Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the tag “spirituality”

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



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

Baby Steps, Indeed

I think I was just tested on spiritual maturity… and I may have failed.

I interviewed for a job promotion recently. I didn’t get it. I was Super disappointed (you’ll notice that’s not just regular super… that’s Super with a capital S!). I tried to talk myself into a spiritual place… you know – saying things to myself like, “things happen for a reason,” “it wasn’t meant to be,” “now you’re available for the right thing that’s going to come along soon,” etc., etc., etc. The problem was, my ego wasn’t going for it… it had a field day. “You’re not good enough,” “You’re not appreciated,” “You screwed up the interview,” “You’re not as great as you think you are,” “You didn’t really have a chance in the first place.” I could go on… but you get the drift. My negative thoughts were definitely outweighing the positive.

I happen to be reading Wayne Dyer’s book ‘The Shift’ at this very same time (synchronicity, perhaps?). The book talks about our journey from ambition to meaning. It explains how we move from initially recognizing ourselves as separate and needing to compete for everything… to a place where we are connected to everything and can trust in the Universe to take care of us.

“Our highest self doesn’t feel threatened by others because it doesn’t embrace the concept of separateness. Not feeling separate, our desire for a purposeful life nurtures a sense of unity with all other beings. This feeling of connectedness flows in the direction of compassion; ultimately, we reach out to the world with gentleness, humility, and kindness because we’ve returned to our original nature.”
~The Shift by Dr. Wayne W Dyer.

Ok, so let’s say I get to the place of believing that we’re all connected… and one person’s joy and accomplishment does not come at the expense of my own… isn’t it pushin’ it just a bit to believe that we will all be taken care of? There is definitely a part of me that is doubtful. I look around and see plenty of examples of what I consider to be “NOT” taken care of. Then again, this implies that I know, better than God or the Universe, what it means to be taken care of. I’m pretty sure we can all think of times in our lives when we thought something was horrible… but then it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. Not necessarily easy, or pain-free… but good in the sense that it helped us grow… or be where we needed to be when something else came along.

Now, even when I get to the point of talking myself into the possibility that we are taken care of in this world… I still struggle with what it means to “allow” for this possibility. I’m quite certain it does not mean we go sit on the couch and wait for things to happen. I guess the best answer I’ve come up with is that “allowing” is when we let go of all the struggling and stressing and tune in to our own wisdom.  The irony is that you need to slow down and stop being so busy in order to hear… but we’re constantly pushing ourselves to hurry up… do more… compete… get ahead. How did we get it all so backward? It reminds me of when I’m working on a crossword puzzle and I can’t think of an answer… if I walk away and distract myself for a bit, the answer comes without effort. I think somehow it could be that easy… if we could figure out how to detach from the process and the outcome… hahahahah… easy, peasy!!!

Well, if the last couple weeks have taught me anything, it’s that I certainly need to do some work around trusting and allowing. I guess you could say that not getting promoted was the best thing that could have happened… not easy… not pain-free… but definitely filled with opportunity for growth and development.  So really instead of being Super disappointed, I should be Super appreciative… Well, I might not be there quite yet, but I’ll work on it!

Trust… Allow… Be thankful… Trust… Allow… Be thankful.   ~Rashel

As Above, So Below…

What if everything in our lives is a reflection of our own current state? I know, right… scary! I can’t seem to get my mind of this train of thought recently. I’m tired (refer to earlier post… I’m tired!) I’m feeling disconnected from friends… I’m overwhelmed with work stuff… and home stuff… and all the other things I’ve signed up for stuff!  Sometimes I feel like I want to stop trying… but then I realize… it’s not that I want to stop trying… I just want to be really good at everything I do and I want it to feel like I’m not trying so hard to make it all work.

If my outer life is a reflection of my current state… then my current state includes exhaustion… struggle… and discomfort, but it also includes happiness, joy and laughter. In fact, I’m a pretty glass-half-full kind of person, but even with my optimism, I find myself overwhelmed… and quite often, I might add. It’s not that I want or expect life to be easy… (well, maybe I want that, but I don’t expect it)… it’s just that I’m surprised at how difficult it is considering how optimistic I am and how much I enjoy life. I’m a nice person… I’m kind to others… I work hard… I think positively… I laugh often… I’m open to life… I find humor in most situations. I guess there’s a part of me that feels like… Jeez – I get it – I’m doing it –  let the good times roll, already! But I digress…

So back to this notion that whatever is showing up in my life is a reflection of my inner state. Well… there’s a part of me that just finds that disturbing! Is it just me? Is it really possible that everything that shows up is a reflection? There is a part of me that resists… remember how they used to tell you in school – if it’s always or never – it’s probably false? Then again, there’s a part of me that thinks it’s possible.  I know there are issues I don’t want to deal with, and they often get pushed down and ignored. Even though those issues get pushed down, they probably still  influence my reality. So, maybe some of the issues that present in my life are reflections of unconscious thoughts or things that I don’t want to deal with. Hmmmmm….

