Discover more from Steady Beats | Matt Tillotson
The Mix Tape, Vol. 42
Maintaining our physical, mental, and spiritual habits in chaotic times
To be blunt: awful things are piling up in America in a way I’ve never seen before. It sucks.
When things outside our control are this chaotic, we need our healthy routines—the habits that feed mind, body, and soul—more than ever.
Volume 42 provides strategies (and background music!) for maintaining good habits.
Writing this newsletter is one of my healthy routines. Thanks for reading it.
On simple meditations
A quieter life is more focused. It strips away distraction, wasted action, and unnecessary emotion, creating space to amplify what’s important to you.
Quieter doesn’t mean smaller. Quieter means more intentional.
Simple meditations—short pauses with purpose—help us find that quieter life.
A few weeks ago, a friend mentioned that seeing palm trees seemed to lower his blood pressure. It occurred to me they have the same effect on me, even after living amongst them for 20 years.
Occasionally, I find myself staring at palm trees and appreciating them. I thought it was weird.
And, yeah, it kind of is But I’m accidentally practicing short-form meditation. A purposeful pause.
So here are some palm trees from our neighborhood:
You don’t have to sit cross-legged for an hour to benefit from meditation. Find something simple to appreciate. Then breathe and just ponder it for a minute.
The Done app keeps your habits on track
As I mentioned above, I can’t remember a year when we:
Needed our healthy and productive routines more, and
Faced greater distraction from, and deeper destruction of, our normal daily cadence.
The Done app uses the power of streaks to keep our important habits on track.
With Done, you create topical groups (workouts, writing, etc.) and the associated habits (lifting weights, journaling, etc.) you want to perform regularly.
No, Frank. I said streaks. Not streaking.
The killer feature: By checking off our regular actions, we create visual and emotional momentum: streaks. For whatever reason, we hate to break streaks.
Jerry Seinfeld used the analog version of streaks—red Xs on a calendar—to maintain his daily writing habit.
Snapchat built a social media powerhouse by compelling users to maintain daily communication streaks with other users.
Streaks work. And so does Done. It’s simple, customizable, and fun to use, with a simple tracking screen that looks like this:
Uncorking creativity with The Artists Way
If you’re feeling stuck (I am!), Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” might clear your (my!) path. (After all, Cameron’s process worked for the prolific Tim Ferriss.)
The book takes you through a twelve-week journey, asking you to surrender your creativity to a higher power, acknowledging creativity isn’t the expression of ego, but a divine force within us that comes from God.
Cameron’s book focuses on two core practices:
1. The Morning Pages: You start every day with free-association writing: three hand-written pages, no rules, no structure. My Morning Pages are often part prayer, part anxiety-unloading, part planning, and part observation. Cameron’s quote about Morning Pages rings true:
“Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts [nebulous worries, jitters, and preoccupations] on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes.”
2. The Artist’s Date: Each week, you undertake some kind of creative practice—something that jolts you out of your usual routine. The action might be physical, creative, spiritual … what matters is to interrupt your usual thought patterns and routines.
To supplement the core practices each week, Cameron provides other exercises to explore our past and plot our future.
Journaling the journey
I’m in week one of the course, and you can follow my week-by-week process here.*
*This week’s journaling post features one, and only one, unnecessary Van Halen reference.
Background music: While you’re getting your habits tracked and being mindful and undertaking your Artist’s Journey, you’re going to need a soundtrack. Something to keep you moving, but not too distracting.
So why not listen to outtakes from the greatest album of all time?
(Reasonable people understand Steely Dan’s Aja rightfully holds that title.)
Below is a 45-minute video featuring outtakes from the “Aja” recordings:
Some tracks have vocals and stripped-down instrumentals
Some tracks are instrumental only
A couple of tracks ended up on future albums instead of “Aja.”
It’s all great, and Aja’s jazzy meandering is perfect background music while you work.
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