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  • Ronni Tichenor

Swapping My To-Do List for a To-Be List

I am famous for my lists. I have work and home lists, Christmas lists (I buy things all year round), grocery lists, password lists, recipe and menu lists, and books-to-read and movies-to-see lists. I used to have multiple paper lists at any one time but now, in the age of “smartphones,” I have a “list app” with more than 50 lists on it! One thing hasn’t changed, though—I get great satisfaction from crossing things off my lists. It represents one less thing I’m expected to do, which is always good. It also gives me a great sense of accomplishment, as if I have justified my existence by “doing something” today.


I started thinking about these lists today as I was listening to Jon Kabat-Zinn talk about a meditation program that offers. He was drawing a contrast between “being” and “doing,” and at one point he mentioned how most of us are ruled by our “to-do” lists. These weren’t new ideas to me, but they hit me in a new way and I thought, “What if I traded my “to-do” list for a “to-be” list?” It was an exciting concept, but I wasn’t immediately sure what it would look like. Of course, my daily meditation practice is my main time to “be,” but then other ideas started pouring in:

· I could just lay in bed and enjoy not getting up. I could feel how comfortable my pillow is, and how warm the blankets are, and enjoy the feeling of my cats, Leo and Josie, laying on my shoulder or hip.

· I could spend some time outdoors just standing, or sitting—either observing, or with my eyes closed. I don’t have to be walking, hiking, snowshoeing, swimming, or doing anything else. I could just be there.

· I could sit in my rocking chair and sip my coffee or tea for as long as I want to in the morning.

· I could enjoy a few extra moments in the shower, under the warm water.

· I could lie on the couch at some random moment in the day and stare at the ceiling (or the inside of my eyelids).


I wonder what it would feel like to invest more energy in my “to-be” list. This idea of not having to do anything sounds like a dream come true, but how easy would it be? Would I feel guilty? Would I feel lazy? Yes—I’m sure there would be resistance. I can hear the inner dialogue already: “You have so much to do! What will _____(fill in the blank) think if I don’t get _____(fill in the blank) done?” These questions are driven by the underlying belief that I have to prove that I am good enough, or deserving and worthy, by accomplishing things. I have to earn approval, or even my right to exist, by getting an endless list of things “done.” But what if that isn’t true? Could I at least pretend for a few extra moments each day that that isn’t true. I’m going to try. And I’m eager to see what opens up for me in that extra space of just being…


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