3 Reasons Why You Don’t Need a Bucket List

I turn 50 in a few days. It means nothing to me, I have discovered. I may stop counting, not as a fear of age but as a celebration of reality. I don’t feel 50 although I don’t know what it would mean to feel 50. I have the blessing of feeling alive, as alive as I did 20 years ago, while having the awareness and consciousness of Now.

I don’t have a Bucket list – a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying. I thought about it, because I love lists, but instead I learned something. Here are 3 Reasons to NOT have one.

1. Giving to Life

There are two approaches to Life. You can try to take as much as you can from life, or you can give as much as you can. Will anyone mention your trip to Hawaii when you die or will they talk about your impact on their lives? Which reflects your deepest values?

2. You Don’t Know When You Will Die

A bucket list assumes a period of time to get things done. People die in their 20s, 40s, 90s. Wouldn’t it make more sense to live today to whatever vision or awareness that guides You? Too many bucket lists are about fear of dying instead of living.

3. You Live to Your Beliefs Not a List

Make a list, and look at it. What is your relationship to that list? Do you see yourself there? Did you add “Go Skydiving” because you want to do that? Why haven’t you done it? Is your list a way of changing who you are or affirming something inside you? Use your list to surface your beliefs and explore how they point to who you are.

If there are things you want to do in life, by all means do them. Do it to be alive. Do it to celebrate the flow of life.

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Boys Will Be Boys? No – Dead Stop

My daughter and I drive to school together on my way to work. It is our connecting time – no screens and lots of time to pass.

We were discussing a boy in her class who was always difficult. At the end of her story, she concluded “Well, boys will be boys.”

My reaction of a gut-felt NO was so fast that she turned to look at me instead of the road. “No,” I repeated, “that is one of the most dangerous beliefs you could have.”

I explained to her how that sentence excuses behaviour that shouldn’t be ok. I told her this story about a boy snapping a bra strap and how it was ignored by a teacher because boys will be boys. Worse, the teacher told her to accept the behaviour too.

Here is a summary of how the girl’s mother reframed “boys will be boys”:

She defended herself against a sexual attack from another pupil. Look at them; he’s nearly 6 feet and 160 pounds. She’s 5 feet and 84 pounds. He’s a foot taller than her and twice as heavy. How many times should she have let him touch her? If the person who was supposed to help and protect her in a classroom couldn’t be bothered, what should she have done? He pulled her bra so hard it came undone.”

My daughter understood quickly. We discussed how some of those behaviours continue in men if no one shows them other values. We discussed the great uncles and cousins she had as role models of people who took responsibility for themselves and how they treat others.

I was transported back to a time when I was in school and a boy wrestled me to the ground, put his hand on my jeans over my vagina and told me not to move. A crowd of boys circled us to see how this would go. I was on the ground feeling shame, and very angry. My anger won and I was able to kick him in his groin and get up.

Did I tell an adult? No. By then I had learned that boys will be boys and to blame myself for it happening.

So, I call on all of you as parents, role models, and people: let’s not perpetuate a culture of permission by allowing boys to be boys. If a boy teases a girl, don’t tell her it’s because he likes her. Language reflects belief. Let’s be impeccable in what we believe, say, and do.

When Life Lives In Me

For 3 months, my daughter has been seriously ill. There have been hospital visits, tests, nights I held my daughter and could not relieve her pain. Yet life lived in her.

During the pain, only her computer gave her a distraction from the pain. When she received a long awaited game, she played like a child. When I gave her a new computer, she wept in joy. Life Lives In Her.

Now it lives in me. I had a simple weekend. I had dinner and gift exchange with a friend Friday night and another on Saturday. I did the simplest of things – cooking, packing, a movie. At every moment, my heart was so full I thought I might explode into light.

When I sit at my altar, the light quietly explodes through. Because at all times, life lives in me.

Shaming, Women, and Internalized Violence

Years ago, I stood on the corner, waiting for my friend. I was early, and I wanted to people watch. As I stood there, an obviously homeless man walked up to me. “Can I ask you a question?”, he said. I prepared to be asked for money. I nodded.

“Why is it ok to be ugly, but it’s not ok to talk about how ugly someone is?”, he queried. In a stunned voice I answered that I had no idea and moved away from him.

Immediately, I internalized the interaction as body shaming. Did he mean that I was ugly? Why did he target me to ask? Did he mean ugly, or did he mean fat? Was my skin ok or had I broken out? What was wrong with me that he honed in on? And really, all these questions were:

How could I protect myself so it never happened again?

It’s a form of violence. It is not ok. And that’s the answer to this gentlemen.

When we judge or shame ourselves or others, it is a form of violence.

So, now my job as a parent is to help my daughter understand that society will attempt to control us by building ways to shame us, make us feel not good enough and unlovable. We have talked about how puberty has made her feel vulnerable in her body. I have told her she needs to know her value and that it is completely apart from anyone or anything outside of herself.

