Are you ready to take back your life?
Despite an innate desire to live peaceful and happy lives, many of us spend far too much of our precious time immersed in stress and struggle rather than in enjoyment, often working to make others happy while neglecting ourselves in the process.
In A Year for You, space clearing expert and mindfulness teacher Stephanie Bennett Vogt offers a step-by-step guide to coming back home to yourself.
In these pages she will teach you how to:
- Release the underlying causes of clutter, stress, struggle and overwhelm . . . for good!
- Develop simple yet profound practices that lead to a clearer home and a quieter mind.
- Cultivate a holistic, open, and gentle approach to life that leads to a greater sense of peace and freedom.
This book is an invitation to a life-changing, yearlong sabbatical that begins not far away in a distant corner of the world, but right where you are in this moment. The practices contained herein will teach you how to reorient your life toward a more spacious, relaxed, and joy-filled way of being.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
It so often happens that somebody says "change your life" and you repaint your car rather than re-wire the engine.
— Pico Iyer
We've all had those days. Days where we've poured our heart and soul into doing something that matters, doing the work of becoming ourselves, and then it gets hard.
We lose heart. We back off. We bail on ourselves.
In one of his posts, blogger and thought leader Seth Godin calls it "transformation tourism": I bought the diet book, but ate my usual foods.
I filled the prescription, but didn't take the meds.
I took the course ... well, I watched the videos ... but I didn't do the exercises in writing.
Merely looking at something almost never causes change. Tourism is fun, but rarely transformative.
If it were easy, you would have already achieved the change you seek.
Change comes from new habits, from acting as if, from experiencing the inevitable discomfort of becoming.
Mr. Godin is right, of course. And I would add one caveat to his message: the work you do to become yourself may not be easy, but it doesn't have to be hard, either. It can be soft. It can be gentle. It can be slow.
Daily repetition, conscious baby steps, and compassionate self-care are potent habit changers.
So is beginner's mind. There's a powerful magic that happens when you suspend judgment and enter into an experience with the innocent curiosity of a child. The less you know, or think you know, the more spacious and revealing it is.
If you're wondering how you too can cultivate beginner's mind and grow a daily practice that you love, is sustainable, and leads to spacious revealings, let's just say that you have the keys already. Below I'll show you what they are, and what they might open up for you when you use them this year.
Five Steps to Spaciousness
Built into the lessons of this book are five keys, or steps, that are at the heart of this journey. Together they work to replace effort with ease, clutter with clarity, drama with dreams.
I call them the five steps to spaciousness (or the five S's for short). Here's what they are and what you'll receive when you spend ten weeks with each step:
Slowing down: The first S is all about cultivating ease. You'll notice what happens to old habits and overwhelm, limiting thoughts, and resisting patterns when you stop rushing and make time for what matters.
Simplifying: With the second S you'll experience how the biggest changes come from taking the smallest steps. You'll connect with your best teacher — your home — as a pathway to lighten your life. You'll discover that when you consciously tend to your home every day, you are tending to yourself. There is no separation.
Sensing: The third S gives you an opportunity to tune in to, and fine- tune, your six senses (smell, taste, touch, hearing, seeing, and inner knowing) as a way to experience the transformative effects of energy, light, and beauty that abound. You'll discover that there are no mistakes when you follow your "knows."
Surrendering: The fourth S helps you step back and become bigger than any challenge, pain, or wound that may be holding you back. You'll learn that it's not about giving up, as many of us believe, but rather a conscious and powerful way of stepping up (your game) by stepping back.
Self-Care: The fifth S is not only about making time for yourself, feeling good, and putting the "spa" in spacious. It's also a revolutionary act that can change how you relate to everything.
Though the steps are presented one at a time in a particular order, ultimately it is through consistent application and integration of all five steps that you'll start to enjoy the magic benefits. Each stage naturally builds upon the others to shift the way you act, think, and feel — for good!
Overwhelmed? Excited? Curious? Mystified?
Congratulations! You're right where you should be.
Begin now with slowing down and taking some time to reflect on this gift of a year you have given yourself.
Why do you think it's necessary to rush? What would happen if you slowed down even just a tiny bit? What are you looking forward to most about this year?