Action step… if you dare! Pay attention to the areas in your life that bug you… and think about why. What is it about that person or situation that upsets you? Now the fun part… think about ways that you might be exhibiting this trait. I know it sounds crazy… but it’s scary how often, if you’re really honest, you can see aspects of yourself in all manner of behaviors. I’ll give you a quick example from my life. I was really irritated with someone because I felt like they were not giving me enough respect and appreciation. At first I couldn’t imagine how this could be a reflection, because I feel like I’m very conscientious about being respectful and offering praise and recognition. When I pressed myself further and thought about where in my life I was withholding respect and appreciation… It dawned on me that I wasn’t doing a very good job of respecting and appreciating myself!  And yet, here I was expecting the other person to respect and appreciate me!  Ahhh… the irony!

The other part of this exercise is to pay attention to someone who you think is amazing, inspiring or fabulous in some way or another. What specific traits do you admire about that person? Then take time to acknowledge that you hold those very traits within yourself. If you did not have them, you wouldn’t notice them in others… it goes for both the positive and less positive aspects!

Something to ponder. Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel


I’m Tired…

Actually, I’m tired and a little cranky! Just ask my family. I’ve missed writing my blog the last 2 weeks. I was at a work event last Monday… and I don’t even remember the week before that. My life seems to be a big blur of doing. And with so much to do, I’ve forgotten what I did almost as soon as I’ve done it! Forget about remembering to do the little things that make me happy… there’s no time!

I think my melancholy mood lately has to do with a question that was posed… I can’t even remember where I heard it or from whom. The question was, “Can you list 7 accomplishments from the last week?” That’s one accomplishment per day. I thought about it. Then I thought about it some more. 7 seemed like an inordinately large number. I started wondering if making your bed counted as an accomplishment. Then they said that, for those of us that were struggling with coming up with 7 accomplishments, they would shift the question to 7 things you’re proud of from the last week. I thought about it… then I thought about it some more… seriously? Lately I’m proud of myself if I make it through the day without forgetting about an appointment, a meeting or picking someone up/dropping someone off close to said time. Does that really count as a proud moment… or is that kinda like the bed-making accomplishment above?

The thing is… I’m tired. Did I already mention that? I haven’t been sleeping well. Unfortunately, despite my lack of respite, the daily grind continues. I do my best to show up and be present at work. The house gets a mediocre cleaning on my day off. Bills… laundry… dishes… garbage… feeding the dog… making lunches… dinner… grocery shopping… cleaning toilets… HUH?  I’ve been listening to an audio program lately that talks about how we are already our best selves… we just need to allow our best selves to come forth. Where is my best self in the midst of this? Who has time to “allow” anything to happen when you’re so busy trying to get through the day? The crazy part is… I love my job… and my kids… my husband, my house, my dog… my life! But… there’s also that part of me that wants more. The part that wants to be a published author… an energy healer… a meditation master and spiritual guru… and someone who has time to do yoga every day.

The funny thing is that some days are great. Work goes well. The kids get along and we laugh together on the drive to school. Dinner is easy… or my husband makes it (even better!)… homework is done before I get home and the kids and I read together in the big bed – exploring our way through story… and making up some of our own along the way. In reality, most days are much crazier than that. I’m yelling at the kids by the time we make it to the car… or I’m biting my lip off in efforts not to yell – and we’re running terribly late! The kids argue on the drive in, or whine terribly that we’re not early enough to get a treat on the way to school. I get home from work and dinner is a distant thought in the future. Although we seem to have a plethora of actual food stuffs… my husband points out that there is NO food to eat in the house. The homework is not done, there are chapters to read and no one has showered in… well… lets just say they need a shower!

I don’t want my proud moments to be that I didnt’ yell at my kids and I remembered to make my bed (especially since most days I don’t!). I want more than that. I want to allow my most beautiful (best) self to shine through… but I’m not sure how deep she is buried and I’m not sure how to let her out. And I guess the biggest question on my mind tonight is this… if I am my most beautiful self in this moment… if this is the best I’ve got… at least for now… then why am I so adamant about searching for more? Why can’t I just stop and appreciate this most beautiful self and call it a day? Seriously… does anyone know of a book I can buy on that one? Keep me posted!

