We had just moved to an exclusive community on the north shore of Chicago. My step-father, mom and I. I hadn’t made any friends yet and I tagged along with my mom on many of her social outings as she got to know others in the community. There was the church outing to the Art Institute – we took a giant air conditioned bus and ate lunch at a restaurant. There was an archeological dig weekend at Koster, down in the southern most tip of IL. And there was the Hula dance group I participated in…
Each week, 6 or 7 white, middle-aged women from my mom’s church would meet in a woman’s basement (Dorothy) and try our best to imitate the beautiful Hawaiian dancers we saw on the posters hanging on the walls. I would figure 8 my non-existent hips and imitate our leader who smiled coquettishly in the mirror – our pretend audience. Offering up our plastic flower leis as invitation, swaying our grass skirts to imitate the trade winds.
The class culminated in a performance for senior citizens at the local community center. With acute adolescent self-consciousness I did my best to stay in the back (which was hard because there were only 8 of us!)
Much to my chagrin, a photo of the event was published in the weekly town newspaper – a bunch of women and me in our costumes.
Fast Forward 43 Years
Teaching my 5 year olds last week. We are sitting in circle and talking about Hawaii. Someone mentions hula dancing. “You don’t know how to do that!” one kid says in a snarky voice. “Oh yes I do!” I shoot back. “Wanna see?” I say as one part of myself looks down from the ceiling in dismay. And just like that…I am googling Song of Old Hawaii and playing it on my speaker. The strings start and it all comes back to me. My arms reach up to mimic the heavens, my fingers make the stars. My hips start to sway. I dance. I sing. The audience is rapt. Riveted.
“The things that women reclaim are often their own voice, their own values, their imagination, their clairvoyance, their stories, their ancient memories. If we go for the deeper, and the darker, and the less known we will touch the bones.” ~Clarissa Pinkola Estés
This February, Julia Myers Patterson & I are facilitating an online 6-week women’s group that will provide a supportive environment to remember, reclaim and celebrate our inner gifts and witness them in each other, to excavate landscapes that may previously have been avoided, to shine light on the beauty that is inherent within each of us. In short, to touch our bones.
2020 was an invitation to look deeply within; exposing every aspect of our lives, beliefs & relationships. 2021 invites you to look within…with others!
Touch the Bones; a 6-week exploration
When: Tuesday evenings, February 2 – March 9
Time: 7-9 pm PTD
Cost: $222 if registered before 1/15, $250 after 1/15
Each week you will dive deeply into the carefully crafted curriculum both solo and with a paired partner. Every exercise has been thoughtfully planned to aid in your self-exploration.
Included in the course, there is an additional weekly, half-hour 1-1 coaching call to assist you in your journey.
Are you ready to step in? We have limited space for 8 special women who are a “Yes!” to this offering. Click HERE to register.
Parenting in the best of times can be hard – parenting during a pandemic is intense!
“Putting your oxygen mask on first” is not a cliche, it’s a necessity to create a healthier you which directly results in a healthier child and family.
Join Krista Kotz, PhD, MPH and Roxanna Smith, MA for a free, one-hour webinar where we will share findings from brain science about how you can strengthen the mindful circuits in your brain to allow you to be more of the parent you want to be.
We will also discuss simple concrete ways to reduce your stress levels and create a healthier, more relaxed environment at home.
More than just a meditation class, you’ll get tools to apply “in the moment” when stress levels are high and resources are low.
After this webinar, we will be offering a 4-week online series that willdelve more deeply into the unique environmental challenges you face collectively as parents in Lamorinda, as well as your own individual childhood experiences that shape who you are as an adult and impact your parenting.
We’ll spend time helping you learn to identify and mitigate your triggers. Every class will feature techniques to apply at home, and opportunities to share with the group.
Both Krista and Roxanna live and work in this community. Krista raised and educated herchildren in Orinda. Roxanna raised and educated her children in Boulder, CO, a community with similar opportunities and challenges.
