Laura Marjorie Miller | Understanding the Arc of a Life

Laura Marjorie Miller and I first crossed paths at an Anusara Workshop in Atlanta back in the early 2000s. We became friends instantly. Laura is truly one of the most genuinely inquisitive, intelligent people I’ve ever met. From her work as the speechwriter for the chancellor of Vanderbilt University to a successful career as a gonzo journalist, her adventurous spirit has taken her everywhere from free diving to an ayahuasca ceremony in Peru. I LOVED having this time to bring you her story.

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Instagram: @obestbelovedac

Me and Mama Ayahuasca Article – Utne Reader


[00:11] Julie: Well, hello there. Do you remember me? It has been a little while, but I want to welcome you to Yoga and Other Tools for Life. I’m Julie Smurden and I’ve been having a lot of life that needed my tools lately. Lee part of the reason I’ve been away for so long is because we moved house in July. So that took up most of July and most of August between packing up the old house and getting into the new house and unpacking and getting organized. And as many of you know, we’ve had some family issues and I actually wanted to touch on that before I start to tell you about my chat with Laura Miller. So yesterday I sent out my regular Monday email, kind of outlining, not outlining, but telling the story of what has been going on with my brother in law. And I was just hugged in and embraced so lovingly by emails and comments on my posts and texts and all different kinds of things. So many people reached out to share their stories, but also just to encourage us in our journey with this thing. It really did surprise me, though, how many people said I’ve had to deal with something like this or your email helped me see that I need to address this situation in my really, it was amazing, actually. So thank you. If you reached out to me, thank you, thank you, thank you. It meant a lot. And I read a lot of the comments. Lane read the ones on social media and I shared the texts and emails with him. This has been hardest on him, for sure. So much, much love and gratitude and what else? I’m leaving for America on Tuesday next, be I’m going to record a podcast or two while I’m over there. I want to get back in the swing of doing one or two a month, and so that’s going to be exciting. But I will not be teaching classes for the next few weeks just because I’ll be away. Teacher training is underway. It’s full, it’s great and I’m excited about that. And I am actually looking forward to running another teacher tune up. It’s looking like it’s going to be in early March next year. So all that stuff will be on my website and in my emails and all of that. But I want to take you to this talk I had with Laura Miller. So, Laura, you’ll hear and I met, we think about 20 years ago at an Anasara workshop in Atlanta, and we became very fast friends at that workshop and have been friends pretty much ever since, although we did kind of lose touch for a while after I moved over. She when I first met her, she was the speech writer. She’s a brilliant writer for the chancellor of Vanderbilt University, which is a highly regarded private university in Nashville, and her journey has taken her from writing speeches for the chancellor of Vanderbilt, to other forms of writing, to nature writing, to immersive adventure writing, and then now to where she is now as a animal communicator. So she’s had a fascinating journey. She’s a brilliant, brilliant woman, and both of us I think I can speak for myself when I say I feel so fortunate to have her in my life and so fortunate to be back in touch with her. So this is a long one. She has a lot to say, and she has a lot of wisdom. So I’m going to take you now, without further ado, to this chat that I had with Laura Marjorie Miller. All right, so we’re laughing. Just saying. Now we’re going to pretend like we haven’t been talking for an hour and start recording.

[04:11] Laura: You got to lube it up and grease the wheels and whatnot.

[04:18] Julie: Hi again.

[04:20] Laura: Hi, Julie.

[04:21] Julie: I’m so excited to talk to you today. I feel like when we first connected a few weeks ago, reconnected a few weeks ago, I felt like you were one of those friends who I mean, it’s been at least ten years since we’ve had any real meaningful contact. And immediately it was like, okay, this is one of those friends that I could just pick up with. Like it was the next day. And I’m so grateful for that, and I’m so grateful that we’re together again.

[04:51] Laura: I know. What year did we meet? Did we meet in Atlanta? At a workshop in Atlanta.

[05:01] Julie: I think it was Atlanta. And then after that, we roomed together almost every workshop we did.

[05:08] Laura: I know. We roomed yeah, we roomed together in Santa Fe. We roomed together in Atlanta. I stayed with you in Think.

[05:18] Julie: I think it was Atlanta. And then I think we went back to Atlanta for one as well.

[05:22] Laura: We did, because I remember being in a workshop. I think it was Dave Stringer was playing, and he was doing this really deep blues, and he was all about Ganesh that time, and we were, like, in these deep hip openers and really near his stage in the street center. And so I know we were together in that know, I think we were at one point we gave each other a look, but we were just lost in that moment of.

[05:56] Julie: What an amazing time that was. Dave’s been here a couple of times. I hosted him a few times here, and one of the times he actually gave he gifted me a little Ganesh thing that I still have today.

[06:09] Laura: Yeah, I believe I took my first Doug Keller workshop. I think it was in 2003. So I probably met you not too far after that. Like, maybe if it was 2000 or so, then that means that we’ve known each other for almost 20 years, which is so wild. Crazy.

[06:35] Julie: Oh, my gosh. Well, I’m so excited to kind of talk about your journey because you have had a really interesting journey from yoga to being working for the chancellor of Vanderbilt, to all the things you’ve done. So I want to kind of start just with your beginnings. I mean, usually I just kind of say, where are you from, first of all? And then, how did you come to yoga? So let’s just kind of start there.

[07:03] Laura: Okay. I came to yoga while I was writing for no, it was right before I started writing for the chancellor, for people who are listening. When I met Julie, I was a speechwriter, and then I became that career of being a speechwriter at a university morphed into being more of a features writer. And when the chancellor left and my job changed, but I started doing yoga in 1999 and it was at the very beginning of 1999, because maybe it was in the no, it was it was through the spring because I came down with a really strange, rare, chronic illness called hereditary angioedema, which is immune related, has to do with the body’s immune response. And what it does is the edema part is you have either through stress or the introduction of an antigen into your system, you have an immune response which isn’t mediated by the body the way it usually is. So your extremities swell up, and your face, if you I don’t think I.

[08:25] Julie: Knew that about you.

