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

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Practicing Mindfulness and Eye for Beauty

Mindfulness techniques seem to be the new trend nowadays. Of course the concept is not new, being rooted in both Eastern and Western spirituality.

Since I’m still on a quest to integrate the Benedictine way of living in my daily life this year, in order to gain awareness, peacefulness and a healthier daily structure, I will share with you some monastic secrets of being mindful.

What is mindfulness anyway?

Let’s start with saying what it is NOT: mindfulness is NOT: sitting on your meditation pillow all day and doing nothing. Neither is it only thinking about God / a Higher Power and floating away on your boat of self-centered happiness.

Here’s a definition from an online dictionary:

mind·ful adj.

1 bearing in mind : aware

2 inclined to be aware
— mind·ful·ly adverb
— mind·ful·ness noun
e.g.: a truly considerate person, always mindful of the needs of others

Related to MINDFUL
Synonyms: alive, aware, conscious
Antonyms: insensible, oblivious, unaware, unconscious, unmindful”

Benedictine Mindfulness

Being mindful in a Benedictine way, is more about connecting than about isolation. It is about paying attention to what is right in front of your nose. It’s giving people and things their due attention and care, both the mundane and the spiritual. In that sense Benedictine Spirituality is profoundly “down to earth”, which sets it apart from many other forms of spirituality

In the excellent resource on Benedictine living: Wil Derkse’s book “The Rule of Benedict for Beginners” I found a beautiful example of two mindful Benedictine nuns in the Hildegard Monastery:

“We see [the nuns] during different moments of their daily rhythm: singing God’s praise in the monastery church (in polished Gregorian), working: the precise work of the goldsmith, the thorough cleansing of the lamp shades, meticulously teaching a private class of [philosophy] by the abdis (…) to a young novice, arranging flowers for the altar, working in the wine cellars, attentively reading private literature in their rooms, a phone conversation in the monastery hall, during which the nun retreats to an alcove to give the caller his due attention, installing new electric wiring, during relaxed leisure activities…”

What is most striking in these examples, is that the nuns give everything and everyone their undivided and due attention, whether it be cleaning a toilet or conducting a conversation, scrubbing the floor or arranging the toilets, praying and meditating or leisure activities. Everything is attended to in the right way.

“To attend and get things right” –

Iris Murdoch

A specific area of attention that comes into view if you look at the nuns is the beautyfying of their environment:

“Beauty and order are contagious” and the reverse is equally true.

“A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever” – John Keats

Monasteries are an oasis of care and cultivation, the proverbial neat handwriting of the nuns or monks, carefully arranged flowers, every tool put in its own right place.

Little things do matter; they contribute to an atmosphere of peacefulness, order and beauty.
Outward order creates inward order and inward order paradoxically creates space for focus and creativity.

How can I be attentive/mindful in my own life?

  • by being fully aware in the present moment, taking care of the very task at hand, ignoring distractions as well as possible, yet being responsive to what the situation requires at a given time.
  • by treating every task as equal, and as an opportunity to give God (/your Higher Power) praise, be it scrubbing or praying. Everything done with an attitude of gratitude.
  • by making sure to practice outer order with love and an eye for esthetics, especially in the small things.

Goal

Today I will be mindful by: acknowledging urges to procrastinate or otherwise follow my impulses, doing my household chores with as much love and care as my writing, making sure my living room looks orderly, pretty and inviting.

Are you on board with me?

Please share with me how you practice Benedictine mindfulness today. Do you have tips and tricks?

You can do so in the comment section below or on Facebook.

In gratitude,

Ester

Benedict Project 4: Healthy routines

Starting my new part-time job, I noticed my freshly implemented routines are starting to be shaken up little.
Time to get back on track, the Benedictine way!

One of the key-factors to getting back into the saddle, is going to bed on time every night! I say, going to bed on time every night!

That, and establishing new routines while ingraining the other ones.

If you are interested in learning about the daily routines of a Benedictine monk, you can check out the website of the Münster Schwarzach monastery, of which best-selling author, ‘spiritual guru’ and Benedict monk Anselm Grün is the financial manager*.

New routines to implement:

  • Tiny morning and evening meditation.

Nothing too big or lofty, or else I’ll easily slip into austrich mode. Starting small, spending 5 minutes in my meditation room, taking it easy. In my busy life, it’s so easy to get carried away by all the hustle and bustle. That’s why I’m taking time to stop, think, pray, BE STILL. My soul needs that kind of counteraction on a daily basis.

