Life Circles: A practice for healing.

April 16, 2016

img_3407.jpgLife Circles by Stephanie Wagner.

Sponsored by Pro-Master Carpet Cleaning, 231-757-9061, promastercarpetcleaning.com.

Whenever I find myself really struggling, I always pray for teachers. Sometimes, they are mirrors to reflect back the things I don’t really want to face but need to. Other times, they creep in to stand silently beside me. Then, there are the teachers who dance in the future, beckoning with brilliant light to pull me forward.

Lauri Brown is one of the brilliant ones.

She’s turning 50 this year, an age many of my female friends describe as their awakening.  “My birthdays have always been special to me,” Lauri says. “Not just for the celebrations, but because they feel like a new start—they are like my own personal ‘New Year’.”

With each birthday, she takes time out to reflect on the year past and set goals for the upcoming.  “I’m working really hard on love this year. Not romantic love, but self-love. The kind that says I don’t have to feel guilty or shameful about the past, or be concerned about what other people think.

“We tell people all the time –especially women – that you have to love yourself before you can love others, but what does that even mean?”  

Lauri has spent half a century trying to figure that out.  The victim of rape as a teen, she learned early to hold shame deep inside herself.  

“I never told anyone what happened to me. In fact, this is the very first time I have ever shared it. I hid it from my parents even. Then I was angry because no one knew.  I was dying inside – but I just kept smiling.”

She covered her pain with destructive behaviors. “I just wanted to hurt myself on the outside as much as I hurt on the inside. I felt ‘branded’, and I wanted to be punished.”

She left home, got married, and had two children in just over two years, and just as quickly divorced. Next came an escape back to California, the place she considered home.

“I watched addiction destroy so many of my friends,” she says. “Their lives ruined, some lost.  But I have always had a strong sense of spirituality, a belief in God. I never really lost hope.”

At 28, she had a chance meeting with the ancient practice of yoga.

“I remember thinking, ‘Where has this been my whole life?’ I thought I was so old to just be discovering it!”

It was exactly what she needed to begin her journey toward healing.

“I started out able to do everything in the class. It was good because I needed the ego boost – it replaced something negative with something positive.  I was learning to love myself, to feel good again.”

And then came “Crow Pose”. It was the first time Lauri met a pose she couldn’t do.

“It was a big lesson for me.  I got frustrated, then mad. I thought I could force it to happen.”

There is a philosophy in yoga that what happens on the mat, happens off the mat.  

“You can’t meet a pose with anger or you will never get it. You have to find the peace in it.  I had to learn to do the same with other situations in my life.”

It also allowed her to feel again, and to be vulnerable in a safe space. “I remember this one time, I just started crying – sobbing – in Savasana. Now I know it is pretty common, but I didn’t know that then. I was embarrassed. But more than that, I felt the incredible love of all of the people in that room. No one said anything, no one broke their own pose.  But I could just feel them supporting me. These complete strangers just sending me love.”

Shortly after that, she lost a close friend to a motorcycle accident.  The tragedy created a moment of clarity for her. It was then that she decided to pursue her yoga teacher certification.

“I just wanted to be a part of sharing that love and acceptance on a bigger level.  If yoga could heal me, I knew it could make a difference for others too.  Especially other women.”

After teaching in California for a few years, Lauri was drawn back to Michigan to visit her grandchildren. “I didn’t want to come. I had nothing but bad memories of being here – rape, divorce, shame – there was nothing good about that time of my life. But then when I got here, I just knew I had to come back. I had to face those demons or I would never be free of them.”

She said goodbye to her friends, packed her bags, and moved back to Ludington in 2004.

It hasn’t been easy. In just over a year, Lauri was laid off from her job, divorced, lost her beloved animal companions, and is now preparing to move from the house that she describes as her “sanctuary”.

In all that was lost, she has found purpose.

Lauri now teaches yoga almost every day of the week, and has recently become certified to teach spin cycle classes as well.  She is also exploring ways to help other women heal from trauma.

“I’m done hiding. If I can’t talk about the hard stuff, how can I expect my students to?  Women are so powerful, and so many of us don’t know that.  We have to be able to look in the mirror and see the beauty, not the zits, and hips and mistakes.”  

“We have all experienced traumas – whether it was abuse or rape or just being repeatedly treated as ‘less than’ – but it doesn’t have to define us.  We need to spend less time comparing and competing, and more time learning about each other and supporting each other.”

Sometimes, stepping up to the top of our mats is the hardest work we will do all week. But always, it is the most important.

You can find Lauri at Ludington Spin and Yoga. Check class schedules at https://www.facebook.com/ludingtonspinandyoga, or contact (231) 907-9616.

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