Tag Archives: cultivating gratitude

Accountability

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Eastern spiritual traditions teach that our outer world reflects our inner world. For some, that sounds crazy. I have friends from my previous profession as a journalist who get downright angry with that yogic theory and lament: “Did I manifest that drunk driver who crashed into me?” Or: “Did that starving child cause the war and famine?” Or: “Are you really going to tell a person with stage 4 cancer that she’s responsible for her disease because of her shitty thinking?!”

 

Many Western intellectuals call ‘bullshit’ on Buddhist, Taoist, or Hindi philosophies that yogis espouse, things like: ‘Thoughts Become Things’ or ‘Aham Brahmasmi’, a Hindi mantra used in meditation meaning: “I am the Universe.”

 

But somewhere between the chaos theory, (or fuck it, everything is random)—and Aham Brahmasmi—a belief that Universal light lives within each soul, linking us all and allowing us to channel this force to manifest our dharma, our purpose—is a humbling and oft-neglected puzzle piece. That puzzle piece is a powerful dose of accountability.

 

To be accountable means I must look at past mistakes, or even past tragedies, and see where my part was in its occurrence. Where am I partially to blame? And what can I learn from these experiences? Did I place myself in a dangerous situation? Did I risk my health by making bad choices? Did I hold grudges and react? Accountability is powerful. It is a must in order to manifest any New Year’s resolutions, goals or intentions.

 

It can be hard to do. I suggest tackling an accountability list armed with self-compassion, an open heart and the willingness to let go and forgive. But just ‘letting go’ of the past isn’t enough if I haven’t learned the lessons. For instance, if I want to knock out a publishing editor who asked to read one of my novels, it isn’t enough to scan the manuscript once and send it on, like I did with a previous novel that didn’t get accepted. I must get it beta read again. I must add the authentic details that a respected agent suggested. I must take my time and sit at my desk and write every day. I must choke back fear and insecurities by meditating every day, so that I don’t succumb to distractions that get in the way of working productively.

 

To me, being accountable has a lot to do with how well I take care of myself. Ask yourself this: are you in your own way? Do you sabotage achieving your goals due to bad habits? Then be accountable for those bad habits. Look in the mirror.

 

For instance, if I eat too many sugary foods, drink too much caffeine and forget to do pranayama (deep breathing) and meditate, I enter a space of fear, erratic thinking and succumb to distractions that keep me from editing or writing.

 

What is keeping you from your best self? Experts now have conclusive evidence that meditation quiets fear and reactive thinking and allows us to link neural pathways to the parts of the brain that are more compassionate, calm, responsive, verses living within our over-active reactive non-stop thinking side of our brain. (I’m para-phrasing here, but go read This is Your Brain On Meditation in Psychology Today, if you are interested!) We also know that too much sugar and caffeine wires the brain’s fight or flight response, which is not grounded in reality, and creates a vibration of negativity. This vibration may actually bring into your life more people or experiences who mirror that. Plus, if you drink too much alcohol, don’t exercise, don’t meditate and eat too many carby, fatty foods, you can become more prone to depression. If depression runs in your family, like it does in mine, do EVERYTHING you can to thwart its dark return into your life. (This Harvard Gazette article about meditation reducing depression is eye-opening.)

 

Just food for thought. This new years, I refuse to set resolutions. Instead, each day I get  to hold myself accountable in a compassionate way. If I didn’t write or edit, why not? If I didn’t meditate or do a 20 minute yoga flow at home, why not? If I became reactionary or fearful or thought negative thoughts, what was going on within my diet or my life to create that imbalance? If I didn’t listen well to my boys or friends, why?

 

What I know for sure, is that what I focus on expands. And if I want more love, joy, kindness, forgiveness, compassion, abundance—I need to help others by being more loving, joyful, grateful, compassionate, forgiving and supportive of their efforts to become abundant. It can be as simple as smiling at someone or sending them a silent blessing. If I want to live within a more beautiful world, I need to create beauty in my life by noticing, appreciating and enjoying what I already have that is beautiful. If I can be grateful every day, even for the hard lessons, my life is already abundant. If I am living my dharma—enjoying what I do for a living—I have accomplished more than I could possibly imagine. From this vibration, anything else is possible.

