Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the tag “acceptance”

Practicing Self Compassion…

There is a reason they call it a “practice”!!!

I may have mentioned before that I am participating in Leo Babauta’s Sea Change Program, where ever month there is a small behavior change that you commit to incorporating into your life. For the month of May, this tiny habit that we are attempting to incorporate is self compassion. Seems like an easy enough endeavor… but I’m here to tell ya… it’s trickier than you might at first imagine!

What I’ve noticed is that, despite my initial compassionate, loving words to myself, I immediately follow said compassion with a smidge of negative chatter that is like adding a “yeah, but” to my attempts at self-healing. I yelled (spoke sternly is probably more accurate, but it might as well have been yelling with the tone and the eye rolling that accompanied) at my son the entire drive to school this morning. I was very irritated because he made me re-tie his shoes 3 times due to the laces not being the correct amount of “tight.” I was explaining (do you like how I’ve relabeled the yelling to explaining now?!) how he needs to take responsibility for being on time to school and that, at the ripe old age of 9, he really shouldn’t need me to be tying his shoes… let alone insisting that I retie his shoes numerous times in one morning.

When I finally dropped him at school, he slammed the door and never looked back. I can only imagine what was going through his head. I’m pretty sure it was not along the lines of, “thank goodness I have such a great Mom who helps me understand the error of my ways.” In the great irony of a good day, I realize that the very thing I told my son he needed to do, which was to take responsibility for himself (from my viewpoint, this meant getting out the door on time), he was actually doing (from his viewpoint, making sure that his shoes were tied in a way that worked for him). Funny… that whole irony thing.

Anyway… back to self compassion. After a bit of verbal self-abuse, I did manage to remember the habit for the month. I congratulated myself for having the presence of mind to remember that beating myself up over the events of the morning was not actually going to rewrite the events of the morning for the better. Instead, I took a moment to acknowledge how difficult it is to be a Mom who is trying to balance consciousness and reality! I am, in fact, very thankful for this month’s sea change habit of self compassion. I think it is an easily overlooked habit that can have the potential to hugely impact our lives for the better. After spending numerous moments today offering myself compassion, I have to say that it feels pretty good to be loved… even if, and maybe especially if, it is by my very own self.

Wishing you gobs of love and self compassion!    ~Rashel

What’s Your Story?

We all have stories. Stories are what we believe to be true and what we tell others about our lives. Rumi says… “Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” I find it interesting that he does not say, “unfold your own story,” or even, “unfold your own truth,” but “unfold your own myth.”

I was listening to an NPR podcast the other day and they were interviewing Tony Robbins. He mentioned something about stories that really struck me. He revealed that he was beaten as a child. Apparently he shared that truth with some kids when he was doing a talk in order that they might relate to him… to understand that even if you have a troubled youth, you can still turn your life around. The point he was making on the podcast was that he had consciously chosen not to perpetuate that story… that he worked hard to create a new story that he had shared with the world. Until that time, and only for the very specific purpose of relating to those kids, he had chosen not to share that story of himself and his life and to share and communicate a new story… one of empowerment and strength rather than victim hood and struggle.

Sometimes I think we get very caught up in what’s “true.” Reality, if you will. But what that realization illuminated for me is that we can choose to focus on other parts of our lives that are just as true and real without perpetuating the parts of our story that do not foster our own growth and development as a human being. Now, I am not advocating for a life of lies. I am not implying that everyone should wake up tomorrow pretending that their past is non-existent and acting as if the sky is green. I’m simply saying that we all have choices. Choice about what to share… what to focus on.. what to pay attention to on a daily basis. In any given day, there are as many, if not more, positive occurrences as negative… so why in the world do we feel so inclined, when asked how we’re doing, to list the 2-5 things that have gone wrong in the day? I know it’s not just me who does this because I walk around hearing of everyone’s issues on a regular basis. I’m not complaining, mind you… I’m just recognizing that we are very much hard-wired to focus on our negative story instead of perpetuating the positive aspects of our day and lives. I’d say we can’t help it… but that might be seen as taking on a bit of victim mentality, no?

