Sunday, January 3, 2010

Letting Go of the To-Do List

I often see people I love and teach in spirals of activity, trying to accomplish something, to control something, to produce or avoid something, even to be something. This level of doing and going, busy and constant, effectively blocks off deeper sources of energy and fulfillment. It certainly is satisfying to have a long to-do list that gets checked off, but rarely are the items on that list ones that add to growth, lend themselves to internal healing, or develop new levels of awareness. By its nature a to-do list is just that, things to get done.

I've said before that the act of just noticing is a strategy for letting go. Sometimes it is hard to even notice the mind's frantic chasing around, as it goes so fast, is forgotten so soon. Sitting still and watching the sprinting mind, short bursts in this direction, and that direction, noticing the rising and falling of the feelings and judgments that accompany the running, you can come to find the one who is watching, the one who is sitting still. This is the person you actually are, full of promise and possibility, living in the inhale and exhale, experiencing the ebb and flow of the drama without being the player in it.

Some of my students interpret the idea of noticing as catching every detail, or feeling every feeling. This can be one stage of developing the ability to notice, and one that catches us and drives our engines even harder to run, to dash from this to that, to cope and cope and cope with the constant surging emotions. There are reasons we let ourselves get caught there. And there is strength and energy in us to let go of that, the resistance in us that prevents us from doing what means most to us, from finding ourselves giving up the definitions and rationales which hold us too tightly in a role that is not fulfilling our heart energy.

We may not all be able to let go of all earthly trappings like monks, but there is the Bodhisatva in all of us, the enlightened being who lives in the world rather than in retreat from it. Doing what is there in you does not require constant motion or action, rather it encourages that you acknowledge the resistance you may have to being who you are, watching the patterns, observing and labeling, and releasing. You can find your way through that to your larger self, the self who is witnessing the performance rather than all the busy ones in the constantly unfolding drama. This quiet breath may lead you to let go of the judgments that prevent you from being all you are, doing that which is in you, and knowing that this moment is why you are here, now.

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