Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

Garden Math

I was reading an article in Shambala Sun the other day and it really caught my attention. It was using the analogy of a garden to explain the importance of getting rid of weeds (time-wasters) and planting seeds (taking time for meditation) that would later bloom (calmer state). The analogy hit home with me and made we wonder… how many plants I am trying to stuff into my garden and can you even see them amongst the weeds?

I don’t think I’m too different from others who are trying to balance their crazy lives. I’d simply like to fit in some meditation, yoga, aerobic exercise, weights, reiki, fun time with my family, exploring poetry and reading for pleasure into my daily routine. …What?

The article talked about the importance of weeding. Getting rid of time wasters and limiting your daily intake of information seems like good advice to me. I actually feel like I’ve already taken steps in this direction. For one thing, I gave up watching the news and reading the newspaper a long time ago. It’s funny, you think you’re going to have no clue what’s going on, but what I’ve found is that anything big enough to deserve attention gets talked about by friends and family. As an added bonus, it’s a great way to hone my listening skills as I allow people to fill me in on the news worth talking about. Yes, I have to give up being the first to know… but that was never my strong point anyway!

Another weed that contributes to the problem is screen time. Whether it’s watching TV, searching the internet or spending time on all those really cool apps like FacebookPinterest, or Words with Friends – the end result is the same… time suckers!  Now here’s the thing… I don’t think these things are inherently bad. I have a healthy obsession with Draw Some lately that has been building my creative muscles and lending itself well to my graphic facilitation work. Here’s the thing… imagine you’re getting ready to start your garden. You don’t just randomly grab a bunch of seeds and throw them on the ground. First you prepare the space… till the soil, clear the weeds, etc. (get rid of time wasters). Then you decide which plants you want to grow and whether or not your growing conditions are compatible with that particular plant (what habits do I want to include in my day, will these habits support the vision I hold for myself, and will my current schedule, minus my time wasters, allow for it?).

Here’s what I’ve realized about me… I have a modest slice of space for my garden and a barrel full of seeds. Here’s my plan… I’m going to search for weeds, and then pick some of my favorite seeds for planting based on the amount of space I have left. This should seem obvious, but I swear it was like a lightbulb went off when I was reading it the other day. The fact that I would need to clear space… that I couldn’t just expect to add in whatever lovely habit I was wanting to pick up without figuring out what I could let go of in order to have the energy and time to make it successful – what a concept!

So, it seems to come down to some simple math. I must first subtract before I add. The exciting news is that not all seeds are created equal. When we start doing some weeding and we start picking and choosing our seeds a little more closely… making sure that the ones we “grab” are in line with our goals and values… we will start seeing the positive effects of tending to our garden and then we can enjoy the multiplicative effects of an abundant harvest.

So… if you feel like commenting, I would love to know what weeds are growing in your garden and which seeds you’ll be planting this season.

Love and much laughter to you all!  ~Rashel


To Err is Human…

Then shouldn’t we be used to it by now? Isn’t it the human way to learn by trial and error… and for some of us error… and error… and then a few more errors for good measure! Well… if error is such common occurrence, then why do we get so flustered by it? Why do we make ourselves feel so awful and beat ourselves up so much? (That’s not just me, is it?) A curious thing if, in fact, one of the main reasons we’re on this earth is to learn and grow and one of the main ways that we learn and grow is through making mistakes.

But what is the alternative? To celebrate our screw ups? What about the hurt feelings, the tears and the anger… potentially experienced by others as well as ourselves… all direct results of our poor choices? Hmmm… makes the celebrating thing seem a little out of line, huh? I’d like to push for acceptance as the alternative. And by acceptance, I do not mean hide in the corner and pretend it didn’t happen. I mean… take responsibility for the poor choice, make amends where needed, and forgive yourself for being human. If you can then learn from the experience and grow accordingly, you might even go so far as to thank the person or people who’ve helped you grow… if they’re still talking to you, that is.

Acceptance is something I’ve been playing with for quite a while. It’s a term I’ve struggled with for the very reason that I am constantly pushing myself to learn and grow as a person. Acceptance, at times, has seemed like defeat to me. Giving up and “accepting” that I can’t change whatever it is that I am accepting. In Byron Katie‘s work, she refers to acceptance as the ability to stop fighting with the reality of what is. It’s a paradigm shift that has helped me come to my current understanding of what I believe acceptance is.

Here’s where I’m at right now on the whole acceptance thing… I think that acceptance means you are acknowledging reality. I think that acceptance does not necessarily mean that you like the choices you made or that you wish you’d made them. It does mean that you choose to forgive yourself and recognize that there are lessons to be received if you allow yourself to be open and accept them.