What is your story? How do you feel when you tell your story? Does your story focus on the amazing, wonderful events that have shaped your life… or does you get caught up in the negative, difficult details? Do share your story!

Love and light!  ~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

 

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

 

Shifting in a Positive Direction

I was listening to a podcast tonight about positive emotions. Something really struck me… and I’ve heard it before but for some reason, it really resonated with me tonight. I’ve struggled in the past with positive affirmations. First of all, most affirmations that I see are usually really exaggerated compared to my current state and secondly, telling myself positive statements that I don’t believe doesn’t usually make me feel better (probably due to reason number one!).

The podcast was discussing a snippet of an Esther Hicks talk. The main point was that in order to get to a more positive state, you don’t have to get to the ultimate end point, you just have to shift in a positive direction. I’ll give you a personal example. Lets say one of my coworkers (only because I don’t want my family to get mad at me), is really irritating me. In the past, I may have used a positive affirmation such as, “I am all loving and totally accepting of all people, including all of my coworkers.” The problem is, I really don’t feel that way in the moment and just because I say it doesn’t necessarily make me feel it. So, the point of the discussion was that we just need to feel for a slight shift in thinking. I could definitely think to myself, “Even though this coworker is irritating me, she is not the most irritating person I’ve worked with.” That feels better than my initial thought and, the important part, I do not feel an immediate resistance to the statement like I did with the exaggerated positive affirmation above.

Our minds tend to continue moving our thoughts forward. So, lets look at how each of these statements might progress after the initial thought.

  • Sheila is really irritating me today. I can’t believe she actually said that in our team meeting. Who does she think she is? She certainly isn’t helping herself with comments like that. I hope she asks for feedback from me this year because I’m really going to let her have it.
  • This is not the most annoying coworker I’ve ever known. I’ve definitely worked with more difficult people in my day. Maybe I’m just learning how to handle myself better? Nah… I don’t think she’s really as bad as Larry was. Now, he was bad. Sheila’s actually ok on most days. Maybe she was just having a bad day today. We all have bad days once in a while. Maybe I should check in with her and see how she’s doing.
  • I am all loving and totally accepting of all people, including all of my coworkers. NOT! That’s a joke. Who is really all loving, anyway? What does that even mean to be all loving? I certainly don’t FEEL all loving toward Sheila. I am so judgmental. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just be nice and get along with people?

Now, obviously the actual thoughts could go any number of ways, but you get the point. A slight shift in thinking can impact all future thoughts and lead you down a completely different path. Also, consider how you would feel with these various streams of thought… definitely better with some than others. In the first one, I feel even more irritated. In the second, I’m actually feeling empathetic toward my coworker which is good for both of us. In the final statement, I’m totally beating myself up. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty clear on which path I want to wander down.

So the biggest obstacle that I can think of not to make the slight change in thought is not realizing that you’re on the path until you’re neck-deep. So, next time we’ll talk more about how to recognize the fork in the road when you’re at the start of it. Until then, I encourage you to pay attention to your thoughts and see if you can make the slightest shift toward happy.

Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel

Shining Brightly

My behavior change process has been rolling along. I’ve been sticking to some of the changes… checking my to-do list in the morning, squats when I first sit down, and tapping when I turn on the shower, while some of the others have fallen away. I started with three changes and then two weeks later I added three more. I’m thinking that was too soon to add more habits. Or… maybe it wasn’t that I added more habits too quickly… maybe there were other issues with the habits I chose. The ones that have stuck are actually a combination of one from my first round and two from my second round. So maybe I need to spend more time comparing the ones that stuck vs. the ones that didn’t.

That said… there’s one thing about this behavior change business that’s been nagging at me. I keep asking myself, “Why am I doing this again?” I guess the notion is that making all of these changes is going to make me a better person… or happier… healthier, perhaps? Maybe I just haven’t stuck with it long enough. I mean, granted, trying to adopt six habits over the last month is hardly a true journey into the world of behavior change! Maybe you’re only supposed to choose habits that you think will make you a better, happier person?

