Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the tag “Learning”

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

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

To Err is Human…

Then shouldn’t we be used to it by now? Isn’t it the human way to learn by trial and error… and for some of us error… and error… and then a few more errors for good measure! Well… if error is such common occurrence, then why do we get so flustered by it? Why do we make ourselves feel so awful and beat ourselves up so much? (That’s not just me, is it?) A curious thing if, in fact, one of the main reasons we’re on this earth is to learn and grow and one of the main ways that we learn and grow is through making mistakes.

But what is the alternative? To celebrate our screw ups? What about the hurt feelings, the tears and the anger… potentially experienced by others as well as ourselves… all direct results of our poor choices? Hmmm… makes the celebrating thing seem a little out of line, huh? I’d like to push for acceptance as the alternative. And by acceptance, I do not mean hide in the corner and pretend it didn’t happen. I mean… take responsibility for the poor choice, make amends where needed, and forgive yourself for being human. If you can then learn from the experience and grow accordingly, you might even go so far as to thank the person or people who’ve helped you grow… if they’re still talking to you, that is.

Acceptance is something I’ve been playing with for quite a while. It’s a term I’ve struggled with for the very reason that I am constantly pushing myself to learn and grow as a person. Acceptance, at times, has seemed like defeat to me. Giving up and “accepting” that I can’t change whatever it is that I am accepting. In Byron Katie‘s work, she refers to acceptance as the ability to stop fighting with the reality of what is. It’s a paradigm shift that has helped me come to my current understanding of what I believe acceptance is.

Here’s where I’m at right now on the whole acceptance thing… I think that acceptance means you are acknowledging reality. I think that acceptance does not necessarily mean that you like the choices you made or that you wish you’d made them. It does mean that you choose to forgive yourself and recognize that there are lessons to be received if you allow yourself to be open and accept them.

I’m wondering how you handle your own mistakes… do you pretend they didn’t happen? do you apologize profusely? are there candy and roses given to all involved? Where do you fall on the whole acceptance thing? And most importantly… how do you make yourself feel better when the inevitable occurs?

Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel

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