Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the tag “Family”

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

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

 

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

Death Sucks… but only for the living

A family friend passed away recently. Even though we hadn’t hung out regularly in recent years, this is a man I grew up with and treasured dearly. A cranky, burly, intimidating man with a heart the size of a grizzly bear! I loved him dearly.

The thing about death is that it’s hard to know how to do it right. As the grieving friends, and especially family, are you allowed to laugh and remember the good times? How soon? In public… or only in private? Are you required to be miserable for a set period of time? And on the other hand, are you expected to pretend that all is well after a certain amount of grieving… even if the true fact is that you are still devastated?

What do you say to someone who’s grieving? I wanted to reach out to the family right away… but I found myself at a loss for words. A simple, “I’m sorry” or an attempt at reassurance, “At least he’s not in pain anymore.” Or maybe it doesn’t matter what you say… just that you call. But then I tried to imagine that phone conversation… “Hello”… then what? Certainly not, “how are you?” or “how’s it going?” Loss is hard. It hurts a lot. There aren’t words to make it better.

Whatever you happen to believe about death… about what happens to people after they die… whether you believe they go to Heaven… or come back around… or if you just believe that they return to a greater source – the fact is, they’re good – it’s the living who are left behind that suffer. So I guess the best thing we can do is remember the good times as much as possible. Tell each other stories of the joy and laughter that was shared. I know for myself, reflecting on the happy memories makes me happier.

But that doesn’t make the hurt go away. It would be a very simplistic view to say that one should just think of the happy times and all would be well. There seems to be a hole in your heart when someone close to you passes. But since I believe that souls who’ve passed-on would want to see us happy, I will do my best to remember joyfully, smile often of the good times, and send a bouquet of love to my friend every time I think of him. Eventually, maybe our loved ones who’ve passed can help us fill that hole with love… cause love is really all that can ever truly fill us.

Love and laughter to those who have passed… and especially to those who are still hanging around. ~Rashel

 

More on Reality…

I went on vacation last week… thus no post last Monday – sorry about that! There were quite a few instances that made me think of whether we do, or do not, create our own reality. On some level, I believe that we do… but I’m not always sure how…or for that matter, why? Our family was supposed to go to Disneyland for a week. At the last-minute, some pieces of the details fell through. We still wanted to do something so my husband did lots of web surfing and landed on pismo beach. Sounded good! Then we couldn’t get the place we wanted because they were booked. I started checking on condo rentals, but everything was full.

So, lets stop for a moment to consider… this was the reality I was creating.  The inability to find a place to relax and enjoy a getaway with my family. Stress and tension over where we were going to stay, if we were going to go, when we would know if we were going or not… you get the point. Nothing so great about that reality. If we create our own reality, then I was creating that. WHY?

Instead of continuing to stress out, I decided to focus on what I wanted to get from my vacation. Rest and relaxation! Not having to plan anything or hurry in any way. Laying on the beach or at the pool. Getting massages and body wraps. Doing yoga and going on hikes. Being around happy, well-rested people who want to do everything I want to do! Probably a little bit idealistic, but I tried to relax and assume that the universe would deliver one way or the other – even if the vacation didn’t end up seeming exactly like what I wanted – I would be open to the possibility that I would get exactly what I needed right now. Which, I will admit, is very hard to do when nothing seems to be coming together – but did the best I could.

Here’s what happened. My husband saw a picture one of our friends put on FB. He messaged her to ask about the place. She was having a great time and recommended it highly.  He booked it for 2 nights and put plans in the works to stay at a friend’s cabin for a couple more nights. Of course, we were planning to have a longer vacation than two nights and the friend’s cabin was not a sure thing, but I focused on what I wanted and played along. We headed off on our week-long vacation with two nights booked.

Everything seemed to slip into place as we went along. Car ride was seamless. We were upgraded to a nicer room upon checking in. The place had a pool and a spa and a slide! We put on our suits and headed to the pool for some relaxation. Then… 4:00 rolled around and it started pouring rain… thunder and lightning ensued. Really?

Here’s where I think it gets interesting. The dictionary doesn’t offer much distinction between fact and reality. I believe there is quite a distinction. The fact was that it was storming. But we each had an opportunity to define our own reality by determining our perception and reaction to the facts before us. Since hanging at the pool and lying in the sun were what we had planned for ourselves, it was very easy to get discouraged and feel like the vacation was not going well. However, it was also possible to grab the umbrella and find some new adventures… ones that we might not otherwise have had if it hadn’t rained. We ventured out and had a fun night… which included racing through some very big puddles! We spent a little more time in the room than we had initially thought we would… which made it even nicer that we’d been upgraded!

The cabin that we were hoping to get for the last 2 nights did not come through… are you noticing a theme here? We booked one additional night at the current hotel and then got invited to stay with some friends in their condo the last night. The extra day at the pool was the nicest of all (which we would have missed if we’d only spent two nights), we had a great time with our friends and in the end, had a relaxing, enjoyable vacation. And, looking back on my list of vacation desires… I did pretty good. We slept in every morning, we laid by the pool, I got a massage and did some yoga in the room. Pretty good. So… back to the question about creating our own reality. Did I do that? Did I just get lucky? Is creating your reality just a matter of choosing to see the positive aspects of the various “facts” that present themselves? Or is there more to it than that?  I don’t know… but I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Love and laughter!!  ~Rashel

Opportunities… everywhere!

One thing I’m realizing as I meander through this thing called life… there sure are a lot of opportunities for growth! My family and I went away this weekend. On our trip, we visited Calaveras Big Trees state park. It was very cool. When we started on the hike to see the trees, and we purchased the guide to tell us what, specifically, we were looking at – my daughter started to push back. Not much on school these days, and fully noting that not only is it Summer… but we are on vacation for crying out loud – she stated boldly to the group that she would NOT be learning anything on this fun walk we were taking. Apparently to her… learning is a task to be avoided.

Well, I kinda know how she feels. Learning can definitely seem like a chore. Except when it’s not, of course! We had a great time walking through the Big Trees… and we learned a few things in the process. Quite the opposite of a painful lecture, it was quite fun and enjoyable.

I’m starting to believe that life is funny about learning and growth. I think we make it much more difficult than it needs to be. Sit in a room. Study the facts. Memorize the basics. How much more impactful the tangible experience of life! But this is how we learn that learning should go. We are offered opportunity to learn and grow day-in and day-out — learn this new approach to dieting… learn this ancient relaxation technique… learn this… learn that… learn it all online without ever leaving your house! I will confess that I am a serious learning and growth advocate. I love to learn new things. I am constantly buying and signing up for programs that teach this that and the other new program, technique or process to grow, evolve and gain higher consciousness and healing.

But I keep coming back to the fact that learning is not knowing… and knowing is not being. When I consider my daily interactions, I realize that there are a multitude of opportunities to learn and grow right in front of my eyes. Instead of searching for the magic formula for healing – I could be actively processing what is right in front of me. According to Debbie Ford‘s shadow work, everything that comes into our awareness is a mirror of ourselves. WOW… talk about opportunity for growth! That’s like… you just totally pushed my buttons… what does that tell me about myself? Instead of focusing on your issues (and I’m not saying you don’t have any!), my opportunity is to push away the other and look squarely at what my mirror is telling me about myself. If you’re in my experience, you’re mirroring something for me… so thank you!!!

I invite you… just for today… to open yourself up to life lessons. What is life trying to teach you today… whether it is the opportunity to experience the majesty of Big Trees – or the chance to see how someone pushing your buttons tells you more about yourself than you ever wanted to know… invite it all in… just for today!

And I wish you many opportunities for learning and growth!! Don’t forget to pack your sense of humor for the trip!

Love and laughter… Rashel

Ebb and Flow…

“I easily adapt to the ebb and flow of my life.” ~Louise L Hay – Power Thoughts

This is a power thought I need to work on! I’m realizing I’m not so good at honoring the ebb and flow of my energy. My habit is to go, go, go until my mind and/or body collapses… and then… to rest only as long as absolutely necessary until I can jump back into the game. What I’m realizing lately is that this need for constant motion is entirely my own doing. I’m not a high-profile public figure – I don’t have hoards of people clamoring for my attention every day – no entourage of people waiting for me to give them the ok on things.  Nope… just a normal, busy working Mom who may be her own worst enemy when it comes to chaos!

If I take a long hard look at where I put my energy… much of it tends to go toward taking care of others rather than myself. I do get satisfaction from doing for others… but sometimes at my own expense. There is a part of me that knows the extent to which I do for others is related to my people pleaser self. I want others to like me… to see me as nice. Taking time for myself doesn’t make me look good to others… it makes me look selfish. In reality, I’m not sure that’s true… but it must be an underlying belief that I hold, cause I sure do act as if it’s truth! Often when I do take time for myself, I end up feeling guilty or trying to make up for it by working harder when I’m done. Why, why, why?

Now, I’m not trying to pass myself off as a martyr here. It’s not like I’m doing slave labor 24/7! First of all, no one is making me work so hard at ignoring my own needs. That’s 100% me. Secondly, I have amazing people in my life who love and support me. Many of the things that I do for “others” in the name of helping, could be better served by having them done themselves. For example, my kids could be doing a lot of the stuff that I “take on” in their name. In fact, they’d be better off for it. The problem is, this requires me to be consistent about making them do it. Nagging them to do chores makes me feel like the “bad guy.” While doing it for them makes me feel like a great Mom. In reality, I’m fishing for them instead of teaching them how to fish. Why, why, why?

There are always a million things on the to-do list. And somehow, no matter how many things I get through in a day, the list is always just as full tomorrow. I really want to learn to honor the ebb and flow of my energy. And if my body tells me it needs a “time out,” I want to just take one – and not feel guilty about it. Just honor the fact that sometimes I run at 150%… and other times I need to crank it down to 50% and be ok with that.

What about you? Are you regularly stopping to fill up your tank… or do you run on fumes most of the time? What happens when you hit the lulls of energy and your body needs a break? Do you allow it… or push through it?  Curious how others cope through the demands of the day!

Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel

 

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