I believe I have the Secret.
The secret to my perfect life is encapsulated in a short list of guidelines, rules of daily conduct if you will. They WORK. When I do these things daily, life is amazing: I’m balanced, productive, grounded in the present and I’m happy.
It’s wrong to call my list a secret though. It’s comprised of fairly obvious and simple guidelines, much like those that anyone would come up with who’s given much thought to the art of living well. A similar list could probably be distilled from most personal growth books or lifestyle seminars, or from spiritual practices. Not that I’ve explored enough of them to know...but I’m guessing.
I haven’t been scientific or systematic about creating this list. And it’s not in any final or polished form. It’s just that – over the years – as I’ve commenced any number of campaigns to get my shit together, to re-create myself, or to reach this or that lofty goal, it’s become clear that whenever I make real progress, it comes as a result of applying these elements, attending to these realities. So that gradually, this is what my own personal lessons for living distill down to. It’s my own list, in language that’s meaningful to me, and that fits the contours of life as I experience it.
Here’s my personal list of things to attend to daily:
Do Good Work
Use and Move My Body
That’s about it, really.
Of course, this list is both general and overlapping. It’s been longer and it’s been shorter. And I’m sure I’ll package it a bit differently the next time I try and encapsulate this great ‘secret’. Each of the six items is a kind of shorthand, and could be expanded upon, at great length. That would specify and complicate matters though, and without the guarantee of improvement.
I’ve termed these items differently at other times. For example, years ago, instead of ‘Meditate’, I’d have put ‘Pray’. And there’ve occasionally been elaborate regimens in place for items like ‘Eat Healthy’ and ‘Use and Move my Body’. And of course, the various religions and personal development sciences and psycho-therapeutic schools can offer up entire menus of concepts, tactics and beliefs to instruct and guide around the ‘how’ of each of these rules. But I no longer think that the ‘how’ is the meat of it, really.
What’s most important about my rules is that they balance and connect me, and they ground me as a human being in the world. The above is just the wording that works for me in a personal way.
My problem is that I’ve never in all my life managed to keep to my rules for very long at a time. Invariably, one or more of the six starts to slip. I miss a day of meditation, or go on a chocolate cake binge. Or I get indulgent and forgetful of my relationships, or slack about work. I get frustrated with my creative output and put it aside, or tired of going to the gym and so take up the remote. Yes, the human being loses focus and enters into drift, despite the angelic intent.
But even that’s okay. Eventually, I notice, I come back. My resolve and focus last awhile, then I slip again. It’s so hard to keep all six rules in place on the day-to-day. So much so that I’ve accepted this inability as simply something that is, a part of life, of being human. The inability to keep to such a simple set of rules – though doing so would transform my life – has become my most potent lesson in humility. It’s like ‘being present’: simple, natural...but for me, so far...impossible.
For all my slackness and failure to measure up, though, my list is a fine list. I’m glad I have it. Practicing these rules brings me glimpses of the perfection that life is. Mastery will undoubtedly continue to elude me. But I’ll keep right on trying.