The pressures of daily life, family commitments, job commitments, hobbies and planned vacations, frequently have us feeling like there just isn’t enough time. Leading to stress, anxiety, depression or just an overall feeling of unease and discomfort. There is never enough time in the day and we feel guilty and frustrated. This is where the feeling of being “not enough” originates. We form habits around time and rushing to meet commitments and deadlines takes both a psychological and physical toll. This “time sickness” informs everything, how we feel about ourselves, our life, and how we interact in all our relationships. Really, it can be hypothesized that this one thing is at the root of many doctor visits and prescriptions. For everything from mild stress disorders, insomnia to autoimmune and other chronic diseases.
This experience of racing against the clock, to get everything done “on-time” is especially prescient and also especially damaging during the holidays, special occasions, big life changes, celebrations of milestones and the like. When we are meant to be spending precious moments with family, creating memories, savoring the experience and being most present we are more likely to be incessantly planning, thinking of all that needs to get done. Intensely focused on perfection, getting everything right, being above reproach and on time, we pile more and more on. We become zombies during the day and sleepless at night, consumed with details. Feeling behind becomes a comfortable state in that it feels just like the feeling of lack created by our consumer culture and it breeds the feeling of being “not enough”. The feeling of being not enough breeds fear, constant fear and this my friends leads to being in a constant “fight or flight” syndrome. If unchecked, this constant cycle unleashes a myriad of mental and physical health issues. The price of not paying attention to ourselves, our needs, our mindfulness, our self-esteem is very high. There is too much at stake here to dismiss.
Often, our beliefs and habits around time creates a wall or distance in our interactions with others. Especially relationships with those closest to us. Even when we are present we are not present. The price for not paying attention to our loved ones is also very high. It is a double whammy, because in losing ourselves to time sickness we also neglect our relationships as well. This is an insidious and sneaky issue because often, we don’t actually lose the person, we just lose the relationship. The trust, the love and the ties that bind us begin to fray. We exist in these relationships but we don’t participate, we don’t engage meaningfully, and intimacy suffers, we begin to feel a lack of closeness and belonging within our own family and groups of friends. In our rushing, racing, daily existence, we blame others for not keeping up, or not supporting us. Soon the ability to see the forest for the trees is gone and we perceive our friends and loved ones as the problem, yet another problem, rather than the by-product of our own time-driven behaviors.
The good news is that we can break the cycle, we can learn and change our experience with time by modifying our beliefs, attitudes and behaviors around time. Time is not really a fixed experience that revolves around the hands of a clock. That is a modern construct. Time is measured in biological rhythms and our internal clocks vary. The proof of this is that our chronological age clocks often vary greatly from our biological and physiological age. We can understand this by being attuned inwardly and outwardly to the cycles of nature versus the clock. As opposed to modern constructs of time, wisdom traditions teach us that we can only really live in the present moment and the present moment is eternal. You simply cannot truly live in the past or the future, only the present. By learning to maintain awareness in the moment, we can begin to train ourselves away from fretting about the clock, all the things we have done and all the things we have yet to do and begin to be squarely and singularly focused on what is happening right now. When this is the case, it is impossible to hold any other focus. This how we begin to heal from time sickness.
Let’s learn to break the illusion that we are driven by the clock. See it clearly, for what it is, a man-made machine. Useful yes, but not omnipotent. Certainly not more powerful or influential than our own human body, mind, heart and soul. Most definitely not as important as our own well-being, our loved ones and friends. Of course not. It is a damn clock! This makes sense, let’s keep going!
Our ego on the other is a sneaky and deceitful companion. Our ego would have us believe that if our mind is watchful and analytical, it is in the present moment. It pretends that thinking is more important than feeling. Let that sink in. That thinking holds priority over feeling! Ha! The reality is just the opposite, feeling is more important than thinking. The problem is some of the feelings don’t always feel good, so, we revert to thinking, tricked into thinking that thinking makes us stronger, more in control and therefore smarter, more productive and obviously better person. Productivity is not a bad thing in and of itself, but if we are not feeling you can bet we aren’t present. A lot of feelings are tied up in memories of the past and or fears of the future and projecting those onto the present. This is what trips us up and takes us out of the present so often. We just don’t know how to or make time to acknowledge the feelings and let them guide our actions instead of allowing the clock to guide us. Real present awareness is being open, accepting and free of past and present projections.
Fulfillment doesn’t come from time management, instead, we get a feeling of lack and are driven to add more activities, more commitments and to pile more on as a reflection of how good we are at time management and therefore how good we are as a person. Let’s shift away from clock time and into the now. Practicing mindfulness about our beliefs around time will open us to greater awareness and with practice lead to a focused attention on meeting daily demands with less stress and anxiety. With practice we will become better at living in the present moment, our time with loved ones will be more meaningful which will deepen and strengthen our relationships.
Break free of old habits and become mindful and playful with time. Practicing mindfulness around time, how we sleep, creating and spending time playing, setting aside time for reflection and self-care are all tools to help make time the healer that it is meant to be. With awareness and being present we are open to and will see new possibilities and new choices even in old situations, further breaking the habits along the old stressful pathways. Old habits do die-hard though, especially when you are in the thick of it. In the trenches fighting for every minute. Even if meditation seems out of reach, start with being mindful about the effects of time sickness. Replace a few minutes of social media time with ten long, deep inhalations and exhalations at various times throughout the day. Stop and stare at a pretty flower or field for just three minutes in between tasks. Build on these small victories and create longer and longer intervals of appreciation, gratitude, opportunities for self-care and meaningful, loving interactions. Try to see loved ones as a respite instead of another drain on time. Present in each of these moments, if even only for one minute at a time.
Living in the present moment isn’t just a trite saying, it’s important to recognize that the present is the only place that living really happens. We can’t have creative and inspired thoughts if our mind is held back by guilt, regret, and anxiety. We are not going to be open to new possibilities, alternative solutions and being a loving companion to our friends and family if we are anxious and fearful. The clear benefit of present-moment awareness is in living life fully, with creativity, joy, love, and fulfillment. Namaste~