January 3, 2012

Death and the New Year.

As you face the New Year, it’s clear: there’s so much to do. So many items on your ever expanding goal and to-do lists. How can you set priorities and focus on what matters most? How can you whittle the list down to the core so that your actions and choices align with your
heart’s deeper dream?

The wisdom traditions from around the world suggest using death as your advisor.
These traditions view the awareness of death, far from being a morbid preoccupation, as the light that illuminates the sacredness of this moment.

I remember teaching a meditation retreat on Maui and waking each morning to the most amazing spider web bedecked in glistening drops of dew. Each drop sparkled like a jewel in the morning sun. The very sun that would cause each radiant drop to evaporate within the hour.

Isn’t every moment as amazing and radiant as a drop of dew—and—as fleeting?
Yes, there’s a lot to do. And awareness of death—which is awareness of the sacredness of this moment—clarifies the relative importance of the items on your to-do list. Awareness of death brings into sharp relief this moment-to-moment choice: will you devote yourself to what matters most or pour your life into busy-work?

Fidelity to your heart’s deepest dream isn’t a matter of self-discipline or following a complicated task management system.
It’s more a practice of remembering that this life is jewel-like, radiant, and fleeting like the dew on a spider’s web. Try this alternative to a long and complicated to-do list:

Several times each day, pause and ask the question that poet Mary Oliver poses: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

And, I would add—“And what is a simple, direct choice that will move you in that direction?
Okay. Go do that.

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