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Legacy and Choice: Presence, Attention, Intention

Legacy and Choice: Presence, Attention, Intention

I once heard karma, that is, action, described as “living in the world we have helped to create.”

Concepts like that always lead me to thinking about who’s created the world in which I live. Certainly, I’ve participated in the creation of this world, and I am responsible for the meaning in my life. I do not, however, believe that I create the world entire, that nothing happens except by my volition or need.

I dp believe—and it is observable—that we live with the choices of those who have come before us. I honor my Mighty Dead, my ancestors, and I also acknowledge that they made decisions that have had mighty effects, particularly on the face of Earth.

Our ancestors taught us what we know.

Our parents, if we had them in our lives, have taught us much in this life. But they—and we—carry the experiences of our ancestors in our bodies.

Our ancestors built the world as it is now. They built it themselves and they continue to build it through us as we will do through the descendants that follow after us.

We build the world as it is and will be. We will be ancestors ourselves one day. And if we are lucky, we will fertilize Earth with our legacy of wisdom and compassion. If we are lucky—from my perspective—we will fertilize Earth with the very substance of our bodies.

Building the world as it is and will be is a great responsibility, and one that we may not want to have. But it is ours, whether we will or no.

It is not an invitation to paralyzing guilt—though I know many of us, including me, struggle with that—but rather an invitation to presence. To attention. To intention.


These are core approaches that help us do and be more thoughtfully, more mindfully in the world.

These are ways that we can decide some of what we intend to carry forward and what we intend to make anew.

These are ways that we can reflect, and so make meaning out the actions we and others take. These are ways we can be deliberate about our choices and learn what our hopes and dreams really are.

Who do I want to be in this life?

What do I want my legacy to be?

How do I want to make decisions, choices? How do I decide whether to turn at the crossroads in my life?


There are those among us who recognize that what they perceive from their ancestors is a history of abuse, neglect, or oppression. They—our friends, our colleagues, ourselves—have realized that they can make different choices and break cycles of violence.

With Presence, Attention, and  Intention, these things, these mighty changes are possible.

There is so much more I want to say about all these things.

About choice.

About freedom.

About illusions.

But they can wait for another time.

For now, let us remember that in our task of meaning making, if we are present, attentive, and intentional, we can be as we may never have imagined we could be. We can be more compassionate and wise than we’ve ever hoped.

Simply by showing up with all we have. Simply by perceiving what we can perceive. Simply by choosing deliberately how we want to live.


Perhaps not so simply.

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