Bucket List?

manifesto-bucket-list-blank-large“Do you have a bucket list,” my friend asked me the other day.

I gave it some thought. “No, I don’t. I’ve pretty much done everything I wanted to. It’s been a good life.”

At the time I glibly ascribed it to what I call “living intentionally” or “an examined life”. The conversation has stayed with me for the last couple of days and I gave it some more thought. There is only one more thing that I would dearly like to see before I die, but I have done everything I can to bring it about.  It no longer depends on me, so in a very real sense, it (reconciliation with an estranged family member) can be struck off the list. If it happens, I will be deeply happy, but if it doesn’t I know that I did all I could.

I find the idea of a bucket list very sad. It kind of implies that there are people who don’t think about what they want in life until they are close to death, people who go about their daily business without examining themselves, without pausing to reflect on what they really want until it’s almost too late.

I know there are people who live like this; maybe even most people live like this. It’s still sad.

This business of living intentionally isn’t New Age or mystical or Buddhist or maladaptively introspective.  It only requires pausing in your day, or even in your week or month, to be aware of your interior and exterior worlds. What am I doing? Is it what I want to be doing? Is there a change I’d like to see? Can I bring it about? What path am I on; is it likely to bring me to where I want to go?

I started this practice when I was about fifteen years old. I was a member of a dramatics group and the director used to have us sit quietly at the beginning of each lesson or rehearsal to do a “here and now” exercise. It’s very simple. You start by sitting still in a comfortable position and saying, “Here and now, I am aware of…” and naming what you see, hear, smell, feel. You do this quietly, in pace with your breathing. As you physically relax, you can close your eyes and your awareness gradually switches to the interior world.

By interior world I mean thoughts, feelings, wishes, desires, discomfort, contentment, hopes, satisfaction, anger, delight… a kind of mindfulness. It was a great exercise for me at that difficult age, and it remains so when I am in a tizzy or need to get back in touch with myself.

It seems to me that this practice was invaluable to me when I began meditating “for real” and when I began practicing contemplative prayer. I think it also played a very significant part in my choices and decisions, such that today I can say that there is nothing important that is within my control that I wanted to do in life that I have not yet done.

I’m still not ready to die, but I don’t have any regrets either, so I think that puts me ahead of the game, no?

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10 Responses

  1. myrthryn says:

    You are quite ahead of the game in having no regrets, in having lived your life with full intention.

    The idea of a bucket list is almost a romantic one in the way people talk about it. The running around fulfilling life should be done throughout, not as a last fling that life owes them. Life isn’t about what is owed, but what one does with what one has.

  2. Emma Flesser says:

    Since getting sober, the only things on my list are to remain sober and to learn [to] carpe diem (that should probably be “carpere diem” – it’s been a long time!) all the time, which is something I constantly forget to do.

    The most important thing for me is to have loving relationships with other human beings (OK, and lots of pairs of boots). I have this, and can hardly believe how fortunate I am. So, not much of a bucket list here.

  3. steve wethington says:

    i don’t know that i have a Bucket list, but i do have dreams. One of those was to see Hawaii, well we been 3 times now. wanted to see Grand canyon, did that my Bday April 2011 and it snowed like crazy and we couldn’t do or see much lol……….

    and i have a wonderful wife, daughter, son in law, son and his fiancee and a brand new 8 month old grand daughter.

    i always said Lord when my Engineering career is over, I’d like to teach and in 2001 it was over and in 2003 i begun teaching at a community college.

    Australia or the Moon would be nice but contentment is good too……….

  4. Maxine D says:

    Hmmm – this has set me thinking. Love your description of how you came to an intentional living – your simple exercise is helpful. I don’t know that I have always lived intentionally, but lets say I have no regrets at this point, and after a health scare the other day I am now feeling somewhat less invincible.
    Prayers and blessings

  5. Amy Vail says:

    If not now, when?

  6. Not sure I can get on board with the concept of a bucket list. Even if I completed everything on this so called list today, something new would catch my attention next week…so this “list” would never be done. Not that I’d want it to be done.

  7. Liv says:

    Your Here and Now, I am aware of …. is brilliant. It’s 4am and my mind is reeling, unraveling knots, no pun intended! I thought of your phrase – here and now, I am aware of falling asleep. It works! Thanks for the idea, Knots.

  8. I have seen guest posts but I haven’t seen you on in a long time. I fear for what that means and pray for you. Take care my friend and know that you are not forgotten.

  1. 11 March, 2013

    […] so I quietly leave it in the hands of my relative and God. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago in Bucket List, I’ve had a good […]

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