Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the tag “appreciation”

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

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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

Gratitude Revisited

I’ve read, listened to, and even written about the value of gratitude. How appreciating what you have can make you happy. I believe in gratitude wholeheartedly, and in fact, I think I realized something tonight that helped me wrap my brain around this concept in an even bigger way.

Let me start by supplying some context. I have a nightly ritual with my kids that includes back rub, neck rub, ear rub, leg rub, arm rub, shoulder rub, head rub, and, if they’ve showered, foot rub. It’s quite a process, as you can imagine, and on more than one occasion over the past 8+ years, I’ve wondered what the heck I was thinking in creating such an elaborate ritual. Would it have been so bad to follow the reading with a quick hug and call it a night?  I mean, seriously, it can sometimes take 20-30 minutes for me to put each kid to bed with this particular routine. But, alas, it was the routine we established and, for the most part, it is the routine we’ve followed night in and night out.

Then, a couple of months back, without any pomp or circumstance, it happened. I headed in to my daughter’s room, and before I could even get fully through the door she called out to me, “I don’t need a rub tonight, Mom.” Uh….. say what? I have to say, I was very proud of myself for keeping my composure as I leaned down, and in a cool and collected voice uttered, “a simple hug and a kiss, then, shall we?” Meanwhile, I felt like one of those cartoon characters whose head is spinning wildly… steam coming from my insides… complete chaos descending!! What the heck just happened here? Was this a fluke? A one-time thing? Would our relationship be changed forever?

I know what you’re thinking… calm down… it’s a back rub, lady! But it is so much more than that! It is our connection time. Our nightly ritual where words are shared that otherwise might not get spoken. I’m not even sure what it means to stop, but I know that it feels like my baby is getting ripped out of my arms. And it doesn’t feel good. And, to top it off, it wasn’t a fluke. The next night, and the next, I heard the same thing… “No rub tonight, Mom. I’m good.” But instead of “I’m good,” my ears heard, “I’m not your baby anymore. I don’t need you like I once did. You can go.”

Of course I realize that this is all part of the growing up process. I get that this is exactly what’s supposed to happen and it’s healthy and good. It’s just that… even though it’s one of those things that you know is inevitable… it still catches you by surprise. I’m not sure how, but it just does. And it makes you think to yourself… I should have been appreciating that even more! In fact, maybe I should add belly button, knees and elbows to my son’s routine, since he has not yet banned me from this nightly ritual!

But, and here’s where the expansion part occurs… I’m realizing the gratitude can remain, even when the circumstances change. Gratitude for… a daughter who’s gaining independence… a daughter who still accepts a hug and a kiss, despite the release of the full ritual… a daughter who can speak up for what she wants and needs. All good. AND… as I was grateful enough to experience tonight, staying open to gratitude has allowed for openness and flexibility in my daughter… who informed me tonight that she, “could really use a rub.”   

As I rubbed the back, legs, ears, arms, and shoulders, (no feet cause no shower tonight – gratitude or no, I have boundaries!) of my 11-year-old daughter, I felt tired (cause it’s late) and grateful. Consider what you do or have now that you would miss… and decide to be grateful… in this moment… before it slips away. 

Wishing you love, laughter 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

 

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

As Above, So Below…

What if everything in our lives is a reflection of our own current state? I know, right… scary! I can’t seem to get my mind of this train of thought recently. I’m tired (refer to earlier post… I’m tired!) I’m feeling disconnected from friends… I’m overwhelmed with work stuff… and home stuff… and all the other things I’ve signed up for stuff!  Sometimes I feel like I want to stop trying… but then I realize… it’s not that I want to stop trying… I just want to be really good at everything I do and I want it to feel like I’m not trying so hard to make it all work.

