Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the tag “happiness”

Practicing Self Compassion…

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you gobs of love and self compassion!    ~Rashel

What Makes You Happy?

Do you know what makes you happy? What makes you really happy? What feeds your spirit and makes your heart sing? 

It seems like an easy enough question, doesn’t it? I think most of us think, at least on some level, that we know what we like… what makes us feel good… what makes us happy. But honestly, most of us are just not that good at truly figuring it out. We think we know, but we’re wrong. 

There are so many examples of this in our daily lives. We live in a constant state of more-is-better mentality… and it’s confusing the heck out of us. We’re under the impression that if we just get a little more of this, that or the other, then we’ll be happy. I’ll be happy when… I make more money… I lose some weight… I get a different job… I have more time.

“The purpose of our lives is to be happy.”   ~Dalai Lama

So, how do we figure it out? What’s the secret, magic formula for happiness? Ha! If you watch TV, read magazines, listen to the radio or in any other way are exposed to advertising… then you know it is as simple as buying the next widget, gadget or gidget. Or is it? On some level, we all know it’s not. And yet, if you’re like me, you are continuously sucked in and often succumb to the message that we are just not good enough and won’t be happy unless we have the latest this, that or the other. Perhaps we don’t spend enough time really contemplating our happiness. If happiness is the purpose of our lives, it surely gets short shrift compared to the numerous hours, days and years we spend on less important tasks. So, what’s the first step?

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” ~Rumi

I won’t pretend to have all the answers. To be perfectly honest, I struggle with this as much as anyone! I’ve bought my fair share, and then some, of self help books, audio programs and new age magazines in an effort to find that magic pill… experience transformation… be good enough… be happy! It’s a little ironic when you realize that you’re doing all this searching but you’ve never really thought very much about what you’re trying to find. Happiness is a somewhat vague concept that needs to be personally defined by each person.

I’ve heard that one good way to recognize your joy is to find activities that lead to losing track of time. When you get caught up in the activity and 2 hours feels like 2 minutes, then you know you’ve found something that makes you happy. But… a recent jaunt on FB has me questioning this concept just a bit. I’m not so sure spending hours online checking FB, pinterest, and playing words with friends is exactly my call to joy. But if I step back a bit, I can see that connecting with others and being social is joyful for me and makes me happy.

I’d like to propose a first step. Spend some time pondering and writing about happiness. Play with the statement “Happiness is…”

The next step, once you’ve gotten a bit clearer on what happiness is for you, is to notice your daily actions… how you spend your time. Ask yourself, as you move through the day, whether or not your actions are supporting your happiness. Now… I’m not saying that every single action in your day is going to be a joy-fest… but in some way, the actions and activities we engage in should align with our values… what’s important to us… and what makes us happy. Doing laundry, per se, is not necessarily joyful… but I can take a moment to be thankful for the clean, beautiful clothes that I possess. While I may not be elated with every detailed task I perform at my job, on a higher level, I believe in the mission of my company and know that my work contributes to the greater health and well-being of many people.

“When hope is not pinned wriggling onto a shiny image or expectation, it sometimes floats forth and opens.” ~Anne Lamott

So call forth your joy. Summon your giddiness. Explore what makes you happy with life… really, really happy… and spend time doing it. Pay attention to your daily activities and ask yourself if they align with your values… your true desires… your river of joy. (then tell me what it is so I can try it out myself!)

Love and light to you!  ~Rashel  

 

What’s Your Story?

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

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

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

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

Love and light!  ~Rashel

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

 

Good Enuf is the New Perfect

When did being good enough become not enough? I can’t think of anyone I know who’d be excited to get a “good enough” review. Everybody wants to be the best. Or at least, great! Everyone walks around completely frustrated with what they didn’t get accomplished instead of being satisfied, let alone happy, with what they did. Is it just an evolutionary thing… that we had to focus on the negative in order to survive and now we’re just fostering a bad habit that is no longer serving us… or is there more to it?

