\ Blog | Christina Brandt - Part 2

Christina Brandt

Thursday, July 25th, 2024 | Making "What's Next?" What Matters ™

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Hold On Loosely

I was at The Inspiration For Many Blog Posts (a.k.a. the YMCA), about to jump in the pool for my regular swim.  The lifeguards’ boom box was playing the only station whose signal is strong enough to penetrate the natatorium.  (Don’t you love that word?  How often do you get to say “natatorium”…but I digress.)   The classic rock station was playing 38 Special’s “Hold On Loosely.” And of course, it got me thinking…

Have you engaged in any of these behaviors lately?

  • Thinking there’s only one way to earn a living
  • Buying into the adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks
  • Assuming that you know better how someone else should be living their life
  • Believing that if you want to get a job done right, you have to do it yourself
  • Acting as if you’ve learned all there is to learn
  • Getting caught up in the “how” of reaching a goal, rather than trusting your vision
  • Adhering to a finely-calibrated schedule, leaving no room for change, serendipity, or spontaneity

If so, you’re holding on tightly.  Picture a clenched fist.  How much flow is gonna happen through that fist?  Imagine the energy required to keep that fist clenched.  Not a whole lotta room for good stuff, huh?

Now, picture an upturned palm.  What’s meant to land there, can.  What’s meant to leave, can.  That’s the epitome of holding on loosely – creating a space for what’s meant to happen.  Breathing room. Freedom.  Joy.

Hold onto your vision, beliefs, and intentions (large and small) loosely, and you’ll leave room for transformation.  I promise.

Five W’s and an H

I recently thought about something I’d been taught a long time ago: when writing a news story, always incorporate the Five W’s – Who, What, When, Where, and Why.  (I’d add an H, but more about that later.)  Take a moment to tune into the essential, deep and true part of yourself, and then ask yourself a few questions:


…do you want to be?

…can help you get there?


…do you want to know?

…do you need to do to get there?


…by when do you want to achieve this?

…will you get started?


…will you begin?

…are you going?


…do you want this?

…will it make you happy?


…can I help you?

Living With Love

One day about three years ago I was volunteering at the animal shelter, sweeping one of the rooms.  This little gray cat peered out from behind a futon, cautiously checking me out.  I knew he was a new arrival and could probably use a little attention, so I sat down.  He jumped into my lap, curled into a ball, and started purring.

There’s an old saying that goes something like “you don’t choose your pet; your pet chooses you.”  In that moment, it sure felt that way.  And yet I resisted the urge to adopt him, thinking that I’d have cat fur all over my house and I’d have to deal with litter boxes and the hassle of arranging for care while I went on my many trips.

TumpAnd then one morning the phrase “love is messy” came to mind.  One thing I know for sure is exactly how true that is.  It’s awkward, inconveniently timed, and rarely follows the set of rules one has in their mind about How Things Should Go.  On the other hand, a life without love in it just isn’t worth living, if you ask me.  So, a few weeks after his arrival at the shelter, that little fur ball came home with me.  I’ve never regretted the decision.

These last few months, I’ve been trying to sell my home and look for a new one in NC, all while anticipating when and how my mother would need post-surgical care here in the NY tri-state area.  My NC dream house sold to someone else, my mom still doesn’t know if/when she’ll have her knee replacement, and in the midst of all this, I got multiple offers for my home in the span of five days.

I’d reached a decision point: stay, or go.  The realtors, both in CT and NC, advised me to take the money, put my stuff in storage, and be ready to act quickly when the next ideal home came along.  All very logical, pragmatic advice.

And yet, love is messy.  When I remembered back to the last time my mom was hospitalized, I was very grateful to have helped and supported her through a difficult time.  I was consumed by the full-time job and yet, in hindsight, wouldn’t have done it any other way.  Being a long distance caregiver just doesn’t feel right, so I said no to the attractive offers and took my home off the market.  A foolish decision? According to the realtors, yes.  According to me, not so much.

