Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Deep Down Inside…

I spent the day at a writing workshop. It reminded me how great it is to write! I sat with 4 other people who poured their heart and soul out on the page… and then shared it with the group. Such vulnerability… it was magical. Author and poet Roger Housden led the group.
I am sharing a piece from the day (unedited!)… I hope it inspires you to take a moment and consider for yourself, deep down inside… !

Deep down inside I know that there is much for me to give to the world. I am sure that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I need to be doing.

Deep down inside I don’t worry about whether I’m good enough or worthy of your time and approval because deep down inside I know that we are one.

Deep down inside I don’t question what I’m going to say, limit my words and thoughts, sensor my feeling and emotion. Deep down inside my true self is allowed to run free… to skip in the sunshine and swing from the tree branches.

Deep down inside the light shines brightly and I do not hide from it. I do not stay in the shadows and try to play small. I do not feel bad about being good at something or apologize for having an opinion.

Deep down inside I am good enough. I am not clouded by dark days. Deep down inside it is actually brilliant and filled with light. It sparkles as if studded with diamonds and glistens as if shimmering among pearls.

Deep down inside life is good… and whole… and pure. There is joy and contentment and an overriding desire to be of service. Deep down there is pain… but it is allowed to grieve and therefore does not become stagnant and all-encompassing. Deep down there is forgiveness and beauty and trust.

Deep down inside there is connection to all things. A current of source that flows through every cell. Deep down there is truth. A greater knowing of time and space that does not look like the time and space that we know up here… up here on the other side of deep down.

Deep down there is happiness and joy because happiness and joy cannot help but emanate from this space that is connected to source. This space that knows all and recognizes there is not so much good and bad… as much as there is “what is.”

Deep down inside there is what is… and “what is” is enough.

~Rashel

Smile

Smile

I just wrote a whole blog on death, compassion, self-acceptance and love. Then it got deleted. Then I couldn’t manage to recover it despite auto save. Then I decided my message should be… SMILE! and leave it at that. So… just do it! You’ll feel better!

My goal is to get back to blogging now that my art class has wrapped up. Maybe I’ll expose you to some of my attempts at art in future blog posts. Stay tuned!

Love, laughter, self-compassion, and light to you all! ~Rashel

Practicing Self Compassion…

There is a reason they call it a “practice”!!!

I may have mentioned before that I am participating in Leo Babauta’s Sea Change Program, where ever month there is a small behavior change that you commit to incorporating into your life. For the month of May, this tiny habit that we are attempting to incorporate is self compassion. Seems like an easy enough endeavor… but I’m here to tell ya… it’s trickier than you might at first imagine!

What I’ve noticed is that, despite my initial compassionate, loving words to myself, I immediately follow said compassion with a smidge of negative chatter that is like adding a “yeah, but” to my attempts at self-healing. I yelled (spoke sternly is probably more accurate, but it might as well have been yelling with the tone and the eye rolling that accompanied) at my son the entire drive to school this morning. I was very irritated because he made me re-tie his shoes 3 times due to the laces not being the correct amount of “tight.” I was explaining (do you like how I’ve relabeled the yelling to explaining now?!) how he needs to take responsibility for being on time to school and that, at the ripe old age of 9, he really shouldn’t need me to be tying his shoes… let alone insisting that I retie his shoes numerous times in one morning.

When I finally dropped him at school, he slammed the door and never looked back. I can only imagine what was going through his head. I’m pretty sure it was not along the lines of, “thank goodness I have such a great Mom who helps me understand the error of my ways.” In the great irony of a good day, I realize that the very thing I told my son he needed to do, which was to take responsibility for himself (from my viewpoint, this meant getting out the door on time), he was actually doing (from his viewpoint, making sure that his shoes were tied in a way that worked for him). Funny… that whole irony thing.

Anyway… back to self compassion. After a bit of verbal self-abuse, I did manage to remember the habit for the month. I congratulated myself for having the presence of mind to remember that beating myself up over the events of the morning was not actually going to rewrite the events of the morning for the better. Instead, I took a moment to acknowledge how difficult it is to be a Mom who is trying to balance consciousness and reality! I am, in fact, very thankful for this month’s sea change habit of self compassion. I think it is an easily overlooked habit that can have the potential to hugely impact our lives for the better. After spending numerous moments today offering myself compassion, I have to say that it feels pretty good to be loved… even if, and maybe especially if, it is by my very own self.

