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!
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love and peace,
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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!

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love and peace,


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The power of words

Here’s a beautiful and profound piece by Henri Nouwen, from Bread of the Journey, as an introductory on today’s topic: using creative versus destructive words

Words, words, words. Our society is full of words: on billboards, on television screens, in newspapers and books. Words whispered, shouted, and sung. Words that move, dance, and change in size and color. Words that say, “Taste me, smell me, eat me, drink me, sleep with me,” but most of all, “buy me.” With so many words around us, we quickly say: “Well, they’re just words.” Thus, words have lost much of their power.

Still, the word has the power to create. When God speaks, God creates. When God says, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3), light is. God speaks light. For God, speaking and creating are the same. It is this creative power of the word we need to reclaim. What we say is very important. When we say, “I love you,” and say it from the heart, we can give another person new life, new hope, new courage. When we say, “I hate you,” we can destroy another person. Let’s watch our words.

What influence do you have with your words?

Is it creative, life-giving, encouraging, hopeful? Do you give praise, give positive feedback, say loving words, say kind words, do you create encouraging pieces of writing like blogging, noveling or poetry?

Or are you mostly lured by the temptation to be destructive with your words; do you gossip, slander, say denigrating words, say hateful words, use sarcasm or cynicism, or do you disclose other people’s secrets or give a lot of negative feedback?

Here’s a proposition to cut back on your negative words and increase your positive verbal expressions in 4 weeks:

  1. Week 1: Just tally marks every day on a notepad, noting the amount of times you used your words destructively and how many times creatively and kindly. This is just to make you aware of what you’re doing before changing your behavior.
  2. Week 2: This week’s challenge will be to daily replace two bad words  with two positive encouraging or creative words. Keep notes everyday and reward yourself with kind words or by doing something you love. Positive feedback for yourself is important!
  3. Week 3: This week focus solely on eliminating gossiping, because that is one of the most destructive uses of words. You damage other people as well as your own soul. Here’s the solution: put a rubber band on your right wrist. Every time you gossip or gossip along with somebody at home or at work you put the rubber band to your left wrist and after a positive remark you can place it back again, the goal being to keep it always on the right wrist. Quitting gossiping can be quite daunting, especially when you tell people you don’t want to talk about anybody else behind their back anymore and you could be perceived as a killjoy or a spoilsport. Just think about it: people will respect you more for your integrity in the end and you will have a clear conscience.
  4. Week 4: In this last week I want you to play with words and experience their creative usage. Write, blog, write a poem, write a tiny letter to your spouse and put it — with a hint of perfume — on his pillow, journal, write down beautiful verses of Scripture or poems with a nifty pen with lavender ink, play, enjoy, be spontaneous, be creative!

Now you are further along the path of kindness and love than most people around you probably will be .

And if you fall back again: say kind words to yourself and try again 😉

How to make New Year’s resolutions and make them stick!

My husband suggested glueing my New Year’s resolutions to the floor in order to make them stick….
I, however prefer a more practical approach to the matter 🙂

Recently I discovered a very inspiring and motivating site on habit change, constructed by Leo Babauta, author of the Zen To Done approach to productivity, simplicity and habit change. The name is:
Leo proposes a method to change six habits in 2010, one by one.

I almost jumped up out of my seat for sheer joy!!!! Yes! I’d found it!!
For years now I’ve been wanting to be an early riser in the morning, but failed miserably at my attempts of getting out of the comfort zone of my cozy comfy bed. I’m simply too fond of sleeping.
This stirred a new feeling in me. There was hope of being an early bird after all.

Where to begin?
First go to and have a look there. Here’s what Leo proposes:

  1. Pick 6 habits for 2010.
  2. Pick 1 of the 6 habits to start with.
  3. Commit as publicly as possible to creating this new habit in 2 months.
  4. Break the habit into 8 baby steps, starting with a ridiculously easy step. Example: if you want rise early, start by rising five minutes earlier each day for week.
  5. Choose a trigger for your habit – something already in your routine that will immediately precede the habit. For example: the card next to your bed with all the benefits of rising early. See also
  6. Do the 1st, really easy baby step for one week, right after the trigger. Post your progress publicly, e.g. on your blog.Each week, move on to a slightly harder step. You’ll want to progress faster, but don’t. You’re building a new habit.
  7. Repeat this until you’ve done 8 weeks.
  8. You now have a new habit! Congratulations! Commit to Habit No. 2 and repeat the process.

It’s also very important to reward yourself:

  1. after 3 days
  2. after a week
  3. after a month
  4. after 2 months

My first habit changing challenge started the 22 of December. After three days I rewarded myself with a dive in the blogging archives of Zen Habits, after week I spoiled myself with a visit to a sauna, and I already ordered my next reward: the great print book The Power of Less by, you’ve guessed it, Leo Babauta, my productivity guru.

What six habits have I picked for 2010?

  1. January – February: getting up at 7 o’clock in the morning.
  2. March April: create everyday for an hour: journaling, blogging, creating handcrafted cards, creating material for my job
  3. May June: no impulse spending
  4. July August: declutter my home, install simplicity and keep it that way
  5. September October: visit the Daily Audio Bible prayer room twice a week at a fixed time slot
  6. November December: eat healthy: only eat cookies or candy or crisps once a week.

So, I want to challenge you to pick six habits too and your first one! Please leave a comment on which habits you’re going to tackle, thereby making your plans public too (step 3)! And we can encourage each other!

Best wishes for 2010!! Go for it!

To get your copy of The Power of Less go to:

or if you’re Dutch: