\ Blog | Christina Brandt

Christina Brandt

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017 | Making "What's Next?" What Matters ™

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Finding Home

home-15646_640I spend lots of time talking with people about what their best lives would look like. On the surface they’re searching for things like a new career, or a new home, or a new relationship. Some want to write a book or build a new company. Others want to volunteer for a worthy non-profit. Many want to travel the world.

What they’re really searching for is a feeling. They believe “When ______________ appears in my life, I will feel __________________.”

Whether it’s a new love, a promotion, the car or dining room table you’ve lusted after for years, or pretty much everything else you want, there’s always a feeling you believe you’ll feel upon the attainment of that desire.

At the core of pretty much everything we want is peace, love, or connection. To me, that feels like coming home. A feeling of relief, of being able to exhale. Of letting my guard down and trusting that all is already well. It’s sort of like the “ahhh” you feel when you take off a tight pair of shoes or pants. I don’t know about you, but that moment’s pretty heavenly for me!

My friend and teacher, Martha Beck, and I recently welcomed a new group of coaching students to her training program. During our call, she said:

“Every prayer you’ve ever prayed,
every longing you’ve thrown out into the Universe
was heard and answered immediately,
and the answer was always ‘yes.’
BUT…the Universe never sends your mail
to any place but your real address.
Your real address is peace. It’s self-love. It’s calm.
In that moment when we can go home, we can collect all our mail.”

It’s our job to keep finding ways to return home and collect our mail. Some people pray. Others meditate. Still others find home in creating art. There are so many ways to connect and feel the abundance of our Universe. It’s just a matter of finding which ones work for you. The important thing is to try, and to notice what feels best.

For me, “home” is in the labyrinth, where I can walk slowly (or not), pray (or not), and create enough quiet sometimes that I’ll spot the mail that’s been waiting for me to find it. Home’s also in a certain red Adirondack chair, tucked under some trees, down on Wildflower Pond (which happens to be in my backyard). And, when my hands are in dirt, or when I’m standing quietly with a horse, I’m home, too.

Where’s home for you? Have you gotten any good mail lately?

Ancient Friends in Disguise

Friend Foe Switch Showing Ally Or Enemy

I’ve been thinking about the term “frenemy” lately.  Urban Dictionary defines this as “an enemy disguised as a friend.” I’ll bet that you can think of at least one person in your world who fits this profile. Maybe you’ve cast them out, deciding that their two-faced, evil selves have no place in your circle, and aren’t worthy to receive your attention.

But what if that’s a knee-jerk reaction?  I’ve quit jobs because of bosses from hell, ended relationships because I felt used and abused, and plotted revenge (in my mind) against co-workers who sabotaged my every move. And, for a long time, the bitter aftertaste of those situations ate away at me.

What if you could shift your thinking about these people?  What if enemies are just “ancient friends in disguise,” as Mike Dooley (of tut.com fame) calls them? It’s a shift in thinking from the Urban Dictionary prose, so let’s dig a little further.  “Ancient” friends could be those who’ve shared other lifetimes with you.  Yeah, that’s incredibly woo-woo and presumes you’re cool with the idea that we live more than one lifetime.  But, do we know that’s not the case?

What if souls circle back around, coming into our lives with a purpose, a reason to help and guide us?  How could that annoying neighbor (whether at home or in the office next door) be helping you?Could the constant mooching of a certain someone actually be useful to you in some way?  What is your boss from hell teaching you?

Try this:  Make a list of people you dislike but haven’t managed to get away from yet, add the people you no longer speak to because you’ve had a falling out, and then add every person who’s wronged you in some way.  Go ahead.  Seriously.  Don’t be judgy about how long the list is or who’s on it, or how minor their “offenses” might be. Name names. Go all out on this part.

Then, do this:  Figure out how each and every one of those “enemies” was a friend in disguise.  Uh huh.  I mean it.  They taught you stuff, they helped you, and it’d be a damned shame if your pride, ego, stubbornness, denial or fear got in the way of your finding the gifts they gave you.  If it gets thorny as you try to sort this stuff out, call a friend.  Call me.  Just keep working your way through that list because a more peaceful, honest life is waiting for you if you stick with it.

The ancients, your friends, and you will be ever so grateful.

