a misty wintry day, snow on the hills and everything is blurry

On a misty wintry day that is beautiful and spooky, I wanted to tell you about my favorite spell…

Announcement & reminder about the ebook!

If you’ve already given to Barrington’s Discretionary last year or this year, you should have gotten my ebook by email about how I approach and plan my year, how I think about time and am in relationship with time. The feedback on this has been lovely and heartwarming, thank you!

And if you gave to Barrington but didn’t get it, I am so sorry if anyone fell through the cracks, please email me at my name at this website, Havi AT fluent self DOT com, with any emoji, and I will send it.

You can also still obtain a copy for now, as a thank you when you give any sum to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund, and I hope you enjoy and find lots of clues in there!

10% more relaxed, for example

When a word is a mystery to me

I should start by saying that I absolutely do not know how to relax, and most of the time am not sure I really know what it even means.

You can think of this as the manicure conundrum, not that I have had a manicure in the past several years, but I mean the situation when someone takes your hand and they tell you to relax it, except, as far as you know, you aren’t tensing it, because why would you be doing that, so what are they talking about.

What does it mean! I don’t like being told to relax. It stresses me out.

Which is ironic, at least in the Alanis Morissette worldview of irony, pretty sure that whole song was about (basically) this situation.

What does it mean

What do they want from you! Why are they repeating it!

Sometimes they will say, don’t try to hold your hand, let me hold it for you. And I understand that more, but I still don’t really have the ability to follow an instruction to relax.

If anything, I get more frustrated because I don’t know what to do, so then if anything I am less relaxed.

In fact, the best way to get me to relax at all is probably to never suggest it, and yet here we are, talking about it.

*For reasons I can’t describe but it felt important to talk about this now.

Talking about relaxing vs about how frustrating it is to be told to relax…

So, yes, just a few words about the frustration, in case this is something you also experience.

It can really be so frustrating when someone tells you to relax, and you don’t know what they want from you.

It took a long time working with my beloved dance teacher back in Portland (in the before times) until we figured out a way for her to give me concrete instructions and communicate with me in a way I could understand.

Uncrossing the crossed wires

For example, she’d give the instruction “relax”, but what she meant was that I was tensing in such a way that she could feel it in her body when we were dancing together.

And, more specifically, this tension was localized, it was showing up or making itself known in a certain place in my body: maybe my hand was rising, or my shoulders were lifting.

Eventually we figured out that if she could just say “hand” or “shoulder”, I could bring my attention there too and let them drop a little. Or at least soften things in a way that more or less matched up with her version of relaxed, a word I don’t always have an internal definition for.


And yet

And yet, even though I tell myself I don’t have a definition for this foreign concept — “What is this relaxed of which you speak?”, it turns out that I have in fact experienced it many times…

At the end of a yoga or feldenkrais class, in a nap, on a peaceful beach, during my evening porch breaths when I tell my friends (the sky, the trees, the wildlife, the fields) about my day.

So it turns out that maybe I do know what this feels like in my body, and just don’t follow instructions well, or resist being instructed.

This is how I came around to playing with the concept of just ten percent.

Sure, maybe I don’t know how to relax (or what it means to be relaxed), but can I conjure some kind of sensory experience when I think about the possibility of ten percent more relaxed?


Is there some spaciousness for me in that question…? Can it create an opening?

Does it, at the very least, remind me to have a good yawn (or several), listen to my breath, check in with my heartbeat…

And then something in that act of making room — or clearing the decks of my mind, something in that small amount of [attention, not effort] is what allows me to access even more spaciousness.


Yes, okay, ten percent more relaxed is kind of nice actually. Just ten percent, how does it feel…

Ten percent

Sometimes in the middle of the night if I can’t sleep, I repeat this to myself like a spell.

Ten percent more relaxed.

Because even if totally relaxed feels baffling and unfamiliar to me (or so goes the story in my mind in these late night witching hours), I have absolutely had the experience of softening a bit, releasing some more…

Sometimes the softening is a symbolic amount, sometimes the softening is delicious.

Exhaling into the possibility of the softening

Sinking into the softening, or into the possibility of slightly more at ease.

I count backwards from a number I like, counting the exhalations, and with each exhale, I think to myself, I wonder what ten percent more relaxed would feel like…

It could be any percent of course.

Two percent more relaxed, if ten percent feels like a stretch. No pun intended but now I wish I had intended it.

Ten Percent More Relaxed

Whether I fall back asleep this way (and often I do) or not, I feel better in the morning.

Ten percent more relaxed also works well with other useful questions for those late night anxiety hours like “how much of this is mine” and “is this from now” and “can I put this into the wishing cauldron and let it solve itself, or I can try to solve it in the morning but either way, 3am is not the problem-solving hour, it is the hour of ten percent more relaxed…”

And it helps.

Sometimes it really is more of a theoretical imagining – maybe I can’t feel in my body yet what ten percent more relaxed feels like, but I can still imagine it in my mind. Imagining is great practice. That’s why athletes do it.

So yes, ten percent more relaxed is also a form of athletic training, in a funny sense. We trained for this.

Ten percent more anything, for example…

For example…

Where else can I apply this practice or experiment of imagining what it would feel like to be ten percent more or less anything at all…?

Can I be ten percent braver today, and what would that look like? What about ten percent more patient, ten percent more kind to myself? Can I channel ten percent more Loving Clarity?

What shifts in my day or my approach to my day when I call on this ten percent? And, to be clear, this is not at all about pushing myself to work ten percent harder or be more productive or any of the bullshit that hustle culture insists is important.

This is about experiencing what it’s like to be the person with the finger on the dial, and invite small shifts in the category of qualities or attributes that would be supportive in my day.

Ten Percent Braver

Ten percent braver me might tell me to wash dishes before checking email, because they know about the wisdom of clearing the decks.

Ten percent braver me gets out of bed a little faster.

When I am ten percent more kind to myself (kind with myself?), I remember to name the extenuating circumstances, I remember that I am in a process of rehabilitation. Yes, it took me two and a half days to recover from a trip to the laundromat, that’s just our current reality, let’s adjust expectations.

When I am ten percent more patient, I remember that I am playing the long game, and also to allow three to four times as much time as I think I need for doing literally anything. It helps.


These qualities of course support each other, as you may have already guessed.

There’s a sort of a fractal relationship there of interconnectedness and exponential returns.

When I am ten percent more brave, that helps me to be ten percent kinder to myself and vice versa, and both of those support me reminding myself (with kindness) that it’s possible to experience ten percent more relaxed.

The more I get to experience these qualities whether in rest or in action, the less intimidating ten percent sounds, and I can try for some more.

When I can’t access ten percent more anything

It happens.

This weekend I have found myself in a quadruple-molasses deep funk state of everything is moving slowly and I can’t motivate. Okay, sometimes we need to fill up on rest and beauty (or whatever helps) before we can recalibrate our settings.

No worry, it will solve itself. I like to think of ten percent as more of a curious question than an imperative, though sometimes it also can work as a spell.

Into the cauldron it goes, and we’ll see how we feel and go from there.

If I can’t get to ten percent more excited, can I find my way to ten percent more spaciousness?

Where do we go from here

Well, as always, we notice what we notice, and we adjust the experiment as needed.

If this is not an experiment for you, maybe it’s giving you some ideas about other experiments you could run.

Or if relaxing comes easy to you (and I love that for you), what are the areas where you could use ten percent more of a little something-something, that sounded dirty which is not how I meant it, but sure.

Or what about ten percent more of not this, not that, but a third secret thing? Maybe you don’t even need to know what it is yet, maybe the process of asking is what begins to shift things, I don’t know, let’s find out!

Do-overs forever

What an appropriate game to play during the month of Do-Overs Forever, and we are really living through a time that is an absolute treasure of do-over holidays. We had Tu B’shvat, the Jewish new year for trees also known as the birthday of the trees.

Then we had Groundhog Day, the second day of the second month, to remind us that we can try things, and then try again.

And now, speaking of newness, along with new doors, new opportunities, another chance at a new year…

Happy lunar new year, if you celebrate! I hope the year of the dragon brings all of its most useful powers into your life in the exact right ways. For me this year is already about Bravery & Tenacity, which are fierce dragon powers to be sure, and they go well with my theme of Choose Calm Choose Ease.

WWADD (What Would A Dragon Do), and also: what would a dragon want me to embody ten percent more of this year?

Newness abounds

Happy new moon as well, and it’s the new moon that takes us into the first month of Adar.

Yes, we get Adar I and Adar II this year, it’s a leap year on the Hebrew calendar as well as the Gregorian one!

This means two birthday months for me, which is the best form of Do-Overs Forever I’ve ever heard of, something I need anyway because [complicated feelings about this time of year].

Joy: multiplied

I may have mentioned this before but the phrase for Adar is that when it comes in, then joy multiplies, so I am wishing multiplied joy for you as well.

For this month, I am calling on the powers of Bravery & Tenacity (ten percent more?), Surprise Good News, Obsessed with Pleasure, Obsessed with Joy, and of course appreciating the micro-joys.

Micro-joys multiplying: examples

Like a ridiculously large orange, for example, or a moment of pretty sky that I am able to notice as I am reminding myself to look up.

(Superpower of things are looking up when I remember to look up, which Anna reminded me to do, also a form of ten percent more relaxed).

Or in a sudden moment of light-heartedness, or a sudden moment of grace – remembering to love the sea.

Or the reminder I got, via Amanda who sent me this delightful web comic, that joy in winter is a noble pursuit.

A breath for noble pursuits, for finding joy in an orange, a breath for pleasure and play.

Lighting a candle for all this and more

Lighting a candle for ten percent more of what is needed.

Or maybe it’s about feeling into ten percent less of something.

Or could be you want to play with a different percentage point entirely.

As Chef John would say, that’s just you cooking.

(You are after all the 50 Cent of your possibly ten percent…)

Happy new everything, happy percentage shifts

Let’s place all these good thoughts and wishes into the cooking pot or the witching cauldron, and see what emerges once we give them some time to simmer.

Happy new everything, here’s to the micro-joys when and where we can find them.

Here’s to the small but meaningful percentage shifts, and also to being patient with ourselves and letting things brew for a while.

Come play in the comments, I appreciate the company

You are welcome to share anything that sparked for you while reading, or anything that helped or anything on your mind. I am lighting a candle for all of it.

Or anything you’d like to toss into the wishing pot, the healing power of the collective is no small thing, companionship helps.

Whatever comes to mind (come to heart?), let’s support each other’s hope-sparks and wishes…

Thank you to everyone who reads, porch breaths, the winding path, the many clues that land when they land, receptivity, keeping on keeping on.

New ebook alert!!!

Aka fun bonus material on how I relate to time and map out my quarters for the year.

Anyone who gives to Barrington’s Discretionary this week (see below) will get this by email as a pdf!

A request

If you received clues or perspective or want to send appreciation for the writing and work/play we do here, I appreciate it tremendously. Between Long Covid and traumatic brain injury recovery, things are slow going.

I am accepting support (with joy & gratitude) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, it all helps with fixing the many broken things.

And if those aren’t options, I get it, you can light a candle for support (or light one in your mind!), share this with someone who loves words, tell people about these techniques, approaches and themes, send them here, it all helps, it’s all welcome, and I appreciate it and you so much. ❤️

The Fluent Self