“The only thing more important than your to-do list is your to-be list. The only thing more important than your to-be list is to be.” – Alan Cohen
I am a List Marker.
In fact, I am list marker descended from gifted Palmer-script list makers. I become bereft and a bit directionless without a list. Truth be told, I have been known to create lists of things I already did, just for the satisfaction of crossing them off. Lists order my days, my life, my dreams. I also love schedules. Oh, a good schedule supported by a list makes me nearly tingly. Even un-listy things make the list and the schedule, such as meditation and the daily walk. By, hey, whatever works, right?
Lists serve me in many ways. If it is on The List, it gets my attention. In a world of much (often too much) that pulls at my attention and demands my energy, The List guides me and helps keep me focused. Lists allow me to prioritize and keep the emotion out of whether or not something happens. ‘I don’t feel like it’ is not the deciding factor because, well, it is on The List. Lists are part of my daily discipline, like a personal secretary in the art of making my life. The List has long helped manifest my day-to-day life as well as numerous all-consuming, big-ass, crazy wild dreams.
As with many things, however, I recently realized that The List is a wonderful servant but a horrible master. With this realization, I have placed my beloved List as just one item in a far more expansive creative process of Life Making. I have re-framed The List as a valuable and effective tool, but one of many, a cog in the wheel with its rightful place.
A friend and I were comparing notes recently about our Life Making processes, specifically how we each bring our authentic selves and our dreams forth in tangible expressions, large and small, each and every day. I offer you the outcome of that conversation, a five-step process for Life Making and The Art of Authentic Living.
- CLEAR A SPACE: Meditation, the ability to get quiet inside, anchors us to the present moment and allows us listen deep inside. If you’re like me, you may often hear the crazy-person-mind scampering and screaming, drowning out everything else. But, with meditation and mindfulness tools, we can dial down the volume on the craziness until we can hear the quiet deeper voice within. One technique I find helpful is to imagine a white board filled with notes, thoughts, lists and ideas, written one over the other until nothing is discernible. Each item is scribbled randomly across the board, filling each space in a jumbled, tangled, multi-color mess. The white board represents my mind, my chatty, demanding, often jumbled thoughts. As I sit down to meditate, I mentally reach for a dry erase marker and begin to erase the tangled mess, clearing the board. Lovingly but thoroughly, each space on the white board is cleared until it is in fact white. Sometimes this takes me a few minutes, breathing slowly and methodically erasing, clearing and even scrubbing a bit. When the white board is clear, my mind becomes quiet and my meditation begins. A space is clear for my authentic self.
- LISTEN: In the quiet, allow space for what you hear or feel, especially if it feels big, odd or foreign. Without judgement, observe your thoughts and feelings. Many things that pop up in meditation are familiar, a recording on a continuous loop, barking and wiggling like an inner terrier. Simply pat the terrier on the head and utter, ‘Kennel up, puppy. Momma can’t play with you now.’ With a clean white board and the terrier in the kennel, we can be still and listen. Sometimes I simply listen to the quiet. Other times, I hear the deep, resonant truth of my highest Self. The key is to never dismiss something out of hand, especially if it is calling you to something bigger or new. Listen to your dreams and to every ‘wouldn’t-it-be-great-if’ idea.
- ALLOW IT TO UNFOLD: Balance the calendar and a rigid timeline with life’s natural timing, rhythm and flow. No need to hammer away, just show up each day, do the work and let things unfold. While lists and timelines are wonderful tools, make space for the non-linear and the unexpected. By easing up a bit while still moving forward, we remove limits on the flow of creativity, dancing with the Universe as we co-create the outcome.
- ASK FOR HELP: Be okay with what you don’t know and learn what you can. No need to bluff or pretend. Acknowledge what you don’t know and actively seek support from others who do. When I ask for help, I am amazed by how willing others are to teach me and guide me to resources, simply because I asked. Remember always, the universe is friendly to our dreams. The needed stuff to make them real is often released in the simple act of asking.
- ACT: Take a small bit of productive, meaningful action each day toward the making of your life. When it all feels big and unwieldy, break it down to one simple step but please do something, no matter how small. This is where The List rightly resides. Let your inner organizer loose here and your efforts will gladly oblige. Place one bite-sized task on today’s List and it just might happen. One step further. One new bit of information or knowledge gathered. A week or two later, all those steps add up and your dream will be closer.
This, my friends, is what I call Life Making – The Art of Authentic Living. Worry not, you need not paint a masterpiece or write a book or build a tall building. Instead, set out to make your own, beautiful, meaningful and authentic life. Bring your ideas and your true self forth today – expressing YOU and offering you to the world. In doing so, you will feed, love and nourish your soul. If this process does nothing more than help you to be more open-hearted, a little more creative and less fearful in the world, it is enough. In fact, this may be precisely what the world needs today.
When we Clear, Listen, Allow, Ask and Act, our daily actions and attention are put to work bringing forth our creative gifts and our very life. This is not small work, dear ones. Nor is it unimportant. And please be clear that numbing or dismissing our deepest selves is not benign or without consequences. Our very well-being depends on the life we make. As does the well-being of the world.
My hope for you this week is that you gently bring yourself forth in both big and small ways, courageously expressing who you are, feeding your Self and nourishing the world. To do so is to come alive.
@2016, Yoga Expression Spirit – Tools for Authentic Living.