The Expanding Lotus Reads: Books That Have Impacted My Life

Siddhartha: A Novel by Herman Hesse

I remember having to read this in high school as an Humanities class assignment. As a school assignment I didn’t think it would really impact me at all, but it was so memorable that I still think about it to this day and plan on reading it again. It tells the story of Siddhartha Gautama and his spiritual journey into becoming the iconic Buddha that we all know. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in reading a wonderfully written story on his journey, in the hopes that it’ll inspire you to embrace your own journey that you’re on.

Though set in a place and time far removed from the Germany of 1922, the year of the book’s debut, the novel is infused with the sensibilities of Hermann Hesse’s time, synthesizing disparate philosophies–Eastern religions, Jungian archetypes, Western individualism–into a unique vision of life as expressed through one man’s search for meaning.

It is the story of the quest of Siddhartha, a wealthy Indian Brahmin who casts off a life of privilege and comfort to seek spiritual fulfillment and wisdom. On his journey, Siddhartha encounters wandering ascetics, Buddhist monks, and successful merchants, as well as a courtesan named Kamala and a simple ferryman who has attained enlightenment. Traveling among these people and experiencing life’s vital passages–love, work, friendship, and fatherhood–Siddhartha discovers that true knowledge is guided from within.

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön

This is a book I read during a difficult time in my life when I had pretty bad anxiety and wasn’t dealing well with the transitions/changes I was going through in life—figuring out who I was (which is a journey I will ALWAYS be on), what my purpose was, and trying to manage the chronic stress and anxiety I faced through it all. I always recommend this to anyone that is going through difficult times and is having a hard time adjusting to the changes and transitions we all inevitably will face in life.

The beautiful practicality of her teaching has made Pema Chödrön one of the most beloved of contemporary American spiritual authors among Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. A collection of talks she gave between 1987 and 1994, the book is a treasury of wisdom for going on living when we are overcome by pain and difficulties. Chödrön discusses:

· Using painful emotions to cultivate wisdom, compassion, and courage
· Communicating so as to encourage others to open up rather than shut down
· Practices for reversing habitual patterns
· Methods for working with chaotic situations
· Ways for creating effective social action

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

If you ever want an eye-opener into how others live in the world around us, especially in third-world countries, read this book. It made me realize how fortunate I was to be brought up in this country and how things that we take for granted in our everyday lives are things that others need just for their basic survival in the world. Malala is truly a strong and inspirational young woman, and is so remarkably vulnerable in sharing her story with us. WARNING: You will likely need tissues if you read this. It’s a difficult read at times, but I guarantee you will be more grateful for life itself after reading this.

“I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday."

When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.

Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she became a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I AM MALALA is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

I AM MALALA will make you believe in the power of one person's voice to inspire change in the world.

Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love by Amir Levine

I’ll be honest and tell you I spent years dating one emotionally unavailable man after the other. I kept being attracted to and attracting the same kind of person: someone that never wanted to be emotionally close, needed a lot of space and distance, couldn’t meet my needs, didn’t want to commit or settle down, and weren’t in tune with how they felt. When I entered my late 20s, I wanted to learn more about why I continually enter this vicious cycle of relationships that don’t work out, and didn’t want to put 100% of the blame on the other person. Relationships are a two-way street after all. This book was very eye-opening in understanding my own attachment style, why my attachment style tends to be a magnet for certain other attachment styles, and what a secure, and healthy, attachment style looks like in a healthy relationship. It really did change my life, and gave me the foundation for seeking therapy to make positive changes moving forward. I highly recommend this to anyone, regardless of if you’re single, in a relationship, married, etc, as a comprehensive overview of the attachment style theory.

We already rely on science to tell us what to eat, when to exercise, and how long to sleep. Why not use science to help us improve our relationships? In this revolutionary book, psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller scientifically explain why why some people seem to navigate relationships effortlessly, while others struggle.

Discover how an understanding of adult attachment—the most advanced relationship science in existence today—can help us find and sustain love. Pioneered by psychologist John Bowlby in the 1950s, the field of attachment posits that each of us behaves in relationships in one of three distinct ways:

• Anxious people are often preoccupied with their relationships and tend to worry about their partner's ability to love them back
• Avoidant people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness.
• Secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving.