I leave for India in less than a month. I know how transformational India was for me the first time I went and that is what fueled my passion to bring people to this amazing and complex country. We have 2 spots left for our trip next month to India. We know you’re out there – you just haven’t been able to find us!
This is an amazing trip to experience with a dear friend, family member or partner. The memories you will make and share are lifelong. In general, traveling provides opportunities to dive deep and experience situations that will fill you with amazement, awe and joy. Traveling in India is an other-worldly experience that you will never be able to recreate anywhere else. The deep spiritual landscape, the myriad colors/sounds/smells, the daily sights – from the sublime to the surreal. The prayer bells. The mantra over loud speaker, floating out over the Ganges at sunset. Nothing has prepared you for this.
Traveling to India is a journey of the heart, mind and soul. Transformation is guaranteed. That can be exhilarating and inspirational and it can also feel scary as hell.
My goal, along with my co-facilitator, is to help make it as gentle, intentional and magical as possible. We are not in the business of frying anyone’s nervous system! Most of the comments we get on our feedback forms is that people’s lives are forever changed and that people had an amazing, heart-opening trip. We specialize in handling the minutiae so that you can relax and focus on your experience. Because we have traveled extensively in India, we offer many special events and outings that you would never find in a guide book. Are you ready for an adventure? Contact me for more information. Traveling to India is easier than ever before. You can get a Visa in less than 24 hours now on the internet. Flights are still available. We are saving your spot!
Roxanna & Julia are truly incredible women and leaders. I enjoyed India but more importantly, I felt the love, support and freedom to be completely vulnerable and to learn what I was here to learn about myself. I am going home a changed woman and I see the world through new eyes. Thank you. Deb O.
I had a life-changing experience with wonderful people who support the journey! Nai S.
“Traveling to India is a powerful experience. Roxanna & Julia show up, hold space and love fiercely. They have created a trip to experience ALL that Mother India has to offer.” Logan M.
It was a thrill to be interviewed on Melanie Scott’s podcast: “Intentional Conversations” about the transformational potency of traveling in India. Click HERE to hear the full conversation. In our 48 minutes together, we share our love of India and travel as well as reminisce about our two trips to India together and some of our favorite experiences in this magical country.
In India, one can experience the gamut: giddy laughter, loving kindness from strangers, heart connection, unexpected friendships, communion with cows, encounters with monkeys, blaring horns, sublime sunsets.
And for those of you who can’t listen to the whole interview, the take away is that India has a way of showing us who we are, deep inside, and bringing us home to our selves. It is a heart-opening experience to travel to India. I hope you will join me this November for Enlightened Tours’ Journey to India, 2019.
Enlightened Tours has curated an experience that delivers daily opportunities to connect deeply to your Self and others; giving you plenty of time to nurture and restore with yoga, meditation and Ayurveda. Group activities as well as time on the Ganges, swimming in waterfalls, hiking in the foothills of the Himalayas. Satsang with living saints. Stillness.
“The best work is done with either the heart broken or overflowing.” Mignon McGlaughlin
A favorite quote of mine. Sometimes the heart can be both broken and overflowing.
This past weekend was beautiful in California. All the winter rain has brought spring flowers, blossoming trees and the most life-affirming color of green everywhere! In the grasses, the leaves, the hillsides.
This past weekend was also my daughter’s 20th birthday. On April 20th. Which also happens to be the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shootings. I remember calling my father in Denver to tell him he had a granddaughter (his first grandchild) and he said “Thank God something good happened today.” He then told me the tragic news that had happened in Colorado. In the United States. Right on this phone call, our hearts breaking and overflowing.
15 years later, living in Boulder, the baby now a teenager. She was cutting her body. Depressed. Questioning life. 5 years ago today, I woke my daughter up at 5:30am and told her that we were getting on a plane. We flew to Durango and 2 wholesome looking strangers walked up to us and took my daughter away. (Staff from the Wilderness program her father and I had chosen.) I never exited the airport, just got on the next flight back to Denver.
