Entries organized under Sacred Focus

6 Benefits of Simplifying Your Life

February 22, 2017

What actually happens when you simplify your life?

Simplifying, minimalism, Essentialism. Choosing a simpler, maybe even smaller life, seems to be all the rage right now. It feels like the backlash to the gospel of hustle and the pressure to live up to an aspirational lifestyle.

But maybe you like a little hustle now and then. Maybe you do want to make a big impact.

If that’s the case, why would you actually choose a simpler life?

In my experience, there are some real benefits to choosing a simpler life.

It’s not about trading one form of perfectionism for another. And it isn’t about making your life dull and hyper-regimented. A simpler life, believe it or not, can actually lead to some pretty incredible benefits. You don’t have to give up your day job (or surrender half your stuff, either). Instead, by choosing less – and choosing better, you can find new forms of freedom, impact, and connection.

 

6 Benefits of Simplifying Your Life

More time

When I don’t pack my days and weeks chock full with way too many things, there is white space that can exist. I have the time to integrate. I have the time to do the unspoken things that don’t make their way onto my to-do list. There is space for wonder and the kind of spontaneous self-care that really nourishes me.

Listening to music. Taking an extra long, hot shower. Meeting a friend for lunch at the last-minute. Wandering slowly through the cheese section at the grocery store (is that just me?).

I have the time to call people back, to have deeper conversations. I have the space to plan things well, instead of rushing headlong into the next activity.

More energy

This is perhaps the most stark benefit I’ve experienced, since taking myself through the Sacred Focus program and committing to a simpler life.

It used to be that my energy would yo-yo. I would be all in and firing on all burners one week. The next would find me sacked out on the couch, unable to move from burnout. I would work toward healing and then throw myself back into overwhelm once more. This happened again and again, with healing after each burnout phase, but no real plan to break that cycle.

Instead, with my life pared down the way it is, I have not only more capacity to offer myself healing, but I need healing less. I stay more even-keeled and experience the yo-yo of energy less. Which means less flaking and way less burnout.

Freedom, which really means flexibility and ease

When you choose simpler, you gain freedom.

With:

Less stuff to chase around, maintain, clean, organize or throw away.

Less pressure to maintain your regimented schedule.

Fewer confines in which you live life.

You’ll have:

More white space, to fill with what’s meaningful or what’s been missing in your life – and to get creative, to dream, and to integrate.

More ease to move through life according to your intuition’s wisdom.

Greater flexibility to choose well and adapt to shifts in life.

 

Spiritual connection

When I first began my journey to simplify my life, it wasn’t really about simplifying. It was more about how I wanted my everyday to *feel*. It was how I wanted my daily activities, relationships, work, and passions to live in my body.

What I wanted was to feel a sense of the sacredness, even in everyday tasks, That’s how I feel now. Not because laundry became an exalted experience overnight, but simply because I can slow down enough to be mindful of each of my tasks and experiences, as they’re happening.

I’m not rushing through my days, from one chaotic experience to the next. Instead, I can be slow and deliberate and bring my full, sweet attention to what I do and how I interact.

More money and capacity for generosity

A few things happened in my life, rather organically, when I started downshifting my life to make it simpler:

I stopped paying extra for convenience/waiting until the last minute/self-soothing. I no longer needed so many meals delivered in, because I had the energy to cook. Ditto for paying for a bunch of things or services in order to self-soothe. It simply wasn’t as necessary. And because I was more organized, I stopped paying inflated prices for buying things at the last minute or paying extra because I was in a pinch.

I’ve also gotten much more intentional about my generosity. And because I’m not paying extra delivery fees, spending money on stuff I don’t need, or over-paying for things, I actually have a greater capacity for generosity.

Greater impact

Here’s a secret: having a simpler life doesn’t mean that you’re just kicking it all day watching soap operas and eating bon-bons. (Although, if that’s your life, more power to you.) It’s not that, by simplifying, you suddenly have nothing to do or that life is totally boring.

On the contrary, life becomes really rich.

By simplifying my commitments and by choosing to take on fewer projects, I’m actually able to make a bigger impact than ever before. In the last three years, I’ve created a massive amount of content and a boatload of actionable resources. I’m now reaching many thousands of people with my work. I’ve been able to build deep relationships in my political organizing, which in turn builds trust and the level of impact that my group is able to make.

Simple doesn’t mean stagnant. It means that by choosing less, I’m able to choose better and more wisely. And that I can fully, deeply, wholeheartedly commit to doing well in those areas, instead of doing a mediocre job at a bunch of things.

 

Related:

 

How to Simplify Your Life

February 20, 2017

Maybe you read a couple of Marie Kondo books. Maybe you went on a spending diet. But you still crave a life that doesn’t seem quite so hectic or scattered. You’re tired of feeling pulled in a million directions. You feel like you’d be able to get the juicy bits of life more often if you could just simplify your life a little. Let’s dive in – I’ll show you how.

 

How to simplify your life (without throwing away half your shit.) Plus, get a free self-care mini-course inside! >> www.christytending.com

 

 

I believe in simple. In baby steps and in making slow, sacred ritual out of your entire life. I’m dedicated to cutting the crap and boiling things down to the essentials. To what is potent and necessary and beloved. I am dedicated to letting the rest go.

I still have a full life, it’s just not overwhelming the way it used to be. I’m not chasing my tail or letting things drop because I’m not juggling way more than I can handle.

There’s a lot out there about simplifying these days. And there’s a lot of useful information. But the question remains:

How do you simplify your life without throwing away half your sh*t?

(Especially if what you’re looking for isn’t a Pinterest-perfect Scandinavian-eque home, but a more potent, sacred everyday life.)

Write everything down.

The first step to simplify your life is to build awareness around what that means in your very personal situation. What does chaos look like for you? What would simple look like? Since it’s different for everyone, it’s impossible to set a standard or a definite finish line of “simpler.”

Begin by writing everything down. What are all of your commitments? What are all of the elements in your life that require your attention on a regular basis? And finally, what are all of the things you’re not getting to, but are metaphorically hanging over your head?

