Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the tag “life”

Your One Wild and Precious Life

You may know Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day, where she asks, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. After having a health scare recently, the precious part is standing out more than ever! So much of our daily grind lends itself to forgetting the preciousness of every moment. Heads buried in cell phones 24/7… rushing from one important task to the next. Slowing down is no longer seen as something we deserve at the end of the day… it is seen as a precious luxury that somehow we just can’t afford. Shouldn’t all of our gadgets and gizmos be giving us more time rather than shrinking the line between work and play? What happened… and how do we get our time back?

And it’s not just the precious part that seems to be slipping away… it’s the wild part as well. The wild part… gives me pause. What does it mean to have a wild life, anyway? I don’t think Mary Oliver was referring to boozing and brawls. I think she was urging us to notice the daily opportunity we have to live on the edge. To push ourselves outside of our comfort zone and explore the wild adventure that is calling for us. Most of the time we’re too busy to notice… too caught up in daily chores and chaos to hear the calling. This busyness is hurting us. It’s cutting us off from the very nature that fills our soul… that makes us remember where we came from… and what we’re here to do.

I urge you to stop… right now… and take a deep breath. It is these moments that we must hold on to… and return to again and again. I’m ending with a nested poem that I wrote recently…

This moment.

What I have is this moment.
What I have is this moment and nothing more.
What I have is this moment and nothing more is needed.
What I have is this moment and nothing more is needed for my one wild and precious life.

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

Planning for the Unexpected

I’m involved in a new project at work. I’ve been having conversations with healthy adults about deciding what they would want if they were in an accident or had a sudden injury, like a stroke, and couldn’t speak for themselves. It makes for interesting conversation. In addition to exploring what they would want, we also talk about choosing a good healthcare agent to speak for them and how to have a conversation with that person about taking on the role.

So far, the people I’ve talked to have been pretty clear about what they want. Some have actually talked to the person they want to have speak for them. Many haven’t actually had that conversation, although they agree that it would be a “good idea”.

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
~Benjamin Franklin

What’s interesting to me is that we call this process ‘planning for the unexpected’ despite the fact that dying is one of the few things that is guaranteed to happen. You will die and you should expect that this will happen to you… no getting out of it!

The problem is, we avoid having the conversation because… well… who wants to talk about dying? And even if we’re comfortable with it, it’s not really something you bring up casually in conversation. “Yes, a double mocha, please and oh, by the way, have I filled you in on how I want to die?”

The thing is, when we don’t take the time to have the conversation, we put our loved ones in an awful spot. Besides potentially not having our wishes followed (since we didn’t bother to tell anyone what those wishes were), we also force our loved ones to make decisions when they may not feel confident in their choices. That’s a lot of pressure and often times can lead to guilt and anxiety if they’re uncertain of, or not everyone weighing-in agrees on, what you would have wanted.

I know we’d all like to think that we have plenty of time and that life will be the standard 80+ years for everyone… but I’m going to encourage you not to wait for the ‘unexpected’ — go ahead and have that conversation now!

Thanks for letting me diverge slightly from my usual topics to share my passion about this work! Wishing you love and laughter… and the death you always imagined when the ‘unexpected’ happens! ~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

All or Nothing

Why is it that we are so compelled to all-or-nothing mentality? I get that maybe there are times when we need to draw a hard-line and take a stance on something… but in general… through most of the decisions in life… I just don’t think the all or nothing approach is very helpful. In fact, I think that most of the time, it gets in the way.

This morning is a small, but no less valid, example. My family and I had a busy weekend. Of course, Monday morning rolls around with a bang. I wake up a little late… it’s 7:10am. I think to myself – this is not going to be a fun morning. I’m going to have to rouse my children out of bed and nag, yell, pester them continuously in order to get out the door in time for school. In hindsight, I’m thinking I could have easily woken the children and told them we were running a bit late. Instead of stressing out, I could have allowed them a little extra time, and we could have arrived at school shortly after the bell rang. Here’s where the all-or-nothing part comes in. Instead, I rolled over and went back to sleep. I guess on some level of consciousness, my mind said, “If we can’t be on time, why bother getting up?”

After arriving an hour late to drop the kids at school, and having to admit to the secretary that the reason we were late was that we “slept in”… I started thinking about this all-or-nothing attitude. It’s not the first time this type of thinking has not been helpful. Of course, the more common areas where all-or-nothing thinking gets us in trouble is food and exercise. “Well, if I’m going to have a bite of ice cream, I might as well have that whole carton!” “I don’t really feel like going to the gym… so I might as well sleep all day long!” Why is it that doing some portion… eating a few bites (which is probably all we really need to feel satisfied) or walking for 10 minutes, if that’s really what we’re feeling up to at the time… feels like failure and becomes not even worth it? When did that happen? And why does it persist?

Perhaps it gets at a very core belief that many of us have that we are not enough. That what we contribute, if it’s not the ultimate extreme, is not good enough. If we started accepting where we are… being content with what we are able to accomplish, contribute, “be” in any given moment… instead of beating ourselves up and judging ourselves for not being enough… what would happen? I think there’s a fear that we would backslide. That if we started easing up on the reigns, we would never move forward. After many, many years of pushing and shooting for the extreme… I’m starting to question whether this is true.