The practice this week is twofold.
1. Observe: Every day this week, practice slowing down. Notice the ways you run through your day on autopilot. Take five minutes longer to empty the dishwasher, for example. Or give yourself five extra minutes to enjoy your morning coffee. If you tend to speed on the highway, drive a bit slower (safely, of course): move into the slow lane and go the speed limit.
2. Look forward: Write a letter to your future self following the steps below.
Looking Forward Process
Set aside at least fifteen minutes and find a quiet and comfortable place to sit. Take a few swigs of water, and have a separate piece of paper and pen handy (not your journal). Read everything through before you begin.
Step 1: In a two-part letter to your future self ...
* Describe the reality that you are living today. Reflect on how you feel in this moment and what motivated you to give yourself a year for you. Be as specific as you can.
* Describe the reality that you hope to be living in a year from now. Envision how clearing your life will pave the way for miracles.
Step 2: When you feel complete ...
* Sign the letter, date it, and place it in an envelope.
* Seal the envelope and on the front write: "Open on Week 50."
* Store the envelope in a safe place where you'll remember to find it.
* Reflect on your experience in your journal.
Deepen your experience of this lesson by completing the open-ended phrases that follow. They are deceptively simple, designed to bypass the thinking mind and release buried insights and unprocessed clutter. Don't think too hard or force the answer. Allow your highest wisdom to reveal itself in these responses and all subsequent journal explorations from here on:
* Tasks or pleasures I can extend by five minutes every day this week ...
* What it feels like to write to my future self and name what I am ready to release ...
* What it feels like to name and claim what I most wish to manifest this year ...CHAPTER 2
Ease and Breeze
Life opens up when you do.
— Crest Toothpaste Ad
On a bright and promising January 1, my husband and I took a sabbatical. We left our home in Concord, Massachusetts, to spend six months in the mystical, magical town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
We rented out our home, downloaded some books on tape, and drove 3,000 miles to our new residence south of the border, a place where we could dial it (way) down and watch what happens when we unplug from life as usual.
And what a big reveal it was! From boot camp opportunities in letting go to mind-bending encounters with nature, beauty, and art, the days were as diverse and varied as the cloud formations were at sunset.
In those six months we guzzled enough sunshine to last another ten years. We witnessed up close the murmurations of birds and watched our flower garden go from zero to exuberant. We met Yann Martel (Life of Pi) and watched master poet David Whyte lift an entire audience with his mesmerizing wordplay at the San Miguel Writers' Conference. We walked the mineral-paved roads of the sixteenth-century ghost town Pozos and got naturally high on the energies there.
We steeped in the melodies played live on a 1720 Stradivarius (aka "the Red Violin") and listened to Latin jazz in an old hacienda with twenty-foot ceilings. We hung out with old friends and made new ones. We engaged in a favorite ritual of waving goodnight to the sun as it eased like clockwork below the horizon. We called it "the show," and we made it a habit never to miss it.
We had some days with no internet and some with no electricity (which also means no internet). Some days seemed to go on forever, and others passed in the blink of an eye. Such was life in the slow lane that half year.
And every day since.
None of these things would have happened if we hadn't left the comfort of our home and taken the challenge to invite more wonder and mystery in our lives. That experience was a game changer.
But if you're thinking you have to take six months and move away to some foreign land to have your mind bent in a million different ways, think again. If you can find a way to dial it down a notch, tune in to what's hiding in plain sight, and let go of attachment to the outcome, I would wager that you too will have some pretty jaw-dropping experiences of your own, wherever you are.
There is a magic that happens when you deliver continuous nourishment to your body, mind, and spirit every week for a whole year; a lightness when you embrace the discomfort of not knowing what's going to happen next; a freedom when you adopt daily practices in slowing down, simplifying, sensing, surrendering, and self-care.
As Wayne Dyer once said, "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." And change they will — in the best ways possible.
So imagine that this is Day One of your sabbatical and you are packing for the journey. You'll need to bring some supplies to remind you of home. What do you need to support you? And where would be a good place to put them?