Build mindfulness around what it is you’re actually doing. Notice what you say yes to. Sleuth around your schedule, your home, your relationships, and your work. To simplify your life, you first need to fully understand all the elements that make up your life.

Why am I really doing this?

Ask yourself this question any time you feel any of the following: resentful, overwhelmed, jealous, frustrated, exhausted, or overburdened.

In a now (semi-)famous story, I once turned to my now-husband and cried out, “Why do I keep doing this to myself?!” (Referring to over-scheduling myself, once again, and feeling exhausted.) Why, indeed.

It wasn’t until I really dug into why I was overcommitting myself that I was able to stop. Knowing your “why” is a big piece of the puzzle, if you want to de-overwhelm your life. Because each person’s motivations are different, there is a different path out of the maze of overwhelm for each of us.

To simplify your life, you need to understand the underlying motivations for over-committing, over-compensating, and over-complicating.

What do I really want from this?

This is really the inverse of the last question, but another juicy thing to ponder. What outcome are you seeking from whatever it is that you’re doing? What’s the ideal result of what you’re pursuing? In your wildest dreams, what would your hard work/time/energy/money yield?

Hint: that’s what you’re really looking for. The thing you’re doing to get there is actually a means to an end, most of the time.

Understanding your motivation for saying yes is one thing. What you think the result will be is something else. We often don’t make commitments or sacrifices (or even purchases) if we don’t think we’re getting something in return. What is that something for you?

When you know what you’re really looking for – the outcome, result or experience you’re really seeking – that knowledge is a source of power. Armed with that understanding, you can start to make other choices. You can decide that perhaps there are other (simpler?) ways of achieving that same result.

 

 

Where am I making things harder than they need to be?

Now that you know why you say yes and what you’re really looking for, it’s time to go back to that original braindump you did. Look at everything on your plate. Examine your motivations and desires. And then dish out some truth (to yourself).

Where have you overcomplicated what could be simple? Where could you simply decide to simplify your life right now?

Maybe it’s outsourcing something or asking for help. Perhaps, it’s cutting something out altogether. Other times, it just means reframing or restructuring how you’re approaching something. Regardless, you may start to see patterns where you’ve been unintentionally making life tougher than it needed to be.

In those places, bring some compassionate awareness. You may have been suffering needlessly. There’s no need to beat yourself up over it. Just take that knowledge and start to (slowly) apply it.

You don’t need to berate yourself – or throw away half your stuff – you can simply start to take some baby steps to simplify your life, even just a tiny bit.

 

 

Related:

5 Questions to Dissolve Overwhelm

February 13, 2017

A sense of overwhelm is no fun. The dread creeps in. Your plate is so full you have no idea where to start. You might even be hiding from what needs to get done, falling into stagnation and inaction. Overwhelm might be my least favorite feeling, really.

Feeling overwhelmed? No need. Ask yourself these 5 questions to dissolve overwhelm and find peace, clarity, and calm. Plus, sign up for the free self-care mini-course inside! >> www.christytending.com

In the last few years, I’ve made a real aim to keep myself out of overwhelm. Not putting too much on my plate. Maintaining a sweet self-care practice. Setting and maintaining clear, respectful boundaries. And remembering (often) my true priorities, can help a lot.

But what happens when you find yourself in the midst of overwhelm?

You don’t have to give up and give in. Below, I break down 5 powerful questions to ask yourself to dissolve your overwhelm and reclaim peace, clarity, and calm.

 

What is going on right now, right here?

Be as specific as possible: what is actually the present-moment experience of being in your body and mind, right now? What is actually happening in this moment and in this place?

Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, anxious, stuck, or at my wit’s end, I pause, take a breath, and ask myself this question. The goal of the question is to cultivate present-moment awareness.

Often, overwhelm is a product of thoughts about either the past or the future. Bringing yourself back to this current moment and assessing the real state of things can be a useful tool for bringing yourself out of the headspace that is disturbing your thoughts.

Take deep breaths. Feel your hands and feet. Notice what is happening.

What’s actually on my plate, in my life, right now?

List-making has always been a really useful tool for me. This question helps me to create a list framework to really see: what have I committed to? What’s my capacity? Where can I take a break?

Clarifying what I actually need to do and what’s on my plate helps me to break through the brain fog of overwhelm. What I often encounter is that I either:

  1. Am not as busy or overwhelmed as I initially felt.
  2. Know what my next steps are.

Even if there is a lot on my plate, there’s no need to feel overwhelmed by it. Knowing every single thing that I’m responsible for either takes the sting out of the feeling altogether. Or it gives me an action plan. Either way, I don’t need to feel overwhelmed. I know what to do.


Want to dissolve overwhelm? Grab your seat for my new free mini-course!


How can I break this into bite-sized pieces or baby steps?

Another “action plan” question, this one helps me to discern where I’m making things a little more intimidating or complicated than they need to be. Once I know what’s on my plate, I can break each of those things into smaller pieces or baby steps toward the final outcome.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, and there’s a big task on your list, break it down into its smallest pieces. Then, simply take one baby step at a time.

By asking this question, we have the opportunity to see projects not as intimidating, but simply comprised of a number of small (totally doable) tasks. The best news? Each of these tasks, in their bite-sized-ness, ives us the experience of having accomplished something once their done.

By breaking through the feeling of frozen overwhelm, we can feel empowered in our forward momentum. Then, even if the whole thing feels like a lot, we only need to do the next task. This take perseverance, but it doesn’t need to be a source of overwhelm.

What intention do I want to cultivate in meeting this moment?

Perhaps a little less practical and a little more woo, I find this question invaluable when meandering through overwhelm. One of the trickiest things about overwhelm can be feeling out of control. Even if we can’t control our circumstances, our intentions allow us to regain control over our inner state.

We can choose the tone we want to set. We choose the energy we want to embody. Through our intentions, we choose how we want to show up for what’s in front of us. Do we want to show up determined and compassionate? Or do we want to show up resentful and annoyed? (I bet you can guess which I would choose.)

This question often jolts us out of the treadmill of overwhelm and allows us to choose something else. This in and of itself can shift our relationship to what feels overwhelming. And it may even dissolve the overwhelm itself.

What do I need to feel nourished so that I can move through this?

Oh, such a good question!

Sometimes, when we encounter overwhelm, the tendency can be to feel shame or guilt. The result of either one of these might be to punish ourselves for having found ourselves in this situation. It can be counter-intuitive when we feel overwhelmed to take a break or have a snack.

But what if those things might help us return with a fresh perspective, ready to meet the challenge head on? This isn’t about avoidance or burying our heads in the sand. Instead, it’s a compassionate recognition that we are, in fact, not robots. While we are all aiming to do our best, sometimes we need some support in order to rise to our best.

Maybe getting some fresh air, having a mini-dance party to a favorite song, or having a cup of tea can help realign our energy. Then, when we return, we’re feeling less cerebral, and more nourished, so we can meet the task at hand with our very best.

The upshot is, getting curious and inquisitive can stop overwhelm in its tracks – or at the very least shift your orientation to it. The next time you’re feeling it, try these questions for yourself!

 

Want to dissolve overwhelm? Grab your seat for my new free mini-course!

On Devotion: what happens when we invest in self-care

January 17, 2017

I believe in devotion. On giving it over to a higher power – or at the very least remembering that I am but a teeny-tiny cell in the body of the universe. And that impermanence is very real and very much not faffing about.

On Devotion: what happens when we invest in self-care. Click here for free self-care resources! >> www.christytending.com

For a long time, devotion scared me.

It frightened me to think about something so very great and surrendering to it. See, I like things just so. I like my ducks in a row and my space tidy and my shit together. I enjoy care-taking. Which is its own devotion…

But the devotion I was facing was a different sort. This devotion I’m talking about is really about walking into uncertainty; it’s about discomfort and the truth. It’s about trust in what I cannot see.

Trust in what I cannot see is scary stuff (for me).

Because what happens if things don’t work out?

What happens if I made a mistake or it turned out to be a waste of time or money or my heart?

What happens if I devote, and things just stay the same?

I asked all of those questions, and no answers came (surprise, surprise).

And of course I was frightened. Because I’d already been let down so many times by promises of magic fixes and improbable solutions.

None of these quick-fixes worked, obviously, and led me to the conclusion that I’d been offered repeatedly on my healing journey:

I was told that I was broken.

That if only I paid enough money, bought the right things, followed all the rules, dutifully, then I would be “cured.” Or “fixed.” I can’t remember the words, but the sentiment was that I could buy my way into being whole.

When I did those things, I’d be entitled to healing.

All I needed to do was to give away my power and wisdom.

That was the flavor of devotion I was sold: disempowerment and a framework of brokenness. No wonder I was terrified.

But it turns out: Those are not devotion.

You don’t need stuff. You don’t need anyone else’s wisdom. Certainly, you don’t need to rely on outsized promises.

Devotion is something else.

Yes, it is a kind of giving yourself over. It means digging deep and making sincere investment. But it also means committing to the journey, not just to the quick fix. In taking the plunge into the unknown.

It means leaning into equanimity, not as something that devolves into despair or indifference, but as something comforting that says, “We are not in charge, so all we can do is to do our best.”

And there is compassion, and there is joy, and there is lovingkindness – all there, allies for our awakening heart.

Devotion means being willing.

To have some skin in the game.

To invest – not just money (but maybe money).

It is not an act, but a process – a practice – of continually choose to wake up to our suffering, and the suffering of others, and to meet that with compassion.

And, perhaps most importantly, to do the hard thing: to do what is right, regardless if anyone is watching. Sometimes this means being unpopular, making change, and undergoing deep growth. It’s a journey that can take a huge amount of energy and courage.

This change – what happens after we invest – can be painful.

But what we receive in return – the fruits of our devotion – create the conditions where we can endure that. We trust our own strength.

Indeed, devotion means building trust.

It is the ongoing process of having your own back (and letting others having it, too). When we take even the smallest steps toward our devotion, we build this trust. We become someone who is deserving of that trust, as well.

It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens little by little, within yourself.

Sometimes, devotion means grinding it out, even when you don’t quite feel like it.

By making a true investment in our well-being, we commit to see it through, beyond the ups and downs, toward something brighter, something holier, and something unattainable without diligent practice.

This is when we lean into our belief in whatever we know to be higher than this tangible experience here. What we know to be sacred. It’s this knowing that keeps us on the path, even when it’s inconvenient, uncomfortable or

Devotion is wondrous. Staying devoted is bliss.


Related:

Morning Rituals

What is your Sacred Focus?

9 things you learn from Sacred Focus

Self-Care Tools for Crafting the Year Ahead

December 26, 2016

for Crafting the Year Ahead

Tools for Crafting My Year:

I use the questions in this workbook as my guide at the beginning of each year.

In particular, I look at the last year as a lesson, not an opportunity to scold myself or to shame myself into changes in the future. Truly, I look at it as a learning opportunity: a chance to listen to my inner voice and to be close to my own heart.

In particular, I journal on these ideas, so that I can greet the new year with clarity and a sense of what I’m showing up for in 2017 – and how I’m showing up for it.

  • What I want more/less of?
  • What I’m opening to/calling in/releasing
  • How I’m nourishing myself and building resilience

Instead of new years resolutions, I craft intentions instead.

I believe that resolutions tend to set us up for failure. So rather than choosing goals, which tend to be out of my control, I choose intentions.

Whereas goals tend to be more external-focused and contingent on outcomes, I choose internally-focused intentions. These intentions are commitments to how I want to show up – the tone I want to set, how I want to be embodied. When I’m grounded in that, external circumstances matter less, because I can make informed choices about my own inner state.

What’s Sacred to me:

The turning of the year is always a good time to reevaluate: what’s feeling good? What’s feeling less-than-good? What has been meaningful, memorable and sacred from this past year? What are the moments that have felt holy and precious?

