Is Time Breathing Down Your Neck?
A few questions to ponder...
Are you addicted to being busy and at the same time feel victimized by the schedules you’ve created?
Is it possible that you’ve chosen to see life as busier than it actually is and that being too busy is a narrative you've written for yourself?
Is time breathing down your neck or gently ushering you forward?
If any of these questions ring true or hit a nerve, you are not alone!
I tend to see the world through the lens of abundance versus lack. But somehow I seem to have made an exception for time. Without being conscious of it, over the years, I’ve allowed intense busyness to creep in, out of some skewed idea that I’m running out of time. And so the pursuit of all the things I love (and many things I don’t), and the fear that I won’t have time for it it all, has created a false construct that preferences lack over abundance.
What if we moved through our days with a plan or schedule that came with a revolutionary statement woven through it? An underlying belief in, “siempre, hay mañana” or “there’s always tomorrow”? This isn’t a recipe for procrastination - only an acknowledgment that it is perfectly reasonable not to get everything done - that crossing all the errands off of your to-do list does not equal productivity - and that bringing your absolute presence to an interaction is more important than “managing your time” perfectly. It turns out, there is more space around the edges than I’ve let myself believe.
It’s not that I haven’t often chosen to sit on the couch and enjoy an extra minute or hour with a treasured friend and ignore the responsibilities of the day. But typically, that choice is accompanied by some level of stress because, deep down, I didn’t really believe it is okay to not get it all done. And so over and over, I can tend to pull away from connections, from nourishing experiences, and from the work I love, in order to “accomplish” more. I am left undernourished and what I have reinforced is the belief that there isn’t enough time.
And of course, in one way, it’s true. As Mary Oliver wrote, “doesn’t everything die at last and too soon?” But when that time comes, we will not wish we’d been busier or done one more thing that someone else wanted us to do. This is the fine line I’m dancing with these days - the knowing that my life is finite and that “everything dies at last and too soon” AND the lens of abundance and that there is always time for what is essential. Can I not squander it and at the same time, not fear it? And can I commit to a new story - a new construct where I am present today, whether I do one thing or twenty, and at the end of the day, take a deep breath and place my faith in tomorrow.
One of my observations while living here in Spain is the different relationship the Spanish people seem to have around the concept of time. During class, my Spanish teacher will say at least 10 times, no te preocupes, no pasa nada, siempre hay mañana, tienes mucho tiempo, poco a poco. Who knew there were so many ways to impart the sentiment, don't stress, there is plenty of time? In my class this morning, a student who is always punctual, came in one minute late and apologized for being both late and sweaty because she had been running to get to class. The teacher hugged her and told her sweetly, there is no need to rush, we have plenty of time. It’s like there’s a built in patience or kindness around time here that feels completely different from what I’ve experienced over the past 25 years. And that patience brings with it a kind of allowing that helps me put time in its proper place, one that preferences abundance over lack.
I’m beginning to think that it’s not about how many things we do in a day as much as the perspective we bring to it - the stories we tell ourselves about it. Can we engage with each experience - with each task - without feeling the presence of time breathing down our necks? What if time had a quality of spaciousness and invitation. What if our image of time itself was not of a clock ticking and the limits of seconds and minutes but instead of a lunar calendar marked not by days but by the waxing and waning of the moon and the spaciousness of a week, a month, a year?
If you have a few moments (and we both know that you do), consider taking a pause.
Bring in a few of those big inhales and complete exhales that remind you of the beauty and satisfaction of a full body breath. Notice your breathing for a bit as you settle in. Ask yourself what thoughts, feelings, emotions and images arise for you as you reflect on your relationship to time. Give yourself a few minutes to notice what you notice. What would you like to feel different and how might you make it so? Make one small commitment - find something to do today to act on what you received and then do it again tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. Notice what changes.
I have committed to these daily moments of reflection and spaciousness and they are invaluable. About ten years ago, I also committed to retreat-ing at least once a year to relax, reset and reflect. This has also been invaluable. It is a time when I join Mary Oliver again and again and ask, “tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
If you would like to ask yourself this question in the company of others, after a luxurious yoga class, a dip in the pool or a wander through the Grazalema National Park in the Spanish countryside, possibly with a glass of wine in your hand and a plate of olives by your side, please join Wanna Johansson and I this July 1-7 for our Yoga, Hiking and Culture Retreat. We still have spaces available and the early bird deadline is just a few weeks away.
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?