Spiritual Baby Steps

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Archive for the tag “positivity”

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’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

 

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

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

Are We Having Fun Yet?

So much of what I read about being happy and getting what you want out of life has to do with perspective. Be happy with what you have and only then can you get more. Well… if I was happy with what I had, would I even want more? I mean… in principle, I get it. If you’re walking around miserable and complaining about your life… you’re not exactly in a state of good vibrations that would welcome positivity and prosperity! And really, I know I have tons… I mean massive amounts… to be thankful for. I should be just walking around in a state of awe at how outrageously lucky I am and how much I have to be grateful for… but for some reason, I’m not.

Why is that? I don’t think I’m an ungrateful person. If I stop to think about it, I would never admit to being anything less than abundant! Amazing family, friends, community, job… I could go on and on. But the reality is, that’s not what I spend the majority of my day focusing on. I think about what needs to get done. What’s bothering me and how I might be able to fix it. How I do more than everyone else in the world… well – maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration – but I do spend a lot of time thinking about how much needs to be done and how much of it I do! lol

I was just cleaning the house this morning and thinking to myself… well, this is NOT fun! I don’t really want to be cleaning. But I don’t work on Monday so this is my payment for not working full-time. Like so many things in everyday life, this is just one of those things that needs to get done – and currently, I don’t have enough money to pay for someone else to do it. So, as I was wiping away, I wondered – how do I shift to a positive place when I’m doing something that’s no fun? (and it was toilets, people… so I had to think long and hard!)

I tried the gratitude process. I stopped for a moment to appreciate having a toilet… and electricity, running water, and the like. Then I thought about how thankful I am to have a house… in a great neighborhood… and the money to buy cleaning supplies and toilet paper… and the functional arms and legs that have the ability to clean the house. That was helping… a little… but really I was kinda thinking to myself – I’d rather be sipping wine by the pool and having someone else clean my house. Now THAT is something I’d really be grateful for! (never mind that it was only 11 am… you get the point)

I decided to try Plan B. I thought for a moment about how I could make the cleaning more bearable. I decided to put on some music. Actually, I decided to BLAST some music, like my Mom used to do when she cleaned house (she might actually still do this). I plugged my iPod into the sound system and sang like a canary the whole time I was cleaning. It actually helped… A LOT.

It made me wonder where else in my life I might be able to make slight modifications and end up having more fun. Having fun is really important. It’s like exercise for the soul. I realize that as a Mom who is constantly taking care of others, it’s very easy to lose sight of what makes me happy… what feeds my soul and adds joy to my life. Sometimes I get into a mode of black and white thinking. Having more fun means I need to go on a week-long vacation – probably without kids… possibly without my husband (just kidding, honey!) The truth is, it doesn’t have to be that drastic. Just like adding music… in this case, very LOUD music… to a situation, I was able to shift my own energy from feeling like this was something I HAD to do, to something that was actually somewhat enjoyable. In this case, I was able to shift myself to a place of positivity even though I wasn’t sailing on a yacht or sipping wine by the pool.

So between noticing and being grateful for what you have in your life… and finding ways to notice, pay attention to, and add moments of joy and fun to your everyday routine – you, too, can find greater moments of positivity and joy. I encourage you to take a few moments right now. What are you grateful for? Do you have something fun planned? If not, where could you add some fun? How could you “fun-up” some activities that might not be all that fun in and of themselves? What makes you smile… if not out-and-out laugh? Where are you missing opportunities to add humor, joy and satisfaction to you day? Anything worth doing is worth having fun doing!

As always, thanks for letting me share my thoughts.  Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel

Positivity takes Practice!

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the value of shifting perspective – seeing the positive – focusing on what you want more of. Well… yeah! In theory… that sounds great! The actual changing of perspective in the moment is where I tend to get a little stuck. How about you?

So, I was thinking today about how that shifting in the moment happens… or doesn’t happen, as the case may be. Most everyone I know, myself included, find the negative aspects of any situation so much more compelling and convincing than the positive. It is so much easier to believe that something is not going to work out than to believe that it is. Why is that? I happen to believe that what we think, believe, tell ourselves, focus on… is what we get more of and what we tend to see in our lives. Why, then, do I not force myself to focus on the positive aspects of life more often? Why do I find myself still getting stuck in negativity and frustration?

Maybe it’s like so many other things that I struggle with… knowing is not doing! Just because I know that exercise is really good for me does not mean I do it every day. Even though it makes me feel better and has a direct positive correlation with my health and well-being. Perhaps mental thinking, just like physical exercise, is an asset that takes discipline. If I just casually hope that I get in some exercise every day, it rarely happens. If, however, I schedule it in… get some support from friends and family… check-in with myself on how I’m doing regularly… well, then I have a chance of it happening consistently.

So, the next question I have to ask myself is, “How do I schedule mental positivity into my day?”  I do think that a daily gratitude ritual is a good start. Whether it’s acknowledging what you’re thankful for as you wake up in the morning… journaling about what you are grateful for at the close of the day… or making a point of acknowledging someone who you’re thankful for – there are so many ways to bring awareness to your blessings and gratitude. Involve other people. Share your appreciation.

Another strategy is to practice acceptance. Of course you’ll need and want it most when it’s the hardest to practice! So… to get the hang of it, practice when you don’t need it. Part of loving your life means accepting what is real for you in this moment. Now, to some of you that may sound like a major compromise. “Accepting” can come across as putting up with or settling. When in fact, one definition of the term acceptance is, “the act of taking something that is offered.” When I can take what is offered in this moment, there is no longer resistance to that something and it is then able to be released. It’s the opposite of repression… it is expression in a positive, non aggressive manner. “I accept and allow this feeling.” “It’s ok that I’m feeling xxx right now.” “Even though I am feeling xxx right now, I totally and completely accept myself.” Practice… check in with yourself throughout the day and notice how your body responds and shifts with the acknowledgement and release of these feelings.

Finally, one last strategy is to practice with specific issues that are bugging you. It can be hard to shift to that ‘glass half full’ mentality in the moment, when you are feeling frustrated. It’s easier to attempt to apply the shift when you are somewhat removed. Think about something in your life that was very difficult. Looking back, are there ways that you gained as a result of that situation? Take a few moments during the day to think about an issue you’re struggling with. Imagine yourself 10 years down the road looking back on this particular time. With that distance, from that perspective, what are you able to appreciate about this situation? What have you gained as a result of having this experience? Let yourself be creative… don’t censor – just play with it.

Schedule some time to shift your perspective. Get support from family and friends where you can. Check in with yourself and take time in this moment to give thanks. When you work on your mental fitness… just like your physical fitness… you will see great gains over time.

Love and laughter.  ~Rashel

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