I’m wondering how you handle your own mistakes… do you pretend they didn’t happen? do you apologize profusely? are there candy and roses given to all involved? Where do you fall on the whole acceptance thing? And most importantly… how do you make yourself feel better when the inevitable occurs?

Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel

Define… HAPPY!

So much of what I’ve read lately talks about being happy. It even goes so far as to say that there are no right or wrong answers in life… as long as you are true to yourself and the decision makes you happy. Do you buy this? I’m struggling a little bit myself. I tend to be a people pleaser. I know there’s a lot of us out there… it’s probably what allows us to coexist on this planet! It makes me unhappy… or at least uncomfortable… to confront others. Especially when I believe that what I’m going to say will be met with anger or resistance. So much so, that I sometimes avoid conversations that I think will result in conflict. On the one hand, this makes me happy because I’m avoiding discomfort… but in the long run, if what I’m avoiding really needs to be addressed, it can cause me great unhappiness… and frustration… and resentment… oh my!

So… is discomfort the same as unhappiness? Well, if I reverse the question it becomes, is comfort the same as happiness?  Now that’s a question I’m more familiar with. I’m “comfortable” not going to the gym, not working out regularly and staying up late to watch television. I’m “comfortable” eating bacon, spreading on the butter and drinking wine. When things become habitual, they tend to feel very comfortable. That doesn’t necessarily mean they will make you happy. On the other hand, I’m uncomfortable getting up early… but completing a yoga video that made me stretch and sweat feels pretty great. I guess it has partly to do with instant gratification vs. delayed gratification.  Say, what? What makes me happy in this moment isn’t necessarily the same as what will make me happy a week from now… a month from now… or years from now whereas what makes me a little uncomfortable right now could lead to great happiness.

Lets get back to the conflict. Not something you will hear from me very often but, yes, I just said that! Avoiding conflict in this moment is instant gratification. I avoid feeling uncomfortable right now. Unfortunately the fact that it’s “right now” is often a huge factor. The alternative is to address the conflict right now to increase the likelihood that my position will be heard and respected. It’s also likely that after avoiding conflict I will feel relieved, but not happy. If I learn to speak my mind, despite the potential for conflict or reactance, I will potentially become happier with myself and the outcomes that result. The trick, I suppose, is getting more comfortable with the discomfort!

So let’s say I move into the discomfort and become more apt to speak my mind. Now here’s another little conundrum. I’m happy because I’ve stated my needs clearly and concisely despite potential conflict. In the process, I’ve totally irritated someone else, who is not happy at all with my clear and concise needs. How does my own drive for happiness, if it ultimately diminishes the happiness of another, impact my overall happiness? Or does it? I guess if I’m responsible for and take accountability of my own happiness, and others are responsible for and take accountability of their own happiness… we all get what we need, right? No? Maybe nobody gets what they need. I don’t know… I’m too busy trying to please other people and take responsibility for their happiness to find out!

This week… I will pay more attention to my own happiness. What makes me happy? When do I hold back from asking for what I want? Who’s happiness am I protecting and at what cost? Just how uncomfortable is it to go for the long-term happy instead of the now happy? Join me!

Love and laughter to you! Thanks for reading along.  ~Rashel



Manifestation or Coincidence?

I’d like to call this my manifestation success story. You be the judge.

I was making dinner recently using my Pampered Chef stoneware baking pan. I pulled the pan out of the oven and the pan broke right in half. Luckily, by some small miracle, the pork loin flew onto the stove top and did not land on the floor (dinner saved!). Not so luckily, the pan piece that broke off flew right into my hand and took a chunk out of my middle finger. (Irony? Murphy’s law? Whatever!) By the next week, I was mostly recovered… but the nagging desire to use my PC baking stone had not gone away. I was talking with my family about Easter brunch, and was specifically requested to make bacon using the PC stoneware, which always makes perfect bacon! I checked with my Mom to see if she had a piece of stoneware that I could borrow. She said she might and would check for me.

Like other desires that I’ve had in the past, the desire to have a PC stoneware baking dish was clear. That’s about where the similarity to any other desire/manifestation attempts by me… ends! Unlike other situations (basket, anyone?), I did not obsess about getting the stoneware. I did not plan in my mind how I was going to get the stoneware. I did not tell other people that I would get the stoneware (be ready, cause the stoneware people could interrupt us at any time to hand me my new basket… I mean, pan!).

And… here’s the fun part. As my daughter and I were driving home on Saturday, we passed a sign for a garage sale a couple of streets down from our house. My daughter asked if we could go. I said, “no.” After we got home, she still wanted to go and I told her if we walked, I would take her (Just for the record, I’m not a big garage sale person and did not have plans to shop. In my mind, I was just using this as an excuse to get outside, spend time with my daughter and get some exercise!). So… we walk down to the garage sale. LO AND BEHOLD… there is the exact same PC stoneware baking pan that I had broken. Not only that, the price tag was priceless… $2!!! Not a typo… I said, “TWO DOLLARS”! This is a pan that I’m pretty sure I paid around $50 for back in the day. I was completely giddy with the whole event.

