Entries organized under Lovingkindness

How to practice: candle-gazing meditation

November 30, 2017

Learn to meditate. In this post, learn how to practice candle-gazing meditation. Plus grab your free meditation toolkit! >> www.christytending.com

There are so many forms of meditation that it can be tough to know where to start. Today, I’m offering simple instructions for candle-gazing meditation, a form of concentration practice. The concept is simple: during meditation practice to focus one’s attention on the flame of a candle.

Also called Trataka meditation, this practice is said to relieve stress, enhance memory and concentration, and provide deep relaxation.

Choosing your candles:

I recommend choosing unscented 100% soy or beeswax candles. Many candles contain toxic chemicals, and many perfumes or added scents also contain unhealthy ingredients.As they burn, you will be breathing in the candles’ vapors. Best to find candles with the fewest ingredients, colors, scents or additives.

Finding a comfortable seat:

Choose either a cushion on the floor or a chair.

If on the floor, make sure that your knees can easily drape down below the bowl of your pelvis. Ensure that your spine can stretch long and upright. If either of these is a challenge, use additional cushioning underneath your seat.

If in a chair, I recommend sitting on the edge of the chair. Again, the spine should be long and upright. Feet should be flat on the floor.

Place your hands in your lap or on your thighs, your choice of whether to have your palms facing up or down.

Set up  your space:

Choose a quiet, somewhat dark or dim place. If you need additional warmth, add a sweater or shawl. (Your body temperature will drop after you’ve been sitting for a while.) Turn off and set aside any devices or distractions.

Place a small table three to four feet in front of where you will be seated, and place a candle on the flat surface, so that it is at or just below eye level. Light the candle. Ensure that there are no cross-breezes that could disturb the flame as you practice.

Practice:

Find your comfortable seat. Relax the space around your eyes. Breathe softly and easefully – allow the breath to lengthen as you settle your body and mind.

Place your gaze on the candle’s flame (rather than the candle itself or the wick). Bring your full attention there, allowing thoughts, outside sensations or movements to settle and cease. If you do find yourself distracted by a thought or emotion, gently bring your attention back to the candle’s flame.

If your eyes get tired, allow yourself to blink. Do not strain your eyes.

At the conclusion of your meditation, close your eyes for a few moments and breathe deeply. At this point, you may either open your eyes and allow yourself to come back into the room fully – or continue with a different form of meditation, such as lovingkindness or mindfulness meditation.

 

Related:

 

The Lovingkindness Toolkit: because meditation can feel kind, compassionate and revolutionary. Download the free mini-toolkit to begin your practice today! >> www.christytending.com

The Gifts of Meditation from the Brahma Vihara

August 21, 2017

Today, I’m so excited to share a special post with you. As you probably know, I’m a practitioner of a meditation practice called metta. What you might not know is that metta – or lovingkindness – is just one of four “Divine Abodes of the Heart,” according to Buddhism.

In this post, I’m sharing a bit about each one. These are excerpts from a blog post series I did for Grace Quantock‘s site over the fall and winter 2016-2017. If you enjoy, I’d be delighted for you to go back and read each post in its entirety.

Enjoy, beloved ones!

Meditation offers a huge number of gifts and benefits. Some of these include the Brahma Vihara, the four heavenly abodes: sympathetic joy, lovingkindness, equanimity, and compassion. Explore all of these, plus click here to get your free meditation toolkit! >> www.christytending.com

Meditation Can Heal Your Heart

“Meditation is a wildly popular practice, renowned for its benefits on the physical, mental, and spiritual planes. After practicing meditation for many years, I can attest to this. But what happens when we feel heartbroken or stuck in our daily lives? Meditation can help there, too.

In Buddhist meditation practice, there is a concept called the Four Heavenly Abodes (in Pali, called the Brahma Vihara). They have other names: the Four Sublime States, the Four Divine Emotions, but the concept is the same.

Brahma means noble or divine — here, it is referring to the practitioner’s relationship to a path of purification. According to Buddhist teachings, these are the highest attitudes a person can cultivate toward other beings.

Vihara means abiding and living — not a residence, but a way of being. Therefore, those who cultivate them are said to be abiding in the divinity of that state.

Each of the “abodes” explores a different variation on the experience of love: metta (lovingkindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy), and upekkha (equanimity). While traditional texts offer instruction for cultivating each of these states, they are also a natural result of consistent, compassionate meditation practice.”

(Read the full post here.)

The Lovingkindness Toolkit: because meditation can feel kind, compassionate and revolutionary. Download the free mini-toolkit to begin your practice today! >> www.christytending.com

Compassion as a Healing Path

“Compassion, in its purest form, allows us to recognize our interconnection with all beings everywhere. When we incorporate it into our interactions, compassion offer us the opportunity of a, “Me too,” moment. The ability to recognize ourselves in one another and to treat others with the gentleness we so crave.

When we approach the world from this perspective, that we are all a part of the fabric of humanity, we can act in a way that lifts everyone up, that build a new foundation of relationships from dignity and respect.

We do not place ourselves above anyone else, whether through blame, problem-solving, criticism or dismissiveness. We can observe those instincts, including toward ourselves, and let them go as we would any other thought during meditation.”

(Read the full post here.)

