I have always believed our lives are like inimitable jigsaw puzzles: our family, friends, colleagues and even those who swiftly flit in and out of our story shape and color this collage of our life puzzle. When someone leaves they take their version of your shared memories and experiences with them. We are always recalling our selective version of our lives. We sometimes choose to actively or subconsciously alter or forget some occurrences; some are too painful, other moments embarrassing, or we simply forget. Therefore I often believe we are our truest versions when we are open to viewing ourselves through the eyes of others as well. Their views can be tainted by their personal templates, but it all provides perspective. I have sometimes thought what life would be like if we could glue the back of that jigsaw together and keep it intact forever, and then I shudder, aware of all that we need to let go to move forward, to constantly create ourselves in an ever changing world.
There is one irreplaceable puzzle piece — our mothers. When we lose our mothers, the “heart piece” disappears. For some, that piece is central and ornate, for others it is complex or conflictual, but each of these relationships are character forming. For me, my mother’s death one year ago, on September 29, left a gaping hole at the core of my life puzzle, blurring the edges of my emotional landscape. The last four years of my life greatly revolved around being an advocate and caregiver for my mother. Although I had thought I was preparing for her imminent passing, I knew I was never going to be ready. Mom used to tell others, “Barbara believes I can live forever.” I would say, “Mom, I know that’s not possible, but you can try!”
When you become a mother, your entire world shifts. Everything looks new and different. Even as a child and young woman I had already felt so attached to my mother, she had been my best friend, the woman I most admired, my confidante, my mentor, my wise and absolutely stunning mom. After I gave birth to my first son, I came to appreciate everything I knew about her from a different perspective. The echoes of her voice from the long hallways of my childhood memories still reverberate, “Wait until you are a mother, only then will you understand.” And now that she is gone, I am only first coming to fully realize the magnitude of her impact on who I am, and my life choices.
My mother was my due north, my compass in all things, my greatest cheerleader, my partner in mischief, the champion of my dreams, knowing when to advise and when to remain silent. As my mentor, she understood when rules were to be respected and when they are to be broken. She gave me permission to soar and was the proverbial “wind beneath my wings.”
Very early in my life my mother instilled in me a belief that I could be and do most anything I passionately pursued. Education, discipline and fearlessness were her indicators and as my compass and travel guide she navigated my early journey. She underscored the notion that it is fabulous to be an individual, to be different, to be your own creation! As the only daughter among three children, I was her “bohemian,” fulfilling many of the dreams she once imagined for herself, circumvented by the early death of her mom when she was only four, and the controlling temperament of her stepmother. My determined mother still managed to blossom into a wise, warm and loving woman and exemplary mother. She carried her longing for her birth mother with her throughout her life, and I believe this laid the foundation for her deep need to be a protective force in my life. Mom inspired my transition from a creative but shy, quiet girl, into one who’s become outspoken on many issues of the day.
Mom helped me understand that when we fail, it is only a temporary setback. She was resolute in her support, and even when she did not always understand me, she respected my right to make my own choices, and my own mistakes. She stood firm and I would find my way home. I knew even then I was a lucky child to have a strong and loving mother and I know now that every child deserves a due north.
Through life’s joys and disappointments, the passing of some of my closest friends, my divorce, the raising of my sons and many business challenges, there was always Mom, laughing and crying with me, or simply just being there. When Mom started to falter, as the cancer took greater hold, the focus needed to shift. I was becoming due north for Mom. This is the most difficult transition in the life of a child and parent — the realization that some of the roles need to change. Giving up control requires profound trust. We had created that, and still it was the “aha” moment in our lives.
For me, September 29 will never again be just another day, and this past Mother’s Day was my first without my best friend. Her birthday in April was very difficult and surreal, even though I still created a festive cake, took photos and celebrated with my father, family and friends. I often reflect on having taken thousands of photographs through the years. I offer this advice: enjoy the moment and take photographs, there will never be enough. Capture your loved ones’ voices and images on video if you can. I envy little, but I do wish we had moving images of our childhood with my parents and more photos, we have so few. Take the time to call and visit your parents. Mom often said, “When I leave it will be a long distance phone call!” She also told me she would always be here, sitting on my right shoulder whenever I needed her. Her lessons of life: the importance of integrity, honesty and loyalty are most certainly forever imprinted within me, a sage gift to pass on to my sons.