Violence from external sources is unpredictable. Violence within yourself is within your control. You are a perfect manifestation of the Divine.

All Paths Lead to the Mountain Top

A few weeks ago I sat with Nissim Amon, who is one of 40 Zen Masters in the world today. There were many moments of opening at the event. For me, my mind needs to relax to allow me to trust and surrender. The master did that by telling us about “the paths to the top of the mountain”.

In his studies of world spiritual paths, he believes there are six categogries of paths. These are not religions or practices, but characteristics of what is encountered on the paths.

1. The path of the Fakir

A fakir renounces all worldly things and forms of comfort. The purpose is to come to a place of acceptance of what is. It is easy to accept pleasure so learning acceptance through deprivation is a fast track. This was originally the path of the Buddha but did not satisfy him and he gave it up after 5 or 6 years.

2. The path of Bhakti

Bhakti is the path of love, devotion, faith and worship. In the past, this was often the love of the guru. The guru would teach and be your object of love. It teaches you to open your heart.

3. The path of Knowledge

This path is characterized by pursuing deeply hidden esoteric knowledge. It may look like the hidden meaning of numbers, working with chakras, and other hidden knowledge. Often this path has a hierarchy and initiations. There can be a commitment to be a secret keeper.

4. The path of Danger

This path is characterized by practices through which you sacrifice or risk everything. Examples can be hallucinogens, practices that challenge taboos (e.g. sex, death, total ego annihilation) and shamanic drugs. It is often the shortest path but needs a guide. Practitioners without a guide lose what they gain or don’t have a way to integrate it without strong guides.

5. The path of the Zen koan

Koans are questions or anecdotes offered to the student to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment. One learns that the answers are within us. The practitioner values the experience of the truth within the question not the explanation.

6. The way of the Tao

The tao focuses on the absolute principle underlying the universe, combining within itself the principles of yin and yang and signifying the way that is in harmony with the natural order. One sees how nature is a flow and reflects acceptance, even of death.

There is something to be learned from all the paths. It is not necessary to pursue all the paths.

What is so helpful to me is that I have been on a few paths, and rejected them after a time. In that rejection , I have deemed the path as lacking. In Tantra, we take about letting go of a lesson or a path once it has lost its rasa or juiciness. It isn’t bad – it’s just over.

It realized that while I accept other cultures and religions, I have a type of judgement for people on paths I have moved away from or rejected. Seeing these paths in this way helped me to release that.

Bending Time

I am told time feels slow when you are young and passes too fast when you are older. 

It is a matter of belief. 

If you believe your remaining time is getting shorter, this is a false belief. None of us know the day we will take our last breath. People who live to be 100 may have expected to pass at 70 – what a waste if they lived those 30 years believing time was getting shorter. 

When we are kids, we are more likely to live in the now. The now is infinite. It is when we live in the past or the future that we get messed up. Neither exist, so they are easy to project our beliefs and fears over top. 

My days are no shorter or longer than before. I experience my days in terms of energy – intense, loving, flowing. I surrender to the moment (at least that’s the intention). 

My beautiful eyes, my innocent eyes

“You are quite naive,” said the Face reader. “You are easily taken advantage of.”  Face reading is a pseudoscience that predicts personality from physical characteristics. It can be insightful; it is at least interesting.  In this case, the reader believes my eyes are shaped and sized in a way that reflects being naive. 

I walked away, incensed. I am a talented negotiator and always leave the table with my goals met. I assess people for a living. How could I be naive?

Mental flash: despite my confidence in life, I have had a history of intimate relationships where I was easily deceived of the nature of my partner. In fact, in all cases of major relationships, my family warned me off each of them. I dismissed my siblings, believing I could see something they could not. In fact, the opposite equally was true. And how many times have I hired staff that were good performers but challenging personalities?  I even have at least two roles where I was not a fit with an organization but I accepted the job anyway. 

So I looked up the word. Naive means innocent, natural and unaffected. As an empathic and a highly sensitive person, I feel pain when I lie or act untruthfully. A line from Tolkien always stuck with me: “the Men of the Mark do not lie, and therefore they are not easily deceived.” 

When it comes to people, I believe I tend to see the most beautiful perfect parts of them – I see the Divine in people. Even when a person is mean or selfish, I see the parts of them that are kind and generous. The difficulty with that in a long term relationship comes when the balance between selfishness and generosity is not there. Or when the balance is tipped away from what is best for me. 

I am naive. I have big, beautiful and innocent eyes. I have a big, beautiful and innocent heart. My spiritual path is not about finding ways to protect myself from others. That would mean my goal is to control circumstances and people – folly. My path is to experience without attachment. My path is to be open to all that is, without Self protection or fear. 

My eyes, my beautiful innocent eyes truly are a window to my soul.