art journal page, with quote from C.P. Estes

Dear Friends,

A reader’s comment sparked a thought that there is something that I should perhaps write about more specifically: it can sound like I keep wanting the same things, i.e., more time to write, be silent, and do art, but it can seem that I might not be doing enough to make it happen. If it sounds like this, it has more to do with the purpose of my blog than with whether or not I actually make things happen in my life — or in this case, not happen. In my blog, I want to encourage those who have challenges amidst a complex life, where conventional time management or self management plans won’t work because there is too much that is out of our control. For me, that’s my dear body primarily, but it also includes my son’s education and the “unexpected’s” of his transition into adulthood.

In fact, I am making progress in carving out time for my depth dimension avocations, and can now invest hours of each day rather than only ten minutes at a time. Yet ten minutes is better than no minutes, and for many people, we have to start with just the ten minutes.  Even though I’m making progress, of course it doesn’t feel like fast-enough progress, and it’s not just dealing with time and commitment issues, but with deep seated psychological resistances to things that seem to me (incorrectly) to be selfish or a waste of time. In my work with people, though, I know that I’m not alone in this. There are often myriad and complex reasons why we don’t do what it seems that we want and can do.

In my blog, I want to illustrate some of how I deal with those things, as an example and encouragement to others who may have similar challenges.  I always tell the truth here, while at the same time not necessarily describing all the details.

How can we come to know what we don’t yet know about ourselves? That’s one of the questions which has always fascinated me. How do we raise our own consciousness, as well as help others raise theirs? I know I’ve found several ways. Unfortunately, none of them promises instant enlightenment.

Over the years, my relationship with to-do lists has been fraught, as I’m sure some of you have also experienced. For much of my life, I have felt such need to accomplish things that on really bad days, I added “Get up” and “Get dressed” to my daily list, just so that I could check off something! Now, my lists are things or ideas that I don’t want to lose or forget, things or ideas that I can record in my “extended brain” rather than having to carry them around in my head all the time. David Allen, the author of time management classic Getting Things Done, says your mind is for having ideas, not holding them. By using my calendar and my lists as brain extensions, it frees me up to be totally present to whatever I’m doing, trusting that I haven’t forgotten something important.

This is my best use of these Brain Extenders:  when I remember that the items on the lists are only reminders of ideas that I have had, then I don’t think of them as things I have to do (or else!!)  In this way, my little black book is a tool for freedom, not an authority in itself chastising me for not getting enough done.  When I have the ideas written down in one place, I can then mindfully choose which will become commitments to myself or others, which will be “maybe’s,” and which I will let go.

How do you use to-do lists?  Are they helpful and freeing, or do they sit there and accuse you of laziness or incompetence?  When much of your life is not under your direct control, can they be a tool for you in living a deeper, more mindful life?

With love,