Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the month “January, 2013”

How Much is Too Much?

I thought about quitting the blog this week. I’ve been feeling really overwhelmed lately and to top it off, I got a cold that started last Thursday and hasn’t quite subsided yet. It’s made me even more exhausted than usual. Of course, my body’s cry for rest did not slow me down… I continued to work, teach a class at my kids’ school, attend a training, facilitate a group event, attend my son’s hockey game, visit my friend and, just for fun, allow my kids to both have play dates at our house… at the same time! And by the way, the dishes and laundry weren’t doing themselves.

You can bet I was feeling appreciative yesterday when my husband offered to do the grocery shopping! We made dinner and then I went to bed… it was 8pm. As I drove to work today I thought about all of my commitments. I realized that much of the “extra” activity in my life is of my own choosing. I love to write.  I enjoy blogging. I get a lot of satisfaction from teaching others and connecting with people.  Part of me can’t imagine not doing all of the things that I do… and another part of me is just plain exhausted and wants to put on the brakes. How do you know how much is too much? And once you’ve realized that maybe you’ve tipped the scales just a bit much… how do you know where to nip and tuck?

Do I give up the art class? I’m really enjoying it, but the reality is that I’m not an inspiring artist and it does mean one night a week I miss out on the family scene. Do I stop blogging? I would definitely miss the outlet, but more than that, I would miss the people I run into who comment on how much they enjoy my posts. In fact, the nudge to continue writing tonight came in the form of a text message. I was at work today and a friend of mine sent a text message asking the name of my blog… she had read it once and really wanted to read more. When it comes to personal fulfillment, it really doesn’t get much better than that! Should I put my endeavors to write a book on hold? It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’ve actually started the process… I have actual drafts… it seems a shame to stop now!

I could go on… and on.. but you get where I’m going with this, right? I want to do it all… Is that wrong? I didn’t think so… until I started reading a book called Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. Now I’m wondering if there isn’t more to all this business than meets the eye. According to Brene, the obsession with constantly being busy shields us from vulnerability. It’s a way of keeping yourself from feeling… from slowing down… from deciding what’s important enough to devote your time to. Hmmmm…. maybe. I certainly don’t do too well at resting (if you’ve forgotten, refer to intro paragraph!). What would it mean to say No… to cut back on commitments… to allow some space in my world? The fact that I can’t quite imagine it makes me wonder if there isn’t something to this!

How do you find balance? Where do you land on the business spectrum? Please… share!  Here’s to another week!!  ~Rashel

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Simple… but not easy

 I heard the phrase, simple but not easy, quite a few years ago. I can’t remember exactly what the circumstances were at the time… but I can tell you that I’ve considered that phrase so many times since. For the last few years, I’ve been reading the blog Zen Habits by Leo Babauta. He also has a blog on minimalism, which is really interesting. In both cases, there are often times when I think about how much happier my life might be if I were to simplify. If I could learn to minimize… slow down… commit to less… enjoy more… breathe deeper, longer, and more consciously. These are very simple acts… and yet… somehow so elusive.

Upon further reflection, I realize that the elusiveness comes from the difficulty in implementation. Minimizing means throwing things away. Things I like. Things that might have sentimental value. Things I think I might need some day. Or, on the other hand, not buying things in the first place. Things I like. Things that are calling my name! Slowing down means not everything gets done. Committing less means letting people down. It means saying no, for crying out loud!

So, how do we make these simple acts easier to do? Well… I definitely can’t say I have this down! Lately I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed, cluttered and chaotic. I’ve recently been reminded of an approach to behavior change that rings true… slow but steady wins the race. Leo Babauta has a program he calls “Sea Change” where he leads participants through one dedicated change each month. You spend the entire month committed to gradually building up the habit of that one change. BJ Fogg, a behavior change researcher, contends that pairing a behavior change with an engrained habit can produce great results. You might try committing to 5 minutes of exercise every morning after brushing your teeth. Now, you might think 5 minutes is not enough time to really see the benefits of exercise. The argument is that committing to do it, using the teeth brushing as a trigger, and following through… even if it is only 5 minutes… is the best start you can make toward change. Eventually, maybe even right away, you will exercise for more than 5 minutes. But for now, it is the art of commitment and follow through that you are branding into your conscious habit.

Given my current state of overwhelm, I’m not going to attempt anything so lofty as exercise… 5 minutes or not! I’ve decided that breathing deeper, longer and more consciously is a beautiful act that I would like to practice more. I’ve already been trying to do it more lately and it feels good. It offers a taste of joy. My plan is to use the tactic above to make it easier. Every morning when I first get into the shower, I’m going to take a long deep breath. If the moment strikes me, I may take two. But the committment is one long, deep, conscious breath. Stepping into the shower is the habitual act that is already in place, that I do every morning. Maybe I’ll put a sticky note on the shower door to help me remember.