Yesterday I got a text from a friend: “Call me when you can.” My first thoughts were ‘who died?’ and ‘who has cancer?’. The news: A friend’s son had taken his life. A howling black hole of wordlessness. Tears.
All I could do is cry and play this Mantra. Chattr Chakkr Vartee by Aykanna. It is a mantra used to remove fear, anxiety and phobias. It is a mantra to lift one out of despair. “Chattr Chakkr Vartee is the mantra for the heart center, it gives direct energy to it. When you are sinking, if you know this mantra and can sing it, you can totally recuperate yourself.” — Yogi Bhajan
Meditation class last night – I’m leading a group for some of the parents of the preschool I work at. Sweet, young parents of sweet, young children. It’s all about being in the now, practicing presence. I wondered how much to share at check-in. I decided to tell the group what I was sitting with – talking about heart ache. About child loss and parent grief. Appreciating the ‘ALL’ of life. Celebrating that both of my kids have bumped along in adolescence and for right now, just for today, they are both in such sweet places in their lives. Heart overflowing with love for both of them. It was a beautiful group, with tears, kindness and connection. Heart overflowing with love for these sweet, earnest parents, and their worries and their struggles.
I taught them a Buddhist meditation, that my dear friend Sue taught me many years ago. It’s my ‘go-to’ when there are no words. When I don’t know what to do, or say.
“Tonglen is one of the richest and bravest practices that we can do.This is one of the great meditation jewels that offers a way us to cultivate our natural mercy.”–Joan Halifax
The practice of Tonglen, or Giving and Receiving, is done to develop our compassion and our ability to be present for our own suffering and the suffering of others. Pema Chodron teaches that Tonglen is a practice of “sending and taking,” an ancient Buddhist practice to awaken compassion. With each in-breath, we take in others’ pain. With each exhale, we send them relief. I like to think of myself as a being of light, composting the darkness. Breathing in the sorrow, transforming it and exhaling out love.
Get still, close your eyes, feel free to place your hands on your heart.Inhale through the nose and breathe in any painful emotion that may be coming up for you (shame, anger, rage, fear, anxiety, frustration, judgement).Stay neutral to the emotions, just breathe them in and allow them to be.On the exhale through the nose, release these emotions and cultivate acceptance and compassion for yourself.Allow the emotions to release through you and surround yourself with an energy of unconditional love.
Note: My daughter gave me permission to write and post this.
In India, I experience the gamut: giddy laughter, loving kindness from strangers, heart connection, unexpected friendships, communion with cows, encounters with monkeys, blaring horns, sublime sunsets.
What I don’t think I have conveyed is the journey within to deep stillness – the Gift of Presence – that has been my India.
Words really don’t do India justice, and I have a hard time putting some of my deepest emotions to words, so I have attached a short 90 second video of some very sacred moments that are forever dear to me.
The soundtrack is me “tuning in” with the Adi Mantra. Something we do at the beginning of every kundalini yoga class and meditation. I was chanting this mantra in the early hours of morning, when it’s still dark and the winds come roaring down the foothills of the Himalayas. I was tucked into a blanket and let the familiar chant ground me and connect me to the Golden Chain of my teachers, and connect me to my yoga mat. To my heart beat. If you listen carefully you can hear thumps and bumps in the background. They are monkeys having a morning romp before the warm midday sun makes them heavy lidded and lethargic.
I’ll be traveling back to this country, to this yoga hall, to one of my soul homes, in just a few short months. There are spots for 2 more people if you would like to join me.
We have curated a tour that delivers daily opportunities to connect deeply to your Self, to nurture and restore with yoga, meditation and Ayurveda. Time on the Ganges, swimming in waterfalls, hiking in the foothills of the Himalayas. Satsang with living saints. Stillness.