[08:27] Laura: That was how I started doing. I was and it took me a while to get diagnosed, but not too long, because I was working at Vanderbilt, which has a medical center of really good people on top of would, and it swells up. The swelling lasts for, like, four days, so, like, my face would swell up, like, in a lopsided way. So it would basically be like a deformation that even if you’re not looking in the mirror, you see your shadow, and it’s wrong, just like things like that. And it was distressing because I didn’t know what was happening to me. I didn’t know if that was going to be for the rest of my life. First of all, the doctors, while they were diagnosing, it, pitched a bunch of steroids at it, which is what doctors do when they’re trying to buy time.

[09:31] Julie: And also with anything autoimmune, they throw.

[09:33] Laura: Steroids at it, throw some steroids at it. But then when I did get diagnosed, I was taking a really low dose of anabolic steroid stenosylal, and it was really low dose, but it was still having some of the effects of steroid. It was like an, androgen I put on a lot of more weight in a more rapid time than I felt comfortable with. I was having roid rages, which are real, and it was really hard. And it was kind of around the time when because I was a big Madonna fan at the time. It was the time when she started doing yoga. And I was very like, okay, if she’s doing it, then it’s probably interesting. And something that’s worth at least learning about, because I want to learn about this. Fortunately, that timed right, and I was like because I was reading about her and how yoga was helping her. And I knew enough about yoga at the time to know of, like, okay, it’s supposed to help regulate your emotion, help you not regulate your emotions, but be at peace within your emotions and also help the body systems regulate themselves. And I knew that, and I was like, okay, I need to try this. And at the time, also, one thing was I had never done yoga. I did go to the gym and cross train, so I was putting on muscle weight, and I was just getting big, and I didn’t feel comfortable in my body. I was like, okay, so the answer is I’m either going to be weird looking at different irregular intervals for the rest of my life, or I’m going to be uncomfortably heavy and roidy angry, and that’s not nice either. So I’m going to try this. And it helped me in so many ways to where I started to learn to appreciate my body, not what it looks like, but for what it can do. I was taking iron at the time. That was what was right next to where I was working. And there was a wellness center and a woman I knew like, oh, you should go to the diani center, and they have yoga classes there. So I had a couple of excellent Iengar instructors.

[12:18] Julie: It was such a good time back in the late 90s, early two thousand s, to start yoga because it wasn’t as easy to find, but what you did find was really good quality, generally.

[12:30] Laura: Nashville, where I was living, had just such it had a really rich, deep, well founded tradition of yoga in the town already, but it was still kind of I like that we came on when we did because yoga was still a little bit weird and a little bit and I liked that. I liked the old way that yoga journal used to be where there was still weird things in it. I miss those days. I’m glad that I had the experience of those days because I don’t know if it I think about it was exactly the right time, and if it weren’t, it would have been something else. There would have been something available universe that would have helped me. But I liked the fact that yoga at that time was a class full of middle aged ladies and kind of it wasn’t about extreme anything. It was a very supportive I mean, we did things that were challenging, but they were more of like they were internally challenging. Right? It was absolutely perfect to take restorative classes, to take alignment classes, to be so deep into. I’m doing this for the health of my organs. I’m doing this for the health of my body structure. And also there’s a part of me that likes going into things that are weird and fringe just because it’s quieter there, it’s not teeming with human noise and talk and the stuff of the world.

[14:29] Julie: That’s such an interesting especially since the advent of social media where everything is so much noisier, just in general. I never really thought about that.

[14:38] Laura: That’s me. I know. That makes me a little bit of a curmudgeon, or that well, I like that. Before it was cool, but I was thinking the things that I liked and have liked in the past, like something like Tarot and thinking, well, Tarot is really mainstream now. You can go to Target and they’re like Tarot T shirts and stuff like yeah, but I’m like I don’t want to be where everybody else is. I don’t. I like it where it’s quiet. I like it where I can hear my own thoughts. I’m glad everybody’s stuff that’s deeper and more esoteric, but for my own sanity, I like things that are less trammeled, but there are fewer footprints in the snow where I can just myself think. And I don’t know. I don’t know what that’s about, but it’s just how I am.

[15:40] Julie: So you’re in Nashville, Chancellor Vanderbilt. Job change, I know, is one of the things that comes next for you.

[15:47] Laura: Yeah, a job change. So I had this beautiful job. It was really a golden age of Vanderbilt, and I had the perfect job, perfect boss.

[15:55] Julie: Let me just pause you for a second, just for my Aussie listeners. So Vanderbilt is a really highly regarded university in the States.

[16:02] Laura: It’s in a private it’s a private university, too. Yeah. As opposed to being like a state public. Then he left and he wanted me to go with him, and I decided I wanted to stay in Nashville. I was really torn because I loved working with him, but then I had all these people and connections and things in Nashville, and Vanderbilt was trying to get me to stay. Well, there were people at Vanderbilt who were like, you’re not going to go with them, are you? You’re going to stay, right? You’re going to try to work for the new chancellor. And I said, yes, I am, because he’s just shocked everyone. And there’s so many people I know worried about their jobs because he just decided to leave, and I’m going to stay here. And there really wasn’t a right decision there. I think this was something was going to happen that was a fork in the road. Whether it was astrological or not, it wouldn’t have mattered which path I was going to take. I would have having a challenge. It’s not like, oh, if I take this road, it’s going to be great. The wrong road. And then that job, it just ended up disintegrating because the new chancellor didn’t want a speech writer and his wife wrote his speeches. I know, but I mean, there wasn’t anything for me to but it was so demoralized awful. It was like I had a pointless job. And I was so sad. That was a dark night of this whole time. And then they put me in a different department because they didn’t want to lose me. But then it was a job. I was ill. It was an editorial job that I didn’t really have the mindset. But along that time I was so bored that I started feature writing alongside for the Vanderbilt newspaper, which because the editor was right down the hall, so she was throwing she’s like, oh, do you want to write a story about this? You want to write a story about that? And I said yes. And I did it just to keep myself then. And I built up a beautiful dossier, which was great because then when I got downsized from then, I had this great dossier of work and I got my job at University of Massachusetts as a halftime speechwriter and a halftime magazine writer. And then I went there, and so I moved. I didn’t know anybody in Massachusetts where I was going. I had no people. A big that was a big jump for me. But I was really glad I did it because it opened up everything seems to go in these seven year arcs, but it opened up another really flourishing next period of my life, which was so expansive and where I really got into writing. Eventually the speech writing part of that job went away and it was just feature writing. But I came to write under my own byline and my own name, and I started writing articles about nature. I started writing travel articles.

