There is something predictable that happens when I feel shame. Maybe some (or all) of this sounds familiar…
I get very quiet at first. My face flushes, my palms sweat, and my shoulders hunch inward. My mind races and my heart speeds up. Sometimes I close my eyes, trying to visually shut out the experience. The first instinct is to reach for anything to make the sensation stop…
To distract, to numb. In the past, it’s been food or my phone or even taking action on something to make myself feel less helpless. Anything to not feel that shame.
In my body, shame and trauma land virtually the same way.
When shame creeps in, there is a veritable buffet of fight, flight and freeze instincts that arise. And I can’t help but scoop some of each onto my metaphorical plate.
No matter how hard I try to numb or run away, that sensation of shame remains in my body until I’ve properly processed it. As Bessel van der Kolk, a trauma specialist says, the body keeps the score.
Shame can feel so utterly personal. Yet my (perhaps, our?) response to shame so often is to detach.
What I propose instead is connection.
Compassionately, tenderly, come home to your experience. Note what is happening in your body, in your mind, in your heart, in your energy. When you are intimately connected with present-moment experience, you can then move from your wise intuition, rather than fear.
In our society, shame is often met with more shame.
“Don’t take it personally!” they cry, as though it is our response (and not the shame itself) that is out of place. But what if we refused to let shame rob us of our connection to what is often deeply personal? What if we chose compassion and connection in those moments?
If we did, we could stay close to that intuitive, loving energy, following (and trusting) its guidance, instead of numbing out or following shame away from our hearts’ calling?
Here’s the kernel of truth in all of this: it’s personal.
My business is me. My activist work is my community. My child is of me. My whole life comes from my heart. None of it isn’t personal.
This makes it all the more vulnerable.
But it also makes it all the more necessary not to let shame win, not to shut down, not to numb out. So I choose to stay with what is in the moment and meet it, as I would meet anything else, with tremendous love.
Try this with me: the next time that shame creeps in – in front of the mirror, in front of your boss, in front of your kids, or in that pesky negative self-talk – hold your own hand. (I hold my left thumb with my right hand.) Feel that connection.
This is the heart of self-care: that willingness to be compassionately present with yourself even when things suck.
I wish this for all of us.
With care, Christy
In this spirit, I’m offering two live workshops in April, each designed to support this idea: to eradicate shame, connect to our compassionate hearts, and deepen into our intuitive brilliance.
Resilience Practice: whole-hearted action for difficult times. I’m bringing back one of my most popular workshops; we’ll explore strategies for claiming your power and developing resilience through a blend of skillful action and deep rest.
Creating a Vessel for Magic: body-based practices for intuitive brilliance. In this brand new workshop, I’m getting back to my yoga-teacher roots with movement, breath, and chakra practices for any body.
Collective Care is a written interview series with people who are changing the world. Most often, these folks are working at the intersection of creative, healing, and/or activist work.
I’m in love with the idea of amplifying the work (and self-care practices) of people who are building a more compassionate world. In this series, I get to chat with people who inspire me like whoa.
Today we get to meet Dr. Vickie!
Dr. Vickie, take it away…
How are you changing the world?
(What is your change-making, healing, and/or creative work? This might be paid, unpaid or a combination.)
I’m changing the paradigm of what health and healing looks like. Often, in Western Medicine health focuses mainly on the physical component. Years of working with patients have taught me that all areas of our life have to be addressed in order to heal ourselves and live our most authentic lives. I feel spiritual health is the most important component of the healing process. How we feel about ourselves greatly impact how well our bodies can heal and how functional we are.
What challenges your heart in that journey?
It hurts my heart seeing women struggle to find respectful and compassionate ways to heal our pain and hurts. Often, the stories that we tell ourselves prevent us from moving forward in the healing process. These stories can keep us stuck and cause even more pain.
What inspires you to keep going?
I love seeing the confidence and strength that develops when women are healthy and functioning from a place of love and respect for themselves. I also believe that we can’t provide our best to the world if we are functioning from a spiritual and physical deficit. So, seeing the results that occur when woman heal and the fact the there will always be more women to support keeps me inspired.