If you feel the call, contact me. I’m here to walk you through the details. Step by step.
Every day I wake up and read the New York Times on my phone. I read the California edition. Almost every day there are stories about the housing crisis in this state; the rising cost of homes and people living on the streets. Today the news has stories of fires burning and evacuations. And I am reading with a broken heart about the families that are separated at our border – the children in cages, the mom’s in jail, fleeing violence in their countries, hoping for a better life. Taking that chance. It is almost more than my brain and heart can process.
I see friends on Facebook imploring others not to go to sleep. Stay outraged! I agree. Let us not turn our backs on humanity and go numb. At the same time, let us not beat ourselves up if we cannot be on the front lines. Look into your heart and ask yourself what can you do right now? Are you able to write a check? Can you make phone calls to your senators? Are you able to sit in meditation and offer positive energy to those that suffer? Can you be extra loving and kind to the people in your life? Can you take impeccable care of yourself so that you have energy and resources when you get called to action? I donate. I pray. I sign petitions. I teach preschool. I try to facilitate and support concepts of love and kindness.
This conversation is taken verbatim from an interaction I witnessed last week. It happened between 2 boys, one age 4 and one age 5, after feelings were hurt and they were having a conversation using the “Peace Flower” which is kind of like a talking stick, only it’s a talking . It went like this:
Boy age 4: (while holding the peace flower) I wish I could wun as fast as you. (hands peace flower to other boy)
Boy age 5: Well, I run fast because I practice at home. Maybe if you practice you can get faster. (hands peace flower back to 4 year old)
Boy age 4: But, but, but…I wun and fall and you keep going. I want to be fast like you.
Me: Does it hurt your feelings when your friend runs fast and you can’t catch up?
Boy age 4: Yes. (hands peace flower to other boy)
Boy age 5: I bet you will get faster when you practice. I have a good idea! Let’s be on the same team and run together at the same time! (holds out peace flower and they both hold the stem and say in unison: Friends. And run off to play. Except Boy age 4 says “Fwends”) Peace on the playground has been restored.
I was relaying this story to a friend yesterday and we were laughing at how sweetly transparent children can be. They have all the emotions that adults have but the feelings move transparently across their faces like clouds blowing across a wide open sky. No place to hide. Every day there are tears, laughter, shouts of glee, angry scowls, hugs.
When I have hurt feelings, I do my best to hide it and stew for a few weeks – er…awhile and then become full of dread and eventually have a conversation with the person. Usually the conversation goes well and we are both relieved afterwards. Wouldn’t it be great if I could handle it immediately and we could both hold the peace flower for a few moments and then skip off happily?
Every day I go to work wondering what the day will bring. The work is so dynamic! There is no template for an “average” day. Working with children is a constant invitation to stay present – to keep my heart open, not look at my phone (which is tucked away in a cabinet for the entire day), literally get on my knees, make eye contact, speak kindly, be of service, be loving and gentle, hold boundaries, rub backs, give hugs. It’s like spiritual boot camp 😉 Truly. These little gurus are ninjas at testing limits/boundaries. If I take it personally, I’m a goner. They are also human love bombs who offer affection and acceptance freely and often. You’d think a rock star was arriving some days when I arrive – all the faces and arms waving at the window “Roxanna! Roxanna!” Sometimes I have to use the back door so I don’t start a riot and disrupt the class. Haha.
I am grateful to the Universe for bringing me to this present moment, this job, this life, these kids. Being a preschool teacher stretches me in myriad ways while simultaneously nourishing me and feeding my heart. As GuruGanesha Band sings in their song, Troubled Times:
In this troubled time we look to find the way. To heal our world, heal our hearts. In our confusion when we don’t know what to do, can we live for each other? Come Together For Each Other.
“I love your Welcome Packet, but what is the actual ‘Vibe’ of this trip?” the latest registrant of Enlightened India asked.