[19:41] Julie: One of the things I wanted to ask you about was one I remember was the Ayahuasca feature that you did.

[19:46] Laura: Yes, I love the Ayahuasca feature. That was a big transformer in my life because it was a sort of feminist grant of this organization that has women go down and do an Ayahuasca retreat. And my gig was that I was going and I was going to write an article for utney Reader about it. So it was a week long retreat, and we did ceremony four nights of that retreat. I mean, we had some more time kind of bookending it just to kind of get into Ikitos and leave. But that moment of my life was really pivotal. That was one of those moments, that time that changed everything and for me, because then my writing really began to be about nature as much as possible. And I was able to that fall after I was on that retreat, I wrote this huge cover feature for the magazine that was all about pollinator research at the university and bees. And for some reason, I think it was something that had happened to me in the jungle and with the vine that I was able to join and connect things in just super creative, like pulling stuff together and being able to communicate about it more deeply. I had more of an appreciation of. It was almost like things that I had always liked. But being able to go in there in my imagination, like deep time and the ages of the earth and the way things work in evolution and a deep sympathy for earth that I had had through my whole childhood. But I got so caught up in human, academic, intellectual things and it restored all of those. The thing that I loved. One of the biggest gifts of the Ayahuasca retreat for me was understanding the arc of my life and knowing it was one night of the journey. And it was kind of in the aftermath of the journey, and I was, like, lying outside on a hammock. And I understood that it was like all the times in my life when I felt frustrated, when I felt like things weren’t going the way that I was like, well, I want this and I want that, and why can’t I have this? I’m in high school. Why don’t I have a boyfriend? Why am I not popular in grade school? Those things. And then all of a sudden, I had all of this. It’s like, so you would have quiet time, so you could read these books, so you could have these manuals. It’s not really like, we but you were protected. We I was protecting you so that you would have what you needed later and you would be able to do this now.

[23:24] Julie: And that was the message you got.

[23:26] Laura: That was a big mess, and it was the sense of complete and utter being loved and and who, the only times, you know? And it was it was like, I got so much it’s not like I turned into like, oh, I’m like, I’m an ayahuasca jockey now, and I want to just go down there and do this all the time. The thing that when I’m having a tough time, because it doesn’t fix everything, right? And sometimes I’m just like, well, I’m having a tough time now, and I really wish I understood what was going on now. And I want to go back down and do a ceremony, and I don’t think it works that way for me. I got what I needed, and if fate pulls me back down there, the way that happened, because that just was a transpiring. Yeah, I’m like, sure, I’ll go know. I’ll go do that. That sounds know. I had taken an anthropology course on shamanism at Vanderbilt. I’d audited one, but I wasn’t like, and I got to get down and do ayahuasca retreat.

[24:44] Julie: It wasn’t cool. Then.

[24:48] Laura: I was like, okay, that sounds fun or not fun. I wasn’t flip about it. That sounds really interesting. I’m up for it. But that was the thing that was the biggest gift, just to go back to it. The times when I was like, an unpopular little girl with glasses and bad perm. And nobody wanted to go out with me ever. The boys I had crushes on all scorned me. But it was this thing of, like, no, you didn’t have all the stuff at the time that you thought you wanted because it was important for you then to be developing an inner life and reading Clan of the cavebearer and reading Dragon Song and Dragon Singer by Anne McCaffrey and all of these books about women in nature being out on their own and knowing what to do with themselves. Almost like the books I had loved as a child were survival manuals. These are manuals of how you are going to live. And if I had had a life full of distract, I’m not belittling them by calling them distractions, but they would have been distractions for me, according to the education that I was supposed to be getting. And that was just a magnificent gift. It simplifies it to say, like, no, you’re being protected. It wasn’t being any danger, but it was almost like, we’re just going to just get it out. You can yearn for it. It’s not like you’re not going to be thinking about it because you still like those boys and you still have crushes on them and you still wish they liked you, but they’re not going to take up any more of your time than that.

[27:14] Julie: Yeah.

[27:15] Laura: Wow.

[27:18] Julie: So where to from there? So I lost you around that time. That’s about the time I remember the whole Ayahuasca thing, and I remember when the grant came through. And then can we link to that article?

[27:31] Laura: Yeah, I can find it still exists. We’ll link to it. Yeah.

[27:35] Julie: Okay. I’ll put it in the show notes.

[27:36] Laura: Yeah. And that actually has some narrative about the couple of nights of the journey, at least one night in particular. That was a big challenge. I think one of the reasons we lost touch was because I have such, like, a mafioso loyalty thing with friends. And you didn’t immediately burn my ex boyfriend at the time. And I was didn’t I wasn’t like, Julie’s my enemy now. I just felt so alienated by that experience. And then it’s not your fault you didn’t, obviously, but it was rough. Savagely went through culling. Like, you’re associated with him. I have nothing more to do with you. But it wasn’t like that with you. I don’t know. Went like some weird badger hole. Yeah.

[28:45] Julie: I just felt like we kind of lost touch.

[28:49] Laura: No, you were having a good I was glad. Maybe it was because you were having such a good time, and I couldn’t deal with going through a really nasty, ugly breakup. And I’m like, look at that. She’s having a good time with her new life. My life is.

[29:10] Julie: It was really dichotomous, too, because I was having a good time when we moved down here. I mean, it was hard. Like, the transition I found was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.

[29:20] Laura: Yeah. Talked about that. It’s things we don’t know about people, too, because a lot of we see the surface of what’s going on. Because I think you moved to Australia around the exact same time I was moving to Massachusetts. I think you beat me by just a couple of months. And I remember posting something like, the thing is, you do something, go to one new place every day or something cheesy like that, and you were like, that’s exactly right. I remember that exchange, because at the time, I was just getting to know New England, and there was much to do that was new, and it was like, every day I do something I’ve never done before. And you’re like that’s, right? You do. Yeah.