I work in healthcare. The premise of health education is that if you would only change your behavior, you’d be happy and healthy. I teach providers how to work with patients to change their behavior. I’m bought in… hook, line and sinker. But lately… dare I say… I’ve been questioning things. Do you change the behavior… and then get happy? Or do you get happy… and then the behaviors change?

It’s a bit of a vicious cycle, isn’t it? If I was thinner, I’d be happier. If I was happier, I’d have more energy and be more active. Being more active would lend itself to being thinner. But I’m not thinner. I’m not more active. So, I try to implement behavior changes to make myself more active. But they tend to backfire. I don’t have the energy. I’m feeling down today and I don’t make it out of bed until 10am. It begs the question… how do I get happy now? Cause if I could get happy now… I’d have more energy. And the cycle continues!

There have been multiple times in my life where I’ve lost weight. Honestly, they were not the times that I was trying to lose weight! When I try to lose weight, it doesn’t usually work out so good. I get frustrated. I feel deprived. It aint pretty! When I think back to the times I’ve lost weight, I often question how it happened. I wasn’t even trying! Aha… maybe there’s something to that? It was just a particularly good time in my life… I was happy… and the healthy habits and weight loss just happened.

Maybe healthcare should really be all about self-acceptance and appreciation. Getting really happy about who you are… exactly as you are now. Recognizing that you are a beautiful, shining light in the world regardless of how much you weigh… how many friends you have… or how well you fit in. There is definitely a core part of me that knows without a doubt… this focus would change the world!

Until then my friends, I wish you love and light and encourage you to shine as brightly as you can!  ~Rashel

Inside Out Job

I’ve been listening to derek rydall talk about giving away what you want. In his course, Emergineering, he explains that everything in our lives happens through us… not to us, as we’ve been taught to believe. It’s an interesting concept. I’m a big fan of Debbie Ford, whose focus is on shadow work. One of the main premises of shadow work is that we hold within us every emotion, every characteristic, everything. It’s a little wild… and it’s definitely different from everything we’re normally taught. This idea that Derek talks about is that happiness… or anything else you want in your life… is an inside job. In order to have more of something in your life… instead of going out and getting it… or relying on some external source to give it to you… you must go inside yourself and cultivate it from within.

Derek offers an exercise that was helpful to me. Imagine yourself having just won the lottery. You close your eyes and really feel into the state of financial abundance. You have millions of dollars at your disposal and millions in the bank.  If you really get into the exercise, you can have fun imagining all that you’ll buy, how your life will change, how safe and secure it feels to be in this state of abundance.  Once you open your eyes, the “reality” is that you did not win the lottery and you do not have millions at your disposal or in the bank. But you created, just through your mind, the experience of abundance – without actually having it. The feeling of abundance is within us… it is not dependent on anything outside of ourselves in order to feel it, nor is it guaranteed to be present because of any specific external cue. Look at the plethora of professional athletes who make millions and are broke and do not feel safe or secure.
We are taught that in order to feel differently, we must go out in the world and get stuff, learn stuff, meet the right people and get the right breaks. The reality that we are not taught, however, is that our internal state is what dictates our external circumstances. If you are experiencing lack in your life, you – on some level- are holding a mentality of lack. Now at first you might resist this statement, but how many of you have complained about not having enough money in the past week? If you’re like most people, then thinking, feeling or commenting on not having enough is a regular occurrence in your daily life. In fact, it’s amazing that I have any money at all considering how common and easy it is to complain about what I don’t have, what’s not working, etc.

Here’s an activity for you… Take one area of your life where you feel lack. Whether it’s money, respect, love… whatever stands out to you as something you really want and feel like you don’t have. For the next week, notice all the ways that you embody that lack. When you notice it, make an active attempt to shift your internal state. How can you be more loving and emanate love to yourself and others? How can you be more respectful? How can you be more giving (of money, time or resources) so that you emanate a state of wealth and abundance? I know for myself this feels like a major challenge. To consider that everything I have and how I feel every minute of every day is all a direct mirror of my internal state is… well… overwhelming and challenging for me to grasp and accept. Yet, at the same time, there is a part of me that resonates when I hear this concept and really believes this is true. No judgment. Simply notice and se if you are able to shift your internal state on a regular basis toward more of what you want rather than what you don’t want.

