The Most Important Thing

A note from Carl:

The Most Important ThingHappy Losar and Chinese New Year!

A supermoon, a new year- what a ripe morning!

A good day for reflecting on a line from Suzuki Roshi:

“The most important thing…is to find out what is the most important thing.”

This is one of those inquiries that I need ask myself repeatedly through the year, through the days, through the moments. It is like a marriage, it doesn’t just happen once and then you have it. It is a daily commitment, and it takes a huge dose of kindness and humor to see how often I’m off course…

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. -e.e.cummings

The Most Important ThingThere are so many external and internal forces that try to lure us from what is most important. Distraction becomes most important, or busyness, or facebook, or iPhones… A few weeks ago, I was speaking with a friend who said, “You know, I identify myself as a real nature guy- but if I look honestly at how I use my time and attention, now I’m more of an internet guy.”

Now, not many of us would say that the internet is the most important thing for us, but if we look at how we spend our time…

I remember a line from a wonderful book, Open and Innocent by Scott Morrison where he said:

“The path to hell is not paved by good intentions. The path to hell is paved by not recognizing what our intentions really are.”

It is so easy for us to think we hold certain values yet it is as though our life is carried along by some other current when we look back at how we’ve spent a day, a week, a year.

We have all had the experience with an illness, an accident, the loss of a loved one, where what is most important comes effortlessly to the foreground and all else drifts away. In my experience, it is shocking how brief those periods can be. And yet I have also tasted how that same urgency and appreciation can be cultivated and grown by regularly watering the seeds of what is really most important.

In the words of Mary:


I know, you never intended to be in this world.
But you’re in it all the same.

So why not get started immediately.

I mean, belonging to it.
There is so much to admire, to weep over.

And to write music or poems about.

Bless the feet that take you to and fro.
Bless the eyes and the listening ears.
Bless the tongue, the marvel of taste.
Bless touching.

You could live a hundred years, it’s happened.

Or not.

I am speaking from the fortunate platform
of many years,
none of which, I think, I ever wasted.
Do you need a prod?
Do you need a little darkness to get you going?
Let me be as urgent as a knife, then,
and remind you of Keats,
so single of purpose and thinking, for a while,
he had a lifetime.

-Mary Oliver

Wishing you alignment with what is most important, life-giving, and valuable for you in this year of the Wood Sheep.


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