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Laurenne Sala (USM ’12)—Writing My Own Story

Laurenne-1Before USM, I felt lost in many ways on both the Soul and Goal Lines. Although I really longed to feel a spiritual connection, it was nowhere to be found. Plus, I was confused about my life’s purpose. I was a writer by trade but spent most of my time writing for other people and not telling my own stories. I wanted a new level of success, but somewhere deep down, I had taught myself that success was for other people. I didn’t have the confidence I needed to go anywhere on the Goal Line. I didn’t believe I was good enough. I felt completely out of control of my own life.

My solution was to travel around Southeast Asia. I realized during two intense meditation retreats that my self-talk was so harmful. I compared myself to other people, told myself I wasn’t good enough, and put everyone else on a high pedestal, making myself feel insignificant. I spent the rest of my trip trying to change that. When I came home to the chaos of regular life, I was afraid I would lose everything I’d just worked on. I didn’t have the money for USM, and I definitely didn’t have the time. But for some reason, I went to an information session and signed right up. I felt it in my bones that it was something I needed to do. I knew it would keep me connected spiritually and would help me figure out what to do next. I was absolutely right.

During USM, I was able to shed so many misbeliefs—the main one being that everyone is better/more worthy than I am. At some point in my childhood, I learned that other people’s needs were more important than mine. That misbelief affected everything I did. I would never ask for a good salary. I never wanted to bother anyone. I never asserted myself or spoke up in my voice. Once in college, a fellow student called me Kim for four years because I didn’t have the heart to tell her she was wrong. See?! It was bad!

Laurenne-4Now it is a daily practice to continue to shed those thoughts, and USM gave me the tools I needed to believe in myself, understand my worth, and love who I am. This has helped me in every way, from small interactions at supermarkets and asking for an appropriate salary to building healthy relationships and making sure everyone calls me by my name!

USM also helped me show up as more empathetic, compassionate, and loving, which has since helped me forgive myself, understand others, and be a much better writer. I can write characters much more easily now because I can understand them, their heartaches, their true range of emotions. I can put myself in another’s shoes. It feels so wonderful to see another person and understand who they truly are. This has healed many relationships and brought me closer to an inner circle of women, something I had not experienced prior to USM.

USM also helped me understand something I believe is a key to happiness: responsibility and choice. Everyone has the option to react a variety of ways in a situation. And as Ron says, “Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I’m going to be a jerk today.’” Everyone is always doing the best they can and never intending to insult you (even family!). So today, I am able to let things roll off my back. I hardly ever take anything personally. I give most people the benefit of the doubt, and this saves me so much upset. I can now spend my time doing things I love rather than wasting my precious thoughts deciding what someone really meant or who might not like me, etc.

The shift post-USM has been absolutely triumphant. Because I’ve learned to set boundaries, love myself, believe in myself, and move up the Soul Line, the Goal Line has been quite welcoming. I no longer write so much for other people. I have recently published my first children’s book, You Made Me a Mother (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2016), which required a tremendous amount of negotiation, assertion, and self-belief! After that deal was inked, I was bold enough to believe in my talents and go after a literary agent. I now have an agent who has helped me continue to sell books. Before USM, I would never have had the courage to get so far. I remember once standing up to share at USM in my amazement that someone had liked a poem I wrote. With such low self-esteem, I remember crying during my share—in disbelief that someone liked something I made. Now I have the confidence to understand my worth and my talents, and to accept them as a career.

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Not only do I write kids’ books, I help others write stories for the stage. It was on a trip abroad that I first began writing and talking about my father’s suicide. I had held it in for more than 12 years. Working with USM tools helped me let go of any shame I still had about it, giving me the courage to take the stage and talk about suicide openly in much bigger forums. I started a storytelling show called Taboo Tales. I help others tell their taboo tales Laurenne-7on stage and release their shame into a sold-out crowd. It’s very healing, and many USM students have participated (you can too: www.tabootales.org)! When I began producing and hosting Taboo Tales, I obsessed about every moment, and I hated myself for each mistake made on stage. Now I have fun on stage, and I am proud of the work I’m doing that helps others get rid of shame.

Another happy triumph after USM is my first healthy intimate relationship. Before, the old fear of fulfilling my own needs led me to an inability to experience a healthy romantic relationship. I was completely codependent. I’m set to be married in three months, and I can’t wait! This is the first relationship in which I feel I can be myself without codependency, manipulation, or fear of abandonment. During a share once at USM, I remember crying about a breakup upset. Now, I can clearly see my responsibility in the failures of my past relationships, and I am 100% confident going into marriage with my fiancé, who was so inspired by my story that he enrolled in USM and will graduate in the Class of 2016!

One thing I wanted most out of USM was a spiritual practice, and I do feel connected to Spirit and my intuition. I realized that I do have a connection. I had simply been judging it before. I don’t employ a vocabulary like many spiritual folks. I find my connection my own way, and it’s always been there. I used to think it wasn’t good enough, but now I understand it as my own spiritual way and that is enough. I am enough.

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