Shenpa Part Deux

I’m sticking with the topic of “One Little Word” for the rest of January because I want to solidify my word, shenpa, for the rest of the year. I really believe in this strategy and I encourage all ya’ll to give it a go.

As I introduced in the last post, “May I Catch My Shenpa Today, ” 2017 is the third year that I am following Ali Edward’s “One Little Word” strategy. She talks about choosing one word to meditate and focus on throughout the year, as opposed to a long list of complicated resolutions.

My first word in 2015 was “breathe.” Talk about starting at the beginning! Haha! “Breathe” was a fantastic word for me, a meditation newbie, because it is the cornerstone of meditation and mindfulness. Focusing on the breath is the definition of being HERE, not there.

My word for 2016 was “execute.” This was a nod to my perfectionist tendency of WAITING to do things until I am ready or until I have 1000% of what I need etc. etc. etc. I was sick and tired of postponing everything because “I can’t do it perfectly right now.” So I chose “execute” to focus on getting things done, whether or not they were perfect or complete. And it worked! Little things, big things… I was a lot more productive.

As I explained last week, my word for this year is “shenpa.” Pema Chodron describes shenpa as an itch and an urge to scratch. It is a trigger that starts you down a path of habituated action…negative action. You might be thinking, why so negative? Most “one little words” are positive, like calm, happy, yes, gratitude etc. Well, the goal of focusing on shenpa is to catch it. Identify the trigger as close to the starting point as possible, so that I don’t travel as far down the path of anxiety before turning it around. Coming back to baseline.

Now, if you are anything like me, you’re already thinking “That’s a great idea! I’m definitely gonna do that…next year…it’s the end of January! It’s WAYY too late to start now! I’ll wait until January 1, 2018 so that I can pick a word for a FULL YEAR.”

Haha! Such a Nelly!

OK… You can start FOR REAL next year on January 1. Just consider the rest of this year a practice run. No pressure. Take your time choosing a word that speaks to you. What is something that you’d like to make a priority in your life? What is something you want to do more? Feel more? Pick one that jumps out at you and hold it in the front of your mind for the rest (it’s alright) of 2017. That’s it. You can do as much or as little with it as you want, but I promise you, just selecting that word will make you better at it.   If you want to take it a bit further, you can repeat the word to yourself as you meditate, list all the ways you can take action using your word, brainstorm all of the synonyms and related topics to your word, or make a vision board.

My go-to strategy so far has been to post my word in a place where I will see it every day. That’s it! I have all three words posted on a mirror that I walk by every day, and that is enough to keep it front of mind. I would like to/may eventually do more work with my word, but for now, posting it where I can see it everyday is enough.

So, let me hear from you! If you’re going to give it a whirl, what’s your word? If you might do it/are thinking about it – what word jumps out at you?

Do you have several words you’re deciding between? Let’s hear them!!!!


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RAIN Strategy

rain pexel

Here is an important follow-up to my two posts from May 2016. My theme for the Springy month of May was “Feelings,” which is so appropriate because feelings got us springin’ all over the place!

I know this is true for me. Feelings of various types and magnitudes can send me soaring up, crashing down, floating on clouds, or just hovering in a paralyzed stupor.

The first post on this theme, How I Feel… was a collection of challenging feelings that I encounter very often and would like to feel less, such as anxiety, doubt, fear and stress. As noted at the end of this post, my go-to tactics of either ignoring these feelings or putting my head down and barreling through them do not work AT ALL! In fact, they make the whole experience a whole LOT worse for a lot loooooonger.

I am learning that these feelings need some love and attention before they will move along, away from me (thank you very much) and I want to talk about one FANTASTIC strategy I have been practicing to help them on their merry way.

The strategy is RAIN, which stands for:

  • Recognize
  • Allow
  • Investigate
  • Non-Identify

This brilliant strategy for properly attending to and really engaging with any feeling that surfaces is attributed to Michele McDonald, a longtime meditation teacher and cofounder of Vipassana Hawai’i, a meditation teaching institution.

Let’s go through the four steps:

  1. Recognize –In this crucial first step, you take a moment to stop and recognize, or “see” the feeling. You identify the feeling(s) by name…taking the time to double-check and verify that the feeling identification feels accurate to you.

I am feeling…scared. Am I scared? Or worried? Is that it? Scared. Scared. Yes. I am feeling scared. Very scared.

  1. Allow – Next, you allow that feeling to be there with you. This means you don’t try to evade it by thinking of something else, making yourself busy with a task or trying immediately to make yourself feel better. You simply accept the feeling as is and give it some needed attention. Acknowledging the presence of this emotion starts to ease the tension you feel and opens up the possibility of releasing it.

I am feeling scared. I have fear inside of me. I don’t want to feel this way, but it is here, so I am going to let it be here so that I can understand it. Fear is with me, and that is o.k.

  1. Investigate – This is where you dive a little deeper into the feeling. After labeling the feeling and acknowledging and honoring it’s presence, you contemplate why it has arisen in your mind. After all, feelings don’t come about arbitrarily like rolling a dice…there is always a reason or catalyst for their presence. Sometimes, the reason is obvious. Sometimes you have to be patient and search for the reason.

Why am I scared? Is there a person or situation that seems threatening to me? Threatening to my physical person? My ego? My job? Am I missing something that I need? What events have happened recently that may have triggered this fear?

  1. Non-Identify – With this last step, you begin to create distance between yourself and the challenging feeling. You do this by reasoning that you are not fear and fear does not define you. Rather, fear is a fluid emotion that can move out of your consciousness just as easily as it moved in. “Scared” is something that you are currently experiencing, not something that makes up who you are.

