The truth is, no matter how much we may resist the notion, we are all terminal.
And if we really let this sink in… And if we really contemplate this for more than a few seconds here and there… And if we really allow it to become not a morbid aspect of our existence, but a reminder to live truly and to truly live… Well, then, we may find that we desire some changes to be at least considered, if not implemented.
I enjoyed a lot of long walks this past fall. I have always been a walker, but these days I almost feel like a shepherd – the walking part, not the herding part.
As I walk, I contemplate how my life over the past several years has shifted. It has been greatly streamlined – by choice – into one that is fairly simple, gentle and mostly peaceful.
In a nutshell, after years on a self-exploratory path, I have come to realize that for the most part – even taking into account the unexpected ups and downs of life – I am living the life that I would desire to be living if I were told that I only had a few years left to live.
On these long walks, I have carefully reviewed the different choices I’ve made on a regular basis that allow this to be so.
And while I know that we are all wired differently and live within very unique means and circumstances, the point I desire to make here is that we can, often much more than we realize, create an outer life that mirrors as closely as possible our inner one.
Obviously, that may look a lot different for me than for you.
And, is it difficult to do? Maybe… It depends on many factors – namely an internal recognition of what in this precious life we deem most important to us.
For most of us who will be reading this blog, whose basic needs are met tenfold, priorities and choices are ours to make, and that is how the shift I speak of occurs – priority by priority, choice by choice. For many, many others around the world whose basic needs are largely unmet, this blog most likely holds little relevance. And that’s, well, a whole other blog.
For me, to get to this point has taken a genuine movement from role to soul whereby I navigate my life from a wider perspective than what is ordinarily perceived as definitive reality. In other words, from a place where definitions of successful, normal, and productive may not match those of the mainstream.
Interestingly, as this blog has been on my mind and in my heart to write all week due to multiple factors, a fellow author and blogger whom I very much adore, published a blog just recently titled, Eulogy or Resume? It struck me as quite interesting that we had been contemplating the same basic topic on the same week from our own unique vantage point. It was a terrific blog!
Below, I offer a brief and very basic outline of what I mean above only as a few of MY examples that may or may not be a catalyst for introspection for another, even though we may desire very different inner and outer lives.
I also want to stress that I do not draw lines in the sand for myself. I am a For Me, For Now kinda gal, always open to the next moment, the next day, the next soul-to-soul encounter.
A few basics:
~After years of taking exercise classes or feeling that I should be in them, I have come to realize that, generally speaking, I most enjoy exercising alone, outside in different seasons and in ways that feed my soul as much as my body. While walking, biking and swimming (meaning breast-stroking and dolphin-diving) may not create a fierce outer buff, I realize that my top priority is inner buff, and greater outer buff may or may not be icing on the cake.
~After several years of “striving” in my work (work that absolutely feeds my soul and is integrated fully with my own personal growth) to make a name for myself and make it big, my feelings about my work now are much more balanced and in alignment with the slower-paced, non-hectic life that I truly desire. Could I be making more money? Yes. Could we prioritize upgrading our residence to live in a house with more than three bedrooms and more than one family bathroom upstairs? Yes. Could I work harder? Yes. And yet, I don’t really want to, and instead desire to enjoy to a greater, less busy degree the blessed life that I already have.
~After several years of saying yes to social events to stay in the social loop, my husband and I—by choice—have virtually dropped out of the social scene in our area. We are both outgoing, friendly individuals. We enjoy all kinds of people. We enjoy a good time. We enjoy giving. But, large parties, philanthropic events, planned-in-advance dinner outings are just not our thing. We much prefer spontaneous, and we much prefer intimate, and our social life reflects it.
~After several years of thinking that I needed to be “busy” and run lots of errands like so many others (mostly moms) with whom I interact, I now actually have very few errands to run. I pretty much do all of my food and toiletry shopping at the local supermarket nearby, as well as make other necessary quick runs here and there as the need arises. Always a minimalist at heart, as of late, getting rid of things rather than accumulating more, tends to be a priority, although as a family of five, obviously this is not always possible.
~After several years of feeling like I “should” multi-task as it felt like a badge of honor for a modern mother, I recognize that I am much better suited to be task-specific. In other words, I do a task and then there is a lot of simply being in between until the need to do another task arises. All of the busyness that people talk about and/or the statement that I rarely have time to sit down is simply not my reality. Some people thrive on busy, I am just not one of them, even if it means a much simpler existence.
~After several years of thinking about food and what’s good or not good for me to eat for health and weight reasons, I now choose to listen to my body and eat a balance of foods. There are definitely splurges here and there. There are definitely lighter eating days and heavier eating days. There is a thoughtful balance of proteins and carbs. But generally speaking, I am not out to be anything other than who I am. I don’t desire a life where I cannot enjoy food, even if it means a softer body than I otherwise may be able to obtain through restrictive eating habits and a more rigid exercise regime.
~After several years of attending meetings, workshops, and speakers, as well as doing a fair amount of volunteer work, I now rarely participate in any of the above. When options such as these come to my attention via invitation or announcement, I simply listen to my heart for an inner partake or pass, and then I follow it. It has become as simple and as clear as that, even for the events that many may perceive as “mandatory” for one reason or another.
~And finally, FAMILY… These years in the nest as an immediate family are fleeting. The ordinary moments of presence with one another and togetherness pass quickly. Nothing more needs to be stated here.
In a nutshell, LIVE TRUE!
These are just a few examples of ways in which I have shifted toward living more like I am dying. We are all dying.
On my quiet walks, there is one thing that comes up again and again with total knowing. And that is, I know in my heart of hearts, and I know deep in my bones, that upon my actual death, whenever that may be, my one and only certain regret would be that I lived my life according to someone else’s definitions of successful, normal and productive.
Warmth and LOVE,
A modern bridge between the mainstream and the mystical, Annie Burnside, M.Ed. is a soul nurturer, award-winning author, and teacher specializing in parenting, conscious relationships, authentic living and spiritual development. Her book Soul to Soul Parenting won the 2011 Nautilus Silver Book Award. Connect with Annie on Facebook and engage with her on Twitter @annieburnside.