As Marie Roberts points out in her new book, Life Lessons and Soul Skills: “At any given moment you’re wondering whom you’re disappointing, how you’re failing, why it’s so difficult – especially when you’re trying so hard.”
As a teacher of yoga and meditation, a Presbyterian minister and spiritual director, Roberts is very conscious of leading the reader to value the moment. She writes that life is a spiritual practice, each moment is complete, and that each and every one of us is “an energy whose nature is divine and whose task is sacred.” She currently teaches at several area wellness and adult education centers, including Main Line School Night, Yoga Garden in Narberth, and the Center for Human Integration in Northeast Philadelphia.
The difference between her “soul” guide and the normal pop-psychology, self-help book is
that Roberts helps us find our own spiritual path past the many barriers and dead end streets we self-construct. She identifies mistakes we often make, such as using a crisis as a learning experience, letting selfdoubt rule, losing our true self in love or friendship, using money as the measure of success or devaluing ourselves by avoiding it, or being a tourist rather than a traveler on life’s journey. She then provides alternative views and choices. Each chapter closes with specific written, mental or physical exercises to personalize the ideas of the chapters and create a whole body encounter with solutions.
Within every activity of sleeping and waking, we have the opportunity for growth. Unfortunately, too many people only think of learning from a crisis. She points out that living with a credo of “What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger,” can be very limiting. She says we can use difficult times to grow, but suggests we look at what we accomplish without any effort — such as helping others, making new friends, or accomplishing new tasks — to learn who we are. She is a great believer in listening to your intuition and provides ideas to “learn from your awareness, rather than pain.” She notes that by using your intuition , “More guidance is available to you than you’ll ever make use of.”
Self-doubt is destructive and inhibits growth. “If you’re having a hard time deciding where your talents lie or how best to use them,” she writes, “see it as a wake-up call the soul has chosen especially for you in this time and place.”
She points out, “Your biggest gift can be the smallest thing you do without having to give it much thought.” In the questions that close the chapter, she asks the reader to make lists of positives, find connections among the lists and create scenarios where the gifts are put into action. Another practice section looks at love and asks the reader, feeling his or her heart, to mentally create a scene where they feel safe and loved by someone and then answer five questions with a person’s name. Such practical questions help identify unspoken or avoided thoughts and emotions that may be problem areas for the heart, mind and soul.
Questioning your own selfworth and judgments is a mistake many of us make. Roberts admits that she can lose her equilibrium when she meets an authority figure. Simply being in the presence of such a person can make us question our self-worth and beliefs. As she says of such moments, “…Comparing immediately takes me out of the essence and into anxiety.”
The trap, she says, is when we begin looking outside ourselves for the “truth.” “When you devalue yourself, you not only abdicate responsibility for what you can contribute, but you also dishonor the divinity that considers you uniquely suited to make this contribution and has outfitted you to do so.”
Further along, she adds, “Because you are a spiritual being having a human experience, there will always be more to you than meets any eye, even your own.”
Roberts reminds us, “Your everyday activities serve to hinder or encourage the healing of yourself and your world…. You’re either cooperating with the soul’s wisdom or ignoring it.”
She also notes, “…Never consider your awkward moments as mistakes or failures. They’re just feedback….That’s why you’re here.”
Listing many of the potholes along life’s road, Life Lessons and Soul Skills, Learning from Your Mistakes the First Time Around shows how they can be avoided and filled in for a more peaceful journey. As she guides the reader to focus on the moments of the journey, Roberts does not predict the destination. As she aptly says, “…While taking responsibility for your actions, you must also acknowledge that you cannot control the process or the outcome.”
Raised a Roman Catholic, Marie Roberts received one graduate degree from Fordham University in world religions and spirituality and another in counseling psychology. After further study at Princeton Seminary, she was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1982. During her career, she has taught at every educational level, from elementary school through seminary, and after ordination served as university chaplain at Drew University in Madison, N. J. For 14 years after that, she was associate pastor for a congregation in the suburban Philadelphia area. She now understands herself to be a spiritual leader in the congregation-without-walls that is rapidly developing within and across today’s faith communities.