If my outer life is a reflection of my current state… then my current state includes exhaustion… struggle… and discomfort, but it also includes happiness, joy and laughter. In fact, I’m a pretty glass-half-full kind of person, but even with my optimism, I find myself overwhelmed… and quite often, I might add. It’s not that I want or expect life to be easy… (well, maybe I want that, but I don’t expect it)… it’s just that I’m surprised at how difficult it is considering how optimistic I am and how much I enjoy life. I’m a nice person… I’m kind to others… I work hard… I think positively… I laugh often… I’m open to life… I find humor in most situations. I guess there’s a part of me that feels like… Jeez – I get it – I’m doing it –  let the good times roll, already! But I digress…

So back to this notion that whatever is showing up in my life is a reflection of my inner state. Well… there’s a part of me that just finds that disturbing! Is it just me? Is it really possible that everything that shows up is a reflection? There is a part of me that resists… remember how they used to tell you in school – if it’s always or never – it’s probably false? Then again, there’s a part of me that thinks it’s possible.  I know there are issues I don’t want to deal with, and they often get pushed down and ignored. Even though those issues get pushed down, they probably still  influence my reality. So, maybe some of the issues that present in my life are reflections of unconscious thoughts or things that I don’t want to deal with. Hmmmmm….

Action step… if you dare! Pay attention to the areas in your life that bug you… and think about why. What is it about that person or situation that upsets you? Now the fun part… think about ways that you might be exhibiting this trait. I know it sounds crazy… but it’s scary how often, if you’re really honest, you can see aspects of yourself in all manner of behaviors. I’ll give you a quick example from my life. I was really irritated with someone because I felt like they were not giving me enough respect and appreciation. At first I couldn’t imagine how this could be a reflection, because I feel like I’m very conscientious about being respectful and offering praise and recognition. When I pressed myself further and thought about where in my life I was withholding respect and appreciation… It dawned on me that I wasn’t doing a very good job of respecting and appreciating myself!  And yet, here I was expecting the other person to respect and appreciate me!  Ahhh… the irony!

The other part of this exercise is to pay attention to someone who you think is amazing, inspiring or fabulous in some way or another. What specific traits do you admire about that person? Then take time to acknowledge that you hold those very traits within yourself. If you did not have them, you wouldn’t notice them in others… it goes for both the positive and less positive aspects!

Something to ponder. Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel

 

Don’t Worry… Be Happy!

This simple phrase says it all! A very simple statement on what not to do… don’t worry; and an equally short and simple statement on what to do… be happy!!
There are a few factors that go into being able to accomplish something… we need to be motivated – I think we’ve got that covered here-who wouldn’t want to be happy, right? We’ve got to know what to do… well-can’t get much clearer than that-do not worry and do be happy. And finally… we need to know how to do it. Ahhhh yes… herein lies the rub with this great phrase. We just don’t seem to know how to relax, let go, and enjoy, do we?
Well, we could relax and enjoy… if only we had more time… more money… better looks… a better job… a more supportive spouse…  {feel free to insert your reasons here}…
But alas, life is hard! And there is so much to worry about!! It’s amazing we get a smile in at all. Hold on a minute…
Some time back I was encouraged to keep a gratitude journal. I kept one for a few days-much shorter than the recommended time for sure. I didn’t stop because I couldn’t think of things to be grateful for… I stopped because I felt ridiculous that I needed to keep a gratitude journal to feel good in the first place! When I started thinking about things that didn’t seem like they should “count” because they were just a given-something I took for granted- I started realizing how ridiculously blessed my life is. There seems to be a chasm between the true level of greatness and fortune we have in our lives vs. the amount of complaining that we do.  Why is that?
I’ll give you an example I experienced recently… as I may have mentioned before, I love my job. I work with great people, I get to be creative and more often than not I have projects that are both fun and rewarding. That said, there is a current project that has my panties in a bunch. I found myself complaining often to anyone who would listen about all the atrocities of this project. I even called a couple meetings with higher-ups to vent accordingly. This went on for over a week. When anyone asked me how things were going, I had a hard time saying anything that did not reflect my frustration and angst over my current project.
Now lets take a moment for a quick reality check… still working with phenomenal people… have now recruited even more fabulous people into my web to help me cope with current project… majority of projects are great and I have more opportunity than ever to use, my creative juices. What the heck happened to “don’t worry, be happy?”
I guess we’re hard-wired to worry and look out for everything that could go wrong… saved us from the sabertooth or something to that effect. However, how exactly do we let that go… cause its time to move on already!!
Back to my work story… I decided the other day that this needed to stop. I decided to consciously attempt to stop complaining and force myself to think of everything I could that’s positive about this project. It was a bit of a stretch at first… I appreciate that I am given the opportunity to realize that complaining doesn’t make the project get better!! I managed to come up with a couple more benefits (somewhat meager, I’ll admit, but did the job).
Here’s the thing… I had a great day after that. It’s not like the project disappeared or magically got fun overnight… but guess what- I felt a lot better! I was able to let go a little bit and experience some empathy for the other folks working on this project. Stepping back from the complaining a bit, I was able to see the bigger picture -this project as one of many and with a limited timeline.
I believe that what you focus on you get more of. That said, we (myself included) do not spend near enough time focusing on what’s going well, what we like, what makes us smile, etc.  TRY IT: focus on what you want more of for at least 10 minutes today!
Love and laughter to you!! ~Rashel

