The MAPS Institute is dedicated to helping people find and sustain balance in their lives so that they can simultaneously be more productive and effective at work, have deeper and more fulfilling relationships, and live a more meaningful life.
The MAPS philosophy was developed by Laura Araujo and represents the intersection of her research, training as a classical vocalist, and experience as a yoga instructor and sound therapist, as well as the research and work of her husband, Charles Araujo, on the future of work.
In Her Words: About Laura
We call MAPS a Journey, and for me, it’s been a journey of love and exploration.
I began my career pursuing two passions simultaneously. I am a classically trained vocal artist and hold Bachelors and Masters degrees in vocal performance. Having gone rogue (at least as far as classical singers are concerned!), I also enjoy performing jazz, pop, and occasionally show tunes. I perform locally — and while sitting at home in front of our baby grand! I also provide one-on-one coaching and vocal lessons.
At the same time, I am a devoted practitioner of mindfulness, a 500-hour registered Ashtanga (classical Indian yoga) and Yin yoga instructor, and sound therapist. I trained at the Western Yoga College and at the Soundbath Center in Los Angeles. While in California, I founded the Spirit of Love Yoga studio and actively teach yoga at various studios around New York City, where I now live. I also lead mindfulness, affective communication, and holistic health workshops partnering with various corporate and start-up companies.
I had long been conflicted that I was pursuing these two seemingly divergent avocations, yet inside feeling that they were, in fact, very connected. I had always, for instance, incorporated movement and sensitization practices into my vocal work. And I had introduced vocal teaching elements into my yoga practice. Even more importantly, I found that they were both connected to and integrated with many of the other things that helped me find balance in my life: my love of cycling and being physically active, my love of cooking and wine, and even my love of French poetry.
It was a balance I sorely needed because underneath it all I was (and still am) an overly-sensitive vocal and movement artist who has long-struggled with attention deficit disorder (ADD), anxiety, and depression.
Uncovering what would become MAPS would be the culmination of some hard-learned lessons on my personal journey.
The Path to Miserable Perfection
To achieve my so-called success, I consistently, compulsively, and obsessively strove to achieve perfection in everything. And it did nothing but feed my anxiety.
Family, friends, and even complete strangers fed my obsession by innocently complimenting my achievements. They would marvel at my six-pack abs or the fact that I had cycled across the country or that I had completed three college degrees in six years or at the diversity of my singing abilities.
To many, I seemed unstoppable and unflappable. Yet inside, I was entirely miserable.
As a refuge, I took to practicing Ashtanga yoga for two-and-a-half hours every day – and then taught up to three classes a day, because of course, doing more had to be better, right?
On the surface I was healthy, balanced, and successful. But inside it was never enough to arrive at the next success or to check the next box. I was lonely, depressed, and ready to explode. I felt like a fraud.
Discovering My True Practice
While I ultimately realized that practicing yoga for half the day wouldn’t solve my problems, it did help me discover the essence of what would: a practice.
What I discovered was that a practice wasn’t about doing yoga or mediation or whatever – that it was about showing up every day with intent and purpose, but maintaining the freedom to explore and experience each moment.
When I had showed up for my yoga sessions with that mindset, I flourished – in all parts of my life. But when I showed up out of obligation, I would merely go through the motions and get little in return.
I ultimately discovered that my true practice was an act of mindfully moving through each day, making small choices that served my larger purpose and surrendering those that didn’t. I also realized that doing so was a journey of both self-discipline and adventure – and that realization made me recognize that I had been here before.
The 4,500 Mile Journey to MAPS
Two years earlier, I had joined a small group of like-minded folks to ride bikes across the country – from Baltimore to San Diego – to raise awareness and money for children with cancer.
Finding the balance between living each day with intent and purpose, but still being free to explore and live in the moment is difficult to do. But it’s the only way you can survive a 70-day, 4,500 mile trek across the country on a bicycle.
While you’re riding across a vast expanse of country like we did, you experience a type of peace and calm that I wish every person in the world will have the chance to enjoy at least once in their lives.
Still, I can’t say that we were ever truly relaxed. Making the journey demanded discipline, rigor, teamwork, empathy, and grace. It forced me to focus my intent and purpose on our ultimate goal (making it to San Diego!), but to also shape how I wanted to feel and the experience I would create in each moment along the way.
I learned that on this trip – and in life – that I had to take everything one pedal and one breath at a time and not allow myself to be overly focused on any daily destination, but to simply revel in each moment — the unexpected terrain, the washed-out road, the deeper-than-expected sand, the random soy bean fields with a waving farmer — and how they came together in the end to lead me to my ultimate destination.
And It All Clicked
Two years after my ride across the country, it all started to click.
I finally realized that I would not find success by dwelling on and seeking achievement after achievement. Nor would I find fulfilment by focusing on only one dimension of who I wanted to be.
I discovered that I was most energized, fulfilled, and successful when I focused on my practice — moving through each day with purpose and intent, and making the small, little choices that make all the difference.
As importantly, I realized that being faithful in my practice didn’t demand that I do yoga every day or that I eat a certain way or that I feel guilty because I did or did not do something.
Instead, I realized that it simply meant showing up each day and treating it as a fresh start. That every morning was an opportunity to be mindful about every moment that I was about to experience, to move into the day with purpose and intent, to activate my power to make those all-important small choices, and to surrender those things that were stopping me from becoming all that I knew I wanted to be.
And as that realization sunk in, it led to MAPS.
I created MAPS not because I have some secret remedy or because I think I have it all figured out. I created it because I have observed what happens around me when I embrace this idea of creating a personal daily practice of life. I have found that when I actively foster it within my life and practice it without fear of its uncertainty, that is when everything comes together and I find that I am living my best life.
And that is what I want to share with you.