Hi everyone. My name is Christina and I’m a “getting it right” addict. I’ve written far fewer newsletters this past year because the drafts didn’t feel good enough to share with you. I’ve been putting off the re-launch of my Walking With Your Divine Self website for almost a year. I’ve let a few (okay, a lot of) ideas sit on paper rather than execute on them. What I’ve got here is a failure to launch.

I wait and wait and wait to launch because…

  • it’s not good enough, or
  • it’s gotta look prettier first, or
  • it’s gotta feel like the right time, or
  • I haven’t found the right words, orno one’s gonna want to come to my event, or
  • (insert other nonsensical belief here).

Can you relate? If so, try this: Do it anyway. Full stop, as the Brits say. Seriously. Just freakin’ do something. You’ve heard quotes like “perfect is the enemy of good.” And, since the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting different results…

I’ve been doing it anyway lately. And here’s the result: When you check out my (other) website, you’ll see that the logo that belongs in the box at the top isn’t quite centered. You’ll also notice that the “Walk” page feels kind of incomplete. And you’ll see that the formatting of the main blog page is off. And you’ll see that the home page feels like it’s got a bit too much white space. And you might feel like there are pictures missing. And some of the colors are a little funny. Or maybe you wouldn’t have noticed any of that if I hadn’t called it to your attention. (I’ll save the topic of apologizing for one’s work for another newsletter!)

I can tell myself a ton of stories about why I should wait. Or, I can launch and trust that something good will come of it all. Here’s what’s come of my less-than-perfect site launch so far:

  • People have signed up for my event,
  • web traffic reports tell me people are starting to find the site,
  • I’ve learned a lot about widgets and have still more to learn,
  • I know more about HTML than I gave myself credit for,
  • people have been complimentary of what’s there so far, and
  • lots of help from patient friends will continue to see me through the rest of the project.

Who’d’ve thunk it? Complimentary of less than perfect? What? Could it be that the person who’s hardest on me, is me? Yup.

If your inner critic is keeping you from the launch of something new, and maybe a little scary, take a few small and (im)perfect steps. Chances are you’ll be just fine. And you’ll learn a lot, no matter what happens.

Walking With Metaphors

Leafy Lab SmallI’m drawn to labyrinths in a big way. Like, seriously big.  I’ve designed and installed three and have plans to do more.  I’ve even painted one (with the help of patient friends) on a portable canvas so I can use it indoors at workshops.  I look for them when I travel.  Someone told me it’s “a past life thing.”

Whatever the reason, a labyrinth is where I find answers, sometimes. Where I hear the voice of the divine, occasionally.  Where I find a metaphor that offers new perspective, always. Yup, when I want a surefire way to see my life and “problems” in a new way, the labyrinth metaphors can’t be beat.

Here’s what happened recently:  I learned about a new (to me) labyrinth from a friend.  I found directions on Google Maps and used my GPS, too.  I got to the church and couldn’t find a labyrinth, anywhere.  I went home, convinced something was wrong.  I figured out that the labyrinth’s a half mile down the road, behind the building that used to house the church.

I went back and found the labyrinth, covered with leaves.  I told myself stories about how the leaves kept me from taking good pictures, how I’d have to clean it up before I could make my way, and that I couldn’t clean up all those leaves without a broom.

Then, I kicked some leaves.  And I kicked a few more, and before I knew it, I was kicking up a storm like a kid, enjoying the crisp air and how much fun it is to move leaves with your feet.  And everything I was supposed to do that afternoon, and all the annoyance I’d felt moments ago, just fell away.  Step by step, the labyrinth was revealed under those playful feet.

Hmmm….can you spot the metaphors in this story?

Sometimes others’ directions steer you right past where you want to be.  My GPS got me to the very modern, newly-built church with the vast parking lot, but not the labyrinth.  I’d driven right by this lovely old clapboard church set among huge trees, and noticed it was pretty as I flew by.  Slowing down, I’d have realized that it was a perfect spot in which to site a labyrinth.  Where in your life are you relying on others’ data (instead of your own) to steer your course? What’s passing you by as a result?

Just because you can’t see a path, doesn’t mean it’s not there.The path is always there, and putting one foot in front of the other, playing as you go, will always give you more information about how to proceed.  Trust that you have enough information to get started on whatever you’d like to do, be or have.  Take a step in whatever direction feels playful and does your heart good.  Over time, you’ll be amazed where the path will take you.

