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Call of the Valley: Laura Staley finds inspiration in the mountains

Shelly Frome
Special to Black Mountain News
"Live Inspired" is Black Mountain author Laura Staley's latest book.

As it happens, Laura Staley’s book "Live Inspired" was released at the same time the pandemic was in full swing. Since gatherings for a book launch were out of the question, she turned to Facebook so that she could still lift everyone’s spirits.

Using passages from her journey of self-discovery overcoming Cinderella-like beginnings and sharing videos of herself joyfully dancing, she felt followers could benefit from a continuous exchange.

"I’m on Facebook, dancing and sharing because I’m in love with life," Staley said. "Life is precious and beautiful and so magical sometimes and love is truly possible. I am here to love and care about people and share this preciousness with as many as I can. I believe we are meant to be connected, to be courageous, lively and live from our hearts.” 

"Live Inspired" is Black Mountain author Laura Staley's latest book.

Dance, energy and connection

“It all started as a child in Ohio," Staley said. "Akin to Cinderella, treated like a scullery maid, I was terrified. With no fairy godmother in sight, I was also confused and lonely because I knew that other children were loved. Which made me curious and envious at the same time wondering how I too could belong.”

At first, she found a temporary haven in nature. Because she knew the trees and plants wouldn’t yell at her, the birds would chirp, the flowers would be beautiful, she basked in the momentary peace and quiet. Away from her house, she also felt free to dream of other possibilities.

“Later on, in middle school while taking a dance class, I sensed a connection with my own body," she said. "Because it was modern dance, I was given all this freedom. Instead of freezing, which was my coping mechanism, believing that stillness would keep me from any harsh reprimands, I felt this incredible safety. I also began noticing people whose body and energy were free flowing and kind compared to those whose packaging was tight and guarded. As a keen observer, I wondered how did each one I came in contact with treat other people and how were they going to interact with me?”

From this point “energy presence” became a key factor. For example, she would track her overly judgmental mother’s shifting facial expressions and personas. In time, when receiving conflicting signals from people who, in a sense, were outer-directed, out to succeed or impress or control a situation, she learned to rely on her own sense of truth, carefully gauging when she actually felt love and kindness from another human being.

"Live Inspired" is Black Mountain author Laura Staley's latest book.

Taking 'the inner path'

“And so, in due course I chose the inner path," Staley said. "I chose introspection. Connecting with love and compassion. I knew in my core I was a loving human being. I got good grades. I got trophies. I got a Ph.D in political science, and it still didn’t make my mom love me for who I was.

"So I finally realized it wasn’t about externals. It was about being myself no matter what. It was hard. But I saw my dad being brave and standing up for social justice before it was even a movement. He modeled for me that inner integrity and knowing the right thing to do no matter what anybody said.”

She went on to become an entrepreneur, founding her own company Cherish Your World, based on training in feng shui, designing ways to enhance the home and workplaces. Though she had no formal background in writing, she has also written three inspirational books and received praise from the New York Times.

A little over two years ago, when she experienced the Blue Ridge Parkway for the first time, she felt an immediate connection and wept. Soon after, she met a man, fell in love and, faced with another cold winter in Columbus, Ohio, they revisited this area.

“I immediately was drawn to Black Mountain,” she said. “The beauty, the energy and the special vibe. I met amazing people here. They were so receptive and I felt their kindness. The real estate agent had a sign that said when there’s happiness in the home, there’s happiness in the community and peace in the world. I had to have had all those hard times to really appreciate all this."