Wishing you gobs of love and self compassion!    ~Rashel

What Makes You Happy?

Do you know what makes you happy? What makes you really happy? What feeds your spirit and makes your heart sing? 

It seems like an easy enough question, doesn’t it? I think most of us think, at least on some level, that we know what we like… what makes us feel good… what makes us happy. But honestly, most of us are just not that good at truly figuring it out. We think we know, but we’re wrong. 

There are so many examples of this in our daily lives. We live in a constant state of more-is-better mentality… and it’s confusing the heck out of us. We’re under the impression that if we just get a little more of this, that or the other, then we’ll be happy. I’ll be happy when… I make more money… I lose some weight… I get a different job… I have more time.

“The purpose of our lives is to be happy.”   ~Dalai Lama

So, how do we figure it out? What’s the secret, magic formula for happiness? Ha! If you watch TV, read magazines, listen to the radio or in any other way are exposed to advertising… then you know it is as simple as buying the next widget, gadget or gidget. Or is it? On some level, we all know it’s not. And yet, if you’re like me, you are continuously sucked in and often succumb to the message that we are just not good enough and won’t be happy unless we have the latest this, that or the other. Perhaps we don’t spend enough time really contemplating our happiness. If happiness is the purpose of our lives, it surely gets short shrift compared to the numerous hours, days and years we spend on less important tasks. So, what’s the first step?

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” ~Rumi

I won’t pretend to have all the answers. To be perfectly honest, I struggle with this as much as anyone! I’ve bought my fair share, and then some, of self help books, audio programs and new age magazines in an effort to find that magic pill… experience transformation… be good enough… be happy! It’s a little ironic when you realize that you’re doing all this searching but you’ve never really thought very much about what you’re trying to find. Happiness is a somewhat vague concept that needs to be personally defined by each person.

I’ve heard that one good way to recognize your joy is to find activities that lead to losing track of time. When you get caught up in the activity and 2 hours feels like 2 minutes, then you know you’ve found something that makes you happy. But… a recent jaunt on FB has me questioning this concept just a bit. I’m not so sure spending hours online checking FB, pinterest, and playing words with friends is exactly my call to joy. But if I step back a bit, I can see that connecting with others and being social is joyful for me and makes me happy.

I’d like to propose a first step. Spend some time pondering and writing about happiness. Play with the statement “Happiness is…”

The next step, once you’ve gotten a bit clearer on what happiness is for you, is to notice your daily actions… how you spend your time. Ask yourself, as you move through the day, whether or not your actions are supporting your happiness. Now… I’m not saying that every single action in your day is going to be a joy-fest… but in some way, the actions and activities we engage in should align with our values… what’s important to us… and what makes us happy. Doing laundry, per se, is not necessarily joyful… but I can take a moment to be thankful for the clean, beautiful clothes that I possess. While I may not be elated with every detailed task I perform at my job, on a higher level, I believe in the mission of my company and know that my work contributes to the greater health and well-being of many people.

“When hope is not pinned wriggling onto a shiny image or expectation, it sometimes floats forth and opens.” ~Anne Lamott

So call forth your joy. Summon your giddiness. Explore what makes you happy with life… really, really happy… and spend time doing it. Pay attention to your daily activities and ask yourself if they align with your values… your true desires… your river of joy. (then tell me what it is so I can try it out myself!)

Love and light to you!  ~Rashel  

 

What’s Your Story?

We all have stories. Stories are what we believe to be true and what we tell others about our lives. Rumi says… “Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” I find it interesting that he does not say, “unfold your own story,” or even, “unfold your own truth,” but “unfold your own myth.”

I was listening to an NPR podcast the other day and they were interviewing Tony Robbins. He mentioned something about stories that really struck me. He revealed that he was beaten as a child. Apparently he shared that truth with some kids when he was doing a talk in order that they might relate to him… to understand that even if you have a troubled youth, you can still turn your life around. The point he was making on the podcast was that he had consciously chosen not to perpetuate that story… that he worked hard to create a new story that he had shared with the world. Until that time, and only for the very specific purpose of relating to those kids, he had chosen not to share that story of himself and his life and to share and communicate a new story… one of empowerment and strength rather than victim hood and struggle.

