Minimal Monday

I have been thinking about the ways in which we do or do not honor our commitments to ourselves. I think this is an area that I sometimes struggle with. I am great at honoring my commitments to others. If I say I am going to do something, you can bet I will follow through. But although I keep some commitments to myself, I have broken others on many occasions.

Why is that? Why is my word to others more important than my word to myself? This is something I am working on changing right now. I believe that this one skill- prioritizing our own commitments to things we say we want to do for our own lives- is a meta skill that can uplevel our whole lives.

Exercising this skill builds a sense of self-trust which is so important, but what if the habit of putting others’ wants, needs, or expectations above our own is so ingrained, so seemingly natural, that it is hard to change?

Here is an empowering thought that I feel is helping me:

Every time I make a choice to honor my own purpose, health or wellbeing, and then follow through, I am ultimately adding light to the world. And every choice that stifles or limits my potential denies those benefits to others as well.

Honor yourself first and see how your light expands.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how a minimalist philosophy is one of subtraction. If you missed that post, you can read it here: https://danalaquidara.com/2022/08/22/minimal-monday-27/ .

I am revisiting the topic because I keep bumping up against the truth of it in my every day life, and especially lately in my writing life. Being on deadline to complete my memoir, I cannot afford to waste time, indulge in distractions or vices, or be anywhere but here in the present moment, doing what needs to be done. The only “extras”, if you can even call them that, are staying connected to my loved ones and taking care of myself in ways that preserve my energy and my health; but I prefer to think of these as non-negotiables.

Even though writing typically makes me feel fulfilled and whole, sometimes it can leave me feeling raw, and vulnerable. The very act of working on my memoir can leave me with the desire to waste time, indulge in distractions, and escape to anywhere-but-here. After all, memoirs contain some tough topics and mine is no exception. But when I resist the urge to escape, I start to feel the most me I’ve ever felt. I feel liberated.

What is your craft, or your passion? What is the deepest you can go with it?

Is anything preventing you from going there? Is it fear?

I hope you let everything else fall away as you go into the wild places of your heart. I bet you’ll meet your Self there, and what a reunion it will be!

Minimal Monday

What I love most about a minimalist philosophy is that it can cover our inner and outer worlds, our belongings, habits, thoughts and defenses. It is not a mindset in adding, doing, changing, but rather one of uncovering. Simplifying is subtractive, not additive. It is stopping the critical thoughts, removing what is blocking your innate joy, peace, and authentic self.

Here is an analogy: If your diet was poor and it caused your body to feel bad, and so you added some healthy food on top of your daily junk food, that would not solve the problem. But if you first eliminated what was making you feel unwell, you’d start to feel better pretty quickly. That is an oversimplification, but you get the idea.

There is so much information available on how to improve ourselves, and information is good. But it also makes it easy to busy ourselves with strategies and distractions while avoiding what we need to stop doing, saying, thinking, judging, avoiding.

I think we are already amazing, powerful, creative and good. We just have to remove all that stands between us and our true selves.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

Summer can be a fun season with all the events, activities, mini-vacations and days in the sun. But for someone like me who lives a healthier, more productive and creative life when I follow a routine, summer can easily throw me off my game. It’s not that I want every single day to be the same, but as a writer, I’ve got plenty of adventure going on inside my head, thank you very much.

So here are a few things I like to do to try to keep the words flowing, and the good habits going, even in mid-July:

#1 Before I go on vacation, I put everything I can in order at home first. This makes for a swifter transition back to home and to the projects I may have left behind. It also enables me to “let go” more completely, and enjoy the time away.

#2 If I am going away, even if I know I won’t do a lot of writing, I at least bring a notebook and pen to catch the inspiration when it strikes. I also bring my walking/running sneakers and my yoga mat.

#3 Even during lazy summer weeks, I keep up with my agenda. I know where I am at with my writing, and where to pick up next time, even if several days go by before I get back to it.

#4 If you read last week’s post, you know I am trying to give up eating sweet, sugary things. If you missed it, you can read it here: https://danalaquidara.com/2022/07/11/minimal-monday-21/ . So I do my best to focus on summer treats like healthy smoothies, fresh fruit, and a refreshing swim; and I look the other way when I see something like, say, double scoop mint chocolate- chip ice cream.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

My very first memory of sugar is of being about three and a half years old and finding an open jar of butterscotch sauce in my family’s refrigerator.  Where was the lid? What luck! I don’t recall any other time of helping myself to the fridge at such a young age, but on this day, I recall sticking my index finger as far in as I could, swirling it around and bringing it to my tongue. I could not believe anything could taste so good. Why hadn’t anyone told me of this? I put the jar back and scurried away, dizzy with pleasure.

This was the same year that my mother disappeared from my life, and as the adults around me catered to my sweet tooth, my brain began to create a neural pathway that led straight to the cookie jar.  

If we think about a difficult time in our early lives and then think of what we did for relief, we will often find our coping mechanisms.

 Painfully shy as a teen and beer helped you feel more comfortable and social?

