Friday, April 13, 2012

The Never Ending To Do List

Do you ever experience periods of overwhelm regarding the amount of things that need to be done? If so, you’re not alone. Lately I have had a lot of projects calling me in different directions. With a new baby on the way, a great deal needs to be done to prepare the house for her arrival (which is coming in a few days!).  In addition to preparing for a new miniature resident, I have to keep up with my work.  It’s the busiest time of the year for our business, and I have been struggling to keep up for months now. I work from home and set my own hours, which gives me the flexibility to do other things when called into action, but that also opens the door for my work to get neglected (hence the 200 plus email backlog I have). I’m also trying to find time to write and promote my new book (A Seeker’s Guide to Inner Peace: Notes to Self), as well as raise money for the upcoming March for Babies fund raiser.  In addition to all of that, there are the typical chores of being a human (i.e. cleaning the house, mowing the yard, doing laundry, cooking, etc.).

I’m not telling you all of my woes hoping you will throw me a surprise pity party (though that would be kinda fun). I’m simply laying out an example of how work, chores and life can become a burden that obstructs our view of what’s right here, right now. For example, sometimes, when I walk the dogs outside, I will see a whole host of “to dos” around me.  Instead of seeing the trees and flowers, I see all of the things I need to do, or would like to do.  I see my long term plans for the landscape. I see all of the trees I need to cut and brambles that need to be slashed and burned, and I visualize how I would go about taking care of this type of deferred maintenance. That’s often accompanied by a sense of urgency to do something before it gets more out of hand, followed by a sense of futility because it can’t be done anytime soon.  Then, I’m reassured by a sense of, “It will get done when it’s supposed to,” which is occasionally followed by a sense of doubt in that laissez faire attitude. 

The mind can become a spinning top, grappling with its feelings of inadequacy until all I see is a never ending to do list around me.  Instead of the beauty of nature, I only see things to do. When I catch myself entering that pit of despair, I become present to it. I acknowledge those feelings and allow them to be there.  I then check in with my own sense of beingness.  I remind myself that I have become lost in my head again and focus on what’s right here, right now, instead of what I think “should” be done.  I remember that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing, at any given moment.  In fact, I have no choice to be doing (or not doing) what I’m doing right now.  This moment is what the Universe has intended for me, and no amount of self doubt will change that. 

Once I’m present, and not lost in the past or future, I can then allow myself to follow a particular impulse to do something (or do nothing).  Feelings of guilt may arise when I am doing one thing and feel like I am neglecting another, which I am experiencing right now as I write this when there are a million other things that need to be done before our baby is born (in a few days).  What do I say to help alleviate that guilt? “I have no choice. This is what I have to be doing.” I suggest that when you’re answering a call to do something you enjoy doing, enjoy it rather than feel guilty about not doing something else.

Now, I feel pulled to do something else and will stop here. My wish for you is that you learn to identify when you are looking at a to do list instead of what’s really real. Pay attention to those feelings of guilt and overwhelm when they occur, and recognize them as your body’s reaction to your thoughts about what “should” be. Remember that your thoughts are only a reflection of your past programming, and are really not yours to control.  You can’t control how or what you think, but you can decide how to respond to them when you realize they are causing you stress.

If you feel like you “should” be doing something you can’t do right now, surrender the idea that it needs doing (for now). Surrender to the reality of this moment. You can’t do anything other than what you are doing right now, so give what you do now your fullest possible attention. Marvel at the body/mind’s ability to function in the way it does. Marvel at its innate intelligence to perform the necessary tasks when called upon. Imagine that your “doing” is actually like breathing. You’re not doing it, it’s just happening organically as a continuation of the wave set in motion when you were born (or even before).

Enjoy all that you do because you have no choice but to be doing it.


PS - I wrote this in four sittings over the course of about a week. Each time I sat to write, I was called to do something else. This is not a bad thing, it is simply what was. I do my best to follow my intuition and go with the flow, without sweating the little stuff. I can then witness how cool it is that necessary things get done.