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What's Most Important?


August 2023

During a recent bout of covid, my mind began circling around certain things as it tends to do when I’m physically unwell. The object of my attention might be an abstract thought, or something more tangible in my immediate surroundings.

I remember having the flu at the age of 8 or 9, lying down and staring at a picture on the wall. It was my mum’s name, ‘Pamela’, decorated in rainbow colours, each letter made up of various images – a bird’s feather here, a long leaf or flower there. My eyes followed around the perimeter of each letter and all the little shapes that were wrapped around it, again and again, as though compelled by a tireless invisible engine. When I closed my eyelids, the visual tracing would continue, as the name burned as brightly and vividly (if not more so) in my fever-inflicted brain.

My experience of covid was nowhere near as bad as the first time, and less intense than that childhood episode of the flu, yet the old tendency to mentally circle around a chosen target remained.

It was not an artwork this time, but rather the topic of life priorities that seemed to hold my mind captive.

To be fair, this topic is one I have pondered a lot throughout my adult years, and earlier in fact. I found myself asking some familiar questions again as they floated in and out of my consciousness, such as:

-       What have been my priorities in life?

-       What are they now?

-       What do I want them to be in future?

-       Of all of them, what’s my top one?

-       How do I best live according to my top priority?

-       Is it the same now as before? If not, will it change again over time?

-       Is it too difficult to choose one priority? In which case, what are my top 3?

And on and on.

The topic expanded to include my most cherished values, my favourite things to do, and the mental and behavioural patterns I hope to let go of.

It was as though in the process of my body trying to heal itself, my mind was going through its own kind of detox, purging ideas or beliefs that are no longer helpful, and clarifying what is most important to me.

Having come out the other side, I can confirm that the conclusions I came to are still true and relevant at this point:

-       What I value most are: spiritual connection, loving relationships, and compassion/kindness.

-       My top priority at the moment is to create an ongoing practice of awareness in daily life, in a way that is consistent with my most important values (since writing my mindful gastro challenge article, I’ve fallen off the bandwagon more times than I care to admit).

-       My favourite things are: Time with loved ones, uplifting words (in all ways and formats, whether reading, writing, speaking, or hearing them), being out in nature, travel (even a short train ride arouses a disproportionate amount of joy for me!), and any sort of practice that leads to a sense of spiritual connection and guidance.

-       More than anything else, my aim is to follow that sense of connection – or to follow my intuition – always.

It’s not necessary to get sick before doing such soul-searching or priority-hunting, though there is often the added benefit of having less distractions. While it may be unpleasant on a physical level, it’s very hard to keep up a hectic schedule while bedridden, so it can force us to slow down and become more introspective.

So, whether your health is in top-notch or far from optimal, why not ask yourself:

-       What have my priorities been, and what do I want them to be in future?

-       What’s my top priority?

-       Have my values changed over time, and how do I best live in alignment with what they              are now?

-       What are my favourite things, and how can I make more time for those activities that                  make me happy?

-       What’s my most important aim in life?

For the answer to the last question, it’s likely to be: something you already enjoy pursuing, that’s mattered to you your whole life, that you would do for free and keep doing even if you were to find yourself alone on a deserted island – in other words, it is not about doing it for others, even if others benefit (which they probably will, since people who love what they do tend to make the world a better place for everyone).

Wishing you all the clarity and inspiration available, should you choose to reflect on your current top values, priorities and most important aim in life :)

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