[30:05] Julie: And you learn so much about yourself, too. I remember thinking, I don’t even know where to buy light bulbs. Everything’s just laid out differently.

[30:15] Laura: Here you are, new country.

[30:21] Julie: It’s a whole thing. But, yeah, it’s been an amazing journey. I mean, absolutely no regrets. It’s been great.

[30:29] Laura: Yeah.

[30:30] Julie: All right.

[30:31] Laura: Growth happens. That’s how we grow. Well.

[30:37] Julie: All right. So Massachusetts.

[30:44] Laura: That was a great job, until it wasn’t, because I was writing for the University magazine. I was freelancing along the side writing travel articles and Nature articles like that. Ayahuasca article what was important to me, and it was like the seeds being planted, but it was important to me. I really wanted I was using this sort of for a while, even before the Ayahuasca journey. I was using the idea of gonzo journalism like Hunter Thompson did, where explain.

[31:23] Julie: What that is for my listeners.

[31:24] Laura: It’s idea of immersing yourself in an experience. You’re not, like, reporting on something, but you’re like, I am going to do this thing, and so I’m going to write about it from the point of view of somebody who’s doing it. Not just, okay, I’m going to interview a scuba diver dive, and I’m going to go dive, and then just describe what’s happening and take the reader with me. So to do that, to immerse yourself. But the idea for me was I wanted to do it with nature articles because it was important for me, even at that time, to say, I want to be a bridge. If somebody’s reading about me, I want through my experiences, my apprehensions, to be a bridge for them to have a deeper sympathy and relationship with nature through what I’m doing and putting myself in there and using my powers as a writer to be a bridge for that sympathy that was important.

[32:53] Julie: What are some of the immersive experiences that you’ve had that you’ve written about?

[32:56] Laura: I wrote about free diving with dolphins in Bimini and in Kona Hawai and Snorkeling with humpback whales off of Newfoundland. Things even when I could do it at know, writing about, like doing a snapping turtle survey where I’m, like, waiting and we’re doing a snapping turtle survey. So I’m waiting in snapping turtle waters with this researcher. I wanted to be as much into the actual presence of what I was writing about as possible. And that was just great because, like I said, I got to use my powers and skills as a writer. But then that job started to change, and it was things that were outside of my control because it was like the department got rid of the magazine, they gave it to another department. So I lost my access to being a features writer except for the website, and those became shorter and shorter and more ridiculous features. And then our department changed again. It became like a marketing department, and it was writing like marketing copy. And I was up in Massachusetts by myself. And the whole point of my being in Massachusetts was that the work I was doing, I didn’t have any work. And the emotions of the work I was doing before sustained me. I was able to live a very fulfilled life because life had, through my work, had meaning and purpose. And it was kind of a bad just like, timing of things, because otherwise it would be like, well, I can keep my freelance writing going on the side, but it’s like, I don’t want that to just be on the side. I want the main day to be something that I look forward to getting up in the morning and going to it, and that the trips I’m taking aren’t vacations. They’re trips for something. Because it’s just adding to the joy of a life that’s already joyful, and it’s just being in a different even the travel I was taking started to get the complexion of, okay, I’m going on a vacation. Now it’s back to your shitty life that is painful and makes you feel like you don’t have any value. The way it was organized at the university, it’s like I couldn’t get a toe hold to do any. That sounds so disempowered. I think it was just again, it was like it was going to be hard. Again, it was another point astrologically, this is going to be hard. And it doesn’t matter you try to do it’s just you’re going to have to get through this hard period. So it was around that time that I was really struggling with myself because I thought I’ve externalized all of my ability to do the things that I believe in in life, which is to connect people in nature to my writing. And it’s like, well, I want to get published at a magazine, so I’m going to write a pitch to an editor that’s like, please. And then it’s like, well, the university says, no, you can’t go down to talk to this Jaguar researcher even though you are offering to do it on your own money, because we don’t want to pay for your insurance for that in case something happens to you. And. It was like, I felt so disempowered because I kept putting everybody else was getting to decide what I got. And it’s not to say that if I had been another person, it wouldn’t have been possible, but it’s not like I’m like, okay, well, I’m going to have a substack or I’m going to medium and I’m going to go and wrestle up all these followers. And I just didn’t have that motivation. I was like, I don’t know what to do. This doesn’t feel right, and I feel really uncomfortable. And I knew, I was like, okay, I’m starting to feel like it’s time to go into business for myself, but I don’t know exactly what that would be. Somewhere in there, I wrote an ebook about traveling by myself. But I don’t know. I didn’t really know. I was like, Well, I’m not going to be like a life coach. What is that? I don’t have that expertise. I have friends who do that, but that’s just not me. But I didn’t know. And it was like, there’s so much talk about entrepreneurship, but I’m like, Well, I give it. So, like, there was one day, I was driving home from a jazz concert. I was listening to a tape, or was no, it was not a tape. It was like a recording by Mary Morrissey, who is a life coach person. And she was talking about to have a dream that’s worthy of you. And it was like a few things to check it against. It was the checklist. I’m like driving home in the dark in the New England fall deep. It was it was like, is it something that challenges you? Is it something you could do for the rest of your life and be happy with? I can’t remember exactly what all the criteria were. Is it something that you’re going to need help to do? And I can’t remember all of it, but at the time, it came rushing into my mind, and it was to be an animal communicator, because it was something I had been following, because there were people I knew who did it, and I believed that it was true, but I didn’t think that I could do it. But I was like, you know, if I could train how to do that, then maybe that’s something I could do that would give my that I would have a deep sense of meaning for my life.

[40:05] Julie: So what exactly does an animal communicator do?

