Confession: I Went To Canyon Ranch, And All I Brought Back Was The T-Shirt…And A Few Life Lessons

I just left the magical enclave known as Canyon Ranch, nestled in the middle of the Berkshires in Lenox, Massachusetts. It was my first visit; it will surely not be my last. One of my closest friends was invited to teach her famous Manifestation workshops there, having introduced them to the resort earlier this year. She was able to bring a guest with her, and I was the unbelievably lucky recipient of her generosity. It was a dream I’d never allowed myself to even have that actually came true. It was five days of relaxing, pampering, healthy-eating, centering bliss.

As I was sitting on the plane on Thursday night, delayed going back home to Los Angeles, a friend asked me what I learned in my time at Canyon Ranch. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to answer her, by how much I had learned in such a short time, by how profoundly I was touched by this place.

Life Lessons from Canyon Ranch:

I cannot resist cookies. Even gluten-free ones, which I was cajoled into trying, and which were surprisingly tasty. I simply could not say no to this dessert after dinner. And after lunch. And after breakfast. Healthy, gourmet food never tasted so good.

I am not as open to new experiences as I would like to be. I really don’t enjoy exercising, if I know that I’m exercising. Disguise the workout in a yoga class, or a picturesque walk and I’m game. Anything with kettleballs, squats, or that dreaded word, cardio? No, thank you, I’ll pass. I’ve come to terms with it. What I did realize, however, while I was avoiding every non-yoga class that Canyon Ranch offered, was that sometimes I do need to push myself more, and to try more new things, or I may really be missing out on discovering something I love. Sometimes, I need to put myself out there and be open to whatever happens.

I am too cautious. I signed up for “Arial Adventures” on Wednesday (aka trying new things), which consisted of a short zip-line and the “giant swing” (essentially a harnessed leap and free-fall off a raised platform). I stood atop the platform, hesitating. I didn’t look over the edge, down to the ground, in fear. The hesitation was not rooted in fear of crashing to the ground. Instead, I stared off in the distance, eager to know what I was facing, struggling to see through to the end of the road before I embarked upon the journey. Watching others before I took my turn. The fear was in not knowing what to expect, in not being able to prepare before leaping. I do this everywhere, it turns out. I prefer to tiptoe into the unknown, so as not to be caught off guard. I prefer to have a map, and clear directions for every route I take. But life’s not like that, is it? There isn’t a map for every situation, there is no way to always be perfectly prepared, and sometimes you just have to take whatever knowledge you do have, and just jump without knowing precisely where you are going to land.

I am not as great at relaxing as I had previously thought. I watched women scuttling around all day, clad in their Lululemon Luon gear, schedules packed with classes, lectures, meals, activities. I thought that I was so much more relaxed, with all of my time spent in front of the fireplace, with a book in hand. But I noticed how much less reading I actually got done on this trip. I saw how distracted I’ve become. I acknowledged how reliant I am on my mobile devices. I understand how imperative it is for me to work on changing this, in getting back to a place where I can put down the phone, put down the tablet, put down the computer and just be.

Restorative yoga is a wonderful aide in being present. Allowing someone to guide you into relaxation is quite effective. Slow, sweet, gentle…you can actually measure your body opening, and relaxing. You can feel the space between the beats of your heart lengthening, and the depth of your breath expanding as it flows all the way down to your toes. You have nowhere else to be, no agenda other than listening to your body, and your breath, and allowing yourself to be present in the moment.

It’s astonishingly easy to be there for the people you love. My friend Jen, the one who brought me to Canyon Ranch, was suffering through the hell of an ectopic pregnancy while we were there. Beyond all of the emotional turmoil that this brought, she started experiencing severe physical pain as soon as she arrived in Massachusetts. Ultimately, she ended up in the emergency room at 5am on Tuesday, facing an insensitive nurse and the fear that her fallopian tube had burst.

I worried that I would not be able to help her. That I wouldn’t know what to do, or how to do it, or if it would be enough. But when it really counted, it was the easiest thing in the world to pick up the phone, to pull the car around, to show up. It meant not always knowing what to say, or what to do, or even if you’re helping at all. But showing up anyway. Because that’s the best of what we can offer each other: showing up.

Most people are searching for something. During one of my visits to the cozy library, I met Cindy. The same age as my mom, she was knitting furiously while whispering the steps to herself. Somehow we began talking. In under an hour, she confided that she wasn’t truly fulfilled or happy, that she didn’t know how to put herself first, and that she just felt there should be “something more” in her life. I could have echoed every sentiment, at half her age and with completely different life circumstances. We are all searching. We are all looking for something. Acknowledging and sharing our search makes us feel less alone, and more likely to make changes that lead to happiness.

