• Christina Raskin


“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

-William Shakespeare, Julis Caesar

Wanna hear something scary and exciting all at that same time?

You are responsible for your thoughts, words and actions.

Your thoughts, words, and actions create your habits which define your personality

and colour your life experiences. Thus, you are responsible for who you are and

how you experience your life… Yikes!

I think this idea is both distressing and empowering :)

Most yogis believe in Response-ability. We have the ability to respond to thoughts

and situations in various ways. And how you respond will be a cause in our life that

will have some effect, this is the law of Karma (cause and effect). Do we know what

that effect will be? No, we don’t, more on that in my upcoming blog on Karma…

spoiler alert, there is no such thing as good or bad Karma :)

Even though we don’t know what the effect will be, we do know that choosing how

we respond will have an effect that will ripple through our lives and the lives of


Yoga teaches us that we have habitual patterns in our behaviors (Samskaras).

Also, did you know that 95% of the thoughts you have today are the same thoughts

you had yesterday? Talk about a habit!

Almost everything that we do, thoughts and behaviors, are a matter of habit. We

have so many habits from choosing the same escape from our troubles (for me it is

ice cream!) to picking the same type of romantic partners over and over.

We learn these patterns from our parents, family, and society. However, ultimately,

we are the ones that make the choices (which become causes), even if that choice is

subconscious, which it often is. By the way, if it is subconscious then you need to do shadow work to release it. (I promise to do a blog on shadow work soon).

Through self-study (Svadhyaya) we begin to watch our thoughts and see our

habitual patterns (Samskaras).

After we start to see these thoughts and patterns, we have the ability to respond

(response-ability). We can make wise choices and change our habits, personality,

and life experiences.

One of the beautiful gifts of the yoga practice, specifically mindfulness and

meditation, is the ability to observe our thoughts, words and actions. Our truest self,

the Witness Conscious, can watch the patterns and thoughts and then choose if we

want to continue with that thought pattern or not. We create space between our

truest self, the observer, and our thoughts. This allows us to be proactive in our lives

instead or reactive.

For example, I have been taught that my self-worth is defined by my work and how

productive I am. This is one of my Samskaras. So if my husband offhandedly makes

an innocent remark that I am home from work early, it triggers my pattern and I

immediately have the thought that he is judging me, that I am un-worthy. In the past

this would have put me in a bad mood, at the least, without me being aware of why.

At the most, it would have caused a fight.

However, due to a consistent yoga practice, I have created this space between

myself and my thoughts. I can observe the thought pattern, see how it relates to my

Samskara, and then choose to react on that thought/Samskara or not. I get to choose

what is wise for me and be proactive in how I respond to my husband. If I was

unaware of my thoughts then I would have had a life experience (like a fight) that I

wouldn’t have wanted and I might blame it all on him!

The opposite of response-ability is blaming other people and circumstances for

what’s going on in your life and your emotional state. Blaming other people is a

Samskara in itself, but it also takes away our power. Taking response-ability might

be hard but it gives you the power back, it gives you the ability to make wise choices

and create change.

Your thoughts are extremely powerful. Not only are your thoughts connected to

your entire body through your central nervous system but they also release

hormones, so your thoughts literally effect your entire body, your mood, and your


And although it might be hard to do, your thoughts are under your control.

According to yoga, they are a tool that you can use! Only you think your thoughts, so

you decide what to think. Therefore, you are totally responsible for all the

consequences of all those thoughts. It’s unavoidable. There is no judgment in this,

it’s just a fact.

Now, in my example my husband made an innocent comment. However, all of this

applies when someone is purposefully being mean or rude as well.

If my husband was giving me a guilt trip and calling me lazy, I also have the ability to choose how to respond. Do I leave the situation? Do I set boundaries? What thoughts do I choose to perpetuate around the situation? Do I believe him and allow my thoughts to

continue about my unworthiness?

In both situations you have the response-ability to choose.

An important part of this discussion involves Happiness. Recent studies have shown

a direct correlation between self-responsibility and happiness. It seems that taking

responsibility in your life leads people to feeling more in control, freer and happier.

There is also a correlation between irresponsibility and unhappiness. So blaming my

husband for my emotional state after his comment will lead to more unhappiness

for me.

There is a poem that I love that explains this process and I think it defines the

pathway of this healing journey beautifully.

“I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost... I am helpless.

It isn't my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don't see it.

I fall in again.

I can't believe I am in the same place.

But, it isn't my fault.

It still takes me a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in. It's a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault. I get out immediately.

Walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

I walk down another street.”

― Portia Nelson, There's a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery

Here’s to taking Response-ability and getting out of the holes sooner!

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