Sympathetic Joy in a Time of Comparison Traps

“Comparison traps — the pitfall of sizing up your insides against someone else’s outsides — seem to lie around every corner. It doesn’t need to be ever thus. The ability to reframe the story the comparison trap is trying to tell us takes skill. It takes self-empathy.

In my practice, the ability originates from the practice of mudita, or sympathetic joy. Simply put, mudita is the ability to derive genuine happiness from the happiness of others. To take joy in others’ joy. To celebrate on the occasion of others’ success.

Meditation helps us get there. Through meditation, we can learn to take things less personally.

Things simply happen, and it is our thoughts and emotions that give them their significance.

Which means that my friend is not having professional success at me. She is having success. That doesn’t mean there is less left for me. It certainly doesn’t mean that she is having that success in order to hurt me.”

(Read the full post here.)

The Lovingkindness Toolkit: because meditation can feel kind, compassionate and revolutionary. Download the free mini-toolkit to begin your practice today! >> www.christytending.com

Lovingkindness & falling in love through meditation

“Lovingkindness meditation (or Metta Bhavana) is a mantra meditation practiced by repeating a set of well-wishes and aiming those well-wishes at a particular person or group. Common phrases include: may you be happy, may you be safe, may you be free, may you be filled with lovingkindness.

They are repeated silently during meditation. The practitioner imagines the person or people standing in front of them. It is a concentration practice, a mindfulness practice, and a mantra practice.

It is also a shockingly powerful practice.

One works through a set list of beings, beginning with yourself, then beloved people or mentors, then neutral people, and then difficult people. In many traditions, the practice closes by aiming wishes of lovingkindness toward all beings everywhere.

Lovingkindness is a unique form of prayer.  By beginning with yourself and repeating those phrases on your own behalf, you begin to create an interior attitude that may be different from your everyday inner narrative.

Through consistent practice, we can create a loving attitude toward ourselves. Over time, this replaces the (often negative) baseline chatter that may dominate your inner realm. Instead, you experience loving and beautiful feelings toward yourself.”

(Read the full post here.)

Equanimity in the face of uncertainty

Equanimity (upekkha), as I understand it, is flow. It is a sense of trust and receptivity toward whatever will arise.  When we rest our minds in equanimity, we are not attached to outcome. We are at peace in our actions and in our purpose. But we do not act in alignment with our purpose in order to achieve something in particular.

In the Bhagavad Gita, there is a line in Chapter Two that states that we are entitled to our rightful work, but not to its fruits or results. This is equanimity: goodness for its own sake. Rightful action because it is rightful — not for any greater benefit.

Upekkha can support us and ground us in what we know to be rightful, while freeing us from disappointment, attachment or aversion. For instance: we do not meditate to “win” at meditation. We meditate for its own inherent goodness…

Likewise, there is space for equanimity practice in the larger world as well. Whether it’s an election outcome, a particular injustice, or some other situation in the world, we may feel powerless to affect a desired outcome. But what if we reversed that perspective?

What if, instead, we simply went about our work anyway? We could use the energy that we might otherwise spend on worrying or feeling helpless, and instead, roll up our sleeves and do what we can. None of us can change the course of history alone. None of us can do it all. But we can choose to do our own little bit.

(Read the full post here.)

 

Related:

The Lovingkindness Toolkit: because meditation can feel kind, compassionate and revolutionary. Download the free mini-toolkit to begin your practice today! >> www.christytending.com

How to practice: walking meditation

May 8, 2017

Learn to meditate. In this post, learn how to practice walking meditation. Plus grab your free meditation toolkit! >> www.christytending.com

The benefits of walking meditation:

A gentle, grounding way of bringing awareness and attention to our bodies, walking meditation creates a sense of ease, connection, and calm. It is an excellent practice for building embodied awareness.

Walking meditation is also an excellent alternative to or practice to alternate with seated meditation. (Often on residential retreats, periods of walking alternate with periods of seated meditation.) It allows us to build greater and greater awareness and mindfulness, with our bodies as the vehicle.

Selecting a practice space:

Choose a quiet space, indoors or outside, that has enough space for you to walk about ten to thirty paces, back and forth. Remove any obstacles or distractions and silence any devices. You may want to dim the lights or draw the shades, if you are indoors, so as not to catch any harsh glare.

How to Walk:

Stand at one end of your practice area. Relax your body, especially your shoulders and arms, hands resting at your sides or in prayer position in front of your heart.

Rest your eyes’ gaze a few paces in front of you on the floor or ground. Ground your feet with the earth, feeling the sensation of the soles of your feet on the earth. Center yourself by taking a few deep breaths before beginning.

Begin by walking slowly – not at a snail’s pace or a pace so quick that it’s distracting – deliberately and easefully. This is more of a stroll than a dirge. At the end of your path, pause and re-center yourself. Take a deep breath or two, carefully turn around, and pause again.

Then begin walking back from whence you came. Practice walking, back and forth, for ten to twenty minutes, to begin.

Elements of each step:

Maintain awareness of your body in space, the sensation of each foot lifting itself from the earth, and each step meeting the earth again. Bring mindfulness to each step, feeling each sensation in your body.

The pace is an individual choice. Select a pace that keeps you in the moment: not so fast that you’re rushing through sensation; not so slow that you become distracted.

