive Feb 14 in DTLA

Large red hearts, pink double hearts and lavender hearts pop up everywhere right after the New Year celebrations fizzle. Retailers everywhere are poised to capitalize on the next big holiday frenzy-Valentines Day-February 14. The holiday of love, lovers, couples, weddings, marital bliss, companionship, friendship and our eternal quest to be loved, accepted and romanticized, our need for approval, our quest for the holy grail of life-LOVE.

No place on earth says LOVE more than the Hawaiian Islands. With their cascading waterfalls over porous lava rocks into natural pools fit for swimming lovers, Hawaii
is the capital of LOVE. We have all seen the images of the physically attractive young couple under the Hawaiian waterfall. He, with a tanned, chiseled muscular physique, she the personification of the nubile Goddess, wet hair drenched by the waterfall, flawless skin, perfectly shaped melon-esqe breasts almost covered by an island print bikini top. He, holding her in his arms, she looking longingly into his eyes….the Ad industries’ idea of love, romance and the happiness utopia. What registers in our brains as we see this carefully crafted image, is that somehow our lives have not measured up to this fabrication of the LOVE“ ideal”. This is especially impactful if you live in Los Angeles, where Hollywood’s idea of romance permeates society at every turn.

I pondered this image as I flew alone to Hawaii. My first trip to the islands was predictable-to celebrate my third honeymoon. Seems the third time was not the charm! This trip ahead of Valentine’s Day became a reflection on what LOVE really is and how to navigate this season of heart-filled fantasies when you are single in Los Angeles. Indeed, where was I going to spend my February 14 alone in LA?

The social media chatter had begun, as people everywhere posted their ideal images of the love in their life, of their lives, or the exact opposite-silence from anyone single at Valentines Day.

I often turn inward for guidance to help me navigate life’s turbulent waters and have a daily meditation/ yoga practice, where in the stillness, I find answers, comfort and the desire to keep moving onward in life, no matter how difficult it can seem. The ocean is also a place of comfort and solace to me. While swimming in the warm waters, with sea turtles and whales migrating close by, and this article deadline hours away…I was reminded that in order to find love, one must first love self. Ahhh, SELF-LOVE, that illusive phrase we have all heard tossed out at self -help workshops and New-age gatherings. But what is it really? How does one go about, with the big V-Day in LA, looming, find it?
There is a place adjacent to the heart of Downtown LA where singles can spend the day surrounded by nature- a place where red-tailed hawks circle overhead, Horned owls hoot in the trees, cottontails scamper and mule deer dot the surrounding landscape. It’s called Ernest E. Debs Regional Park, or Debs Park. It’s relatively undiscovered, hidden to most people who speed past it on the 110 Freeway. It’s a place of natural habitats and recreation, and to its adjacent neighbors, it is their backyard. The park is inspiring. The views for its high spots are breathtaking and revealing. It is truly a place worth exploring, and a place that simply by its presence, nurtures the concept of loving self.

As you walk the marked trails and surround yourself in the natural beauty this city has to offer so close to its urban borders, you just might forget for a moment that you are on a date with the most important person in your life-yourself! And as February 14 passes by again, you will reflect on the fact that this indeed was your best “date” ever!

Wishing you all a day of love in all its forms, shapes and colors!

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