Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the month “March, 2014”

No Pain, No Gain

When I was young, the mantra of my gymnastics instructor was… no pain, no gain. I believed it at the time… but then I got older… got married… had kids… and started to question this mantra. Maybe that’s just for kids… or young people… or athletes… (of which I am none!). Perhaps pain is just an illusory signal that progress is being made… but not necessary to actual progress? I became a big fan of small steps… small changes… no pain!
In my yoga class last week, the instructor asked us to feel into the discomfort of holding a pose longer than what was comfortable. He encouraged us to recognize the difference between good pain and bad pain. As I took a deep breath, I thought to myself… huh? Good pain…. what the heck is that?! The instructor went on to explain that discomfort is normal as we learn to move into new positions… as we break down muscle in order to build up more muscle. This is how we build strength… how growth occurs.
It hit me like a ton of bricks. Building muscle is a great analogy to building a strong, healthy life. Pain is necessary to break down muscle in order that more muscle can build up. However, and this is BIG… you have to recognize the difference between good pain and bad pain. Good pain helps you grow… while bad pain puts you out of commission. Good pain pushes and stretches just enough… bad pain pushes and stretches too much.
It seems to me that this is perhaps one of our most difficult tasks… distinguishing between the good pain that will help us grow and bad pain that is actually hurting us. In yoga, as in sports, the difference between good and bad pain is potentially a little more obvious. As you bend over to touch your toes… you feel the stretch… the tightness… the discomfort in your legs and thighs… good. As you lean into a stretch or pose and the discomfort becomes painful… well… you guessed it, bad!
In life, this distinction between good and bad pain seems more elusive. I think that others, like me, tend to think that pain, any kind of pain, is bad. And yet… if we apply the muscle building analogy… it’s not that all pain is bad, it’s that we need to distinguish between good pain and bad pain. Easier said than done! How long do I stay in this relationship… job… friendship… when does it change from being a growth situation to a bad situation? How do we know? What are the signs?
Unfortunately, I don’t have all the answers. What I surmise from my yoga/sports analogy is that discomfort is ok, but true pain is never good. I think with some things, it could possibly take some time and practice to figure out where that line is drawn and to recognize where one line ends and the other begins.
Here’s to pain… or discomfort, if you will… as a route toward growth!
Love, laughter and light to you!! ~Rashel


Authenticity Test: My Choice between Liar or Loser

I had a very interesting experience today. I was attending a work meeting. The meeting started off innocently enough. There were 60 or so people – a fairly robust crowd. In lieu of having every person introduce themselves, which would have taken a considerable amount of time, the facilitator led a warm-up exercise to get the meeting started. The instruction was to stand up if you could answer yes to the statement… can speak more than one language… was not born in the United States… has English as a second language (most of the statements revolved around the upcoming presentation on Latino health). The last question was, “have attended the big-deal presentation that everyone is expected to have attended” (big-deal being code for the name of the actual presentation).

Now during the warm-up exercise, there is a mix of attendees standing and sitting throughout. UNTIL… that last question. As I looked around to see who else, besides me, had not attended the big-deal presentation, I noticed that most everyone was standing. Then, much to my dismay, the facilitator decided to further bring the point home. “I noticed that a couple people in the back there were not standing. Please stand if you have not attended the big-deal presentation.”

Then… it happened. Uh…. should I stand? What do I do? All of the various reasons why I had not yet attended said big-deal presentation came rushing to my brain. Do I admit my failure and stand up? (Surely others will see me as a complete loser!) Or pretend that I, too, had done what was obviously the expected action? (Liar, liar, pants on fire!)

The interesting thing is this… as all of the excuses and thoughts about whether or not to “fess up” were racing through my head… and there were lots of excuses… and a lot of thoughts (and doubts)… all the while… I noticed my body standing up. What? Wait? Huh?

As my eyes slowly took in the room… from the far left… to the far right… not a single other person was standing. My gaze quickly circled back to my boss, who was sitting on the left side of the room. And then my panicked gaze darted back and forth between my sitting boss and the sitting Director of my department. sitting boss… sitting Director… sitting boss… Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!

So, at this point, I have a choice. But the choice is not whether or not to experience the moment… because of course I’m embarrassed. That’s a given. No one wants to be called out as the lone person who did not complete an assignment. I’m not going to pretend that it didn’t bother me. The choice is really in the aftermath. Do I spend the rest of the day beating myself up and worrying about what everyone thinks of me? Do I make up stories about how this incident will surely ruin my career and stain my reputation? Or… do I acknowledge the embarrassment and move on, as difficult as that may be. In an absolutely beautiful moment, I might even be able to appreciate my courage to be authentic… to stand up in the face of impending doom and own my situation.

Here’s what I came to realize… at the end of the day, none of us are perfect. And I’m realizing that being authentic is not about being perfect. It’s about being real. It’s about standing up… standing out… and being ok with who we are… imperfections and all. It’s letting go of the need for perfection and recognizing that there is enormous beauty in acceptance.

So from one imperfect person to another, I invite you to STAND UP… take a deep breath… and love yourself fully!  ~Rashel


Self Sabatoge… Alive & Well

What keeps us from doing the things that we know are good for us? What makes us stay up late before a big presentation? Wait until the very last-minute to write the important speech that will be delivered in front of our entire department. “Forget” about that very important meeting that your boss has asked you to attend.  Seriously… what gives?

I didn’t blog last week… and this week is pretty much over and I’m just now sitting down at the computer. Now… I know that blogging is not a make-it-or-break-it thing. I do not hold some delusional fantasy that my blog posts keep the world going! However, I have made a commitment to myself to blog every week, and I do enjoy the process of writing very much… so why do I do things that stand in the way of making that happen? What stands in the way of a perfectly good intention?

From everything I’ve read, it’s fear. That pesky feeling that gets in the way of greatness. There’s a reason why that question, “what would you do if you were not afraid of failing” often results in answers that are far different from our current state. We let fear keep us from our greatest selves. We allow the fear of failing to keep us from even starting.

It’s quite frightening the internal chatter that has gone on in my head over the last week and a half…mean things about not being good enough… not having anything worth sharing… not being smart enough, current enough or wise enough to have anything to bother writing about. I know… right??? Mean!! I would never say such things to friends, family, or colleagues. Heck, even a stranger! What gives?

I’m not sure why we do it… but I’m pretty sure most of us do. Self-Sabotage is a common occurrence. In fact, according to Carolyn Myss, author and medical intuitive, the saboteur is one of the 4 major archetypes that every person is born with and deals with during their lifetime. (If you don’t know about archetypes, I highly recommend Carolyn’s book, Sacred Contracts, to learn more).

I don’t know if this will work for everyone, but one thing that I am finding helpful is to just start. I told myself today that I was going to start my blog. Regardless of whether I finished or not, I would bring up the site and get started. If I wrote for 5 minutes and decided to stop, that would be fine. But I would not be allowed to not open the computer, bring up the site and just start.

And what do you know… once I started, it just kept flowing. I will probably always have that small voice in the back of my head the questions whether what I have to say is good enough, pertinent enough, etc., etc., etc. The bottom line is, I must decide to either let it stop me… or to do it anyway. I enjoy writing so much… I am hopeful that I will keep on writing despite the constant doubt and fear. In fact, I hope that all of you will keep on keeping on… despite the fear… despite the doubt… despite the saboteur that constantly rears its ugly head! I’m pretty sure that’s the only way anything creative ever gets done… ever… no really… ever!

Here’s hoping I keep the saboteur in check and “see” you next week!  Love and laughter!  ~Rashel

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