How do you support yourself or tend to yourself and your heart in that process?
What nourishes and replenishes you?
Meditation. Mediation is my lifeline. Deep stimulating conversations, yoga and preparing nourishing food for myself and my family are other ways I tend to heart. I also love moisturizing my body with essential oil infused oils.
How do you experience care within community?
How do others support you in your journey and practice?
My tribe supports me with quick check-in phone calls, surprise goodies in the mail and kick-butt conversations when I’m making excuses.
What’s your best piece of advice you have for people who want to make a difference?
Start with yourself. Start with your self-care and compassion toward your self. The work of making a difference in the world is a long, often slow, journey. We have to rituals and practices that will sustain us along that journey.
Paint us a picture of the more compassionate world and future you imagine.
All women would have a meditative, self-reflection practice that keeps them connected to their deeper, true self. And they would teach the children in their lives these practices which creates self-compassion and compassion to all living creatures.
About Dr. Vickie:
Dr. Vickie is a integrative medicine physician and modern-day medicine woman who teaches women that listening to their souls is the only way to truly heal. She is a southern-girl with an urban heart who loves spending time with her husband and lil’ people.
These days, I’m writing my way out from under a lot. Motherhood. Running a business. Stewarding my health, my relationships, and my spirit. I am stretching into my identity as a creative person and reclaiming a new phase of relationship with my body.
I am snuggling up next to discomfort and growth daily. Everything is in process.
What I really want to tell you is that
I thought I would feel more put together by now.
That I would reach a place in my various roles where I felt like I had it all figured out as an adult, a mother, a boss. (Hint: I don’t.)
When I feel this way, my husband always turns to me and asks, “What would you tell your readers if they told you they felt like this?” He then cocks an eyebrow, because he knows what I’ll say.
And what I want to tell you is this:
We are all doing everything at our own pace. All of us. Me, my child, you. Even the Instagram-perfect leaders. Even the Pinterest-perfect moms.
All of any of us can do is honor our place in our own arc.
And keep deciding how we want to show up for our lives.
What I’ve decided this year is that I want to show up for my life with gentleness. I want this year of my life to feel like an ecstatic, golden moment. Because it is. Even in all its imperfection. Even when I’m making it up as I go.
I want to remember that it is sacred and that I get to decide to show up for it in a way that honors just how incredibly precious it all is.
Does this mean that I’m never frustrated? Heck no. Does this mean that I’m still kind of sleep deprived on the regular? You bet your ass. It just means that I get to choose my narrative. It means that I get to feel gratitude for my place in my arc.
Sure, I could spend time bemoaning how “behind” I feel, how I still don’t feel like I have it all figured out. Or I could double down on devotion, and show up as my full, spectacular, imperfect self with my wholehearted attention. Even – or especially – when it’s hard.
The parts of my life that I care most deeply about, where I’m putting that wholehearted attention and choosing to show up excellently, are what I call my Sacred Focus.
When I keep those front and center, things flow.
When I let myself get bogged down in the things that don’t matter, things go off the rails a bit. Not coincidentally, those things that don’t matter? They don’t honor my arc. They make me feel small and unworthy and un-precious.
This week, I’m choosing yet another layer of softening, a new level of peace with my arc, and steadfast attention to what matters to me deeply. I am inviting discernment along for the ride: to help me see what doesn’t belong and what isn’t serving my process.
If you are feeling messy this week, I just want you to know that you’re not alone. But I also want you to know that
Wherever you are in your process, you deserve respect for continuing to show up.
I guarantee that I am in process with it just as you are, and I am so grateful to be walking this path with you.
Sacred practice and self-care can feel a little serious, sometimes, can’t they? Devotion is lovely, but it can veer into drudgery if we’re not careful.
In that spirit, I’ve created a new (free!) fill-in-the-blank worksheet so you can discover and declare your Sacred Focus. Like a grown-up Mad Libs that’s all about self-care and what’s meaningful to you.
Let this be fun and light. Gather with friends and do it together. Print it out and fill it in over and over again, as needed.
If you’re feeling brave, post it to Instagram (and tag me @christytending!).
In this worksheet you’ll explore what feels meaningful, healing, and sacred to you – so that you can create more of it. You’ll commit to intentions and self-care practices. Plus, you’ll craft kind words to speak to yourself.
You’ll even consider what isn’t working – and how you can set those things down.
Your Sacred Focus is comprised of the 3-5 areas of life where you are putting your most wholehearted attention and choosing to show up excellently. It’s a matter of paring things down to what is deeply meaningful so that we can be present there.
Once you have a sense of your Sacred Focus, you can engage in what I call the Art of Self-Advocacy: boldly declaring what we need in order to feel whole and well and like ourselves.
I get all my best ideas in the shower. The other morning, standing under the hot water, lingering in the steam, I started thinking about self-care (as I do).
I thought about the courage it takes to love ourselves enough to take good care of ourselves. In a world that often tries to teach us that we are disposable, caring for ourselves can seem radical.
Every act of self-care is a declaration that we are worthy and deserving and enough. Every act of self-care is an act of fierce compassion.
And yet, self-care has its limits.
I know this because I’ve been bumping up against these limits lately.
On the outside, I’m doing all the things I “should.” I eat healthy food that makes my body feel good. I have a movement practice and get time outdoors each day. And I spend time with my animals. I go to writing class. Each day, I take a long, very hot shower. Every few weeks, I get a massage.
I’m checking all the boxes.
Something has still felt a bit off.
Because (and this is today’s big shiny lesson):
External practices cannot address what is internally misaligned.
Put another way? Sometimes, the only way to change your life is to change your life.
What I know after working with hundreds of students (and being on this journey for ages myself) is that sometimes we have to get scrappy. We have to become our own best advocates. While self-care and self-compassion are remarkably powerful, self-advocacy – the act of speaking the truth of our lives and our needs – is the scary, but really juicy stuff.
And as this phrase popped into my head, standing under the shower the other morning, I knew. This is the what’s next in my life and in my work.
Self-advocacy doesn’t necessarily look like self-care. It isn’t something you’d necessarily put on Instagram. Because while self-care is beautiful, and that seed of care is necessary, it’s just the beginning.
The art of self-advocacy means boldly declaring what we need in order to feel whole and well and like ourselves.
It means putting on our grown-up pants and doing what is necessary on our own behalf: like having those uncomfortable (yet honest) conversations, stating clear boundaries, and no longer tolerating what is not healthy for us. This isn’t something many of us are taught.
It can feel frightening to say, “This isn’t working.” Or, “I’m not okay.” To say that out loud can feel like a major leap. I know it can feel scary to declare what we truly need, define what is personally sacred, and not settle for what looks good from the outside.
It feels like drawing a line in the sand. Once we do that, there’s no going back.
But when we get to that line – when we stand on that precipice…
The only thing we can do is venture out into the wilderness of our hearts.
We boldly step off the beaten path in search of a life that feels sacred: not as a veneer, but at its core.
And that uncertain terrain? That’s where things get really interesting.
Each Wednesday morning, I get into my car. I turn on some sort of uplifting Spotify playlist and I drive 25 minutes to Alameda to my writing class. I sit at a table with a small group of extraordinary women. For two hours, I write, read out loud, and listen to what others have written.
The goal, to hear my teacher explain it, is to write as badly as possible. When the two hours is up, I drive home.
I’ve been doing this since my son was 4.5 months old. Drive. Listen to a poem. Write badly. Read my work. Listen to what others have written. That’s it. It’s the whole thing.
And very little has been as healing and revealing to me in this new phase of life as this writing class.
In its simplicity, it is incredibly challenging.
Each week, I hear my mind start to throw up roadblocks about whether or not I’ll go to my beloved writing class.
It spouts stories about how I could be using the time to be “productive” or how nothing I write is ever any good, so why bother?. I mean, it’s not like I’m made of free time.