Why is this tendency to walk around feeling that we are never good enough so prevalent? I think somewhere along the line, we took the notion that anything is possible a little too far. While it’s true that there are people who can do great things… I don’t necessarily believe that any person can do anything they want. Not every kid who wants to get into Yale makes it. Not every person who wants to be a famous actor or singer will make it big. If you think about it, that’s a heck of a lot of pressure on the person thinking that if they just try hard enough, they can be and do anything they want. All of a sudden, there are no boundaries, no guidelines… no reality checks.

Now, this might seem like an odd way to start back on the blogging circuit! I don’t mean to sound so pessimistic, stepping on the dreams of our youth. But the truth is, this whole ‘gotta be the best’ mentality has stopped me cold on numerous occasions as I’ve thought about getting back to writing. What if it’s not good? Or worse, really bad? What if no one cares? Are we creating a world where people are afraid to fail? And if failing isn’t part of the process, then you certainly aren’t pushing yourself to do anything great… because greatness comes with lots of learnings (aka failures). Come to think of it, maybe that’s exactly (or close to) the recipe to greatness… try, good enough, try, fail, try, good enough, try, fail, (fail, fail, fail), try, better, try, fail, try, great!!

Make no mistake… allowing yourself to be simply ‘good enough’ takes courage… it requires feeling the fear of not being good enough and doing it anyway. It’s recognizing that good enough gets you into the arena… while waiting to be perfect keeps you in the stands. I’m realizing that, at least for me, a whole life of good enough is better than a list of regrets for things that didn’t happen because I was trying to get it perfect or scared I wouldn’t be the best. So, I’m going to hold the fear of not good enough, not long enough, not relevant enough, not witty enough… and I’m going to click the ‘publish’ button anyway. Because in case you haven’t heard… good enuf is the new perfect!

Acorn to Oak

I was listening to a program recently that was giving the analogy of an acorn turning into an Oak tree. The basic take-away, at least according to my perception, was that we already have everything we need inside of us to become everything we are meant to be. The acorn, in its tiny seed form, holds the blueprint for a great, mighty Oak. Of course, there are the external factors that do have some influence on how well the tree grows and develops. Good soil, water, sunshine. But as long as the basic needs are met, the tree will grow and fulfill its destiny.

Could that be true for us humans as well?

And if it is true, how do we use this analogy to help us relax into becoming our best self? What are the soil, water and sunshine equivalents in our own lives? And how do we learn to distinguish between the necessary elements that will help us grow… and those that won’t, or even worse, actually hinder our growth?

I guess I’m wondering if I’m trying too hard. How would my world change if I believed that I already had all the knowledge I needed to be my best self? At this point in my life, I will admit, I’ve done a lot of seeking… read a lot of self-help books… and purchased more than my share of “healing” programs. If this acorn bit is true, perhaps I didn’t really need any of it? Or maybe a little bit is fine… like watering the plant… but too much is like a flood. (Certainly I need some of it as fodder for these blog posts, right?!!) I feel like I’m always trying to do things to learn and grow. To some extent that’s who I am and I like it. On the flip side, this constant struggle to always do more is exhausting.

Perhaps the answer lies in paying more attention to what feeds my soul. When it comes to so-called self-help books… Am I reading because I think I’m not enough and I need to learn more… or because the content of what I’m reading excites me and makes me want to keep reading? When it comes to volunteering… Am I saying yes because it’s something I want to do… something that will have a beneficial consequence to me or someone I love… or am I saying yes because I feel guilty and want others to like me?

Aha moment… I haven’t spent enough time making sure that the way I spend my time is supporting my best self. One example is magazines… I read a lot of them. I’m realizing I get a very small return on that time invested. Once in a great while I’ll apply the information I read… or pass it on to a friend. Most of the time, the information goes in and out… with nary an impact. Why do I keep reading magazines… and more importantly, why do I keep buying them? Maybe there’s a belief somewhere inside that reading magazines will make me smart… or that there will be information in there that cannot be missed? (Any therapists out there who want to weigh in?)

I’m making a commitment: Spend more time thinking about how I spend my time! This, by the way, is very much aligned with my theme for 2013 – my year for making conscious choices. I guess my take away is this… there are a lot of ways to spend time. If we already have the blueprint for success within ourselves… perhaps the best use of that time is to consciously choose things that make us happy or make us proud.