Now, some may argue that this event is just a coincidence. But, since I don’t believe in coincidence, I’m going to have to go with curtain number two… manifestation! Now, if I could just apply these principles to all my manifestation attempts… don’t think about it too much…  lose all attachment to getting what I want or deciding how it needs to come to me… letting go of all expectation around timeline…  well, I think I’d be in business! Alas, this is why manifestation is easy and hard at the same time. I couldn’t even begin to argue that the manifestation of the PC  stoneware was difficult. I barely thought about it! What’s difficult is manipulating our thinking brains into believing… letting go… and allowing. In this case, it happened without much “thinking” on my part. Therein may be the trick! There is no way in a million years that my thinking brain could have come up with a garage sale as the means to getting the stoneware pan. Also, the timeline was uncanny… Saturday – the day before Easter brunch at our house where I was responsible for the bacon. I know, right?!!!

So, what’s the take-away? Well, this experience has definitely made me think about how I go about trying to manifest what I want. Being clear on what I want is important. But… much more than that from my thinking brain seems to just get in the way. The challenge. if you choose to accept it, seems to be clearly defining what you want and then letting go of any need to have that exact thing or have anything like that thing on any kind of timeline. Easy, right? Yeah… I’m with ya!! Please do let me know how you make out!

Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel

Positivity takes Practice!

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the value of shifting perspective – seeing the positive – focusing on what you want more of. Well… yeah! In theory… that sounds great! The actual changing of perspective in the moment is where I tend to get a little stuck. How about you?

So, I was thinking today about how that shifting in the moment happens… or doesn’t happen, as the case may be. Most everyone I know, myself included, find the negative aspects of any situation so much more compelling and convincing than the positive. It is so much easier to believe that something is not going to work out than to believe that it is. Why is that? I happen to believe that what we think, believe, tell ourselves, focus on… is what we get more of and what we tend to see in our lives. Why, then, do I not force myself to focus on the positive aspects of life more often? Why do I find myself still getting stuck in negativity and frustration?

Maybe it’s like so many other things that I struggle with… knowing is not doing! Just because I know that exercise is really good for me does not mean I do it every day. Even though it makes me feel better and has a direct positive correlation with my health and well-being. Perhaps mental thinking, just like physical exercise, is an asset that takes discipline. If I just casually hope that I get in some exercise every day, it rarely happens. If, however, I schedule it in… get some support from friends and family… check-in with myself on how I’m doing regularly… well, then I have a chance of it happening consistently.

So, the next question I have to ask myself is, “How do I schedule mental positivity into my day?”  I do think that a daily gratitude ritual is a good start. Whether it’s acknowledging what you’re thankful for as you wake up in the morning… journaling about what you are grateful for at the close of the day… or making a point of acknowledging someone who you’re thankful for – there are so many ways to bring awareness to your blessings and gratitude. Involve other people. Share your appreciation.

Another strategy is to practice acceptance. Of course you’ll need and want it most when it’s the hardest to practice! So… to get the hang of it, practice when you don’t need it. Part of loving your life means accepting what is real for you in this moment. Now, to some of you that may sound like a major compromise. “Accepting” can come across as putting up with or settling. When in fact, one definition of the term acceptance is, “the act of taking something that is offered.” When I can take what is offered in this moment, there is no longer resistance to that something and it is then able to be released. It’s the opposite of repression… it is expression in a positive, non aggressive manner. “I accept and allow this feeling.” “It’s ok that I’m feeling xxx right now.” “Even though I am feeling xxx right now, I totally and completely accept myself.” Practice… check in with yourself throughout the day and notice how your body responds and shifts with the acknowledgement and release of these feelings.

Finally, one last strategy is to practice with specific issues that are bugging you. It can be hard to shift to that ‘glass half full’ mentality in the moment, when you are feeling frustrated. It’s easier to attempt to apply the shift when you are somewhat removed. Think about something in your life that was very difficult. Looking back, are there ways that you gained as a result of that situation? Take a few moments during the day to think about an issue you’re struggling with. Imagine yourself 10 years down the road looking back on this particular time. With that distance, from that perspective, what are you able to appreciate about this situation? What have you gained as a result of having this experience? Let yourself be creative… don’t censor – just play with it.

Schedule some time to shift your perspective. Get support from family and friends where you can. Check in with yourself and take time in this moment to give thanks. When you work on your mental fitness… just like your physical fitness… you will see great gains over time.

Love and laughter.  ~Rashel

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