  • Social media-free Sunday (my resting day), on which I take time for my husband, pets, God and creativity or nature activities to charge up for the week ahead.

Routines to further practice:

  • going to bed early
  • getting up on time every morning
  • evening routine: no computer after 7.15/7.30 pm(start relaxing mode)
    • preparing for the day to come: clothes, check agenda, prepare bag and lunch. Flylady has invaluable advice for you on this as well.
    • clean for 15 min: do a quick tidy up of the house, feed the animals.

This way I hope to have time for more meditation and prayer in the evening, gain some balance and stay out of the claws of  ‘zombying out‘ on internet.

Let me know how you’re doing with the changes you’ve made or intended to make. Love to hear and learn from you!

Please take a minute to leave a comment now, I’d really appreciate it!

And if you like what you’ve read, go ahead and sign up for the e-mail list or via rss!! Thanks for supporting me, it means a lot…
love and peace,
Ester
You can also find me on: Facebook, Google + or Twitter.
*cellarar

The Benedict Project 3: Time Management Tips

A few weeks into my Benedict Project I’m coming to the insight that getting up in the morning and going to bed at night at more or less fixed times is actually hugely depending on the art of starting and stopping a previous task.

Given my passionate and somewhat impulsive nature, I have a big tendency to get carried away by the latest and the loudest. Often times I start an internet task (like: research for my blog) and find a thousand more interesting things, which I clip onto my Evernote or (even more addictingly) pin on Pinterest or share on Facebook.
Very often I get so swept away that

  1. I get into procrastination mode
  2. my task doesn’t get done
  3. I experience a gnawing sense of being lost, of emptiness and failure
  4. the distractions are not even fun anymore and are guilt-inducing
  5. I have the feeling time is slipping away…leaking away..and I am wasting my life

Benedictine monks have several fixed tasks during the day, like: praying, working, meditating, reading and studying. They are never short on time!
Why is that?
They don’t carry on reading a particular good piece of literature “because it is so compelling”, they don’t continue praying “because they’re not done yet”, they don’t prolong their meditation time, “because they’re spacing out so nicely”, they don’t drag on with Mass “because working is less important”, they don’t study longer than scheduled “because they’ve procrastinated and have to catch up”, they don’t continue working after the alotted time “because work is not finished yet”.

How refreshing and counter-cultural is that, in a world where 60 hour workweeks seem to be the norm and working through the night is considered virtuous and ambitious? But the monks don’t ignore the bells and neither should you, if you want a to live a more productive, frictionless and spiritual life.

“But as soon as the first signal for None is made, let each and all break off from their work and be ready by the time the second signal has sounded.”- Rule of Benedict

Benedictine monks stick to their daily routine like velcro and know how important it is to start on time and stop on time, making mental space for the next task.

This goes against my human nature. I want to quit things I find hard or boring and I want to prolong things that give me pleasure as long as possible. How freeing it must be to develop a healthy Benedictine sense of discipline, character and time management.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

An added benefit of starting and stopping properly is that I am never “idle“.
Benedict already knew:

“Idleness is inimical* to the soul; and therefore the brethren ought to be occupied, at fixed seasons, with manual work and again at fixed seasons with spiritual reading.”

I’ve noticed that my productivity is inversely proportional to the time I seem to be having. I seem to get less productive because I get idle or lazy by thinking I have all the time in the world, and I actually function better with deadlines and setting my timer for tasks.

Practical suggestions:

  • keep a kitchen timer or your phone with you at all times and consciously start each activity, alotting a specific time for it before you begin and setting your timer.
  • STOP when the timer goes off! Be still!
    Make some notes of where you’ve stopped and wish to continue next time, to make starting again easier.
  • Prepare for the next task, be conscious and aware, creating space in your head
  • Set your timer for the next task (or resting period)… and so on

Let me know if you’re implementing Benedictine time management into your own life and what your experiences are in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you!

Please take a minute to leave a comment now.

And if you like what you’ve read, go ahead and sign up for the e-mail list or via rss!! Thanks for supporting me, it means a lot…

love and peace,

Ester

You can also find me on: Facebook, Google + or Twitter.

You can find my previous posts of the Benedict Project here:

Benedict Project 2012: a sneak peak

Benedict Project 1: getting up in the morning

Benedict Project 2: going to bed on time

Continue reading

the Benedict Project 2: Going to bed on time

After two weeks of attempting to get up early, I learned three things:

  1. I am powerless over snoozing and getting up late in general and I can only ask God to take it away from me
  2. it helps if I go to bed 9 hours before I have to get up
  3. it is about progress, not perfection (it does NOT help to beat myself up over it)

It humbled me to experience, that not everything I put my mind to is happening the way I want it too. I have to follow God’s guidance .