But since my stories about how “busy” I am feel both boring and untrue, each Wednesday I get into my car. I drive, I write, and I drive home. This takes discipline.
Each and every week I renew my commitment to showing up. Not just because I already paid for the class, but because there is magic that happens at the table. Because it is a place where I own all of myself.
Within that discipline of showing up at the table to write even (or especially) when it seems frivolous or pointless, there is freedom.
There, I can say whatever I like. I can share the ugly, shameful parts. There is the freedom to suck at something and to be devoted to it nonetheless. It is vulnerable to commit to something and not give up when it feels hard.
But this discipline beckons us back to our humanity, to be in that vulnerability no matter what. It reminds us that we can do hard things and we can survive.
Within that discipline, there is the freedom to sit with the truth. Not to fix it or change it, but to simply sit with it and not look away.
Discipline is often uncomfortable. There is almost always a moment where we want to throw up our hands and walk away. It is also the case that on the other side of that moment, when we realize that we’ve made it past all of that resistance, that we find freedom.
That freedom may not look or feel or sound like what we expect. But there it is.
In that new landscape, we are not prisoners of those narratives that keep us small, but devotees on a pilgrimage to what is possible.
Doors open later this month for my signature course, Sacred Focus. In response to feedback, this time around, Sacred Focus will unfold as a nine moth program to help you show up excellently for what is most sacred to you. In this course, we will refine what is personally sacred to each of us, and become fluent in this art of self-advocacy. I can’t wait to see you there.
I love New Years Eve. It’s also true that I used to really dislike it. There were loads of expectations around having the more glamorous time ever, going to the best parties, and generally having the most fun. It always felt like a let-down.
I’ve also always had a bee in my bonnet about goals and new years resolutions. (Neither ever resonated for me the way they were supposed to.)
But over the years, I’ve honed some New Years rituals that feel meaningful and set me up for joy, intentionality, and deep love at this time of year.
The result? My Complete Guide to How to Plan Your Sacred Year: rituals to create intentionality, self-care, and compassion in your year ahead. I hope you love it, and that if you’re looking for more you join me for the Plan Your Sacred Year workshop on January 18th or check out my signature course, Sacred Focus, where we dive super-deep into all of this.
Setting the stage
One of my most important New Years rituals is spending the holiday with people I love. I’ve spent most New Years with (roughly) the same crew of people for the last ten years. There have been some skipped years and the cast of characters rotates slightly.
For the turn of the year, I aim to be in a beautiful place with people I love. That’s it. It’s not about the best parties, but about the people and natural beauty.
Tools of the trade
Make sure that you have some sacred items around. They could be family heirlooms, some objects from nature, or however else you define “sacred”.
I usually bring with me a few crystals, gather some beautiful objects from wherever I find myself (e.g. seashells in Mexico, pinecones at Lake Tahoe, stones from Joshua Tree), my journal and a pen, plus a tarot (or oracle card) deck.
I usually use the The Wild Unknown deck to do a Year Ahead spread. Place one card in the middle for your year’s theme, then select a card for each month in the year ahead.
You might also do some meditation, journaling or walking in nature. I do all of these, since they’re part of my foundational self-care. You could also incorporate the natural elements into your practice. I like a good soak in hot water, myself.
Rather than setting pie-in-the-sky or numbers-based goals, I break my year planning down into something more intuitive (link) and self-compassionate. For me, goals and resolutions don’t tend to have the same resonance.
Instead, I focus on three main areas when it comes to my year-ahead planning:
A word of the year
Intentions for the year ahead
A word of the year
Using Susannah Conway’s Word of the Year course (which is free!), I spend time as early as November figuring out what my word for the coming year will be. In short, my word for the year is a combination of:
How I want to feel during the year ahead
What I need — this could be comfort or a kick in the pants
What I want to embody in my everyday
This helps envision what I want the year to be. From there, I can fill in the details. The what, the who, the where, and so on — until I build a year ahead that feels like my word. This word often leads me to more questions — and a phase of intention-setting. (Want to know how intentions are different from goals? Read my post about that over here.)