Your mind and attention:

As with other forms of meditation, your awareness will invariably wander. When you notice this, acknowledge it, and gently return the attention to the sensations of the body and of each step. You might pause for a moment, take a breath, and then resume walking. Or you may continue at your established pace, simply drawing the awareness back into the here and now as you move.

In other areas of life:

Practice in a formal setting or at home first. Then slowly begin to extend your practice into other areas of your life: while hiking, shopping, down the stairs at home, or when walking to or from your car. This helps us to extend and enjoy embodied presence in more and more areas of our lives.

 

Related:

The Lovingkindness Toolkit: because meditation can feel kind, compassionate and revolutionary. Download the free mini-toolkit to begin your practice today! >> www.christytending.com

Free Lovingkindness Meditation Toolkit!

February 2, 2017

I write a lot about lovingkindness meditation – and the role it plays in my self-care practice. It’s less well-known than its compatriot, mindfulness meditation, but it’s deeply powerful. This form of heart training builds resilience in difficult times, and deepens our capacity for joy in the good times. Which is why I’ve assembled this free meditation toolkit. Read on to get your copy…

 

if you've been putting off beginning a meditation practice – or just aren't sure how to get started – I have a special free gift for you. It's possible for you, even if you're a total beginner, to discover heartfelt meditation in my free lovingkindness toolkit! Get your free meditation toolkit! >> www.christytending.com

 

But if you’ve been putting off beginning a meditation practice – or just aren’t sure how to get started – I have a special free gift for you. It’s possible for you, even if you’re a total beginner, to discover heartfelt meditation in my free lovingkindness toolkit!

Lovingkindness: an antidote in times of hate

January 30, 2017

I write about lovingkindness a lot. I’ve come to understand that such an interest and investment of practice in metta is unusual. What I also know is that it is a balm for my heart. It has never been more necessary than in the face of a new form of hatred and fear that is pervasive in my country’s culture and government at the moment.

Truly, lovingkindness is an antidote to not only times in which hatred seems to be swirling around us, but to the fear and uncertainty that arises from that kind of attitude and atmosphere.

Lovingkindness meditation is a sweet and simple practice. It is also an incredible antidote to fear, hatred and uncertainty. Plus get your free meditation toolkit inside! >> www.christytending.com

I’ve written before about what lovingkindness is.

And about how it can serve world-changing people in particular.

But, in recent months, it has served a very specific purpose for my heart. It helps me remember that I am interconnected with all other beings on this planet. It reminds me that I am not alone. When practicing, I experience a deep experience of my own preciousness.

Lovingkindness has been an antidote to every message I receive that I am unwelcome, unworthy, or less-than.

One of my teachers makes an amendment to the Metta Sutta (an original text which describes the practice of Metta Bhavana (lovingkindness meditation).

The line reads, “excluding none,” to which my teach adds, “including yourself, maybe especially.”

This is the beauty of metta: we begin with ourselves. We start with our own hearts. Like dropping a stone into a pond, and watching the tiny waves ripple outward, we begin exactly where we are.

In the Udana, in the Pali canon, we see the words:

“Searching all directions
with one’s awareness,
one finds no one dearer
than oneself.”

This is the heart of metta: a direct experiencing of our own worth and exquisite dearness.

The Lovingkindness Toolkit: because meditation can feel kind, compassionate and revolutionary. Download the free mini-toolkit to begin your practice today! >> www.christytending.com

But it points to something else: that we all are truly worth of this kind of affection. That we are united by our desire to feel loved. Each of us wants to feel safe and happy and at peace.

Practicing lovingkindness allows us to access and tap into this shared human experience. It dissolves the barriers of our hearts. By repeating the phrases of blessings in lovingkindness practice, we experience how alike we all truly are.

We’re not alike in some kumbaya-spiritual-bypass sort of way, either.

We are truly, inextricably linked with all of humanity. And if that is the case, isn’t the natural solution to offer love to everyone you meet? To work toward the liberation of all beings?

This means we have the power to act, to make change, to stand in love for all.

We have the capacity, no matter how far from one another, to offer these simple blessings for all beings everywhere. The current phrases I’m working with look something like this:

May you feel safe
May you feel joyful
May you feel courageous
May you live with ease

We repeat those phrases over and over in our lovingkindness practice. Offering them to ourselves, to our beloveds, and finally to all beings everywhere.

Then (and this is the key) endowed with that kind of fierce love, we move out into the world and act. With wisdom, with compassion, we take skillful action on behalf of our collective liberation.

This is the antidote to fear, hatred and separation.

 

Related:

The Lovingkindness Toolkit: because meditation can feel kind, compassionate and revolutionary. Download the free mini-toolkit to begin your practice today! >> www.christytending.com

Dana, Generosity, and my work.

January 25, 2017

I believe whole-heartedly in generosity. (So much so that it’s one of my main intentions for this year.) In Pali, the name for this is dana.

Dana: generosity, freely given. >> www.christytending.com

 

Whether in my daily interactions, or in my work, I aim to give generously, without expecting reciprocity. I reject capitalism’s assertion that my worth is, or should be equated with, my productivity or my income.

I choose to give because I enjoy the practice of being generous. Truly, I enjoy the process of giving.

