Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the tag “Fun”

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

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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

 

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

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

Are We Having Fun Yet?

So much of what I read about being happy and getting what you want out of life has to do with perspective. Be happy with what you have and only then can you get more. Well… if I was happy with what I had, would I even want more? I mean… in principle, I get it. If you’re walking around miserable and complaining about your life… you’re not exactly in a state of good vibrations that would welcome positivity and prosperity! And really, I know I have tons… I mean massive amounts… to be thankful for. I should be just walking around in a state of awe at how outrageously lucky I am and how much I have to be grateful for… but for some reason, I’m not.

Why is that? I don’t think I’m an ungrateful person. If I stop to think about it, I would never admit to being anything less than abundant! Amazing family, friends, community, job… I could go on and on. But the reality is, that’s not what I spend the majority of my day focusing on. I think about what needs to get done. What’s bothering me and how I might be able to fix it. How I do more than everyone else in the world… well – maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration – but I do spend a lot of time thinking about how much needs to be done and how much of it I do! lol

I was just cleaning the house this morning and thinking to myself… well, this is NOT fun! I don’t really want to be cleaning. But I don’t work on Monday so this is my payment for not working full-time. Like so many things in everyday life, this is just one of those things that needs to get done – and currently, I don’t have enough money to pay for someone else to do it. So, as I was wiping away, I wondered – how do I shift to a positive place when I’m doing something that’s no fun? (and it was toilets, people… so I had to think long and hard!)

I tried the gratitude process. I stopped for a moment to appreciate having a toilet… and electricity, running water, and the like. Then I thought about how thankful I am to have a house… in a great neighborhood… and the money to buy cleaning supplies and toilet paper… and the functional arms and legs that have the ability to clean the house. That was helping… a little… but really I was kinda thinking to myself – I’d rather be sipping wine by the pool and having someone else clean my house. Now THAT is something I’d really be grateful for! (never mind that it was only 11 am… you get the point)

I decided to try Plan B. I thought for a moment about how I could make the cleaning more bearable. I decided to put on some music. Actually, I decided to BLAST some music, like my Mom used to do when she cleaned house (she might actually still do this). I plugged my iPod into the sound system and sang like a canary the whole time I was cleaning. It actually helped… A LOT.

It made me wonder where else in my life I might be able to make slight modifications and end up having more fun. Having fun is really important. It’s like exercise for the soul. I realize that as a Mom who is constantly taking care of others, it’s very easy to lose sight of what makes me happy… what feeds my soul and adds joy to my life. Sometimes I get into a mode of black and white thinking. Having more fun means I need to go on a week-long vacation – probably without kids… possibly without my husband (just kidding, honey!) The truth is, it doesn’t have to be that drastic. Just like adding music… in this case, very LOUD music… to a situation, I was able to shift my own energy from feeling like this was something I HAD to do, to something that was actually somewhat enjoyable. In this case, I was able to shift myself to a place of positivity even though I wasn’t sailing on a yacht or sipping wine by the pool.

So between noticing and being grateful for what you have in your life… and finding ways to notice, pay attention to, and add moments of joy and fun to your everyday routine – you, too, can find greater moments of positivity and joy. I encourage you to take a few moments right now. What are you grateful for? Do you have something fun planned? If not, where could you add some fun? How could you “fun-up” some activities that might not be all that fun in and of themselves? What makes you smile… if not out-and-out laugh? Where are you missing opportunities to add humor, joy and satisfaction to you day? Anything worth doing is worth having fun doing!

As always, thanks for letting me share my thoughts.  Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel

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