Look for playful, unconventional ways to clean things up.  When I try to hard to solve a problem, frustration ensues and there’s no progress.  When I lighten up, get goofy, and engage in some play, it’s amazing what happens.  My mind wants to believe that I have to work hard, to be diligent and disciplined.  Most times, though, the opposite is what works best.  Dialing back the “inner drill sergeant” is a sure-fire way to create the needed space to find your way forward again.

Next time you’re feeling stuck, try shifting your perspective from literal to symbolic.  Seeing your situation as a giant metaphor with a story to tell can offer lots of interesting solutions.  Throw in a little listening to your inner voice, a smattering of faith that a path will be revealed, and a healthy dose of play, and you’ll be back on your way.

Happy New Year 2014 by water drop

There are lots of ways to start a new year…

  • making resolutions
  • coming up with a word of the year
  • dieting and exercise
  • setting flying wish paper on fire
  • looking for a message in the first song you hear on the radio on 1/1 (deep, I know!)

I think “resolution” feels too much like a Big Commitment That Doesn’t Permit Flexibility, so I didn’t make any resolutions.  I decided my word for the year will be “brave” because I want to make some bold steps in both my personal life and my business (more on that throughout the year).  I bought a lot of fruits and veggies and took a walk today.  I set my wish papers ablaze last night, and…oops…forgot to turn on the radio on January 1.

Despite all that, I felt a little unsatisfied.  What would a satisfying year look like?  If it were the last I spent on this planet, how would I want it to shake out?  Then, I remembered a former colleague who said “at the end of the day” a lot.  If I shifted that expression slightly, it looked like this:

At the end of 2014, I will have…
…helped the world by ____________________.
…grown ____________________.
…met ____________________.
…shared ____________________.
…loved ____________________.
…been honest about __________________.
…understood ____________________.
…let go of ____________________.
…tried ____________________.
…created ____________________.
…changed ____________________.
…enjoyed ____________________.
…given ____________________.
…added ____________________.
…played with ____________________.
…felt ____________________.
…learned ____________________.
…welcomed ____________________.
…stretched past my comfort zone by ____________________.
…regretted NOTHING.

I started to complete the sentences, and then decided I’d rather leave ’em empty, letting them inspire me each day. I’m going to post this prominently in my house (maybe on the fridge), complete it as the year goes on and see where it takes me.

Want to do it, too?

What the Hell?

POD truckYou haven’t heard from me in quite a while.
Months, in fact. I’ve been busy. Sold my condo in CT, put my stuff in PODS and lived with my mother for six weeks. Bought a house in NC, got my stuff back, and spent the last month emptying boxes. Things still aren’t finished, but the frenzy is dying down a bit.

And now I’m asking myself what the hell I’ve done. Why did I move here? What will I do now that there’s no more unpacking to distract me? How will I meet new people? Why did I leave my friends behind? Where is the nearest hospital/police station/fire house? Who’s going to cut my hair? All of these questions will be answered in time but, for now, they’re occupying a lot of space in my head.

To be honest, I’ve been asking “What the hell have I done?” for about two years now. It started when I first listed the condo. Then, when offers came in and I said “no.” And when I took the condo off the market to stay in CT and care for my mom after surgery. And when I listed the condo again, accepted an offer, signed the contract and watched the movers load the PODS. And when I drove away with tears streaming down my face, watching my mom wave goodbye in my rearview mirror.

And when I went to contract on this new house within hours of arriving in NC for a house-hunting trip. And when I saw 186 boxes sitting here, waiting for my attention. And when I had to mow my own lawns for the first time. It goes on and on, and if I’m doing it right, will probably go on for the rest of my life.

Making change requires a lot of “what the hell” moments and questions like “What the hell…
…am I doing here?
…am I going to do?
…just happened?
…do I think I’m doing?
…is wrong with me for being so afraid?”
…did I do that for?

If I stopped myself every time I asked “What the hell,” I’d still be sitting in the same old place. And so will you. That doesn’t mean you just go off and act on every impulse (I didn’t), or that you can’t think things through a bit (I did). But, if you know and honor what you really, truly need and want, ignoring all the rules others have for how you should live your life, and if you trust yourself enough to act in spite of the stuff that scares you, you might just ask a different question: Why the hell not?