Hearken continually within thine heart, O son, giving attentive ear to the precepts of thy master [God]*

I will accept myself, but I will strive for more anyway. Gretchen Rubin puts it like this:

Although I have not yet succeeded in getting up early in the morning, I gained some valuable insights and I will continue to press on, adding a second goal: going to bed on time in the evening.

I’ve been having a great conversation with a reader the past weeks, who made some clever suggestions to make going to bed easier:

  • a 20-30 minute walk before sleep/ shut down the computer at 8:30 pm
  • no more snacks/cookies in the evening
  • drinking a decaffeinated cup of tea

I’d recommend herbal tea with chamomile, lavender or valerian, like Pukka’s Night time blend… Coffee is definitely a no-go for me!

My idea is to make the time before I go to bed an unwinding, closing ritual, inspired by the Benedictine Monks.

5 pm**: the monks have their sunset evening prayer service called Vespers

6 pm: dinner in silence while one monk reads something from Scripture or other literature

7-8 pm: Benedict prescribes the silent reading of ‘edifying literature’ in the evening by the monks in their cells (rooms).

8 pm: End of the day-prayers are said: Compline.
Afterwards Great Silence is observed: everybody goes to their rooms and is completely silent.

What speaks to me about the monks’ ritual is that they stick to a fixed bedtime, which is part of their daily ‘order’ or schedule. What also appeals to me is the strict application of silence in the Benedictine routine.
I’d love to experience in my own life the kind of freedom those ‘restrictions’ must give in the mind and the body.

Keeping all this wisdom in mind, I’ve come to a proposition for myself for this week, which I hope to develop into an evening ritual.

  • EAT 6:15 pm dinner. Note: after dinner: no computer!!
  • READ 6:45 pm Bible reading and prayer with my husband (myVespers‘)
  • CLEAN 7:00 pm cleaning up: 15 minutes kitchen and 15 minutes tidying the living room
  • FREE 7:30 – 8:30 pm free time to: hang out with husband and animals, read, take a luxury bath, call a friend, write a letter, drink herbal tea, listen to classical music…
  • PREPARE 8:30 pm prepare lunch and backpack for next day, pick clothes for next day, look at my appointments, feed the rabbits / tidy their cages
  • WALK 9:00 pm walk the dog (unhurried and in gratitude of the day)
  • CLEAN ME 9:30 pm wash, put on pj’s, write in 1-sentence journal
  • PRAY 9:50 pm short prayer and 5 minutes of silent meditation in my ‘meditation room’: my ‘Compline‘. I hope to expand the prayer and meditation in the future, but I want to start small to create a habit.
  • SLEEP 10 pm: in bed and eyes closed ;-). The Great Silence has begun!

I need 9 hours sleep nowadays, so this means I will be able to get up at 7am if I’ll stick to my bedtime routine.

For inspiration, I have composed a ‘Morning Moodboard‘ and a ‘Time To Go To bed-Moodboard’  at Pinterest.

Let me know your proposed evening ritual and let’s encourage each other for 1,5 week to stick to it and share our experience in the comments.

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

p.s.: If you want to read more about this topic: Gretchen Rubin just happened to write the post: ‘I can never go to bed on time!’, featuring an awesome video.

* Rule of Benedict: Prologue

** the times of the day vary a little in each monastery but are the same each day.

the Benedict Project 1: Getting up in the morning

This morning I got up at 7:00 a.m. It felt great because:

  • I am more productive
  • I have more tranquility in the morning: save myself from hurry and indecision.
  • I have time for a morning devotional time
  • I feel better about myself, and don’t feel so sluggish.

It’s high time for me to make this a habit.

“Excellence is not a singular act, but a habit. You are what you repeatedly do.”

Shaquille O’Neal

I found some motivation to make this a habit in Benedict’s Rule.

‘Let us therefore now at length rise up as the Scripture incites us when it says: “Now is the hour for us to arise from sleep.” And with our eyes open to the divine light, let us with astonished ears listen to the admonition of God’s voice daily crying out (…)Run while ye have the light of life, that the shades of death envelop you not.’

The Benedictine monks have a strict daily routine, started off daily with getting up early. When I was on a Benedictine retreat, I got to experience some of the benefits these monks have of:
a) rising early
b) rising the same time everyday
c) rising with a purpose

I felt so empowered, focused and proactive.
But why is it to hard for me to get up then everyday?