Remember to love and laugh today… those are accomplishments to be proud of in and of themselves!    ~Rashel

Garden Math

I was reading an article in Shambala Sun the other day and it really caught my attention. It was using the analogy of a garden to explain the importance of getting rid of weeds (time-wasters) and planting seeds (taking time for meditation) that would later bloom (calmer state). The analogy hit home with me and made we wonder… how many plants I am trying to stuff into my garden and can you even see them amongst the weeds?

I don’t think I’m too different from others who are trying to balance their crazy lives. I’d simply like to fit in some meditation, yoga, aerobic exercise, weights, reiki, fun time with my family, exploring poetry and reading for pleasure into my daily routine. …What?

The article talked about the importance of weeding. Getting rid of time wasters and limiting your daily intake of information seems like good advice to me. I actually feel like I’ve already taken steps in this direction. For one thing, I gave up watching the news and reading the newspaper a long time ago. It’s funny, you think you’re going to have no clue what’s going on, but what I’ve found is that anything big enough to deserve attention gets talked about by friends and family. As an added bonus, it’s a great way to hone my listening skills as I allow people to fill me in on the news worth talking about. Yes, I have to give up being the first to know… but that was never my strong point anyway!

Another weed that contributes to the problem is screen time. Whether it’s watching TV, searching the internet or spending time on all those really cool apps like FacebookPinterest, or Words with Friends – the end result is the same… time suckers!  Now here’s the thing… I don’t think these things are inherently bad. I have a healthy obsession with Draw Some lately that has been building my creative muscles and lending itself well to my graphic facilitation work. Here’s the thing… imagine you’re getting ready to start your garden. You don’t just randomly grab a bunch of seeds and throw them on the ground. First you prepare the space… till the soil, clear the weeds, etc. (get rid of time wasters). Then you decide which plants you want to grow and whether or not your growing conditions are compatible with that particular plant (what habits do I want to include in my day, will these habits support the vision I hold for myself, and will my current schedule, minus my time wasters, allow for it?).

Here’s what I’ve realized about me… I have a modest slice of space for my garden and a barrel full of seeds. Here’s my plan… I’m going to search for weeds, and then pick some of my favorite seeds for planting based on the amount of space I have left. This should seem obvious, but I swear it was like a lightbulb went off when I was reading it the other day. The fact that I would need to clear space… that I couldn’t just expect to add in whatever lovely habit I was wanting to pick up without figuring out what I could let go of in order to have the energy and time to make it successful – what a concept!

So, it seems to come down to some simple math. I must first subtract before I add. The exciting news is that not all seeds are created equal. When we start doing some weeding and we start picking and choosing our seeds a little more closely… making sure that the ones we “grab” are in line with our goals and values… we will start seeing the positive effects of tending to our garden and then we can enjoy the multiplicative effects of an abundant harvest.

So… if you feel like commenting, I would love to know what weeds are growing in your garden and which seeds you’ll be planting this season.

Love and much laughter to you all!  ~Rashel

Define… HAPPY!

So much of what I’ve read lately talks about being happy. It even goes so far as to say that there are no right or wrong answers in life… as long as you are true to yourself and the decision makes you happy. Do you buy this? I’m struggling a little bit myself. I tend to be a people pleaser. I know there’s a lot of us out there… it’s probably what allows us to coexist on this planet! It makes me unhappy… or at least uncomfortable… to confront others. Especially when I believe that what I’m going to say will be met with anger or resistance. So much so, that I sometimes avoid conversations that I think will result in conflict. On the one hand, this makes me happy because I’m avoiding discomfort… but in the long run, if what I’m avoiding really needs to be addressed, it can cause me great unhappiness… and frustration… and resentment… oh my!

So… is discomfort the same as unhappiness? Well, if I reverse the question it becomes, is comfort the same as happiness?  Now that’s a question I’m more familiar with. I’m “comfortable” not going to the gym, not working out regularly and staying up late to watch television. I’m “comfortable” eating bacon, spreading on the butter and drinking wine. When things become habitual, they tend to feel very comfortable. That doesn’t necessarily mean they will make you happy. On the other hand, I’m uncomfortable getting up early… but completing a yoga video that made me stretch and sweat feels pretty great. I guess it has partly to do with instant gratification vs. delayed gratification.  Say, what? What makes me happy in this moment isn’t necessarily the same as what will make me happy a week from now… a month from now… or years from now whereas what makes me a little uncomfortable right now could lead to great happiness.

