Minimalism ‘fast’

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Each year I pray and think about a focus for the contemplative 40 day period between Ashwednesday and Easter: so-called Lent.

Last year I went without the distraction of constantly checking Facebook for 40 days and making more time for prayer and meditation.

This year my focus will be on decluttering my physical space, making more room in my head to pray and spend time with God.

Since I struggle with perfectionism a lot, I decided to pick one thing each day that I find hard to let go of, put it on my table for a day and ask myself these questions the next day:

Is this adding value to my life?
Does it make me happy when I look at it?

If it’s a twofold ‘no’ it’s probably gotta go.

If you’d like to follow my progress, you can, on my Instagram account @simple_inspired

If you would like to learn more about minimalist living:
check out Leo Babauta’s website, one of my long time favorite sites: zenhabits.net
and if you’re Dutch, check out Jelle Derckx’ helpful and inspiring website: lijstjes.info (also on IG)

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Snailmail revival

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By Ester Fleurke

As a kid, I used to have several penpals: Wilmie and Anja from Holland, Aurélie and Gwenaëlle from France.
When I was a very young teenager I even had a sweet almost daily love letter correspondence with my boyfriend via snail mail! I even kept all of his letters.

The writing: first in draft, then in neat longhand, walking to the mailbox and then the waiting, oh the sweet waiting!

In this world full of distractions I long for simplicity, I wanna go retro, not techno, slower, not faster, prefering vintage to mass production and snail mail to electronic mail and so-called social networks…

How much more delight is there in the once a day chance of receiving a hand written letter or postcard on my doormat, instead of fighting and then giving in to compulsively checking all of my electronic inboxes.

Now I’ve found something excellent which both tickles my fancy for old-fashioned post and creativity.
Postcrossing!

What is it and how does it work?

1. Go to the website: www.postcrossing.com and register
2. Request an address to send a postcard to and a code to write on it.
3. Recycle, buy, craft, photograph or paint away at your postcard. Don’t forget to write down the special code.
4. Send your postcard to the address. I already sent one to Germany and one to Russia! You can send up to 5 postcards simultaneously.
5. When the receiver gets the card, he or she registers the card with the help of the special code. Now it’s your turn to be eligible to get a postcard from another postcrosser somewhere in the world!

Exciting!

Love, Ester

P.s.
If you really start to get the taste of it, there is a possibility of post swapping on the website as well. Good old pen pal style!

40 Day Devotional: Day 19: Spending wisely

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via Zenhabits

 

New International Version (©2011)

Matthew 6:24
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money

This afternoon I spent budgeting and tracking my finances. This thorough watching of my finances is new to me this year, because I was “leaking” money by subtly overspending on certain things.

I want to take ownership of my finances and make well-informed decisions about where I spend my money, in order to be able to give and be a good steward of the money God has entrusted me with.

Here’s an article with awesome tips from – again- Leo Babauta from Zenhabits.

How I save money (in 16 tips)

Be inspired!

40 Day Devotional: Day 20: Facebook Fasting

Image“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.”

Matthew 6:16 NLT

When reading the above text, I can opt to keep it a secret what I’ve been trying to change for Lent: spending less time on social networks like Facebook, to be able to create more time and space for creating, praying, meditating and living

Nevertheless I am sharing about it, to show you that you don’t die from cutting back on time consuming potentially addictive sites like Facebook. On the contrary.

I’ve been fasting Facebook for Lent for four weeks now. For me that means:

  • not scrolling through the newsfeed like a zombie (ok once in a while my eye might fall on the top story but THAT’S IT)
  • going on it only once every 3 or 4 days to check for private messages
  • using it as a tool to promote my blogposts to my audience (I do that by autoposting, which means I don’t have to open Facebook at all to do that)
  • scrolling quickly through my “notifications” (like I said: only every 3 or 4 days) to see if there’s something I might want to actually react to (instead of opening every single notification)

I think it’s been a success so far, I have been keeping this Daily Devotional up and I am sure I would have had a way harder time to accomplish that (among other things), if I would have been on Facebook, to scratch the unhealthy “I HAVE TO CHECK FACEBOOK NOW!!” urge.

In fact, I like this so much more than the way I used to go on Facebook and linger there and get lost and/or checking it compulsively ten times a day, that I don’t want to go back to my old ways.

Are you inspired to cut back too?

Read this post by Leo Babauta from Zenhabits:

Walled-in: Life without Facebook

or

A survival guide for beating information addiction

Enjoy!

Peace.

40 Day Devotional: Day 22: It’s a beautiful morning!

joyful morning

Psalms 118:24 HCSB

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Good morning! Here in Holland spring is very near! Exciting times of new life, new growth and opportunity.
I just love the fresh breeze in the air after winter.
I find it also a little easier to get up in the morning with earlier daylight available.

Also finding it a challenge to get up EARLY in the morning?

Zen Habits has a helpful and inspiring blog post on this topic: ‘Most succesful techniques for getting up early’

Enjoy your day and remember what you’re grateful for today.

Peace.

 

Focus of 2013: Creativity!

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Amanda Cherie

My focus for 2013 is: getting more creative!

The past year I’ve been looking inward, searching for ways to be more balanced and self-loving, dealing with fear and procrastination and from there reaching outward in love to others, rekindling old relationships.
I regularly wrote about the benedictine monks and their daily practices, which inspired me and led me to interesting insights about time, setting priorities and being mindful and grateful.

I also found out that from silence comes balance and serenity which in turn gives birth to inspiration and creativity.

Here’s a sneak peak at ways in which I want to
BE more creative and DO more creative things regularly in the new year:

1) Chihuahua A Day

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http://instagram.com/esterkaren

On the first of January I started my Chihuahua A Day project on Instagram. I love taking little snapshots of pretty things and animals, making a cute little virtually framed ‘painting’ out of them. It makes me feel joyful and gets my creative juices flowing!
And who would be better and prettier to portray than my precious blonde 10 pound chihuahua Kiara.

2) Writing regularly with low thresholds

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via Pinterest: etsy.com

In 2012 I have learned an invaluable tool in my battle against perfectionism and fear based procrastination: setting encouragingly low thresholds to start an activity: committing to write at least 1 line a day. Possibly more, but one is enough and is just as big an accomplishment as writing whole page.
I’m learning that there are shades of grey between black and white.
I apply this to my blog writing as well as other activities and tasks. A true breakthrough for me!

3) Creative prayer and meditation

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via Pinterest: benedictinemonks.co.uk

I also want to get more creative in my prayer and meditation.
Recently I got a lot of helpful hints from different sources suggesting I can pay or meditate as I am. Everybody is made unique, so why do I think I have to pray or meditate in the same way as other, completely different people and that there’s even a right or wrong way to do it?

What freedom lies in that notion!

4) Following the Artist’s Way image
I’m also planning to follow Julia Cameron’s widely acclaimed program: the Artist’s Way, in the new year. Just like a whole lot of (aspiring) artists, I deal with a lot of negative self talk and assumptions about myself, my work and my potential. The Artist’s way deals with that, in a very gentle and encouraging manner, by means of weekly assignments and encouragement.

I cannot wait to share my progress (not perfection 🙂 with you all!

Do you have a creative focus for 2013 as well? Let me know! Leave a comment below or contact me via:

Facebook, Google + or Twitter

You can also follow my Chihuahua a Day project 365 via: www.instagram.com/esterkaren or http://www.tumblr.com/blog/simple-inspiredliving

Love, peace and happy newyear!

Ester

2 Solutions to perfectionism based procrastination

“What is perfectionism? Do you  hold to lofty standards, demand perfection from yourself, and make your worth contingent on meeting these standards?”  –
Dr. Bill Knaus

For three, almost for months, I have been stuck procrastinating on this very article. Afraid that I might not meet my own lofty standards for it, demanding perfection from myself and making my self-worth contingent on meeting my own standards.

This means I think that if my article is less then perfect, I suck as a whole.
Being a perfectionist and thus a procrastinator, I suffer from a form of dichotomous thinking where I find myself either smart or dumb, good or bad, winner or loser and nothing in between.

What I forget, according to Dr. Knaus, is that I am a complex human being. So if my article should not be up to par, it does not mean that I am bad or dumb. If I would feel that way (and I would), that’d be based on a false conviction.
I am a pluralistic, complex human being with “a broad array of talents, emotions, beliefs, and experiences.”
Therefore if my performance in one tiny area of my life can still be improved, it does not mean I do not perform well in others.

What happens if I fall into this thinking trap?
Here are the seven steps of the vicious cycle of the perfectionism-procrastination process Knaus mentions.

“(1) You hold to lofty standards.
(2) You have no guarantee you’ll do well enough.
(3) Less than the best is not an option.
(4) As you think of not doing well enough, you feel uncomfortable.
(5)  You fear the feelings of discomfort.
(6) You hide your imperfections from yourself and dodge discomfort by doing something “safer,” such as playing computer games. (or checking your Facebook)
(7) You repeat this exasperating process until you get off this contingent-worth merry-go-round by not demanding perfection from yourself.”