Attached guides readers in determining what attachment style they and their mate (or potential mate) follow, offering a road map for building stronger, more fulfilling connections with the people they love.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Sri Swami Satchidananda

I was introduced to the Sutras while undergoing my 200-hours yoga teacher training back in 2015, and am beyond grateful for the beautiful wisdom in these teachings (containing 4 sections, called padas) that are over 4000 years old. Although these teachings were completed prior to 400 CE in India, they are still very relevant to our modern lives that we all live today. I am actually currently re-reading this, which is something I know I will continually be re-reading my entire life. Words are difficult to describe how life-changing this book has been for me, so I highly recommend checking it out as a resource to help you on your own personal journey of growth and healing.

This valuable book provides a complete manual for the study and practice of Raja Yoga, the path of concentration and meditation. This new edition of these timeless teachings is a treasure to be read and referred to again and again by seekers treading the spiritual path. The classic Sutras (thought-threads), at least 4,000 years old, cover the yogic teachings on ethics, meditation, and physical postures, and provide directions for dealing with situations in daily life. The Sutras are presented here in the purest form, with the original Sanskrit and with translation, transliteration, and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda, one of the most respected and revered contemporary Yoga masters. In this classic context, Sri Swamiji offers practical advice based on his own experience for mastering the mind and achieving physical, mental and emotional harmony.

Walk Through This: Meet Sara Schulting-Kranz

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” - Rumi.

As a child, I have always been in awe of strong and empowering women—women who have lived the life of a lotus flower and emerged through mud, but choosing to always bloom despite their surroundings. Sara Schulting-Kranz is a prime example of a powerful, yet humble, woman who has faced many challenges and trauma in her life—instead of letting these experiences shape her and define her as a victim, she consciously chose to emerge through the mud and use these experiences for transformative healing, which she now serves to help others with and has dedicated her life to doing.

I was introduced to Sara by way of the director of the I Am Maris, Laura Vanzee Taylor. I was so thrilled and excited when I heard that Laura was starting to direct another documentary, titled Walk Through This, which features our very own Sara Schulting-Kranz leading other trauma survivors on a healing journey through The Grand Caton.

From the documentary’s website:

In the wake of a devastating discovery that brings back a childhood trauma, a mother of three finds the strength to leave her destructive marriage and start a new life through the healing and empowerment of hiking and nature therapy.

We witness her recovery and her methods as she now, a licensed wilderness guide, leads other trauma survivors on a healing journey through The Grand Canyon. Through this physically and emotionally-grueling 4-day hike, each woman will lay bare her own past traumas and discover her personal strength, emerging with the wisdom, forgiveness, and inspiration to live her best life.

Walk Through This is the story of  letting go of the life you thought you had and — step by step — building a new one.

If you’d like to donate to the documentary to help with costs, please click here.

Sara, thank you for being a pillar of strength, healing, and empowerment for all of us around you. It is badass women like you out there that are an inspiration to all of us in knowing that we can heal from trauma and hardships, and that we will emerge stronger as a result. Thank you for reminding us that we can choose to bloom, despite our surroundings, and that the process of healing and transformation can even be fun!

I don’t think any words can describe how honored I am to feature Sara, and certainly no words can describe how excited I am to see the upcoming Walk Through This documentary when it’s done. I know that it will change lives for the better and will help us all not feel alone in our healing journey, whatever that journey may look like for each of us.

How wonderful is it to know that there are so many people around us that have not only been through similar challenges, but are supporting us on every step of our journey? It is people like Sara that help remind us that we are all a part of a larger community, and that we are truly never alone. Thank you, Sara, for being you, and for shining your light bright to help lead us all on our way.

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What do you do?

