Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the tag “love”

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

 

Smile

Smile

I just wrote a whole blog on death, compassion, self-acceptance and love. Then it got deleted. Then I couldn’t manage to recover it despite auto save. Then I decided my message should be… SMILE! and leave it at that. So… just do it! You’ll feel better!

My goal is to get back to blogging now that my art class has wrapped up. Maybe I’ll expose you to some of my attempts at art in future blog posts. Stay tuned!

Love, laughter, self-compassion, and light to you all! ~Rashel

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

Gratitude Revisited

I’ve read, listened to, and even written about the value of gratitude. How appreciating what you have can make you happy. I believe in gratitude wholeheartedly, and in fact, I think I realized something tonight that helped me wrap my brain around this concept in an even bigger way.

Let me start by supplying some context. I have a nightly ritual with my kids that includes back rub, neck rub, ear rub, leg rub, arm rub, shoulder rub, head rub, and, if they’ve showered, foot rub. It’s quite a process, as you can imagine, and on more than one occasion over the past 8+ years, I’ve wondered what the heck I was thinking in creating such an elaborate ritual. Would it have been so bad to follow the reading with a quick hug and call it a night?  I mean, seriously, it can sometimes take 20-30 minutes for me to put each kid to bed with this particular routine. But, alas, it was the routine we established and, for the most part, it is the routine we’ve followed night in and night out.

Then, a couple of months back, without any pomp or circumstance, it happened. I headed in to my daughter’s room, and before I could even get fully through the door she called out to me, “I don’t need a rub tonight, Mom.” Uh….. say what? I have to say, I was very proud of myself for keeping my composure as I leaned down, and in a cool and collected voice uttered, “a simple hug and a kiss, then, shall we?” Meanwhile, I felt like one of those cartoon characters whose head is spinning wildly… steam coming from my insides… complete chaos descending!! What the heck just happened here? Was this a fluke? A one-time thing? Would our relationship be changed forever?

I know what you’re thinking… calm down… it’s a back rub, lady! But it is so much more than that! It is our connection time. Our nightly ritual where words are shared that otherwise might not get spoken. I’m not even sure what it means to stop, but I know that it feels like my baby is getting ripped out of my arms. And it doesn’t feel good. And, to top it off, it wasn’t a fluke. The next night, and the next, I heard the same thing… “No rub tonight, Mom. I’m good.” But instead of “I’m good,” my ears heard, “I’m not your baby anymore. I don’t need you like I once did. You can go.”

Of course I realize that this is all part of the growing up process. I get that this is exactly what’s supposed to happen and it’s healthy and good. It’s just that… even though it’s one of those things that you know is inevitable… it still catches you by surprise. I’m not sure how, but it just does. And it makes you think to yourself… I should have been appreciating that even more! In fact, maybe I should add belly button, knees and elbows to my son’s routine, since he has not yet banned me from this nightly ritual!

But, and here’s where the expansion part occurs… I’m realizing the gratitude can remain, even when the circumstances change. Gratitude for… a daughter who’s gaining independence… a daughter who still accepts a hug and a kiss, despite the release of the full ritual… a daughter who can speak up for what she wants and needs. All good. AND… as I was grateful enough to experience tonight, staying open to gratitude has allowed for openness and flexibility in my daughter… who informed me tonight that she, “could really use a rub.”   

As I rubbed the back, legs, ears, arms, and shoulders, (no feet cause no shower tonight – gratitude or no, I have boundaries!) of my 11-year-old daughter, I felt tired (cause it’s late) and grateful. Consider what you do or have now that you would miss… and decide to be grateful… in this moment… before it slips away. 

Wishing you love, laughter and light!  ~Rashel

 

 

Shifting in a Positive Direction

I was listening to a podcast tonight about positive emotions. Something really struck me… and I’ve heard it before but for some reason, it really resonated with me tonight. I’ve struggled in the past with positive affirmations. First of all, most affirmations that I see are usually really exaggerated compared to my current state and secondly, telling myself positive statements that I don’t believe doesn’t usually make me feel better (probably due to reason number one!).