There are some truly wonderful people in this world. Like the woman working at the café, who remembered how I like my tea, and snuck me extra cookies when I left. Or those who asked, every time they saw me, how Jen was feeling, or offered to bring her food or read to her. Or the ER Doctor who we called awesome, who told us he was just there to get the job done—but he’d take the awesome, too. Or my fellow Arial Adventurers, who encouraged each other to take that leap off the platform, who cheered as we all flew down the zip-line, strangers who had become a team. Fantastic people come to this special place.

From the fog rolling in over the distant lake, to the trees changing colors all around us, to the rain that blew sideways in the wind, it was an almost unreal time. There was a dreamlike quality to it all.

Thank you, Jen, for making this week possible. For pushing me to dream bigger. Thank you, Canyon Ranch, for far exceeding any expectation I could have imagined, and for bringing together everything and everyone to make this dream a reality. I am truly blessed and grateful.

CanyonRanch

PS-see the pictures and videos on my Facebook page for more insight into this incredible place!

https://www.facebook.com/katiedevinewriter

xx,

Katie 

Speak Your Truth

 “No, it’s fine.” 

I could hear the words coming out of my mouth, a common refrain, contradictory in grammar as well as what I really meant by it. Yet, there it was, over and over again, in what sounded uncannily like my voice. To the boyfriend who broke his promises. No, it’s fine. To the family member who wanted everything to just be okay, when it clearly wasn’t. No, it’s fine. To the friend who simply stopped showing up, until she needed something. No, it’s fine.

It was like the chorus of a song that kept repeating, on a radio station whose channel I didn’t know how to change. No, it’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fiiiiiiiiiine.

It was actually kind of easy to utter this phrase. To put what I imagined other people needed before what I needed. To be someone I thought people wanted instead of what was true to me. It was so important that I was seen as “good”. Good girlfriend, good student, good daughter, good sister, good friend, good employee, good everything to everyone.

I’m not sure when it started, this burying of myself to accommodate others. When I was a kid, I was often the outspoken—okay, bossy—one. When I was in high school, I was so singularly focused on becoming an opera singer that I did what was right for me and to further that goal, even if it meant not being cool, or not having boyfriends. I knew, and expressed, what I wanted. 

But somewhere along the way, there was a shift. Perhaps it was subtle at first, so that I didn’t even notice it. Maybe it became more prominent as people began responding. What I do know is that once I felt the acceptance that came along with pleasing people, it was difficult to stop. It became a snowball rolling down a mountain, gathering size and speed until it was bigger than I was, until it completely enveloped me, until it–and I–was was unable to stop.

When you say “No, it’s fine” often enough, you almost start to believe it.

It became second nature. I wasn’t even aware of doing it until someone I didn’t know, someone I only met via phone, pointed it out to me. Her point, in doing so, was that I could never be truly happy unless I was putting myself first. And to put myself first, I needed to start speaking the truth.

We’re never really told that we’re supposed to put ourselves before others. Quite the opposite actually. Selflessness is preached, and giving more is expected. Kindness above all, of course. Why did it take thirty-five years for someone to tell me that it’s okay—no, it’s crucial—to put myself and my well-being first? That is doesn’t mean I’m selfish, or unkind. And why did the idea of doing it create such an intense panic in me?

What if I started expressing my truth, and people didn’t like it? What if they didn’t like me? 

The doubt plagued me, and paralyzed me initially. I almost let myself off the hook: the boyfriend is long gone, along with the friend who wasn’t there for me and easily faded out of my life, so I didn’t need to confront them with my feelings. But my family wasn’t going anywhere. They would need to be the test cases for my honesty, even if it still scared me.  

And then I got into my car one morning, after struggling through yet another night with my fears about speaking up, and the Sara Bareilles song “Brave” was queued up on my iPod. This time, it was a song worth repeating:

And since your history of silence 

Won’t do you any good.

Did you think it would?

Let your words be anything but empty.

Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say,

And let the words fall out, honestly.

I wanna see you be brave.

And I knew: it was time.

So I tried it. The first conversation was most difficult. There were tears, and bewilderment, and anger, and defensiveness. And a few times, I almost fell back on my previous refrain, that old familiar chorus: No, it’s fine. But really, it wasn’t fine, and being able to finally say it out loud felt like lifting a giant rock from my shoulders. Speaking my truth didn’t change the facts of the situation. It didn’t change the outcome of events. But it changed me. And ultimately, that’s all I can really change anyway. Ultimately, that will be enough.