This is such a big question! I am a mom, first and foremost. I am also a Life Coach, Natural Energy Healer, and I guide men + women on Transformational Hiking, Coaching, Meditation, Breathe work and Adventure Retreats in the Grand Canyon and wilderness. I take clients deep within who they are and provide an opportunity for them  to heal, transform, uncover their purpose and Live Boldly. We do much of this in Nature, where our minds slow and we can feel our emotions and bodies. Emotions such as anger, sadness and rage are allowed to release, giving space for JOY and Happiness. It’s one helluva an amazing process … and really, REALLY fun! Because who says Healing, Transformation + Growth can’t be FUN?

How did you get to where you are today?

November 29th, 2013, I was traumatized when I found out my husband of 17 years was living a double life for most of our marriage. Over the course of 14 years, he was having affairs with gay men + abusing drugs + alcohol. I was devastated. My best friend, lover + confidant was not leading a life I had thought. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it re-triggered a trauma of sexual assault - which had resulted into a pregnancy - from when I was 17 years old. My life was in shambles at the age of 40, and yet I had three sons to protect and care for.

There was one bright spot in all of this: I was handed an opportunity to show my children that difficult experiences in life do not define who you are. What does, is how you choose to react and grow through the process from “victim” to “survivor.” 

So, I found a great coach, therapist and support group to lead me through the healing process. At the same time, I took to the ocean and began stand up paddling miles on the water. Spending time with dolphins + whales became bright spots in my day. Running trails + hiking mountains also became my saving grace. Being in Nature gave me space to somatically heal my battered heart and soul, while strengthening my mind and body. I summited peaks in Southern California, Mt. Whitney, Sequoia National Park, Yosemite National Park and the Grand Canyon.

Soon, I realized there was something much bigger in all of this than I had even realized.

It wasn’t long after that I found my purpose in life: to guide others through their own life transformations. I founded Live Boldly Coaching, LLC and incorporated all that I learned through my personal healing processes. I went back to school for my Professional Coaching, Wilderness First Responder, and APSATS (Association for Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists) certification. I also obtained my CUA (Commercial Use Authorization) to guide clients in the Grand Canyon. And here I am today, doing the work that I love!

To add a little personal spark to my brand, with every mountain and trail that I climb, I  wear a pair of red heels on the summit and take a picture. Red represents love, passion, courage and strength. Every picture shares with the world that we can be strong, feminine, and we do have the power to lead a courage-driven life!

I am working on a personal development book; Ms. Claudia Cross from Folio Literary Management is my literary agent.

Tell us a little bit about the upcoming new documentary, Walk Through This directed by Laura VanZee Taylor. What inspired you to participate?

I chose to do this documentary because I want to help others. Really, that’s first and foremost. I trust Laura and wouldn’t hand my story to anyone but her. The experience, thus far, has been healing and exhausting at the same time - all very good and needed. It’s brought up a few things I wasn’t expecting, such as emotions I didn’t realize were there and memories that I had forgotten about. This is all good! I used to be an art teacher so I know what it’s like to create any piece of art. It’s exciting, rewarding, exhausting and inspiring … all at the same time.

We are scheduled to film in the Grand Canyon over Thanksgiving, exactly 6 years to the day that I found out about my ex husband. I’m excited for viewers to see where I had my own healing + growth, in hopes they will be able to find the same and not feel alone in the process.

I know this film will help millions. That’s the foundation of why I do anything in life - to help others.

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What inspires you day-to-day?

I look for AWE in my every day life. I want to feel jazzed, alive, present + at peace. So every day, I spend time outdoors, if only for 5 mins. I paddle off shore with dolphins and whales, make time for a run, walk the beach or hike trails in Southern California. My kids inspire me to be a better mom, woman + human being, so I not only do this work for me, but for them.

What are you passionate about?

HANDS DOWN: Creating COMMUNITY + CONNECTION. No doubt, I love meeting people and hearing their stories. I felt SO ALONE during that first year of my husband’s discovery … NO ONE should have to feel that way. So I love creating space for others to feel connected, loved and heard. If it’s individually through 1:1 coaching, within retreats, on the trail, through my online programs or Facebook sites, or through my upcoming Podcast which I am SO JAZZED about! I want others to know the importance of who they are on this earth. We all matter.

What is/are something(s) you would tell your younger self?

1)   KEEP GOING.

2)   KEEP GOING … YOU ARE WORTHY.