The podcast was discussing a snippet of an Esther Hicks talk. The main point was that in order to get to a more positive state, you don’t have to get to the ultimate end point, you just have to shift in a positive direction. I’ll give you a personal example. Lets say one of my coworkers (only because I don’t want my family to get mad at me), is really irritating me. In the past, I may have used a positive affirmation such as, “I am all loving and totally accepting of all people, including all of my coworkers.” The problem is, I really don’t feel that way in the moment and just because I say it doesn’t necessarily make me feel it. So, the point of the discussion was that we just need to feel for a slight shift in thinking. I could definitely think to myself, “Even though this coworker is irritating me, she is not the most irritating person I’ve worked with.” That feels better than my initial thought and, the important part, I do not feel an immediate resistance to the statement like I did with the exaggerated positive affirmation above.

Our minds tend to continue moving our thoughts forward. So, lets look at how each of these statements might progress after the initial thought.

  • Sheila is really irritating me today. I can’t believe she actually said that in our team meeting. Who does she think she is? She certainly isn’t helping herself with comments like that. I hope she asks for feedback from me this year because I’m really going to let her have it.
  • This is not the most annoying coworker I’ve ever known. I’ve definitely worked with more difficult people in my day. Maybe I’m just learning how to handle myself better? Nah… I don’t think she’s really as bad as Larry was. Now, he was bad. Sheila’s actually ok on most days. Maybe she was just having a bad day today. We all have bad days once in a while. Maybe I should check in with her and see how she’s doing.
  • I am all loving and totally accepting of all people, including all of my coworkers. NOT! That’s a joke. Who is really all loving, anyway? What does that even mean to be all loving? I certainly don’t FEEL all loving toward Sheila. I am so judgmental. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just be nice and get along with people?

Now, obviously the actual thoughts could go any number of ways, but you get the point. A slight shift in thinking can impact all future thoughts and lead you down a completely different path. Also, consider how you would feel with these various streams of thought… definitely better with some than others. In the first one, I feel even more irritated. In the second, I’m actually feeling empathetic toward my coworker which is good for both of us. In the final statement, I’m totally beating myself up. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty clear on which path I want to wander down.

So the biggest obstacle that I can think of not to make the slight change in thought is not realizing that you’re on the path until you’re neck-deep. So, next time we’ll talk more about how to recognize the fork in the road when you’re at the start of it. Until then, I encourage you to pay attention to your thoughts and see if you can make the slightest shift toward happy.

Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel

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

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

 

Breathe in…

and breathe out.

What is it about focusing on the breath that is so calming? Is it just that our mind slows down for a minute? Maybe it’s the fact that we’re tuning in to our physical body. I’m not sure what it is about mindful breathing that relaxes me, but I’ll tell you this… I’ve been very thankful for it this past week. I think I read somewhere that it’s actually really good for our bodies when we breathe oxygen in and out of our diaphragm. Have you ever tried breathing from your diaphragm for any length of time? I have, and I’ll tell you that it’s not easy! Apparently, we’ve become lazy with our breathing and we mostly breathe in and out of our chest… so when you do go in for the deeper breath, it kinda wears you out! I think it’s just another thing that we feel the need to speed through these days… who has time for a whole breath? That is just a luxury… I can breathe in half that time, my friend!

Just a few minutes ago, I was given an opportunity to practice this deep breathing that I speak of. I wrote an entire blog post… maybe it was a little bit more of a rant, if truth be told, which apparently was not meant to be shared this evening. I walked away from the computer to check on my daughter and when I came back, the computer was dark. I assumed it had gone into sleep mode, so I pressed a key and waited. Then I waited a bit longer. Then I realized the computer had shut down. Fun!

I restarted the computer and restored my internet explorer session… one can always hope, right?! For obvious reasons (which, by the way, I don’t know what they are… but it seems like maybe they are obvious to someone… or the universe… or something?), the blog post had not saved and I couldn’t seem to find a previously saved version, either.

I took a deep breath. And then I took another. I decided to write about the practice that has helped me cope this last week and that I’m thankful for whenever I remember to use it. It’s free. It’s easy. It takes no gadgets or gizmos to implement. And while it’s possible that not everyone finds deep breathing helpful… I do think that for many, like me, it’s more a matter of remembering to do it than wondering if it’s actually helping. There was a point when meditation became easier for me… when I realized that what it actually entailed was becoming aware of your breath. I can do that! And so can you.

So, breathe deep everybody! Love and laughter to you all.  ~Rashel

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