In Buddhist tradition, teachings are viewed as priceless; there is no price tag. In exchange for , students offer dana, which translated from the Pali roughly equates to “generosity.” Rather than a transactional model which might commodify teachings, teachings are offered freely, and students offer donation.

Dana supports the teachings in a free exchange – and it asks us to examine our relationship to money, abundance, and scarcity.

Dana requires that we find a balance. It asks us to give enough that we feel generous in our support for those who have supported us. But not so much that we cause harm to ourselves by giving away more than we can afford.

This form of generosity is deeply personal.

It is up to the individual to discern what generosity means to them.

Dana can happen in many ways: financially, through service, and through the practice itself. We may, as practitioners, generously offer the benefits of our practice outward, dedicating our merits so that all beings may benefit.

In this spirit, I am beginning to experiment with some dana-based models in my work.

I do this for three reasons:

To honor the teachings: I believe that while the teachings are priceless, making a gesture of devotion has the capacity to deepen our relationship to practice.

To support myself: I *love* to give abundantly. Recently, I have also recognized the need to fill my own cup so that I may have a reliable source in order to fill yours as well.

To serve you more deeply: I am excited to take my teachings to new places this year. The dana offered allows me to deepen my studentship and expand my capacity as a teacher.

My part

It has always been a part of my business model to give generously. From the free self-care resource garden (with a dozen – and growing! – free downloads), to my free workshops, to my frequent blog writings – I create as much content as I can for absolutely free. I believe in giving away as much as I can.

But what happens when I pour endlessly from my own cup without refilling it? Nothing good.

There is no fault. Only the reality that I am, in fact, supporting myself through the work you see here. And in order to continue to give generously, I need to feel a sense of balance.

Lately, the balance has felt off. I want to spend less time selling and more time creating, more time with my family, more time in my own studentship. Again, there is no blame. Only an opportunity:

The opportunity

Dana is viewed in Buddhist teaching as a gift to both teacher and student. Many dharma teachers rely *solely* on dana or other donations. That is their livelihood. This model supports them so that they may continue to offer their teachings freely, without funny sales tactics or feelings of misalignment.

But dana is also a gift to the student.

It offers them the opportunity to experience the practice of being generous, which is seen as essential to spiritual growth. Dana is simply an extension of what happens on the cushion, allowing those lessons to make their way into daily life. Because what is practice, if not training for daily life?

Now, this is an experiment. But I’m hoping you’ll come along for the journey.

The first place where I’ll be experimenting with dana is in the context of my live, online workshops. Have a look at the schedule – I would be so thrilled for you to join me.

I bow to you in humble thanks for your support.


* Moments of Wonder is a series of mini-blogs where I share bite-sized personal reflections – not as advice, mentorship or counsel, but on how the themes I cover here are reflected in my own life.

 

The Lovingkindness Toolkit: because meditation can feel kind, compassionate and revolutionary. Download the free mini-toolkit to begin your practice today! >> www.christytending.com

18 Simple Meditation Tips

January 23, 2017

 

18 Simple Meditation Tips to make meditation easier, make meditation comfortable, and make meditation a habit (for good). Plus get your free meditation toolkit inside! >> www.christytending.com

Make it easier:

Try a mantra

Using a mantra or a set of repeated phrases can help to ground the mind and free it from its natural wanderings. You might try lovingkindness meditation, which is a repetition of loving phrases or well-wishes for yourself or others. So hum meditation is another popular version. Meaning, “I am that” (so means “I am” and hum means “that”). In this context, “that” means all of everything.

This form of concentration practice offers the mind words to chew over and repeat, giving it a focal point. This can help to curb distraction or runaway thoughts.

Gaze at a candle

Similarly, gazing at a candle can offer the eyes something to observe and therefore a place to fix their focus. Keeping the eyes open may help if sleepiness is a problem during your meditation.

Simply choose a comfortable seated position for meditation and set a small candle on a table in front of you, just below your line of sight. Then gently place your gaze on the flickering flame of the candle, observing it and allowing your concentration to rest on the candle itself.

Name thoughts instead of judging them

When thoughts or emotions arise during meditation (as they surely will), try this: name the thought or emotion as, “thought” or “feeling”. You might get more specific with, “judging thought” or, “thought about the future”. You might name your emotions, “sadness,” “frustration,” or “fear.”

Once you’ve done this, you can release them instead of needing to chase them down to their logical conclusion. This helps to free the mind from judgment. These thoughts or emotions aren’t good or bad, they simply are. They’re a natural expression of the mind, and once we’ve captured them in this way, we can let them go.

Practice in community

Having a few friends (or a regular meditation sit) with whom to meditate can be deeply beneficial. Sangha, or community, is known as one of the Three Jewels of Buddhism. And community is often considered a place of refuge in Buddhist teachings, in particular.

Practicing in community can have a lot of other benefits as well, including accountability, mutual support, free exchange of knowledge about practice, and a shared experience. More than anything, practicing alone can feel lonely and difficult to sustain. Having a community, even a virtual one, can feel deeply supportive.

Let it feel comfortable – instead of fussy

Need to scratch your nose, shift your seat or stretch out a foot that’s fallen asleep? No problem.