I encourage you to share your thoughts…

Love and laughter to you! ~Rashel

Who Am I?

Sometimes I feel like I have multiple people living in my body. One morning I wake up happy… smile on my face… caring and empathic… loving the world — and then there are the other days. One minute I’m happy and content… and the next I’m moody and irritable. Some days I eat healthy, drink lots of water, exercise, go to bed early… but often I don’t.

What gives? Why such variation and self-sabotage? I know that staying up until 2am watching TV is going to make me feel bad the next day… and yet – I continue to do it. Not every night… but consistently. And what about all the other things I do that I know aren’t good for me… aren’t healthy… won’t make me feel better in the long run… Why?

How many people out there consistently make good choices that support their overall health and well-being? Surely there must be a few? I feel like there might be some kind of link to spirituality… connecting your daily choices with your inner guidance. I’m just not sure where that inner guru goes sometimes. And it makes me wonder… do I get disconnected from the inner guidance and end up making bad choices… or do the bad choices disconnect me from the inner guidance?

What does it take to get clear and consistently make good choices? I’d be the first to tell you that I want to get clear. I like to set intentions, create vision boards and write out goals. But here’s the thing… I don’t feel clear. I feel a constant struggle to figure out what I want.  As I consider why I’m not getting clear… I have to ask myself the question, “what’s good about not being clear?” If you’re doing something… or not doing something… there’s always a reason. If there wasn’t some benefit (unconscious, made-up, or otherwise illogical as it may be), you wouldn’t do it.

Here’s what I realized. If I’m clear, then there’s no question what I want (I know… seems obvious… but stay with me here). If I know what I want, then I should say what I want. But what if I don’t want to say what I want? What if I can’t get what I want? What if it causes conflict if I say what I want? What if other people think I’m selfish for saying what I want? I really, really, really don’t like conflict. Now it starts to make more sense… I start to realize that there are a lot of reasons why getting clear isn’t happening so easily.

So maybe there are multiple personalities living within me. Maybe part of spiritual growth has to do with aligning the various parts of your soul? Uncovering the various hidden beliefs that drive our less-than-ideal choices and bringing them to light. I’d like to say that simply making these connections and having these realizations has allowed me to be able to say exactly what I want at all times. That’s what I’d like to say. Instead, what I can say is that I think it’s a start.

And for that I am grateful.  ~Rashel

Happiness

I’ve read and heard a lot of people talk about the fact that when you get down to it… what people really want… what truly matters… is being happy. You want money so you can feel safe… so you can be happy. You want friends so you don’t get lonely… so you can be happy. Certainly we place a lot of emphasis on being happy. And yet, there are a lot of ways that we sabotage our happiness. For one thing, we often look outside of ourselves for happiness… we depend on other people or external circumstances to lift our mood… make us smile or laugh. Often we don’t even take the time to understand what makes us happy. I had a really interesting epiphany when I went through ‘The Writer’s Way’ by Julia Cameron (13 weeks of daily writing pages and weekly fun dates). In this amazing guided spiritual journey, you are asked to schedule one thing for yourself each week that is completely fun and fulfilling (at least, this is my recollection – it’s been a while). I didn’t really know what I liked to do for fun. I was so caught up in what I needed to do every day that I hadn’t tapped into my enjoyment factor in a long time. Do you know what makes you happy? Ever since that experience, I’ve done a better job at paying attention to what I enjoy doing… not that I always get to it… but at least I know what “it” is!

In Marci Shimoff’s book, Happy For No Reason, we are invited to explore the possibility that we can be happy right in this minute… regardless of any external circumstances. Is that possible? Is it really just a matter of perspective? Seeing the glass half full instead of half empty? In the emergence material I’ve been working with, Derek Rydell gives an analogy that I find interesting. Imagine a time when you were really happy… something great has happened and you are just smack dab in the middle of it. Take a moment to experience it. Did you feel happy in that moment that you were imagining being happy? If you imagined well, you did. According to Rydell, this is basically proof positive that we do have the ability to make ourselves feel happy in any given moment. But of course, the larger question for me becomes – do you just walk around in an imaginary state, imagining yourself happy? What would that even look like?