My word for 2018 is GOLDEN.
Here’s what that means to me:
Again, this is not about what I intend to accomplish. It’s not about numbers in my business or any kind of quantifiable outcome. This is about how and where I want to show up. My intentions? They’re really about attention.
They answer the questions: What do I want more of? What am I ready to release? How do I want to respond to what has happened in my past and greet what will happen in the future?
Which means that I’m really asking: How will I take care of my heart?
My intentions are about my word in action. They provide the map for where my word could take me — and how I’m willing to let that word transform me. These provide a useful foundation where we can start to build the themes of our year.
I find that intentions are a more compassionate and flexible approach to envisioning the year ahead. No matter what curveballs life throws at us, we can return to our intentions.
My intentions for the year ahead:
Last, but certainly not least: Sacred Focus
Sacred Focus was my first word/phrase of the year that I ever chose. Or rather, it chose me. It landed in my lap like a puff of dandelion pollen and I’ve never been the same.
If you’re new to the concept, Sacred Focus is the 3-5 areas of life where you’re placing your most heartfelt attention in any given phase of life. This is where we choose to show up excellently.
Your Sacred Focus, once you choose it, is the heart of your life. This is where our intentions and our energy are funneled into impact.
Sacred Focus needs both of its pieces always. It’s not just about the sacred piece, where magic randomly comes into our life. It requires the practice, devotion, and discernment of Focus. Nor is it all focus. It asks for spirit to guide us.
My Sacred Focus for 2018*
*Although I take myself through the Sacred Focus process at least twice a year, this is what I’m currently focused on for the year ahead.
New here? Looking to binge-read a bunch of my best articles about self-care? Want to tide yourself over while I’m on a blogging break between now and the end of January? Well, you’re in the right place!
I also want to take this moment to express my deep gratitude to you, beloved one. For reading, for your great work in the world, and for your courage to dare to create a more compassionate world, beginning with yourself. This work is profoundly meaningful and satisfying to me, but it wouldn’t mean much without you.
Now, some posts you may have missed, with some of my best lessons about self-care so far:
Plus: resources, lists, and all my favorite stuff:
There are so many forms of meditation that it can be tough to know where to start. Today, I’m offering simple instructions for candle-gazing meditation, a form of concentration practice. The concept is simple: during meditation practice to focus one’s attention on the flame of a candle.
Also called Trataka meditation, this practice is said to relieve stress, enhance memory and concentration, and provide deep relaxation.
Choosing your candles:
I recommend choosing unscented 100% soy or beeswax candles. Many candles contain toxic chemicals, and many perfumes or added scents also contain unhealthy ingredients.As they burn, you will be breathing in the candles’ vapors. Best to find candles with the fewest ingredients, colors, scents or additives.
Finding a comfortable seat:
Choose either a cushion on the floor or a chair.
If on the floor, make sure that your knees can easily drape down below the bowl of your pelvis. Ensure that your spine can stretch long and upright. If either of these is a challenge, use additional cushioning underneath your seat.
If in a chair, I recommend sitting on the edge of the chair. Again, the spine should be long and upright. Feet should be flat on the floor.
Place your hands in your lap or on your thighs, your choice of whether to have your palms facing up or down.
Set up your space:
Choose a quiet, somewhat dark or dim place. If you need additional warmth, add a sweater or shawl. (Your body temperature will drop after you’ve been sitting for a while.) Turn off and set aside any devices or distractions.
Place a small table three to four feet in front of where you will be seated, and place a candle on the flat surface, so that it is at or just below eye level. Light the candle. Ensure that there are no cross-breezes that could disturb the flame as you practice.
Find your comfortable seat. Relax the space around your eyes. Breathe softly and easefully – allow the breath to lengthen as you settle your body and mind.
Place your gaze on the candle’s flame (rather than the candle itself or the wick). Bring your full attention there, allowing thoughts, outside sensations or movements to settle and cease. If you do find yourself distracted by a thought or emotion, gently bring your attention back to the candle’s flame.