You don’t “lose” at meditation – there’s no such thing. Find ways to shift yourself or bring yourself comfort. Just remember to do it mindfully, with intentional movement. And then return your focus to your meditation. The point of meditation is not to suffer. And you’re a human being with a body – not a robot.

Act with compassion and mindfulness. There’s no need to aim for perfection, especially right away.

Let it be enough

Don’t try to meditate all at once. Only have five minutes? Or one? Let that be enough. Again, there’s no “losing” at meditation, so you’re not falling behind if you don’t get a full 45-minute sit in. Do what you can, a little bit at a time. Remember that, and let the judgments about how much you’re doing drop away.

Put another way: a little bit carries *way* more benefit than none at all. And berating yourself for how little you’re doing won’t do anything to build mindfulness or compassion.

The Lovingkindness Toolkit: because meditation can feel kind, compassionate and revolutionary. Download the free mini-toolkit to begin your practice today! >> www.christytending.com

 

Make it more comfortable:

Support your seat

Take good care of your lower back and hips, if you’re seated on the floor. A cushion, bolster or meditation bench can help. Therapeutically-speaking, you’ll want your hips to be supported enough that your knees drape downward and rest below the rim of your pelvis.

If the knees are pointed toward the sky, you’ll want even more support under your seat. This helps to prevent low back, hip and knee pain that’s common among meditators.

Support your knees

If your knees aren’t resting on the floor, or they begin to ache, place a blanket or cushion underneath them. This takes the strain out of the connective tissue in the knees, meaning that you won’t strain the joints or develop muscle pain around the knees.

Sit in a chair

As one of my meditation teachers says, “I’ve never heard of someone getting enlightened faster by sitting on the floor.”

While some traditions insist on sitting on the floor, I take a more flexible approach. When I instruct students to, “Find a comfortable seat,” this seat might be on the floor or in a chair. It makes no difference.

If you are sitting in a chair, try to ensure that your feet are flat on the floor (or there’s a cushion underneath them). Sit on the edge of the chair, if possible, with the spine upright.

Lie down

Or just lie down. Perhaps in Savasana, corpse pose in yoga, or with your feet flat on the floor, knees in the air. Maybe place a hand on your heart and a hand on your belly for comfort and support.

(Do try not to fall asleep!)

Try walking meditation

If you find yourself fidgeting during meditation, maybe you simply need to move. Walking meditation, the practice of walking slowly and mindfully while repeating a mantra or observing one’s breath, can be a nice addition to seated meditation.

If you’re engaging in consistent practice, perhaps try integrating walking practice into your weekly routine. Or if you’re doing multiple practices in a day, make one of them a walking practice.

It’s a nice way to maintain some variety, which may help to keep the mind and body more engaged and energized by mediation practice.

Change up your position

If you begin to develop back pain, knee pain or headaches – or if you’re bored, choose a new meditation position or practice for a few days. Ultimately, we’re aiming for longevity of practice, not engaging in a competition for how much we can suffer. Changing up your position might offer new perspective or insight – or even the feeling of a “do-over.”

There’s no need for your practice to become stale and stuffy. Meditation is alive, and so are you.

 

Make it a habit (for good):

Take baby steps

The temptation can be to dive in all at once.

Instead, I recommend taking baby steps. Choose shorter practices and make them as easeful as you can. Perhaps, commit to a single week of brief daily practices, while you build up the habit. Committing to daily 45-minute practices for a full year can lead to disappointment and self-judgment. Begin with a commitment that feels very doable (almost too small!) and allow yourself to build up the self-trust that comes with regular sitting.

Make it a ritual

Perhaps you’ll light incense, ring a bell, or wear a particular shawl. Perhaps you’ll begin with a simple prayer, chant, or maybe you’ll simply sit at the same time and in the same place each day.

No matter how you choose to mark the occasion, it can feel supportive to turn your meditation time into a ritual. Put your phone on airplane mode, gather a sacred object, or simply take your time setting up your seat to feel as comfortable as possible.

This creates a container for practice that helps it to feel sacred and special – and for you to transition between everyday life and meditation space.

The Lovingkindness Toolkit: because meditation can feel kind, compassionate and revolutionary. Download the free mini-toolkit to begin your practice today! >> www.christytending.com

Practice while you’re doing something else

The flip side, of course, is that you can meditate while going about your daily life, infusing your meditation practice into mundane tasks.

I enjoy practicing mindfulness while washing dishes and loading them into the dishwasher. I notice all the sensations, from the feel of the water, to the sensation of the plate in my hand, to the sound of the faucet. I place each dish, lovingly, into the dishwasher as gently as possible. This allows me to feel the power of my practice infused into ordinary moments.

Lately, I’ve been practicing my lovingkindness phrases while walking downstairs in the morning. Each step marks a phrase, and every four stairs, I begin the phrases over again. It’s lovely.

Meditate in public

I love to practice in public spaces. With my eyes open, I offer lovingkindness phrases to strangers or I simply observe my breath as I move through public space. This kind of perspective allows me to be much more present than refreshing my phone or otherwise distracting myself.

Set aside silent periods

During meditation retreats, participants are asked to observe noble silence, aside from designated conversation periods with teacher or question and answer sessions.