I can imagine the water cooler conversations would shift dramatically! If you think about it, most of the time, for the majority of us, we walk around whining and complaining about our life circumstances. I’m going to suggest that in most cases, there are as many great things as negative things going on in our lives. (If you can’t think of any, circle back to some of the basics we take for granted like friends, family, etc.) If you step back, from a larger perspective, isn’t it just as much a lie to focus on only the negatives as it is to focus on just positives? And yet, I will admit for myself, it’s hard not to get caught up in what’s not working and what I’d like to have different. I certainly don’t think of myself as making things up and lying to myself just because I’m focusing on the “issues” in my life. Why is it so hard for me to turn my focus around on the positive?

I do believe that what you focus on, you get more of. In fact, I can easily see that the more I focus on what’s wrong, what’s not working, the issues in my life… the more I tend to notice what’s wrong, what’s not working and how very inconvenient those “issues” in my life are! I can even attest to this phenomenon in situations that are neutral… for example, after buying a Ford Edge – I went from not even realizing that this car existed to thinking that at least half the population in the bay area must have just realized what a great car this was… they were everywhere!  Obviously, they were already there… but once my focus was attuned to this car, I noticed. The challenging part is that when I try to focus on the positive things in my life, I don’t always feel like this phenomena sets in… sometimes it feels like the negative is just there… at the ready… waiting!  I guess my quest is not to understand why the negative is so easy to stick with… as much as it is to explore the possibility of changing that engrained habit of where to focus… and shifting to a positive state as much as possible. Perhaps the trick is to practice “being happy” as much as possible so you can start stringing those moments together into a happy life.

Let’s give it a shot, shall we? Love and laughter to you! ~Rashel

 

Love, Laughter and Tears…

I was planning to blog about my intentions for 2013. I was planning to share my three words for the year. I was definitely going to say Happy New Year and start my blog for this year, having taken some much-needed time off from work and hobbies, with all my ideas of the amazing year that lies ahead. Then I got a phone call…

My best friend’s husband died. He was 39 years old. They have two kids under the age of 8. Her entire life just got knocked upside down. Where do plans and intentions fit in a world that is so unpredictable and chaotic? It’s true that we will never know our exact path… but does that mean we shouldn’t plan and intend? Is the process of planning still important, even if life throws you a curveball, or in this case drops a bomb on your head, and changes everything? Part of me is wondering if we have any control at all… (reminds me of a saying “You want to know how to make God laugh? Tell him your plans!”), and the other part is insisting that we do and demanding that I step up, be courageous and leave a legacy.

It might be too soon to have realizations, but something struck me last night when I was talking to my friend. She was describing the juxtaposition of the unbearable pain, grief and disbelief she’s holding in her heart… with the gratitude of love and support that is flowing from every nook and cranny, from family, friends and strangers, to hold her up in this difficult time. There’s a part of me… the small, little part that isn’t totally pissed off that life could be so cruel… that realizes this outpouring of love IS what life is all about. People move through grief, tragedy and all sorts of terrible situations and inevitably they come out on the other side. I’m not sure people would make it through if it weren’t for the love.

There is so much pain in my heart when I think of my friend and her children. When life delivers such a leveling blow… how in the world do you recover? There are so few answers… and so many questions. I won’t pretend to have advice. I will listen. I will provide a shoulder. I will love. I will make my friend laugh as much as I can… for I believe laughter to be an amazing healer. And though I have questions myself, through all of this, I will hold tightly to the belief that there are greater reasons beyond our ability to understand. That there is love. That it will be enough to get us through.

This Saturday I’m going to an Intentions Event. I will sit in a room with 50 or so other amazing women and chart my plan for the next year. I will think big dreams and set my intentions. The part of me that feels compelled to step up, be courageous and ‘leave a legacy’ will win. And for this, I am thankful. Pay attention to the love… the love that can be spoken… the love that can be acted upon… the love in your heart that you give to yourself and to others… that is what truly gets us through each day.

With love, laughter and tears   ~Rashel

A way to contribute

Inside Out Job

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

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

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

Consciousness always clothes itself in form. ~Derek Rydall

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

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