Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the month “December, 2011”

Merry & Bright

I just had a fabulous weekend with family and friends. I hope you had the same!

My son and I were talking the other day and he mentioned to me that his friend at school said that Christmas is all about the presents. I “mmmm-hmmm’d” casually. “And what do you think Christmas is about, honey?” I asked. He got really quiet and pondered for a bit… which, I admit, made me a bit nervous. “Family,” he said. “And giving… And love… And presents, too!” he smiled shyly.

It made me wonder. What do I think Christmas is all about? And what would I say if asked? Obviously, ‘presents’ wasn’t the only right answer, as even my 6-year old knew… regardless of how true it seemed. So… family, friends and love? Well… yes… and… there is a story here that constitutes the actual reason for a Holiday. But what if, as is the case for me, you’re not exactly sold on the baby in the manger story?

I question, with so many people celebrating Christmas… how many of these people actually believe in the birth of Christ? When does a story become irrelevant to the actual beliefs of those carrying out the ritual?

I guess the answer for me, at least at this point in my life, is found in symbolism. A child, a piece of God, born into the world to experience the journey. Seemingly good and bad events occur, but really it’s all part of the master plan and in the end, the child reunites to become one, again, with the creator. I believe in my heart that this is true for all of us… a master plan from the start… a journey with events to help our souls grow, and in the end, a return to the source of all being.

So for this I celebrate. Every person coming into my life, from family and friends to casual contacts, a part of my soul journey. Each person a piece of God, reflecting back to each other the human condition. May you take time this holiday season, to acknowledge the suffering, appreciate the journey and revel in the glory.

As you move through the coming year, I invite you to consider your rituals. What are you celebrating? What does it mean to you? Part of living consciously means waking up. Not necessarily, or at least not always, changing… but being more aware of how and why.

This funny thing called life is packed with questions to be pondered… thanks for joining me on the discovery. Wishing you all a fabulous end-of-year and looking forward to an amazing 2012.  Love, Rashel

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The Right Thing

A funny thing happened to me the other day. Something that really made me think. I was out shopping for Xmas presents, always a fun task this time of year, and I found a great present for a special someone (who will remain nameless since it’s not Xmas yet). It was a little on the expensive side, but I decided it was worth it because said person is kinda hard to shop for. So… I’m at the checkout stand and the lady ringing me up asks if I would like any gift receipts. I decide that I should get a gift receipt for this particular item… just in case. Well, the cashier pulls out the item and realizes that it has not actually been rung up. So basically, if I had not asked for the gift receipt, I would have walked out of the store not even realizing that I was walking out without paying for that particular gift. Here’s where the interesting part comes in… I was really mad at myself for asking for that gift receipt. I noticed my inner voice seriously ripping me up one side and down the other. Why couldn’t I just keep my mouth shut? There were other presents I was buying… why couldn’t I have asked for a gift receipt for them and not the item that I was about to get for free???

As these thoughts were playing through my head a question occurred… would I have kept that item and not returned to the store to let them know I’d gotten it for free? Would I have justified it as the cashiers error and not taken responsibility? Maybe I could rationalize that the universe was looking out for me? Well… it really made me think twice. I would never consider walking into a store and stealing something… anything… let alone an expensive item that I would be giving to someone as a gift. Yet, somehow the fact that this error was the cashier’s doing – and that potentially no one would know or blame me if I were to be “caught” was allowing my mind to rationalize and make it ok. Why?

Who are we when no one is looking and what does it have to do with spirituality? Isn’t that inner voice supposed to be the one guiding me to do the right thing? Maybe that voice was out shopping, too, and realized we were going to need some extra cash to cover all the Xmas spending!! I like to think of myself as an honest, ethical person who doesn’t have to try all-that-hard to do the right thing. and yet, there I was. Maybe life gives us these little opportunities to see how our spiritual souls are progressing. I like to think that I would have gone back once I found out that the item hadn’t been paid for. I guess I won’t know for sure… until the next time a little test gets thrown my way!

What would you do if a cashier sent you home with a “free” item? What if you realized right as it was happening… would you say something? Post a comment and let me know! I’ve actually done the “right thing” before and spoken up, but in the back of my mind there was this little voice saying… ahhhhh… you almost got away with something there! Who was that? My true self without cultural constraints? My bad side? Does it really matter if, in the end, I make the right choice?

Another thing dawned on me as I was writing this blog… now that I have kids I find it so much more important to model what I feel are the right actions. Thank goodness for my little people that keep me honest and doing the “right” thing… most of the time!