And, then, perhaps most importantly: how can I incorporate more of that in the year to come?

My Sacred Focus:

What is a Sacred Focus?

In 2014, I chose “Sacred Focus” as my phrase for the coming year. It was my guiding light as I detangled myself from “shoulds,” overwhelm, and unfulfilling parts of my life. Through Sacred Focus, I chose to uplift the parts of my life truly felt just that: Sacred. And the places where I wanted to place my Focus. Read more about that over here.

My Sacred Focus for the year

I pick 3-5 areas each year that I’m calling my Sacred Focus. This year, those areas are:

  • My family – chosen family, biological family, and the animal members of my family (like my cats, Harriet & Dorothy).
  • Enriching spiritual practice – deepening my relationship with tarot, taking a meditation retreat, and continuing (and investing time in) my yoga and poetry practices.
  • My home – my physical home, and making it a supportive, joyful place, as well as my body-home and taking good care of it through good food, movement, and laughter.
  • Being of good, generous service – to the world around me, and through healing arts & self-care mentorship. I vow to keep showing up here, with the intention to be of the highest service that I can.

Choose wisely and let everything else moves around it

I find that when I choose just a few areas to focus my intention, attention, and love, those things tend to flow better. They become the gravitational pull around which everything else orbits. Instead of choosing 20 things to accomplish next year, I’ve chosen three places where I want to be most mindful and loving.

With that in mind, the outcome is less important, and I can be more immersed in the magic of the process. I can be open to life, while ensuring that I’m present with what calls me most.

Some goals:

Okay, so I do have some goals. But they’re fairly simple and I’m looking forward to following through deeply on a few precious things, rather than throwing my energy around.

Metta retreat

In January, I’m taking a 7 day retreat at Spirit Rock, here in Northern California. I’ll be sitting in silence, all day for each of those days, and deepening my practice of Metta Bhavana (lovingkindness meditation). This practice has been at the heart of my self-care for many years now, and I’m thrilled to be deepening into my practice.

(Plus, I’m looking forward to sharing what I glean with you!)

House goals

My home is my sanctuary, and I have a few goals for 2017 about making it even more of a love-filled, joyful, and lush space. More community gatherings, more laughter, more shared food, more friends filling my home.

Plus, a little more furniture is on its way!

What’s coming next in this space

You’ll be hearing more from me soon, both here on the blog and in my e-letter, on what you can expect from me in 2017.

The gist? My highest intention is to be of generous service in this space. To continue to offer plenty of free resources, live workshops, and inspiring writings.

It’s also my intention to simplify a bit. You can see some of those plans reflected in the shop. My plan is to pare back in order to make my courses and toolkits even more amazing.

Related:

How to Craft a Self-Care Year

What is Lovingkindness?

 

Less (but Better)

December 7, 2016

The pressure to “do it all” can be immense. And it’s not just all of the social pressure and “shoulds” floating around that world. (Although, that is incredibly real, and can create an enormous psychological burden.) Even things that sound like so-much-fun can wind up feeling like too much when it comes time to actually make everything happen.

Less but better: de-clutter your schedule and life, and learn to follow through. You'll be more effective and happier. Click here to get a free self-care workbook! >> www.christytending.com

Which leads to flaking.

Which leads to shame.

And that’s no fun.

If you’ve spread yourself a little too thin, I can relate.

A few years ago, my life looked incredibly full and rich from the outside. On the inside, it felt like I was drowning. I felt as though I could never catch my breath, and was always running from one thing to the next. There was no breathing room, no white space in my calendar, and no time to digest everything I was taking in.

It all felt so exciting. Everything felt like something I should be doing. And even though much of it was aimed at my own personal development, growth, and enjoyment, it ended up feeling kind of like hell.

Why?

Because I was doing everything half-assed.

I was only doing the bare minimum. Only doing things to get them done. Only showing up when I “had” to – or coming up with excuses for why I would skip out on things I’d previously looked forward to.

On top of that, I often made myself sick or exhausted – needing to miss even more commitments just to stay functional.

It made me sad. It made me feel like I was failing. It certainly wasn’t self-care (even though things on my plate were technically supposed to be self-care).

I don’t tell you this to make you feel bad.

I tell you this to point the way to something better. Less, but better.

Shortly after this, I developed a real affinity for the idea of committing to less and doing it thoroughly. I wanted to do things well. I wanted to be the person others could count on.

That was the kind of life I wanted.

One that was respectful of my limitations. One that honored the way I like to work. A life that allowed me to bring my best self, allowing me to be even more effective. Most of all, one that was the right amount of each core area of my life. One that was sacred.

So, I set about peeling back the layers.

It was like turning my purse upside down on the dining room table and sifting through it.

I began with a true accounting of every single thing I’d already committed to. Until that point, it had been difficult to gauge my capacity (and therefor what was appropriate for me to take on), because I didn’t have a clear picture of what was already on my plate.

I examined why I’d said yes to each of the things on the list. I looked underneath each one to see how much joy and satisfaction it brought me – or if it was something that had looked good on the surface. Or worse: if I had hoped it would make me look good on the surface.

There were a lot of things I immediately wanted to cross off the list, but I sat with it for a little while.

With that, somewhat intimidating list in hand, I then flipped the question:

What was missing from that list?

What had been on my wishlist for my life for ages that hadn’t made its way into my real life? What felt like it was missing? Where wasn’t I getting fulfillment because I was crowding it out?

It felt scary to put more things on my life list. But I wanted to get as clear a picture as possible. Of what I was hoping for, of what I was expecting from myself, and of why things had gone so off the rails.

Then, I opened a blank sheet of paper.


Psst: do you want to learn to do less, but better?

Join the course before December 20th at 10pm and get a free space in my solstice retreat!

full-width-blog-sacred-focus-solstice-gathering-day-long-retreat


I needed to define what was truly sacred in my life.