[40:09] Laura: You form an intuitive telepathic link with an animal that you are working with. I say working with, but you wouldn’t have to be working with them. But in the professional somebody in a professional format, somebody a human client comes to you and is like, I want to understand why Winnie is doing this. Yeah, and this is an example. And then you would be like, on it, I’m going to go do my session. And some people are so psychic that they can just like, well, I’ll tell you right now, I go and go and do it off stage so I can really go deep a meditative state. And then I write while I’m in the state, I transcribe what I’m I transcribe the dialogue or the conversation that I’m having or the impressions that are coming, whether those are sometimes they’re images, they’re visuals, sometimes it’s words or it depends on the animal. First of all, it depends on the animal, what they’re like and also it depends on how they’re using the interface of you because it’s stuff that is wordless knowledge but it has to come through a filter in a usable way. How are they using the equipment that I have, the references that I have, and also that the client will understand. And so I write down the report for the client and then we talk it over. And it usually has action steps in it, things to do. I think that’s like the sort of general template of what kind of interventional onsault would be. But what I did was I enrolled myself in these trainings because I’m like, I know that this is possible and I love animals so much and it would really be I know all my life I’ve been kind of weird with them. But I’m not psychic. I’ve had friends who are psychic in the past who the people who have second sight or they’ll see extraterrestrials or see craft in the sky or something. I’m like, I’m not seeing anything. I guess I’m just not that way. I know this is possible and I firmly believe that everyone can do this because I know that it’s intrinsic to us and it’s part of the way we evolved as part of the planet. So I’m like, I’m going to do it and I’m going to put myself through this training program that I respect from people that I know what their ethics and their integrity are and I respect how they work. And I’m going to take it all away so I can get a professional certification so that I know this is like peer reviewed. We have to put together a portfolio of case studies where everything because I want to be able to reliably do it for other people, not just like one day I’m out with the dolphins and I have an image of the dolphins before kind of thing. I don’t be erratic or sporadic or idiosyncratic. And another reason I was like to me it was even immediate evolution of what I was doing before with my writing where I’m like, I want somebody through my experience to have a deeper appreciation of the world because I’m taking them there. So for me, I was like it almost started to feel like by writing only writing not that there’s anything wrong with that, but by only writing how I was playing it safe. I’m like, I want to be in it and I want to put myself on the line where it’s me. I’m not mediated by I’m reporting about this. I write the consult, I relate it back and forth to the clients I’m working with. But I wanted to be deep in and I wanted to get to a level where I knew if I could do it, I could also help teach people to do it and coach people how to do it because that became really important to me, thinking about how disconnected people have over time historically become. And we’re coming out of it again, but from Earth and from nature and from other animals around us and saying, okay, if I can help other people learn, like break down those barriers in themselves, if that’s something that they want to do, then there will be more people on the planet. My animal communication teacher always says, like, the more animal communicators, the better. Because you think about the decision making process that we have as a collective how different it would be as a human collective. Like how different it would be if we honestly took into account the points of view of the other beings around us, what their experiences are as valid and not as secondary or subsidiary to our as equally valid and important. How different our course of civilization would be and how much stuff we would be doing different. We wouldn’t have to undo, unlearn, rehabilitate, but we could start afresh and say, well, anything new that we’re doing now, doing it from this point of view instead of another. And so that to me is like the deepest meaning of what I’m doing and saying you always hear that phrase, like be a voice for the voiceless talking about but animals aren’t voiceless. Oh, I’m getting emotional. That’s all right. You want to be ears for the earless. You want to help people be able to hear again. And yeah, I’m getting all rocked up because I’ve been at the shelter today and it’s always a shelter day is a lot. Sometimes it’s tough, but today there wasn’t anything. It’s like a lot of people and they’re all beautiful.

[48:03] Julie: Yeah, well, so your work is on there. So now you’re working for yourself now.

[48:11] Laura: Doing that beautiful work.

[48:14] Julie: So we just want to go back, just step back just a little bit because see, you said something. I didn’t write it down, but hearing.

[48:24] Laura: Ears for the ears for the earless.

[48:28] Julie: So it’s humans don’t have the ears, right?

[48:34] Laura: It’s like animals are not voiceless. Like animals are communicating all the time. They’re communicating telepathically, they’re communicating through their actions. Beings just behaviors. It’s interesting because when we’re children, we read books about talking animals all the time and we accept that. I don’t think we think, oh, that’s make believe. I mean, there’s like a point where we’re not even thinking that this is make believe. We’re just course this is how the world works and we’re in much more of a communion with and I think communion is a good word to have in mind and in heart communion with the other life forms around us. And it’s not always in the form of a strict dialogue, but it’s just an understanding about things that but then as we grow, we become socialized and trained according to the values of our society to disregard those needs or to not hear those voices. Well, that’s just how it has to be or that’s reality or that’s just hard. And they’re usually like some sort of consumer based decision. But we deafen ourselves and we do it to survive. We do it to try to keep our sanity. Because sometimes I think the weight of all of that life, all of that complexity around us is a lot to deal with. And so I think sometimes people shut themselves down not because they’re being bad or being callous, but they do it just to be able to cope. I remember when I was not to turn this into a whole vegetarian conversation because that’s like whole thing but you have this little stutter inside you, I think when you’re growing up and you have something that you’re like okay, that doesn’t feel right to me. But all the adults around me are saying that this is how it is, how it is. So got to be okay, I guess, because they’re and maybe kids aren’t like that so much anymore. I think maybe when I was a kid, people were much more of like a little cabbage. They were just like okay. I think you see all these beautiful social media videos now about kids having a conversation at the dinner table where they’re just challenging their parents. But anyway, to go back to that innateness of us, if you think about a lot of traditional peoples, tribal peoples, people who live in close contact with nature, the forest, whatever, they still talk with the life around.

[52:10] Julie: Mean here in Australia we’ve got the First Nations people here and they so in tune with the land. That was their whole deal. The beautiful thing. I mean, it’s not perfect here, obviously. It’s been colonized. And I wonder too sometimes how much colonization has to do with that. With kind of pulling us out of nature as well this whole Christian idea of man has dominion over the world kind of thing and that has to have played in.

[52:44] Laura: It’S so weird. I know it has so many things that necked into that that are just abstract. They’re abstract and they’re just made up. It’s like people believe in something that’s so made up and that they just read about and then they’ll take that above the actual experience that they’re actually having because it’s like, well, I went to the church meeting and this is what they told us. This is what we believe. So this is what I believe now. And it doesn’t even accord with and especially if it’s a grid that doesn’t even have any place for animals or nature in it doesn’t make sense.

[53:34] Julie: Yeah, that was my experience totally. Growing up. Like, this is what we believe, and that end of story.

