I recently dove into the very healing, revealing, and humbling practice that is breath work. What a wild ride, truly. Who knew something so (seemingly) simple could create such profound shifts and revelations? I didn't. But my teacher, Lauren Spencer King of Fields of Study, did. Though I have yet to meet Lauren face-to-face (soon, though, I am sure!), I felt immediately struck by her energy (albeit via virtual means). In a time when the collective vibes feels endlessly frantic, Lauren offers a deeply grounded, almost ancestral energy that permeates into her work as a meditation + breath work teacher and artist. She truly embodies what I find to be the ultimate modern wellness woman - drawing upon the wisdom of the past but firmly rooted in the magic of today, with a steadfast commitment to serving the at-present community.
I had the privilege of chatting with Lauren on the topics of wellness, inspiration, and breath, and am so grateful to share a bit of her wisdom here with all of you. If you find yourself in L.A., she's consistently offering classes, workshops, and sessions in that community, as well as virtual sessions and workshops - which come highly recommended.
Who are you, and what is it you do?
I am an artist and I teach meditation in Los Angeles.
Walk us through the journey that led you into breath work, and ultimately the creation of Fields of Study.
Some years back, after teaching meditation for a few years, I was longing for an alternative to what I was seeing in the ways of spiritual teachings and meditation work, both in approach and aesthetic. I wanted to support people and teach them tools they could use in their everyday life, while also creating a container for all the things I was interested in and all the things that I brought into my own spiritual practice, which I feel I am always shaping and discovering. Something that would allow for a deep conversation that also had breadth, and was based in everyday life and could be accessible. Something that could be malleable and evolve as I did. And Fields of Study was born. I originally wanted to open up a non-profit space that would be like a modern day community center with classes and workshops for the community, as well as a little shop and a residency space. And someday this might happen. But for now it’s just me - working to change the world, one person at a time. I say this with some humor, but it’s also a very real desire to be in service and help instigate change.
The name Fields of Study seemed to fit my sensibility, approach and philosophy. It references the importance of learning. Drawing inspiration from a variety of different fields and histories, both ancient and modern. The word field refers to an electric or magnetic field, which is the energy that moves around an object. And a field when seeds can be planted and harvested. It’s also a reference to a particular group of Abstract Expressionist painters called “the color field painters”. And that’s really what Fields of Study is evolving into - material, inspiration, teachings, tools that come from different times and places that all exist around a life of awareness and growth.
It has been interesting to live in LA during a time where there is a resurgence, emphasis and desire of a more connected, natural and aware way of living. For the most part, it does seem to be a new version of what was happening in LA in the 70’s, kind of a second wave spiritual movement with it’s flower power mantra rooted in that time. But, I am more interested in gleaning inspiration from a kind of spiritualism that dates further back, like the Egyptians who were more interested in it from a theological perspective, or the Victorian era whose spiritual life was all about the influence of new technology. Something that isn’t just a resurrection, but a combination of things that could possibly create something new that hasn’t existed before.
How has the practice of breathwork inspired and affected the other realms of your life?
I think it’s the other way around for me. I feel like the breathwork is inspired by all other realms of my life. I am always bringing in scientific discoveries, poems, art, movement based on the four elements, experiences I am having, and bits of interviews with interesting people into my Sunday night classes and private sessions. And teaching and working one-on-one with people is also a balance to my other realm of being an artist, which is a very solitary life. It’s nice to have opportunities to connect with other people.
What are a few of your personal favorite wellness rituals or daily ceremonies?
I’m doing an intense Ayurvedic cleanse right now. So a lot of my daily rituals are around that. Cooking every meal. Abhyanga massage with basil oil. Dry brushing. Oil pulling. I also love swimming laps when I can. It’s like a meditation with movement.
Working as a healer, how do you maintain your internal equilibrium while at the same time holding space for others to release, heal, vent, etc?
