The Tyranny of the To Do List

So finally you have decided to make time in your life for yourself. Perhaps you want to meditate. Maybe you yearn to do some journal writing. Possibly you just want to take some time to reflect or at long last do nothing at all, and just be. Honoring your heartfelt need to care also for yourself, you schedule some time just for you.

However before your time arrives, life’s to dos shunt aside your good intention. They’re innumerable: feed the kids; drive the kids to and from school, pre-school, after school; do laundry; clean house; go to the cleaners, bank, supermarket, gas station; see you friend for lunch; pay bills; answer emails and phone calls; not to mention your job and its overtime demands… things to do ad infinitum. And another day darkens, leaving your soul again uncared for.

Like an alcoholic who promises tomorrow will be different, tomorrow never is different. Were we robots this would not matter, for we would simply process the conveyor belt of our endless tasks, only to suffer an occasional breakdown. However as humans, the inattention to our inner life does matter deeply. The soul, the fount of authenticity and more, languishes from inattention. If left unattended long enough, we do morph from human to robot.

Why is it so easy for us to consent again and again to letting life’s endless tasks displace the need to turn inwards and care for our souls? Is it due to a learned lack of interest? Or lack of will? The complexity of modern life certainly breeds innumerable to dos which ensnare our attention. Also our culture values persons for their productivity, efficiency, and outward accomplishment, not “navel gazing.” After all, we don’t see television commercials for meditation techniques, journal writing software, or retreat centers.

The facts are that our to do lists never end. Our lives will end before our to do lists end! How then can we live balanced lives which both actively engage the complexities of modern life, and also value and foster inner lives? Each of us who seeks a life of inner realization is challenged to create such a balance. I try imperfectly to do so by arising early enough to have sufficient time for my Self, and safeguarding that time from the intrusion of tasks.

How do you create and safeguard time for your Self?

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