Do you know how you feel?

I was reading something from Marty Lefkoe the other day. It was a game that he was inviting his followers to play. (Marty works with people on eliminating their limiting beliefs and has a blog that I try to follow. http://www.mortylefkoe.com/) Anyway, the first step in the game is to notice all of your negative feelings, all day long, for seven days. I decided to try it out… and I’ll tell you, I was pleasantly surprised. You see… I had played a similar game a couple years ago when I was working on noticing and accepting my thoughts… and it was horrifying. I was shocked at how negative I was throughout the day – how many times I put myself down in a day, or doubted my abilities. Well this time around, it wasn’t quite as shocking. I had fewer negative thoughts and wasn’t nearly as hard on myself as in the past.
How’d that happen?
Well, I think a big part of it was just the act of noticing the negative feelings in the first place. The fact that I was so unaware of how negative my thoughts were made me realize I wasn’t paying very much (conscious) attention to the thoughts I was having every day. As I began to notice myself having a negative thought, I would accept it… “I’m feeling really angry at myself – and that’s ok,” or “I’m feeling very judgemental and that’s ok.” That doesn’t mean I gave myself permission to be rude or hurtful, I just allowed myself to accept the fact that I’m a normal human being who has all of these gamut of emotions from second to second on a daily basis. And it’s ok. I also started to notice that, as I accepted the feelings, I was able to release them more easily. It also made me more aware of my own ability to choose a different thought in that moment. I could actually focus on something else and move on without getting bogged up in anger, self-judgement, or anything else that was waiting to sabotage my day.
That past experience makes me like Marty’s game even more. He takes you to the next level by asking you, after you’ve noticed your negative thought, to ask yourself what meaning you gave to the event that produced the negative thought. In case you’re wondering, he’s implying that it’s not the experience itself, but the meaning that you attach to the event that produces the negative feeling for yourself. Huh?
Let me give you an example. Last year, the kids and I would struggle every single morning to get to school on time. I would end up yelling at them to get ready and they would rebel and yell back… it was not fun for anyone and usually made me feel like I’d done a full day’s work before I’d even left the house. Now… what events were causing the negative feelings? The kids would get up slowly and need several reminders to get ready. They would get distracted and do other things instead of dressing, eating and packing up their backpacks. Flash forward to this morning. Both kids woke up late and struggled to get moving. My son got back in bed three times before he finally started getting dressed. My daughter just didn’t bother to get out of bed at all! I took a few deep breaths and decided to relax into the morning. I reminded myself that it wasn’t going to kill anyone if we were a few minutes late. I helped my kids get ready and pack up their stuff. I let go of the need to be in control. And more impressively, I didn’t even raise my voice. It was such a better experience for all of us. And… the clincher is, we made it before the bell rang with about 30 seconds to spare!
The same preceding circumstances in both scenarios. The difference was in what I decided to tell myself about the events – “This is not acceptable and will make us look like tardy slackers,” vs. “This is normal and many people struggle to get out the door in the morning. This isn’t worth getting worked up over.”
This week’s question to ponder is… where are you getting worked up? How might you shift into a place of acceptance? What would it look like if you let go of the meaning and focused on the moment?
If you’re interested in learning more about Marty Lefkoe’s game, check out his blog. http://www.mortylefkoe.com/lets-play-game-dissolve/
Here’s a summary of the game:
  1. Notice all negative feelings, all day long, for seven days.
  2. Ask yourself what meaning you gave something that just happened that produced the feeling you are having.
  3. Make a clear distinction between the event in the world and the meaning you gave the event, which exists only in your mind.
  4. When you make a clear distinction, the meaning dissolves, along with any feelings that had been caused by the meaning.
  5. Imagine yourself a few years in the future looking back at the event and describe in detail how that event led to so many wonderful things.