Now, before I finish, I’ll let you in on a little secret. In all honesty, this committment seems small. It seems almost irrelevant. It seems to dwindle in comparison to the big goals of losing weight, exercising more, committing to less, slowing down… and the list goes on. But here’s the interesting part… I get really overwhelmed when I think about those lofty goals. Here’s what I know about taking one deep breath when I step into the shower tomorrow… I can do it! And I think that’s part of the equation we’re looking for… a very high confidence level that I can make this happen. SO… I’m committing to one very small act… and I invite you to do the same. Be sure to let me know how it goes.

Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel

Breathe in…

and breathe out.

What is it about focusing on the breath that is so calming? Is it just that our mind slows down for a minute? Maybe it’s the fact that we’re tuning in to our physical body. I’m not sure what it is about mindful breathing that relaxes me, but I’ll tell you this… I’ve been very thankful for it this past week. I think I read somewhere that it’s actually really good for our bodies when we breathe oxygen in and out of our diaphragm. Have you ever tried breathing from your diaphragm for any length of time? I have, and I’ll tell you that it’s not easy! Apparently, we’ve become lazy with our breathing and we mostly breathe in and out of our chest… so when you do go in for the deeper breath, it kinda wears you out! I think it’s just another thing that we feel the need to speed through these days… who has time for a whole breath? That is just a luxury… I can breathe in half that time, my friend!

Just a few minutes ago, I was given an opportunity to practice this deep breathing that I speak of. I wrote an entire blog post… maybe it was a little bit more of a rant, if truth be told, which apparently was not meant to be shared this evening. I walked away from the computer to check on my daughter and when I came back, the computer was dark. I assumed it had gone into sleep mode, so I pressed a key and waited. Then I waited a bit longer. Then I realized the computer had shut down. Fun!

I restarted the computer and restored my internet explorer session… one can always hope, right?! For obvious reasons (which, by the way, I don’t know what they are… but it seems like maybe they are obvious to someone… or the universe… or something?), the blog post had not saved and I couldn’t seem to find a previously saved version, either.

I took a deep breath. And then I took another. I decided to write about the practice that has helped me cope this last week and that I’m thankful for whenever I remember to use it. It’s free. It’s easy. It takes no gadgets or gizmos to implement. And while it’s possible that not everyone finds deep breathing helpful… I do think that for many, like me, it’s more a matter of remembering to do it than wondering if it’s actually helping. There was a point when meditation became easier for me… when I realized that what it actually entailed was becoming aware of your breath. I can do that! And so can you.

So, breathe deep everybody! Love and laughter to you all.  ~Rashel

Love, Laughter and Tears…

I was planning to blog about my intentions for 2013. I was planning to share my three words for the year. I was definitely going to say Happy New Year and start my blog for this year, having taken some much-needed time off from work and hobbies, with all my ideas of the amazing year that lies ahead. Then I got a phone call…

My best friend’s husband died. He was 39 years old. They have two kids under the age of 8. Her entire life just got knocked upside down. Where do plans and intentions fit in a world that is so unpredictable and chaotic? It’s true that we will never know our exact path… but does that mean we shouldn’t plan and intend? Is the process of planning still important, even if life throws you a curveball, or in this case drops a bomb on your head, and changes everything? Part of me is wondering if we have any control at all… (reminds me of a saying “You want to know how to make God laugh? Tell him your plans!”), and the other part is insisting that we do and demanding that I step up, be courageous and leave a legacy.

It might be too soon to have realizations, but something struck me last night when I was talking to my friend. She was describing the juxtaposition of the unbearable pain, grief and disbelief she’s holding in her heart… with the gratitude of love and support that is flowing from every nook and cranny, from family, friends and strangers, to hold her up in this difficult time. There’s a part of me… the small, little part that isn’t totally pissed off that life could be so cruel… that realizes this outpouring of love IS what life is all about. People move through grief, tragedy and all sorts of terrible situations and inevitably they come out on the other side. I’m not sure people would make it through if it weren’t for the love.

There is so much pain in my heart when I think of my friend and her children. When life delivers such a leveling blow… how in the world do you recover? There are so few answers… and so many questions. I won’t pretend to have advice. I will listen. I will provide a shoulder. I will love. I will make my friend laugh as much as I can… for I believe laughter to be an amazing healer. And though I have questions myself, through all of this, I will hold tightly to the belief that there are greater reasons beyond our ability to understand. That there is love. That it will be enough to get us through.

This Saturday I’m going to an Intentions Event. I will sit in a room with 50 or so other amazing women and chart my plan for the next year. I will think big dreams and set my intentions. The part of me that feels compelled to step up, be courageous and ‘leave a legacy’ will win. And for this, I am thankful. Pay attention to the love… the love that can be spoken… the love that can be acted upon… the love in your heart that you give to yourself and to others… that is what truly gets us through each day.

With love, laughter and tears   ~Rashel

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