Just do the next thing.

Rev. Chris Jackson

Rev. Chris Jackson

Do you ever wake in the morning and find yourself wrestling with a mental list of people to call, places to go and things that need to be done?  Does it seem as though no matter how much you accomplish in the course of the day, there are more assignments “on hold” than there is time in which to do them?  

For myself, I often find this to be the state of my world.  And on the most challenging of these days I can find myself rushing through one project or meeting after another – hoping for a sign of the finish line to foster a sense of self-worth and achievement.  

To live life in this manner is to be destination oriented as opposed to being oriented in the moment.  It seems to me that the greatest moments of joy in life are found in the present moment, accessible by being fully engaged in what is happening right here and right now.

My journal includes a wonderful quotation by one of my spiritual teachers, Meister Eckhart, who said, “Wisdom consists of doing the next thing you have to do, doing it with your whole heart, and finding delight in it.”

From that sage advice, I have crafted a little sign I keep on my desk.  It says, “Just do the next thing…don’t worry about the rest.”  It is a revelation born also from a little coffee cup that my mother-in-law gave me when I first began my career in the Unity movement.  It was inscribed with the words, “I do my best and leave the rest to God.”

While we hear of the necessity of mastering the art of “multi-tasking,” I find that I receive the greatest satisfaction and joy from my work when I am totally engaged in one thing at a time.  My presence in a state of heightened awareness to the content of the moment allows me experiences that don’t get noticed when my mind is pre-occupied with a list of future obligations.  

I am becoming more adept at recognizing the next thing that is mine to do.  Yes, I still have a long list of tasks, projects and engagements that will ultimately require my attention.  But I am developing the habit of taking just a few seconds to close my eyes and ask, “What is the next thing I need to do?”  It comes to me, and I “do my best” to immerse myself in it as though it was the only thing calling for my attention.  

At the end of the day, I may not have accomplished all that I intended.  There may be some disappointments from those who believe I have failed to fill their expectations.  There may even be moments of self-guilt for not meeting my own expectations – regardless of how unreasonable they may be.  Yet I can choose to evaluate my own level of accomplishment without the measuring stick of other’s opinions and even my own opinions.

At the same time, I can rejoice that in the brief and fleeting moments I am privileged to be alive on this planet, I take the time to focus on the exquisite nature of each and every undertaking I am a part of, give it my all, and savor the experience of everything I do.

I may not be able to say, “Look, I made it to the finish line.  All my work is done!”  But I can surely say, “I lived with my whole heart, and found delight in it.”

Try it for a day.  Believe in the wisdom of doing the next thing you have to do.  Be totally present with it.  Enjoy and savor it.  It is a wonderful way to live.  And you might be surprised to accomplish more than you ever dreamed.

Rev. Chris Jackson
Unity on the Bay, Senior Minister