And then you might just get exactly what you want.

 

The Three R’s

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately engaged in two practices: designing, building and walking labyrinths, and Sit Spot/Inner Tracking.  Both involve time outdoors, which is always a good thing.

My friend Michael Trotta, and amazing coach and teacher, has been schooling me in the art of “Sit Spot,” sitting outdoors for 30 minutes a day, rain or shine, and just noticing.  When I sit outdoors and get still, I’m noticing the effects of nature on me, and the effect I have upon the environment.  So many questions arise:  What do I bring to the place I sit each day?  What do I want to let go of while I’m there?  What lessons will I be given by the gulls, ducks, water and other life forms that surround me in my seaside spot?  How will I leave my spot and go back to my “regular” life?

Labyrinth with Kwan YinAnd then there’s the labyrinth work.  This month brought an opportunity to create one at a friend’s home in California.  Tucked away in a secluded, sun-dappled spot between two steep hills, I began by drawing the circles that ultimately form the frame of the labyrinth while my friends searched the property for rocks.  We all got into the act of rock placement, noticing which stones “felt” right and finding the spots in which we knew they belonged along the circles.  As we tested out our creation, walking (and sometimes skipping) around and around, I thought of the three phases of the labyrinth journey:   

  • Releasing – walking into the labyrinth and letting go of whatever stresses, mind chatter, or concerns came before entering,
  • Receiving – reaching the center and pausing to receive whatever messages or insights come as a result of being there, and
  • Returning – taking whatever you’ve learned back out into the world.
Sitting, and walking, in nature provide wonderful opportunities to practice the Three R’s, but you can also use them while sitting at your desk, driving, or standing in line at the grocery store.  Ask yourself:
What can you release in this moment?  Judgment about the person who cut you off while driving?  Worries about money?
What are you meant to receive?  Sometimes the insights are obvious, and sometimes you’ll need to look for a pattern – how is what you’re seeing in front of you like something that goes on in your life?
How will you take what you receive and use it in the world? The world is waiting for you to share your gifts.  I can’t wait to see what you create!

Declare a Do-Over

January brings a lot of chatter about goals, resolutions, plans, and fresh starts.  February’s coming to an end, and maybe we’re not feeling quite so “fresh” about those starts.  Poet Rainer Maria Rilke says:  “And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been.”  

Sometimes, thinking of all the “things that have never been” overwhelms me.  Shortly into the new year, I start to think all those grand plans are just a little too big.  That’s when I start to get in my own way.  That resolution to lose weight?  Ooops, just ate a sleeve o’ cookies.  The desire to exercise more?  It’s kinda cold outside so maybe I’ll stay in and do some yoga followed by leg lifts on the floor instead.  Wow, this floor’s kinda cozy. Maybe I’ll just lie here and nap awhile…

Refresh ButtonThat’s pretty much what happened to me these last two months. But then I remembered something:  Do-Overs.  Yup, do-overs.  Who says they’re something only kids get to do while playing games?  Why can’t we grown-ups have ’em, too?  To be kinda Zen about it, every minute is really a do-over, don’t you think?  Just because something wasn’t to our liking a moment ago doesn’t mean it’ll be forever, or even just for the remainder of this “long year,” as Rilke put it.  If I don’t swim today, well, there’s tomorrow.  Or even an hour from now (as long as the Y’s open).

All or nothing, perfectionistic thinking is no fun.  And when stuff stops being fun, I stop doing it.  I bet you do, too.  So how ’bout we all give ourselves a break on the perfection thing.  Let’s insert play and fun into the process.  Let’s chunk down that “long year” into smaller increments.  Something like:

  • Today…I’ll walk at least two flights of stairs while crankin’ the iPod.
  • In this moment…I’ll decide I’d rather have a glass of water than a cookie.  And then I’ll call a friend.
  • In the next hour…I’ll give myself 15 minutes to write something, anything.  And then I’ll give myself a 10 minute break and dance to some great music.
  • Right now…I’ll trust that I will eventually figure out what I’m supposed to do with my career.
  • In this moment…I’ll think of one time that I was really, really happy at work.  And then I’ll write about why.
  • Today…I’ll ask one friend to use three adjectives to describe me as a professional.  I’ll allow myself to receive the information with grace and gratitude.
  • This hour…I’ll choose to think that I am already successful.
  • Today…I’ll spend ten minutes working on a goal, and twenty minutes making artwork.
  • In this second…I’ll stop and notice how my body’s feeling, paying attention to the hints it provides all the time, free for the asking.
  • Right now…I’ll cut myself a break.  I’ll forgive myself for my alleged sins and declare a do-over.  And then I’ll begin again.