If you’re looking to cultivate more space for practice, try setting aside one silent day per week or month (depending on your life and the kind of work you do). If this isn’t possible, I enjoy silent mornings as well. Take whatever time you can to be quiet, preferably also without computer or phone screens, to abide in this noble silence and the quietude, inside and out, that comes with it.

Know what to do when you don’t know what to do

Over time, you’ll gather up a set of tools and practices that you know serve you well. Eventually, in difficult moments, you’ll have phrases, rituals or other tools that will serve you when you otherwise don’t know what to do. By building meditation not just as a practice, but as a habit, you’ll be able to comfort yourself in moments when you otherwise would have been at loose ends.

Keep note of what some of these practices are for hard times. You’ll be so grateful you did.

 

Related:

Meditation doesn’t have to be a fight

What is lovingkindness?

Lovingkindness: an antidote

The Lovingkindness Toolkit: because meditation can feel kind, compassionate and revolutionary. Download the free mini-toolkit to begin your practice today! >> www.christytending.com

Create a Home Meditation Space

December 14, 2016

One of the most common sources of overwhelm is that of space. Not enough space. Cluttered space. Sharing space.

I share my home with three other humans: my sweetie and our two housemates – plus two cats. Tidiness, privacy, quiet, and scheduling can sometimes make keeping a space feeling sacred a challenge.

Yet, my sacred practice is vital to my well-being.

No matter how small your space, learn how to create a magical home meditation space. Click here to get a free self-care workbook! >> www.christytending.com

I need a space for meditation, yoga, writing, reading, and general contemplation. Having a space that feels dedicated for this feels incredibly important to me and to my self-care. So, when we moved into our new home in August, it was agreed that the little shed in the backyard would become my studio.

This is where the magic happens.

And today, I’m going to show you how I created it. Plus, I have a few principles for how to create a meditation space, altar or other sacred space, even if you don’t have much room.

How to create your space:

Start with a vision

I began where I begin most big projects when I need infinite inspiration: Pinterest. I pinned hundreds of images of what my little studio *could* look like (to a secret board). Not every one was perfect or even realistic. But I collected paint swatches, rugs, and desk organization tips. I even selected images for their natural light alone.

From there, I whittled down the images to a single aesthetic or set of unifying characteristics that felt compelling to me.

Answer the question: what does it need to do?

Really, how will the space (in an ideal world) function in your life?

Is it a whole room, part of one, or a corner? What will you use it for? What does it need to store?

It might be tempting to focus on the aesthetics of your meditation or yoga space, but it doesn’t work if it doesn’t work. Make sure that you spend some time thinking about functionality. Factors might include light, heat (or a fan), storage, empty space (so you don’t whack your arm against the wall in warrior II), privacy or sound-proofing.

Set the stage and an intention

Your space is only as sacred as you make it. So spend some time there. Put your intentions into it and allow your space to be a vessel for those intentions, as well as your practice. The space will ripen as you practice there, and as it absorbs the preciousness of your practice.

Use the space as it was intended. Allow it to be sacred ground and treat it as such. Fill it with treasures and what is necessary for you to experience joy, spirit, and healing there.

The Lovingkindness Toolkit: because meditation can feel kind, compassionate and revolutionary. Download the free mini-toolkit to begin your practice today! >> www.christytending.com

How to maintain the space:

Clean it regularly

Using non-toxic (and perhaps even scent-free) cleansers, make sure to clean your space often. This is important. While there are plenty of intrinsic benefits to cleaning a space, it is even more important when applied to sacred spaces.

Cleaning and attending to a space enlivens it through this act of devotion.

Smudging and energetic clearing

Another way to regularly clean and maintain your space is through energetic cleansing. In the same way that water and soap (or baking soda or apple cider vinegar) cleans a space physically, there are other ways to clean your space on the energetic or spiritual level.

I regularly smudge my space with sage, palo santo or sweetgrass to remove energetic adhesions. Once a month or so, I throw open the door and windows for an afternoon to let the light and air move through the space. I also use selenite wands and smudge sprays to move energy that no longer serves the space.

For calling in intention or setting the stage for the space to do its work, I often use energy work (reiki) on the interior of the space, to invite in what does belong.

Swap out what no longer belongs

I try not to keep what I’m not actively using, and if an object is no longer serving me, I tend to swap it out. I either put it into storage, give it away, or trade with a friend. This practice keeps me honest and in integrity with my commitment to non-attachment and not taking what does not belong to me.

How I use my space:

Again, I use my space for its original intention. It’s not for hanging out and watching movies or for distracting myself on Facebook. My studio has four main functions and I try to abide by these in order to respect the space.

  • Meditation and spiritual practice: sometimes seated, sometimes walking. I also include altar-building, tarot or oracle card reading, prayer, singing, or journaling here.

  • Yoga and physical practice (often interwoven with the above)

  • Writing and healing work: again, everything you see here is created in my sacred space. I write for the site, as well as maintaining a practice that includes journaling, poetry writing, and setting intention.

  • Reading poetry and spiritual texts.