Fear is with me right now because my boss rejected my idea. I am scared that she doesn’t value my contributions and thus doesn’t value me as an employee. If she doesn’t value me as an employee, she might want to replace me. But this is a made up scenario based on an assumption. She has liked a lot of my past ideas. Not liking one idea doesn’t mean she doesn’t value me in my entirety. The fear I feel because of this is not who I am. Scared is not a permanent part of me. It is simply a temporary, uncomfortable feeling that is with me right now. Scared will pass through and away from me in time.

Now, a subtle, yet important distinction is that non-identify is not the same as disassociate. When I first started using this strategy, I thought of non-identify in terms of disassociating – running away from, almost shunning and cutting off the feeling, which is counter to the first two steps of recognizing and allowing. Non-identifying is more about understanding that the feeling is not a permanent component of who you are as a person; it is not a pillar of your character or being. It is something that your mind is currently interacting with.

Like all new things, implementing the RAIN strategy is not easy and it takes some getting used to. The hardest part for me is just remembering to stop and recognize challenging feelings as they come up. In order to give myself a helping hand when I first started using this strategy, I wrote it out on a small card that I kept in my wallet. I didn’t necessarily pull it out when challenging feelings came up, but every time I went into my wallet and came across it, I was reminded that it was available for me to use, and eventually, I started remembering to use it 🙂

While I primarily use this strategy for working through difficult feelings so that they will leave sooner, this is also a great strategy for remaining in the moment with positive feelings. Going through these steps with feelings I want to feel, like the feelings I wrote about in This is How I Want to Feel... makes them seem to last longer. I can appreciate the positive feelings more when I use RAIN because I experience them more deeply.

Isn’t that amazing?!?! The same strategy helps you to pass through the difficult emotions faster, but hold onto the desirable feelings longer. YES!!!

You try it – Go ahead. It’s pretty cool.


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My Courageous Moment Story


los-angeles - pexelAs promised in last week’s post about “Courageous Moments,” which highlighted a powerful strategy of recalling and reliving your own moments of bravery, I’m going to share with you the story of one of my own courageous moments. I am a writer at heart and I love storytelling, so I look forward to sharing many stories with you in future posts. Here it goes:

Less than a year out of college, after some soul searching about my future career, I decided that Human Resources was for me. About 6 months into a part-time, get my foot in the door HR gig, I got my golden opportunity – an interview for a full time, entry-level HR position at the corporate offices of a national firm. This was it.

I left nothing to chance. I prepped extensively for the interview, bought a new suit, practiced hair and make-up, even strategized my driving route and travel time. After all, the offices were in downtown Los Angeles…travel time could make or break this for me.

On the morning of the interview, everything was going swimmingly, until I got off the wrong exit leading into downtown. If you are familiar with downtown LA, you know that the heavy traffic, impatient drivers and one-way streets can be extremely anxiety provoking. Since I got off the wrong exit, I could no longer follow my nicely laid out Google Maps directions. (This was well before GPS and handy dandy smartphones that could instantly redirect me). Let me just tell you, I am a terrible navigator. I am not one to take this road or that turn “just to see where it leads.” I am the type that follows the Same. Route. Always. Because that is the way I know, even if it is not the fastest or most efficient way. Needless to say, I was a bit freaked.

But on my way to the interview for the job of my dreams, I had no other option but to get there, and get there on time. There was just no other alternative; I was gonna get there and I was gonna kill it. The extra cushion of time I had allotted myself “just in case” was running short.   After several twists and turns I found myself on the right street, just a few blocks up from my destination. I was so relieved and then BAMMM!!!!! A car T-bones me in the middle of the intersection. I’m not saying that I ran the red light. I’m not saying that I didn’t. But I was definitely frazzled. The other driver and I get out to exchange information. I hurry through the process as much as I can. I get back into my car. T minus 10 minutes til interview. “Please, Lord, just get me there on time. Just help this car get me there and I don’t care what happens after that.”

As the other car went on its merry way, I got back into the driver’s seat and made a deal with myself. If I made it on time, I wouldn’t say word one about the accident; I would just roll into the interview like all was right with the world. If I was late, I would play up the accident as a means of excusing my tardiness. I started my car up and made my way gingerly down those last few blocks. I couldn’t believe my car was moving at all, even at its 10 miles an hour pace, fuming and screeching. I eventually got to the parking garage. I took the ticket from the automated machine as well as the odd looks from the parking attendant. I squealed into a spot, jumped out of the car and collected my things. As I exited the garage and crossed the street, I looked at my watch…three minutes to deadline. I smiled and said to myself out loud: “YOU are a total G.”

I walked right up to my future boss, who was waiting for me outside of my future workplace at a coffee shop, and introduced myself. She got a winning smile, a firm handshake and not the slightest whiff of my recent catastrophe. After hardcore CRUSHING that interview, I walked back across the street to the parking garage and phoned AAA. I never drove that car again. I timidly drove a rental for a week. I had another car in two weeks. I had my dream job in HR for the next four years.

And I have this courageous moment to inspire me…forever.

So there you have Normal Nelly’s first collection of posts on the theme of “Ownership.” Owning our whole selves is a very big goal. It’s something that I will be working towards for the rest of my life.  I don’t expect to ever “arrive at” or “complete” this goal, but I do expect to make continual progress on this goal for the rest of my life.

What do you think? Are you in? Let me know in the comments. Make it real and say it! Type it!  “I’m committed to owning my whole self, anxiety and all.”  Adjust this statement as necessary to make it fit you…but I want to hear you say it!

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