3)   KEEP GOING … YOU ARE LOVED.

4)   KEEP GOING … THERE IS A REASON FOR ALL OF THIS.

What is the best advice you’ve received?

Oh gosh … there are so many!

I speak often about my mom’s advice, “Take every step forward and hold your head high. Not everyone will understand and that’s ok. Stay in your integrity and truth.”

My dad often said to me, “Don't just talk the walk. WALK the walk!”

And most recently, my 28 year old son said (I am paraphrasing his text message), “Whatever you are doing with your business mom, keep f#ckin doing it. It’s working + I’m proud of you.” THAT was meaningful for me, as my son is a tremendous entrepreneur and someone I look up to.

I’ve always been taught to stay humble, but don’t self sabotage.

What is the best advice/pieces of advice you have for others who are on their healing journey?

Embrace your healing journey - each and every step. Don’t expect it to be a linear process, because it never is. Lean in and remember, “By not resisting the process, you will learn to love and honor YOU more than you ever thought possible.”

What is/are the biggest life lesson(s) you’ve learned?

LOVE is the foundation for living. That’s it. The best + most rewarding relationship you could ever be in is with yourself. You find this through Self Love. From there, you create connections to love others. There is nothing better and more rewarding!

What do you do to balance your life when it feels unbalanced?

I get outside + I watch what I eat. I paddle the ocean and take a few moments to meditate on my board. I sleep whenever possible, even if that’s in the back seat of my car in between my kids water polo matches or basketball games! But most importantly, I give myself FIERCE SELF COMPASSION + tell myself, “You are doing the best you can in every given moment. Be good to you.”

My life is, no doubt, full. And so I stay aligned, away from drama, I don’t let others’ projections affect me, and I go back to my soul purpose: TO GUIDE OTHERS ON THEIR COURAGE-DRIVEN LIFE.

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Sara Schulting-Kranz is a coach, trauma survivor, wilderness and Grand Canyon Specialist.  She was a victim of an abusive relationship and turned her trauma recovery into a mission to Lead a Courage-Driven Life. Ms. Schulting-Kranz founded LIVE BOLDLY COACHING, LLC to use nature as a primary healing element. Sara has guided and set a world record with blind Paralympian Shawn Cheshire, who became the first female blind woman to hike the Grand Canyon from rim to rim to rim.

You can connect with Sara through her website: Live Boldly Coaching , Facebook or Instagram.

The Reverent Student: Meet Malia Hill

“As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I've got left?” - David Bowie.

When 2019 started, I moved in with my boyfriend and had to start all over in a new town. I wanted to check out a nearby yoga studio, Just Be Yoga, after hearing about how wonderful of a space and community it harbored. As I walked into class, I felt this nostalgic sense of comfort and peace from the teacher that I hadn’t felt in nearly 4 years, when I attended my regular yoga studio back in Baltimore. I didn’t feel like the “new” person in town or in the yoga studio, but I already felt like I was a part of a welcoming and grounded community of like-minded warriors.

The moment you walk into Malia’s class and are in her presence, there is an unexplainable sense of light, healing, strength, and empowerment. I didn’t even have to speak a word to Malia to feel so comfortable and taken care of in her class. From the way she lead the flow, to the vulnerability she exhibited in sharing her intention to the class, to the tenderness she exhibits when she adjusts you, Malia exudes out her compassion, empathy, groundedness, and realness when you are around her. As my previous interviewee, Maris Degener, mentioned, Malia inspires us all to talk about the shit that no one wants to talk about, and she helps us find the inner strength to be vulnerable and share our struggles with one another as part of a larger community. She helps us love all the different parts of ourselves, flaws and all, and helps us feel comfortable being in our own skin.

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet up with Malia, and what we thought would end up being a short 30-minute get together ended up being hours of talking about our similar past experiences working in the pharmaceutical industry, our journey into developing our yoga practices, Ayurveda, functional medicine, our healing journeys of overcoming trauma, and our total (and unapologetic) fandom over science fiction and fantasy movies/books. I could feel her empathy surrounding me in a warm and welcoming hug, and creating a safe space for us to simply be two humans connecting to one another and sharing what makes us both human: our struggles, our joys, and everything in between.