 

Today, I am mindful of where I slipped into fear and out of my routine this holiday season. I am grateful for the lessons. I am grateful for my breath, my yoga, my beautiful characters and stories I write about, and the fact that each day I get a choice on what I focus on. This is a blessing. No matter what else is happening in my life. My happiness is a choice. It doesn’t depend on whether someone shows up, or a goal is accomplished. It is a choice of learning in each moment and being grateful. I’m learning in my journey to be humbled by my mistakes and grateful for the lessons and that I am a compassionate, forgiving friend to myself and others. The light within me, is within you. We must all cultivate the best vibration, by being accountable for our habits—what we eat, what we think, what we drink, what we focus on—so that we can shift away from what doesn’t serve, to what helps us feel our own light, and see it in each other.

Have a Beautiful New Years week.

With so much love & light,

Laura

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Gratitude Saved My Life

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Every sun salutation series I teach in my yoga classes reflects my lifeline: gratitude. We end each sun salutation reaching up with our hands together, arms straight, stretching, reaching past imagery clouds to find light, inspiration, that we then bring into our heart space as we bow our heads and pause. We breathe in what has brought us joy, peace or even just a smile that day. We do this over and over until we have put together a list that is nearly 12 long of moments, people, projects, things, pets, events that we are grateful for that day. At the end of the series we pause longer, with our hands over our hearts, heads bowed, as we shift our vibration by thinking about what works. We focus on what is good, positive, flowing, beautiful, inspiring, supportive, comforting in our lives. It’s a powerful choice. And it has saved my life.

I can recall a time when what didn’t work would drive me crazy. And I’d focus on that one nasty comment or the inconsiderate actions done, or the hurt from real sorrow. But instead of finding the lesson in that pain and letting it ALL go, I became filled with resentments and a need to fix, control, make it better, understand, or be understood—which is another way of focussing on what isn’t working, instead of just allowing, accepting and letting go of what doesn’t serve and focussing on where the love is, the light is, the support is, the friendship is, the compassion is. These beautiful things and souls are in everyone’s life. It takes mindful effort to focus on them and not obsess on the negative, the toxic, the unhealthy, unloving people or environments. But once I do focus, and give thanks for, and give more time to the people, events, jobs, activities that fill me up with joy, acceptance, love, support, I suddenly find more of that in my life. And then giving feels like receiving, because I want to give to those who bring me happiness.

I’m welling up with tears by the sweet texts and notes from my dear yoga students this past week. Happy Mother’s Day wishes, thank you’s for classes they enjoyed and meditations that moved them, etc. My work feels like play. I’m in another yoga training right now with such an inspiring teacher and women. The focus is making me stronger, too, at a time that could tip me out of gratitude and into sadness or anxiety if I let it.  But how cool is it that instead, I have to take two hot classes a day (that kick my tush), attend training and teach to my teacher. At night I memorize dialogue, in between all my mommy demands, and I love every minute. Sometimes I need to have a distraction in order not to worry about what I can’t control. Can you relate? I can’t control disease. I can’t control violent events. I can’t control the president, geez. I can’t control what will or won’t happen to people very close to me who are fighting for their lives. I can only love them. And when I take care of myself, I can love them better. I can be more mindful after yoga, and be present with them without letting fears race. I can trust the Universe more, and trust their journeys and my own. I’m so grateful for the calm and trust and strength that yoga and meditation brings. I can love and accept others and even let go with so much love, trusting that we are all on our own paths, our own journeys, that are exactly as they are meant to be, for our highest expansion.

My heart is full this week. Yes I miss my mom who passed away this week last year. And yes I’m scared to lose anyone else close to me. I know death is an illusion, but damn, you can’t really talk with, smell, hug easily from the other side can you? It’s still a painful loss anyway you look at it. Choking away the fear is hard. Hot yoga classes, meditation, sweat, no alcohol, makes it so much easier for me to float back into a space of gratitude.

And having the best boys on the planet doesn’t hurt either! This Mother’s Day my 15-year-old got up at 5 a.m. (he thought I was taking a 6 a.m. class) and walked into town, bought me a mocha with coconut milk and a huge bouquet of flowers. My 8-year-old gave me an adorable picture and hand-delivered a chocolate cupcake and a juice box to my bed for breakfast. And you know what else? My ex-husband texted and offered to buy us brunch. How lucky am I?

So lucky. When I think about going to Hawaii this June to finish my next book—AND my yoga & writers retreat I’m leading in Greece this August—I’m BEYOND grateful. It’s amazing where life can lead me if I let it. If I’m open to allowing my dreams, and the right people, to float into focus, and then focus on them, the miraculous bubbles to the surface.

Here’s to letting in—breathing in—more: peace, calm, light, love, compassion, joy, adventure, strength, patience, friendship, acceptance—and a little wiggle room for fun.

Namaste,

Laura xo