Monday, 18 July 2011

Article: Wasting Time

I am sitting in the sun right now. It’s winter and after a week of torrential rain the sun has finally returned, with frosty mornings and lovely clear days.

Two days ago I woke at 5.30 and got up for some early morning exercise. I had a delightful half hour walking through the part of our road that runs into farmland.

I was entranced by the sight of the full moon shining through the mist ; by frosty air on my face contrasting with the comfort of warm hat and gloves; by early morning bird song and the sounds of stream and cattle quietly moving through the half dark in paddocks alongside the road.

The final joy was capturing on camera the sunrise through mist.

I returned home filled full of thankfulness for living in this particular part of the world, and the appreciation spilled over into my meditation and sparkled through the rest of my day.

Yesterday on the other hand I woke just as early – but did not get up. I lay in bed for 45 minutes or so, thinking that it would be a good idea to get up now – until after daybreak when the window of magical pre-dawn light had closed.

 I left myself no time for a walk – and went to meditation with that vague dissatisfaction I get when I have not acted in accordance with my own best instincts and urges.

Once upon  a time (about last week) I would have given myself a hard time for wasting that time in bed, but I’m working on not beating myself up so often. Challenging that critical habit and making the effort to be loving and accepting of myself, faults and foibles included.

So I was focusing on being fully present to the moments of time I did have, rather than regretting misuse of ones gone, when I had a sudden insight.

What if wasting time isn’t what we usually think it is?

There is a lot in our popular culture about the importance of time and of using it well. It’s the one resource we can’t replace, time is money, manage time and you manage your life and so on and so forth.

Certainly time and how we use it is important. It is a dimension that we as spiritual beings have chosen to express ourselves in during our visits to earth. And we need to learn how to operate within its confines with as much skill as we do in the dimensions of space and matter.

However the majority of popular time-wisdom that I read, certainly in business circles, encourages me to micromanage my day. I am to schedule my diary in fifteen minute blocks; use the time travelling between appointments to listen to training material, practice my elevator speech when I am waiting at the traffic lights… on and on it goes.

The underlying paradigm holds up constant expansion and visible productivity as the highest goals.

Now there is some truth in this – and much useful advice to be gleaned. There is part of me which responds to the lure and promise of a tidy desk, an empty inbox and the satisfaction of a completed ‘To Do’ list.

However I find that if I try to operate too much in efficiency mode, my nasty little internal manager snaps to attention very quickly. And frankly she makes me miserable.

Too much demand for perfection. Too many complaints and criticisms, and not enough laughter and joy. I don’t like her company very much. And my loved ones like her even less!

So while I value (highly) the place of organisation and structure in my life, I’m learning to sit lightly to it. To use it more as servant and less as master.

Which is a long way around to my original insight.

What if wasting time is not failing to wring every last gram of activity and productivity out of the minutes in my day, but failing to be fully present to my experience right now?

If this is true then the minutes I am taking to sit in the sun with my mid-morning drink mean I am making progress in the lessons of time-school.

I am learning to luxuriate in the warmth on my face and to feel the stillness of the air; to hear how different bird calls play a melody against the dull bass notes of distant; to notice the play of sunlight and shadow on the leaves of geranium and basil-mint at my feet; to catch the glint of spider threads and snail trails in the sunlight. I am even learning to appreciate how the shading and colours of the dying weed I pulled out yesterday and discarded untidily on the path adds interest and texture to the whole…

I have a strong hunch that these minutes letting myself feel and smell and see and listen – right into the nuances of this minute - are what my soul means me to learn in this experience of space and time.

It’s less about do-ing and more about be-ing. Here and now. Fully present. Fully alive. Appreciative and accepting.

So the waste of time yesterday morning was not that I didn’t get up for a walk. It was that I spent those minute thinking that I ‘should’ get up. Instead of fully appreciating and experiencing the joy and pleasure of lying warm and snug in a comfortable bed.

So I’m working on bringing ‘Here-Now-Fully-Present-Is-ness’ into everything I do. From filling the kettle and making my drink, to writing this reflection and answering emails and spending time with my clients.

And on being gentle when I find my mind has wandered and I am no longer truly ‘here’.

Which it does! Often!

So I’ll keep you posted on my progress in time-class.

In the meantime, perhaps you’d like to find a snail-trail of your own!

© Jasmine Sampson 18th July 2011

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