One of the stories we find ourselves often sharing these days, when asked about our time on the Camino trail, is about how incredible it was to have such a singular focus: Our intention each day was to walk. To simply walk. Yes, we engaged in other activities like packing our packs, finding food and places to stay, chatting with folks from around the world, experiencing the changes in landscapes and feeling more and more immersed in the local culture and the natural world of Northern Spain. And yet, these were all undertaken within the greater intention of walking 20-25 km each day. Pure and simple.
We experienced our recent time at Gampo Abbey in a similar vein. Our focus was different, of course. We weren’t walking all day, our days were meditative in another way – whether walking or sitting or eating or dressing or folding our clothes we were cultivating an inner silence and stillness. We tried to enter into all activity with clarity of intention and attention. Yes, we did eat and yes, we did read books in the library. But similar to walking on the Camino, these were done in order to support our larger singular purpose: to engage deeply in our spiritual practice within a like-minded community.
We’ve spent some time reflecting recently on the common characteristics of these vastly different experiences that led to us feeling a sameness with them that contrasted with other aspects of our lives. We identified that it felt powerfully grounding to only have a singular focus, rather than accomplishing scattered, fragmentary tasks that rarely cohered and provided a center to our days. On neither of these occasions did we ever wake up in the morning with a To Do list. Nor did one develop throughout the day. We simply moved from one activity to another, in the present moment, focused on our intention (walking or meditating).
Conversely, once we arrived home, I remember waking up the very next morning with an instant 20 item list in my mind prior to even getting out of bed – a list that then increased exponentially once I checked my email!
Is it feasible, we wonder, to try and design our lives with a singular focus and thus not feel so scattered from moment to moment with endless lists and random tasks generated by the culture, rather than our inner selves? Could this help us to remain centered in the midst of what it takes to sustain ourselves on a daily basis?
Maybe it’s just a matter of perspective. Maybe we can simply choose a central purpose and approach our lives through it. Let’s say I name my overall life intention as, “To be love”. I can check those endless tasks on the To Do lists against this aspiration and see if they are in support of it. If yes, great. And if no, then maybe it gets dropped from the list! Or maybe it is a shift in attitude about daily tasks that is required so that we come to see each as precious and valuable, not something to race through and “get done”. We can choose to do or not to do, as well as how we feel about the doing or not doing. And if everything we choose somehow aligns with our overall intention, then perhaps the lists won’t feel as imposed and dispersive. Maybe they won’t feel like lists at all. Could it be this simple?