Your Reverse Bucket List


People often talk about their “bucket list;” the things they want to do, accomplish or experience before they shuffle off this mortal coil. But what if we each flipped that script and each of us created our own reverse bucket list?

By this I mean, instead of looking forward to what you haven’t done yet, you’d look back on all the amazing things you’ve already done– all while remaining fully rooted and centered in the present moment. What this does is to open the door to another dimension in which to discover and design our lives. When we feel discouraged or doubt our ability to take something on, we can look back and say, “Hey! I once organized and ran a volunteer food bank!” or “I once relieved a friend’s anxiety while he was suffering with a serious illness.”

This kind of memory work can be an incredibly valuable asset for our present-moment spiritual practice. Memories of past triumphs give us the courage to take on the sometimes-daunting tasks life throws at us. This technique can also be used with previously-held objects, positions, relationships: “I remember so many great times my mom and I had before she passed away…I really enjoyed the untold hours of work I managed to crank out of that old sewing machine…teaching was a deeply satisfying career.”

Someone will object: “Then you’re living in the past, indulging in sentimental nostalgia. And you’re setting yourself up to become depressed, thinking about people, places and things that are no longer in your life.”

These objections are right on target if a practitioner practices poorly. If she lacks skill, she may well be simply wallowing in self-pity and encouraging a depressed frame of mind in herself. If she practices well, however, none of these untoward results will be in the offing. She’ll be firmly anchored to the present moment and her physical locale by virtue of her deeply conscious breathing. She’ll smile at the river of feelings that runs by, acknowledging them and their impermanent nature. She’ll remember that all the conditions required for happiness are available to her in each moment.

Rather than causing depression, awareness of the impermanent nature of all things can be a source of comfort. Without impermanence, we couldn’t heal; our children would never grow up, and we couldn’t reach any of our goals. Enjoy your reverse bucket list!

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