Positivity takes Practice!

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the value of shifting perspective – seeing the positive – focusing on what you want more of. Well… yeah! In theory… that sounds great! The actual changing of perspective in the moment is where I tend to get a little stuck. How about you?

So, I was thinking today about how that shifting in the moment happens… or doesn’t happen, as the case may be. Most everyone I know, myself included, find the negative aspects of any situation so much more compelling and convincing than the positive. It is so much easier to believe that something is not going to work out than to believe that it is. Why is that? I happen to believe that what we think, believe, tell ourselves, focus on… is what we get more of and what we tend to see in our lives. Why, then, do I not force myself to focus on the positive aspects of life more often? Why do I find myself still getting stuck in negativity and frustration?

Maybe it’s like so many other things that I struggle with… knowing is not doing! Just because I know that exercise is really good for me does not mean I do it every day. Even though it makes me feel better and has a direct positive correlation with my health and well-being. Perhaps mental thinking, just like physical exercise, is an asset that takes discipline. If I just casually hope that I get in some exercise every day, it rarely happens. If, however, I schedule it in… get some support from friends and family… check-in with myself on how I’m doing regularly… well, then I have a chance of it happening consistently.

So, the next question I have to ask myself is, “How do I schedule mental positivity into my day?”  I do think that a daily gratitude ritual is a good start. Whether it’s acknowledging what you’re thankful for as you wake up in the morning… journaling about what you are grateful for at the close of the day… or making a point of acknowledging someone who you’re thankful for – there are so many ways to bring awareness to your blessings and gratitude. Involve other people. Share your appreciation.

Another strategy is to practice acceptance. Of course you’ll need and want it most when it’s the hardest to practice! So… to get the hang of it, practice when you don’t need it. Part of loving your life means accepting what is real for you in this moment. Now, to some of you that may sound like a major compromise. “Accepting” can come across as putting up with or settling. When in fact, one definition of the term acceptance is, “the act of taking something that is offered.” When I can take what is offered in this moment, there is no longer resistance to that something and it is then able to be released. It’s the opposite of repression… it is expression in a positive, non aggressive manner. “I accept and allow this feeling.” “It’s ok that I’m feeling xxx right now.” “Even though I am feeling xxx right now, I totally and completely accept myself.” Practice… check in with yourself throughout the day and notice how your body responds and shifts with the acknowledgement and release of these feelings.

Finally, one last strategy is to practice with specific issues that are bugging you. It can be hard to shift to that ‘glass half full’ mentality in the moment, when you are feeling frustrated. It’s easier to attempt to apply the shift when you are somewhat removed. Think about something in your life that was very difficult. Looking back, are there ways that you gained as a result of that situation? Take a few moments during the day to think about an issue you’re struggling with. Imagine yourself 10 years down the road looking back on this particular time. With that distance, from that perspective, what are you able to appreciate about this situation? What have you gained as a result of having this experience? Let yourself be creative… don’t censor – just play with it.

Schedule some time to shift your perspective. Get support from family and friends where you can. Check in with yourself and take time in this moment to give thanks. When you work on your mental fitness… just like your physical fitness… you will see great gains over time.

Love and laughter.  ~Rashel

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