Apart from any “shoulds” or external pressure, I needed to decide what felt truly meaningful. I wanted to look at a simplified version of my life. If I had to narrow my life down to only a few key elements, what would I choose? What *wouldn’t* I choose again, if I could get a do-over.

What emerged was surprising in some ways and not in others. Were I to only choose 5 things, for my whole life, I chose to focus on: my family (biological and chosen) and home; my healing work; climate justice activism; spiritual and creative work; adventure and travel.

The wording has changed a bit on these over the years, but they remain fairly steady. And if something is not contributing to one of those five areas of my life, it’s likely not happening. Even if it does fall into one of those buckets, I examine very closely: how is this moving this area of my life forward? What are my true priorities for this area of life?

Three things

I also implemented a system where I could only focus on three things at a time. Three major things per year. Three things per month, per week, per day. If I manage to do more than those three things, it’s gravy. But everything else aims to support my “three things”.

Sometimes, its a small thing, like going hiking. Other times, its a larger project, like traveling abroad or building a new course.

With these in mind, I never have the feeling of, “I don’t know what to do!” – because I do. Having my three things lists gives me clarity and a sense of purpose as I approach each one. It allows each thing I do to carry intentionality and a sense of sacredness.

It also means that I have had the brainspace to bring to life what I’ve really wanted to create this year. Some projects fell by the wayside – not out of flakiness, but out of intentional re-shaping. Looking back, I’ve accomplished pretty much everything I set out to, though.

Accomplishing what I set out to was not an accident.

This is how Sacred Focus was born. This simple set of exercises has evolved into a methodology for de-overwhelming your life and infusing your life with an experience of the sacred. Some of these initial questions remain the centerpiece of the work we do inside Sacred Focus. This is, I believe, how we find our way home to ourselves. It is how we learn to belong to our own lives again.

Finally…

While I still struggle with this, I usually struggle when I take on things beyond what I’ve already established as my priorities. I falter when I overfill my plate with things that don’t truly align with my heart. That’s when I get into trouble.

But what I know is that, even though life is ever-shifting, I have the power to do what I say I will.

Do you want to learn to do less, but better?

Join Sacred Focus for your free space in the solstice gathering day-long retreat! Together, we’ll align the year to come with our highest calling, and learn to peel back everything else. It will be a day of sacred practice, heart-felt discovery, and sincere listening to what’s in our hearts

Join the course before December 20th at 10pm to claim your spot!

full-width-blog-sacred-focus-solstice-gathering-day-long-retreat

5 lessons on resilience from my rescue cats

November 21, 2016

In January of 2014, my sweetie and I attended a feral cat adoption day, and changed our own lives. Our sweet cat Dorothy chose us as her people that day. She laid her head on my hand and fell asleep, and I knew immediately that she needed to be a part of our family.

Eighteen months later, we adopted Harriet. Dorothy and Harriet are now best friends and sisters from another whisker. Those cats have truly made us a family. They’ve also taught me more than I ever dreamed about resilience.

I've learned more about resilience, healing and love from rescuing animals than perhaps anything else in my life. Here are 5 lessons on resilience from my rescue cats. Plus click here for a free self-care resource library! >> www.christytending.com

These two cats had incredibly tough starts in life.What’s more, Dorothy came to us with a neurological disability. Harriet, we were warned, hissed at other cats. Yet they are two of the most open-hearted, loving, affectionate, and *fun* beings I’ve ever met.

The years since they’ve come into our lives have been the best ever.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

One no (or even 100 noes) doesn’t mean you’re unloveable or unworthy.

Dorothy lived in a foster home for five whole months after she was found by the cat rescue where we adopted her. That meant that she went to an adoption fair every weekend for five whole months before we chose each other. It still boggles my mind that anyone could meet her once and not fall in love.

But all of those “noes” didn’t mean that she was unloveable. It just meant that everyone was waiting for the right fit. She didn’t let it dissuade her from being deeply loving. She kept putting herself out there. No matter the rejection, she kept offering love.

Until she found someone who picked her back. (Us!)

Just because you’ve heard no before, doesn’t mean the right person (or a yes) isn’t about to come along.

Disability doesn’t mean broken.

Years and years ago, my sweetie and I watched this video on Youtube and decided that we (proactively) wanted to adopt a cat with a disability. Cats with disabilities have lower adoption rates, despite most having normal lifespans and low to no extra care required. We knew that we wanted to give an overlooked cat an amazing home.

As someone with an invisible disability and chronic illness, I identified so strongly with Dorothy, as soon as we brought her home. It took her some time to settle in. She had to fix her courage to do everyday things.

But over time, she developed her confidence and truly thrived. Her disability doesn’t hold her back. It doesn’t make her broken or a burden – it just gives her a jaunty walk and a little extra sass.

While I knew that my own disabilities didn’t make me “broken” either, Dorothy gave me new perspective on our our challenges equip us to be more resilient. In fact, our imperfections make us more charming and more lovable, in some cases.

Browse the free self-care resource garden for workbooks, journals, planners, practice guides and more >> www.christytending.com

Everyone moves at their own pace.

Harriet was our second adoptee, about a year and a half after we brought Dorothy home. Harriet doesn’t have any sort of disability and we brought her home at a younger age. She’s very active, which makes her appear to be more confident.

But Harriet is much shier around strangers. She hid under the bed for a good week after we moved house this past summer. She takes a while to warm up to new situations. This has been an incredible lesson for me that there really are no “shoulds”.

Everyone moves at their own pace, which should be honored. These days, Harriet is quite comfortable around our new housemates and in her new home. It just took her a little while.

A good reminder to be patient and respectful. Your trajectory might not look like someone else’s, but that doesn’t make it “wrong”.

True pleasure is found in simplicity.

In a sunbeam. At dinnertime, in a small white ramekin. With just a few belly scritches.

We humans make things needlessly complicated. Cats understand the simple pleasures of a piece of string. And they really don’t understand why you find Twitter so compelling. My cats have taught me the superiority of a nap in the sun over another re-run or Facebook refresh or buying myself another thing I don’t need.

I learn a lot just from being with these cats. When I talk about my self-care, they figure prominently. Instead of rushing to the next thing, I find myself laying in a sunbeam with them. I watch them while they watch the world – and I allow my mind to wander, also.

While affectionate, they’re pretty low maintenance – pretty content with what they’ve got. They get excited about a cardboard box and a little bit of fish. May we all be filled with that kind of exuberance and gratitude.

Decide who you want to make proud – and forget the rest.

I know that at the end of the day, jerks on the Internet or random humans don’t determine my worth. I care about fewer and fewer opinions these days. I really just don’t sweat it the way I used to. My barometer of success is simple:

  • Am I doing work that feels meaningful?
  • Am I showing up for people I love, fully?
  • And: are my cats excited to come snuggle with me?

They’re pretty awesome, after all. And they’ve taught me the value of focusing on the opinions of those who truly matter, who show me love every day, and letting the rest go.

This is part of my Sacred Focus work. By focusing more on what feels precious and meaningful to me – by making a sacred practice of that – I create space to experience what is personally sacred to me every single day.

This also means that I don’t take setbacks or criticism quite as personally. When I know what my Sacred Focus is, the rest falls away. It means that I’m more resilient to difficulty, because I’ve already put into place what means the most.

Browse the free self-care resource garden for workbooks, journals, planners, practice guides and more >> www.christytending.com

 

Related posts:

Holiday Self-Care Reimagined

November 7, 2016

The weather, family drama, cooking and shopping, hectic travel, and the dark season. When we look at holiday self-care, we recognize just how hard our practice needs to work. But so often, we meet those needs by simply adding more to our schedules. Instead, let’s reimagine holiday self-care as a gentler, less stressful process.

Self-care at the holidays doesn't mean adding things even more to your plate – it can mean doing less with greater calm. It's time to Reimagine Holiday Self-Care. Save your seat for the free self-care video training series inside! >> www.christytending.com

I believe in year-round self-care. In my life, and I’m hoping in yours, it’s an ever-evolving practice that flows with the seasons. For me, self-care is an ever-present opportunity to view myself with compassion and to meet my needs with creativity and empathy.

 

Self-care is always in season.

But what about those particularly challenging seasons of our lives? How do we meet ourselves with self-care there?

The holiday season can, for many of us, be one of those times when we need extra self-care. It’s no surprise. The transition into winter can be challenging for our physical bodies. The days are shorter and the light is dimmer. It seems like during this season, there are more demands than at any other time of year.

Yet, we seem to have less time and place less emphasis on our own well-being when we need self-care the most.

 

Rather than simply grinning and bearing it (or putting more on our plates) how could we reimagine self-care?

First of all, let’s talk about the sort of self-care we’re looking to cultivate. (Because not all self-care is created equally.) When I talk about self-care, I’m talking about liberatory, awesome self-care. While it can be tempting to just put more on your plate, in the name of self-care, I encourage you to scale back.

What we’re aiming for is self-care that is custom, intuitive, feasible and kind. This isn’t the same as simply adding more. Sometimes, it means subtracting.

 

Set clear boundaries and expectations.

Saying no is a high form of self-care.

Setting boundaries and expectations is as much of an internal act as it is an external one. Which means: by all means, let others know where your boundaries are. Let them know what to expect from you. Even clarify what your expectations are as well.

But define these for yourself, internally, as well. What is enough? When will you know you’ve done enough? What are you willing and not willing to do? How will you celebrate (or rest) when you’re done? Knowing your own limitations and boundaries as important as communicating them to others.

[bctt tweet=”Knowing your own limitations and boundaries as important as communicating them to others.” username=”ChristyTending”]

When we know where are limits are, we can respect and honor them.

 

Put the big rocks in first.

(This reference comes from Steven Covey, who urges people to focus on the most important areas of their lives first. These are the big rocks. Then to add gravel, sand, and so forth if space (and time) allows.

So: what is most important to you? Is it decorating the house beautifully? Cooking your favorite recipes? Gathering with your closest friends and/or family? Decide early on what your priorities are and focus on those.

This becomes an especially relevant set of questions when we realize that we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. Knowing ahead of time what matters most – and prioritizing that – will make letting go of the rest less stressful down the line.

The same goes for self-care. What absolutely, positively needs to happen in order for you to feel whole and well? Do those things first. Then add the extras.

While we’d all love to be super-human and able to do it all, having it all isn’t always possible. But if you hone in on the big things first, it will matter less if the smaller details fall into place.

 

Edit with enthusiasm.

Nothing makes me happier than crossing things off my to do list right before a big event. I’ve done this with moving, leaving for a big trip, my wedding, and (you guessed it) the holidays. Once you have your “big rocks,” deciding the sand isn’t important feels easy.

Choosing for something not to get done – because you’ve decided to let it go – can feel downright blissful.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, sometimes the answer is not more efficiency. Sometimes, it’s crossing things off your list that aren’t strictly necessary. If you’re running short on time, maybe the kinder thing to do would be to take a nap or shower. At that point, look at your list. What is a have-to-have? What is a nice-to-have? What can wait until later?

Edit accordingly. Joyfully, enthusiastically, and with great aplomb.

 

Do less, but better.

Speaking of aplomb, when you *do* choose something, choose it fully. There’s no need for martyrdom or self-sacrifice. Choose this time of year to show up whole-heartedly, with sincere empathy and gratitude. By choosing less, we can be more present with what we do choose. We can do it thoroughly and well. We can truly be in the moment, rather than casting out in six other directions.

Commit to going slowly and doing what you say you’ll do, with the highest intention, at the highest quality.

This isn’t just for others’ sake, either. When we do what we commit to, and do it well, that is an act of self-care. We are strengthening our integrity, and teaching ourselves that we are reliable and trustworthy. In those moments, we can give ourselves permission to slow down, to be with what is, and to find refuge in mindfulness of the moment.

Of course, this is also a gift to those around you, as well.

 

Reframe what you can’t ditch.

Can’t get out of something you’d really prefer not to do? Feeling obligated to go to that party when you’re feeling tired? Unable to turn down an invitation from someone who pushes your buttons? Feeling stuck or isolated when visiting family?

It seems like it may be time for a reframe. Reframing lets us see with new eyes. With this new frame on what previously felt like a problem, we can approach the unavoidable with fresh perspective. And perhaps greater empathy.

If we cast these these activities in a new light, we may find ourselves in a state of greater receptivity, rather than clinging. Maybe we can see it as an opportunity for practice, as a gift to the other person, or space where gratitude or curiosity could grow.

As a result, we get to the “why” underneath. We can see the meaning behind it, rather than just the impact it has on us. Consequently, what felt like a burden before can feel like a loving and compassionate choice.

 

Finally, be gentle and kind.

Be gentle and kind with yourself and with others. Tread gently. Offer an unsolicited compliment or kind word. Go slowly and err on the side of empathy.

This can be a tough season for a lot of people. It can bring up all of our *stuff* as humans. Everything tends to come to the surface at the holidays, leaving you and the people around you feeling a little raw. Remember to check in with people who might be feeling (or spending time) alone. And check in with yourself and your own heart as well.

 

Want to discover even more self-care for the holidays? Sign up for my free workshops!

 

Free yourself from overwhelm

May 16, 2016

You don’t have to live in a state of overwhelm. You can actually free yourself from overwhelm in your daily life and claim ease, focus, and kindness for yourself.

Want to dissolve overwhelm and choose your own self-care adventure? Get started with a free self-care workbook, Care for Every Moment!

Overwhelm happens, but it doesn't have to rule your life. You have the power to free yourself from overwhelm for good, with these simple questions. Plus grab your free self-care workbook inside! >> www.christytending.com

Overwhelm happens.

Life can be a hamster wheel sometimes. I get it. It seems like every year we place greater and greater demands on ourselves. The stakes seem impossibly high. Our own standards can seem impossible to meet. Then, of course, there’s the internet. With it’s imposter syndrome, comparison traps, and decision fatigue.

Sometimes, it’s enough to make a person just want to lie down and take a nap.

But here’s a secret: self-care isn’t a temporary escape from overwhelm. It’s a set of tools we can use to free ourselves from overwhelm for good.

Let’s start with the very basics:

It’s possible to free yourself of overwhelm.

Believing that: that you are empowered in your own life is the very first step. You can be your own best advocate and you can create a framework and value system for life that isn’t mired in overwhelm. By asking yourself a few simple questions, I want to invite you to strip your life down to its essentials.

This may look like lowering your standards, but it’s really about creating clarity about what really matters – and developing greater non-attachment around what is less crucial. Of course, we’ll need to develop non-attachment around it all, at some point… But that’s another blog.

For now, start with this. See if these questions can grant you some spaciousness when it feels like the overwhelm is closing in on you.

Here are some questions to ask:

I’ve applied these questions to a huge variety of situations in my life – from professional obligations to making dinner. If you’re someone who is constantly trying to do it all – balancing a huge number of responsibilities, and feeling like you’re coming up short – this is for you.

Doing less isn’t a cop-out. It’s not a sign of weakness. Doing what you can, and doing it well, is a sign of your humanity and of how much you care. Applying your fullest attention to what matters most will actually lead to better outcomes, ultimately, than trying to put it all on your plate at once.

What is necessary?

What is a non-negotiable? What can’t you live without? I get it: there are bills to pay, mouths to feed, and people who rely on you. But often, we think of things in black and white terms. I challenge you to be really honest: what in your life is strictly necessary? (Make a list, if you like.)

For your health and well-being, for your family’s safety and survival, what is it that absolutely needs to get done?

Then look at everything else on your plate. Gently acknowledge those things, but make a note that these no longer constitute an emergency. And that, perhaps, you could think about ways to gently release them from your life or reframe them so that they cause you less overwhelm.

Do what’s strictly necessary, and then go have a life.

Use this question of what is necessary to cut yourself a break. When you’ve finished with what’s necessary, take a little time to yourself or at least forgive yourself for what doesn’t happen beyond that.


A CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE GUIDE TO SELF-CARE IN ANY SITUATION- Care for Every Moment, a free workbook from Christy Tending. Grab yours here -- www.christytending.comWant to dissolve overwhelm and choose your own self-care adventure? Get started with this free self-care workbook, Care for Every Moment! >>

It’s part choose-your-own-adventure guide and part heartfelt journal. All designed to resource you even in your toughest times.


What is “nice to have” and what’s a “should”?

So, maybe some of those remaining things on your schedule won’t cause the world to come tumbling down if they don’t happen.

Divide the rest of your items on your list into “nice to have” and “should.”

Now, I don’t think that all shoulds are bad. Sometimes, we have the capacity to dramatically brighten someone else’s day with a small act. It costs us little, but makes a big impact. But if your list is all shoulds, it’s time to reexamine your priorities. If you’re only doing things for others, out of obligation, it may be time (pardon me) to cut the crap.

Likewise, look at your “nice to haves.” If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that these are nice if they happen – and not the end of the world if they don’t. By creating a rubric of necessary, “nice to have,” and “should” you can prioritize what’s on your plate – and break it down into more manageable parts.

You can take one thing at a time, in order of importance, instead of trying to do everything with equal intensity.

[bctt tweet=”If you’re feeling overwhelmed, how can you strip it all down to its manageable parts?” username=”ChristyTending”]

What’s are the next, smallest baby steps you could take?

It’s not always about making a complicated project plan or an elaborate to do list in order to make life happen. If you want to make change, you don’t have to dream big. In fact, I’d suggest the opposite: dream really, really small. What are the actual smallest steps you could take to have more of what you want and less of what you don’t?

Some examples:

If you want to move your body more, stand up. Right now. Stretch for 60 seconds. Do some spinal twists, reach up toward the sky, reach down toward the earth. That’s it!

If you want more time for reading, read one single poem each night before bed. Again, it’s a bite-sized amount of literature.