Sometimes I think we get very caught up in what’s “true.” Reality, if you will. But what that realization illuminated for me is that we can choose to focus on other parts of our lives that are just as true and real without perpetuating the parts of our story that do not foster our own growth and development as a human being. Now, I am not advocating for a life of lies. I am not implying that everyone should wake up tomorrow pretending that their past is non-existent and acting as if the sky is green. I’m simply saying that we all have choices. Choice about what to share… what to focus on.. what to pay attention to on a daily basis. In any given day, there are as many, if not more, positive occurrences as negative… so why in the world do we feel so inclined, when asked how we’re doing, to list the 2-5 things that have gone wrong in the day? I know it’s not just me who does this because I walk around hearing of everyone’s issues on a regular basis. I’m not complaining, mind you… I’m just recognizing that we are very much hard-wired to focus on our negative story instead of perpetuating the positive aspects of our day and lives. I’d say we can’t help it… but that might be seen as taking on a bit of victim mentality, no?

What is your story? How do you feel when you tell your story? Does your story focus on the amazing, wonderful events that have shaped your life… or does you get caught up in the negative, difficult details? Do share your story!

Love and light!  ~Rashel

Gratitude Revisited

I’ve read, listened to, and even written about the value of gratitude. How appreciating what you have can make you happy. I believe in gratitude wholeheartedly, and in fact, I think I realized something tonight that helped me wrap my brain around this concept in an even bigger way.

Let me start by supplying some context. I have a nightly ritual with my kids that includes back rub, neck rub, ear rub, leg rub, arm rub, shoulder rub, head rub, and, if they’ve showered, foot rub. It’s quite a process, as you can imagine, and on more than one occasion over the past 8+ years, I’ve wondered what the heck I was thinking in creating such an elaborate ritual. Would it have been so bad to follow the reading with a quick hug and call it a night?  I mean, seriously, it can sometimes take 20-30 minutes for me to put each kid to bed with this particular routine. But, alas, it was the routine we established and, for the most part, it is the routine we’ve followed night in and night out.

Then, a couple of months back, without any pomp or circumstance, it happened. I headed in to my daughter’s room, and before I could even get fully through the door she called out to me, “I don’t need a rub tonight, Mom.” Uh….. say what? I have to say, I was very proud of myself for keeping my composure as I leaned down, and in a cool and collected voice uttered, “a simple hug and a kiss, then, shall we?” Meanwhile, I felt like one of those cartoon characters whose head is spinning wildly… steam coming from my insides… complete chaos descending!! What the heck just happened here? Was this a fluke? A one-time thing? Would our relationship be changed forever?

I know what you’re thinking… calm down… it’s a back rub, lady! But it is so much more than that! It is our connection time. Our nightly ritual where words are shared that otherwise might not get spoken. I’m not even sure what it means to stop, but I know that it feels like my baby is getting ripped out of my arms. And it doesn’t feel good. And, to top it off, it wasn’t a fluke. The next night, and the next, I heard the same thing… “No rub tonight, Mom. I’m good.” But instead of “I’m good,” my ears heard, “I’m not your baby anymore. I don’t need you like I once did. You can go.”

Of course I realize that this is all part of the growing up process. I get that this is exactly what’s supposed to happen and it’s healthy and good. It’s just that… even though it’s one of those things that you know is inevitable… it still catches you by surprise. I’m not sure how, but it just does. And it makes you think to yourself… I should have been appreciating that even more! In fact, maybe I should add belly button, knees and elbows to my son’s routine, since he has not yet banned me from this nightly ritual!

But, and here’s where the expansion part occurs… I’m realizing the gratitude can remain, even when the circumstances change. Gratitude for… a daughter who’s gaining independence… a daughter who still accepts a hug and a kiss, despite the release of the full ritual… a daughter who can speak up for what she wants and needs. All good. AND… as I was grateful enough to experience tonight, staying open to gratitude has allowed for openness and flexibility in my daughter… who informed me tonight that she, “could really use a rub.”   

As I rubbed the back, legs, ears, arms, and shoulders, (no feet cause no shower tonight – gratitude or no, I have boundaries!) of my 11-year-old daughter, I felt tired (cause it’s late) and grateful. Consider what you do or have now that you would miss… and decide to be grateful… in this moment… before it slips away. 