Lonely in childhood and food brought you comfort?

 Felt insignificant until you scored that perfect grade/position/career that demanded all your time and energy?

Feared being rejected until you learned to people please?

I think it can become questionable whether we chase something to gain pleasure or to avoid pain. Perhaps it is often some of both.

~

I never did outgrow my fondness for sweet food, and I seem to have gotten away with it so far.  According to numbers – the scale, blood sugar level, etc. I am healthy. For now. But I am also well aware of how inflammation can be brewing within the body and sneak up on you one day with a devastating disease. Our habits of today are contributing to our sickness or health of tomorrow.

There is something I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of called a spiritual bypass, a tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to avoid facing unresolved issues, or psychological wounds. While the practices can be very healthy in general – Be positive! Let go of the past! Forgive!  – they can also be used to sidestep the psychological work of facing our wounds.  And although I’ve generally had a “bring it on” attitude toward inner work, priding myself on not having the spiritual bypass tendency, if I am being totally honest, I have still denied the fact that I have been harming myself by hanging on to my very outdated vice.

 I am finallyfor real this time- ready to let go of my last line of defense between me and my true self.   I know it won’t be easy; I’ve tried and failed in the past, many times. But here I am, ready to try again, armed with an arsenal of tools.

One of my favorite tools is good old knowledge.  I’ve been listening to Dr. David Perimutter, a neurologist and author of the book Brain Wash.  I can hardly wait to dive into his book for more of his brilliance and sound advice. Hearing him describe how sugar disrupts our metabolism, and puts our reptile brain in the driver’s seat, speaks to me clearly. I not only want to avoid the pain of a foggy brain, heightened risk of Alzheimer’s, or other sugar-induced fears at my heals; I want to enjoy the pleasure of clarity, vibrancy and heightened intuition.

 It is only day #2 but I am curious, and optimistic. I want to put the lid back on the sweet stuff, and walk away into my healthy future.

I will let you know how it goes!

Minimal Monday

I want to pivot back to the kitchen today and express my love for a clean and organized refrigerator. I know it may sound trivial to some, but if it is true that “how we do one thing is how we do everything”, then I declare our kitchen habits are important.

A simple way to stay on top of refrigerator hygiene is to get in the habit of checking it before every grocery day. The thought of adding more food to a fridge that may have expired items, sticky shelves, or condiment chaos, is unappealing. On the other hand, emptying groceries into a clean and well organized fridge is a pleasure.

If we have tidy fridge habits, we will likely also have tidy pantry habits and organized shopping lists, and sensible meal planning patterns. One small area can have ripple effects in other areas, on peace of mind, time, energy, and health.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

Like most of us, I am horrified and saddened by the war in Ukraine. It has me thinking about the rise to power of Putin and other authoritarian leaders, past and current, and about the terrible harm that stems from the abuse of power.

Don’t most problems, at their core, stem from an abuse of power? Disconnected from their authentic power, people seek destructive, egoic power. From psychological or physical dominance over a child, a partner, a family, a company, a race, a nation, or the Earth itself, when unempathetic, toxic people hold power, people suffer greatly. And how did these people in power become toxic in the first place? Oftentimes from someone else abusing them much earlier in life.

Contemplating this idea runs the risk of leaving me feeling hopeless and powerless; hopeless for the vulnerable, for the children, for a world where people can intimidate and control and manipulate their way to power.

But feeling hopeless just contributes negative energy to an already chaotic time, so what is the antidote to that? For some it is activism, donations, or prayer. I think for all of us, returning again and again to our authentic power, our true Self will contribute positively, collectively, to humanity.

Meditation, caring for ourselves and others, doing our own healing work, taking a single deep breath.

Moment by moment there is a choice to help tip the scale toward love.

Minimal Monday

Just as we feel better when we clean up our outer environment, so too do we feel good when we clean up shop in our bodies. I am not typically one to follow a very specific diet or a fad, but I have fallen in love with intermittent fasting. Even without COVID-19 restrictions, I write from home, I spend a lot of time at home, and having 24-7 access to my kitchen can lead to an unstructured, cluttered eating routine (hello grazing!) Intermittent fasting provides some welcomed structure to my daily eating without unnecessary complication or rigidity.

Intermittent fasting is not a diet at all, but rather an eating style that involves alternating between periods of eating and fasting. There is plenty of information on the benefits of intermittent fasting and I encourage you to do your own research if you are interested, or consult your doctor if you have any medical concerns, but in a nutshell, IF has amazing health benefits, especially brain health which of course is connected to overall health. If you follow a reasonably healthy, whole-foods eating plan of your choice while also practicing intermittent fasting, you are likely to start feeling the benefits pretty quickly.

We all fast at night while we sleep, and the time-restricted intermittent fasting I now follow is simply a matter of lengthening the fasting window and shortening the eating window. I follow the 16:8 window (fasting for sixteen hours & eating for eight) because I am able to consistently maintain this without feeling like I am suffering, while still gaining the benefits of feeling lighter, clearer, and just overall good.