Change takes time. Speaking up requires determination. Being honest takes courage. But, at the end of the day, our truth is all we have.

Use your voice. Speak your truth. And in Sara’s words, “I wanna see you be brave.”

xx,

Katie

Finding My Religion

Every Sunday morning, when I’m at home in Los Angeles, I get up by 8:00 and travel 13 miles to Manhattan Beach to participate in my favorite weekly yoga class with Jennifer Pastiloff. There are closer classes, sure, and ones that don’t leave me cursing the alarm clock, but I always return to this one. It’s the class we lovingly refer to as “yoga church”. I don’t know who coined the term, and I never gave too much thought to it previously, beyond knowing that I usually enter class a little tired, sometimes a little cranky as well, and always emerge renewed, grateful and at peace.

While traveling to Dallas for business, my dear friend and hostess for the weekend, Cherry, invited me to join her at her “yoga church” here in Dallas; her words, not mine. I didn’t know anyone else felt this way about a yoga class, but I readily agreed, trusting my Bali sister’s opinion that this experience would be special. When two other yogi friends of mine also raved about the teacher, Janie Montague, nothing could have kept me away.

I settled in at 9:00am on my borrowed mat, anticipation building, and looked down to see there was writing scribbled across the top: Open To Grace. What an inspiring message to start your Sunday service. What a beautiful mantra for life.

As we began to flow through the sun salutations and heart-opening asanas, my eyes kept returning, almost as if magnetized, to the writing on my mat. Open to Grace.

Janie nimbly guided us through poses as life lessons, reminding us to trust, to give thanks, to be kind, to love. But it was towards the end of the class that she really sunk the hook into me, with a moment so perfect and so serendipitous that it gutted me.

“Reach one hand to the ground, and one hand to grace, and realize that what is exactly in between is you, the combination of both.”

These are the moments, though small, that change your life.

I grew up going to church sporadically, mostly on holidays or as part of the requirements for a sacrament. I dutifully attended CCD classes on Tuesday or Wednesday evenings through eighth grade, because that’s just what you did. When I was in high school, I sang in the church choir, the closest I ever came to being a devout Catholic, attending church every Sunday to sing the Word of the Lord. If I’m being honest, it was always more about the music for me than the message. The music WAS the message. I came home humming the melodies rather than spreading the Word.

At no point do I remember having an epiphany about myself, or about humanity, or about life, while I was at mass. I enjoyed the ritual, I exalted in the songs, but when I stopped going to services regularly, I forgot to miss them.

Then I discovered yoga, and our so-called “yoga church”, which inspires me to spread the message all day long. Which has left an imprint on my heart that I could never forget to miss.

Nowhere am I more in tune with myself, with who I am and who I want to be. Nowhere am I more in tune with other people, hearing their collective breath, the inhaling and the exhaling, and feeling their heartbeats echoing in my own. Nowhere am I more in tune with the Universe, both hearing and understanding the lessons it is presenting me. Trust, gratitude, kindness.

My religion is yoga.

My religion is grace.

My religion is love.

Namaste.

PS-Please consider donating to a wonderful event that both Cherry and Janie are actively participating in…One Love Dallas will benefit Off The Mat, Into The World ‘s Legacy Project in India, an organization that works to rescue, rehabilitate and empower those affected by the sex trafficking industry. A great cause supported by great people! You can find more info and donate here.

Open To Grace

Open To Grace

xx,

Katie

Confession: A Yoga Retreat Changed My Life

I am so honored to be featured on The Travel Yogi’s blog today, describing my amazing and life changing experience on my first yoga retreat.

“I made the decision to go to Bali on a whim. An LA-based yoga teacher, Jen Pastiloff, whose class I had taken once or twice, mentioned she would be leading a weeklong trip there in November. I knew virtually nothing about Bali, except for the magical feeling evoked whenever I heard the word. She had probably announced it in those previous two classes as well, but this time I heard it. I took a flyer, exchanged a few “what can I expect” emails with The Travel Yogi, and was booked on my first yoga retreat one week later.

How do you prepare for a life-changing experience? You can’t, I guess. You can simply take the leap, open your heart, and allow it all in…”

Please click here to read the rest, and consider one of their upcoming retreats for yourself!

xx,

Katie

Sunrise at Soulshine

Sunrise at Soulshine

Confession: I Take Things Too Personally

“It had nothing to do with me.

I created an entire story around her dislike for me, which didn’t actually exist. It wasn’t about me.

