As an air sign, during times of disquietudes, I really need to keep myself grounded. It’s important for me to develop some personal grounding practices on a daily basis.
I realized that if I allow myself to fall into the rabbit hole of scrolling through various news outlets and reading commentaries about the current situation, I could get easily carried away in the ‘fight-or-flight’ response.
However, at times like these, I find it necessary to have a ‘faith-and-flow’ attitude towards life. To keep believing in humans and their capacity for loving and showing kindness towards one another (and towards other living beings!)—and to keep flowing with the changes instead of resisting.
Surely, it’s easier said than done. And it’s exactly why I spend more time these days on grounding myself: from meditating, cleaning my space, folding my clothes, brewing rosella tea, doing qi gong and yoga exercise, listening to calming music (love Tibetan singing bowls), gazing at the swaying trees—following their movements, and of course, journaling.
When my mind is foggy and heavy, I pour everything down on paper to have some necessary release. It feels so natural and familiar to me, like seeing an old friend, like coming home to a place inside of me that has always been there all along.
A few days ago, a friend of my husband dropped by with his motorbike to deliver his homemade ragù bolognese; before returning to his semi-isolation. Having to spend more time at home, he decided to stock up his fridge and cook more meals. He’s good with pasta sauce (and his carbonara is amazing) and I still remembered the day (before the pandemic) when he threw a successful gnocco frittoparty.
In the evening, my husband and I boiled some pasta and heated the ragù. Sitting cross-legged on the floor of our bedroom, we ate our spaghetti bolognese with gratefulness. It was so delicious!
Suddenly, it dawned on me that maybe this was what it means to be present as who you are; even during times of crisis.
I could still recall the day when the pandemic started to escalate here in Indonesia, and I sensed a wave of worries and anxieties flushed over me from all the circulating news and rumors on the Internet. Then I stumbled upon a friend’s Instagram account, where she posted herself doing the dancing challenge to a cheerful song in TikTok.
I watched her dancing cheerfully; smiling and making funny expressions. She was having fun, I could tell. I could even feel her energy filling me with joy, and as she swung her arms and jumped and jerked, I noticed a smile on my face, and slowly, as I was feeling more pumped and excited, I finally felt like I came back to my senses. The feeling of hope started to fill me in, and I went to the shower, ready to start the day.
My meditation teacher started to provide more online guided meditation classes; from once a day to 4 times a day now. Another friend sent me stupid jokes and funny pictures from all over the Internet; another one kept updating me and her Instagram followers on various acts of kindness we can do during these tough times and which social initiatives we could support and send donations to. The sister-in-law of the Ibu who owns the house where we live, sent fresh towels for us the other day, and she folded the towels into a cute little elephant, with eyes made of leaves cut into small circles and a frangipani flower stuck on its trunk.
So, this is what I see: I see people trying to do what they can and lift each other’s up by being even more present as themselves, as who they are, in whatever they do.
The underlying idea, I believe, is knowing that we can be present in these challenging times as who we are, honestly. To give as who we are and to give from Love. To know that there’s no act of Love that is too small, too unsubstantial, or too unimportant, even when it can seem small, unsubstantial, or unimportant.
So, today, take good care of yourself, the people you love.
When you can, be kind and be present as who you are.
Share the Love with the people around you.
I always think of Love as a wave of energy that touches others and creates a ripple that spread out further and further. We’ll never know where it began: how many lives it has touched, how many souls it has lifted up, how much hope it has infused in someone’s desperate times.
The morning sunlight that spilled through the curtain bathed my bed in its early glow. I opened my eyes to the chirping of the birds and the rustling of the leaves faraway. Nobody worked in the rice fields today. Nobody started their motorbikes’ engines. Nobody shouted from the neighboring village. The world and its familiar noise disappeared.
At first, I thought: “How silent it was!”
But soon, the silence was filled with the hum of the refrigerator, the song of the cicadas, the buzzing of the bees flying around the bougainvilleas… and I could hear a bird (that perched itself on the branch of the frangipani tree) flapping its wings.
It was the Day of Silence for the Hindu Balinese. Nyepi; retreating from the hustle and bustle of the busy world. And the whole island was resting. Everybody stayed home. Everything was closed (even the airport!). Internet and phone signals were shut down. Lights were turned off.
