Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the month “February, 2014”

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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Planning for the Unexpected

I’m involved in a new project at work. I’ve been having conversations with healthy adults about deciding what they would want if they were in an accident or had a sudden injury, like a stroke, and couldn’t speak for themselves. It makes for interesting conversation. In addition to exploring what they would want, we also talk about choosing a good healthcare agent to speak for them and how to have a conversation with that person about taking on the role.

So far, the people I’ve talked to have been pretty clear about what they want. Some have actually talked to the person they want to have speak for them. Many haven’t actually had that conversation, although they agree that it would be a “good idea”.

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
~Benjamin Franklin

What’s interesting to me is that we call this process ‘planning for the unexpected’ despite the fact that dying is one of the few things that is guaranteed to happen. You will die and you should expect that this will happen to you… no getting out of it!

The problem is, we avoid having the conversation because… well… who wants to talk about dying? And even if we’re comfortable with it, it’s not really something you bring up casually in conversation. “Yes, a double mocha, please and oh, by the way, have I filled you in on how I want to die?”

The thing is, when we don’t take the time to have the conversation, we put our loved ones in an awful spot. Besides potentially not having our wishes followed (since we didn’t bother to tell anyone what those wishes were), we also force our loved ones to make decisions when they may not feel confident in their choices. That’s a lot of pressure and often times can lead to guilt and anxiety if they’re uncertain of, or not everyone weighing-in agrees on, what you would have wanted.

I know we’d all like to think that we have plenty of time and that life will be the standard 80+ years for everyone… but I’m going to encourage you not to wait for the ‘unexpected’ — go ahead and have that conversation now!

Thanks for letting me diverge slightly from my usual topics to share my passion about this work! Wishing you love and laughter… and the death you always imagined when the ‘unexpected’ happens! ~Rashel

Acceptance in Action

I often think about acceptance. I really believe this is a misunderstood concept. I know I’ve blogged about acceptance before… the importance of it… the value in it… how hard it can be to master! It came up for me again the other day. I was half-way through a yoga class and began to notice my own self judgment. In a room full of yogi’s in training and full length mirrors… ones mind does tend to wander toward comparison. How in the world is that girl getting her arm to go straight up right now? Am I the only one in the room using blocks today? Why is this still so challenging after years of yoga classes?

What came up for me is how natural it is to think that judgment and criticism will lead to change. Why else would we do it? If I honestly believed that all of the negative self chatter would keep me stuck… would I really continue it time after time? I think there is a part of us that believes if we truly accept… if we let go of self judgment and criticism… that we will sink into a state of laziness, carelessness or general malaise. And on this point, I think we’re wrong.

I took some time to practice acceptance right there in that yoga studio What would it feel like to honor my achy knee… my tight shoulders… my protruding belly? Could I allow myself to be fully present in that moment? Appreciating the act of showing up on the mat… despite being exhausted and sporting a to-do list a mile long. Could I invoke a paradigm shift in that moment… moving from a place of self denigration to self acceptance? And more importantly, if I did… what would it mean for my commitment to yoga… to exercising… to my general health?

You see, I think the issue with acceptance is that we think it’s not possible to both accept and act. I would like to argue that it is. I realized as I stood in that yoga class, hand on block, reaching ever so fervently toward the sky, that accepting my limitations in that moment did not make me want to quit. Actually, if anything, I felt free. Free to just be… to exist in that moment without shame or judgment.

It felt good. And while I’d like to say it transferred immediately and directly to all areas of my life… alas… it has proven to be akin to many other transformational experiences I’ve had… profound and difficult to consistently implement! But it has made me think twice about how we encourage change… in both ourselves and others. If acceptance and change can successfully go hand-in-hand… perhaps we can do away with judgment and criticism altogether, no? It might not come easy, but I believe it’s worth the effort to give it a try. For ourselves… and those we interact with every day!

Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel

 

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