The Urgency of Piles

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By Leo Babauta

Someone I know shared that they came back from a meditation retreat excited about the meaningful possibilities they’d envisioned on the retreat — new projects, opportunities, important stuff they wanted to create.

So incredible to be excited about meaningful possibilities!

And then they got home, and there were piles of tasks, emails and messages waiting for them. The urgency of those piles threw them off their best intentions.

The urgency of piles throws off all of our best laid plans.

We have to deal with piles all the time:

Tasks piling up on our todo listsEmails and messages that pile up in our inboxesPapers pile up on our desks, documents pile up on our computer desktopTabs pile up in the browserChores and errands pile up, phone calls we need to make, things that need to be fixed or cleanedClutter piles up all over our homes

These piles of tasks, messages, errands, chores … they feel urgent. We can’t seem to ignore them in favor of what’s most important, because they come with an anxiety that makes us want to fix whatever’s calling for our attention the most.

Sometimes we ignore the urgent piles, but that doesn’t make the feeling of urgency or anxiety go away … it only makes it worse. It’s like trying to bury our heads in the sand and pretend the problem isn’t there — it’s still calling to us, but we put our fingers in our ears and hum loudly in hopes of drowning out the urgency of piles.

There’s nothing wrong with this tendency to want to either tackle the piles or ignore them. There’s nothing wrong with the urgency or anxiety of these piles. But what if we could create a new relationship to them?

What if the piles are opportunities to serve, to love, to play? Would we feel less anxious and urgent about these opportunities to play? The piles don’t have to say anything about our adequacy or inadequacy … they’re just playgrounds.

Or they could be seen as a garden — we want to tend to these little sprouts with care, but they aren’t a forest fire that we need to urgently deal with. Bring our love and care, but not urgently.

With this new relationship to our piles, we can also turn our attention to something that’s deeper. A project that is meaningful, a place to bring our hearts and our curiosity. We can bring our deepest intentions of meditation, reflection, expression. We can deepen our relationships, and spend time with those we love without the urgency of the piles calling to us from our phones.

What would you like to do with your days, if you didn’t have to feel the urgency of the piles?

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