If you want to save more money, set up an auto-transfer at your bank of $5 a week. If that’s too much, keep a change purse and collect the change you receive when you pay in cash.

Pulling ourselves out of overwhelm isn’t about massive sea change or upending our lives. It starts with small steps. Those steps help us believe that change is possible and will create momentum toward greater and greater things. This builds trust, self-respect, and integrity from the inside out. It also gives you some breathing room from the break-neck pace.

You don’t have to take giant leaps. Just take baby steps.

Where on your schedule can you leave room for dessert?

If you’re feeling totally overwhelmed, it may not be entirely your fault. It may be the season of your life that’s causing this feeling. But when you begin to take back control, you may be tempted to add more to your plate – because, see? You’re not overwhelmed anymore!

This is when my dessert metaphor comes in.

Maybe before, you were simply stuffed when you left the (metaphorical) dinner table since you were trying to clean your plate (all of your daily tasks and obligations). Now, you’ve got some room left, so you think, “I’ll take seconds.” Stop. Pause for a moment.

You don’t need to add more tasks to your plate and make yourself full again. You might actually be able to leave some room for dessert – those activities that really bring you joy. Creative pursuits, time with family, experiences in nature…

So when you feel tempted to take on more of the un-fun stuff, ask yourself if you could leave some room for dessert.

 

 

A CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE GUIDE TO SELF-CARE IN ANY SITUATION- Care for Every Moment, a free workbook from Christy Tending. Grab yours here -- www.christytending.comWant to dissolve overwhelm and choose your own self-care adventure? Get started with this free self-care workbook, Care for Every Moment! >>

 

PS: Reframe Difficulty with Gratitude and What is Lovingkindness?

PPS: We explore all of this in much more detail inside my course, Sacred Focus. I’d love to see you there. Grab your seat now!

9 Things You Gain from Sacred Focus

May 2, 2016

Sacred Focus : de-overwhelm your life & cultivate the everyday Sacred : Christy Tending Healing Arts : www.christytending.com : self-care and sacred ritual for world-changers

I’m so excited that my course, Sacred Focus, is open for registration again! This is some of my most potent work – that also happens to be one of my favorite things I do.

Your Sacred Focus, as defined in the course, is a way to determine what truly matters to you – so that you can apply your most precious attention there. It’s a way to show up fully and as your whole self for what matters most to you. Your family, your home, your creativity, your professional work, your side hustle.

Here’s the inside scoop on 9 things you’ll gain from Sacred Focus:

What’s a Sacred Focus – and what isn’t

Not everything is going to make the cut. Sacred Focus will show you how to identify what is most magical and important in your life – and what isn’t. It can be surprising to see that obligations, relationships, even goals, are not longer as precious as you thought. But it opens up so much energy for what does truly matter.

There is exuberant joy through doing less

There seems to be this notion that more joy means doing or having, well, more. Through polishing your life down to its most precious essentials, you’ll find more time, space and energy for what brings you the most joy. Maybe you need change. But maybe you just need to subtract what isn’t making your heart sing.

You have permission to say no – and shake up your life

When I first took myself through this process, I had been racking up new commitments like it was my job. In Sacred Focus, you’ll find your voice – and the permission – to say no, with confidence. You have the ability to get off the train to People Pleaser City. If it’s not a “woo-hoo!,” it’s a “sorry, I need to pass.” Sacred Focus is your hall pass.

The sacred is all around you

When you’re no longer overwhelmed or exhausted by your life, you’ll begin to see the tiny details that make up what I call, “the everyday sacred.” It’s not the exalted sacred of cathedrals or ornate temples, it’s the magic that weaves its way into our lives. It’s the small moments we miss when we’re caught in the web of “busy.” The way our food tastes, the way our neighborhood looks, the way our loved ones’ hands feel in ours.

You get to define “Enough”

How do you know when to stop if you’re not sure what “enough” is? If you’re running yourself ragged, defining your own sense of plenty is a good first step toward calm. When is enough really enough? If you’ve been an overachiever, if you’re looking for more mindfulness, “enough” is a good place to start. “Enough” is healing, it is honoring. “Enough” is not a disparagement, it is an act of self-care.

There’s not need to hold onto what doesn’t belong to you

Old attachments, outgrown narratives, someone else’s judgments – you may be carrying around some psychic stuff that doesn’t belong to you anymore. If it isn’t serving you, it’s okay to set it down. You can simply choose something else. A new passion, a fresh story, your own self-worth.

You can set yourself up for success

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re playing by someone else’s rules.  Find out where you thrive, and what lights you up, and go toward that. You don’t have to be hampered by a rigged game. You can create the conditions for well-being by offering yourself the tools and conditions you need to flourish.

Your fate is not sealed

It’s never too late, and you’re never in too deep. I know it can feel that way sometimes, but you have great power. You can make change. You can craft a life that is infused with love, laughter, and purpose. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and there is a safe path forward. You don’t have to stay in the dark of overwhelm. There is another way.

Celebration is sacred – parties are spiritual practice

If you’re rushing from one task to the next. If you’re accomplishing one thing, then moving the goalpost on yourself immediately, without pausing to acknowledge yourself… I’ve been there. You can be your own cheerleader. You can pause for a moment and recognize yourself for being the superstar you are. Celebration is about mindfully savoring your own awesomeness. It’s not gloating, it’s spiritual.

Sacred Focus : de-overwhelm your life & cultivate the everyday Sacred : Christy Tending Healing Arts : www.christytending.com : self-care and sacred ritual for world-changers

(Pin that, Darling!)


Bonus lesson:

Sacred community or sangha is a gift

When you sign up for Sacred Focus, you’ll have access to special events and digital retreats, offered a few times a year – only for Sacred Focus students! There is beauty in sharing this journey. You’ll receive support not only from me, but from fellow travelers on the path. You may even find accountability buddies!

Your first retreat is coming up on December 21st!

full-width-blog-sacred-focus-solstice-gathering-day-long-retreat

On an energetic level, the effects of this work are amplified when we practice together.

Ready to dive in?

join-the-course