Getting Clear About the Essentials

What’s essential and what’s optional?


Photo Credit: Devanath via Pixabay

What are the elements of your daily routine that you must have to be at your best?

As we navigate the transitions of this life, it helps to feel a sense of “solid ground” on which to stand and knowing what’s most important for our daily self-care can provide that ground.

But maintaining a connection and commitment to what’s essential can sometimes be less simple than it sounds.

I watched this dynamic at work in my own life recently.

I developed a deep appreciation for nature a long time ago. Through the years, it’s been a teacher, therapist and friend. It informs my work and is a source of insight, joy and peace. 

And yet . . . . 

As I sat in meditation during a recent retreat, I realized that over the last several months I’d been treating my time in nature as optional. 

I bet you’ve had a similar moment – or two – when you’ve realized that you let what’s important take second place. 

When you notice this dynamic, you may feel perplexed, or frustrated, or self-critical.

But the most helpful response, if you can find it, is curiosity. Interest fused with kindness. A genuine loving stance toward your life that seeks to better understand what’s underneath the setting aside of what matters to you.

Some questions I asked myself were: I know this is important to me, why was I not making it part of every day? Are the things I’ve replaced it with really more important? What do I get from my time in nature? Why was I willing to give that up?

Here’s what following the trail of curiosity showed me. Nature brings me joy and happiness. I’m only useful if I’m working hard. Working hard is characterized by misery and suffering. Therefore, if I’m having fun, what I’m doing isn’t worthwhile, it’s a luxury, it’s optional. So, no big surprise that I’d slipped into treating my nature time as optional.

The pivot point is that old, legacy belief that I’m only useful if I’m working hard – preferably in a way that makes me miserable. 

Is that true?? Of course not!

Not only is it not true, but if allowed to thrive, it’s the foundation for a truly unpleasant life.

When outdated beliefs run their stealth programs in the background of our thinking, they can throw us seriously off track. 

Your trail of thoughts will probably be different, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a common theme of hard work – that’s an entrenched thought in much of our society. The important part is to find the thinking that sabotages your self care. If you’re new to peeling away the layers to find what’s underneath, it can help to talk it through with someone you trust. To ask questions. To look with genuine interest and kindness toward yourself, no matter what you find.

Practice this enough and you will notice those pesky old beliefs and get back on track quickly. 

The act of bringing our unconscious thoughts into clear focus, gives us the ability to choose, instead of letting outdated beliefs form our lives. Most importantly, it can be tremendously freeing and even, dare I say it, fun!!

But that’s all for me now – – I’m heading outside!!

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