Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

Death Sucks… but only for the living

A family friend passed away recently. Even though we hadn’t hung out regularly in recent years, this is a man I grew up with and treasured dearly. A cranky, burly, intimidating man with a heart the size of a grizzly bear! I loved him dearly.

The thing about death is that it’s hard to know how to do it right. As the grieving friends, and especially family, are you allowed to laugh and remember the good times? How soon? In public… or only in private? Are you required to be miserable for a set period of time? And on the other hand, are you expected to pretend that all is well after a certain amount of grieving… even if the true fact is that you are still devastated?

What do you say to someone who’s grieving? I wanted to reach out to the family right away… but I found myself at a loss for words. A simple, “I’m sorry” or an attempt at reassurance, “At least he’s not in pain anymore.” Or maybe it doesn’t matter what you say… just that you call. But then I tried to imagine that phone conversation… “Hello”… then what? Certainly not, “how are you?” or “how’s it going?” Loss is hard. It hurts a lot. There aren’t words to make it better.

Whatever you happen to believe about death… about what happens to people after they die… whether you believe they go to Heaven… or come back around… or if you just believe that they return to a greater source – the fact is, they’re good – it’s the living who are left behind that suffer. So I guess the best thing we can do is remember the good times as much as possible. Tell each other stories of the joy and laughter that was shared. I know for myself, reflecting on the happy memories makes me happier.

But that doesn’t make the hurt go away. It would be a very simplistic view to say that one should just think of the happy times and all would be well. There seems to be a hole in your heart when someone close to you passes. But since I believe that souls who’ve passed-on would want to see us happy, I will do my best to remember joyfully, smile often of the good times, and send a bouquet of love to my friend every time I think of him. Eventually, maybe our loved ones who’ve passed can help us fill that hole with love… cause love is really all that can ever truly fill us.

Love and laughter to those who have passed… and especially to those who are still hanging around. ~Rashel

 

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More on Reality…

I went on vacation last week… thus no post last Monday – sorry about that! There were quite a few instances that made me think of whether we do, or do not, create our own reality. On some level, I believe that we do… but I’m not always sure how…or for that matter, why? Our family was supposed to go to Disneyland for a week. At the last-minute, some pieces of the details fell through. We still wanted to do something so my husband did lots of web surfing and landed on pismo beach. Sounded good! Then we couldn’t get the place we wanted because they were booked. I started checking on condo rentals, but everything was full.

So, lets stop for a moment to consider… this was the reality I was creating.  The inability to find a place to relax and enjoy a getaway with my family. Stress and tension over where we were going to stay, if we were going to go, when we would know if we were going or not… you get the point. Nothing so great about that reality. If we create our own reality, then I was creating that. WHY?

Instead of continuing to stress out, I decided to focus on what I wanted to get from my vacation. Rest and relaxation! Not having to plan anything or hurry in any way. Laying on the beach or at the pool. Getting massages and body wraps. Doing yoga and going on hikes. Being around happy, well-rested people who want to do everything I want to do! Probably a little bit idealistic, but I tried to relax and assume that the universe would deliver one way or the other – even if the vacation didn’t end up seeming exactly like what I wanted – I would be open to the possibility that I would get exactly what I needed right now. Which, I will admit, is very hard to do when nothing seems to be coming together – but did the best I could.

Here’s what happened. My husband saw a picture one of our friends put on FB. He messaged her to ask about the place. She was having a great time and recommended it highly.  He booked it for 2 nights and put plans in the works to stay at a friend’s cabin for a couple more nights. Of course, we were planning to have a longer vacation than two nights and the friend’s cabin was not a sure thing, but I focused on what I wanted and played along. We headed off on our week-long vacation with two nights booked.

Everything seemed to slip into place as we went along. Car ride was seamless. We were upgraded to a nicer room upon checking in. The place had a pool and a spa and a slide! We put on our suits and headed to the pool for some relaxation. Then… 4:00 rolled around and it started pouring rain… thunder and lightning ensued. Really?