Mr. Rilke, with all due respect, I’d like to change that first line to “And now let us believe in a lifetime of short moments that are given to us…”  Fresh starts are always available to us, so hold those plans and resolutions loosely, allowing yourself to adapt to the moment at hand.  What words, deeds, thoughts will you create in this moment?

A friend and I recently chatted about the difference between peacekeepers and peacemakers.  It’s an important distinction.

Peacekeepers are those who maintain the status quo.  The image of United Nations forces in blue, wearing body armor and holding rifles, comes to mind.  There’s an irony there.  They’ll use force if they have to, just to keep things quiet.

In our daily lives, that force could look like denial, or perhaps even willing ourselves to just stick out an untenable situation for the sake of the kids, status in others’ eyes, or a paycheck.

Peacemakers, on the other hand, point out where peace is not and work on bringing it into the world.  They acknowledge and speak the truth.  They raise the hard questions, and shine light on the darkness.

Day to day, this behavior might be:

  • admitting that it’s time to leave a job that no longer suits us,
  • getting rid of the clothes that haven’t been worn in years,
  • ending the negative, defeatist self-talk,
  • noticing when we’re in “know it all” mode, sure that we know what’s best for everyone,
  • or admitting that we’re sick to death of trying to be someone we’re not.

Which one are you?

Letting Go

Two weeks ago, I found myself on a plane to Montreal.  Not what I thought I’d be doing that day, I’d changed my plans to be with one of my oldest and dearest friends.  Her mom was in the last days of her life after a long bout with cancer.  Emotionally and energetically tapped out, my friend had spent almost a year handling her mother’s affairs, sat long hours by her side in palliative care, and was away from home and family for weeks at a time.

I wasn’t sure what I’d do there, but knew I had to go.  Spending time in the waiting room while my friend sat with her mom, I found myself praying for a release from pain for mother and daughter.   My friend would occasionally come into the room and we’d talk about her mom and exchange a hug.  I’d pass tissues, or sit by her while she napped on the sofa.  Eventually we’d go home to her mother’s apartment, not knowing what to do with ourselves as we waited for something to change.  Sometimes Sonia, a neighbor, would drop off a meal or a few treats for us.  Other times, we’d cobble together odd little dinners.

One evening, my friend noticed my mala.  (It’s a beautiful string of turquoise hearts, purchased from a client who’d started a wonderful business.  Fingering the hearts as I meditate and pray has brought comfort, and it eases my “distractability” a bit.)  She put the mala around her neck and felt for the first time what I’ve often felt wearing those stones – an energy and warmth that heals.  I suggested she wear it for the next few days; she needed it more than I did.

During those long nights when sleep proved elusive, we sat up and talked about everything and nothing, keenly aware that at any moment we might receive a call from the hospital.  We talked a lot about our plans for the coming year, and how we’d clean out all our junk in preparation for moving to new homes.

I said it was getting harder to part with things now that a lot of the easy decisions had been made.  I was coming down to the objects that I tell myself are so important I can’t part with them.  She said, “That’s where the true lessons lie.  When you’re willing to part with what you love and give it to someone else.”

A few days later, my friend took the mala from her neck and wanted to give it back.  In that moment I knew it belonged with her.  The only thing I could say was “I want you to have this thing I love.  It’s yours.” I felt honored to give it to her.

Eventually, my friend’s mom did pass on.  The morning of the funeral, Sonia caught up with us just as we were about to leave for the services.  She put a small pouch in my hand, saying “I want you to have this.”  I opened the pouch and found this:

Heart Amulet

I can’t tell you how lovely it was to feel that generosity, and to see love come back to me in another form.

This holiday season, I hope that you will be generous with your love and time.  I know, too, that love will come to you in many unexpected forms.  Letting go and clearing out, trusting that all is already well, will always lead you in the direction of your right, and love-filled, life.