I'm typing this entry from my favorite coffee shop in New Orleans - Rue de la Course. I have all kinds of computer work to do, and so I've rewarded myself for sticking with this challenge by coming here to work - in fact I'm considering doing a tour of New Orleans coffee shops with wireless in the upcoming weeks - it really helps me keep focused when it's just me, a computer, a table, a glass of iced tea and a giant slice of almond buttercream cake! Yay! So, here's what's going on with my whimsical cardinals. Tomorrow I'll do some tweaking of things I'm not quite happy with and then start on something new. More birds? Cats? Abstracts? Not sure. But something with color. I like using all the colors in the box!
No drawings to share today. I did draw, and I'm still enjoying it, but the current drawing's in process and possibly a bit disastrous. No worries- disastrous or not, it's soothing. I put on Pandora to a nice calming station with a lot of Enya and Brian Eno and Hillary Stagg and Andreas Vollenweider, I set the timer and I draw. I'm happy that I gave myself that gift again today, and I'm a little in awe that I'm going to continue to do that for twenty-five more days! I'm still enjoying grass time. I had a bunch of meetings and calls this morning, so grass time happened in the late afternoon during a sun shower. Glorious. My sweetheart surprised me and snapped this pic- sadly, you can't see the light rain.
If you've missed it and want to know more about why grass time is so important to me, check out this recent post.
Part of my grass time routine is to read a an entry a day from Simple Abundance - and look what was included in today's piece:
"Please steal time every day, if you cannot find it in any other way, to lie on the grass, or in a hammock, under a huge tree this lovely month... and relax. What a tonic this is for the soul! What a rest for weary nerves!... The greatest need today is for calmer homes..." This was written by Nell B. Nichols way back in 1924. Wow - still holds true today, don't you think?
I'm still reading Martha Beck's Four Day Win and applying it to my days - thus the decision to gift myself with creative play for my 30 day challenge instead of making another rule about managing my time - I have to believe that I will really give myself time to enjoy daily play before I ever get my head out of the "famine brain" concept of getting things done.
And it's working! Here's an example. Normally I put off going to the post office or bank for as long as possible. I've been known to show up at the bank with a month and a half of checks. And these are deposits! Crazy, I know! I don't know why my nutty brain associates errands with some kind of apocalypse - as if it's going to take more than ten minutes to go to the bank. Or even the post office! My mind can start acting as if I'm about to plan an Everest expedition.
Now, since I'm giving myself time to enjoy what I love - to play at drawing with no agenda other than play - I'm filling my emotional coffers with self-compassion and self-love. And don't ask me why this works, but from that brain state it's so much easier to get things done! And this strategy holds true for weight loss. Losing weight from a place of lack and punishment doesn't work well in the long run, and managing tasks and time from a place of lack and a screwy belief that there's not enough time to get things done and do what you love - that doesn't work either.
Martha Beck writes, "The opposite of fat is love." And I'll add, "The opposite of clutter and time disorganization is love." Martha encourages us to focus on appreciation and gratitude, and watch how it improves our health and well-being, and surprisingly, leads to leaner bodies and more organized homes!
I positively glowed with gratitude today. I had lovely emails from friends, and some cheering on from a fellow coach. I sat in the grass in a sun shower, and the cat even joined me at the end. I worked on my business and played. I was practically floating from all the gratitude on my errands to the post office and bank, and I could feel that lightness spreading to the people around me. And here's the cherry on top: I got an unexpected check in the mail today - from my health insurance company of all places! Close to $100! And it's in the bank, not kicking around in a ten inch high pile of paper clutter! That's a lot to be grateful for.
If you're struggling with something you're trying to change or improve in your life, see what happens when you make gratitude a daily practice. Write down what you're grateful for and why. See if it starts to make you feel better, lighter, more able to make the change you want to make. And if you've played with gratitude lists in the past but slacked off recently, today is a great day to begin again. I'd love to hear about your experiences with making gratitude a regular habit!
And here's one last thing to be grateful for: purple coneflowers blooming!
What a difference it makes to feed your soul while you get things done, and to make that a priority! 3 days, just 30 minutes a day, and I have this: It's no Van Gogh, but it makes my heart happy, and that's what matters. If you've ever been in a cypress swamp in the fall, hopefully you'll know what you're looking at. Otherwise it might appear to be an interesting abstract!
