Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the tag “Laughter”

My Dog Leash Aha Moment

I was walking my dog yesterday. I have a chocolate lab named Lucy. At four years old, she is still full of energy. The start of our walks usually involve her yanking and pulling, trying to go fast while simultaneously sniffing everything in sight. So I was using the technique the dog trainer taught us… saying the word, “steady,” as I gave a quick tug on the leash. Repeating… and repeating… and repeating and repeating… as needed. Usually at the beginning of our walk there is a lot of yanking and correcting going on. By the end, there is much less.

For some reason, I started thinking about how this technique could… and probably should… be applied to my kids. First of all, one of the first things you learn in dog training is… it’s not about the dog! In reality, the dog trainer is teaching the dog owner to behave in a way that is consistent and clear. So, if sometimes getting on the couch is ok… and sometimes it’s not… that is neither consistent nor clear. Similarly, as we try to implement house rules and guidelines for our children, we should focus on consistency and clarity. Much easier with dogs than children, I find! Is it really possible to have an exact bedtime that you enforce every night? If so, that skill has eluded me!  But the fact remains… if sometimes it’s ok to stay up until 10pm, watch TV for more than 90 minutes (Is that seriously the recommendation?) or have a sugary, caffeinated drink… then it makes sense that suddenly saying it’s not ok is going to be met with resistance!

As I was thinking about all of this, while continuously giving quick yanks on the leash and repeating the “steady” command, another analogy presented itself. It was right then that I had my dog leash aha moment. The dog trainer was very clear on the mechanics of this technique. It’s important not to allow the dog to pull you… if you do, the leash stays tight the whole time and the dog gets accustomed to the tugging and begins to ignore it. Right?!! Instead, you need to leave the leash loose… almost making it seem as though the dog is not on a leash at all… until the dog starts to pull (or get out of line) and then you provide a quick tug on the leash to provide some guidance and allow the leash to go loose again.

It made me realize that holding the leash too tight, whether it’s your dog (literally) or your kids (figuratively), does not allow for teaching. You have to allow the dog/kids to mess up, within reason, and then provide the quick and immediate guidance. If you just say the command, “steady” but don’t apply the quick leash yank, the connection is never made between the word and the action. On the other hand, if you hold the leash tight the whole time, again there is no connection between the misbehavior and the tightness on the leash. Now please don’t misunderstand… I’m not saying you should put a collar on your child, although I do think I may have seen that during a Disneyland trip once!. Nor am I implying that you should be physically inflicting pain in any way. What I’m saying is that providing quick and immediate feedback, with both verbal command and action (natural consequences of some kind) is a good technique to help your child learn what is acceptable behavior and what is not.

I’m imagining that, just like in dog training, the sooner you begin the process and the more consistently you apply it, the quicker you get results. I don’t actually believe that old adage, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks… so I’m hoping that it’s never too late to start this process. I have found with Lucy that I have to apply the steady/yank more in the beginning of the walk than towards the end. In fact, sometimes by the end of the walk, the verbal command is all that’s needed to settle her down and get her to stop pulling! Imagine that!!

So my hope is that this analogy is helpful to you, as I’m hoping it will be for me. Of course, it’s often (always?) much easier to learn than to apply. But alas, we can thank our amazing children for offering the ongoing opportunity to practice!

Love and light!!  ~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

 

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

Acceptance

My main area of focus at work (healthcare) is behavior change. How do we help people get motivated to make healthy changes in their lives… eat healthier, exercise, quit smoking? I’d been thinking a lot about this notion of getting people to “do the right thing.” I mean, there is a lot of evidence that eating nutritious foods and exercising keeps you healthy. I’m not exactly sure where this rant (see below) came from or how acceptance fits into the whole healthy decision-making process, but the other day I sat down and the following words just leapt out on the page… feel free to add your two cents!

What if we stopped trying to change people? What if we asked them how much fun they’re having each day? What if we
focused on all the great things they manage to do in a day and that they woke up this morning and made it to the point of connecting with us? What if we just said… OK… and stopped fighting, pushing and screaming, into change? What if we started from a place of acceptance?

What would that look like? Every patient gets asked how much fun they’ve had this week? Every patient gets complimented on their lives…
whatever they’re doing right. We don’t talk about healthy eating, exercise or tobacco cessation… we talk about play, and fun, and feeling good. We ask people what it would take for them to be happy. to take good care of themselves. We ask them how they’re taking care of themselves now. We stop doling out drugs for every known symptom and start having a true conversation about the power of
positivity and self-empowerment. We stop judging our patients and start connecting with them as real people. People with busy lives. People with fears and concerns… families and churches… loved ones and careers. We treat them as vibrant, healthy people who’ve lost connection with their inner source of vitality and joy. We hold their hand as they quiet their mind and reconnect with their body.

Stop trying to change me. Honor, accept and acknowledge that I am perfectly wonderful exactly as I am.

Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel

Pause… and Effect

I’ve been reading Martha Beck‘s latest book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World. I like Martha’s books and her column in O Magazine. The thing is, I find that her most simple and straightforward advice is the hardest to implement. In her book, The Joy Diet, the number one road to JOY she says is pausing… taking time to meditate or find stillness every day. I’d tell you more about the road to joy, but she suggests in her book that you not move on to the next step until you’ve mastered the one before… so that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

Now I’m reading about Finding Your Way… which is divided into four parts. The first is wordlessness — which again pertains to pausing… stillness… connecting to your nonverbal self for a period of time each day. I read this and a part of me resonates with truth and a certain knowing… Y E S !!!  and then I stop to wonder… why am I not doing this? Why is this so dang hard to implement when there is no part of me that questions the value? I realize that this is true of numerous things in my life… the difference between knowing and doing. Exercise comes to mind… eating healthy meals and snacks… drinking lots of water… always lathering on the sunscreen… the list goes on. Then again, if I had to choose just one thing to do every day that I thought would have the biggest impact on my life, it would definitely be meditating or taking time to be still and let go of the verbal chatter. Yet, I still don’t do it. Oh don’t get me wrong… it’s not like I never do it – but I don’t do it every day. And there’s something about the ritual of doing it every day. It’s like taking a walk every now and again… doesn’t exactly lend itself to a fit and toned body.

I was reading an article by Leo Babauta on how he managed to start flossing after years of not. He has a pretty straightforward approach that may just make way too much sense to be embraced by the masses. He suggests that you pick a trigger, use a visual reminder, start very small, focus on the enjoyment and mark it on your calendar. (read the whole article here… http://zenhabits.net/floss/). The take away for me is that I would like to use his approach to start meditating every day… tackle one small thing, take a very small step forward, set up my environment for success and track my progress. OK… now we’re talking.

I do love to meditate, but there are certain things I associate with this practice. At least 20 minutes of quiet time with no distractions. HAHAHAHA… that’s why I don’t do it more often. It is rare for me to have this combination of factors in my current life! I’ve actually managed to carve out some time at work to meditate… but the idea of integrating this practice into my home life seems overwhelming. That’s where Leo’s approach starts to seem more feasible.

Here’s my plan to add stillness (we’ll get to meditation later!)…
pick a trigger… my trigger will be brushing my teeth in the morning and at night;
use a visual reminder… I will put a sticky note on my toothbrush;
start very small… I will be still for 2 minutes – the amount of time my electric toothbrush takes;
focus on the enjoyment… I will take a moment to be thankful for this moment of stillness; and
mark it on your calendar… I will get a small calendar to track my progress and post it on the wall next to the bathroom sink.

What would you like to do that you aren’t doing because it seems overwhelming or too big to pursue? How can you incorporate the steps above to realize your goal? The beginning of a great dream begins with one step. TAKE IT… track it… do it.

Love and laughter to you!  ~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

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