Time is the thing.
The imagination is limitless.
Time constrains action.I wrote those words last year as I was managing a pretty demanding schedule, a full life. Two wonderful kids, their activities and heavy involvement in their school; an ex-partner with whom I share both co-parenting responsibilities but also a genuine friendship on most days; a great job with challenging responsibilities that allows me to express my analytical mind, creativity and desire for deep impact; two girlfriends with whom my sense of connection and caring was growing deeper by the day; a few close friends that keep me firmly grounded with joy; and a litter of cars that feed my habit of modifying and finding ways to drive faster (in style). It is a life virtually bursting at the seams. Full.
Time is the enemy of desire.
Desire wants more. The desire for more fun, more love (having multiple romantic, loving relationships), more passion, and more experiences that feed the heart and soul. My desire compels me to say yes. My life is currently a loosely managed chaos – lovely in its spirit but soul crushing in conflicting demands. But, I have this desire, nee passion, to do so many things. I will to embrace the world; engage it as fully as my head, heart and hands can possibly manage. Only the hammer of planning and the focus of mindfulness seem to have any effect on the shackles of time.
Now, I am notoriously bad at planning. It vexes me. It takes energy and interest that I rarely have to give. Planning – so called time management – has the possibility to help me fit what I want to into my life. Like so much about life, actively choosing is the key. Choosing what we are doing or not doing at any given moment in the day, taking time to make hard choices. We can either choose to have our time be accidentally spent and often misspent by the whims of others and our own inertia and moods or we can look at our day, week and month as the canvas upon which we paint our lives.
Planning becomes high art when it allows for spontaneity. In fact, it provides the space to be spontaneous because great planning clarifies what’s important at any given moment and keeps the backlog of delayed (necessary but unpleasant) activities at bay. I have decided that time management is one of the few keys that can truly unlock the grail of self-actualization. It is an essential tool that at the ripe old age of 42 I will finally bend my will to master.
In the race against time, time wins. Every. Time.
We can’t beat time. It won’t submit to our commands. When your enemy can’t be defeated, you have only two options: denial or embrace. Instead of denial, we need – to paraphrase Pema Chodron – to welcome it as if we had invited it. Put another way, we need to recognize the precious nature of each second and kiss each moment of time as it flies. Of course, this is not a new notion. It is in its essence, mindfulness.
Oh mindfulness! My dear old friend. I have been practicing insight meditation for the good part of three years now. I am just an egg, a rank novice in the practice. I have felt the changes meditation slowly facilitates in one’s life. Of those benefits, I want to pick upon the obvious one – mindfulness in everyday life. Mindfulness, simply put, is the ability to be fully present at any given moment, an awareness that’s fully accepting of what’s happening just now. It is attunement with the present moment without adding anything to or taking anything away from what is being experienced. As my teacher is fond of saying, “Just this… Just this… Nothing more.”
I have had this sense for much of my life that I was sleep walking through life. I was either dreaming about some ideal future or ruing some happenstance of the past. Millions of minutes of my life wasted being somewhere else, literally, over 22 million minutes (42 years = 22,075,200 minutes). I can’t get those minutes back. But, I can be fully present in the minutes I have left. Just this.
I surrender to time. And by surrending, I can stop resisting the passage of time and live in its flow. I’m fully alive and connected in a way that I wasn’t before. A state of near flow or optimal experience (as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi). I find it easier to get lost in the art of conversation. When I’m with a partner, I’m not thinking about my other lover or the broken sink or the presentation I have to write for work. Instead, it’s “just this” and that is all that matters. All that matters until I’m otherwise engaged.
“We say we waste time, but that is impossible. We waste ourselves.” – Alice Bloch