I love how Malia encompasses someone that is real, relatable, grounded, incredibly humble, and beautiful inside and out. I am so honored to know you, Malia, and to feature you on my blog. I am excited for you all to get just a glimpse of the amazing human being she is.

Malia, you are a role model and inspiration to us all. Thank you for being such a shining light in the world!

Malia

How did you get to where you are today?

 I just feel lucky to have woken up this morning. I don’t think I’m in any particular “place.”

What inspires you?

People. Love - despite all of the constant challenge & change - love is persistent and everywhere. The ocean. Outer space. My teachers, which is pretty much everyone I meet and every book I read. Especially my daughter. 

What are you passionate about?

Death. No one has escaped it yet and it’s a constant reminder to love as much as possible in the short time that we are here.

What is/are something(s) you would tell your younger self? 

So many things, the same things I tell myself today:

  • Slow down.

  • Stay in school as long as you can.

  • Stop abusing yourself.

  •  You are still worthy when you aren’t achieving.

  • There is so much freedom in your insignificance.

  • Breathe before you speak because words are very significant. They have the power to both positively or negatively change someone’s day and possibly future generations.

  • Wait to respond so you have time to choose your response. If you react you will have to apologize later, and apologies don’t take away the harm that was caused (thank you Viktor Frankl, Marshall B. Rosenburg, and Lama Brandy).

  • See God, Buddha, Shiva, nature, the Divine in everyone, especially yourself, and most importantly those you disagree with (thank you Baba Ram Dass, Richard Rohr, and Brian Baker).

  • You don’t have to repeat the patterns that were programmed into you (thank you Patanjali & Alan Watts).

  • You will never be able to make all the people happy all of the time, it’s not your job to do so, you don’t have the ability to do so, and you will hurt yourself & others if you try to do so. 

  • Most things you think are true right now are really just temporary preferences. If you decide they are the truth you might close yourself off from learning more (thank you Judith Lassiter & Patanjali).

  • Don’t waste time running towards the things you think you like and running away from things you think you don’t like. If you do, you will miss the present moment and most of your life (thank you Patanjali, Pema Chodron, and Michael Singer).

What is the best advice you’ve received?

Time is the most precious commodity-you can’t buy it back, you can’t make more of it. (Thanks Mom and Phil).

What is the best advice/pieces of advice you have for others who are on their healing journey?

It comes from Carl Gustav Jung, not me - “There is no coming to consciousness without pain”.

In my opinion there is no magic fix. It’s on ongoing lifelong process. I liken it to a marriage with ups and downs, breakthroughs and setbacks, passion and complacency. If I attach an end goal like happiness, enlightenment, or perfection, I will always be disappointed because in my experience that isn’t the nature of things. If someone promises that they have the answer to everything I excuse myself from the situation. I try to seek out teachers and mentors who have lived through very difficult things, who don’t shame, blame, or condescend, and whom can connect interdisciplinary dots to learn from. 

What is/are the biggest life lesson(s) you’ve learned?

I think I answered that up top, but here is another thing:

One has to have awareness on something to place it in a special, cared for, loving way. We have to have pay attention to one another to truly care for each other. I do think It’s important to give yourself your own attention and if that attention becomes judgmental and critical - the best way out of that is to put your loving awareness on someone who needs it the most and help them.

What do you do to balance your life when it feels unbalanced?

I take time to move energy - I get on my mat more and take more classes from the amazing teachers here. Or I get on my skateboard or rollerskates. I get outside. I go for a hike with my friend Nicole.  If I notice there is no time to get bored-the birthplace of creativity-I change my schedule if & when financial commitments actually allow for that.


Malia practices yoga and teaches in the East Bay. You can find her at Just Be Yoga Walnut Creek and Danville, Equinox San Ramon, Yoga Barn of Pleasanton, Mike’s Paddle in Alameda, and occasionally The Bay Club in Pleasanton.


Fearlessly Authentic: Meet Maris Degener

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” - C.G. Jung.