Wishing you love, laughter and light!  ~Rashel

 

 

No Pain, No Gain

When I was young, the mantra of my gymnastics instructor was… no pain, no gain. I believed it at the time… but then I got older… got married… had kids… and started to question this mantra. Maybe that’s just for kids… or young people… or athletes… (of which I am none!). Perhaps pain is just an illusory signal that progress is being made… but not necessary to actual progress? I became a big fan of small steps… small changes… no pain!
In my yoga class last week, the instructor asked us to feel into the discomfort of holding a pose longer than what was comfortable. He encouraged us to recognize the difference between good pain and bad pain. As I took a deep breath, I thought to myself… huh? Good pain…. what the heck is that?! The instructor went on to explain that discomfort is normal as we learn to move into new positions… as we break down muscle in order to build up more muscle. This is how we build strength… how growth occurs.
AHA!
It hit me like a ton of bricks. Building muscle is a great analogy to building a strong, healthy life. Pain is necessary to break down muscle in order that more muscle can build up. However, and this is BIG… you have to recognize the difference between good pain and bad pain. Good pain helps you grow… while bad pain puts you out of commission. Good pain pushes and stretches just enough… bad pain pushes and stretches too much.
It seems to me that this is perhaps one of our most difficult tasks… distinguishing between the good pain that will help us grow and bad pain that is actually hurting us. In yoga, as in sports, the difference between good and bad pain is potentially a little more obvious. As you bend over to touch your toes… you feel the stretch… the tightness… the discomfort in your legs and thighs… good. As you lean into a stretch or pose and the discomfort becomes painful… well… you guessed it, bad!
In life, this distinction between good and bad pain seems more elusive. I think that others, like me, tend to think that pain, any kind of pain, is bad. And yet… if we apply the muscle building analogy… it’s not that all pain is bad, it’s that we need to distinguish between good pain and bad pain. Easier said than done! How long do I stay in this relationship… job… friendship… when does it change from being a growth situation to a bad situation? How do we know? What are the signs?
Unfortunately, I don’t have all the answers. What I surmise from my yoga/sports analogy is that discomfort is ok, but true pain is never good. I think with some things, it could possibly take some time and practice to figure out where that line is drawn and to recognize where one line ends and the other begins.
Here’s to pain… or discomfort, if you will… as a route toward growth!
Love, laughter and light to you!! ~Rashel

Authenticity Test: My Choice between Liar or Loser

I had a very interesting experience today. I was attending a work meeting. The meeting started off innocently enough. There were 60 or so people – a fairly robust crowd. In lieu of having every person introduce themselves, which would have taken a considerable amount of time, the facilitator led a warm-up exercise to get the meeting started. The instruction was to stand up if you could answer yes to the statement… can speak more than one language… was not born in the United States… has English as a second language (most of the statements revolved around the upcoming presentation on Latino health). The last question was, “have attended the big-deal presentation that everyone is expected to have attended” (big-deal being code for the name of the actual presentation).

Now during the warm-up exercise, there is a mix of attendees standing and sitting throughout. UNTIL… that last question. As I looked around to see who else, besides me, had not attended the big-deal presentation, I noticed that most everyone was standing. Then, much to my dismay, the facilitator decided to further bring the point home. “I noticed that a couple people in the back there were not standing. Please stand if you have not attended the big-deal presentation.”

Then… it happened. Uh…. should I stand? What do I do? All of the various reasons why I had not yet attended said big-deal presentation came rushing to my brain. Do I admit my failure and stand up? (Surely others will see me as a complete loser!) Or pretend that I, too, had done what was obviously the expected action? (Liar, liar, pants on fire!)

The interesting thing is this… as all of the excuses and thoughts about whether or not to “fess up” were racing through my head… and there were lots of excuses… and a lot of thoughts (and doubts)… all the while… I noticed my body standing up. What? Wait? Huh?

As my eyes slowly took in the room… from the far left… to the far right… not a single other person was standing. My gaze quickly circled back to my boss, who was sitting on the left side of the room. And then my panicked gaze darted back and forth between my sitting boss and the sitting Director of my department. sitting boss… sitting Director… sitting boss… Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!

So, at this point, I have a choice. But the choice is not whether or not to experience the moment… because of course I’m embarrassed. That’s a given. No one wants to be called out as the lone person who did not complete an assignment. I’m not going to pretend that it didn’t bother me. The choice is really in the aftermath. Do I spend the rest of the day beating myself up and worrying about what everyone thinks of me? Do I make up stories about how this incident will surely ruin my career and stain my reputation? Or… do I acknowledge the embarrassment and move on, as difficult as that may be. In an absolutely beautiful moment, I might even be able to appreciate my courage to be authentic… to stand up in the face of impending doom and own my situation.

