From the Heart

Hello lovelies! I wanted to pop in and tell you about a little shift I have just made that's already feeling really good - instead of a boring old newsletter, I have just begun a new practice that I am calling From the Heart: twice monthly letters from the heart, from my inbox to yours :-) This feels like a safer, more intimate space than out here "in the open" on the blog, it's a place to reveal a bit more of my heart, share bits and pieces of my story, and hear back from you (I hope) as well.

Today I sent out my first letter, with the photo above, and just this once, I will include a piece of the text below, so you can get a taste of the sort of thing I will be sending out, in case you want to join us...

"The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear." - Rumi

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To warm up to this idea of notes sent from the heart, today I thought I would share something that is on my mind: a sacred pause. Even when I finally have a few hours to myself, I tend to fill it up - with chores, email, a bit of work, or (most annoyingly of all) simply sitting around not really enjoying myself but not getting anything done, either. Do you ever do that? It’s as if my brain won’t allow me to just BE.

But as I was flipping through a magazine the other evening (I think it was Yoga Journal) there was an article with the title, “A Sacred Pause”. I mean, how juicy does that sound!? As my eyes glued themselves to those words, it struck me what was so important about them: calling something a sacred pause brings importance, even reverence, to doing nothing. It’s allowing us permission to simply BE. Permission to slow down. Permission to let the chores lapse. Permission to stare out the bloody window if that’s what you want to do! 

Because the fact is, we need to pause. We need breathing space in our lives as much as we need air in our lungs. To pause is to be present in the moment. To pause is to let the oxygen of your breathe refresh you and replenish you. To pause is to realize that you are complete right now, just as you are, in this very moment - and what could be more sacred than that?

So as I go about my day, I am trying to be very mindful of those opportunities to pause, and I’ve decided to view them as little treasures. Even ten minutes can be a real treasure if it’s spent filling your well of vitality and creativity! 

But sometimes we really do need and deserve a longer pause. More than a few hours...a week, or a long weekend at least, to really recharge. Next week we are off to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a much-anticipated family trip - I can't wait to dive into the Atlantic, feel the salt water buoying me up, and sit on the deck every afternoon. This will be a delicious test of my resolve to practice a "sacred pause" for sure... ;-) But the sad truth is, these days even vacations can be swallowed up by our devices and endless mental chatter. So while I don't anticipate having any trouble unplugging, I am still setting an intention to be fully present during this trip, just in case I find myself tempted to check my phone a little too often.

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A few ideas for taking a Sacred Pause of your own...

  • Look up at the clouds and take five deep belly breaths
  • Treat yourself to a special drink at your favorite cafe (I’ve been loving iced coffee with coconut milk)
  • Write a journal entry
  • Put on headphones and take a walk, listening to music you love or a podcast you adore, but usually don’t make time for
  • Do a bit of creative writing: a poem, a love letter, a short story...and just see what happens
  • Lie down and close your eyes!

xo Laura

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U-Pick Dahlias + Floral Workshops

Over the weekend we were camping at Memorial Park, a beautiful redwood grove just inland a short jog from the coast near Pescadero, California, so it was by chance that we happened by the absolutely lovely u-pick dahlia farm, The Pescadero Flowery. This was like a dream come true for me because dahlias are my favorite flower, and to wander the rows containing 75 varieties of organically grown dahlias, some with blooms the size of a dinner plate, was pure bliss for this girl.

The Pescadero Flowery: U-Pick Dahlia farm + floral workshops
The Pescadero Flowery: U-Pick Dahlia farm + floral workshops

If you ever find yourself visiting the central coast (and you are a flower lover like me) be sure to make time for a stop by this lovely flower farm and treat yourself to a few blooms, or a lovely card, seed packet, or art print, which are sold in the little white 'potting shed'. Pescadero is a quirky, artsy town that is fun to explore anyway...the fact that the Flowery opened this spring is just icing on the cake as far as I'm concerned! 