How often do we tell ourselves these stories about why we perceive someone is acting a certain way towards us? How often can we not see past ourselves and our own judgments and neuroses to what is real?

It’s tiring really, taking everything so personally.”

Except from my MindBodyGreen essay today. Please read if you also have trouble taking things too personally. I would love to hear your feedback!

“I’m Beginning to Learn Not to Take Everything Personally”

xx,

Katie

Confession: I’m Fighting the Funk

I subscribe to a daily email blast called “Notes from the Universe”. They arrive before I wake up in the morning, so they’re often the first words I read after I hit snooze that final time. Yesterday was no exception. I picked up my iPhone, opening only one eye, and read the day’s message:

Do you know what it sometimes means, Katie, when you feel a bit bummed out and aren’t sure why? When you catch yourself looking back over your shoulder and wondering? When you feel doubt, sense uncertainty, and experience fear? When you sometimes wonder what’s taking so long?

It means you’re normal. 

I opened the other eye and read it again. And again. Somehow the universe, via whomever it is who writes these messages, knew exactly what I needed to hear on that dark, post-Daylight Savings morning.

I’ve been in a bit of a funk for the last two weeks. And by “bit of” I mean “a lot of”. It started with a loss, or with bad news, or exhaustion, or with nothing at all. It doesn’t take long for this funk to grow arms and legs and start to take hold of me. I climb out a little, thinking I’m free, only to have it pull me back down again.

Doubt? Uncertainty? FEAR? Yup, that’s the trifecta. Gang’s all here. That’s been my week.

Am I really good enough to do my job? Doubt.

Why am I doing this writing thing? Uncertainty.

Will you still love me after you really know me? FEAR.

Fear’s the big one for me, the root of it all.

When I was in New York for work earlier this year, my bosses pulled together little snapshots of our sales and marketing team, with pictures and words to describe us. A cute way to celebrate a group who had a really good year working together. My pictures, unsurprisingly, were comprised of yoga and traveling, NY and LA, blowouts and beauty products. The description of me included the phrase “a mix of competitive and zen”.

That was unexpected. Not the competitive part, I’ve certainly heard that before. But the zen part. That was new.

I remembered this as I was struggling through this week. How could I be allowing myself to feel so down? How could I not be counting my blessings, grateful for all of the wonderful people and things in my life? How could that not be enough to make me happy right now?

I felt like a fraud.

I’m supposed to be a yogi (whatever that really means). I’m supposed to be positive. I’m supposed to be zen. I’m supposed to be at peace with myself. I’m supposed to be able to breathe or meditate or just exist above it somehow.

If only I could be all of the things I am supposed to be.

And then this note arrived, this note from the universe. Giving me permission to be bummed. Allowing me to spend a few days with doubt, with uncertainty, with fear. And telling me that I’m normal because of it.

The funk will lift. It always does. One morning I will wake up and it will be gone, burned off with the fog, with only the vague memory that it ever existed.

Until then, after then, I will do all of the things that make me happy.

Yoga, brunch, traveling, dinners with friends, concerts, reading, singing. I will create as many moment of happiness for myself as is possible. I will stitch these moments of happiness together until they are all that is left, with no room for anything funky in between them.

My note from the universe continued:

…you’re normal. 

Well, Katie, as normal as anyone can be who possesses superpowers, commands legions, and rearranges physical circumstances simply with thought.

Yeeeeeeee-haaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
The Universe

The universe doesn’t always say just the right thing, but sometimes it does.

I will do what I love, often. Because this is my life.  And I know that it’s a great one.

(from Google images)

(from Google images)

xx,

Katie

Confession: I Am Cleansed OUT

greenjuice

I’m currently on Day Six of a Seven Day, self-imposed cleanse. I’ve done them before. Almost everyone I know has done one. We even did them as a team when I worked in our New York office (otherwise known as the last time I will ever eat avocado).  I should have been completely prepared for what this week would be like. 

People rave about the benefits of cleanses.

“I feel so energized!”

“I feel so light!”

“I feel so clearheaded!”

“I love life!!!”

THIS IS NOT ME.

I feel utterly exhausted.

I feel like I’m dragging myself around with weights tied to my appendages.

I feel foggy and confused.

I hate life.

I hate life right now. I hate this cleanse. I hate everyone who is euphoric on this cleanse. I hate everyone who is not on this cleanse. I hate everyone who can eat sugar, or fat, or any food more than once a day.  

Instead of the elated feelings, I’m at my worst. Why on earth have I done this to myself again?

I am punishing myself.