Here’s where I think it gets interesting. The dictionary doesn’t offer much distinction between fact and reality. I believe there is quite a distinction. The fact was that it was storming. But we each had an opportunity to define our own reality by determining our perception and reaction to the facts before us. Since hanging at the pool and lying in the sun were what we had planned for ourselves, it was very easy to get discouraged and feel like the vacation was not going well. However, it was also possible to grab the umbrella and find some new adventures… ones that we might not otherwise have had if it hadn’t rained. We ventured out and had a fun night… which included racing through some very big puddles! We spent a little more time in the room than we had initially thought we would… which made it even nicer that we’d been upgraded!

The cabin that we were hoping to get for the last 2 nights did not come through… are you noticing a theme here? We booked one additional night at the current hotel and then got invited to stay with some friends in their condo the last night. The extra day at the pool was the nicest of all (which we would have missed if we’d only spent two nights), we had a great time with our friends and in the end, had a relaxing, enjoyable vacation. And, looking back on my list of vacation desires… I did pretty good. We slept in every morning, we laid by the pool, I got a massage and did some yoga in the room. Pretty good. So… back to the question about creating our own reality. Did I do that? Did I just get lucky? Is creating your reality just a matter of choosing to see the positive aspects of the various “facts” that present themselves? Or is there more to it than that?  I don’t know… but I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Love and laughter!!  ~Rashel

Believe It Isn’t So

I’m currently reading the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed for my book club at work. The story is about a woman who lost herself after her Mom died… and then found herself again while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). There is a particular paragraph that caught my attention and I wanted to share it with you all. Hopefully it’s ok for me to quote a paragraph from a book — is that legal? Well, hopefully it is, cause here goes…

“It was a deal I’d made with myself months before and the only thing that allowed me to hike alone. I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.”

I think that one of the reasons this paragraph caught my attention is that I strongly believe what Cheryl says about fear begets fear and power begets power. It’s along the same lines as a mantra that anyone who knows me well has heard me say repeatedly… what you focus on you get more of. Now while I believe this to be true, it is also true that focusing on the positive while “reality” (often negative) is staring you in the face, is straight-up difficult. It takes an amazing amount of discipline and focus. Now, admittedly, if there is anyone who embodies the definition of discipline and focus, it is a woman who decides to embark on, and completes, an 1100 mile solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail.

I found this concept fascinating. That she could “decide” to tell herself a different story. One that, in probably more than a few opinions, was less close to “reality” than what presented in front of her each day. There were all kind of disasters that could easily befall her… and yet, she did not allow herself to focus on those possibilities. Now… that does not mean that she didn’t prepare. Admittedly, she did not prepare as well as she could have – but willing herself to “beget power” did not mean that she walked onto the trail with blind faith and a tootsie roll pop. She read ahead… she carefully packed her backpack… she strategically planned her food and water supplies. She planned and then she allowed, or potentially forced her mind, to support her efforts to succeed.

If this woman who is in the wilderness by herself, with bears and snakes, extreme temperatures and elevations, can muster the ability to will herself not to be afraid… then why, my friends, am I unable to go through a single, comparatively luxurious day, without fear and anxiety? What if BART breaks down? What if my presentation doesn’t go well? What if I don’t have enough money to pay the bills this month? What if I’m screwing up my kids and ruining their childhood leading to a life of extensive therapy and rehab? I’m just saying…

Cheryl Strayed was able to drown out the ever-present reality of her surroundings and circumstance, focus on putting one foot in front of the other, and remain strong enough to continue on her journey. Perhaps this is actually what allowed her the ability… the fact that putting one foot in front of the other was the sole focus from moment to moment. What keeps each of us from focusing on the next step? From drowning out the fear and putting one foot in front of the other? It reminds me of a quote by Whitey Durham

“So don’t be afraid to make mistakes, to stumble and fall, cause most of the time, the greatest rewards come from doing the things that scare you the most. Maybe you’ll get everything you wish for. Maybe you’ll get more than you ever could have imagined. Who knows where life will take you. The road is long and in the end, the journey is the destination.

So here it is my friends… the challenge for this week — WILL YOURSELF TO BEGET POWER. Focus on your powerful and potential self – all the positive experiences in your world. Notice where you are strong. Notice where you are fortunate. Do not allow your mind to play you… play with your mind!

Love and laughter to you!!   ~Rashel

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