Do you feel like this: too much to do, too many places to be, too little time to do it all?
On the job, in school, at home, even in retirement, we are increasingly imprisoned by the perception that time is a scarce and limited resource. We rush from one commitment or activity to another and believe that we haven’t a minute to spare. We yearn for more time, yet we often feel anxious and guilty when idle.
Until we change our relationship to time, our lives will continue to speed away from us—at enormous cost to our health and to direct experience of ourselves and the world around us. “There is no issue, no aspect of human life, that exceeds this in importance,” says Jacob Needleman, author of Time and the Soul. “The destruction of time is literally the destruction of life.”
When we learn to shift time, our relationships become more rewarding, our time spent alone is richer, our aging is more satisfying, our work is more fruitful and our stress and anxiety are less paralyzing, or even nonexistent. To allow time to “breathe” more in your life, try some or all of the following suggestions from Stephan Rechtschaffen, author of Timeshifting, as well as others. See if your reservoir of time starts to refill.
- Pause. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Han suggests taking a deep breath before answering the phone. Other conscious pauses throughout the day—a moment of silence before each meal, sitting in the car a few minutes before entering the house after work—help us to “come home” to ourselves.
- Carve out idle time alone. Greek philosopher Aristotle noted that “nature requires us not only to be able to work well but also to idle well.” Just because you’re not doing anything doesn’t mean that nothing’s getting done! Don’t be tempted to “fill” every moment with a task. When you find a moment try concentrating on taking deep breaths to let go of the anxiety of being ‘idle’.
- Live as fully as possible in the present moment. When we leave behind thoughts of the past or future, we can experience time more peacefully, says Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now. Release the past and surrender that you cannot know the future, but you can live in the present.
- Toss your schedule whenever you can. Even better, schedule spontaneous time and then surprise yourself. Have you driven by a park on the way to or from work? Why not stop and take a stroll around it?
- Examine underlying reasons for your busyness. What emotions would you experience if you weren’t so busy? What emotions are you trying to run from? Emotional work is challenging but essential if we are to stop running from our hearts.
- Play. Whether you sing, play the ukulele, paint, shake your bootie—whatever—play helps us to step outside of ordinary time. Try something you always wanted to do, play an instrument, buy a dance video and dance just for fun!
- Create time retreats. Once a year or so, choose to do something for a week or more that allows you to shift into a different rhythm—something where you can just “be” without the need for doing anything. Don’t be that person that won’t take their vacation time, saving it until they were forced to use it as if it were a punishment. If you can’t take a week, try an art class, a museum visit, a lecture at the local university something that can expand your horizons and give you a new perspective.
- Spend time in nature. We can’t help but slow down in nature’s unhurried pace. Watching a soaring bird or admiring a flower garden can seem to stretch a minute into an hour. Try carrying a sketchbook and take a few moments to sketch outdoors.
We can learn to experience time more purposefully and meaningfully—so that it’s not an enemy robbing us of the joy of life. We needn’t be at time’s mercy. When we change our awareness, we can actually experience the gifts of time.
Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications