ODDlight fam feature – Valerie Smith
Meet Valerie! She’s our Manager Liza’s BFF, our resident tarot guru, and a crusader of curiosity!
Name: Valerie Smith
Nick Name: Val, Wife (Liza only tho)
Hometown: I adopted Long Beach, CA as my hometown after 9.5 years there, but technically I’m from the Bay Area, a small town called Fairfax. Which is also an adopted hometown but that’s my story and I’m stickin to it.
Favorite Place: Ireland! I spent 10 days on a solo trip to Connemara there last year, exploring the land that my mother’s mother’s family comes from; and all its sacred, witchy, mystical beauty. One day I will go back and spend a summer there while writing a book.
Favorite color: Have I mentioned lately how much I love orange?! I was never that big into orange
before but right now, that color is driving me wild! I can’t get enough!
What’s your sign? Leo Sun, and oh-so-proud! Can’t wait to ring in our season with my birthday at the end of this month. I’m also an Aquarius Rising (which explains my deep obsession with the soul of humanity and also why I hate rules) and a Pisces Moon (tapping into all my feelings and intuitions).
Most embarrassing moment? WELL. I’m a Leo so I don’t embarrass easily. But, a few years ago was out dancing for a friend’s birthday. I’m not a subtle dancer, ever, but this particular night I was EXTRA flamboyant, flinging myself across the dancefloor—until I hit a spot where somebody had just moments before spilled their beer. I did a sort of cartoonish, banana-peel fall forward in front of the entire establishment. I thought the only thing injured was my ego so I jumped right back up but actually I hurt my ankle and couldn’t really walk on it for a few days.
Fun Fact most wouldn’t know about you? People always ask me if my FULL SLEEVE TATTOO is new? No, dudes, I’ve had the fortune teller on my arm for over 10 years, long before I ever saw myself as doing intuitive work. Her name is Esperanza, which means hope. The truth is that my whole life I dreamed about living the life I have now, for the most part—but I never thought it was possible. Now I’m choosing to believe and follow my dreams and maybe just maybe tattoo them on me so that they come true.
When you aren’t at the studio where can you be found (favorite past time)? DANCING! Ideally. I just started taking dance classes, and I’m obsessed. But also, just any dance floor where my feet can move as quick as possible.
How do you define yoga? A pathway to enlightenment, the Divine. A way toward inner-knowing.
Why do you teach? I never took a formal course in tarot, but I pieced together everything from reading with friends, online resources, and my own experiences. A couple of years after I started, I organized bi-monthly meet-ups with friends who wanted to learn. So we would get together and share—but I realized soon that I was actually leading/teaching these gatherings…Liza would come to them and she encouraged me to start teaching! I learn best with others, so I like to create spaces where we can learn together. I tend to focus on what it is that I need and then I create a class around that…and it usually resonates! So we all get to come together, learn, and heal collectively. It’s a dream.
What brought you to become an instructor?
Well I don’t teach yoga, but I came to teaching tarot because of Liza! She told me I was a good teacher, I had no idea. And then as soon as I started it was so fun and fulfilling that I just kept on teaching!
What is your favorite song to play in class? Well…I’m really in love with Kadhja Bonet right now…both her albums are amazing, and filled with healing songs, beautiful lyrics, and cosmic harmonies. But a favorite right now is Another Time Lover from her most recent album. She’s playing my birthday weekend and we should all go.
What is your favorite pose or flow? Why? I’ve really been vibing on peaceful warrior pose, and I’m sure its partly the name. One thing yoga is absolutely amazing at, is calming our fight or flight mentality. I love the idea of a Warrior of Peace, or compassion, or love, or healing; this pose suggests to me receptivity and adoration of something beautiful and greater than our normalized habits, reactions, and ways of being. It challenges us to BE BETTER.
Memorable yoga moment? Unfortunately my most memorable yoga moment recently came when I was really sick and trying to work through it—I was already way overheated in my body—then I went to class and…got a bloody nose! I had to sneak out to the bathroom, and then take the rest of the class basically in childs pose. Maybe this is obvious but sometimes I have a hard time slowing down…
How did you first hear about One Down Dog? From Liza like four or five years ago! It’s the only yoga studio I’ve been to in LA which, I guess is a little crazy, but…when you know you know!
What was the last book you read? Emergent Strategy! It’s a must read for anyone doing social justice work right now, I think. adrienne maree brown (all lower-case) writes in an easy, accessible way, and I’M HOSTING A 6-PART PRACTICE GROUP ON THE BOOK STARTING THIS SUMMER! The book takes different elements of nature and applies it to relationship building as tools for organizing. The theories are really interesting, and the challenge is: how do we learn to apply them in our lives?? So that’s the work that we’ll start doing this summer!
Do you dream? Lucid dream? DO I DREAM!? Boy oh boy yes. I feel really lucky to have a relationship with my dreams. Recently my dreams have been pretty funny, but not super informative or important. Last night I dreamt about women’s wrestling because I’m watching GLOW. But I certainly receive some big dreams on occasion, including lucid dreams. I used to fly whenever I was lucid dreaming, but now they are maybe less fun but more useful. During a nightmare recently, I became aware I was dreaming and used that knowledge to send love and compassion to those trying to hurt me, as well as set some boundaries…and then the “bad guys” started to become more beautiful, and
not dangerous. And I woke up without falling back asleep into a nightmare! I also plan to lead some dream workshops. My work as a spiritual counselor/guide also includes dream interpretation and working with dreams on an emotional/spiritual level.
Who or What is your spirit animal? WELL I’m not indigenous/native and so I’ve decided not to use the phrase “spirit animal” since I would be appropriating a particular aspect of indigenous culture without fully understanding it/respecting it. Also I don’t have permission to use it. But! A very similar phrase that I DO feel comfortable using is animal familiar. That would be my dog, Chula, who is me in dog form. When I’m thinking about animals that are meaningful to me on a psyche-intuitive-spiritual level, I break it down by Mind-Body-Spirit-Heart. So right now, my heart is represented by a lioness, for courage, collaboration, and femme strength. My body feels like a bee, buzzing from one thing to the
next, searching for what’s next. My spirit is and has felt like a mockingbird, singing all the different songs; and my mind feels like a butterfly in its chrysalis: still in the process of her becoming.
What is your favorite yogi prop or piece to wear or use? In my Sufi tradition, we have prayer beads called a tesbih. It’s similar to malas, they look very similar though they’re used a little bit differently. I made my own prayer bead necklace last year, and it’s probably the spiritual tool that means the most to me.
What special causes or non-profits do you hold dear to your heart? I’m very much in support of the Reform LA Jails initiative, which is lead by hardworking organizations such as Dignity and Power Now,
Are there any links, @names, and #hashtags you would you like us to use in promoting you and your happenings? @queermysticdreaming
Second Wednesday of the month there’s an intuitive tarot workshop, and this month every Tuesday catch CONNECT on the theme of curiosity.