Gathering a few things that you love into a special dedicated space in your home is a good way to start your adventure. You can think of it as a symbolic collecting of all the scattered parts of yourself. Like a personal altar to yourself, or a focal point, you can use this dedicated space to quiet the mind and anchor your intentions for the upcoming year. Use it to read your weekly lessons and journal. It can be your home base anytime you need help staying grounded or just getting some peace and rest.
What happens when we go off road into new territory is that our old homing tendencies have a funny way of wanting to redirect into old, comfortable, not- helpful ways of being. An anchoring altar is a great way to bring you back to your center.
What does it feel like to gather yourself in an intentional way? What does it feel like to gather yourself in a sacred way?
To help you find out, I invite you to use this week to create an anchoring altar by following the steps below.
Creating an Anchoring Altar
1. Identify: Find a room, corner, nook, bookcase ... any place that is yours only (i.e., that's off-limits to family members, housemates, coworkers, pets, etc.) that can serve as your home base this year. If space or privacy is an issue, use a lockable drawer, a suitcase that you pull out from under the bed, or a lockbox.
2. Gather: Beginning with a good pen and an empty notebook or journal, gather a few essentials for your journey: favorite books, poems, photos, a candle, incense ... anything that helps you feel at home with yourself. If it's a place where you can retreat for a while, you might include a comfy chair, a basket with a cozy blanket, art supplies, soothing music, a yoga mat, a meditation cushion ... whatever feels good and nourishing.
3. Place: Once you've identified a spot and gathered a few of your favorite things, take a little time to consciously arrange your objects in a way that feels good. Note: This step doesn't have to be a huge production. One or two things placed with awareness and love are sufficient.
4. Connect: Close your eyes, light a candle, and clarify your intentions for the year that you wrote about last week. Tune in to your feelings of excitement and any apprehensions you may be feeling. If it helps and resonates, you can include other forms of artistic expression, like collage or drawing, to deepen your experience.
5. Refresh: Keep your altar fresh and vibrant by replacing objects regularly. Move your altar to another location (or remove it altogether) if it isn't working for you.
Like you did with Week 1, complete the open-ended prompts to deepen your experience of this week's lesson and practice:
* Objects that make me feel grounded, centered, and excited about the coming year ...
* Intentions for my journey ...
* Worries for my journey ...
* What it feels like to gather myself in a more conscious and intentional way ...CHAPTER 3
You can't force a rosebud to blossom by beating it with a hammer.
— Rachel Naomi Remen, MD
In our home in Mexico we had a bougainvillea varietal that had no blooms. No matter what I did (new pot, more sun, gentle whispering), it just wouldn't budge — until this year, when we returned in the winter to see a joyful exuberance of color.
Some things just can't be rushed.
There's a saying about the planting cycle of a new garden: the first year the plants sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap.
I like to think that cycles like these pertain to us too as they relate to waking up to, and becoming, more of ourselves — more of who we are meant to be.
When I quit a twenty-year career as a high school Spanish teacher back in 1996, I had no idea that the next big chapter in my professional life would take another twenty years. There was nothing cluing me in that I would go on a deep dive into a whole new field of study, personal clearing, teaching, and writing to fully live and embody the work I came here to do.
Teaching I could understand. But writing? Publishing multiple books? Seriously? I was a slow reader in grammar school. I spent my summers in high school getting tutored in writing. There was nothing on my radar that even hinted at the idea of becoming an author.
You could say that most of my professional life has been one of "sleeping" and "creeping" before I could finally begin leaping. The running joke in my household is that it's taken me forty years to become an overnight success.
And still, knowing all that — knowing how long it would take to fully come to understand and claim my true purpose — I'm grateful for all of it. Even when it didn't look like much on paper, took decades to come together, and often made no practical sense from a financial standpoint, all of it mattered. Every slow, obscure, messy, exasperating step I took informed my journey. And, thankfully, despite the many bumps, the twists and turns, the delays and disappointments, I stayed with it.
That said, while the plant cycle appears to stop at "leap," we all know that the story doesn't end there. There is no end point to "becoming." Just like a plant, there are periods of expansion and periods of contraction for humans too. There are growing periods and resting periods, shedding periods and blooming periods. As long as the roots are well grounded, nourished, and fed, there is no end to our growth cycle. My "true purpose" will, no doubt, continue to unfold and illuminate. Who knows where my journey will take me next and what it will uncover? What I do know is this: We do not need to "bloom" in order to blossom.