This August I escorted my second son to college, and I am coming to terms with the dual emotions of the feeling of a job well done and the oddness of the empty nester. My mom spoke of her joy as we, her three children, progressed in life, but I know she reminisced often about us as toddlers, as I am doing now with my sons. As I recall those precious moments, the little puzzle images that I have tried so hard to keep in focus, fade in and out. I gaze at my photos and close my eyes and imagine their musical laughter and do that now with my mother’s memory as well. I imagine if I am blessed to witness the birth of a grandchild and watch him or her grow for a time, there will be more colorful puzzle pieces to add to our family landscape and I will understand my mom further, even then, in her profound absence. I wish she were here so that I could share with her the feeling that I am only first experiencing: two empty bedrooms and the weighty passage of time. I can only now fully understand her emotions, before I was merely a loving bystander when she would tell me of this poignant life transition.
There was a great deal of converging change in my life this year, as my mother was dying I needed to dismantle my design at my restaurant Spago through three long days and nights. I was frayed that I had to leave her bedside. Mom was worried about me, as I worried about her. Simultaneously I was making delicate life-end decisions for my mother. One month before her passing, I had reached another of my decade birthdays, which we gratefully shared, but as hard as my mother tried, she did not make it to my younger son’s milestone 18th celebration only one month later.
This summer I was preparing my younger son to start his independent life chapter at college thousands of miles away. In retrospect, perhaps I was really preparing myself. It is because my mother was an original steel magnolia (albeit from New York) that I have made it through. She forged me well. It is also why so many of my friends are brave and capable — they have memorable and resourceful mothers.
We all need to celebrate and honor our mothers, or the female role models in our lives more often, not just on Mother’s Day or their birthdays. Some days I face due north for a moment and tap my right shoulder. Yes, I do feel her there, and say thanks for the gift and legacy of my mother in all the seasons of my life.
Barbara Lazaroff, ASID
Designer, restaurateur, philanthropist, “Flame of Life” TM dinnerware, co-author Wishes for a Mother’s Heart, Hay House, Amazon Books.
For me, this time isn’t just an experience of clarity. I’ve also experienced feeling lost and as if my heart is about to break. It is a very intense experience.
Usually when the heart feels pain and suffering we have a tendency go to our cell phones, computers, televisions. We will do practically anything but “sit with” or simply “be with” the pain. But for me, there has been no where and way to run. I needed to sit with the feelings and there were no thoughts to occupy my mind except the actual feelings that were arising. So I surrendered to what was there and prayed. I stayed with the feelings long enough that the pain turned and awakened my heart open and more clarity poured into my heart. It’s like I was awakened to the truth of my heart. This is now my favorite time of morning, and I know that I have no idea when being awakened like this is going to happen again. My yoga teacher refers to it as “Shakti awakening you in the middle of the night.”
I spend many days in meditation for this purpose: to quiet the mind enough so that I can have the deepest access to my heart’s language. We tend to make ourselves so busy doing everything we can possibly do to avoid a broken heart. But the breaking open is when the heart begins to speak to us most deeply. At that time of the night, there is something magical happening. A deep transmission.
Yogi Bhajan recommended waking up at Vatta time, from 3 a.m. — 5 a.m. (anytime before 6 a.m.). He recommended that you shower and rinse with cold water for a few seconds to wake up, then sit on your bed or in your sacred space, your meditation space (if you have one).
I find Snatam Kaur Ong Namo opens my heart and allows me to be softer to receive whatever may be there to receive. Sometimes, I even find that chanting with the music releases pain inside my heart. Then I do a few stretches and pranayama. I do three to 11 minutes of breath of fire, also called Kapalabati (you can see my instructions for this in my video on osiliving.com or osiyoga.com), and then I sit and I see what arises. Most importantly, I stay in and with the feelings, rather than in the thoughts.
If you feel pain and heaviness in the heart, know that the only way to the other side, is by going through it. Not by trying to control or manipulate what arises. But by feeling what comes up and staying with it.
I promise you that the more you practice this way, the more you will build trust in yourself and a relationship with the deepest language of your heart and relationship with your own soul.
