page twenty: Time - Friend or Enemy?
I woke up early on Memorial Day prepared to work and then remembered it was a holiday. Memorial Day signals the onset of warmer days, the end of another school year and, for me, an easier summer schedule at the studio. Then a few moments later, it hit me: it was Memorial Day, 2019 !! What, end of May already?! But wait, hadn’t we just ushered in the New Year? I haven’t even started on some of my resolutions yet - my heart sank, just a little, with disbelief and denial.
I have had moments like this, more often in recent months, as I end the day with a feeling that I am fighting a losing battle with time. Many of the things on my to-do list are still not done and have to be carried forward to the next day. It is like Time and I have been running together on two parallel tracks, but now Time is racing ahead leaving me behind trying to keep pace. Is Time moving faster or am I moving slower?
As I work my way through these questions, I reflect on the great connection between time and our self-worth. Many of us are conditioned by the environment to measure our worth in terms of what we get done in a given period of time. I myself was raised by a super-efficient mother who accomplished an incredible number of things each day. Whenever she caught me daydreaming, as was my wont, I would be admonished for “wasting” my time, instead of doing something “useful”!
For many years, my hours of self-reflection and meditation, part of my daily routine, used to feel like a self-indulgent luxury until the scientific studies on their health benefits settled me down. It now became time “well-spent.” Phew!
This anxiousness to make good use of our time is understandable - after all we are mortals and our time on the planet is limited. Given this fact, different cultures focus differently on how best to make use of this limited resource: some focus on how much we can have and enjoy while on earth, some encourage us to think about what we will leave behind, and yet others focus on what we will take with us when our time on earth ends.
But has this fear of scarcity driven our relationship with Time in a way that we are treating it as an adversary we must wrestle with to make the most of our life on earth? Not enjoying our time, but needing to control it?
Yet time is more than a lifeless linear backdrop against which our life unfolds. While we can leave the physicists to figure out the objective complexities about time, taking a page from the books of ancient mystics, we could enter into Time’s deeper mysteries. Instead of seeing it as a limiting two-dimensional phenomenon, we could be curious about it and see it with eyes of wonder.
What is time, really? The ancient sages of the East saw Time as Divine – an entity so big as to contain all possibilities, past, present and future. In the Gita, Krishna, the Hindu God-Head declares, “I am Time, the Destroyer of all things!” (Chap. 11:32) Time is indeed the great devourer who consumes everything and everyone, rich or poor. And Time is more than just that. Time is also the great healer who heals all things over time. All lives end with time and also get new beginnings with time.
Viewing time from this lens, not as a scarce thing that we need to make the best use of, but as a drop of mystery to be explored, can change the way we relate to our life itself. Moving from fear and control and a time-bound approach that fills us with stress, we could relax into life’s inherent timelessness much like they must have done in the olden days before people started measuring time and then ourselves against it.
When we engage with the moment, with life and with people in an open, trusting way, we might even appreciate delays and holdups as a gift from Time to explore its magical possibilities. Patience and creativity would be natural by-products of such an attitude as also a deep connection to the mystery.
On days that I am able to do this, I find myself filled with peace and clarity. Doing away with my aggression against time puts me in a good frame of mind to be present to whatever shows up. Interesting synchronicities unfold, time seems to expand, so much gets done effortlessly, and I end up having the time of my life!