Logic is great, but love isn’t logical, or pragmatic, or well-reasoned.  It’s just love.  I’m sure you’ve had experiences like mine, where you’ve just Known.  That deep Knowing that, despite the naysayers, your course of loving action was exactly what you were meant to do.

Living an authentic, truthful and purposeful life is always about what your gut, your soul and your heart tell you to do.  Not about what everyone else thinks is logical, or what will look the best on your resume, or what will make everyone like you.  It’s not always the easiest way to live, either.

What is Love asking of you right now?  What messy, inconvenient truth are you avoiding?  If you’ve been stuck, answering these questions will help you move out of inertia, indecision and self-sabotage.  Living with Love is worth it.


After Solitaire

I made the leap from PC to an iMac recently, and I’m in love.  There are so many things to love about the iMac:  the user guide whose cover simply says “Hello,” the easy-to-carry box with a handle, the silent keyboard, the intuitive navigation…I could go on and on about my new love, but this post isn’t about that.

It’s about the changes that come when you give up Solitaire.

Lest you think I’m being metaphorical, I’m not.  My new iMac doesn’t have Solitaire or Spider Solitaire loaded onto it.  It’s the one thing that initially drove me mad about the conversion.  Why?  Because Solitaire was my distraction.  It was the thing I did in the morning when I didn’t want to start my chores.  It was the tool I used to procrastinate.  It was my crutch.  I probably played 30 games a day.  And now I can’t.  Oh, sure.  I could download some weird imitation, but it’s not the same.

So, now I’ve lost a time-killing crutch.  That should make me happy, right?

It does, mostly.  The Absence of Solitaire (yes, it felt “initial-caps-worthy”) meant that I found myself looking for other ways to kill time.  And then it hit me:  Why did I want to kill time?  What was I distracting myself from?  What was so boring or icky that I didn’t want to look at it?

I’m a staunch advocate for rest and play, and not full-bore, 24/7 intensity.  Time for play creates new connections and creative insights.  But my Solitaire playing habit wasn’t really play.  It was far more mindless.  Kind of like stuffing an entire bag of chips into your mouth while watching TV.

The distractions we create in our lives, although initially just a little diversion, can easily become the crutches that keep us from our right lives.  My 30 game a day habit took up a lot of time, and now I’ve got that time back.  I can figure out where I’m off track – looking at what led me to the need for a distraction in the first place – and get back on course, taking small steps that occupy about as much of my day as that Solitaire habit used to, with far more delicious results.  (Thanks, Apple.)

If you’re looking for more delicious results in your life, take a few minutes to honestly assess how you’re hiding.  Find the distractions that have crept into your routine, and then ask yourself what you’re avoiding.  As always, the key to a more delicious life is to stop ignoring (or tolerating) the parts that aren’t.



And So It Goes

It’s been a busy time for me, with a lot of movement, and yet none at all.  I still don’t know who’s buying my home, when my mother’s surgery will take place, or where I’ll be living next.  I have a lot more ideas and hints of what’s to come, but I’m still short on concrete information that will allow me to make a plan. 

And yet something has shifted: I’ve seen the house I hope to buy.  I’m imagining the view of the pond from my home office.  Paint chips are chosen and furniture catalog pages are earmarked.  The moving boxes are bought.  New business ideas are starting to come…still not fully formed, but glimmers nonetheless.

What happened since last month?   I’m moving from Square One (Death and Rebirth, with the mantra “I don’t know what the hell is going on and that’s okay”) to Square Two (Dreaming & Scheming, and the “There are no rule s and that’s okay” mantra).

When I remember “there are no rules,” I feel liberated.  Who says I need to keep those suits just in case I need something corporate to wear?  Who says I can’t afford a home on the water?  What would happen if I got rid of more possessions than I feel comfortable keeping?  Do I have to bring the furniture that’s not right for my new place just because I paid a lot of money for it?   Really?  I can make my business work like that?  And yet…

The “and that’s okay” part of the mantra’s sometimes harder to remember.  What do you mean, “there are no rules?”  We need rules to live by, don’t we?  Wait: I’m responsible for the creation of my life?  It doesn’t have to look like anything that anyone else thinks is normal?  I get to visualize it, then step out and create it?  It’s all on me?  I don’t know about this…

…and that’s when the “relapse” comes:  It feels a little scary, starting to dream big and fill my head with “what if’s” and “how the heck is that going to happen?” and “are you sure you can do this?”  On a recent coach training call, a student asked “Is there such as thing as Square 1.5?  I feel somewhere between Squares One and Two.”  Martha Beck’s response was “honey, you’re just moving back into Square One because something’s not finished.  There’s more to dissolve before you can move on.”

Relapses are part of the process.  Nothing’s linear, or perfectly circular, either.  We zig and zag, move forward and backwards and sideways and up and down…it’s just the nature of things.  If you find yourself melting into a puddle of fear and tears, just remember that it’s okay to not know what the hell’s going on.  Lord knows I’ve been “puddling” a lot these days while I attempt to make plans that can’t be made yet.

How do you get past the relapse?  Let go of needing to be sure of the outcome.  Just be determined to follow what you love, focusing on what you love, looking for more of what you love, and staying in a state of appreciation.  Imagine what it would be like to have all of what you love, in a bigger and more insanely delicious form than you thought was possible.

Then take a step toward that love.  Just one.  A small one.  Make a phone call.  Buy a magazine.  Do a Google search.  Ask a question.  Read a book.  Make a vision board.  Write on a Post-It note.  Then do it again, believing that it’s already okay.   Because it is.

I’ve been hyper and nervous all day.

My calendar’s empty.  Not one appointment.

Nothing I feel like doing, or that’s urgent.   I should be glad to have the free time, right?

So, I walked a little.

Then I puttered around the house a little.

Then I played endless rounds of Solitaire on my computer.

Then I tried writing.  Then I tried reading.

But I’m too distracted to do anything “well.”

Maybe now I should get myself on a train and go to New York City?  Because it’s a gorgeous day and I’m supposed to be outside before the weather changes and it gets too hot and humid and there’s so much of NY I still want to see despite having lived here my whole life and it’d be good to go before my house sells and before I have to start packing and before I move and can’t easily get to NY and before….

What an interesting monkey mind I have today.

I write about resting, and stopping, and being still.  Man, it’s hard to take my own advice today.

But I’m going to.

I’ll just sit here and see what happens because, deep down, I know that something wants to surface and that maybe I don’t want to know or feel it, or maybe I’m just telling myself that it’s gonna be crappy when in fact it will be wonderful if I’d just get out of my own way.

If I keep doing/running, it’s still gonna be there, waiting to emerge.

So I’ll sit.  And I’ll notice all the thoughts running through my head, but take none of them seriously.  Maybe I’ll even take a nap.

Have I mentioned that being in Square One is okay, even if that’s really tough to believe sometimes?

Crystal BallSome of you are familiar with Martha Beck’s Cycle of Change, in which she describes the life cycle as a four-step process that’s repeated over and over again. Square One involves the dissolution of something – usually an identity such as “employee of X company,” or “single person,” or “child with two living parents,” or “childless person,” or “resident of this town,” for example – and the grieving and adjustments that go along with it.

We spend time in Square One fairly often in our lives because change is inevitable. The motto/mantra of Square One is “I don’t know what the hell is going on, and that’s okay.” It’s the “and that’s okay” part that’s sometimes hard to remember.

These days, I find myself in Square One in a lot of areas of my life: I’ve put my home up for sale, two revenue streams have faded and I’m not interested in reviving them, and my mom’s due to have a knee replacement soon and will rely on me for temporary live-in help.

I don’t know when my place will sell, I’m not sure when mom’s postponed surgery will be rescheduled so who knows when I’ll need to move in, I can’t see clearly yet how I want to shift my business model, I don’t know where I’ll be living next since the house I want to buy may not be available by the time I have the revenue from my current home, I don’t know where I’ll be living so there’s no point buying plane tickets for September’s Camino retreat yet…oh, the things I don’t know and can’t control!  And that’s okay. Really, it is.

Because I’ve learned over time that when I fight the meltdown, I just stay “melted” a lot longer. It’s the old “what we resist, persists” thing. If you’re in the midst of Square One, use these coping strategies:

  • Stop planning. Get quiet instead.
  • Cry, get angry…feel whatever feelings come up and don’t fight them.
  • Rest. Do only what’s truly enough and no more.
  • Accept that this will likely be an “unproductive” time in the eyes of others, but that you’re (un)doing exactly what needs (un)doing.
  • Throw things away. Start with the notion that you’re supposed to be in control. Then, figure out what else you can let go of.

Then, figure out what’s perfect about this. Yes, I said it’s perfect.   You will, too, if you really look at your situation. See it for the gift that it is, and things will start to shift.

I get to move into a home that better suits my needs, spend time caring for the most important person in my life, experience the wave of creativity that always comes when I let myself dissolve, and no matter what airport I fly from, I’ll be in Spain in September.

If you’re in Square One, lean into it. It, too, will pass.

Enough, Already!

What is enough for today?

What can you remove from your to do list?

What benefit could come from one task not being agonized over, or “guilted into doing”  today?

Will the world end if you don’t get 15 things done?

What is Enough today?

What are you avoiding by constantly doing?

What’s with all the relentlessness?

How about sitting still for, say, two minutes (no phone, iPad, remote, snacks, chatter…)?

Seriously.  What can you subtract from your life?

What is ENOUGH today?  Just asking.



It’s a proven fact that our brains can’t be in a state of misery/pain/frustration/anger/sadness at the same time as appreciation.  If you’re in a funk, the best way to wiggle out is by saying “thank you,” noticing the positive things that are going on in and around you.

Creating a gratitude practice, in which you deliberately seek out things for which to be grateful, can help create the positive shift you may be seeking.  To get started, take Whole Living’s Gratitude Quiz and measure your gratitude quotient.

Then, check out the tips to boost your gratitude practice on my Facebook page.  I’ll be posting them all week and I hope you’ll try them.  Let us know about their impact on your life by commenting here on the blog.


TaoAt a recent coaches’ conference, Martha Beck shared a passage from the Tao Te Ching:

Less and less do you need to force things

until finally you arrive at non-action.

When nothing is done,

nothing is left undone.

Lao Tzu, its author, created quite a paradox here.  One noted Tao translator helps clarify:

The misperception may arise from (Lao Tzu’s) insistence on wei wu wei, literally ‘doing not-doing,’ which has been seen as passivity.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  A good athlete can enter a state of body-awareness in which the right stroke or the right movement happens by itself, effortlessly, without any interference of the conscious will.  This is a paradigm for non-action:  the purest and most effective form of action.  The game plays the game; the poem writes the poem; we can’t tell the dancer from the dance.

The way I see it, most of us are quite practiced at a lot of things.  At first, we forced them a bit by repeating them over and over until we achieved a kind of mastery.  Now, we do them without really doing them; we don’t devote a lot of thought to what’s involved, sort of like what the translator described above.  Having deeply practiced over the course of time, certain things become second nature to us.  Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes…not so much.

What would happen if we “un-did” the things we’ve mastered and unconsciously do, but don’t serve us?  For instance:

  • Undoing the disproportionate influence we allow our fears of others’ judgment to have on our lives
  • Undoing the thoughts that create suffering
  • Undoing the over-accumulation of stuff
  • Undoing the influence of our “buy more/do more” culture
  • Undoing the over-complication of simple matters
  • Undoing the need to have lots of information
  • Undoing the negative self-talk and self-deprecation
  • Undoing the need to have a plan with a sure-fire outcome
  • Undoing the doubt that keeps us from starting things
  • Undoing the ignoring of our intuition and deep inner wisdom
  • Undoing the forcing and pushing…instead letting what wants to happen, happen.

The less we force things, the better life gets.  Letting go of attachment to the “how of it” often makes a desired outcome even more wonderful than originally imagined.  If you’re feeling stuck, I’d highly recommend some undoing, followed by a bit of nothing-doing.

Martha’s closing comments at the conference were “Now, go home and rest.  And remember: there’s no doing, only undoing.”  I couldn’t agree more.