Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the tag “mistakes”

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

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Authenticity Test: My Choice between Liar or Loser

I had a very interesting experience today. I was attending a work meeting. The meeting started off innocently enough. There were 60 or so people – a fairly robust crowd. In lieu of having every person introduce themselves, which would have taken a considerable amount of time, the facilitator led a warm-up exercise to get the meeting started. The instruction was to stand up if you could answer yes to the statement… can speak more than one language… was not born in the United States… has English as a second language (most of the statements revolved around the upcoming presentation on Latino health). The last question was, “have attended the big-deal presentation that everyone is expected to have attended” (big-deal being code for the name of the actual presentation).

Now during the warm-up exercise, there is a mix of attendees standing and sitting throughout. UNTIL… that last question. As I looked around to see who else, besides me, had not attended the big-deal presentation, I noticed that most everyone was standing. Then, much to my dismay, the facilitator decided to further bring the point home. “I noticed that a couple people in the back there were not standing. Please stand if you have not attended the big-deal presentation.”

Then… it happened. Uh…. should I stand? What do I do? All of the various reasons why I had not yet attended said big-deal presentation came rushing to my brain. Do I admit my failure and stand up? (Surely others will see me as a complete loser!) Or pretend that I, too, had done what was obviously the expected action? (Liar, liar, pants on fire!)

The interesting thing is this… as all of the excuses and thoughts about whether or not to “fess up” were racing through my head… and there were lots of excuses… and a lot of thoughts (and doubts)… all the while… I noticed my body standing up. What? Wait? Huh?

As my eyes slowly took in the room… from the far left… to the far right… not a single other person was standing. My gaze quickly circled back to my boss, who was sitting on the left side of the room. And then my panicked gaze darted back and forth between my sitting boss and the sitting Director of my department. sitting boss… sitting Director… sitting boss… Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!

So, at this point, I have a choice. But the choice is not whether or not to experience the moment… because of course I’m embarrassed. That’s a given. No one wants to be called out as the lone person who did not complete an assignment. I’m not going to pretend that it didn’t bother me. The choice is really in the aftermath. Do I spend the rest of the day beating myself up and worrying about what everyone thinks of me? Do I make up stories about how this incident will surely ruin my career and stain my reputation? Or… do I acknowledge the embarrassment and move on, as difficult as that may be. In an absolutely beautiful moment, I might even be able to appreciate my courage to be authentic… to stand up in the face of impending doom and own my situation.

Here’s what I came to realize… at the end of the day, none of us are perfect. And I’m realizing that being authentic is not about being perfect. It’s about being real. It’s about standing up… standing out… and being ok with who we are… imperfections and all. It’s letting go of the need for perfection and recognizing that there is enormous beauty in acceptance.

So from one imperfect person to another, I invite you to STAND UP… take a deep breath… and love yourself fully!  ~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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