A few weeks ago, I had one of those days where I felt lost, broken, lonely, and was being cruel to myself—insulting my appearance, my weight, and judging myself for not “being” and “looking” how I felt I should be at this point of my life.

To distract the distressing and negative thoughts that were racing in my head, I turned on Netflix, went to my instant queue, and felt a magnetic pull towards the documentary titled I Am Maris. Thinking this documentary would be about yoga, I had no idea how powerful, vulnerable, healing, and inspiring of a story Maris’s story would be, both on and beyond the yoga mat.

Maris, at just age 20, has traveled quite a journey since she was a child and battled anxiety, depression, and a life-threatening eating disorder as a teenager. Her documentary, with the loving voice of friends and family, shares the details of her healing journey of recovery to being certified as a yoga teacher at just age 16, to now being an empowering and compassionate mental health advocate—all while being a college student!

Putting into words how strong, powerful, brave, authentic, and vulnerable Maris’s story is doesn’t do it justice. If you haven’t seen her documentary on Netflix, please go do so now. It will inspire you to be fearlessly authentic, help you not feel alone in your battle(s), help give you the strength to begin your healing journey, and help remind you of how strong your inner and outer voice truly is.

After watching the documentary and feeling an inner sense of strength and community, I reached out to Maris and asked if she would share her story on my blog. Her story inspired me to cultivate more self-love, and helped me realize that it’s a sign of strength and authenticity to be vulnerable and share our struggles with one another.

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What do you do?

M: I write, speak, and raise awareness about mental illness and the hope that exists for healing. In alignment with that purpose, I teach yoga to connect students with their own inner power and provide tools for emotional processing and expression. I am also a full-time college student at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

How did you get to where you are today?

M: I’m grateful for the strong women in my life that have mentored me and helped show me the way. My mother, my therapist, my yoga teachers, are all huge inspirations to me that remind me of my purpose. They helped me transform struggle into service.

What inspires you?

M: I’m inspired by storytelling: sharing, hearing, and healing from all of us speaking the truth of who we are.

What are you passionate about?

M: I am passionate about mental health awareness, yoga as an accessible resource for healing, and social justice.

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What is/are something(s) you would tell your younger self?

M: I would tell my younger self that things will get so much better than she could ever imagine. I would tell her that she is worthy, as she is. There’s no need to change to “earn” love from herself or anyone else. I would tell her that I love her, and I hope she’s proud of me.

What is the best advice you’ve received?

M: “Talk about the shit you don’t want to talk about,” said to me by my teacher, Malia.

What is the best advice/pieces of advice you have for others who are on their healing journey?

M: Whatever method of healing you choose, it’s not there to “fix” you. You are not broken. Whether it’s therapy, or yoga, or medication, or anything else: it’s not there to fix you, it’s there to help you find the beauty that’s already in there so that you can share it with the world.

What is/are the biggest life lesson(s) you’ve learned?

M: That I can do hard things. Just because something isn’t innate or easy to me right off the bat doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing or that I will never be able to accomplish it. My worth is not defined by how effortlessly I navigate the world.

What do you do to balance your life when it feels unbalanced?

M: I get outside into nature and disconnect from the world.

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An East Bay Area native, Maris Degener is a yoga teacher, mental health advocate, writer, and UCSC student. Since becoming certified in Vinyasa at 16, Maris's love of yoga and passion for sharing its offerings has only grown. Using the physical practice of yoga, Maris’s classes allow students to access the internal strength and power within themselves. Maris’s classes are empowering, loving, and push students to find their own unique edge whether that be physical, emotional, or otherwise. Maris's teachings and writings have been recognized by CNN Health, Seventeen Magazine, Girls' Life Magazine, and others. A documentary about her healing journey through yoga, “I Am Maris,” is available on Netflix.


Finding Inner Strength: Meet Leigha Griswold

“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” - Maya Angelou.

When I was 9 years old, my family relocated from Texas to Illinois for my dad's new job. I had developed so many friendships in Texas and was devastated when I had to move to a different state, having to start all over in building a new network of local friends. Moving was really disheartening for me and this was a change that I was not well-equipped to handle as a 9-year old. Would I ever fit in and make friends in this new place? Luckily, my older cousin was located just down the street from our new house and would kindly let me tag along whenever she went to any social events, which was wonderful in helping me expand my social network.