Consciousness always clothes itself in form. ~Derek Rydall

Enjoy your week and let me know how it goes! Love and laughter!  ~Rashel

Acceptance

My main area of focus at work (healthcare) is behavior change. How do we help people get motivated to make healthy changes in their lives… eat healthier, exercise, quit smoking? I’d been thinking a lot about this notion of getting people to “do the right thing.” I mean, there is a lot of evidence that eating nutritious foods and exercising keeps you healthy. I’m not exactly sure where this rant (see below) came from or how acceptance fits into the whole healthy decision-making process, but the other day I sat down and the following words just leapt out on the page… feel free to add your two cents!

What if we stopped trying to change people? What if we asked them how much fun they’re having each day? What if we
focused on all the great things they manage to do in a day and that they woke up this morning and made it to the point of connecting with us? What if we just said… OK… and stopped fighting, pushing and screaming, into change? What if we started from a place of acceptance?

What would that look like? Every patient gets asked how much fun they’ve had this week? Every patient gets complimented on their lives…
whatever they’re doing right. We don’t talk about healthy eating, exercise or tobacco cessation… we talk about play, and fun, and feeling good. We ask people what it would take for them to be happy. to take good care of themselves. We ask them how they’re taking care of themselves now. We stop doling out drugs for every known symptom and start having a true conversation about the power of
positivity and self-empowerment. We stop judging our patients and start connecting with them as real people. People with busy lives. People with fears and concerns… families and churches… loved ones and careers. We treat them as vibrant, healthy people who’ve lost connection with their inner source of vitality and joy. We hold their hand as they quiet their mind and reconnect with their body.

Stop trying to change me. Honor, accept and acknowledge that I am perfectly wonderful exactly as I am.

Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel

All or Nothing

Why is it that we are so compelled to all-or-nothing mentality? I get that maybe there are times when we need to draw a hard-line and take a stance on something… but in general… through most of the decisions in life… I just don’t think the all or nothing approach is very helpful. In fact, I think that most of the time, it gets in the way.

This morning is a small, but no less valid, example. My family and I had a busy weekend. Of course, Monday morning rolls around with a bang. I wake up a little late… it’s 7:10am. I think to myself – this is not going to be a fun morning. I’m going to have to rouse my children out of bed and nag, yell, pester them continuously in order to get out the door in time for school. In hindsight, I’m thinking I could have easily woken the children and told them we were running a bit late. Instead of stressing out, I could have allowed them a little extra time, and we could have arrived at school shortly after the bell rang. Here’s where the all-or-nothing part comes in. Instead, I rolled over and went back to sleep. I guess on some level of consciousness, my mind said, “If we can’t be on time, why bother getting up?”

After arriving an hour late to drop the kids at school, and having to admit to the secretary that the reason we were late was that we “slept in”… I started thinking about this all-or-nothing attitude. It’s not the first time this type of thinking has not been helpful. Of course, the more common areas where all-or-nothing thinking gets us in trouble is food and exercise. “Well, if I’m going to have a bite of ice cream, I might as well have that whole carton!” “I don’t really feel like going to the gym… so I might as well sleep all day long!” Why is it that doing some portion… eating a few bites (which is probably all we really need to feel satisfied) or walking for 10 minutes, if that’s really what we’re feeling up to at the time… feels like failure and becomes not even worth it? When did that happen? And why does it persist?

Perhaps it gets at a very core belief that many of us have that we are not enough. That what we contribute, if it’s not the ultimate extreme, is not good enough. If we started accepting where we are… being content with what we are able to accomplish, contribute, “be” in any given moment… instead of beating ourselves up and judging ourselves for not being enough… what would happen? I think there’s a fear that we would backslide. That if we started easing up on the reigns, we would never move forward. After many, many years of pushing and shooting for the extreme… I’m starting to question whether this is true.

