Saturday, February 19, 2011

Things You Don't Have to Do

I know you’re busy. Everybody’s busy. We are being crushed by our to-do lists. Maybe I can help. Here’s a whole list of things you don’t have to do.

You don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to right every wrong, heal every wound and bridge every gap between what is and what should be. You don’t have to fix all of the broken things.

You don’t have to understand everything. You don’t have to figure everything out. You don’t have to force the uncarved whole into tiny conceptual boxes.

You also don’t have to explain yourself. You don’t have to reduce the mystery of whom and what you are to a category, a type, a box checked on a government form. You don’t have to force your boundless nature into a mold someone else made.

You are not defined by your race, your gender, your ethnicity, your national origin, your political affiliation, your sexual orientation, your ideology, your body, your strengths, your weaknesses or your endless lists of opinions, preferences and aversions. What you really are lies beyond all of those layers of window dressing.

You don’t have to worry about the future. You don’t have to waste one more iota of energy carefully imagining every possible negative outcome and then struggle to avoid those imagined outcomes with tools forged from your own cleverness. You don’t have to bear the burden of every conceivable what-if and yeah-but. You can put them down. As the old Zen saying goes, “How refreshing, the whinny of a pack horse unburdened of everything.”

You don’t have to be someone you’re not. You don’t have to compare yourself to everyone you meet, measuring their best qualities against your worst. You don’t have to violate your own nature in a vain attempt to emulate someone else’s.

You don’t have to match anyone else’s timeline. You don’t have to march alongside anyone or anything else. You don’t have to force the natural flow of events and seasons into the rows and columns of anyone’s timetable spreadsheet, including your own.

You don’t have to believe your harshest self-assessment. You don’t have to believe your own definitions of failure. You might be wrong.

You don’t have to be afraid. You don’t have to assume that the universe is a dangerous, hostile place. You don’t have to believe the worst about other people.

You don’t have to buy the next newest thing. You don’t have to want what corporations, marketing departments and salesmen tell you to want.

You don’t have to obey every craving. You don’t have to believe that happiness only comes later, after every need’s been met.

You don’t have to keep running away. You don’t have to keep avoiding the simple truths that are trying to catch up to you. Slow down. They will find you.

You don’t have to be deaf to that still, soft, inner voice. You don’t have to stay so busy, so distracted, so overwhelmed that you remain forever knocked off balance. You don’t have to allow the noise of your busyness to drown out the quiet truths arising in the stillness at your center.

You don’t have to manage everything. You don’t have to scrutinize, assess and manipulate every piece of the puzzle. You don’t have to write the master plan.

You don’t have to keep eating when you’re full. You don’t have to believe the lie that it’s never enough.

You don’t have to get drunk or high. You don’t have to repeat forever habits you picked up when you were young and scared. You don’t have to obey your fear.

You don’t have to shut down when you feel your feelings arise. You don’t have to push away what you cannot control. You don’t have to make your heart an empty, hostile place full of shadows, open wounds, self-doubt and endless hunger.

You don’t have to be lonely. You don’t have to hide. You don’t have to feel unsafe outside the four walls of your cage.

You don’t have to be unhappy.

You don’t have to struggle against change and strain to hold on to things that are trying to fade away.

You don’t have to have an opinion about everything. You don’t have to mistake your own fleeting judgments for truths.

You don’t have to have a perfect family, whatever that is. You don’t have to feel deep, warm and vibrant connections with all of your relatives, or feel guilty and ashamed if you don’t. You don’t have to force your family to conform to a fictional, idealized fantasy.

You don’t have to eliminate all anger and pain from your life. You don’t have to iron out every crease, soak out every stain or chase away every confusion. In the waves of life, you don’t have to define every peak as a success and every trough as a failure.

You don’t have to agree with anyone else’s ideology. You don’t have to accept anyone else’s definition of God, no matter how earnest their pronouncements, no matter how ancient and hallowed their tradition. You don’t have to abandon your own deeply held inner convictions because they conflict with a mass movement or popular theology.

You don’t have to belong to any groups because they’re said to be important. You don’t have to blindly ascribe to any nationalisms, especially if they draw their strength from a sense of exceptionalism or superiority. Empires come and go. Humanity knows nothing of empires. Plant your flag in something that lasts.

Life is short. Don’t waste these precious hours, days, weeks, months and years on things that don’t matter. Do the work that has been given to you to do. Find a way to let go of your fears and live the life your soul is asking for. Let what is trying to emerge through you emerge. Become a part of something larger than yourself. Your bliss depends on it. Shed your limited and limiting definition of yourself. Pledge that you will no longer cling to ways of living that do not serve your highest good. Promise yourself that you will stop waiting for the right time. Now is the right time. There is so much we have yet to do. Each of us has our small part to play. Drop everything that doesn’t matter. Don’t waste another second doing things you don’t have to do.


Deanna said...

WOW! I LOVE this post. Thank you, Peter!

© Peter Bolland said...

Thanks Deanna, much appreciated.

Harry 'aka' Mojo said...

Why is it..that every month in
" Thinking Through" I am always reading...precisely what it is.. I need at that given moment?
You are a rare DIAMOND Indeed!

Thanks Peter!

Carmelita said...

Beautiful thoughts Peter, timely and to the point especially for those of us that are uncertain about "who we really are" and what the heck we are supposed to do with our lives... your thoughts felt like a breath of fresh air coming into a stuffy room!

Lisa said...

Peter, This post made me cry, and I didn't feel like I needed to hide that. :) I guess I really needed to read this today. I so appreciate the way you think and the way you share it with others. Thank you!

lookingforcool said...

Peter... thanks.

the other white Pete

Stephie Althouse, Founder of FFHI said...

Peter, I absolutely LOVE this piece! I would love to repost it on my website, with proper credit and a backlink to your site, of course, if that feels okay to you? Your post fits right in with our mission to empower families to healthier, happier, more fulfilled lifestyles! The things "you don't have to do" lead to a lot of unnecssary grief if you feel like you do have to do them! Thank you for this awesome post! I hope you will speak to our Mastermind group again soon!


I am a hobo that was just passing through and I like your site so now I'm following you.
Signed, hobo

Stephanie said...

Well, with that settled, I wonder what I will do with my life.

Great piece, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter, i found the link of your blog from Flo via FB, your post is exactly what i need today. It truly inspires me. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter, i found the link of your blog from Flo via FB, your post is exactly what i need today. It truly inspires me. Thank you.

Richard said...

Hi Peter,
Well, I finished reading this piece and it's really neat and inspiring. You have a gift for communication, in writing, speaking, teaching; I'll have to catch a music show sometime too. Thanks for pulling together so many of our second-guessing yearnings, doubts, and struggles into one tight essay, and pointing the way.

Grace said...

This is so awesome, thank you for posting this....words to live by ~ unfortunately, most people can't (or in reality won't) "not do" things on this list. They live off of stressful situations. It's sad.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a fun, thoughtful read.

Evan Griffith said...


I've found my new favorite writer -- you. First, it was your article on the new atheism in Unity Magazine (presumably that was you). Then I searched and found this article. That sealed the deal.

For some time I've felt that skepticism is the best thing to have happened to God (or perhaps better put, our conception of God). Your Unity article, without rancor or rage, speaks to why opposition and debate are healthy intellectually.

With this post, I am delighted to have found a clear voice for thoughtful spirituality . . . . Enough of my accolades for you! I have more Peter Bolland to read!


Anne said...

Peter this is an exceptional article! What a great reminder for all of us! Thank you for sharing your wisdom in such a clearly inspired manner!
We feel privileged to know you!