I’ve been contemplating the idea of bucket lists and why I don’t have one for a long time (see post). Lately I’ve been adding discussions of “living life to the fullest” or “making every day count” to my sense of disconnect from these popular subjects.
The lists and suggestions about what makes life full are always full of places to go, things to see, activities to accomplish. External “stuff”, to me. The idea is that in order to count, a life must be defined by lists and accomplishments in the outer world. Acceptance of this notion seems to be deeply ingrained in the consciousness of a huge portion of the population, at least in the U.S.
Every time someone urges me to live my life to the fullest along with the vision of endlessly busy days and nights which seems to accompany this idea, I feel flummoxed. By most people’s standards my life has gone nowhere for many years now. Inward progress, physical healing, transformational changes in outlook and ways of being… these have been the stuff of my journey. When it comes to lists of places I feel I must see or things I must produce or actions I must take in order to feel my life has counted, well, I don’t have any.
Are there places I’ve not seen that I’d like to see? Yes. Are there books not written or DVDs not made that I’d like to complete? Yes. Do I feel like any of those things make a big difference to the value of my life? No. Do I think that on my deathbed I’ll regret the places not seen or the things not done? Not really. Which is not to say that for someone else those things aren’t important or might be done in a consciousness-expanding way. It’s just not how I think about my life any more.
In early adulthood I lived a life of constant activity. Full days of school and/or work, nights of clubs and movies and dinners out as well as serial boyfriends, parties and conversations. For me (I’m not suggesting that this is necessarily the case for everyone) the busy-ness arose from my frantic need to fill the empty spaces without actually looking into their origins or the whys and wherefores. The more I filled my life with places to go and things to do, the bigger the emptiness grew.
When I finally dared to look inward, I found more richness and fulfillment than I’d ever found by running around in an endless cycle of activity. My goals changed. Healing became a primary pursuit. Healing my body. Healing my mind. Healing my spirit. I’m interested in compassion and a loving heart. I want to be free of anger and anxiety and grief and instead be filled with lovingkindness.
It isn’t that I don’t long to explore the back roads of France or to see great dance performances, but I no longer feel those things in any way fulfill or define me. What’s in my heart? Have I been kind today? When I’m on my deathbed will I be able to say, “I loved as well as I possibly could and I achieved a peaceful heart”? If I have a bucket list, it includes only those steps that lead to that compassionate and loving heart.
Part 2 will explore the inner and outer aspects of us as they impact the world.