Step 7 can go both ways though
– either you learn to become more realistic in your expectations
– or you become lethargic and do nothing anymore, except for “comfort tasks” and start beating yourself up for that too, reinforcing your false conviction that you’re lazy or bad.

Let’s look at some ways to overcome this process:

1) Set the bar lower, not by becoming passive, but by reducing the mountain. A friend of mine told me she writes everyday, AT LEAST 1 sentence and MAXIMUM 15 minutes.

I’ve been trying this and I found that this helps me tremendously when I have to write something I don’t like. I feel a great sense of accomplishment, even if I’ve just written one sentence on a given day. That’s such progress and shift in thinking for me!

If I do feel like writing, but just feel stuck, I stick to the AT LEAST one sentence rule, but don’t set a maximum time, like for this post.
This helps me to set myself into motion. Very often I get into a flow and I find myself writing effortlessly.

2)Keep reminding yourself that you’re a complex person with many talents and emotions. You are a multi-faceted diamond, that’s why you can never be EITHER one OR the other. That doesn’t do justice to the beautifully intricate person you are!

Please take a minute to leave a comment below, I’d really appreciate it!
And if you’d like to follow my blog, go ahead and sign up for the e-mail list or via rss. Thanks for supporting me!
love and peace,
Ester
You can also find me on: Facebook , Twitter or Google +

Procrastination pt.2: Friends with Fear

In my first article about procrastination I talked about procrastination caused by disorganization.

A second cause T. Quek mentions is FEAR.
Someone once told me that it is nothing but False Evidence Appearing Real.

So, procrastination inducing fear comes in two different flavours:

Rational vs. irrational

“I know I should finish my article on procrastination, but why can’t I seem to do it?”

Discipline vs. comfort

“I planned to finish my article, but when time came, I didn’t feel like it anymore.”

The antidote to fear is faith, trust and some inspiration. So here goes.

INSPIRATION

  • Last year in Capetown I came across a simply beautiful collection of poetry by the South African poet Helen Steiner Rice, called: A collection of Joy. Here’s a quote from her poem Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

Yesterday’s dead, tomorrow’s unborn,
So there’s nothing to fear and nothing to mourn,
For all that is past and all that has been
Can never return to be lived once again…
And what lies ahead or the things that will be
Are still in God’s hands, so it is not up to me (…)

  • What Would a Monk Do?

Being a monk is all about living in the present moment. Fear is either living in the future: “I will not be able to finish this task! It’s too big, too hard or fill in the dots…” or in the past: “I could not successfully manage this task in the past, so I will never be able to!”*

A Benedictine monk goes about his task quietly, steadily and mindfully. Not looking back, except at designated times. In the evening he takes time out for a brief examination of conscience. The reassuring rhythm of his life may seem boring to some but appealing to fear-driven creatures like me.
Moreover, he gives all his worries to God in prayer daily.

Freedom for me is surrendering my fears to God on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis and living in a flexible structure, enabling me to change plans at any given moment, with the inner guidance of God.

Everybody has fears and that’s ok. If I befriend my fears, bring them to tea, chat with them and surrender them, then that’s great. If I don’t succeed in doing that, I just dust myself off and try again. There’s always a new moment.

PRACTICAL TIPS

What’s my solution?

  • Making bite-size chunks of tasks and putting them daily from my general (big-ass) todo list onto a handwritten (this is essential for me) daily todolist (a detailed account about my current system, which is: GTD combined with ZTD, in one of my following articles).
  • Surrendering fear by being Aware, Accepting it and taking Action, in the form of little action steps. That’s how I befriend my fears.
  • If my worry or fear is too big I write it on a note and put that in my crafted God-box. You can find awesome step by step creative inspiration to make your own here.

What actions do you take to get out of fear-based procrastination? Love to hear your stories!

Next time we’ll talk about a third and my ‘favorite’ source of procrastination: perfectionism based! So stay tuned!

I’d love for you to spread the word via Facebook, email, Twitter or word of mouth if you like what you’ve read.
Word of mouth rocks! My humble gratitude for that.

Peace!

You can find me on: Facebook or on Twitter.

 or
 Take a minute to leave a comment now, I’d really appreciate it!

* T. Quek

A Benedictine solution to procrastination: pt 1: Organize

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“An ancient proverb states: ‘It is not the size of the tree but the depth of its roots that make it strong.’ Procrastination usually has very deep roots. The problem of procrastination is one that often goes beyond self-discipline and whipping oneself from stasis to stress.” T. Quek

Comparing this to the way of a Benedictine monk, I notice his fluent transition from one activity to the next, at the sound of a bell, without dragging his feet.