For a few months, since the holidays really, I have been eating with complete lack of discernment about what I’m putting into my mouth. With a complete lack of regard for what I’m doing to my body.

Bacon for breakfast (and lunch, maybe dinner too)? Yes, please!

Dessert after every meal? Of course!

Three glasses of wine? Better than two!

Candy, just because? Obviously!!

It caught up with me. My yoga practice has suffered. My skin has suffered. My sleep has suffered. And my poor clothes have suffered the worst of all. When I nearly ripped my jeans trying to squeeze into them last weekend in Santa Fe, and certainly stretched them past the point where jeans should ever go, I knew it had to stop.

It probably would have been a good idea to just start eating cleanly again, or to just cut back on the excessive fat and sugar. But I don’t always, or usually, like to do what’s good for me. I like to do what works quickly. It’s what I know. Thus the cleanse.

For the indulgences, for the lack of willpower, for the out of control eating…I punish myself.

I drink my shakes. I choke down my green juices. I force myself to keep eating my daily meal of spinach and protein. Each sip, each bite reminds me that I deserve this punishment. I have tried, convicted and sentenced myself.

So I sit here on my couch, alone, on a Saturday night. Going out seems pointless. I can’t eat. I can’t drink. I have no energy. I am hypersensitive and frequently on the verge of tears. It’s better that I stay here. I’m resigned to serving out this sentence.

This is a slippery slope for me. It only takes one cleanse for me to start monitoring every morsel of food, every calorie. One cleanse to set me on the road to obsession. One cleanse to be my gateway drug.

I think about what it would be like instead to stop this Draconian punishment. I think about what it would be like to be eating dinner, drinking wine like normal people. I think about what fun these normal people must be out having tonight.

I think, there must be more than this.

I know there is.

That logical part of my brain continues to hang on, despite being starved, and tells me, You don’t have to do this. Just eat healthy! Everything in moderation! Even, I think you look great! Sometimes it starts to sound just like my mom, encouraging and supporting and believing and loving, even when the other part of me fights back. I’m relieved when I hear it though, knowing I haven’t totally given over to the other, darker voice. Knowing I can still find my way out of the darkness. 

So screw Day Seven.

I’m done with this cleanse on Day Six, and I’m climbing out of the darkness and taking my life back. I want to be strong and present in my yoga class tomorrow. I want to be able to meet up with friends, and laugh and share and enjoy. For one day at least, I want to stop punishing myself, and accept my imperfect, sugar-loving, over-indulging self.

There is more than this. And I’m ready for it. With a side of chocolate.

xx,

Katie

 

 

Confession: Shameless Self-Promotion Follows

“This preoccupation with what I think I see in the mirror threatens the joy in my practice, stuck as I am in my own selfish, torturous thoughts. 

And then, about 40 minutes into this 75 minute self-esteem annihilation, something in me shifts. I think, I can’t possibly do another vinyasa; I’m not even sure I can make it into child’s pose. I’m sweaty, I’m tired, I’m broken.
 
The beauty of yoga, for me, comes in the breakdown. 
 
When the ego finally surrenders and releases. When the heart moves forward, past the head, and opens. When it becomes about the unity and not the self. This is when the magic happens.”
 
This is an excerpt from my newest article on MindBodyGreen. Yes, I have now officially quoted myself. I am, however, so excited to be writing for MindBodyGreen that I don’t even care! 
 
Please visit their site for the rest of the essay “How I Learned To See Beauty When I Look In The Mirror” and comment, share, like, tweet if you feel compelled. I am so grateful for your support as I start branching out (scary!) into new places.
 
THANK YOU ALWAYS! 
 
PS I am also writing for a wonderful site Greenster…check out some of my articles there too!
 
xx,
Katie

Confession: I’m Ready, I’m Listening, I’m Learning

“Let yourself be gutted.  Let it open you.  Start there.”                  -Cheryl Strayed as “Dear Sugar” in Tiny, Beautiful Things     Yesterday I took a yoga class at a different studio, with a … Continue reading

Confession: I’m Feeling Festive

The lovely Erin Haslag over at Well in L.A. is hosting a special series by guest bloggers on her awesome wellness site starting today (if you are looking for inspiration, her site is the first stop–a must-read!!!).

Her first “Giving Well Guide” includes picks from writer and yogini Mary Beth LaRue and…me!

Check it out for some fun gift ideas this holiday season.  And remember to look throughout the upcoming Friday in December for more holiday inspiration.

 

GiftGuide2

My 5 Top Holiday Gift Ideas
At WWW.WELLINLA.COM

 

Happy Holidays!

 

xx,

Katie