I sipped my coffee downstairs, surrounded by the Ibu’s orchids, listening to mantras from my headphones while journaling my thoughts for the day. This was the first day since the Covid-19 outbreak that I didn’t start my morning by checking my phone for the latest updates. Today, the world was limited only to the one in front of me: the rice fields, the garden, the orchids, the terrace. I didn’t (and couldn’t) know anything past this.
As all the lights stayed off across the island, the sky was now full of these glimmering specks and twinkling dust. From the rice field, the fireflies came into view, flickering.
It was magical.
At that moment, I felt so connected to everything above and beyond our world, our Universe. After weeks of uncertainties, of going about my days while trying to navigate my fears and worries, last night I finally felt fine.
It dawned on me that the stars had always been there. The sky I could see from the upstairs balcony had always looked THAT magical. I just didn’t notice it on regular days because the lights that surrounded me dimmed the radiance of the stars.
But it was always the same sky; with the same amount of stars.
Sometimes, to see the stars, we need to turn off the lights and be in the dark for a while. Maybe, that is what we’re experiencing at the moment. I wish, in this situation, I can choose to see not only the darkness but also the stars.
Happy #2020! The first thing I do on the 1st of January (apart from finishing left-over food from our NY dinner celebration) is to set up my bullet journal (Bujo) for the year! If you’re not familiar with bullet journaling, I would suggest you watch this video, or better, read the book The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carrol.
Personally, I love the book more than the videos, simply because the book gives a better overview of this method (as the subtitle suggested) to “track the past, order the present, and design the future”. I got a lot of nuggets and inspiration from the book to put my life in order, so I would recommend you to read it, even if you’re not going to use the bullet journal method itself.
As usual, this year, I am using my bullet journal mostly for things related to work/project/self-improvement. I don’t use it as a daily/personal journal (the way some people do), because I write and journal a lot (maybe too much!), so I have a separate journal to pour my heart out.
My previous bullet journals have always been so minimalist and straight-to-the-point, but this year I decided to have a playful one, with splashes of colors and illustrations I draw myself. I want to plan and have fun and draw a lot, thus, this is how I set up my Bujo 2020:
I love the paper quality and the number of pages in this notebook (serve me well for the whole year). Plus, it comes with two bookmarks (one blue, one striped); so I can refer quickly to 2 sections in my bullet journal.
In this post, I will refer to how I set up my bullet journal using this particular notebook (and how I divided the pages), but feel free to use any notebooks you have to host your bullet journal! If you have a random empty notebook lying around, use that instead! You can even make your own cute dangling bookmark to go with it—see the instructions here.
I decorated the cover with a sticker from Flow Magazine’s Book for Paper Lovers (most of the stickers/note papers used inside this bullet journal comes from that book) and write ‘Bujo 2020’ with a white marker.
Contact Info Page
Next, I drew myself (and my house), then wrote down my name and address on the contact page. I also slapped down some washi tapes I got from HEMA (4 washi tapes for 3 euros!)—that I’ll be using to decorate/flag/page-mark this bullet journal.
The Leuchtturm notebook I’m using comes with 3 index pages, so you can create a table of content of your own bullet journal. It helps you to find certain things/topics in your bullet journal easier.
Page 1. Inside Cover Page
I just drew myself (along with my best friend Nia in her cat form!) and write ‘Bujo 2020’ with colored pencils.
Page 2-3. 2019 Reflection + 2020 Intention
For my 2019 Reflection, I started out by writing some milestones from the previous year. Next, I’ll write down some stuff from 2019, including:
things I’m grateful for
things I’ve learned
people I’m thankful for
things that went well
I will also write some thoughts about how I would ‘summarize’ 2019. What do I like/dislike about it, what are some of the challenges I’m facing, and what are some of the things I could improve.
For my 2020 Intention, I will start by writing down some areas of life I’d like to focus on (i.e. strengthening my spiritual practice, experimenting with various ways of self-expression, etc.). I will also write down about my ‘ideal’ 2020 here. What are the things I’d like to experience, people I’d like to meet, achievements I’d like to accomplish? How do I want this year to turn out?
Page 4-5. 2020 Overview
At the end of each month, I will write 3-5 milestones or highlight from that particular month here. The idea is to look back at this page at the end of 2020 and being able to see my year at a glance.