And ten minutes in the grass soothed my soul, and produced this pretty pine cone photo:
Lastly, keeping up with my paper stuff for ten minutes a day means I can take things like bank statements that come in the mail and deal with them immediately instead of putting them in a pile for later that grows and grows until there are three months of bank statements in the pile along with all kinds of other put-off tasks and decisions. There's power and momentum in taking care of things now.
But the most power comes from giving myself the gift of time to play at making art. I can't tell you how delicious that is.
This is typical for me - I start strong, I'm intoxicated by the challenge and love the rewards. When I have to pay attention is when I get tired or a little overwhelmed or I miss a day and go into "Abort, Abort!" mode. But right now I'm in the honeymoon phase and I'm going to bask in that!
Want to join the challenge? Come sign up to our Facebook group so you can have a community of supporters - you can start anytime this month as the challenge goes through the end of August. Come have fun and make a positive change! Or share more in the comments here about your challenge. I'd love to hear!
Ok, it's been four days and I've been listening closely to what kinds of little bon mots my brain tosses out there while I'm trying to get things done, stick to my plan and do my work. If you're just arriving at this post without the background, you might want to begin here: This is what I've been hearing. Prepare yourself - it's not pretty:
"You know, there's too much to do. Even if you worked all day, you'll never be done. And then you'll just be working all the time. Yuck to that!"
"Being efficient is soul sucking. It's only for boring people who don't have a rich inner life. Too much neatness is sterile and the sign of an empty mind."
"It's too hard. You don't have what it takes. Give up."
"There are too many steps! Aaaah! We don't know what to do!"
"Oh, see - that didn't work. You totally don't know anything about websites."
"Well- you missed doing your ten minute thing on the Fourth of July. You'll never catch up now. Might as well just avoid everything for another week."
"Wait until Wednesday. Wait until Thursday. Wait until tomorrow. Wait until after lunch. Wait until tonight. Wait until Monday."
"Oh my god. Look at that list of things you want to write/change/create/tweak. It's a mile long. You'll never get all that done in time."
"It's too late. Too late, I tell you!"
Ah, yes. My helpful mind! Despite its cries, I got some stuff done. I stuck with my ten minutes per day of working on my last little pile (I doubled up today since I didn't do it yesterday. It's smaller. My space is in order, overall.
But, there's stuff on the list that I was really planning to work on. It's bigger stuff, with multiple steps, and I avoided it. Here's why. Everything I've done so far to help myself be more productive is rational and ought to work, but it doesn't completely, just like when people try to lose weight with very reasonable rational diets, and their bodies freak out on them. My brain is in rebellion mode. Sabotage mode. It doesn't trust that I'm not going to become an all work, no play kind of girl. It remembers how tired we used to be when I was working all the time. It's panicked. It's resisting any form of discipline. And my body's not helping much either. It just wants to sleep. A lot. Whether I go to bed early or late.
If my brain and body feel deprived by my time management and task organization "plan", they're going to fight me. I need a new tool. As Martha Beck says, I just need to get my brain and body to "join up" with me, much like a horse will follow the lead mare in its herd. And that won't happen when we're in "famine" mode, and all my brain sees are rules about how we're going to spend our time and what we "can't" do, making my body anxious, fidgety and just plain tired.
Because when I'm not relaxed about how my day's going to go, when I'm gritting my teeth or dreading what I've put on my to do list, I'm not particularly productive. Sure, I can force it and just work anyway, but I'll pay later with that sense from my body and mind that I'm not to be trusted, that this isn't going well, and next time we might as well just go to sleep.
So, how do I get relaxed and get my body and mind to trust that all will be well - that we don't need to go into avoidance napping mode? By giving them what they want- a safe place to not have to do anything. I call it "grass time". Ten minutes of quiet out in the grass, with the cats if they happen to be around. And a couple of mantras - these borrowed or adapted from from Martha Beck's Four Day Win:
"Everything is OK." "I don't have do do anything at all for the next ten minutes." "In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter what I get done today. It's much more important to be kind than to check things off the to do list. I'll start by being kind to myself." "If I never changed anything at all about how I get things done, the world would keep revolving." "It's OK to rest."
I'm looking for a relaxation response - a sense from my body and mind that all is well, with easy breathing, relaxed muscles, and a general sense of wellness and peace. Nearby cats always help!
And then, with that peaceful state of mind, I can get to work.
Give it a try and see if ten minutes of really doing nothing gives your body and mind a little more reason to trust you, and a little more interest in happily going about your day with you.