Tag Archives: pranayama

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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Digging into Roots to Clear the Throat Chakra

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Who knew I’d need to dig deeper into my roots, my past, in order to clear the throat chakra? I naively thought that I’d “let go” of my upbringing and relationship baggage. I mean, I did part of the Course in Miracles. I prayed for 21 days for those who had hurt, neglected, ignored, betrayed, disrespected me, etc. I lit a candle and imagined their higher selves healing and vibrant and I said ‘I forgive you’ for 21 days. So, I thought that I had cleared my root chakra, let go of the past, and was daily clearing all chakras through my yoga practice, while speaking my truth, clearing my throat chakra, through my writing. Not quite. I had more digging to do.

Many say the past is the past, stop obsessing. I get it. And it is. Except when it isn’t. When we zoom forward in warp speed, ignoring our past, acting as if it’s all good and we don’t deal with it, clear it, truly forgive, find courage to move past fears to manifest a healthier future, then the Universe has a way of putting people and events in front of us to relive the feelings of whatever we need to feel and work through, (similar to what we experienced before), in order to truly step up, face it, confront it and move beyond it.

Does that make sense? I’ll be more clear. If someone was rarely heard or seen or allowed to have their feelings as a child, they will likely grow up into an adult with blockages in their throat chakra. This fifth chakra is about truth: speaking your truth clearly, succinctly with kindness, feeling safe to be seen and heard at all times, and knowing that it is safe to feel what you feel, to need what you need, and to set healthy boundaries with those aren’t supportive or uplifting. A child who was scolded when trying to express feelings, or who was made fun of when speaking up, or yelled at when trying to speak up, will develop a throat chakra imbalance as an adult. (And it’s worse for those who experienced physical abuse as a child and then weren’t allowed to express sorrow/anger openly, or distance themselves from abusive adults afterwards.) These imbalances can manifest in different ways in adults. Experts say typically most men may not express their emotions easily, may steer clear from confrontation or may not be able to comfort loved ones in need or be truly intimate. Women may go through periods where they don’t talk, only to find their voice, but talk on an on about things that don’t get to the heart of the matter. They can become passive aggressive and rarely find courage to tell others how they feel, what they need succinctly, or ask for that raise, or the help they need. Their issue isn’t always from a sense of not feeling worthy, it can be lingering PTSD,  literally a knee-jerk withdrawl, from fear of speaking up due to irrational fear of abusive consequences. Women with throat chakra blockages typically gossip instead of being forthcoming or direct with individuals. Men may shy away from all communication and find means to avoid uncomfortable feelings. Both men and women may seek habits or addictions to ‘not feel’ emotions, or they try to avoid any situations that aren’t superficially happy. When confronted, they may lash out, say cruel things, or worse, become physically abusive, mirroring their childhood. Men, especially, shy away from true intimacy, even though they crave it and need it. Women may disregard healthy men for those who are emotionally unavailable—triggering their need to make that man love them, see them, hear them—subconsciously trying to heal their childhood unmet need. Most with throat chakra imbalances pretend everything is ok. They lie to themselves or others. It’s all good. They may stay in stale or abusive relationships for fear of speaking up. They may volunteer too much, exhausting themselves. They may snap at their children too much, not respecting their children’s individuality as it threatens their lack of individuality. They may stay in jobs that don’t pay well or provide advancement, for fear of asking for more. All pictures on Facebook are positive and bubbly and happy. Both men and women who need to clear their throat chakras avoid situations or people who are living their truth, because it mirrors that they are not.

Phew, that’s a lot. And it manifests in a host of dis-eases from thyroid imbalances, fatigue, sleep deprivation, adrenal stress, asthma, addiction and depression, according to experts. The good news is that it can be cleared. Yoga; deep breathing; guided meditation on forgiveness and letting go; writing to confront those in the past; chanting; diet changes, therapy are all ways.

I discovered my lingering imbalance over this past month that I’ve been in an intense hot yoga teacher training that has required me taking two classes a day, while also training, and teaching my other classes. The heat is a metaphor for all that is uncomfortable in life. Breathing deeply to stay calm and out of panic is crucial for enduring hot yoga. The mirrors force embracing the truth and acceptance for yourself, exactly as you are. The sweat is the manifestation of letting go all that doesn’t serve you. Hot yoga changes a person from the inside out, unlike all other forms of yoga. It is impossible to drink alcohol heavily, chug coffee, eat heavy foods or abuse any substances and withstand 105 degree classes successfully. The body no longer craves comfort food either. And a community builds with others who are not perfect physically, yet come together to burn off stress and find stillness. From the beginning of time, cultures have sought out heated dens or saunas for healing, burning off demons and shedding what doesn’t serve. There is no ability to pretend. There is no where to hide. Sweat falls down faces with no make up and the body can no longer be covered by much clothing as it weighs you down in the heat.

During the past 5 weeks, many things have bubbled up into my throat chakra, especially during camel poses and other back bends, in the heat. I’ve realized that it’s hard for me to let go of those who trigger my upbringing. For instance, I’ve dated someone off an on for years who says he loves me, but then goes through periods where he ignores me or disregards my feelings. It’s as if the Universe put this person in front of me, like a soul mate to force growth, so that I can speak up, since I wasn’t able to speak up as a child. And perhaps this person has an imbalance, or a fear of intimacy or a hard time dealing with uncomfortable feelings, or just isn’t available for a deeper, fulfilling relationship? Regardless of why it isn’t working, instead of letting go, my inclination has been to understand before being understood and to reach out—only to relive a passionate connection that is followed with distance and neglect. It results in time and time again of feeling unworthy, small and unloved. Now I see it as a way for me to speak my truth, state my needs to feel safe, loved and comforted during hard times—not just loved during happy, fun times—and to LET GO with love. There is no reason to hold on, to struggle, to try to force being seen or heard. Letting go, allows space for reflection and  space for the right person to float in. It sounds easy, but throat chakra imbalances from childhood neglect, makes it psychologically hard to do. The balanced throat chakra knows when to speak up and when to stay silent and let go. But it requires diving back into the roots, feeling to heal the pain, so the cycle can stop.

The power of yoga. The power of breath. The power of meditation. The awesome power of heat. The power of writing. The power of speaking and living truth.

We are all spiritual beings living this physical existence. Everyone in our life is meant to be there. Some karmically choose us, with so much love, to propel us further. It’s a trip to embrace that idea: that those who hurt us in this lifetime, may actually be the ones who love us the most and push us closer to our truth and purpose.

Love & Light  ~

Laura x

Laura