Tyrannical To-Do List

The ubiquitous To-Do-List, hereafter referred to as the TDL, is a part of the fabric of American life. Most of us keep one, or maybe two. Then there are others of us who keep a separate TDL in each room of the house, one in the office and one in the car!  Of course, now that we have Smartphones there are those high tech listers who keep their TDLs on their phones. That way the list is always at their fingertips.

So what’s the harm in having at least one TDL, you ask? It runs your life!  You check it in the morning and/or evening or you don’t check it at all and feel guilty about it.  We depend on having it; telling ourselves we do not have to hold that item in short term memory because it is safely recorded on the TDL.

The spectrum of items on the TDL is unlimited. We have lists of errands, chores, grocery items, bill pay items, personal care items, shopping items (both in-store and online), tasks to do at work, social events after work.

We think about the list and check it, too, several times a day. And if we go off to work without said list, well, calamity may befall us!  A friend of mine who arrived at work one day without having put on earrings, felt compelled to return home to put a pair on because she knew it would drive her crazy to stay at  work sans earrings. The same holds true for the TDL. Without it we are crazed by the worry of what we might have forgotten.

I keep a TDL in Outlook, one on paper (at least one), and one in Legacy, my (wonderful) genealogical program. It keeps track of all the items I intend to research the first time I get a chance.

Okay, so these lists sound reasonable, right? But how about the TDL within video games?  The brilliant game designers know the human mind very well indeed. They know that we are driven by the tasks that we must do, so they incorporate the TDL into your game progress. ‘What? Close this window?  No, you can’t do that! You are so close to the next level or to the next flight or to whacking this bad guy!’, it says to you. And they keep you coming back with the tantalizing TDL of the future. You’ll earn the next accolade, or the next badge, or hat, or game money or… and maybe you’ll earn a couple of each!

The human mind is habituated to reaching into the future. That is precisely why the TDL is so compelling.

And what if you don’t get something on the TDL done? Do you just move it forward to tomorrow’s TDL? Do you write down things just so you can cross them off? Because it feels so good to cross items off the list, right?

Try going through a day without putting down anything or checking anything off a TDL.  In fact, don’t make one at all.  Are you sweating a bit just at the thought of that? Then plan this experiment for a weekend day.  Just see what happens! Watch how many times your mind tells you that you should just jot down a couple of things. And how many times do you reach for that TDL on paper or on the smartphone just by force of habit?

It does have its place. The TDL is helpful. I’ll be the first to admit it. But guess what? When we step out of this body when the Cosmic Alarm tolls for us, there will be plenty of items remaining on the TDL.

It is okay to stop… to simply stop this mad busi-ness as if we were going to win some kind of heavenly prize for being the one who does the most chores.

Bottom line: we are human BEINGS – not human DOINGS. It is okay to s-t-o-p now again – to put down the TDL, focus on our breathing and know that right Now all is well. The Universe if complete and balanced just as It is.

The Moat and the Drawbridge

The news yesterday was staggering. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords shot in the head. Five others near her shot and killed including a nine-year old girl and a federal judge.  Fourteen others wounded. They were in front of a Safeway store at the intersection of Ina and Oracle Roads in northwest Tucson… a store where I have done our grocery shopping on countless occasions.

Yet there it all was on the television screen.  Places I know very well, People I know, too. The Old Pueblo making national news in an unimaginable way.  Seeing the now infamous Safeway store on CNN and MSNBC was a jolt. Learning of the murders and of Giffords’ grievous injuries on a national news outlet was shocking.

There is a human instinct that then kicks in. It is the urge to withdraw; to build a moat around yourself and pull up the drawbridge over that crocodile-filled moat.  Isolation is tempting and even attractive.  The craziness is, after all, out THERE. Isn’t it?

The “out there”, however, is only a projected image of what is within us.  A decision to withdraw from the world is usually a decision made from fear and fear is what caused this horrific tragedy in the first place. The gunman was so out of his mind with irrational and deranged fear of something that he opted for murder as a solution.

Was the killer crazy? No doubt. But if we choose fear and allow it to dominate our thoughts and feelings, then we begin to create for ourselves a fear-filled environment. The only sane choice for all of us is Now. To face and accept the horrific facts of this event and to remain open to Now regardless of our emotional reactions. That is the choice for Love.  Choosing Now is to choose Love.

Awake or Asleep?

To attend to the ‘who’ is to sleepwalk. To attend to the ‘What’ is to awaken.

Sleepwalking

“Never awaken a sleepwalker”, says the old myth. The reason given was that it would be such a shock that the sleepwalker might die. Not so, says the general manager of the California Center for Sleep Disorders, Michael Salemi. Yes, it might be a shock, and yes, the person might be upset or perhaps disoriented for a time, but die?  Nope. The experts now say that’s just not the case. And another myth goes down the tubes.

The problem is that the humans – aside from a few avatars who may be amongst us – strolling along on planet Earth are sleepwalking! We are oblivious to the Now moment which is the only reality there is.  To say we “spend” our time is accurate… We fritter it away like quarters in a slot machine… and those precious moments can never be regained. Once spent, they are lost to us forever.

Why do we sleepwalk?  Because we keep buying the illusion that this world of worry, fear, and guilt is REAL. We devote our attention to the realm of thought and feeling, both of which exist in mind only. Thoughts arise out of nothing and then subside into nothingness. While those thoughts are on center stage, however, our habit is to believe they are REAL… to so focus on them that they then produce emotion which is highly entertaining to us humans. Fully consumed by the thoughts and the resultant feelings, we then are compelled to speak and finally act from that charade.

Every once in a while we do awaken. In fact, we have moments of wakefulness off and on each day. When you are yawning or laughing out loud, there is no thought process going on. Other gaps in thinking happen all day, but we do not even notice them.  Worse yet we devalue those moments, (if we notice them at all) as ‘unproductive’ or ‘boring’.  True to our worldly programming we place greater value on thinking and feeling than we do on BE-ing.

Here’s an example: You’re on a picturesque white sand beach just before sunset. You are seated and comfortable so that you can just drink in the beauty before you. The waves lapping on the shore are the only sounds. Your breathing slows and gradually your usual racing thoughts subside and are still but you do not notice that. You have become one with the tableau before you… there is no line of demarcation between you and the fabulous scenery.

Then the thought arises, “Oh, wouldn’t Robert love this! I must go get him so he can share this with me!”  And that thought grabs your attention.

What just happened here?  You left Be-ing for Do-ing.  You abandoned the Oneness of Being to retreat into the familiar haunt of your thoughts. Now you are caught up in thinking ABOUT the sunset and ABOUT how Robert would enjoy the experience. The bottom line for you though is that you left the experience completely to re-enter familiar territory; thoughts and feelings.

WAKE UP!  You have the opportunity right now! If you are reading this, and if it pricked something in your awareness, then you can choose to awaken right now. You cannot choose to awaken forever and ever. It is a moment-to-moment experience. But you CAN choose to be awake in THIS moment.  This N-O-W.

You are invited. All are invited. The Now is available to us all.

Thought Clouds

Weeks passed and no blog posts – or culinary projects or even reading. In hindsight it is clear that it was caused by thought-clouding. In one measly area of my life there was some stress… Okay, there was some significant stress. But it was in just one arena. However did I allow the ONE stressor in the ONE aspect of my life to overwhelm all other aspects? Easy… Thoughts. The thought pattern about that stressor began to take up more and more time. It gobbled up more of my attention. Then the emotions were affected and ultimately so was the physical health.

I was aware of the stress and aware that it was consuming too much time and attention. In an attempt to counteract that issue I increased the meditation time and upped the daily exercise regimen. Those seemed like good ideas at the time. Looking back now it appears that they were not necessarily antidotes so much as they were resistance to the stress pattern. Will power was applied to divert the attention from the stressful situation about which I could do nothing… but to little effect.

Thought clouds had thickened to the point that the inner sky was overcast. The body succumbing to illness was proof positive of that. Thoughts lie to us. Emotions lie to us. But the one part of our being that never lies to us is the physical body. It has no mind of its own.. it simply manifests either subconscious patterns whatever is occupying the conscious mind.

Ta da! No magic and no coincidence. The body simply outpictured the anxiety and frustration that had clouded the consciousness for nearly a month. And it grabbed the attention fully when over the course of a couple of days it became difficult to breathe and the voice was lost.

It was time to stop. Stop ruminating about a situation over which I had no control. Stop feeding thoughts that robbed me of sleep, rest, inner peace and physical health. Suddenly the focus was on right Now – because the body demanded it. Moment to moment I was aware of labored breathing, and fully occupied the attention.

The body is blessed with the innate wisdom of Now-ness. Mostly we ignore the body… or we disparage certain of its qualities. The billions of cells, however, are always listening to our thoughts and feelings; and those cells then respond to the repeated inner cloud formations.

Moments of clarity are blessings; moments when we simply focus on breath, or when we turn our attention from the mental yammering to the acceptance of what IS.

Delusion and Intention

Whatever it is you intend to do… focus on that objective. If in your heart you are certain that it is a worthy goal, then generate your intention to accomplish it. There is great power in both the intention and in the decision that follows. The two are inextricably linked.

Reading these words is not enough. We must commit to the principle and then prove to ourselves the efficacy of it. The principle is simple – and powerful. But it is so simple that we overlook it. We hear/read the words of philosophers, prophets, teachers of all traditions. Their sage advice rings true yet somehow the reader’s mind separates itself; it’s one thing for the writer or speaker to espouse to those ideas, but for the ‘me’ it seems an entirely different prospect. And so the book is put back down, the CD turned off and the concept shelved again….

If we are fed up with our stagnant and tedious life experiences, then it’s time… time to make that decision and fully intend to change and grow. Maybe we’ve had enough of arguing, judging, fearing, and hating. Perhaps we’ve been blessed with having finally
heardthat incessant negative voice that chatters in our minds. Getting a good look at that phenomenon can be a rude awakening! Enough already! Listening to that harangue or worse yet – getting lost within it – is exhausting.

So stop. For just a moment allow yourself to rest in your breath. What a gift each breath is! We ruminate in our minds obsessing about outer circumstances, all the while being oblivious to the miracle that is b-r-e-a-t-h. Without awareness we exhale assuming that an inhalation will be provided to us instantly. There is, however, no guarantee of that. So long as the universe keeps pressurizing these bodies that we call home, for that time we have the option to become aware of the miracle or to continue in our mental illusion and delusion.