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Posts Tagged ‘via negativa’

Many of us make daily use of  “to do” lists and they are quite elastic, becoming longer with each moment we invest  in thinking of things to carry out.

Looking spiritually at the customary obsession with such lists, we certainly can  appreciate the value they create in ensuring progress toward critical goals and objectives, but they also often raise anxiety because of the  number of items that remain incomplete at the end of the day.

The lesson in this is the need to rank and apply “main event” thinking in planning the critical deliverables. As long as the shorter list has time allotted for spiritual practice, the “to do” lists are a useful planning and organizing aid. There is a practice, however, that I find more directly and reliably instructive in ensuring a meaningful daily reflection on matters personal, professional and spiritual: the inverse list, or the “To Don’t” list. This is a far more challenging list to generate.

Whereas the To Do list represents the “via positiva,” or positive path, in focusing on items to complete, the “To Don’t” list, alternatively, embodies the via negativa,” or a listing of what we intend to avoid.

Clutter, whether physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual, is the usual result of trying to do too much, holding onto too much, and constraining the depth of our reflections. Thinking instead about what we should stop doing challenges us to look more deeply at what does and does not make a real positive difference for spiritual growth and clarity.

So as you go about your daily business, consider the ways in which the “To Don’t ” list can better help bring into your day an almost continuous prayerful attitude.

I look ahead to tomorrow with the intent to test what I can discard, postpone, or amend that will free up more inner space for deeper reflection, meditation, and communion with the sacred. I recommend the practice.

Simple, uncluttered

Simple, uncluttered

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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