“Your mind is your servant, your body is your vehicle and your soul is your residence.” — Yogi Bhajan
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“You’re speaking two different languages,” Bishop Jakes tells Carrie and Casey. “Which happens in families all the time.”
Casey admits she made a mistake by talking to her sister’s ex, but thinks Carrie has forgotten all of the good things she’s done to help her in the past.
“You’re talking about what you did for her,” Bishop Jakes says. “And you probably did do them. And you probably came through in a lot of ways and it’s not about you not being a good person. [Carrie] is saying that her highest value isn’t on performance, it is on taking her side in a storm.”
“I get that,” Casey says. “That makes sense.”
What they can all agree on is that Carrie and Casey still love each other, or they wouldn’t be at “Lifeclass” asking for help. “You both love each other or you wouldn’t be angry,” Bishop Jakes says. “You don’t get angry with people you don’t care about. Your anger is a picture of your love.”
But by being angry, Bishop Jakes says they’ve lost sight of what’s really important.
“You’re being robbed of the gift of a sister,” Bishop Jakes says. “Do you know what you lose when you lose a sister? Somebody who really loves you and has got you and understands you. We let too many people come in and tear down our family relationships. You’ve got to get your family relationship together.”
Bishop Jakes says he doesn’t think Casey meant to hurt her sister. “I think you’re hurt that she’s hurt and that you can’t figure out how to get back,” he says.
Carrie interrupts. “She didn’t accidentally try to date my boyfriend,” she says. “It wasn’t like it was an accident.”
“No,” Bishop Jakes says. “It’s not an accident. But it’s not leukemia, either.”
The audience applauds as Bishop Jakes puts the sister’s argument into perspective.
“You cannot make these things mountains because then when the mountain does come, you don’t have the strength to climb,” he says. “This is not a mountain. It is a misunderstanding. You can’t afford to fall out with her. That’s your sister. That’s your sister. Look at her. That’s your sister. She shares your blood, your DNA, your philosophy. She knows your history. That’s your sister. She is worth the fight to get it back. She is worth the fight to get it back. Climb over whatever you’ve got to climb over and get each other back.”
“It’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong,” Bishop Jakes says. “This is not ‘Judge Judy.’ This is a ‘Lifeclass.'”
The author of The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles explains what keeps us from doing what we most want to do—and shows us how to finally get started toward our long-deferred goals.
Most of us have two lives: the life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever quit a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever bailed on a call to embark on a spiritual practice, to dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, to commit your life to the service of others? Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, to crusade for the planet, to campaign for world peace or to preserve the environment? Late at night, have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.
It is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease and erectile dysfunction. The more important a call to action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel about answering it. But to yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be. How many of us have become drunks and drug addicts, developed tumors and neuroses, succumbed to painkillers, gossip and compulsive cell-phone use simply because we don’t do that thing that our heart, our inner genius, is calling us to do? Resistance defeats us.
If you believe in God (and I do), you must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed each of us with our own unique genius. Genius is a Latin word; the Romans used it to denote an inner spirit, holy and inviolable, which watches over us, guiding us to our calling. A writer writes with his genius; an artist paints with hers; everyone who creates operates from this sacramental center. It is our soul’s seat, the vessel that holds our being-in-potential, our star’s beacon and Polaris.
But every sun casts a shadow, and genius’s shadow is Resistance. As powerful as is our soul’s call, so potent are the forces of Resistance arrayed against it. We’re not alone if we’ve been mowed down by Resistance; millions of good men and women have bitten the dust before us. And here’s the biggest bitch: We don’t even know what hit us. I never did. From ages 24 to 32, Resistance kicked my ass from East Coast to West and back again 13 times; and, I never even knew it existed. I looked everywhere for the enemy and failed to see it right in front of my face. I knew I wanted to write novels, but I could not finish what I started. The closer I got, the more ways I’d find to screw it up.
Look in your own heart. Right now, a still, small voice is piping up, telling you, as it has 10,000 times before, the calling that is yours and yours alone. You know it. No one has to tell you. And unless I’m crazy, you’re no closer to taking action on it than you were yesterday or will be tomorrow — because of Resistance.
As powerful as this dragon is, there is one thing we must remember: It comes from within us. Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from within us. We feed it with power by fearing it. Master that fear and conquer Resistance. There never was a moment — and never will be — when we were without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. How? This second, we can sit down and do our work.