One afternoon, just a short while after I moved, my cousin took me to one of her friend’s house, Morgan. I remember my cousin knocking on the front door of Morgan's house, with her opening the door to greet us. Poking out from behind Morgan was her little sister, Leigha, an adorably cute curly-haired brunette that smiled back at me. Realizing that Leigha and I were the same age, we were introduced to one another and found out that we would be attending the same school to start 5th grade that coming fall. Leigha was my first friend I ever made when I moved to Illinois, and is someone I still have an unwavering friendship with to this very day--21 years later.

Leigha and I shared an instant connection the moment we met, and I'll never forget how kind she was in letting me join her friend group at recess since she knew that I was new and didn't know anyone. She provided comfort, warmth, and friendship at a time that I was feeling very alone. Our connection has never waned since then. We have seen each other grow up through middle school, high school, college, and many years beyond. We have celebrated and supported each other through it all: puberty, teenage angst, obstacles, challenges, joys, heartbreak, true love, marriage, but what ultimately has always glued us together is the passion we share for growth, wellness, and in helping others improve their lives. Leigha is one of the strongest people I know, and has dedicated her life to transforming the challenges she herself has faced into helping others heal and face their own challenges. I wanted you to get a glimpse of this wonderful soul by asking her a few questions about herself and her journey.

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What do you do?

L: I work for a small Milwaukee-based corporate wellness company working with individuals to help improve health behaviors and work on goals. I try to help them live and feel healthier emotionally and physically. I also am in the process of launching my health and wellness website/blog that will be coming out later this year.

How did you get to where you are today?

L: It’s been quite a personal journey. Years of chronic health issues led me to pursuing undergrad and graduate degrees in Psychology and Public Health, which led me to the growing world of coaching psychology. It’s been a very nonlinear pathway and very challenging, but also incredibly rewarding to see a lot of myself in people’s struggles and then being afforded the opportunities to help them move forward to healthier lives.

What inspires you?

L: Strong women that have risen above adversity. Oprah Winfrey, Audrey Hepburn, and my mom are so inspiring to me. Their individual life stories are just remarkable and really inspire me to continue pursuing my dreams and feeling comfortable with sharing my own story.

What are you passionate about?

L: I am a healer and empath, by nature, so helping others is a huge passion of mine. Educating myself continuously so that I can help to educate others in the diverse world of health and wellness, is a huge part of myself and now my career. I also really love learning about people’s lives, their stories, and what experiences have shaped them.

What is/are something(s) you would tell your younger self?

L: Oh my gosh, so many things. I think the biggest thing would be that your feelings are valid and that they will lead you to pursuing bigger things so keep writing and keep asking questions. Listen to your heart and your gut. Lastly, you are a beautiful girl and you’ll figure out your curls one day.

What is the best advice you’ve received?

L: I always say my dad is my voice of reason. When I was in grad school and up late writing 20-page papers, I would call him to vent and express my exhaustion and frustration. He would always say, “this too shall pass”. It’s so cliché, but he was right. Those four words have helped me through some really dark times in my life.

What is the best advice/pieces of advice you have for others who are on their healing journey?

L: It’s a process that is so individual. There will be dark days along the way, but I promise they will not last forever. Know that it’s okay to ask for help and find someone who you truly trust to help you along the way.

What are the biggest life lessons you’ve learned?

L: My personal struggles really have made me stronger and given me an increased ability to show empathy. Mental health and wellness is everything and practicing self-care is an absolute necessity. Lastly, love, of any kind, is the best part of the human experience.

What do you do to balance your life when it feels unbalanced?

L: Balance is super important to me. The biggest thing I can do when things feel a little crazy is slow down and try to get connected back with myself. Whether that’s through writing, meditating, taking a bath, or dancing around my house to my favorite oldies.


Leigha Griswold holds graduate and undergrad degrees in Public Health and Psychology and is a Certified Health and Wellness Coach. She loves reading, watching documentaries, listening to the golden oldies, and spending as much time as she can with her husband and her cat.