Take the scenario this morning with getting the kids to school. If I’d gotten up, allowed the kids to get ready in a normal, relaxed manner, and gotten them to school 10 minutes late… I probably would have beaten myself up and judged myself for being late. As it happened, I slept in, got them to school an hour late, and proceeded to beat myself up and judge myself for being late. Are you noticing a theme? What if, instead of beating myself up for being 10 minutes late, I congratulated myself for not being an hour late? Same situation, but viewed with a different lens. In one scenario, I’m feeling judged and unhappy… in the other, I’m feeling pretty good about myself. Again… same situation!

Now, I suppose you could argue that I could take the same tactic with the hour late scenario… at least I got them to school today instead of just skipping the whole day. Well… you’re right. In fact, if I allow myself that scenario… and accept that I’m doing the best I can… then I start feeling better about myself… which I can’t help but think influences the future decisions I make and how I function in the world. I guess the bottom line to me is that the all or nothing thinking tends to crop up from a place of judgment. If we can be nicer to ourselves, perhaps we can make decisions that lead us closer to how we want to be… who we want to be. And… if we can be nice to ourselves all along the way… how much happier we will be! And isn’t that what we’re all going for, after all? Don’t we all want to be happier?

Something to think about for the week!  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

Perception is Reality… right?

I saw a show the other day that talked about the brain… and how we perceive things. It gave an example where it showed a color photo with a white dot in the middle of the picture. The directions were to stare at the white dot. I stared. Then the guy on TV started talking about how our brains filter information and will make adjustments as not to overwhelm our minds. To be perfectly honest, at first, I had no idea why the guy was saying all that. I didn’t notice anything weird about what I’d seen. Then they showed the example again… and the guy referred to the fact that the color photo was swapped with a black and white photo. The crazy thing is… when the photo is first swapped, you still see color! Our brains know what is supposed to be there and we fill in the blanks accordingly. It reminds me of another cool trick that has circled around email in the past… where a bunch of letters are missing from a paragraph, but amazingly when you go to read it, you know exactly what it’s supposed to say. Our brains are amazing… they fill in the blanks.

So… that made me wonder about perception vs. reality. If we see the color of the photograph even though the image has been switched to black and white… then our perception (color) is not reality (black and white)… right? If we can read the paragraph with all the missing letters, then our perception (a complete paragraph) is not reality (a jumble of letters that do not make complete sentences).  But what about situations where no one is pointing out the mismatch? What if we glanced at the photo for a moment and saw color when there was none… but no one was there to point it out? Reality, after all, is relative… right? My reality might very well be that I saw a color photograph. And if I didn’t have the email explanation following the paragraph of incomplete sentences… if it did, in fact, read like a regular paragraph to me – wouldn’t my reality be as such… that I had just read a complete paragraph? I guess the question I’m really getting at is this… Is reality objective or subjective? And how does that effect our daily lives?

I was listening to an audio recently by Brent Phillips. He gives an analogy that really struck a chord with me… a coin. Now… there are inherent qualities to a coin. It’s made of metal. It’s round. One side of the coin is Heads. One side of the coin is Tails. What determines whether you see heads or tails? The way that you look at the coin. The inherent quality of the coin never changes. It always has both a heads side and a tails side. Even if you’re looking at the coin and you only see the heads side… you know that there is a tails side if you decide to look at the coin differently. Whether you’re looking at the heads side or the tails side, it does not change the inherent quality of the coin.

I’d like to suggest that every single thing in our life is like that coin… it has a heads side and a tails side depending on how we look at it. Now you might be asking yourself… which is the positive side… the heads or the tails? Well that’s just our human selves trying to make the subjective into an objective reality again! You know that saying, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure? One person’s pleasure is another’s pain. It’s all based on perception! Have you ever watched “Swamp People” on Discovery Channel? Those people are passionate about hunting alligator. They get excited about hunting their prey – or if they’re not, they do a darn good job pretending! I can’t even imagine going anywhere near the bayou… let alone getting anywhere near an alligator… and definitely wouldn’t try to shoot the thing and pull it up on my boat! PERCEPTION people! This is the highlight of their day!

The definition of Perception from Wikipedia is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to fabricate a mental representation through the process of transduction, which sensors in the body transform signals from the environment into encoded neural signals.[1] All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical stimulation of the sense organs.[2] For example, vision involves light striking the retinas of the eyes, smell is mediated by odor molecules and hearing involves pressure waves. Perception is not the passive receipt of these signals, but can be shaped by learning, memory and expectation.

What’s fascinating to me about all of this is how caught up we are in “reality” and needing to “see” in order to believe. On some level, it seems like the world is just one big illusion where we individually fill in the blanks of what is true. That’s certainly what the latest Law of Attraction and positive psychology research seems to be saying. Our perception of reality… is reality. To the extent that we can influence our perceptions… we can influence our reality. WOW.  I guess that’s all for tonight. Stay tuned!

Love and laughter… if you choose to perceive it!  ~Rashel

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