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Life without a Bucket List

August 2019

Last September, I wrote about what I’d choose to do on my last day on earth, and encouraged the use of a “bucket list” to become clear on what we want to do before we die. At the end of the article, I announced that I was about to tick off a bucket list item which involved a trip to a country I had wanted to visit for a long time. What I didn’t mention was that this was actually my last bucket list item. Once I arrived home, I had no more items on my list. 

On the one hand, it seemed pretty cool that I’d ticked everything off my bucket list. Sure, the list had evolved over time and I had purposely dropped some items along the way. I no longer felt compelled, for example, to learn how to tap dance, or take vows to become a Tibetan Buddhist nun, or earn a blackbelt in aikido (I did get my brown belt at least, which is something!).

On the other hand, I wasn’t sure how to feel about the fact that my bucket was now empty. Did this mean that I was ready to … die?? 

Over the preceding couple of years, I had explored and committed to practicing surrender rather than push my own agenda in life, mostly due to the awareness that the latter approach hadn’t worked out so well. For that reason, I had no strong desire to think up more items and create a fresh new bucket list. I wondered whether perhaps, rather than being ready for death, this situation meant that I could be more available and open to receiving inspiration and guidance without my own goals getting in the way. Perhaps it actually meant that I was now ready to fully live.  

Muan - with or without a Bucket List

On an adventure tour in Laos a few years ago, I received a short language lesson each day in order to communicate (or at least try) with the locals there. Some words in Laos have no equivalent in English. We learnt that one of those words is “muan”, which can be roughly translated as “do with joy”.

Our tour guide informed us that in Laos, people aren’t as impressed by status or how much you are paid as they are by how happy you are when working. It was pointed out that unlike some Western countries where others may look down on you if you have a low status position or low pay, in Laos they couldn’t care less. The locals in Laos want to know whether you spend your days completing your duties with joy. You may not be judged on the basis of status and wealth, but they’ll feel sorry for you if you carry out your day-to-day tasks without joy. It’s joy that matters.

Even before learning this, I had noticed that the people of Laos appeared not to take themselves too seriously. At one point, I passed a small construction site and was amused to see a man throwing bricks up to another guy sitting on top of a building. OH&S hazard! I thought to myself, but I was also struck by how much fun they seemed to be having. I couldn’t recall many instances back home where people looked so carefree at work.

To go back to the topic of bucket lists, I do feel very grateful to have made my way through the items on my list. At the same time, ticking off those items wasn’t always as wonderful as I assumed it would be. For the final bucket list item of visiting Italy, as an example, it was not that great a trip for me. As a result of a couple of incidents that occurred, in addition to the heat, noise, crowds of loud tourists and cranky locals (even the pigeons and gulls seemed unusually angry and screechy!) I found myself counting down the days to come home.

Perhaps what’s more important than marking off and continuing to add items to our bucket lists, or to even have one in the first place, is to cultivate an attitude of muan. That may do more to bring meaning to our lives than any bucket list can. 

Another List

While I don’t have a bucket list anymore, nor do I spend lots of time thinking up and writing down lengthy to-do lists as I once used to, I now create another type of list which keeps me busy. Let me explain …  

When I started to provide professional intuitive readings, I observed that many people who came back for future readings would say they were feeling stuck. This was after having clear, actionable steps laid out during a previous reading – steps which, for whatever reason, had not been taken yet. Readings aside, I’ve also had people let me know what their intuition has told them, and then proceed to ignore that guidance and continue what they’ve done before, expecting things to change despite changing nothing. 

Some months back, I caught myself becoming exasperated in relation to a person who had asked the same question a few times over the years, with the answer remaining unchanged. The guidance was to do one particular thing as a starting point, and to try it for one week. In my mind, it was not too difficult a task, but years later that one thing had still not yet been done. I wondered to myself, “One thing? If this matters so much, what’s stopping you from doing this one thing?”

Then I remembered how I often procrastinate when it comes to acting on guidance I’ve received too. I was the pot calling the kettle black.

Yesterday I heard author Elizabeth Gilbert say during a recorded Q&A session from 2014:

“The beginning of sanity is to stop being shocked and appalled when people that you know behave exactly as themselves, again and again and again, ‘cause that’s what they’re gonna keep doing.”

