Word/ a single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others (or sometimes
Struggle/ make forceful or violent efforts to get free of restraint or constriction
A word is a meaningful element of speech or writing, but it also holds more expansive levels of
power that can shape and form our experiences. A word is also a vibration that resonates in
our body, mind and spirit and extends out beyond the periphery of our being. This vibration
either supports our inner and outer harmony or, in some cases, wreaks havoc on our well-
being. A word is an intention or seed that is planted in our psyche. And just as an oak seed will
grow into an oak tree, our words, the vibrations, the intentions that we speak, hold the power
of their origin. Words that are repeated over and over can take on the effect of a mantra or
Many years ago, when I was trying to find stability in running my business of the Lotus Pond I
found myself facing an onslaught of bills and challenges. I had purchased a 4-acre property
with 2 buildings, all in ill repair, with the intention of running a yoga center. Numbers weren’t
adding up and I couldn’t afford to hire the help that I needed but I knew this was my dharma,
my calling. When I was asked “how’s it going?”, I would respond “I’m struggling”.
Struggle/ make forceful or violent efforts to get free of restraint or constriction, I said the word struggle a lot. The word struggle was in my everyday thoughts and I embodied the intensity of its meaning. One day a friend said “oh, is that your mantra? Struggle?” and I
realized that it was. I would often fit situations into the context of struggle. Constantly I
bolstered its power over me. And on that day (thanks to my friend’s comment), I decided to
eliminate the word “struggle” from my vocabulary. Not just the word, but the imbuing of it into
my everyday life. I didn’t deny the existence of challenging experiences, but I did take on a
different perspective of accepting and using the information to make improvements.
Fast forward to 2020. In March the Lotus Pond was a successful center of yoga and peace and
the students were flourishing… until the country went into shutdown. My partner, my love,
John and I weathered the first part of the summer arm in arm, living consciously in support of
each other and our staff/students. And then suddenly, without notice, he passed from a heart
attack. My heart shattered and I did my best to hold course, but dare I say, “I struggled!”.
I struggled until I realized that the definition ~Struggle/ make forceful or violent efforts to get free
of restraint or constriction~ was an obvious misrepresentation of how I choose to live my life. I
once again released this concept from my being. As I saw friends, family, students and supporters
show up and lend a hand to me and the Lotus Pond, it became clear that nothing needed to be
forced and no violent efforts were to be had. The Lotus Pond began to flourish again.
We are faced with many life experiences that leave us speechless. Perhaps it is in those speechless
moments that we can pause and connect with the limitless possibilities. No word needs to be
attached to this new opening. Maybe we can just pause, close our eyes, breathe, meditate and open
to new experiences that have not be pre-labeled. There might be beautiful events ahead that go
beyond our limited imagination. What would we struggle against in the realm of limitless
possibilities? Instead, maybe we could take the next step forward with curiosity and an open heart
and open mind.
For many months I hoped to dodge the question “how are you doing?” because the answer was
unclear. Saying “good” seemed unfair to my feelings of sadness and loss. Saying “not good”
generated worry and concern, establishing a path of negativity.
I wondered if it was ok to feel good without John at my side. But then I realized that he is
always at my side and in my heart. That when I say or do something funny, I can laugh even
that much more as I feel his presence and all the times we laughed together. I started to open
my eyes to all the beauty around me and realized that these experiences are even richer
because of the love that we shared.
In this world of dualities, it is also ok to feel the loss and sadness and to be honest in our
expression of these emotions as well. As always, the key is in finding the balance. Appreciating
life in its totality can lead us to peace and harmony.
So how do I respond to the “how are you” question? I respond honestly and mindfully, keeping
in mind that my words are my intentions. How about “I’m appreciating life and all of its ups
and downs”. Too wordy? What do you think?
Val Spies, Lotus Pond Yoga Studio owner and Yoga Teacher training director.