Page 6-7. Goals & Bucket List + Note to Self
For my goals & bucket list, I will write my goals for 2020 here, along with some things I’d like to have/experience. You can read this post to find out how I set up my yearly goals—and this post I wrote about why (most of the time) our New Year resolutions don’t work.
The note-to-self page will be filled with quotes & affirmations, as well as empowering words from myself, for myself. When I am in doubt or in need of encouragement, I can flip into this page and cheer up a little. I think of it as my tiny self-help page; a quick fix to brighten up my days and lift up my mood.
Page 8-11. Future Log
Here, you can find the tiny calendar of every month in 2020. I left the bottom part empty to write down some of the things that come up; as well as some tentative schedules/appointments. The things on these pages may happen or may not happen. They are not set in stones. It’s just my way to have a peek into the future and see what is waiting for me. For instance, I’d like to finish the first draft of my new book in May 2020, so I may write it down underneath the month of May in pencil.
Page 12-13. Yearly Stats
There are some things I’d like to track each month this year, so I make this spread to track them and see them all in one go. At the moment, I see two main areas I’d like to keep a close eye on: my finance and my platforms. I’d like to write down the latest stats of these two things by the end of every month and as the year progress, I can also see how things grow (or plummet!) from one month to the next.
Page 14-15. January Monthly Persona + Monthly Check-in & Intention
On page 14, I drew myself as ‘an artist’. Throughout the year, I want to draw myself as different personas, the ‘imaginary’ me who are living a different lifeline or having different professions. ‘The Artist’ is my monthly persona for January.
The goal is basically to ‘get out of your head’ and try to imagine another possible version of you; to open yourself up to the possibilities of being you in a different light. If you watch Netflix’s Sense8, think of it as something similar to that!
A lot of us use our weaknesses to make excuses to do/not to do something, but what if we leave who we are, and ask what our alter ego would do instead? For me, this month, I’ll think of the daily routines, strengths, quirks, or qualities of ‘The Artist’ version of myself, and experience living this month from that perspective.
On page 15, I will do my January check-in; writing about my state of being entering this month of January. How do I feel, what am I happy/unhappy about, what excites/worries me, etc. And then I will write my January intention: how I would like this month to turn out? What are the things I’d like to happen this month so I can feel fulfilled?
Page 16-17. January Monthly List + Gratitude
On my monthly List page, I will write down the books I read this month; some podcasts I listen to or some courses I followed on Skillshare or Domestika. If I watch a really good movie/documentary, I may note the title down as well.
On the Gratitude page, I write down the dates of each day in January, and every day, I will write some of the things I’m grateful for. I have been keeping my gratitude practice close to heart. It’s a very simple thing to do, but it has helped me to stay humble and grounded.
Page 18-19. January Monthly Ideas & Content Ideas
I have such a busy mind, and I get daily sparks of inspiration and ideas that will be forgotten if I don’t write them down. So on my Ideas page, I write the number of each day in January to note some random ideas that cross my mind that day (I may or may not execute the idea; it’s just nice to look back at all those random bursts of ideas!).
Next to it is my Content page, where I will write down some random content ideas or topics I have in mind. I color-code it with pink for Instagram, blue for Blog, and green for YouTube, so I know where I publish/share a particular content (if I decide to work on it).
Page 20-21. January Tracker & Planner + Income/Expense
On page 20, I have my January Tracker & Planner. Next to the day/date, I have a column with 3 habits I’d like to track this month: meditation, movement, and art practice. I know it’s tempting to build and track loads of good habits at the beginning of the year, but I always find it too overwhelming. I decided that I will concentrate on a maximum of 3 things/habits to track per month. In the next two columns, I have my Work Planner and Personal Planner, where I list down work/project deadlines and work/personal appointments.
On page 21, I have my Income/Expense tracker; and it’s pretty straightforward. Just a simple table to keep me accountable for my finance!
Page 22. January Weekly/Daily Planner
This is my Weekly/Daily Planner where everything happens as I go about my days: I log my plans, deadlines, appointments, to-do lists, weekly intentions, ongoing projects, notes… basically anything I need to write down to stay on track and organized. I usually fill up 2 pages every week. If I need more pages to jot down things, I can just tape a scrap paper or a memo paper on this page with washi tape.