Essential elements I include in my space:

  • Tarot and oracle card decks
  • Books of poetry or spiritual texts
  • Photographs of loved ones
  • Art that inspires me (often framed, almost all gifts)
  • Fresh flowers and plants
  • Yoga mats and props, meditation cushions
  • Natural elements: pinecones, feathers, shells, sticks, stones and crystals, etc.
  • An organized desk for writing and creating everything you see here on this site

The Lovingkindness Toolkit: because meditation can feel kind, compassionate and revolutionary. Download the free mini-toolkit to begin your practice today! >> www.christytending.com


Small space solutions for Sacred Space:

Inside a drawer:

You can keep your tools, or even create a tableau or diorama, inside a dedicated drawer in the nightstand or bureau. This keeps them safe and out of the way, but in a space that’s just for them. This is particularly good if you want to build temporary altars and then keep your tools out of hand’s (or paw’s) reach.

On top of a dresser:

If you don’t have space for an altar table or other meditation space on your floor, try giving your altar the top of a dresser (or other surface). Make sure it isn’t a magnet for clutter – let it be dedicated to its intended purpose.

Vision or pin-boards:

A vision or pin-board (or another wall-hanging solution) is perfect if you’re low on surface areas in your home and is especially nice if you have animals. Instead of sacred objects being arranged horizontally on a table, they’re arranged vertically on a board. This solution is well-suited for written intentions, poetry, oracle or tarot cards or other forms of art.


Related:

What is Lovingkindness?

Less (but Better)

Dana (generosity) and my work

 

Free Toolkit:

The Lovingkindness Toolkit: because meditation can feel kind, compassionate and revolutionary. Download the free mini-toolkit to begin your practice today! >> www.christytending.com

What comes next: self-care in times of fear

November 9, 2016

I hope that this will be one of those blog posts that looks terribly dated when I look back on it. I hope that this, too, will pass away, as all things do. Most of all, it is my hope that we all – particularly the most vulnerable among us – are safe and free.

What comes next: self-care in times of fear, and when everything hurts. If the world feels like it's crashing down, try these self-care tips. Click here for free self-care resources! >> www.christytending.com

In this moment, though, I am feeling through the darkness for a light switch. I am shaking myself from what feels like a terrible dream. I am listening to the sounds of my city, and to the sound of my own breath to steady myself.

Today will be difficult. So will tomorrow.

Be here with it.

In bravery.

With compassion.

Within community.

In rebellion.

This is mainly written as advice for myself, but you are welcome to it. Take what is useful. Leave the rest. Either way, I am rooting for you. I see you, I love you, and I am prepared to rise up with and for you.

I promise to put my love and compassion into action.

Center what matters most.

What is real and precious to you? What creates meaning and joy and empowerment in your life?

Focus on that.

Why are you building a more compassionate world? For whom? What does that look like? Keep an eye on what is most meaningful to you. Love is what will sustain us, ultimately.

Honor your pain, grief, and complexity.

What you are feeling is real and justified and natural. Honor all of it. Even if you change your mind in an hour. Even if the words you have don’t seem to wrap around all of what you’re experiencing.

Be present with it. Allow yourself to feel it.

Today might not be the day for counting your blessings or the silver lining or the long game.

Take good care of all parts of yourself.

Make a self-care plan. Write it down.

Ask yourself: What would feel good right now? What does your self-care look like? There are no shoulds. There is no right way.

Keep good care of your mind, body, emotions, spirit.

Do one thing at a time. Go slowly.

Try not to multi-task. Choose thoughtfulness over rushing.

Do less. Ask to reschedule or for deadline extensions. Recalibrate. Be as gentle as possible as you move through your day and life. Allow yourself to be deliberate.

Be present.

Try not to numb out.

It can be tempting to smother your feelings with food, television, alcohol, drugs, shopping or other outlets. Stay with it. Our nervous system’s response may be fight, flight or freeze.

I urge you to stay here, embodied, and fully awake, even when it is uncomfortable.

Mindful isolation.

Staying present doesn’t mean endlessly refreshing social media or gobbling up news story after news story. Sometimes, it means pulling back to be present with your own heart. Sometimes, it means shutting it down and going outside.

Take time and quiet and space to breathe and process at your own pace. You don’t have to digest it all in one day.

Foster community and support and mutual aid.

Hug your family and friends. Gather around food. Reach out and let people know you’re thinking of them. Be with people who share your heart, and with whom you can be your full self.

Support others and allow them to support you back. Share food, stories, rides, listening, child care and other forms of aid, so that we can all heal together. Foot massages, book exchanges, long walks in the sunshine, and cups of tea readily given and accepted.

Remember: your strength and survival are rebellious acts.

You are powerful beyond all imagination. Together, we have tremendous strength to weather this season. You may not feel that way today, but I hope that you remember your power, that you catch glimmers of it. That you do not forget.

In times like these, it can feel that the world is crashing down. It may be unrealistic to tell you not to despair. But let me tell you: self-care is a rebellious act.

When we focus on our well-being in the face of oppression: xenophobia, racism, the hetero-patriarchy, islamaphobia, et. al., we are reclaiming our worth. We reclaim our enough-ness.

Through our survival, we reject the narrative that we are less-than.

Focus your compassion.

Sometimes, it seems like you’re feeling everything at once. Today, you might just need to be with the pain. But perhaps, you’re ready to put your compassion into action.

Start with baby steps – with one concrete action. Perhaps lovingkindness meditation. Maybe through donating or volunteering. Or even cooking a community meal at home. Putting your love into motion may help to dissolve some of the powerlessness we feel.

Places I plan to donate money (in case you’re interested in doing the same; I know not everyone can):

BYP100

Color of Change

Planned Parenthood

Arab Resource and Organizing Center

Indigenous Environmental Network

National Lawyers Guild

Civil Liberties Defense Fund

Some additional posts that I have found useful today:

Hold Fast, We Are Brave and We have love.

We want a political revolution. First, we must defeat fascism.

How to Stay Optimistic When Everything’s Horrible

 

To close, I just want to say, if it isn’t already completely clear, that what I offer here is for everyone. This is a safe space and you are welcome here. I love you. Stay strong.

 

With care,
Christy

Self-Care for the Grief of the World

July 12, 2016

Sometimes the world breaks our hearts. Here are some strategies when it’s all too heart-breaking. Get your free lovingkindness meditation mini-toolkit here.

Are you feeling affected by recent world events? There is a lot of trauma and violence. Here are some simple self-care tips if you are in grief at the state of the world. Plus get a free meditation practice inside! >> www.christytending.com

Be respectful toward yourself

In whatever state you find yourself, be respectful toward yourself. You deserve empathy in the midst of this sometimes-broken world.

Nap or put your legs up the wall

If your nervous system is exhausted, it may be time to sleep. Afternoon naps can be particularly regenerative. Just make sure you get cozy and turn off all your screens and devices.

If sleep feels like too much, practice legs up the wall pose, a yoga pose that’s wonderful for sleep and relaxation. Basically, you lie down on your back, butt against the wall and allow the legs to drape upward along the wall, heels against the wall. (More here.)

Hydrate and take long showers or epsom salt baths

What’s going on right now is a lot to move, energetically. Trauma, even secondary trauma can live in our bodies. Make sure you drink lots of water. Take long showers or indulge in an epsom salt soak, which can be detoxifying and great for sore muscles.

Allow yourself to be cleansed.

Ground

Literally, go feel your connection with the earth. Squish your toes in the earth, place your hands on a tree. If you have a garden, go tend to it. Place a small bowl of salt on your altar. Eat hearty, nourishing foods, like root vegetables and dark greens.

Take deep breaths and feel into your body and into its relationship with gravity.

 

The Lovingkindness Toolkit: because meditation can feel kind, compassionate and revolutionary. Download the free mini-toolkit to begin your practice today! >> www.christytending.com

 

 

Connect in real life

Instead of relying on text, email or social media channels, plan a small get-together. Get tea with a friend. Go for a walk in the park with a co-worker. Host a potluck gathering. The point is to draw beloved people close and share meaningful interaction.

It doesn’t need to be a somber affair either. It’s okay to laugh sometimes! But it can also be supportive to talk through your feelings, if you are feeling affected by the world’s events. Try to listen with empathy.

If you can’t gather in-person, a phone call is still far better than text.

Practice good boundaries

Saying no is a high form of self-care. This is a good time to get very clear about your boundaries, your needs, and what you need to avoid. Maybe you need to avoid graphic content. Maybe you need to not subject yourself to loud music or movies that (even fictionally) depict violence.

Guard your energy with kindness and communicate your boundaries clearly. Also: when airing your grief, consider context. Offer support to those who may be more deeply affected. Seek comfort with those who may be less directly impacted.

Give and receive trigger warnings

If you are posting content that may be disturbing for others, consider posting a trigger warning and disabling auto-play. This is good manners, but it also protect vulnerable people in your life from being blindsided from something they weren’t prepared to see.

Likewise, if you see a trigger warning, consider whether you are grounded and steady enough to consume it. There’s no shame in looking after yourself so as not to inflict trauma on yourself.

This is a form of being gentle with yourself and others.

Journal it out

Journaling can be a useful tool when you don’t know what to say out loud. Violent events can trigger a whole range of emotions, thoughts, and interior questions that you may want to process silently. Through journaling, you can release that, without needing to be “right” or have the answers.

You can simply investigate, be curious, be angry or sad, ask the questions that are on your mind, offer yourself some solace without needing to reach out right away.

Practice mindful isolation

If you feel particularly affected, you may engage in a little mindful isolation. Try to set this isolation for a designated (mindful) timeframe. Within that, you don’t need to be connected with anyone or do anything but simply be and absorb. You don’t need to read the new or be on social media, you can simply hibernate for a little while.

While you do, you might like some of these practices.

Be brave and get uncomfortable

This may seem counter-intuitive, given the above, but listen. Especially if you are a person with privilege (this might include being any of the following: straight, white, male, able-bodied, and upper-middle or wealthy.)

People who are in positions of power need to get brave and commit themselves to getting uncomfortable. Have difficult conversations with family (in the context in which I’m writing this, that’s you, white folks). Find ways to center black voices. Donate to bail funds and for long-term organizing. Seek to understand. Deliver meals to the people who need to tap out. Make signs and march if you can. Say their names in your prayers and over breakfast.

Be brave.  Let yourself make mistakes. Commit to doing better.

I am with you,

Christy

 

The Lovingkindness Toolkit: because meditation can feel kind, compassionate and revolutionary. Download the free mini-toolkit to begin your practice today! >> www.christytending.com

PS: Lovingkindness: a Practice for Worldchangers

PPS: 108 other self-care ideas right here.