Tag Archives: Learning

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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Finding Strength, Keeping Kindness

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Photo by: Laura Roe Stevens

I’ve come to realize that I’m learning so many lessons during this painful four year journey as a single mom navigating divorce. I know so many of you can relate to what I’m going through, sadly. While I don’t want to talk about the particulars of my roller-coaster ride,  (which is a long story) I can tell you ,that even when I’m incredibly down, something inside me has started to shift. Maybe it’s the wonderful life/spiritual coach I had last year. Maybe it’s my yoga. Maybe it’s the meditation. Likely, it’s all three. But I’m *finally* realizing that I have needs and they need to be recognized and respected in order for me to ever garner any respect from anyone else. While I’ve said this before, it’s slowly starting to sink in that always putting someone else’s needs first, while swallowing my own—or trying to smooth things over after someone hurts me, instead of speaking my mind—doesn’t work.

Last year, my spiritual coach advised me to read Robin Norwood’s book Women Who Love Too Much. She feared that I would not learn the lessons of co-dependency that had been instilled in me since childhood. And she’s right. In graduate school, I saw a therapist who treated adult children of alcoholics and I became quite aware of how watching a co-dependent parent always cater to an alcoholic, trained me to put my needs last. When I watched a co-dependent parent always forgive after being repeatedly hurt, I learned that being treated badly is normal and to forgive divine. I ‘got’ the pattern with this therapist. I saw that when I was neglected and ignored by my alcoholic parent, it showed me to always watch for his moods, his needs, and to stay quiet and to rarely voice my own. I didn’t feel important enough. And when you don’t feel special, it’s hard to fight be treated with respect and as an equal. Deep down, I didn’t feel that I deserved it. (I mean, who else would tell their husband to take a new job that paid less and required him to work 2 weeks/month abroad while I’m at home, after an international move, with a 5 month old colicky baby and a sad 7-year-old. Seriously, it’s nuts.)

Putting husband, friends, children, work, first is something I was taught, like many women. But the underlying message screams: ‘I’m not worthy.’ It’s something that I never admitted consciously, but subconsciously, it was there. Depak Chopra calls it ‘conditioning’ based on how we are treated in childhood and by significant others. Norwood explains that we are not what these messages tells us, but we can’t feel any other way unless we recognize it and work toward ‘reconditioning,’ through yoga, meditation, saying positive attributes, therapy, etc. So, basically, it takes time.

After therapy in graduate school, I swore I would never put myself in that situation and I went years without dating. I had the two month litmus test, even back in undergraduate school, which meant, I broke up with someone after two months. The reality is that I was scared I’d give too much and give up on my writing dreams and myself. And I had good reason to be scared. I fall back on what feels comfortable, what feels like home. But that’s not a safe place for someone like me.

So, the lessons continue.

This past weekend was a low point as I was terribly lonely and exhausted after working at an insane pace (which I am actually grateful for!) and juggling the needs of my attorney with a settlement we’re trying to wrap up, and my sick four-year-old who was often at home instead of school.

I needed some R&R. My boyfriend had a needy friend and father to contend with and their own agenda. So, at one point, I let my older son play with a friend, walked my little guy to the beach in the stroller. He was so tired he fell asleep and I just laid in the sand. I listened to the volleyball players and the laughter and I tried to shut out all the negative messages that started back up regarding the divorce and focus on my breath. And I prayed. I prayed for strength and kindness. As simple as that. I prayed to be strong enough to stand up for what I need and believe in, while also being kind. It is possible to be both, don’t you think? I can voice my needs and be firm in situations that involve my children , yet remain true to myself. I can focus on what is healthy and positive while walking away from what is toxic, in a kind, loving way.

So, even though I didn’t have a sitter for the weekend, I kept my thoughts at this level. I dragged my boys to yoga on Sunday morning and left them in the lobby with yummy snacks and video games. I worked out and prayed for strength and kindness with one of my favorite teachers and let my boys see the healthy vibe of the yoga environment. There has to be a way to get through all of this madness with healthy boys, and a sense of self-respect.

I may never be able to stay still and calm in the midst of a storm, like Buddhist teachers try to do (See my post Zenful Reminder at Bedtime), but I can anticipate the storm and watch myself carefully. See, there is a storm approaching for me personally and its likely to come to a head at the end of the month. My goal is to stay strong and not lose my cool. As a very wise friend told me yesterday: “You can be self aware and not selfish. You have to respect yourself if you want respect.”

Baby steps.

Harnessing Fear in the New Year

“Normal fear protects us; abnormal fear paralyses us. Normal fear motivates us to improve our individual and collective welfare; abnormal fear constantly poisons and distorts our inner lives. Our problem is not to be rid of fear but, rather to harness and master it.” Martin Luther King Jr.


Happy New Year!! As you can likely tell, I’m slowly inching into this new year. I’m just getting to my first post and I’m excited to say that gifts are being mailed out to the NavigatingVita contest winners next week!!

This first month of 2012 has been filled with many surprises so far. Not all good, but I’m learning a lot about myself and others. I wanted to write this first post of the year about Fear and its power to paralyze and keep us from being present and living the lives we are meant to lead. It’s not a coincidence that so many women going through divorce vent via support groups or with friends about receiving threatening texts and phone calls from Exs over a myriad of issues with control at the heart of each. Being able to rise above the noise, determine whether or not it is a real threat, and then harness your fear, is a liberating endeavor. I, by no means, have any answers, but I think for most of our issues  we, intuitively are our best guides. Blocking out the noise of chatter; stopping our minds from obsessing on all the what ifs; and avoiding talk with friends who may plunge you further in fear; are all good ideas.

Sometimes it’s hard to know when fear is really merited, isn’t it? I’m currently dealing with a disturbing event. Although I can’t discuss it at the moment, I can discuss how I’m mentally dealing with the fear. I’ve found a spiritual counselor and with meditation I’m learning to listen to my inner voice. I’m avoiding chatting with too many people about it as their ‘advice’ could spiral me further into fear. And even though there are wrongs that my ego would like to right, I’m learning to let it go. Sometimes the best reaction to a volley, is to let the ball bounce off the court and to move on. It’s been two and a half years, I’m tired of volleying.

For the record, as I move into my next phase, I just want to reiterate that NavigatingVita is a place of inspiration for myself and other single or divorcing parents. My goal is to find ways for us to explore our daily struggles and the important issues of our lives—while striving to remain positive and to focus on moving forward in a loving way.

I know a lot of you who are going through divorce may have become paralyzed at one point or another by the fear that I’ve discussed. Focussing on all the fearful issues will only keep them in front of you and you’ll chase them like a dog chases his tail round and round. Plus, it plunges you into a victim role.

Because again, the more you focus on it, the worse it gets. The better focus is on ourselves. Of course, if you’re battling real issues with abuse or neglect, harness the fear and deal with it calmly with your attorney. But for the most of us, we need to take a time out, and focus on ourselves.

I hope you’re motivated to take that time out with me. This new year is going to be a great one for us all!

Lots of love,

Laura