[53:45] Laura: Yeah. This is like a little side, but when I was in Nashville, there was a period when I was in graduate school, I was at Vanderbilt, but I got really Catholic for a while where I was like because I wanted to connect to the traditions of my grandparents. So I started going say the rosary with the old ladies, and I went to confession. I went to go to Mass on saints days that I liked. I did Novenas, the whole I love. But it was like the old stuff I loved. Yeah. And the ritual. Yes. And I went to there was this one, they have the Right of Christian Initiation for Adults, RCIA, where all of the people who are like, I want to be Catholic, so whether they’ve been baptized in another church or if they haven’t been baptized, but they get confirmed, but they have to go to these religious education classes. I was like, I want to be an RCIA sponsor, so I’m going to have this. You go to all the meetings with your person because you get assigned to a who wants to be Catholic, bless their heart. And there’s something about that that’s so beautiful and sincere. So I shouldn’t be, like, chirpy about it, but like, they’re actually making this big conversion of their life to say, I am choosing a whole faith that I want to join. That is such big deal, no matter what religion it is, it’s just a huge overhaul of Mary, Mother of Jesus. And so you’re in this room where, like, half the people are Catholic and the other half are people who weren’t raised Catholic, and they’re talking about Mary. And the priest comes up to the front of the whiteboard, and then he tells he’s like, well, we don’t worship Mary. And you’re just like, I know you have to say that because that’s the party line, but yes, we do. But I know you’re supposed to say that we don’t, so whatever. So this is the part that’s where I’m going with the belief. So he was this I’m going to explain the Immaculate Conception to there are all these sweet, wet behind the ears people are like, okay, I got my notebook out, my notes, and he’s writing like, the Immaculate Conception. And so Mary, in order to have Jesus, had to be conceived without original sin because that’s the Immaculate Conception. So she’s the Immaculate it’s not about Jesus at all. It’s about Mary being a pure vessel. He’s like, so she was conceived without, like and that’s what we believe. And I was seeing all these people, and they were like, just kind of like not in their earnestness and in their taking it in and writing it down. And I’m like, first of all the longer it takes for you to explain something the likelier it is to be bullshit because that doesn’t make any sense at all. So retarded and ridiculous anyway but it was like this thing of like and that’s what we believe. Yeah. So I’m thinking about, okay, so what is the process of belief? So you’re sitting there and you’re like, okay, because you told me that if I want to be a Catholic I have to believe this. Do you believe it? At what point do you actually believe that that is true?

[57:53] Julie: This brings up critical thinking. And I think this is the thing that’s completely lacking from, I guess, religion in general, is that the logic is circular. And there comes a point this has been my experience anyway there comes a point where there’s an unanswerable question, and then the answer is either, well, that’s just what we believe, or some things were not meant to understand. Some things we were not able to understand.

[58:23] Laura: Well, if that’s the case, then I don’t need to be here. I remember this was a period of time in my life when I was in and this is my ex husband and this is one of his wonderful moments of just utter clarity. And Jason you met wasn’t I wasn’t initiated in a coven, but like was dedicated to this coven. And I was know baby witch going through this whole thing and this coven just had so many problems and it was so just people in the Covenant, like, getting in accidents all the time and these house burned down. It was just bad and it was so convoluted and just weird and I remember just boohooey and belly aching to him about like well this and that and this is happening and what am I supposed to do? And I was like all caught up in the gossip and scandal and all the characters and he’s like just quit. And I was like, what? But I have so much invested in it now he’s like just quit. It’s all made up anyway. And I just love that and everything about those kind of belief structures and this is way beyond Wicca but it’s like if you just look at these whole human erections of imaginative architecture that are theology and religion and cosmology and things, most of it is made up and you can just step out of it anytime. It doesn’t actually exist.

[01:00:26] Julie: I was just saying that very thing to the teacher training group I’m working with now. Philosophies and religions of all different kinds are all trying to answer the same questions and they’re questions we don’t have answers to. I think you’re right. You have to kind of explore the things and the ideas and practices and philosophies that make sense to you until they don’t.

[01:00:57] Laura: You’ll run along that track for a long time and then eventually something will happen and it’ll be time for you to study something else. I’m not a dileton at all. I go deep whenever I go into something. But I definitely have phases in my life where I’m, like, deep in studying something years and then something will change. It’ll be me. It’ll be something overlap. There will be like an overlap shift. And it just keeps moving forward. And I take and I get the things that I’m meant to carry forward, and I’m fine with that. I’m happy about the things that continue to work the way, for instance, like the tree of life and kabbalah and the spheres of the godhead and this idea of things coming through all these different levels to be materially manifest and the way that all of those powers of god balance each other. And when they go out of balance, then you have problems. But when they’re balanced and that the idea that we on the material level are able to affect the function of those higher, more subtle or diffuse, but also more real things. I can feel the operation of that in a way that makes sense. I don’t think about it all the time, but when I come across a tree of life, it’s with a recognition of, like, okay, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And the validity of that is something that’s valid for me because it accords with the way I’ve seen other things working. But that was from several years of studying Kabbalah. But then I’m like, oh, I’m I value all of the things that I’ve learned along the way and not all of know for Jason’s, being very clear when I needed him to be clear. It’s the stuff that’s real about the pagan tradition that I was in, like the cycles of the seasons, cycles of the day and the phases of the moon and the idea of magical correspondences. And those are really real. Those have a reality for me. But that’s grounded in experience. And also, I think the more people go into personal responsibility for their own curiosity and their own mysticism, I think that that strengthens them. And so they’re not as susceptible to propaganda. They’re not as susceptible to just people leading them down a path or getting swept up in somebody else’s experience as a guru. And you’re just taking in whatever they say. I think really important to have your own substance and to recognize your own capability and your own worth as a spiritual center. When I go to the shelter and visit the animals there and I have a day every week that I dedicate to being there and socializing cats and walking the dogs, the animals, when we’re together, they’re not like, okay, there’s Laura, who’s like half of a being because she’s not fully trained or she’s a disciple of. So and it’s you. And that’s what is with our animals. Like, they’re not seeing all of this bullshit of gradations and levels and grades and hierarchies or whatever our initiation things it’s like, no, they’re just with our spirit, they’re fully present because none of that other stuff exists. When I’m doing a session with someone, it’s not like they’re like, oh, well, you’re good enough. It’d be better if it was so and so.

