Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the tag “change”

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

 

 

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

Behavior Change 101

So… it’s been about 3 weeks since I started blogging again! I happen to be playing around with behavior change lately and one thing I’m realizing is that consistency is key! It’s a lot harder to stick to something that happens inconsistently than it is to stick to one small thing every day or every week around the same time. With the blogging, when I leave it up to chance… it doesn’t seem to happen. I’m realizing this is pretty true of most habits – they have to be consistent to stick.

I’m starting a week-long program with BJ Fogg, a behavior change researcher from Stanford University. I’ve gone through the week-long program once, so this will be my second go-round. There are a few important components to his method and they seem to work pretty well… Let me share the highlights.

First of all, you pick three things you want to add to your routine. (BJ’s model does not address habits you want to quit — stay tuned for more on that in a future blog). One of the most critical realizations of this model’s success is starting small. The idea is not to pick your ultimate end-state behavior, but rather to pick a very small starter step toward your desired state. An action that seems almost ridiculously easy and that you are really certain you can do! (This part of the process cannot be emphasized enough!) The difference between exercising for 30 minutes vs. putting on your sneakers. It’s that small!

The second step is to identify an anchor. Basically, you pick something that you already do consistently every day, and link your new action to that established behavior. Anything you do consistently every day can work, such as waking up, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, etc. One of my anchors is taking my morning medicine… something I do every day without fail.

The last piece of the model includes celebration. Now, I’m going to be honest here… I’ve always struggled with rewarding myself for good behavior. I’ll admit that there have been more than one occasion where I set up a reward for myself if I did xyz… and then rewarded myself anyway, even when I failed! Once I got it in my head that I wanted xyz… well… come on! This celebration thing is a little different though. Basically, after you do your very small starter step toward your ultimate goal, you do some kind of little celebration. Whether it’s a self-congratulatory, “woo hoo” or a pat on the back. It seems silly, but it makes so much sense when you think about it. This is my take on it… you’re picking an action step that is ridiculously easy. Putting on your shoes in the morning, or flossing one tooth (one of BJ Fogg’s favorite examples), does not lend itself to celebration. The reality is, It’s a very small step that in-and-of-itself does not necessarily lead you to feel triumphant. That’s where the celebratory trickery comes in (my term, not BJ’s!). When you give yourself an “atta girl” or “woo hoo” after completing that small step, your brain begins to associate success and accomplishment and generally good feelings with that action. That’s a plus!

Here’s an example from my first week… 1) check the to-do list on my phone immediately after taking my morning medicine, 2) send a text or email to a friend after I bring up my email in the morning, and 3) do one round of EFT (emotional freedom technique) after I journal at night. The first two habits stuck… and in fact, checking my to-do list in the morning has proven very effective in making me feel more organized and less stressed about what’s not getting done at home. The last one, the EFT after journaling, was not successful. I don’t always journal at the same time each night and often I’m exhausted by the time I’m jotting down my final thoughts. It just wasn’t a good anchor for this particular task. Good learning.

I’ve started another round this week and I’ve brought the EFT forward with some changes to my anchor. This time, I’m going to do a round of EFT after I turn on the shower in the morning. I’m not sure what I normally do as I wait for the water to get hot… but it’s probably not very productive! I’ve also decided that I’ll do 2 squats when I first sit down in the morning (I have a spot where I always sit down first thing in the morning (use your imagination)… so this seemed like an anchor that might work.  And finally, I’m going to take 3 deep breaths after I take my evening medicine. (Questioning that one, since my evening medicine time varies like my evening journaling, but we’ll see how it goes).

So… that’s basically the gist of it. Pick a ridiculously small first step toward an ultimate goal, have it follow an anchor that you’re already doing every day, and celebrate shamelessly upon completion of ridiculously small step!  Voila.  I’ll let you know how it goes for me. I encourage you to try it out for yourself!!  Learn more at BJ’s tiny habits site… http://www.tinyhabits.com/

Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel

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

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