Minimal Monday

Each year I reread one of Don Miguel Ruiz’s books, and this year I’ve chosen The Four Agreements Companion Book.

Ruiz’s books are full of great wisdom and insight, but I want to share part of a passage that I think is pure gold in its simplicity.

In Chapter Seven, Ruiz writes about seeing through our old beliefs that we adopted from others in order to get to our authentic truth. He acknowledges that this can be very difficult because the belief system that breaks our integrity has our loyalty. So how do we know what is true?

“Go inside and listen to your body because your body will never lie to you. Your mind will play tricks, but the way you feel in your heart, in your gut, is the truth.”

(Ruiz, 2000, p.152)

Isn’t this reason enough to live in our bodies? To take great care of our vessels? To get out of our heads, and to experience the richness of life, including truths that are beautiful and those that are painful, is truly living.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

We are just six days away from the new year and many of us are thinking about new goals, old habits, and what we want 2023 to look like. The fact that next year will bring plenty that I have no control over, is reason enough to do my best at what I can control.

For these things, I have made a short list:

  • My Thoughts Years of consistent meditation has helped me to be in charge of my own mind and I am going to need this skill more than ever.
  • My Beliefs Aren’t beliefs the thoughts that we think over and over? Beliefs were mostly planted by others when we were children, but now we get to consciously choose them. I want to choose wisely and strategically.
  • My Habits My daily habits seriously make or break me. The seemingly small things I do or don’t do each day determine if I am in the flow of life or not and this makes all the difference. One thing I know I need less of in 2023 is making exceptions for overriding good habits; It’s a special occasion, just for today, I’ll get back to it tomorrow, this won’t matter much are all phrases I want to leave behind. They are a slippery slope because life hands us too many excuses for exceptions. What I want more of is planning for success, making good habits easier, automatic, and immediately rewarding.
  • My Environment Last but never least, the environment we create for ourselves either nurtures or hinders everything else. It affects our thoughts, beliefs, habits and energy – how we feel.

Perhaps the golden question for the new year should be How Do You Want to Feel? Then let your answer guide you.

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

One of my favorite and most challenging areas to simplify is my writing life. My memoir coach, the talented and magnificent Marion Roach Smith, has told me that every scene should move the story forward. (You can find Marion here: https://marionroach.com/)

The writing advice that we should kill our darlings, a phrase coined by William Faulkner, is ever-present in my mind these days. It means that writers “must ruthlessly eliminate any words, characters, side plots or turns of phrase that we personally love but that do nothing for the story.” Memoir should not be a recounting of everything we remember. It needs a theme, and the particular scenes that support that theme. Everything else needs to go.

Rather than calling it killing my darlings though, I prefer to say clearing out my writing clutter. It suits me better. And a major part of my revision process has been to do just that. Chapter by chapter, I am applying my love for decluttering, clarity and simplicity, so that every scene is poignant and nearly every word is necessary. Who would’ve thought my passion for decluttering and organizing would serve me so well in writing? I think Marion will be proud.

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

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

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.

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!