Lets get back to the conflict. Not something you will hear from me very often but, yes, I just said that! Avoiding conflict in this moment is instant gratification. I avoid feeling uncomfortable right now. Unfortunately the fact that it’s “right now” is often a huge factor. The alternative is to address the conflict right now to increase the likelihood that my position will be heard and respected. It’s also likely that after avoiding conflict I will feel relieved, but not happy. If I learn to speak my mind, despite the potential for conflict or reactance, I will potentially become happier with myself and the outcomes that result. The trick, I suppose, is getting more comfortable with the discomfort!

So let’s say I move into the discomfort and become more apt to speak my mind. Now here’s another little conundrum. I’m happy because I’ve stated my needs clearly and concisely despite potential conflict. In the process, I’ve totally irritated someone else, who is not happy at all with my clear and concise needs. How does my own drive for happiness, if it ultimately diminishes the happiness of another, impact my overall happiness? Or does it? I guess if I’m responsible for and take accountability of my own happiness, and others are responsible for and take accountability of their own happiness… we all get what we need, right? No? Maybe nobody gets what they need. I don’t know… I’m too busy trying to please other people and take responsibility for their happiness to find out!

This week… I will pay more attention to my own happiness. What makes me happy? When do I hold back from asking for what I want? Who’s happiness am I protecting and at what cost? Just how uncomfortable is it to go for the long-term happy instead of the now happy? Join me!

Love and laughter to you! Thanks for reading along.  ~Rashel



Challenges are a Good Thing!

OK… two things this week… and I’ve got to hurry because I’m on a deadline to go to sleep by a certain time… say what? yes, you heard me right, after years of late night computer time, I suddenly have a bedtime of 10pm!

First off… check out the amazing photo on my blog this week… I actually know this guy! Ken Hubbell… childhood friend and kick-ass photographer! He’s agreed to let me post some of his breath-taking photos on my blog. At some point, hopefully very soon, I’ll share information on how you can purchase these photos for yourself.

Finally, and I only have about 20 minutes left to properly convey the totality of my situation, I have taken on a challenge that I hope will not do me in. I do believe, however, that it may influence my ability to write witty, intelligent posts that are longer than two sentences.

Have you hear of the Game On! diet? People at my work started a game in January, and let me just admit for a moment that I scoffed at the idea. I laughed off the celery sticks and cucumber slices… I rolled my eyes at the sudden interest in walking and the crowds forming at the water cooler… not to “chat” mind-you… but to actually fill up their water jugs!
Well… needless to say… as is often the case when something seems like a true challenge… I decided to join in the “fun!” I started today… and it was definitely a shift in my usual routine. NO white flour? I didn’t get a chance to go to the grocery store over the weekend because our crazy life (yes, I know, it’s not very spiritual, but I’m totally blaming my kids for the craziness of my everyday life!). So… today rolls around and I’m scrounging through our cupboards for whole wheat anything! Luckily, I managed to get by until I could get to the grocery store. Phew!

It will be interesting to see how things go for the next 4 weeks (the duration of the game). In order to earn points every day, I will need to eat 5 small meals (including lean protean, whole wheat carb and good fat – plus fruit and veggie at minimum 2 meals), drink 2.5 liters of water (that’s a lot, just in case you were wondering), exercise 30 minutes and get at least 7 hours of sleep. I’ve also committed to practicing Reiki 15 minutes and giving up multi-tasking while I eat (which is now even harder because I’m eating 5x/day now!) I get one meal and one day off per week. The good news is that this is a team-based game and I expect to offer and receive a ton of support throughout! Thank goodness!

I believe that any time you decide to take on a challenge in life,  it’s an opportunity to learn a great deal about yourself. I already know that I can be very flexible and easy-going… and at the same time, I do have a competitive side. I’ll be paying very close attention to what pushes my buttons… it will be interesting to see what is harder than I thought it would be… what is easier… and where I really struggle to comply. I can already tell, just from day one, that the “give up” habit I chose, not to multi-task while I eat, will be a true challenge! Initially I was thinking of the fact that I often read while I’m eating. Little did I know… that was just the icing on the cake (OH… not a good analogy right now!). Today… day ONE… I had to stop myself from reading, paying online bills, making food for the kids, feeding the dog, folding clothes, tracking my points for the game, rubbing my daughter’s back, prepping for a presentation I have to do on Wednesday… and that’s just what I can remember at this moment! I’m proud to say that I was able to maintain focus… but it’s only day ONE! Yikes.

I invite you to join me for the next four weeks. It should be, if nothing else, interesting. I’m sure I’ve left some things out. Consider checking out the details online. http://www.thegameondiet.com/ I’ve got to go to bed now… I’ll try to jot down the salient learnings… or at least the funniest moments… during the next week and report back.  What habits are you trying to stick to as we start 2012? Has it been a healthy year for you so far?  Do tell!!

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