My priority pyramid (date: today)
The following was much needed writing/creative inspiration that I received today, from Dan Blank’s Creative Clarity Workbook at WeGrowMedia.com:
Manage your attention:
Those who create say “yes” to their creative work with vigor, and “no” to distractions that truly don’t matter. Too many people spend their days in a mode of reaction instead of intention. They give away their creative energy freely to any headline, social media update, TV show, trend or email that begs for their attention. They always put the needs of others first, often at the expense of their own mental, physical and creative health.
Get clear about the biggest priorities in your life. Not just your creative priorities, but all priorities. Then, double-down on them and jettison everything else.
Take Action: (see my pic above)
Get out a deck of index cards. On each card, write down one thing that matters deeply to you. Then on the floor or a desk, try to create a pyramid with one item on the top, two in the next row, three in the next, and four in the final row. At the top should be the thing that matters most to you in your life. In the next row should be the next two most important things.
Your attention is finite. The first step to manage your attention is to get radically clear about what matters most to you.
Prompted by a friend’s request to meet up with me next week to discuss ways of being more organized, I decided to utilize her inquiry to fashion this post. My friend explained that while she spends her days feeling super busy, she doesn’t get anything done. Her judgement was that I am someone who takes care of a lot of different things, accomplishes a lot, and is very organized, all of which, I would agree, are true. She also knows that I actively practice being a non-busy type of person – so, basically she’s looking for some how-to advice.
At first, I wasn’t sure what I would be able to pass along to her by way of useful information, as I’ve never thoroughly dissected what it means to be organized and efficient. For me, being organized is something that comes very naturally and is in my blood – both my maternal grandfather and my mom were/are especially adept at it. It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve come to realize that being organized is a skill-set that often causes me to stand out, in the sense that it’s a talent many others wish they had.
But it quickly occurred to me that my friend’s request posed a great opportunity for me to attempt to put some of this into words in the form of practical applications to implement. So, as a Dharma teacher-in-training interested in stripping things down to nuts & bolts, here’s what I have to offer on the subject of honing the art of organizing:
One of my most favorite quotes:
Comparison is the thief of joy. – Theodore Roosevelt
Two of my own specific examples of how I get caught in this particular comparison trap are with those who garden and those who have a work-out/exercise regiment of some kind.
I find that gardens and physically fit people abound here in Missoula. I sometimes find myself thinking: Man, I should be more into gardening or: Man, I should get a gym membership – and, ya know, go, or whatever.
But I don’t. I don’t do either one. And I can make myself feel bad about it. Until I remember, once again, that I’m very content and happy with everything I prioritize my time with – that there’s only so much time in the day and I make conscious choices about how I spend that time, and it all suits me just fine.
I’ve been thinking about the subject of priorities lately. About how everything comes down to what we prioritize in our lives – what we choose to invest our time into. But it’s the “choice factor” that trips people up most often. Speaking in a collective fashion, we tend to engage with the world around us as though we were victims. Victims of our harried schedule, our work, our circumstances, our upbringing, our causes and conditions. What we have trouble seeing and understanding is that victim-hood is a state of thinking, not a state of BEING.
The possibility exists for us to live our lives un-dramatized, un-apologetically, and un-fettered. The possibility exists for us to step fully into the life we’ve created for our self and embrace it as the series of choices it really is. The so-called burdens that we face are commonly the manifestations of where we place our thoughts and our motivations regarding the actions that ensue.
In my backyard sits a lovely south-facing vegetable garden plot behind our garage, surrounded by a makeshift fence to keep the chickens out. It’s a fairly good size, maybe 10 X 10. Last summer, on account of having had shoulder surgery in early July, I wisely decided it would be too much work to keep a garden going while one-armed and healing, so I left it untended. After much thought, I’ve made another good decision about this year’s growing season, although for entirely different reasons: Nope, I’m not gardening this year either!
Perhaps you are already aware, but there are only so many hours in the day. It’s true! And while there are a great many things that are interesting and wonderful and fun to do, we have to choose wisely in regards to where and how to best spend our time, in order to care well for ourselves and not over do it. While I enjoy seeing things grow and being able to eat right from my own garden I don’t enjoy watering everyday or picking weeds or the upkeep that goes along with it, so I’ve made the conscious decision not to plant seeds this year. With the possibility of renovating our kitchen, coupled with traveling out of state in July and the myriad of other things I invest my time into, it seems a good choice.
In two weeks I’ll be traveling to southern California to spend four weeks on retreat at Deer Park Monastery (in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh). It will be my 3rd annual trip there, each time in January. The first year I went I spent four weeks and went by myself. The second year I went for two weeks and my husband Mike came along with me. This year Mike and I are going together but he’ll be flying home after spending two weeks while I stay on for another two more weeks. I’m very much looking forward to the trip and the retreat and consider it a great privilege to be able to attend.
For the past few weeks during my morning meditation sit I’ve been mentally and energetically transported to Deer Park in the folds of predawn’s silence. I close my eyes and the darkness of my living room becomes the darkness of the meditation hall at Deer Park. When I sing the morning chant it’s as if I’m singing it in the brothers small dharma hall in Solidity Hamlet (where the monks reside and practice at Deer Park) the same way I had done so last January for my fellow lay practitioners one morning. I can almost feel the cool chill of the ocean adjacent grounds of the monastery sifting through me, the wide, white tiles of the brothers dharma hall underneath me, and the sweet smile of the Buddha surrounding me (see pic above, from the brothers dharma hall).