Navigating distractions

Our interactions with others provide an accurate mirror of how we are affecting our world and co-creating our experiences, and of how the universe reflects this back to us

by Dr. Sirah Vettese — 

We live in a world where distractions abound, where entertainment and consumerism seduce us to self-medicate in seemingly benign and socially acceptable ways. For each of us, the hook may be different. Examples include work, shopping, sports, sex, gambling, alcohol, drugs, television, telephone, the Internet and hobbies. Regardless of the distraction, the result is the same: procrastination, justification and failing to honor our commitments to ourselves.

Patterns and protocols are formed and embedded in our daily routines. Before we know it, we are living only a fragment of our potential. Rather than take individual responsibility, our cultural conditioning encourages us to place the blame on people, circumstances and things outside of ourselves, as in: “I’m so busy that ….” Whatever it is that keeps us sitting on the couch and not walking around the block (metaphorically) is evidence of the power of distraction. Add to this the ego’s resistance to change, and it is easy to see how we avoid self-reflection and inner growth for much of our lives.

The good news is that whatever we have done, we can undo. Healthy new habits can be formed. We can change the old tapes we play in our minds and cut a new groove in our habit patterns, beginning with the thoughts that form them. We can navigate through the labyrinth of things that tend to sidetrack our attention away from fulfilling our intentions. The point is to consciously and wisely assert our aspirations and set those forces in motion that support us in fulfilling them.

Feedback from the universe

Ours is a planet of communication. We constantly receive feedback from the universe, and we live in a world of dialogue, both mental and verbal. Has someone ever responded to one of your thoughts rather than something you said to them? Our thoughts energetically transmit information. Everything about us advertises our state of consciousness.

We may not be sensitive to it, but even the way we pick up a pen reveals something about who we are and how present we are (or are not) in the moment. The condition of our home, our eating habits and our table manners are advertisements of our consciousness. “As within, so without,” the saying goes.

Our interactions with others provide an accurate mirror of how we are affecting our world and co-creating our experiences, and of how the universe reflects this back to us. A client received firsthand evidence of this truth. Megan, a teacher of high-risk youth at a notorious high school, walks through security checkpoints and metal detectors each morning into hallways filled with rival gang members. She is undaunted by the gangster-chic “bling-bling” that adorns her students, even though her own dress habits make her appear as incongruent as Mother Teresa at a Snoop Dogg concert. Her confidence comes from knowing that she is following her true calling, and this is underpinned by a genuine, compassionate understanding of the plights of her students.

The issue that brought Megan to me resulted from her own tumultuous upbringing, not unlike that of the students she teaches. Once in the classroom, it was as though she had entered a room of mirrors, each one reflecting the anger, fear, danger, devastation and betrayal she had experienced at their age. Her resulting timidity in setting down her expectations of her students was a clear reflection of her over-identification with them.

As her inner focus remained on the possibility of failing to make a difference in her students’ lives, so did the universe reflect back to her this disempowering energy. How could this be, since her whole intention was completely invested in offering hope, courage and dignity to her students? Her projection of the past onto the present evoked such static in her “mental radio” that it caused the universe to provide feedback of like kind. Megan’s inner challenge was to stop focusing on the results she didn’t want, and to inwardly embody and outwardly express the results she did want.

My first communication to Megan was that she was a co-creator of her life, and that her thoughts, though verbally unspoken, were heard by the universe’s law of reciprocation and mirrored back to her. By removing her attention from the past and no longer projecting her past onto the present, she freed her mind to focus entirely upon her intention to make a difference in the lives of her students. From there, she began a five-minute practice to “re-groove” the thought patterns lodged in her consciousness. I call the exercise she used “Take Five to Align.”

It works like this:

Step One: Break it down — Think of a specific, highly charged situation that really pushes your buttons, causing a “fight-or-flight” response within you. Or bring into your awareness any goal that you yearn to fulfill but from which you timidly hold back. Next, identify the top three emotions you feel at the height of your anxiety or fear.

Step Two: Observe your mindset — Become an impartial, nonjudgmental witness to the three emotions you have identified. View your emotions from a third-person perspective, as if you were watching your scenario projected onto a big screen while remaining unattached to what you observe. Ask yourself, “What is underneath this?” Stay open and receptive, gently repeating the question and inviting the answer to emerge.

Step Three: State the opposites — Identify the opposite quality of the three emotions you recognized in Step One. For example, in place of fear, trust; in place of rejecting your emotions, acceptance; in place of anxiety, calmness.

Step Four: “Re-groove” your emotional patterns — Remember, all of the opposite qualities you just identified already exist within you. Your work is to call them forth, to become acquainted with them through practice, practice, practice. It is simply a matter of “re-grooving” the old thought patterns etched in your automatic response system until the ones that support and affirm the truth about your inner dignity and worthiness are foremost in your relationship with yourself.

As soon as Megan was able to shift her attention from her own troubled past, she was able to focus her attention on the students she can help today. The key to accessing the things that fulfill us is to hold open all our channels of well-being. In this way, we avoid getting stuck in the mud. Staying on track simply means staying in alignment with the light of our own spirit.


Sirah Vettese, Ph.D., author of Spiritual Makeover: 10 Practices for Falling in Love With Your Life, is a counselor, life coach, seminar leader and motivational speaker.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 1, February/March 2008.

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