I love making lists. I love checking things off my list each day or week. I make a list of things I want to accomplish and then gleefully check them off. I don’t scratch them out because I might not be able to read them easily if I did. I want to go back over the list and make sure I don’t try to do something twice (waste of energy) and I want the joy of knowing exactly what I accomplished.
To some degree the whole list thing is useless for doing spiritual practice. I can’t say “meditate”, then put a check mark by it and be done for the day, much less the rest of my life. So far, I can’t pray for a better attitude just once. That one seems to be ongoing. Spiritual practice lists would be like putting “brush teeth” on a daily project list. Yeah, you’ll do it (one hopes) but that doesn’t mean it’s really complete. If I put it on the list of things to do, it just takes up space. It should be habitual, but I find that my habits are hard to start and even harder to stop.
I do have a mental “do every day” list but that is short. It only has three things on it. It’s just cell phone, cat box and medications. That’s my do every day before leaving the house list. I found that if I didn’t do those three things, if I tried to leave them for later in the day, bad things often happened. If you are a cat person, you don’t need me to explain. If you are not a cat person, you don’t want me to.
So how do I make my mad skillz at list making work for me in my spiritual practice? I finally found an answer. I have a list of things to do when I don’t know what to do and/or I’m not having fun. On that list are things like “use a lifeline” which refers to prayer and meditation. It also includes “call a friend”. I have the word HALT on that list. It stands for hungry, angry, lonely or tired. If I’m feeling any of those, I stop, take care of myself and then it is usually easy to move on to knowing what else to do next. Doing some kind of service is on that list. Service work both keeps me out of my head and out of the fridge (emotional eating is an old coping mechanism). I can read a book or watch a Youtube video of a sermon by a friend. There are so many things to put on this list – but when I’m in the dumps, I don’t naturally think of them. When the things on this list are a habit, I’ll have to create a new list. Luckily, that’s a favorite thing to do.
What’s on your list? What works for you?