Shadow Work

This last week has been a tough one… it’s made me think quite a bit about this notion that we create our own reality. Do we? Why would anyone create the week I just had? Which I’m sure is not nearly as bad as many others out there who don’t have the amazing gifts in their life that I have. And still… Why would anyone create bad things if they had a choice?
Then again, why would anyone think bad thoughts… if they had a choice. And don’t we have a choice about our thoughts? And yet, I for one, often find myself in the bad thought arena. This past week was a perfect example. People were sick, including myself, and it made for low energy levels, crankiness and general disruption to normal events. Then again, there were positive events that occurred… visiting with family and friends… successful sporting events… decorating of the Christmas tree… a nice dinner out.  But the good times, somehow, do not keep me from thinking and talking about all the things gone wrong.
It makes me think of shadow work. A few years ago I attended a workshop by Debbie Ford. Her workshop focuses on shadow work… recognizing and acknowledging our shadow… and welcoming and honoring both our shadow and our light. It was an amazing experience and I have thought about the experience often in the years that have followed. It’s a challenging concept to grasp. The Cliff notes version is that everything in your reality is mirroring back your internal self. I think of this concept often when I find myself in states of negativity… such as this week. When I look around and find myself amidst chaos, craziness, and negativity… I have to stop and ask myself… where am I chaotic, crazy and negative? If I’m honest with myself, there are places and ways that I am being mirrored. It’s not always easy to spot, but inevitably, it’s there.
Unfortunately, the awareness is not enough to turn it all around… I wish there was a magic wand, but alas! What I can say is this… shifting your paradigm from victim to accomplice… from being “done-to” to being “part of”… can help you acknowledge that you are part of every piece of reality that comes into your existence. And that is the good and bad of it! Your thoughts matter. They influence your reality. They influence what happens to you and how you decide to handle it.
This does not mean that anything you think will instantly make something happen. It also doesn’t mean that there aren’t any other factors at play. It does mean that what you tell yourself minute by minute matters. What more impetus do you need to start paying attention to your thoughts?

Reality is Perfection

When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky. Buddha quote

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about what is real. As I’ve been focusing on gratitude, taking time to acknowledge what I’m grateful for at the start of each day and as much as I can remember throughout the day, I notice that my world seems to shift a bit. The other morning as I boarded the BART train, after focusing quite intently on gratitude during my drive there, I stepped onto a fully loaded train and stood. Always a lovely prospect – trying to read and play words with friends while swaying back and forth among perfect strangers. At that point, a passenger stood and gave me his seat. Now maybe I was having a particularly good hair day… but I couldn’t help but wonder… did I do that? Did all of that positivity and gratitude actually influence my reality? Sure… it could have been a coincidence. I will tell you that in my 10+ years as a regular BART passenger, the seat offering is a rare occurrence for anyone under 70 or without a bun in the oven. It certainly made me feel very appreciative. So… I was in a state of gratitude and something occurred that made me feel all the more grateful. I don’t know about you, but seems to me that focusing on gratitude gave me more to be grateful for… or as those who know me often hear me say… focus on what you want more of!

It makes me wonder a bit about this thing we call “reality.” If two people are in the same situation, they will inevitably have different “realities” of what has occurred. It reminds me of an Eagles song that states, “There’s three sides to every story. There’s yours, mine and the cold hard truth.” But what is the cold, hard truth? Isn’t there really only each person’s interpretation? So reality is really only as real as our interpretation of it, right?

And on that note, why do we put up so much resistance to that reality? Is it because we’re always focusing on what we don’t want? As I move through my day, I inevitably find challenges galore. Too much to do in not enough time. Not enough money to make it all happen exactly the way I would like. A hairy, albeit cute, dog that sheds enough for a parka on an hourly basis. How, exactly, do we relax into the amazement of our lives? I had an interesting opportunity to practice last night. I was lying in bed not sleeping. It was about 3:30am. I started getting a bad cramp in my right hip. My initial response was to tense up and groan (quietly, of course, so as not to wake the hubby~you’re welcome, babe!). Then, for some reason, I thought about the notion of acceptance vs. resistance… and I decided to lean into the pain. I consciously focused on relaxing my body~which wasn’t exactly intuitive while having a cramp. Then I started focusing on my breathing. I imagined my body relaxing and letting go… and the cramp went away. It made me realize that our immediate response is fight or flight – tense up, resist the pain, fight back. But we have a choice in each situation… we can consciously choose to relax into the “reality” of the given situation and allow it to be. Amazingly, as was the case with my cramp, it often leads to a place of peace.

So my invitation to you… is to notice where you resist… where you fight against reality. How can you shift into a state of gratitude? In what ways can you allow… and appreciate what is? Sometimes when I’m meditating I use a mantra that helps me with this… on the in-breath I repeat “Accept” and on the out-breath I repeat “Allow.” I also pause for a few seconds between breaths and repeat to myself… INVITE! I allow and accept what is… all the while, inviting exactly what I want to be. I INVITE you to try it out yourself!

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