If your eyes get tired, allow yourself to blink. Do not strain your eyes.
At the conclusion of your meditation, close your eyes for a few moments and breathe deeply. At this point, you may either open your eyes and allow yourself to come back into the room fully – or continue with a different form of meditation, such as lovingkindness or mindfulness meditation.
When I sat down to choose a word for 2017, it was about what I knew I needed. No matter what, I knew that 2017 was going to bring a lot of changes. I wanted to be ready, and to have a word that would be an ally in that journey.
For 2017, I chose Trust.
At the time, I wrote:
When this word popped into my head, it was out of necessity. It was out of a deep craving for something solid and true and steadfast.
That sounds about right.
I wrote about trusting myself, trusting my wisdom and knowing (which evolved into my course on intuition), trusting the process, and becoming trustworthy. I wrote:
For me, trust is the choice to step into an experience of my own power.
And, honestly, Trust has been perfect. I have had to make some decisions that scared me. I have had to release things that I’d been holding onto tightly. Perhaps most notably, I became a parent.
(This has been both the greatest act and most profound process of learning to trust ever.)
Trust has served me well.
For 2018, I have something different in mind. It’s no longer about what I need, but about what I deeply crave. What I want is to stand in the light of what I’ve created. I want soft warmth, with glittering strands of magic woven through each day. I’ve spent the last few years in full-tilt hustle, in many ways. It’s been sacred and focused, but now I’m ready to bask in the goodness I’ve created.
I’m a little afraid to admit it, but I’m also ready for abundance in ways I haven’t experienced before.
What sums all of this up?
My word for 2018 is Golden.
It’s the quality of light before dusk, when everything is bathed in that soft glow. It’s the quiet of sitting in my glider with my sleeping kiddo in my lap, knowing that it’s the only place I have to be. It is sacred abundance; thoughtful, elegant simplicity; and wise, grounded brilliance.
I find the experience of Golden:
…sitting in silent meditation
…on luxuriously long walks on appointment-free afternoons
…when I open my closet and love the clothes in which I’m getting dressed (and don’t see the clutter of things that don’t fit/suit me, for whatever reason)
…in the act of holding space as a mentor, teacher, and healer and when I dare to own my expertise
…using all of the sacred tools I have at my disposal: tarot cards, stones, animal allies, plants, yoga asana and philosophy, poetry, meditation photography, and writing.
…when I show up with respect and devotion for whatever practice I’m in at the moment.
…doing one thing well at a time.
It feels like slow, light-drenched, devoted, and abundant.
It smells like butter and vanilla and lavender. Maybe it sounds like traditional Appalachian folk songs or 70’s funk (both mainstays of my current favorite Spotify playlist I’ve made). Its colors are gold (obviously), but also mink-grey, burnt umber, turquoise, and that plum-color of dusk. It feels like softness in all forms (but maybe especially cashmere?) and sunshine on my skin and sliding into a hot epsom salt bath. It tastes like turmeric tea and berry sauce.
How I’m taking action to bring more Golden to my life in 2018:
Asking for and receiving help. Some of my favorite help is childcare, supportive partnership, friendship, food, a sounding board, thoughtful feedback, and regular massages.
Bringing myself back to devotional practice. Right now, that’s my weekly writing class, meditation practice, my climate justice collective, and the work you see here.
Taking work-free family days, to tend to my home and spend time with my loves, without the sensation that there’s anything work related I’m “supposed” to be doing on those days.
Bringing older pieces of work into new, evolved forms. Making the experience of studying with me more luxurious, lush, and sacred-feeling. Putting more pauses into the work, so that my students can truly savor each bit.
What this means for you:
I’ll only be running Sacred Focus once in 2018. I’ll be closing Hella Metta on December 15th, and only opening it for registration twice next year. Your Magical Intuition will be coming back in late spring. I’m working on a brand-new, year-long program to debut in the second half of next year. (Stay tuned for that!)