The Pescadero Flowery: U-Pick Dahlia farm + floral workshops
The Pescadero Flowery: U-Pick Dahlia farm + floral workshops

I wouldn't have even noticed the flower farm if it weren't for my sweet hubby (oh, he knows me well!) who spotted it across the back fence of our favorite spot to eat when passing through town, the Pescadero Country Store (which serves amazing pizza from a wood fired oven), where we were savoring the last bites of their homemade ice cream. I'm so glad we didn't miss it! 

The Pescadero Flowery: U-Pick Dahlia Farm + Creative Floral Workshops

The Flowery also offers hands-on local workshops, including making flower crowns, DIY bridal flowers, hand-held bouquets, wreaths, garlands, and more. I'm already looking ahead on my calendar to see when I can squeeze in a dedicated trip to whip up some crafty flower goodness!

Pescadero, California: Handmade shops, artisans, and u-pick dahlias!

The little ally leading to the flower farm is a pleasure to browse, with funky little shops selling handmade pottery and soaps, up-cycled clothes, and other treasures you never knew you needed. I managed to come away empty-handed (this time...) but my inspiration well was completely refilled, and I left feeling energized and excited. I hope this little peek into my road trip adventure sparked your creativity as well, and if you ever find yourself in Pescadero, be sure to check out The Pescadero Flowery!

all photos: Laura Gaskill

On Finding Hope and Positivity in Hard Times

You may have noticed that I've been silent for a while. With so many horrible, gut-wrenching tragedies (it seems like every week there is another piece of my heart breaking) in the news, both here in the United States and internationally, I just haven't found any words. But after Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, the Dallas sniper shootings, and now the news in Nice and Turkey (and that's not even mentioning Orlando, which, after so many other tragedies have happened, seems like much longer than a month ago, and there was Paris last November, and, and, and...) I felt I must say something, even though it may not come out right, I can at least try. These words come from my heart, simply as a mother, former teacher, and human being.

Connor Dwyer for Stocksy

Connor Dwyer for Stocksy

The part of my early childhood teacher training that had the biggest impact on me, both as a teacher and a person, was learning about anti-bias curriculum. The idea is that all of us have biases, and the only way to counteract this is to be proactive...and what better way to do this than by teaching young children? When I was teaching, I saw firsthand how quick we are, even at the youngest age, to lump others into groups, to generalize. But I also saw how simple it was to open minds: with questions, with stories that are inclusive of a very wide range of people, and by teaching peaceful conflict resolution. If only the grownups of the world could be so accepting and empathetic! 

So when I hear news like we've been hearing lately, I react first as a teacher and a mom. My heart breaks for the children who have been  hurt, and at the same time I worry about the impact of all of this violence and negativity - even the news of it - even the impact of it on the adults and how it filters down to little ears and hearts and minds - and I fiercely want to protect an optimistic spirit in my child, and the children around me.

I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.
— Nelson Mandela

The world today seems full of dark moments, and while it's true that most of us want to stay informed, I think there comes a point where soaking in too much of the endless stream of bad news is harmful for our souls. So what I am trying to do is check the news, yes, but then do something positive afterwards: Pray. Meditate. Donate money to a worthy organization. Reach out to a friend or neighbor. Help someone. Be kind. Make someone's day. Teach your children what it means to be peaceful, open minded, and kind. Because as awful, as sickening, as horribly, horribly sad as all of the recent events have been, when it comes down to it, we must do the best with what we've got. That's all we can do, and we must do our best.

So I am focusing on what is in front of me: a bright boy who I hope to raise with the skills to resolve conflicts peacefully, to recognize bias, bullying, discrimination, and cruelty, and have the courage to say something when he sees it. I am focusing on spreading kindness where I can. I am meditating on peace.

And honestly, I am an optimist. I do believe that the majority of people in the world are good, and that we will collectively find our way to peace, eventually. 

What about you? How are you feeling lately? How are you coping? Have you found ways to help, or ways to nurture yourself and your family? Please chime in with your own thoughts in the Comments...we are in this together!