This text was adapted from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, who is the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance: A Novel of Golf and the Game of Life and 11 other books.
Liane Weintraub, 44, is the co-founder and CEO of Tasty Brand. Tasty, which saw more than $10 million in sales this year, sells its organic snack foods both domestically and internationally in stores as diverse as Whole Foods Markets, large supermarket chains, family-owned stores, and Costco. Weintraub’s interest in what we eat came from her days as a journalist who reported on the impurities and complexities of our food chain. She says she became committed to improving the food supply, and left broadcast journalism to do precisely that, teaming up with long-time friend Shannan Swanson, an heir to — of all things — the Swanson Frozen Food Co.
Weintraub lives in Malibu, Calif. with her husband Richard — a commercial real estate developer — and their two children.
Why do you do the work you do?
I am passionate about food — healthy, safe food. I was raised in a very food-conscious home. I’ve travelled a lot and have great respect for different cuisines and, especially, the way in which crops and other foods are cultivated. As a journalist I covered a lot of agricultural stories — that was my first in-person experience with the vast differences between how organic produce is grown versus conventional. I can think of little else that matters more than the quality of the food, air and water our children take in.
Business partners Shannan Swanson and Liane Weintraub share a commitment to food purity.
My co-founder, Shannan Swanson — yes, the granddaughter of the founder of TV dinners! — and I are good friends. We had our kids about the same time and were both committed to starting a food line geared toward babies (and now older kids) that would be healthful. Motherhood is what gave us the impetus to start the business.
What work would you do if not this?
I came from a journalism background, believing that by telling stories I could effect change. At one point, I was reporting extensively on our potentially tainted food supply and I knew I wanted to be part of the solution. Basically, I’m telling the same story now and engaging people in that story. Now the story is a product. Our complicated agricultural business and the food system in the U.S. and the public’s struggle to do right by themselves and their families — that’s the story. It’s hard and confusing for people to know what is safe for them to eat; how basic is that?
This is what I was meant to do. If I wasn’t providing healthful food choices, I would be delivering the same message in another form.
Who do you admire and consider a role model?
Barbara Walters. Her life and career really epitomize overcoming adversity by using intelligence, good instincts and incredible tenacity. Her success was never about “luck,” but rather about putting in the hours and persisting. We have so many consumers who look at Tasty Brand as an overnight sensation, but it’s been seven years of non-stop hard work, so I always question the notion of “good luck.”
Is there still a glass ceiling? Have you hit it?
The conventional grocery business is a largely male-dominated business. The natural food world is more inclusive. We work between the two channels, and there is a very different culture in each. It’s not a glass ceiling per se, but absolutely I see a different treatment of women. We’ve gone into meetings where they’ve called us “the tasty girls.” I don’t take it as an insult. We are aware of what needs to change and just don’t get distracted by comments like that.
Do women have a responsibility to help other women at work?
Yes. We are a small company with a staff of eight, which until recently was all women. Our last three hires have been men though. The infusion of a few men helps us get different perspectives. The office is where we strategize, and there is a lot of creative thinking that goes on there. When it was all women, I think the environment got a little too loose. But yes, absolutely, women have a responsibility to help one another.
What were you doing when you were 25? Where did you think you were headed?
When I was 25, I was in USC graduate school and married. I thought I was headed for a career in print journalism but got hired by a UPN affiliate and covered Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
What advice do you have for your 25-year-old self?
The same advice I’d give any 25 year old: Go ahead and make a plan for your life, but just don’t be so wed to it that you can’t see other opportunities. Most life paths aren’t proscribed at 25.
What advice would you give someone starting their own business?
Shannan and I really jumped in with two feet and let the passion be our guide. If I ever start another business (or if a would-be entrepreneur asked my advice), I would suggest that passion is only one ingredient — a necessary one, to be sure, but it’s equally important to pace oneself for the long haul. At the start of a venture, it’s hard to imagine what the sacrifices might look like years down the line, so it’s important to remember to restrain the passion a bit in order to protect the other aspects of life. And be patient. Success doesn’t happen overnight.
Speaking of success, how do you define it?