This is a muscle I am always strengthening. A few years ago I was working as a grief counselor for kids. I loved this work so much, it was challenging and so fulfilling. This is where I learned the most about holding space and what that really means, to listen and support while not taking any of it on. I realized that if I started to get emotional listening to a child and watching them tear up was making me tear up, I was robbing them of their own experience. It doesn’t mean holding my emotion in or not being empathetic, but I learned that the more space you give to another person to feel what they are feeling, the deeper they go, and the more healing is possible for them. It empowers them. And it’s powerful for people to have a witness. It’s a practice for me. But the moment I really got it was realizing that I wasn’t allowing the other person the full experience that they were entitled to have if I was taking even an ounce of their emotion on.
The other thing I have learned over time is the more I am connected to my own body, the more grounded I am, and the easier it is for me to hold space for another person if they are very emotional. Years ago I was so disconnected from my body without knowing it, but feeling everything everyone else was feeling. It was so intense and ungrounding, always at the mercy of everyone else's emotional life. I thought because I was feeling so much and had such strong intuition that I was more connected to myself. Wrong. Through years of work I have a new understanding and connection to my own body and I can still use that intuition and sensitivity and read what I am feeling as something I am picking up on from another person to help them, but not as my own.
What is your personal approach to food (eating it, making it, sharing it, etc.)?
As I mentioned, I am doing an Ayurvedic cleanse right now, so my eating has been very strict. I have been cooking every meal, which I have never done before. I have enjoyed making everything from scratch and spending more time preparing what I eat. I finally understand the ritual that can come from preparing food and it has bonded me more to my kitchen.
I have a dear friend who lives across the courtyard from me with her husband and little girl. I always drop off little jars of beet hummus, a few almond cookies, or whatever I have made to share with them. I never fully follow a recipe, cooking is more intuitive and creative for me. So sharing always feels a bit risky! Ha! But, I do love to share. In return she leaves me lemons, grapefruit, and herbs from the garden.
What role does movement play in your life + health?
I think I have a suppressed dancer living inside my body. I always wish I had a secret life as a dancer. I have struggled over the years with having enough energy, and am always having to walk a fine line of not pushing myself too much but also not giving into a kind of stagnation. I think movement is really important because it connects us to our bodies, and most of us are so disconnected from them without realizing it. Our bodies are so wise. I know I always feel better and more whole when movement is a part of my life.
How do you keep yourself feeling inspired and creatively fulfilled?
Inspiration and fulfillment are never an issue. The problem I run into is having enough time to work on everything I want to make. I always wish I had more time in the studio. But I manage to get in there 2-4 days a week. I love going to museums, and seeing shows. Even if I see things I don’t like, it inspires me to get in the studio and make something I want to look at and live with.
A few favorite indulgences:
Raw chocolate that is way too expensive, movies from the late 80’s / early 90’s, and naps when I need them.
A few favorite books:
What is a standout piece of advice you received that helped shape who you are as a female entrepreneur?
It was actually something a teacher said to me in grad school before I was going into my thesis review. He could tell I was nervous about fielding questions and defending certain things about my work that some teachers were notorious for giving me a hard time about, and he said, “Insist that this is Lauren’s point of view”. It has really stuck with me. And it’s something I try to instill in everything I create and do in the world. This is my point of view, plain and simple. It’s not about trends, or people liking me, or getting attention. I’m just doing my work, work that is meaningful and fulfilling for me.
I also feel so lucky to have so many women in my LA community who are working for themselves and running amazing businesses, and I feel lucky to call them friends. Friends who have been generous and really supportive of what I am doing. I think a lot about Jesse Kamm and how she has grown her brand slowly over time. I admire her work ethic, her integrity, and how she always stays true to her point of view. We might all covet and wear her Kamm pants, but they are born out of and support a way of life that is all her own. In that way, I think she is selling more than just a product, but also providing people with a philosophy of living. She is the original. I love that.
All images by Claire Cottrell, c/o Lauren Spencer King.