Take the scenario this morning with getting the kids to school. If I’d gotten up, allowed the kids to get ready in a normal, relaxed manner, and gotten them to school 10 minutes late… I probably would have beaten myself up and judged myself for being late. As it happened, I slept in, got them to school an hour late, and proceeded to beat myself up and judge myself for being late. Are you noticing a theme? What if, instead of beating myself up for being 10 minutes late, I congratulated myself for not being an hour late? Same situation, but viewed with a different lens. In one scenario, I’m feeling judged and unhappy… in the other, I’m feeling pretty good about myself. Again… same situation!

Now, I suppose you could argue that I could take the same tactic with the hour late scenario… at least I got them to school today instead of just skipping the whole day. Well… you’re right. In fact, if I allow myself that scenario… and accept that I’m doing the best I can… then I start feeling better about myself… which I can’t help but think influences the future decisions I make and how I function in the world. I guess the bottom line to me is that the all or nothing thinking tends to crop up from a place of judgment. If we can be nicer to ourselves, perhaps we can make decisions that lead us closer to how we want to be… who we want to be. And… if we can be nice to ourselves all along the way… how much happier we will be! And isn’t that what we’re all going for, after all? Don’t we all want to be happier?

Something to think about for the week!  Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel

The Power of Stories…

I had two very different experiences this week that had a common theme… stories. I’ve been reading Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind. It’s really interesting, in that it details the shift of focus from the left brain to the right brain… logical, systematic thinking to big-picture, design. Pink insists that as we move forward, the people who are valued and appreciated will not be those who systematically figure out the details, but those who are able to interpret those details into a compelling story.

So, I guess that’s where this story begins. Stories, and the ability to tell them well, have been on my mind. I’ve always been impressed, and a little bit fascinated, with my Dad’s ability to tell a really good story. At first, I took for granted that a good story would be heard and appreciated. Then I tried re-telling one of my Dad’s stories. Not only did I kill the punchline, but halfway through I looked around and saw people’s eyes glazing over. Oops… definitely had an impact and drove home the reality that story telling is not automatic… it takes skill and practice.

Anyway, back to the story at hand (I guess, truth be told, I still tend to get a bit off track now and then!). I went to a conference for work earlier this week. The conference was on shared decision-making, but for all intents and purposes, it could have been any topic. There were multiple speakers, enough credentials to fill multiple pages, data up the wazoo and plenty of research both completed and in progress to be shared. At the end of the day, when I thought about the take aways, what I realized stood out to me more than anything were the stories. A couple of the presenters told stories as a way to share their message. Also, there were patients in attendance, who had a chance to tell their stories. The studies, the data, the facts and the figures had their place… but the compelling portion of the day… the messages that stuck with me, were told through stories. I walked away from that conference vowing to use a lot less powerpoint and a lot more story in any presentation I give!

Fast-forward to the weekend. I was attending a celebration of a dear family friend lost at too early an age to cancer. Instead of the usual ceremony, the “service” was really a group of family and friends getting together to remember and give thanks for the life of this man. There came a time in the evening when one close friend stood up and invited stories. Through the telling of stories… a tradition that has been passed down from ancient generations… the life and love of this great man was celebrated and brought forth for all to experience. There is something about the telling of stories that engenders emotion… more so than words or data can do alone. Often we can experience a similar feeling from pictures… but mostly because they invoke in us a story, or a remembering of events or feelings of a particular time.

So, on a very superficial level, I closed the week with two intentions… to tell more stories when I’m presenting and to make well-known to all that I want people to tell stories when I’ve passed. On a more profound level… I walked away with somewhat of a commitment to myself… I want to create stories… I want to share experiences with friends and family that create lasting memories of joy and laughter… because at the end of the day… or life… that is what matters most. Connection. Joy. Love. Family. Friends. Passion. Leaving a legacy of stories.

In humble and heartfelt appreciation of the many stories that have been shared with me… and the many stories and memories I get to help create… may the journey be filled with laughter, joy and gratitude. Love and laughter to you all.  ~Rashel

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