What a great opportunity for me to stop and think about how to answer this question. How to best describe this journey to India I’m co-leading this November? It isn’t just a yoga trip. It isn’t a typical “group” tour, rolling up to sacred sites in a giant bus. It’s not a self-help retreat… those are all the things this trip is NOT.
I had a great conversation with my business partner and co-lead Julia, talking about what this trip IS. Together, we came up with several words that we think speak to our trip’s vibe. Here are a few:
Spacious – To truly be present, so far away from everything familiar. To experience internal spaciousness. 10 days of self-exploration, with free time built into each day for deeper diving.
Loving – Julia and I are holding a loving container for our group. From the moment your feet touch Indian soil, you will be warmly welcomed and lovingly held. From the gentle morning meditation to the good night golden milk & cookies, each day has been thoughtfully planned with your sweetest Unfolding at heart.
Fun – So many special and wonderful things are being planned. Including Diwali in India – which is, in itself, a festive occasion filled with fireworks, treats and gifts. Many magical moments await you! Julia and I can hardly contain ourselves but we want to save some surprises!
Unique & Exclusive – Throughout our years of travel in India, we have been able to hand pick our favorite vendors, guides and experiences. This trip incorporates the very best of who and what we love the most in India, and mixes in our own special offerings for a very special experience you won’t get with anyone else!
Stretch – Not only will you be stretching your body and having that opportunity twice a day with gentle yoga and Hatha flow, but you the individual will be stretched personally and spiritually. Julia and I both remember what it was like to travel to India for the first time and we will be there holding that loving container to support you and make sure it doesn’t feel too overwhelming.
Flow – The Ganges River (Mata Ganga) reminds us to stay in the flow, stay present, and stay reverent to what IS. You will have plenty of reminders not to become overly attached to outcomes, but to stay in the flow and enjoy your journey. India is the perfect teacher for this. We will have many beautiful ceremonies on (and in!) this most sacred river.
Connection – A group of men and women come together for 10 days in India, and through a series of shared exercises and experiences, we form a Tribe. Together we co-create a supportive community that shares laughter and tears, personal triumphs and incredible adventures. Each one of you brings your own flavor to this group masala and we value your unique contribution to our community.
Self-Love Affair – India has a beautiful way of stripping away who we think we are and reminding ourselves what is actually at our core. Julia and I hold the intention that you will re-member aspects of yourself. There will be a special ceremony held for reflection and appreciation for each group member. We want you to return from this trip completely in love with yourself.
Something very special awaits you, I would love to have you join us!
Register HERE. “Take the adventure, heed the call, now ere the irrevocable moment passes! ‘Tis but a banging of the door behind you, a blithesome step forward, and you are out of your old life and into the new!” – Kenneth Grahame
If I should die soon
Tell my children to look for me in India.
In the prayer bells
Ringing out over the Ganges,
In the tablas beating their rhythm over the
As the red sun melts into purple sky.
Look for me on the sand bar in Benares
As the dogs creep closer to the fire.
To the ghee filled bowl burning brightly,
And the flower offerings bob drunkenly downstream.
See me in the sari clad women sprinkling Ganga water on strangers, blessing them.
Let them feel my arms wrapping them in each soft shawl they try on, and every white dress they see.
Sip me down in their lemon sodas, quenching their search.
Seek not but find me in the tuberose offering at Saraswati’s feet,
Or the monkey’s soft “coo coo” at their door.
Let them find joy in the calf’s jingle bells and the soft white spot on their foreheads.
Step on the soft sand of Rishikesh and know
I was happy here.
I am going back to India this November! Julia Myers Patterson and I are co-leading a group of men and women to Rishikesh, India this November for Diwali – the Hindu Festival of Light. This is a dream come true for me to be able to experience Diwali in all its exuberance and share my passion for India with this group and to co-lead with Julia – a woman who holds space with such love and peace. To learn more about the trip, see our Enlightened Tours website for all the details.