For each day, I also write down my ‘effective working hours’ from 10 am to 5 pm, to track and evaluate what I am doing during these (supposed to be) productive hours.
Page 33. January Reflection
I left enough pages for my whole weekly/daily planner in January plus some empty pages for notes and braindumps, until page 33 where I will write down my Monthly Reflection at the end of the month. I will write some highlights/achievements from the month along with how I feel about the month in general. Am I happy about it? Am I proud of myself? What went well and what can be improved?
The template is repeated for each month throughout the year 2020, and I have divided my notebook into equal page counts, so it will last until the end of the year (plus some extra pages for random notes): Page 34 – February, Page 54 – March, Page 72 – April, Page 90 – May, Page 108 – June, Page 126 – July, Page 144 – August, Page 162 – September, Page 180 – October, Page 198 – November, Page 216 – December, Page 234 – Reflection of 2020, Page 235-249 – Random Notes.
Do you bullet journal? Do you have a planner? Do you use any other system to stay on track and organize your day? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear from you.
The book plays around with the idea of these 3 main qualities people in creative businesses need to have to establish a rhythm that supports their creative process.
Basically, to optimally and creatively function, creative people need to be:
BRILLIANT + HEALTHY + PROLIFIC
Being all three, we can produce great creative work consistently, in a sustainable way.
However, Henry said that most creatives are characterized by 2 strong qualities + 1 weak quality, providing them with a creativity loophole to fill in.
Which one is your creativity loophole, that needs improvement?
You are PROLIFIC + BRILLIANT
– but not HEALTHY
You are having great ideas all the time, flooded by creative juices, you submit your works on time, even you can stretch yourself to work for more than 15 hours a day. But what will happen?
After a while, you’ll experience a terrible burnout. It sucks your energy, it makes you stressed out. You’re risking your long-term creativity for short-term productivity.
You are HEALTHY + BRILLIANT
– but not PROLIFIC
You have great ideas and your creative juice is flowing, you feel as if you’re having a great work-life balance, you are not stressed out nor burned out, but you just can’t seem to do the things you have always wanted to do or finish the things you have started.
This makes you an unreliable creative.
You produce works only when you feel like it, instead of producing good work consistently. Or you are spending too much time procrastinating, questioning, doubting, and the ship just never sails.
(This is my loophole!)
You are HEALTHY + PROLIFIC
– but not BRILLIANT
You feel as if you’re having a great work-life balance, you are not stressed out nor burned out, and you submit all works on time, you finish what you start, you do the things you need to do, but you are not producing things you can really be proud of.
It isn’t something that stands out, not of really good quality. It is just a tad unimpressive and mediocre. It feels like you’re having the energy to do what you need to do instead of what you can really do.
It is easy for people to forget or replace us when they are not impressed with our work.
“I work my way backward from the end of the novel,” he says, “which is the first thing I know, to what the first chapter should be. By the time I write the first sentence, I have a virtual road map of the whole novel—either in notes or in my head.”
Have you ever felt lost when you’re about to begin writing prose, a story, an essay, a novel? And have you ever thought of beginning writing with your last line instead of your first line?
I feel as if this is something that would not only work for writing but would work nicely in life as well.
Instead of being stressed about how to start, where to go, what to do first, I sometimes sit silently for a while and just focusing my mind on what I would want to see at the end of all this.
Where do I want to see myself at the end of this year?
How would my to-do list look like if I managed to finish all my projects?
What would be the feeling I get from seeing my room clean and decluttered?
What if we can start writing our last line and working backward?
Because as it is in life, sometimes it’s easier for us to see the threads connecting those random incidents in our past from a higher place where we’re standing now: one month later, one year later, three years later.
And suddenly everything seems like falling into place, eventually.
In my writing workshops (either fiction or non-fiction), I always highlight the importance of writing practice to the participants–and encourage them to make a reasonable schedule they can follow to do this practice. I don’t require them to do their writing practice every day, but there is supposed to be a little bit of structure around it.
Think of writing practice as an exercise; just like working out.
You exercise and work out not only because you’re a professional athlete or want to participate in a competition. You don’t have to be great in sports to exercise. You don’t have to break a record or achieve something amazing when you’re exercising.
You exercise because you know it is good for your body, it will train your muscles, and although you may not like the process as much, you know you’ll feel good and accomplished afterward.
You don’t have to exercise every day to benefit from it, but you know if you don’t exercise at all, it won’t serve you good in the long run. The best is to have a certain schedule that can work for you–either once a week, twice a week, or maybe three times a week; for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or maybe an hour. You don’t want to exercise too much or push yourself too hard as well; because you can injure yourself. Or you may get fed up with exercising altogether.
When you have skipped exercising for a while, it’s going to feel a bit harder to get back in the game. You may get tired quickly and your muscles are going to be really sore. You may find that you are not as strong, as flexible, or as fit as you used to be. But it’s okay, that’s why you’re back exercising, right?
Similarly, writing practice is like that.
But, what should you do during your writing practice? What can you write about?
Well, technically, you can focus your writing practice on some areas you think you’re having difficulties with. If we go back to the exercising-and-working-out analogy–if you know or feel that your legs are weak, you may want to do some exercise to make your legs stronger.
However, these are the 3 things I usually concentrate on during my writing practice:
I love watching people and I can do this for hours.
If you’re in a mall, in a cafe, in a waiting room, in a coffee shop–pick some people as your ‘characters’ and describe them in detail: what are they wearing, what do they look like, do they have any obvious physical traits, how do they carry themselves, how do they speak, how do they call the waiter, do they hesitate before paying at the counter?
Notice even the smallest details about these people. Just write down your observations as facts, without judgments.
When you’re done, it’s time for your imagination to take over. If you have to guess, what do you think will be their backstories? What are their vices and virtues? What do you think they do for a living? Are they married or single? What do they aspire to be? What are some of their biggest challenges in life? If they have a dark secret, what would it be?
When you’re finished, examine your guesses and compare these wild speculations with your detailed description of the ‘characters’. Can you see why you are led to conclude or speculate a certain backstory for a certain character?
Wherever you are, try describing that place. Make sure that you only write facts from your observations. Notice everything: shape, color, smell, shadows, sounds.
When you’re done, now try to write about this place from a point of view of someone who has just gone through a heartbreak; someone who just got fired; someone who has just won a lottery; someone who is in love; someone that is about to die. Or, how would a chef, a lawyer, or a celebrity describe this place?
How would they ‘see’ the same setting differently based on who they are or what they’re struggling with?
Listen to (well, eavesdrop) a conversation; and write the conversations down the way they are being spoken. If you can’t write that fast, use abbreviations. Above all, I would suggest not to observe the people who are speaking but concentrate on writing down their conversations only.
After a few minutes, stop and leave–until you can no longer hear these conversations or see who is speaking.
Read the dialogue and based on the word selections, the umm and err, the dialects, the jargon; what can you guess about speaker number 1 and speaker number 2? Who are they? What can you tell about their origin, upbringing, education, profession? If you cannot see them and can only read the way they speak, can you guess what they look like?
What can this conversation reveal about their personality? Based on the dynamics of the conversation, how do you think one feels about the other? Is there a feeling of mutual trust, jealousy or rivalry, or maybe you can tell that one truly admires the other? How can you make this guess or come up with this conclusion? Which dynamics in the conversation give you the hint?
I like to focus on these 3 things during my writing practice because I think they are quite essential. Either you’re writing fiction and non-fiction, you can always benefit from knowing how to build your character, your setting, and your dialogue.
If you have done this exercise several times, I am sure you will get a better understanding of how to distinguish a character, setting, and dialogue that works.
Sipping coffee is our way to fall in love with the bittersweet.
It always begins with a closed door.
And from what it allows us to glimpse upon, our heart is pounding with curiosity. Should we come in? Should we give it a chance? Will we like it? Will we regret it?
Most of the time, we decided to take that chance. To swing the door open and walk in, wishing to find something.
There are times in our lives when something, anything, is better than nothing.
Sometimes, we fall for the welcoming smell of fresh-brewed coffee, the 3D latte art, the friendly bandana-wearing barista, the pretty ceramic mugs, the excellent selection of background music… and some other times, we don’t.
Sometimes, as we peered inside from the window, we thought it’s going to be cozy, inviting, gezellig. Until we realized that while some things are better seen close-up, some others are better seen only from a distance.
But, no matter what, usually, we stay for a while with a cup of coffee, waiting to see if we’ll change our minds. Some of us stay too long to be able to notice what’s wrong. Some of us leave too soon to notice what’s right. Some of us stay long enough to see what is, and leave soon enough not to see things we’d rather not.
However, in the end, like it or not, we all must leave. Even those 24-hour coffee shops can close down, move to another location, be shut down for a renovation, or the owner simply has a change of heart.
Still, sipping coffee is our way to fall for the bittersweet.
Because there are some particular stages in our lives when bittersweet is better than just bitter. When a once-opened door is better than one that is never opened. When leaving an about-to-be-locked premise is better than being locked up.
At least, we’ve taken the chance to walk through that door, place our order, sit down, and sip our coffee. At least we’ve experienced what it has to offer.
We know that there are still so many coffee shops out there. The ones we haven’t heard of, the ones we haven’t peered into, the ones we haven’t visited before.
One day, if we take a chance and swing the door open, one of them may steal our hearts.
When meditating feels hard, I watch a candle or an incense burn in silence. I fix my gaze onto the flame, the glowing dot; following each movement and noticing each moment of changes; no matter how minuscule: that second when the candle melt, when something flickers, when the ashes fall.
In the evening, I listen to this and this, beautiful music from Toshi Arimoto. I lit up some of my favorite scented candles and sit cross-legged on the couch in the dim-lit room. I close my eyes and start breathing following the rhythm of his music. I find this activity really soothing and I can tell that my body is enjoying it. I also realized that since I am concentrating to breathe according to the rhythm, my mind doesn’t wander as easily. I’ll do this breathwork for 20-30 minutes, and I always feel calmer and more grounded afterward.
I used to think that ‘self-care’ means taking the time to do the things that will make you feel good. At the time, the first few things that crossed my mind when I heard about self-care weren’t far from instant gratification: treating yourself to a shopping spree, taking a break for vacation, or booking that long-awaited manicure session.
But the thing is, self-care is not about doing things that will make you feel good. These days, I realize that self-care is about doing things that are good for you; even when initially, they don’t feel good.
It’s not only about ignoring what other people do or think but also about speaking up and learning how to be assertive instead of being bitter and bottling up resentment.
It’s not only about quitting a job that doesn’t fulfill you, but also about continuously improving your professional skills and commit to things you’ve agreed to do.
It’s not only about taking a break to pack your bag and leave, but also about staying where you are and do what you need to do to sort out your mess before it inflated way out of proportion.
It’s not only about cutting ties with toxic people but also strengthening your ties with people who have been around for you; as well as finding out how not to be a toxic person yourself.
It’s not only about succumbing to your favorite comfort food, but also nurturing your body with nutritious food that will be good for you. It’s not only about curling up in bed or taking a good rest but also about moving your body and exercising, so you can feel energized and healthy.
It’s not only about buying new clothes, getting a haircut, or booking a massage, but also about learning how to accept yourself, how to let go of envy, and the need to compare yourself with others.
It’s not only about forgiving others who have hurt you, but also about asking forgiveness from people you’ve hurt in the past.
It’s not only about going out on a shopping spree, but also about learning about how you can manage your money better, pay your debts, and start saving or investing for your future.
It’s not only about reaching out to others and allowing them to take care of you, but also learning how to fill up your cup until it overflows and you can pour love back to the ones you care about.
I realized that taking care of myself is going to feel hard, difficult, and challenging at times. Sometimes it’s about facing my fears instead of running away and seeking comfort. Sometimes it’s about admitting that I am not the person I’d like to be and getting myself back on track instead of allowing myself to deviate further from my truth. Sometimes it’s about forcing myself to hit that yoga mat instead of having a nap.
Initially, they don’t feel good. But I know they are good for me in the long run. Some people may say that apart from the ‘feel-good’ aspect, self-care also needs a dose of tough love.
I think it doesn’t need tough love. It just needs love.
“What would I do if I respect and love myself?”
This is the question I ask myself, again and again, several times a day, to remind me that self-care is not something I should do once in a while. In every mundane thing we do every day, we can always find an opportunity to care for ourselves.
Because not all the things that feel good are actually good.