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.

Detachment

The more we focus our powerful attention on a problem, the farther away we drive the solution. In a balanced Universe the perfect solution must exist simultaneously with what we have labeled a problem. By detaching our energy from the “problem”, we open inner space to receive awareness of the solution.

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.

Now is the Secret

The Now moment is an incredibly well-kept secret. There are tomes written about the wisdom of living now, but we are so hypotized by the past that those tomes seem irrelevant.

Trying on Now-moment living is the only way to demonstrate to oneself the value of it. And it will take more than one attempt to truly experience it. Not that living Now is alien to us. Each human has many windows of Now moment living each day, but we overlook them. From the moment we open our eyes on planet Earth we are taught that thinking has value; being has none. So, we mentally grind, think, cogitate, ponder, and otherwise keep our attention riveted on the past.

Thinking is a past activity. When we invest our energy and attention in thinking, the subject matter is history! Whether we are mentally reviewing a relationship, a problem at work, or a decision that must be made, it is into the past that we reach in order to do all those things.

Imagine walking in a beautiful park. You are surrounded by stately trees. A gentle breeze rustles the leaves. On the nearby pond there is a small flock of Canadian geese. Mostly they just float but there are occasionaly loud honks. You are aware of the sights and sounds, and they flow through your consciousness… There are no thoughts about the geese… no judgement of the volume of the honks… no intrusion of how the world says they’re messy and dirty birds. They just ARE… and for a moment you ARE.

Then it begins… “..but they ARE dirty! They poop all over the grass and people cannot even walk there without stepping in goose poop!” Suddenly you are no longer one with what IS.. You have stepped out of the Moment and into your thoughts. And those thoughts delve into the past. You long ago either stepped in goose poop or you heard someone else utter negative opinions about it… but it is of the past. And you have lost the beauty of Oneness for however long you feed that thought pattern.