I think this was the sort of realisation I had earlier this year when I saw there was no point becoming frustrated with others who weren’t making changes that they said they wanted to make. While I may care about others and want the best for them, in the end it’s really none of my business what they choose to do with their own life.

An interesting thing then happened. My attention turned towards myself and what I was not doing. I saw that there were things I had postponed for weeks or months or longer even though I had clear intuitive “instruction” to do them. It wasn’t always due to fear, or not knowing how to take action, or wanting to stay in my comfort zone. Occasionally it was simply laziness or pure forgetfulness. I didn’t always record everything down and just assumed that if it really was important enough, then my intuition would remind me again later.

After accepting the futility of expecting other people to change when in fact they may not feel ready or able to do so yet, I decided that I would take action to practice what I had been preaching. I committed to follow every single step that I felt guided to take each day. It wasn’t enough to do this just when I felt like it, or just when it suited me, or to take one step out of every four or five. I was to note down every single piece of guidance, and to either tick it off each day or add it to my list for later if I didn’t get around to addressing it straight away.

Guide Time

I’ve shared before that the process I learnt for opening my chakras and tuning in for spiritual guidance before professional readings was so enjoyable that I turned it into a daily habit, whether I had intuitive services scheduled for the day or not. I refer to this daily practice of tuning in for guidance as “guide time”. 

The sceptical part of me is still alive and well despite all the wacky experiences I’ve been through. I continue to be open to the possibility that true inspiration, spirit guides, or angelic forces do not actually exist. Perhaps the images, answers, and “guidance” I’ve received have been the result of an overactive imagination. (This is harder to dismiss after years of reading accurately for strangers, but the scepticism is still there especially if I’m using the process alone on myself). Nonetheless, even the sceptical part of me accepts that this practice of tuning in each day and the belief in a spiritual world seems to help bring more peace and joy into my life. 

In my book Channel, the importance of trusting our intuition was emphasised. Lately I’ve been feeling that to live a fulfilling life may require more than simply trusting our intuition; we can take it up a notch when we choose to trust life itself. 

I started exploring my level of trust and relationship with life while completing the 60-day Submersion program that I’ve previously written about. I mentioned that my level of happiness seemed to noticeably increase after competing that program too. 

While holding a greater level of trust in life, I thought it would be worthwhile to demonstrate more trust regarding answers I receive during guide time as well. I now take notes during this time, and tick off items I’ve written down just as I would previously have done with a bucket list or an everyday to-do list. 

Sometimes I feel like I’m taking advantage of “cheats” in the game of life (just like video game cheats) by aspiring to receive answers from my guides. Yet when I note down those answers and do what I can to follow that guidance, life appears to flow more easily. I don’t care if I’m making it up, because so far this process seems to be working, and I feel happier than I remember ever having been in my life. And if guides do exist, then based on the love and good vibes I feel during guide time, I don’t think they care at all whether I occasionally wonder if they are merely figments of my imagination. I doubt they’re ever offended by that. 

I’m aware that this could change. Elizabeth Gilbert, quoted above, also mentioned in an interview this year that as she approaches 50, she feels wiser and humbler. She recalled that at the age of 40, she thought she had it altogether and had life all figured out, but in hindsight she was merely experiencing “a break between catastrophes”. 

So perhaps I am also now in between catastrophes. Yet, it has been an unusually long and consistent emotional high for me without many unusually great things in my outer world to explain it. I haven’t won the lottery. I live in the same apartment I’ve been in for years. I still face similar problems and challenges that I’ve had before. I can only assume that the changes made at the start of this year to nurture my inner world have made a huge difference. Things like exploring the idea of living in a subjective reality, carving out time to meditate for longer each morning, and following those instructions that come through each day when I ask for guidance. 

I still believe it’s worth having a bucket list if there are things you truly want to experience in this lifetime which you’d regret not doing. It also can help tremendously to keep a to-do list of all the errands and other tasks that need to be completed each day or week. 

If, however, you start to receive guidance on what to do next, whether it’s during a quiet time of consciously tuning in for answers or after settling your mind through meditation or prayer or simply being hit unexpectedly by inspiration during your day, consider writing that guidance down. List the tasks to be completed and details of what to do as you receive them through using your intuitive ability. I would be so bold as to suggest that this list should be prioritised over any other sensible lists or plans you may already have. 

Once you have your inspired list, you can proceed to move through it and tick off items with as much dedication, effort, joy and excitement as you would with your very own bucket list :)

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