I reevaluate it almost daily. One day’s success is getting one of my kids out of a bind. Another day, supporting my husband is a triumph. Another day it’s a victory with the business. The ultimate definition of success is balancing all of those things.
According to that definition, are you successful?
Yes, so far. The balance isn’t about giving equal time to everything. The proportion scales are widely out of balance at all times. It’s about the ability to focus and give 100 percent to what’s in front of me at any given moment and knowing what that moment’s priority ought to be. It’s more a ratio than a balance.
Define the word happiness — and are you happy?
Happiness is linked to balance. When I feel like I’m doing right by all the people in my life and myself, I have it. And yes, I would say I am happy!
Are those the same definitions of success and happiness you had when you started your business?
Please! We were utterly and totally unprepared when we started. I had no idea how big a toll the company would take on my personal life and time. We were so passionate about the mission behind the products and were so dedicated to what we were trying to do –we still are, but we have figured things out a lot better now.
What parts of your business are the most stressful and interfere with your ability to keep your life in balance?
The travel is the most stressful. We attend endless trade shows to sell our products — at least two trade shows a month and during certain times of the year, the shows are clustered and more frequent. We sell our products better than anyone, so it’s important that we do this part of the business ourselves. We do all the manual labor of schlepping the displays, setting things up, breaking them down — ourselves. It’s exhausting — like when I spend a day traveling on three Southwest flights to get home, waiting around airports, rushing to meet planes.
But my partner, Shannan, has the same deal with kids at home. So we know what the other one is experiencing and can support one another. My husband Richard has also really stepped up. He is a full-time dad. We have help in the form of babysitters but Richard has definitely risen to the occasion and shoulders much of the load.
Has the “big meeting” ever collided with the school play, or some version thereof? What did you do?
If the meeting is THAT important, I go to it. The beauty of having a business partner in the same situation — another mom — is that we understand each other’s struggles. We are there are each other.
Liane Weintraub with her husband Richard and their two children.
Do you keep your phone next to your bed?
I do, but it’s off when I sleep. Yes, I check it in the morning before I get out of bed and yes, before I brush my teeth!
I think technology is a beautiful thing. It allows me a lot of personal freedom. I can work from anywhere, including my home. When I travel, I can stay on top of things in the office. It also allows me to have just a small number of people in my office but a large number of people who touch my brand. But we have to set limits on how technology oversteps into our personal lives and stops being good for us. The grocery business, by the way, is antiquated in a lot of ways. A lot of our orders still come in via fax.
Do you get enough sleep? Exercise?
No, I don’t. I get six hours of sleep a night but would love eight. And no, I don’t get enough exercise but I can’t blame the job for that!
Does your mother understand why you work the way you do?
My mother passed away when I was just 16. She had a career until she had children. She was an art dealer, although she would hate that description. She hated the idea of mixing art with commerce, but she ran an art gallery. The fact that she didn’t have a career after my brother and I were born is what propelled me to have one. I never knew what my Mom did all day. My kids know exactly what I’m doing and why it’s important to me.
Do you have a work persona and a non-work persona?
I’ve tried hard to cultivate one persona. It’s easy to have a split personality. I’ve tried to be the authentic me across all parts of my life. When I worked in TV news, I had to look presentable — you know, dress professionally for the camera. That felt unauthentic to me.
Liane Weintraub in her office.
What would you title your autobiography?
“My Unexpected Story.” I would never have planned for the life I lead. I lost both my parents when I was very young. I was 16 when my Mom died and 21 when my father died. Both had cancer. I have a brother who I’m very close to. But I think that losing my parents so young propelled me to start a grownup life early. I was 23 when I married Richard. We met on a blind date and fell in love.
Do you ever think of quitting?
I would never quit. At some point, maybe we will sell the business but I would want to stay involved. I feel like my brand is my third child.
So, we have to ask: Your partner in an organic foods business is a Swanson — isn’t that a little ironic?
Swanson Frozen Foods was started by Shannan’s grandfather and his brother. The company was sold when her father was 14; she wasn’t even alive when her family owned the company. Swanson’s TV dinners were made in a different era and based on convenience and speed. We are all about health and making the right choices. The message is totally different.
But yes, the Swanson connection is a good conversation starter. When we check in for a flight and she says her name, invariably the airline clerk says “as in the TV dinners?” We just smile.