Oprah talks about the “aha moment”, a moment when you suddenly see things in a different light. The aha may bring new inspiration, give you fresh insight, recognition or provide greater understanding. The aha may also reinforce something you already knew, but now it’s articulated in a manner that’s more meaningful. How does a bar of soap tie in with finding joy? The Bar of Soap was my aha moment. But before we get all lathered up, let me backtrack a bit.

pic: @umashxn

As mentioned in a previous post, back in 2015 I attended the Maddy K Inspires Retreat. The itinerary included a presentation by Shannon Walsh, a wellness advisor. It was about fear. It was scheduled for early morning. I am not a morning person. I’m not fearful either. I pride myself in being fearless or at least what I thought was fearless. The only thing I feared at that moment was the sound of my alarm clock for an early wake-up call. I looked at my bed, it looked so sumptuous and begged for a lazy morning buried in the plush pillows and duvet. I also had this amazing claw-foot tub in the middle of my suite that enticed me to luxuriate in a long bubbly soak. Skip the session and I can savour a quiet morning: sleep in, soak in the tub, sip tea on the balcony of my lakeview suite.

Thoughts of a blissful morning dissipated when I remembered my personal promise to attend and participate in everything on the agenda (even if it was scheduled for the morning… ugh). So I set the alarm, woke up and showed up. And thank goodness I did. This session that I almost skipped ended having the most profound effect on me. Lesson #1: willingness to show up and try is the first step in anything.

Shannon is a wonderful speaker. She has a calm voice perfect to gently lull my sleepy self to alertness. Her warmth resonates through her words and it instantly feels like you’re having coffee with a friend. As she shares her stories, you’re drawn in further. She then started her presentation about fear. Although I’m now a fan of Shannon’s, the topic doesn’t quite interest me. There’s not much I’m afraid of. I’ve done so much as a woman, a mom, an entrepreneur. My pride tells me that I’m not fearful of anything.

pic: Pinterest

Shannon clicks to the next slide. There’s list of fears on the screen. As she reads through each point, everything becomes blurry… What the f**k is going on? Tears stream down my face. I’m completely taken aback by my reaction and don’t know why I’m crying or why I can’t stop. Flustered, I grab a tissue and try to discreetly wipe away my tears. Every bulletpoint on that list resonated. That’s me. The next point was me too. I’m fearful of that and that, and that too. I sat stunned in the revelation of fears I didn’t even realize existed. I had spent my life focusing on being strong.

It was a moment of vulnerability as I put down my protective walls to take in the lessons unfolding in front of me. Shannon then unveiled the bar soap. I wish I could retell this with Shannon’s finesse, I only have a blurry recollection as six years have passed. Shannon held a bar of soap in her hand. Was it imaginary or a real bar of soap, I can’t remember that detail. She asked us to see how the soap sat calmly nestled in her hand when we are at peace and gentle. What happens when we tightly grasp it? The bar of soap slips out of our hands. That’s what happens when when we handle life with a hard grip. We need to learn to be kinder and more gentle with ourselves. But it happens, the bar of soap will slip from time to time. Here’s the thing: you can pick it up and try holding it gently again. If it slips again, try again. Give yourself kindness each time. Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself the same courtesy as the bar of soap. Kindness and gentleness.

pic: @_typlelikeagirl

As an entrepreneur, I like to think I’m a go-getter. I’ll go grab every opportunity whether it be business or personal. I’ll grab things and hold on with a mighty grip. So tightly, it sometimes slips from my hands like a bar of soap. Then when it happens I’m hard on myself. The disappointment overrides kindness or any compassion. All I see is that I dropped the bar of soap. I failed. I’ll take count of all the times I’ve failed. I’ll keep gripping tighter, becoming harder on myself each time. It never occurred to me to be kinder to myself. I never realized it’s okay to keep picking up the bar of soap and try again. This bar of soap analogy changed the narrative in how I approached so many parts of my life.

In the past, I tried to exercise and mediate. Each time I’d drop the ball after a few days. I chalked it up to another fail. I had a mom blog. Initially planned on a couple of posts per week, but work and life got in the way. My posts became monthly, then yearly, then even more sporadic. Another fail. My never-ending action list. So many plans, not all would come to fruition. More fails. I was hard on myself. Although no one judged me, I judged myself. The discouragement made me question why bother trying again.

pic: favim.com

The bar of soap taught me to stop being hard on myself. It taught me not to stress over all the things I didn’t accomplished and start celebrating what I did achieve. The small wins matter. Also, it made me realized that even if I only exercise or meditate once a week or even once a month, that’s still more than zero attempts.

Life is demanding. With so many things going on something has to give. It does not mean failure, laziness or lack of motivation. Prioritizing to keep your sanity in tact means there’ll be inevitable casualties in the form of incomplete or neglected tasks. I remind myself of all the other things I’ve done and cheer myself on. Whatever accomplishments I can fit in my life, I should be proud of my effort. It’s okay if things don’t go as planned. Keep trying and trying. Recognize your effort even if the progress seems minimal. Pick up that bar of soap. Be gentle with yourself.

Here I am now, six years after learning about Shannon’s bar of soap. I still struggle with exercise and meditation. I haven’t touched that blog in 4 years either, and my action list continues to be never-ending. Guess what though? I’m a lot happier and at peace than ever before. I cheer myself on whenever I do get some exercise, meditating or other things accomplished. I recognize, “sure, I didn’t do that but wow, look at what I did instead!” I push myself but no longer beat up on myself. I’ve learned to pace myself out, be patient and willing to try again. I recognize the progress. I’m holding myself gently just like bar of soap. In being kind to myself, it’s allowed more joy to flow into my life.

pic: Gwennan Rees

Hope that by sharing this soap story, you’ll be kinder to yourself too. Be gentle and that bar of soap will stay joyfully nestled in your hands.

Thank you dear Shannon. You are a true joy to know and have brought much joy to my life with your wise words and bar of soap.

The inspiring Shannon Walsh. Wellness Advisor, Writer, Speaker, Founder of What Connects Us.