[01:06:18] Julie: Yeah.

[01:06:21] Laura: And that’s the reality of and that’s that’s real. That’s real.

[01:06:30] Julie: Yeah. Well, this is this has been amazing. I want to go one more little play. And this is kind of what we were talking about before we started recording.

[01:06:44] Laura: Yeah.

[01:06:45] Julie: You know what I’m going to say. And it’s a particular interest of mine, and I know that it’s an interest of yours, too. And I’ve talked to some people here in Australia about my kind of desire to start to hate the word coach, but to work with women over 50 and educate people about menopause and perimenopause, because there’s just nothing. I’m starting to see more now, more information, and I haven’t done a deep dive to see if it’s all good information, but it just doesn’t have to be the end. And my experience has been and I was really fortunate, I told you when we talked a few weeks ago, to have a woman further down the path than I was at the time. I was like having incapacitating hot flashes and feeling like I was losing my spark and that kind of thing direct me in the direction of bioidentical hormones, which I have been taking for ten years now. Like, game changer for me. I didn’t even know it was a thing. And what I did find out in the interim is that this study that was done in the late ninety s, or mid ninety s, I guess, that linked hormone replacement to all these horrible things in women was still informing doctors even today, who are saying, no, HRT causes heart problems. And the study was thrown out years ago. It was poorly done. So women like my mom, who was on some horse urine, estrogen or something, got yanked off of it. And millions of women went into this cycle of depression and despair, and then they were put on antidepressants. I mean, I watched the whole thing happen with my own mom. So anyhow, there are ways to manage the symptoms and then there’s also the whole societal perception of what it is. Like we were talking about a little bit a little while ago.

[01:09:11] Laura: I think, the thing that I didn’t know, I mean, everybody gets their own different package. I know because I follow a lot of media in the UK because I want to move there. So I like read a bunch of British newspapers things all the time. I know they’re a lot more conversant about it than in America. It’s much more discussed. HRT is much more like over the I don’t know if it’s over the counter. It’s very readily people, you know, with big social platforms talk about menopause, and that’s so refreshing to me because here as open as America we are about other things. There isn’t, I think, what would have been most helpful for me, because I didn’t know it. I was going through the deepest, darkest part of mine during lockdown, and I didn’t know that that’s what that was. And it was like right before it stopped. And I know it’s not officially the menopause until it’s a year after your last, but it was like the months leading up to my last bleed were COVID, isolated, locked down. But I didn’t know it. And I wish it’s like, oh, I wish I had valued those bleeds, even. I mean, I never had a problem with bleeding. I loved it. And I miss it. I miss it emotionally. I miss it for itself because of anything it represents. I miss the cyclicity of it. I miss the feeling. I miss the blood. I literally miss the blood. I miss that bloody time. But I didn’t know. And I think that it was so psychologically intense. I think one thing is if I had been able to go to my Acupuncturist during time, because I had an Acupuncturist I saw every month, he’s awesome at, UMass in the health. And, like, I think if I had had him, it would have been easier because somebody would have been able to say, oh, you’re having thing going on. And that would have helped alleviate it. But I had nothing, and I didn’t know exactly even how to anticipate the psychological pressure of it. That was the hardest thing to deal with, was the intense. I called it. Like, there were a couple of times, like, when something was difficult. During that time, it was really difficult. I was going through the stress of a move of changing my job, making a decision to leave my job. It might have helped precipitate that decision, because honestly, it might have just gotten to the point of, like, this sucks. The a of your position sucks, but you’re finding meaning in this other thing. So maybe it’s that truth telling aspect of it that I can be grateful for. But it was a rough and tumble ride, and I would feel like if something was really despair, it was like being in a black box. That was the best I could describe it. And it was like even know that was what was happening until it stopped. And I’m like, oh, shit. I think that’s the part I wish I had had more preparation for. Stuff you hear about you’re like, oh, that’s a hot flash. The external stuff. It’s the internal stuff that I actually read a statistic that’s like the as far as suicide rates, that the age band of I don’t know how it compares to teenagers, but for women, it’s the highest during this period of time, of late 40s into fifty s. And I wonder how often. And I wonder that might be something to look at. I absolutely no doubt that that correlates to menopause and the darkness and just despair of what can happen emotionally in those times. And it’s not like that for Eddie, but there was close calls. I can honestly say I don’t know what would have happened to me if I had continued in that job in the way I was feeling, because I didn’t have a huge I mean, especially being isolated like that and just feeling like my life had drained of meaning and everybody I loved was somewhere else. And I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing with myself. I really am thankful that I got that glimmer of hope of like, here’s something else I can do.

[01:14:49] Julie: Yeah, and that goes back to, though, I mean, you’re so self aware and so knowledgeable on so many different levels, and you talked about the arcs of your life. That arc was covered by menopause. It was not covered. Colored by menopause. And also COVID, which wasn’t an easy time without that.

[01:15:15] Laura: Oh, God. Everybody had that. I know. And I was like, really? But you know what? Sometimes I think if you can survive it I don’t know. I think we talked about this when we talked a couple of weeks ago. It’s like when you have everything happen, like, in one everything bad at once, and then you recover from it.

[01:15:37] Julie: But the thing I want to get out is that so your experience was that you transitioned and did it all without any outside intervention.

[01:15:51] Laura: Yeah.

[01:15:51] Julie: I, on the other hand, was lucky enough to be pointed in the direction of these plant medicine that can actually mitigate some of the symptoms. And one of the books I read in the beginning was a book by excuse me, let me just clear myself here. I hate when that happens. Was a book by a woman. American doctor. Erica Schwartz. I think it’s called the new hormone solution. And in this book, she lays out the purpose of hormones, which basically is to keep bodies, male and female bodies, primed and is in the top physical condition for reproduction. So that when the eggs are gone, like we were talking about earlier, for.

[01:16:44] Laura: Women.