Quek mentions 4 possible causes for procrastination:

(1) Disorganization:

  • poor distinction between urgency and priority
  • distractibility
  • forgetfulness
  • ‘lumping’

(2) Fear

  • rational vs. irrational
  • discipline vs. comfort

(3) Perfectionism

(4) Procrastination as an indicator of underlying illnesses (like ADD or mental disorders)

This is the first article in a series of three, where I go into these causes and present a Benedictine inspired solution for them.

Disorganization: The luring illusion of ‘comfort’ tasks

This is characterized by a poor distinction between urgency and importance.

Quek’s theory is that the typical procrastinator tends to procrastinate doing a lot of so-called ‘comforttasks, which are easy to reach, convenient or interesting to perform.
This causes a pile-up of old and new tasks wich start crying out for attention, thus becoming urgent, regardless of their level of importance.
The ‘tyranny’ of all the open loops of important tasks start weighing down on the procrastinator and she will want to perform even more comfort tasks to relieve that stress: a vicious cycle is born.

Distractibility: “What does THIS button doooo?”

Distractions are a multitude of off-task behaviours

This is a HUGE issue for me. Midsentence I fall prey to the lure of Facebook, What’sApp, texting, email – not so much anymore these days because I get so repelled by all the unanswered emails sitting in my inbox – eating, drinking, sudden cleaning urges, old-fashioned daydreaming, or doing non-important, non-urgent comfort tasks, *sigh*…

Forgetfulness: “Yeah, I was just about to do it…”

I can be really short about this: Put your mind on paper (or electronics). Author and guru of GTD (Getting Things Done): David Allen states we can only consciously remember a list of 10 things, if we put in another, then we “erase” the first again.

“The mind is for having ideas not holding them” –

David Allen

It’s key though to keep reminders of things to do in a dedicated place! Not in ten!
In my next post I will elaborate on this, with regards to the GTD-method.

Here’s already a nice teaser for you: David’s terrific video talk for “Dolectures“, on this subject.

Lumping!

Lumping or chunking is the errant perception that most tasks come as an inseperable whole (a “lump”) and cannot be subdivided and dealt with systematically.

Whoa! I feel so relieved to see that my plight actually has a name. How many fears in my life stem from this misconception.
Lumping my writing, lumping my household, lumping my life!

Ok, now that I’ve acknowledged my utter state of disorganization, I feel relieved yet inspired to change this. But: babysteps, one step at a time, towards no more lumping.

How would a typical Benedictine monk go about his tasks? Can I borrow some of his wisdom to infuse into my disorganized life?

  • A Benedictine monk would divide his attention well, praying for discernment in setting priorities at the beginning of his day, after a period of empty mind: meditation.
  • He would neither make a distinction between Ora et Labora (Pray and Work), nor between eating, loving or praying, because he knows that everything is equally important. The mundane is just as key as the heavenly.
  • He would also set emotional boundaries for himself: saying “no” to himself in case of distraction. So when the bell tolls: change of scenes. No: ” I quickly finish this…” or “Hey, I am praying but I actually have to give my abbot a phone call right now”.
  • He would take notes on his little notepad, which he takes with him everywhere, hidden in his habit. (Don’t you like the pun that monks are creatures of habit? A monk’s “habit” is also his cape.) He would then place a reminder on his to-dolist, but there wouldn’t even be the need for an agenda, because his day is being shaped by the ever present bell.
  • And he would not need an intricate productivity system, because his life were already stripped to the bare essentials: eat, pray, love your neighbour, work and recreate.
  • The monk would keep it simple, and progress slowly but steadily. He would give each different activity his undivided* attention, mindfully and slowly going from one thing to the next.
  • The daily timetable or horarium** of the monk automatically prevents him from “lumping”, because his day is already neatly subdivided. The great thing for him though, is that his abbot makes that table already for him, following the Rule of Benedict. We in turn have to let our own wise mind (our own ‘abbot’) sternly but lovingly set boundaries for ourselves, using a timer and planning ahead at the start of each new day.

To be continued!

In the next post we are going to look at fear-based procrastination.

Let me know if you recognize anything in my article, I’d love to talk with you about it! Maybe we can inspire each other with ways to tackle the problem of procrastination.

You can also find me on Facebook or Twitter.

*to divide comes from dividere (Latin), which means: to force apart or to cleave.

** Continue reading