What would blossoming in your life look like? Would you be willing to wait days, months, even years, if necessary, if you knew that's how long it would take for a higher dream to blossom in your life? What wants to reveal itself to you now?
These are what I call wonder questions — questions that are not meant to be answered in the traditional, linear way. They invite you to contemplate them, savor them, live them.
Like I say, some things just can't be rushed.
When it comes to self-realization, where do you think you are in the cycle of sleep, creep, leap? Would it be okay with you if it took some time for you to blossom?
Use this week to reflect on the wonder questions of this lesson in your journal, or choose others that may have come up as a result of writing down your intentions in Week 1 or anchoring them in Week 2. Notice the little blossoms and glimmers of light that are beginning to reveal themselves since you began working with this book.
* Journal Revealings
* I am at the _____ stage of my sleep/creep/leap cycle, and this makes me feel ...
* If I took the time to allow it to happen, blossoming in my life might look and feel like ...
* What is wanting to reveal itself to me now is ...
* Shifts and insights that are bubbling up for me already since I began three weeks ago are ...CHAPTER 4
WEEK 4 Go Slow, Let Flow
I would love to live Like a river flows, Carried by the surprise Of its own unfolding.
— John O'Donohue
The ultimate spaciousness to me is the feeling of gliding through life without friction or resistance — quite literally.
It's the feeling you get when you're floating down a river, watching the ocean waves come and go, meditating by a fountain, sitting by a crackling fire, or listening to a gurgling mountain spring.
Adopting a daily practice of slowing down unleashes all kinds of magic powers, which lead to greater ease and flow and morph into new habits that expand your sense of spacious well-being.
Excerpted from "A Year for You"
Copyright © 2019 Stephanie Bennett Vogt.
Excerpted by permission of Hierophant Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1 Slowing Down 1
Week 1 Take Five 2
Week 2 Ease and Breeze 7
Week 3 No Rush 12
Week 4 Go Slow, Let Flow 15
Week 5 Soften Resistance 18
Week 6 Take Your Time 22
Week 7 Unplug 25
Week 8 Be the Witness 28
Week 9 Wander and Wonder 31
Week 10 Drip, Drip, Drip 34
Part 2 Simplifying 39
Week 11 Simplify 40
Week 12 Move Things to Move You 43
Week 13 Clear for Beauty 48
Week 14 Make the Bed 52
Week 15 Sweep in Simplicity 55
Week 16 Fold In the Magic 57
Week 17 Tame the Piles, Quiet the Overwhelm 62
Week 18 Lighten Your Digital Load 69
Week 19 Care for the Soul 74
Week 20 Round the Bend 77
Part 3 Sensing 81
Week 21 Tune In and Tune Up 82
Week 22 Drink the Day 85
Week 23 Look Around 88
Week 24 Inhale 91
Week 25 Savor 93
Week 26 Touch Stones (and Other Things) 96
Week 27 Listen 98
Week 28 Needle and Feel 100
Week 29 Shine Light 109
Week 30 Stir and Soar 112
Part 4 Surrendering 117
Week 31 Let Go and Let Flow 118
Week 32 Make Space 122
Week 33 Bless and Release 127
Week 34 Take the Long View 132
Week 35 Be the Change 139
Week 36 Persist, Not Resist 143
Week 37 Allow Imperfection 146
Week 38 Diminish the Ego, Dissolve the Pain 148
Week 39 Claim and Receive 154
Week 40 Get Light 157
Part 5 Self-Care 161
Week 41 Nourish and Flourish 162
Week 42 Put the Self in Self-Care 165
Week 43 Choose You 170
Week 44 Honor Your Process 173
Week 45 Step In, Step Back, Step Up 178
Week 46 Create Your Sanctuary 182
Week 47 Remember What Lights You Up 188
Week 48 Bow to Joy 191
Week 49 Claim Your Worth 195
Week 50 Shine and Thrive 197
Part 6 Coming Home 203
Week 51 Dream and Beam 204
Week 52 Happy New You! 211
Resources by Chapter 221
Next Steps 225
Author's Note 227