[01:16:46] Julie: Their bodies don’t need to serve that purpose anymore. And so when the hormones go away, that’s when the diseases of aging start to crop up, which I never thought about. And so she’s a big proponent of this bioidentical, HRT, too, to keep your body functioning well, basically like it would when you were in your reproductive years. So, not that you go back to those same levels, but for me, I told you in my late forty s, I was having, like, 30 incapacitating hot flashes a day. Stopped me in my tracks. Like, I had to stop what I was doing. And then to, like you described, just that feeling of, I’m just losing my spark, like I’m losing my zest. And like I said, I watched that happen with my. Own mom. And I liked my spark.

[01:17:44] Laura: I didn’t lose my spark.

[01:17:46] Julie: So anyway, I was fortunate enough to be kind.

[01:17:53] Laura: Yeah. I think I got familiar with the feeling of a hot flash. I have a hot flash aura. I don’t know if you did, where at first, I only noticed the flashes themselves, but there would be over a little bit of time, I’d be like, sitting on my sofa doing some work, and I would have this moment of like, I don’t know why, I just need to change position. I feel restless. I feel weird. Okay. I don’t know why. I just need to move my legs. And then it would be like I started to connect it because it was, like 54321, and then I went and after time I looked it up, it was like people have a feeling it gets called an aura, but it’s like before it happens. Now I know when I’m going to get one, because I’ll have that just like I would say it would be one of those terms. You were like, I need to lay down. I don’t like when old time people are like, I need to lay down.

[01:19:03] Julie: I need to lie down.

[01:19:07] Laura: But that’s how you feel. You just feel weird. But I never read anything about that. And I’m glad I get a little signal because then I can go get my little roller and put my hot flash oil neck. But there’s all this stuff that it’s just so nice to hear people talk about it and to have somebody like you openly. It’s going to be a big gift to people. Yeah.

[01:19:32] Julie: And I think the big message is that it’s not the end of anything, and in many ways, it’s a beginning of something else. And that’s maybe for another conversation, we talked a little bit about the whole maiden mother crone. And there is that time in between.

[01:19:54] Laura: It’s a long time.

[01:19:56] Julie: It’s a long time in between mother and crone. So we’ve got to kind of.

[01:20:03] Laura: Bring.

[01:20:04] Julie: Those women forward and with all the gifts that they have to offer.

[01:20:08] Laura: Absolutely. Well, that’s like for animals, like for orcas orca whales have menopause, and they actually have an orca, say, like a female orca who lives to be 80 years old has her menopause at around 40, and they are in a matriarchal society. So actually, the whole second half of her life is spent as a powerful protector, teacher, mover in the pod. Because the whales, either they stick around with their mamas or they disperse. But the women or the female whales are the wisdom keepers. And they actually are the ones who are responsible for teaching the little whales how to be whales. And that is their life has meaning after their reproductive period is over to the point that it’s like the whole second half of their life. And they’re the ones who structure the pod. They’re the ones who decide where they all go together.

[01:21:32] Julie: I love the idea of and for those of you who are listening, who don’t know what we’re talking about, maiden mother crone. So they’re thought to be the three phases of a woman’s life. So maiden is obviously a young woman mother is once you’ve had a child, crone is supposed to be after that at some point. But there’s a period like the orcas from say, 45 or 50 to 80 or whenever, you are officially a wise woman that’s not really accounted for in that way of looking at it.

[01:22:08] Laura: It’s kind of through I think it is mostly popular, or that concept sort of comes through paganism. And it’s like the moon. You have the waxing phase, which is the maiden. Then you have the fullness, which is the mother. And then you see it when you see that moon diagram with, like, the big full moon middle and the two horns of the sickle moon on either side. And then there’s like, the waning, and then the dark moon, which I guess is death. But there’s, like, crone. The term, I think comes from something like sheep herding of like an old sheep or something. It’s like some sort of celtic derivation of something. But yeah, so it’s this idea that while you’re maiden, which I guess is like, before you I don’t know, I guess if that’s, like, before you bleed, then you’re mothering or up to where you have a child, I don’t know. But then the mothering is like, what everybody knows the mother and then not bleeding. And then you become a crone who’s like anywhere from you and me to, like, 100 year old. Well, I guess when you think about.

[01:23:27] Julie: It, though, like going back to that book by Erica Schwartz, 100 years ago, you stopped bleeding and then you died, like, not long after that, 100, 200 years ago. So maybe because we’re in a new age now where people are living longer, all of a sudden we’ve got this section of a woman’s life that we didn’t really have before.

[01:23:50] Laura: Yeah, you were more likely. Our lifespan is in the bible. It kind of gives a lifespan of being like 70 years. So that hasn’t really changed. I think it’s the people were more likely to die, but it wasn’t like aging killed you because you had people who did live to an advanced age. It was just the likelihood of that happening. And also, people were having babies probably a little earlier. Also began a little earlier, but that had a big span, too. So that’s interesting. But, yeah, I’m totally with you. There needs to be a revive or like a revisal of that. It’s a beautiful, useful, ancient arc of basis of life. But then the crone, I think it’s too many years for one thing to really represent it accurately.

[01:25:01] Julie: Yeah, agree.

[01:25:04] Laura: But if anyone’s going to be a great coach about that, it’ll be you.

[01:25:08] Julie: Well, yeah, we’ll see. It’ll be fun to like. I feel like we’ve been talking for almost 2 hours.

[01:25:19] Laura: I hope people, if they can get through the part of me talking about working at Vanderbilt, then.

[01:25:31] Julie: It’S been fantastic. And I’m so happy to have reconnected with you. Like I said, there’s so much more that we could talk about. I feel like we need to do this again down the road again.

[01:25:44] Laura: I would love to do it again. Yeah.

[01:25:46] Julie: Okay, well, I’m going to say goodbye. We’ll put links to the Ayahuasca article in the show notes and just places that they can find you for animal things and just in. Yeah, do do look up Laura on Instagram because she’s got beautiful art and her writing is there and yeah, she’s quite extraordinary.

[01:26:10] Laura: Thank you.

[01:26:11] Julie: Thank you so much for your time. And I’ll be in touch. I’ll let you know when this drops.

[01:26:16] Laura: Okay. Are you going to turn off the recording and then we keep talking?

[01:26:19] Julie: Probably. All right, let’s say goodbye. Okay.

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