The Vanishing Bucket List

My dharma brother and fellow OI1 member, Peter Cutler, posted this article on the OI Discussion board on Friday, October 4. I wrote back that what he wrote fits very nicely with Dr. Sara Gordon‘s article, Undivided Self.

Peter’s writing about the vanishing bucket list is clear and interesting.

The Vanishing Bucket ListThe Vanishing Bucket List

Whether we think about it or not, most us have this bucket list of things we would like to experience at least once before we let go of our last breath. Often the list changes and shifts as we do.

At some point, the top of the list for me became enlightenment, awakening in this very life. Just under that was transcending my ego which seemed to be part of the package. Transcending is the nicer more spiritual way of saying it. What I really wanted was to stab it, shoot it, cut off its head, flatten it with a steam roller, pour gasoline on it, burn it and then drop the ashes down a very deep mine shaft. As you may guess, I found it very hard to transcend (kill) permanently. I experienced short periods of blissful freedom only to find the sneaky bugger would suddenly throw open the coffin lid and sneak in the back door.

It never dawned on me that it was actually the ego itself that wanted to do these things, become enlightened, kill the ego and whatever else was on the list. The ego trying to kill the ego only made it stronger by making my belief in it stronger.

At some point that stopped. I don’t really know why or how. I guess I simply let go. The ego began to fade all by itself. I simply lost interest and belief in it.

And the bucket list began to dissolve too. It was like the whole bucket list just burned up leaving not even ashes. Other than enlightenment and killing the ego, I now can’t even remember what was on it. I think there might have been skydiving as I was reminded today. And probably a few sexual fantasies. Becoming famous and rich might have been on it. I’m pretty sure world peace and the end of poverty and social injustice were on it. But I honestly can’t remember now. It seems like a million years ago. I don’t think it’s Alzheimer’s. The list is gone. And in its place – nothing. No desires. Nothing missing. I remember enlightenment and killing the ego, but not even those are on it. There’s nothing on it. No desire (I can’t even call it desire) for anything other than the perfect moment that is here right now. Always here right now. Nothing else could possibly beat this. Nothing ever has. And there is nothing we have to do, try, earn, practice or travel to have it. We already have it. It’s right here. Always right here.

May all your bucket lists vanish in the radiant beauty and bliss of this perfect moment.

Much Love and Gratitude,
True Sangha Virtue

PS Special gratitude to my dear friend, Valerie for bringing up the whole subject of bucket lists and sky diving today and drawing my attention to the fact that I no longer have one.

Peter can be reached through his Sacred Circle Sedona retreat center. For more information about being on the retreat center mailing list or to find out about upcoming retreats, please write to him at radicalhealthcoach[at]


Reading this email, I was reminded of a Zen story I first heard from Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh aka Osho. It is from a book of his by the same name, “No Water, No Moon:

The nun Chiyono studied for years, but was unable to find enlightenment. One night, she was carrying an old pail filled with water. As she was walking along, she was watching the full moon reflected in the pail of water. Suddenly, the bamboo strips that held the pail together broke, and the pail fell apart. The water rushed out; the moon’s reflection disappeared – and Chiyono became enlightened. She wrote this verse:

This way and that way I tried to keep the pail together, hoping the weak bamboo would never break.

Suddenly the bottom fell out. No more water; no more moon in the water – emptiness in my hand.

The undivided self also has an empty bucket list and a desire to remain totally in the present moment. As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says repeatedly quoting the Buddha, “We have everything we need to be happy in the present moment.”

I think this says it all! What do you think?

No Water, No Moon
No Water, No Moon

1 The Order of Interbeing (OI) is a sangha (community) of Buddhist practitioners consisting of nuns, monks, lay women, and lay men who agree to abide by the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. It was founded by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.

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