Minimal Monday

If you believe that everything is connected, then it makes perfect sense that doing even one small thing can improve everything else.

Let’s just take the example of our home or work environment. If it is messy, chaotic or disorganized, it tends to make us feel lazy, lethargic or overwhelmed. Cleaning it up leads to clarity, and calm. If we feel peaceful and clear-headed, we do better work, make better choices, perhaps even eat better. We feel better.

While working to meet my writing deadline, I’ve let some other things go for a while; seemingly less important things like chores and organizing my workspace. I noticed this was fine for a few days in a row, but then I’d hit a wall. I needed to simply give time to the tasks I’d fallen behind on in order to have clarity of thought and continue being productive. Doing so felt like a shot of good energy to my creative brain. It was so worth the time it took to rewrite my writing task list, clean off my desk, put the laundry away, update my calendar and return the pertinent emails or calls.

Taking fifteen minutes, an hour or even a day to regroup can really recharge our mindsets, our energy, our motivation; it’s all connected.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

I must admit, in light of Elon Musk’s recent shenanigans, I was happy to have the perfect excuse to ditch Twitter. It’s not as though I really needed an excuse, but until the quit-twitter bandwagon, I had been letting inertia keep me there. I was an inactive user (wait, is that an oximoron?) I had created the account long ago, back when I thought I had to do All the Things, and then I felt inadequate because I was too overwhelmed and inconsistent to actually partake in any meaningful way. I do appreciate that many people will miss the old Twitter; I am just not one of them.

I don’t want to do All the Things. I want to do a couple things well. I want to be happy with how my memoir is turning out, and once it’s published I want to do my part to get it in the right readers’ hands, those who will benefit from my story. I want to do this mindfully.

At a time when writers and other artists and entrepreneurs are being told to be heard, play big, and be seen, be everywhere, all I want to do is the opposite of that. More and more, I just want to be quiet. I want to keep writing and sharing my writing, but beyond that I want to be still. I crave to be in nature, and cook creative and healthy meals, and, borrowing from James Taylor, to shower the people I love with love.

It must be the act of writing memoir, the calling forth of my memories, regrets, and truth that is causing me to feel, I don’t know, reverent? Humble? I am at peace with the process but I require a lot of reflection, presence, and solitude to nurture this process and to allow the right words to come through me. And I am beginning to trust that this is enough for now, and that things are going to unfold as they should. I believe that my story will shed light, educate, and offer hope. I believe it so much that I don’t want to shout it. I want to whisper with my whole heart.

Or maybe I’m just lazy. But I don’t think so.

Perhaps it is partly due to the stage of writing that I am in, or my age, but I think it’s more than that, and I am curious to find out where this feeling takes me.

I know I am not the only one tired of all that steals our attention when we just need to be still. We are all finding our way to our balance, our sweet spot, the outer reflection of our inner worlds. It looks different for each person and it is never a linear path, is it?

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

*Note: About three weeks ago, I mistakenly included a post about a new site with book information. That note was meant for readers of my old site. This blog which is part of danalaquidara.com is indeed my current site and it will include all updated book news. You are in the right place! Read on.

Most of the time, before we can take on the world, we need to deal with what is right in front of us. It is my experience that in order to meet our goals and aspirations, or to simply live by our values, it serves us well to narrow our focus.

I don’t mean to imply that we shouldn’t have big audacious goals or that we need to play small. I mean that taking the obvious, sometimes monotonous, small steps is the surest way to clear our own path.

These small steps could mean meal planning, or spending just fifteen minutes on a project, or even cleaning out a closet. It could mean resting or making a to-do list or doing the laundry. We’ve got to manage our selves and our immediate environment if we are to be any good to others.

I can think of at least three well-known creatives who called out to God in times of desperation, from their bathroom floors. Why do women tend to cry on bathroom floors? It’s kind of gross. Anyhow, the answers to their cries came as directions or powerful urges to GO TO BED, and CLEAN YOUR ROOM.

We make life more complicated than it has to be when we try to skip the next right thing; the thing that is so simple, so small, that we are tempted to dismiss it. When we do this, we miss out on the clarity, momentum, and peace that is meant for us.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

β€œAt the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires to assist you.”

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

I love that quote and I believe in it with my whole heart. Any worthwhile commitment made with sincerity and certainty, even if we haven’t spoken it aloud, will reveal all manner of support. But it seems that something much less fortunate can also be true:

The moment you commit to something big or new or scary, your reptile brain tries to keep you safe by sabotaging you.

How can both of these things be true? Aren’t they contradictory?

When I finally knew with absolute certainty that I would launch my memoir into the world, I found a publisher. And when I agreed to a deadline, all sorts of other “needs” cropped up; I suddenly needed to help others, to travel, to throw a party, enter a race, and cook nightly gourmet meals.

The best explanation that I can come up with is this: Every day, and perhaps even every moment, we are choosing between our higher and lower selves. Just because our higher selves set a valuable goal and we have the means to achieve it, doesn’t mean our lower brains won’t try to lure us back to safety, familiarity, or laziness. And it really gets tricky when the so-called distractions are good, noble pursuits.

How do we know when we are engaging in “shiny new object” syndrome (SOS), and when we are simply adding more fun, meaning, or creativity to our lives? When is it self-sabotage and when is it just living?

I think that is something we all have to answer for ourselves. I’d love to ponder this more, but you’ll have to excuse me; I’ve got a party to throw.

Minimal Monday

My twin granddaughters are turning five, and they requested a cheetah-rainbow cake. At first, I wasn’t sure if it would be a cake with cheetahs and rainbows on it, or a rainbow in cheetah pattern, or a cheetah in rainbow pattern. I told them I wanted to be surprised. Turns out the frosting was made in a rainbow-colored cheetah pattern. Why didn’t I think of that?

I love how these little girls know what they like and what they want. With their lives still a blank canvas, they are expressing themselves authentically; the world hasn’t had a chance to direct their paintbrush, doling out preferences or critiques that cast doubt on their own desires.

Some of us were lucky enough to reach adulthood with our own intrinsic motivation in tact, which is amazing. Many others developed self-doubt under the influences of society, rigid parenting, or other outside forces that teach a still-developing person to seek the approval of others; this path comes with a lot of cognitive dissonance, as we want or feel one thing but say or do another, for the sake of acceptance. Worse than that is when we no longer feel the dissonance because we’ve adopted others’ demands or preferences as our own.

I am not at all shunning societal norms or construction criticism or mature guidance; all of that has its proper place. It becomes a problem only when we become so outer-focused that we lose touch with our own compass. I love the wise strategy of asking children what they think of their own various projects, choices, outfits, artwork, instead of just doling out a compliment or opinion. Children growing up trusting themselves is a beautiful thing.

When it was time to cut the birthday cake, my granddaughters didn’t seem to notice or care what anyone else thought of it. They loved it. They had confidently made their choice and enjoyed every rainbow-cheetah bite.

Oh the simplicity of that. I hope they hold on to it forever.

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

Here are four things that having a deadline for finishing my book is teaching me:

#1 I should have stopped procrastinating long ago, and taken my creative work more seriously. Now that I have a guarantee of publication, I have to acknowledge all of the time that I could have been working on my book but didn’t. Then I have to let that go.

#2 Doing my craft consistently and for reasonably large blocks of time makes me present, fulfilled, and at peace. I am pretty sure no one promises this more completely than Steven Pressfield in his book The War of Art. I read his book at least twice, and I knew he got it right, but now I am living it.

#3 FOCUSING my ATTENTION is the most important factor in getting something done and it is also the action most likely to be sabotaged and stolen in modern times. Focused attention needs to be planned for and protected. Without it, I am rendered useless, at the whim of every distraction.

#4 I need breaks, and when I’ve written for a good chunk of time, the simplest things feel like the most satisfying indulgences: Basking in the sun for a few minutes, playing with my granddaughters, cooking a meal, taking a walk.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

I have a deadline of October 31st this year for completing the final edits to my memoir. I’ve got a lot left to do and now Halloween is hovering over me like a taunting ghost, as if writing down my deepest thoughts and memories isn’t spooky enough.

Fortunately, I have fallen madly in love with Cal Newport’s Time-Block Planner, a productivity system like no other. Newport is the author of Deep Work and he has created this tool in order to help us focus deeply in a distracted world. This unique planner is helping me to be intentional with every block of time in my day. It does not replace my calendar, or my regular “to-do list”, but it makes it simple and clear what will happen and when. The objective of the planner is to get the most out of the time and attention that you have. It is the best way I have discovered to Get. It. Done.

I was gushing over this planner so much to one of my daughters that she suggested I give it a name. So naturally, I’m calling it Cal.

And since my memoir is the most meaningful and in- depth work I’ve done yet, I am embracing this method every day from now until October 31st. If all goes as planned with Cal, I will surely be celebrating Halloween this year, ghosts and all.

Minimal Monday

I’ve noticed for a long time now, that when I refuse to engage my ‘worry thoughts’ and simply and truly Let Go, the issue or outcome tends to work out. It has been such a strong and welcoming truth for me, in fact, that I have been consciously practicing the Art of Letting Go.

Write it down & let it go

Like most things that matter to me, I write down whatever it is I am letting go of. I’ve started using a small notebook that my daughter had given me as part of a gift. It is a thin, forty-page notebook but it now holds my biggest dreams and every concern that would otherwise weigh on me. Each page now holds a single desire or a problem. The act of writing them down is my ritual just before I let them go.

The trickiest part of letting go is not taking it back. But I have found that the more I practice this, the more evidence I gather that it works, and then the easier it is to repeat.

One of the “wants” in my little notebook was to find a publisher for my memoir. I could have easily continued procrastinating and fretting the rest of my life away; It’s too late, too overwhelming, too scary, to difficult, too unlikely…. But I had become so sick and tired of that soundtrack in my head, that I finally let go. I found myself sending my proposal out to a handful of publishers. Letting go doesn’t mean there won’t ever be actions to take; but when I’ve let go, those actions are taken with no stress, no attachment to outcome, no overthinking it. They just happen.

And guess what? On a beautiful sunny day when those proposal submissions were the furthest thing from my mind, I received a contract! My memoir will published in April. (*For updates, subscribe to this blog)

Not every outcome is as exciting as this, of course. But I have found that the letting go – for real letting go – of desires, attachments, worries and anxieties, brings a peace and a presence of mind that invites and allows a more natural and perfect outcome.

Oftentimes, we just have to get out of our own way.