There’ve been times when my life wasn’t so happy and peaceful as it was right now in my 30s. As a kid, I used to have stomach aches in the morning, because I didn’t want to go to school. That’s where I learned that to snooze under the warm cozy fluffy covers was the safe thing to do.
Not anymore! I’m not in fear of anything or anyone anymore in the morning. I am able to live now! Nowadays, I have so much to look forward to:

  • My Chihuahua dog greeting me heartily, like I’ve been away for two months.
  • Writing with passion.
  • Experiencing another start of the day: with new possibility, new strength and a clean slate.
  • Connecting with God and receiving guidance.
  • An awesome breakfast with a nearly perfect cappuccino or caffe latte, from my espresso machine with electric milk heater/foamer.

There is absolutely no reason to stay in the safety of my bed anymore, my life is better than it ever has been and I want to honor that life, and the Creator who gave it to me, by getting up without complaining, full of gratitude.

You snooze you lose. Live now, procrastinate later.-

Karen Salmansohn

I love quotes, they inspire me and motivate me.

My goal is to get up this week six days out of seven at 7:00. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Tips and tricks I’m gonna use:

  • setting my alarm in the evening to go to bed on time
  • setting my alarm clock in the morning at 7:00 (outside of my bedroom!)
  • Cold-turkey rising: no snoozin’! get going immediately
  • Sharing with others about it, to hold myself accountable.
  • Choosing one indulgence to do for 15 minutes as a reward when I get up (for example: playing with Pinterest or Listography) as an immediate reward. Yes folks, that’s the way my brain works: instant gratification!

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 that way!

love and peace,

Ester

You can also find me on: Facebook or Twitter.

Continue reading

The Benedict Project 2012: a Sneak Peek

Simple & Silent

A few years ago, I first read ‘the Rule of Benedict for Beginners’ at my first silent retreat.
That’s where the seeds for my quest for the simple and the silent were planted…
Quickly I forgot all about it, and was constantly trying to swallow a river of information from a garden hose, driven crazy by multi-tasking, never satisfied, never feeling good enough…
I needed a break and some guidance. That’s when I started looking for a template for my life in order to attain three ideals:

  • a healthy disciplined structure
  • a quiet mind
  • an intimate relationship with God – listening more than speaking

Bliss of Benedictinism

My fascination for Benedictinism was finally rekindled in 2011 when, after a difficult year of pain, grief and growth, I started to live my life instead of merely surviving.

A search for a new way of living led me into reading about the monastic life of the Benedictine monks again.
I started to wonder whether I could apply some of what they had into my ordinary daily life.The simple bliss and down-to-earth practicality of Benedictinism increasingly captivated me, as I was researching it.

Benedictinism is the most down to earth of all Monastic Spiritualities, the most stripped down form of spirituality there is. It is about doing the same things differently and not to aim for “higher spiritual highs”. A potent antidote to my mind, which always strives to complicate things as much as possible.

Mindfulness & Beauty

Attention to details, to the beauty of ordinary things and mindful action can change any mundane task into a work of art dedicated to God. It’s about going Back to Basics: ‘Ora et Labora’. So ‘Pray and Work’ instead of the somewhat hedonistic and self-centered motto ‘Eat, Pray, Love’.

Simple & Inspired

That sounds like (Gregorian) music to my little overstimulated ears and overwhelmed mind. So it was only a logical next little step that I decided to change the name of my blog from: ‘Inspiration & Productivity’ to: ‘Simple & Inspired Living’ to better fit my changed focus. Recently, I also got the new domain name: simple-inspired.com.

Presenting: The Benedict Project

You are warmly invited to join me as I embark on my road to applying Benedictine spirituality and way of living into my daily little urban life and sharing about it this year. I proudly present to you: The Benedict Project.

Sneak peak at my plans for 2012:
  • Practicing Benedictine principles in my life and regularly blogging about my experiences.
  • Offering suggestions and exercises for you to practice.
  • Visiting a few Benedict Monasteries this year and taking you virtually with me.
Stay tuned for my next post!

Questions, comments and shared experience are more than welcome in the comments-section below, on Twitter or via Facebook.

If you like this, please forward it to a friend. I am very grateful for word-of-mouth sharing!

* The title was partly inspired by great author Gretchen Rubin‘s #1 best-selling, lovely must-read book: the Happiness Project., available at Amazon.