Here’s what I came to realize… at the end of the day, none of us are perfect. And I’m realizing that being authentic is not about being perfect. It’s about being real. It’s about standing up… standing out… and being ok with who we are… imperfections and all. It’s letting go of the need for perfection and recognizing that there is enormous beauty in acceptance.

So from one imperfect person to another, I invite you to STAND UP… take a deep breath… and love yourself fully!  ~Rashel

 

Self Sabatoge… Alive & Well

What keeps us from doing the things that we know are good for us? What makes us stay up late before a big presentation? Wait until the very last-minute to write the important speech that will be delivered in front of our entire department. “Forget” about that very important meeting that your boss has asked you to attend.  Seriously… what gives?

I didn’t blog last week… and this week is pretty much over and I’m just now sitting down at the computer. Now… I know that blogging is not a make-it-or-break-it thing. I do not hold some delusional fantasy that my blog posts keep the world going! However, I have made a commitment to myself to blog every week, and I do enjoy the process of writing very much… so why do I do things that stand in the way of making that happen? What stands in the way of a perfectly good intention?

From everything I’ve read, it’s fear. That pesky feeling that gets in the way of greatness. There’s a reason why that question, “what would you do if you were not afraid of failing” often results in answers that are far different from our current state. We let fear keep us from our greatest selves. We allow the fear of failing to keep us from even starting.

It’s quite frightening the internal chatter that has gone on in my head over the last week and a half…mean things about not being good enough… not having anything worth sharing… not being smart enough, current enough or wise enough to have anything to bother writing about. I know… right??? Mean!! I would never say such things to friends, family, or colleagues. Heck, even a stranger! What gives?

I’m not sure why we do it… but I’m pretty sure most of us do. Self-Sabotage is a common occurrence. In fact, according to Carolyn Myss, author and medical intuitive, the saboteur is one of the 4 major archetypes that every person is born with and deals with during their lifetime. (If you don’t know about archetypes, I highly recommend Carolyn’s book, Sacred Contracts, to learn more).

I don’t know if this will work for everyone, but one thing that I am finding helpful is to just start. I told myself today that I was going to start my blog. Regardless of whether I finished or not, I would bring up the site and get started. If I wrote for 5 minutes and decided to stop, that would be fine. But I would not be allowed to not open the computer, bring up the site and just start.

And what do you know… once I started, it just kept flowing. I will probably always have that small voice in the back of my head the questions whether what I have to say is good enough, pertinent enough, etc., etc., etc. The bottom line is, I must decide to either let it stop me… or to do it anyway. I enjoy writing so much… I am hopeful that I will keep on writing despite the constant doubt and fear. In fact, I hope that all of you will keep on keeping on… despite the fear… despite the doubt… despite the saboteur that constantly rears its ugly head! I’m pretty sure that’s the only way anything creative ever gets done… ever… no really… ever!

Here’s hoping I keep the saboteur in check and “see” you next week!  Love and laughter!  ~Rashel

Focus on Why

I just read the first lesson in mindfulness from the book, “Letting Everything Become Your Teacher” by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He says, “In order for meditation practice to take root in your life and flourish, you will have to know why you are practicing.” I couldn’t agree more!

In fact, I would argue that this premise holds true for most things worth pursuing in our lives. At work I teach people about behavior change and one of the main objectives we talk about is helping patients identify their own reasons for change… their motivations… what drives them. You know, instead of telling people what to do… what changes they should make and all the reasons why… which is usually not so effective.

In order for any change to really stick, it needs to be connected in some way to your core values. I’m not saying that superficial reasons can’t drive you… dropping the last 10 pounds to fit into that reunion dress can be a great motivator! What I’ve seen time and again, however, is that to keep it off… and even more importantly, to really incorporate a new practice into your daily routine… you better have more than a superficial carrot or short-term goal to sustain you.

So, the next time you’re looking to make a change… whether it’s a meditation practice, dropping pounds or getting more organized… consider why? Why now? What would be different if you were successful and why would that matter to you? Try to separate the reasons that you think others might want you to make this change with your own reasons for change. There is no “right” answer… just “your” answer.

Focus on your reasons… write them down… and look at them often! You might just find that focusing on the “why” helps push you in the direction of change.

Love and laughter to you! ~Rashel

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