Since shelter-in-place has come into play, I’ve watched the pendulum swing on social media. The first swing was the productivity response—with quotes like “write the book you’ve always wanted to write”, and suggestions around how to use all this ‘free time’ most effectively. A million free things came on offer and everything we ever wanted to do in our lives was suddenly available virtually & for free! As was a wave of business coaching offers that promised ‘recession-proof’ business plans.
Then there was a huge shift towards ‘not buying into the coronavirus productivity mandates’. Reminders that it’s OK to relax, or not develop a new skill during a pandemic were everywhere on social media. There were even messages subtly judging anyone who was getting shit done during this time as though they were being avoidant.
I grew up in a buddhist monastery, so it’s ingrained in me to always come back to the middle way. I watched each swing of the pendulum & thought, “Yes…..and…..” This is an instance we can actually hold both, that neither is more true than the other, and it’s not an either/or situation.
I high five you whether you’re getting more done than you have in the last ten years, or if you’re binge watching Netflix, and everything in between. Or perhaps you are vacillating between these extremes… None of this is to pass judgement on how anybody is getting through this time, I simply want to offer another perspective on how to meet yourself & your life during this unprecedented time – which is tending to your life. I want to offer it because I think this is our way forward. Not only is it the practice for the moment we are living in, but a new way of being with life in general – one that I believe will serve us for the rest of our lives, whatever happens with this pandemic & the economy.
A Moment to Recreate Our Lives
This is an incredible opportunity to recreate how we live. Some of that is big sweeping systemic changes and some of that is minor adjustments. Shifting our perspective from accomplishing things to tending to our lives is a minor adjustment that can have a major impact on our lives & culture over time. Instead of vacillating between going hard & chilling out, what does it mean to tend to our lives?
Tending is a great lens to look through at this particular time, but again it’s a good one to take into life in general. Bringing it down to just this moment—when I am tending, I must stay connected to what is arising to be met in this moment, and I always know I can do what needs to be done – right now.
The Difference Between Tending and Accomplishing
I love the idea of tending because it makes me think of my garden. In the garden, what needs to be tended everyday is different. Sometimes it’s a day for planting seeds, sometimes watering, sometimes harvesting. Weeding is never done, planting is never done—they are cyclical. They require us to be in connection with what needs tending in the moment.
If I look at my life such that it is, what does tending look like? Yesterday for me it was doing the dishes, before that it was sweeping, and after that there was copy to be written for a new program I’m launching. Tending isn’t trying to do All The Things, and it’s not 5 hours on 1 task, it’s paying attention to the present moment & tending to what needs to be done right now – little step by little step forward.
Tending also requires that we be present to how all the threads of our life are connected. Tending sees the dishes & the altar & the business emails & connecting with our children & rest, or emotional expression with the same value, and recognizes what is most important right now – in this moment.
What are 3-5 things that need daily tending in your life?
This is shifting the lens from asking ourselves have we done enough, to acknowledging the areas of our lives we really care about and tending to them each day.
What needs tending in your life, in a small or big way? For me, one is my business. It needs a little bit of tending everyday—some days are bigger than others. Another area is my house. I ask myself what needs tending for me to take a deeper breath in my home space? The third is children—in addition to the three meals, I ask, am I giving them direct attention? I tend to my connection to the earth, and my intimate relationship. Sometimes it can be a big thing like cooking a meal or planning date night, or something as little as bringing a glass of water in the middle of the day, or reaching out & saying ‘I love you’. I also tend to my body – stretching, or working out. There’s tending to our heart—what would it mean to tend to your heart today? Only you can answer that question. I tend to my friendships, and relationships with my family. And of course, our spiritual practice, or connection with Source or Spirit. You may also have something like ‘tending to activism’ or ‘tending to my community’.
Take a few minutes & check in about what are some areas of your life that would benefit from your tending to them…? Not a to-do list, or even specific things that need to be done as part of the tending – just the areas: body, spirit, business, home, family, heart, earth, etc….
And then be willing to be present with that area of your life, right now – letting go of any plans or ideas you’ve had for what needs to be done in that area – and allow yourself to see what would be the next right action to tend to that part of your life….now.
One of the beautiful things about tending is it acknowledges the relational nature of our lives, even if the relationship is just with ourselves. That in itself is an act of love; this staying in relationship with. Asking, “how can I handle this & get it done, so I never have to deal with it again?” – this is not life & this is not being in relationship with (your) life. We honor life by gesturing in the moment to what needs to be tended; and we tend, knowing that tending is enough.
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