On a typical day I have a nutritious brunch at ten o’clock in the morning, a decent sized snack mid-day (usually a healthy smoothie or fruit and nuts), and a filling supper by six o’clock in the evening. Then I close my kitchen for the night and repeat the same thing the next day, eating sixteen hours later. I am an early to bed kind of person, but people who stay up late and like to eat a later dinner, could follow the 16:8 window by having their last meal around eight o’clock in the evening and eat their first meal at noon the next day. If 16:8 feels too restrictive, you could try 14:10. Some people are able to do a 18:6 window, and they may benefit greatly, but I don’t think I could stick to that. 16:8 seems to be my sweet spot.

This was just a minimal amount of information on intermittent fasting, and I will likely continue the conversation on another Minimal Monday as I continue to learn and experience this eating lifestyle.

Happy Monday!

Writing Through Insomnia

 Another night like this, suddenly wide awake. I don’t exactly feel panicked, my heart is not racing, but I am on high alert. What I am waiting for, I am not sure.

I’ve done all the things: no coffee after 10am. No wine. No electronics in the bedroom.  Exercise. Mediation even. Yet most nights it is the same lately. I can predict before opening my eyes that the clock will read 1:30a.m.  Sometimes 1:20.

My husband reaches out and touches my leg.  He is letting me know he is awake now too. Was I tossing and turning? A middle of the night rendezvous; I resist the urge to speak. He will fall back asleep and there is nothing specific to say, to be anxious about. Well there is, actually. I mean the whole world is anxious now. Shouldn’t it be? I run through my list.  Who shall I focus on this night? Family? The country? Humanity?

I do my yogic breathing. I decide not to waste this time on trying to assign a subject to my insomnia.  Instead, I grab a pillow and notebook and go downstairs to settle on the couch. I may as well write something. Nothing will interrupt me at this hour, nothing outside my own head. The world is asleep, even as it is falling apart.

Not even my to-do list is calling me now. Phone calls to make, writing deadlines, laundry to do. Those are the affairs of daylight and I won’t engage such thoughts. I’ve been invited, against my wishes, but I’m here nonetheless, to do whatever I want in this dark hour. I figure something will happen if I put pen to paper, something to loosen this grip around my heart that is alerting me to I’m -not- sure- what.  I am ready, so ready for whatever is going to happen, even if it is only on the page.

The windows are shut down here and I’m too tired to get up and open them, too busy writing. I am hot as hell now. My hair is getting long – I am not yet ready to venture into a hair salon, even with all the precautions in place. I’ve been snipping the ends of my unruly hair, one curl at a time, with the professional scissors I bought online.  I pull it up on top of my head with the elastic around my wrist.

I’m so hot and so tired, I’m starting to feel nauseous. Tomorrow- which is today, technically- I will see what I’ve written, and if there’s anything worth saving.

I hear my husband upstairs, stirring. He is in the cool air-conditioned room and all of it is suddenly calling me now- the cool room, the soft bed, the husband.

I put down my pen and notebook and leave them on the couch next to the pillow.  I will be back tomorrow night, same time, same place.

__

This essay was originally published on Brevity’s nonfiction blog: via Writing Through Insomnia

 

 

Childhood Trauma and Adult Health

pexels-photo-264889.jpegChildhood trauma, if not healed and released, is very likely to lead to significant health issues in adulthood.  It is time to call BS on the beliefs that keep us from healing, such as:

Time heals all wounds.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.

Leave the past in the past.

The past can’t hurt you anymore.

Groundbreaking research in neuroscience, psychology and medicine tells us that childhood trauma shapes our biology– our brains and our immune system- in ways that predetermine our adult health. The more adverse experiences, the higher our chances of developing heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases, fibromyalgia, alcoholism, depression, etc.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences quiz consists of ten questions regarding childhood traumas such as:
*Being verbally put down & humiliated

*Being emotionally or physically neglected

*Being physically or sexually abused

*Witnessing one’s mother being abused

*Living w/ a parent who is depressed, mentally ill or addicted to alcohol or other substance

*Losing a parent to separation or divorce

You can find the quiz here:  ACE quiz

The higher one’s ACE score, the greater the risk of disease. According to research, scoring 4 or higher can shorten your life span by 20 years!

 How Do We Heal?

Education:

Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How You Can Heal by Donna Jackson Nakazawa

Running on Empty by Jonice Webb, PhD

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

Trauma Release Process by David Berceli

Mind & Body:

Healthy Diet

Exercise (including Trauma Release Exercises)

Yoga

Energy Healing

Meditation

Mindfulness

Expressing and Connecting:

Talk therapy, speak about the secrets, tell your story

Write, draw, art therapy

Eventual forgiveness

Awareness and education are the first steps along the path to healing. No one wants to live in the past, but the truth is that the past is living within us.  Until we address our histories and then commit to healing trauma, we are essentially neglecting ourselves, mind, body, and spirit. Time does not heal all wounds. But courage does.