“ You ain't got nothin' but time
And time's got nothin' on you ”
The steady, rhythmic Ferris wheel of time has mated with the Mars explorer and it's a tumultuous ride indeed to live in the 21st century. Time used to be cyclical, measured in seasons, four minutes more or less light each day, gradual, changing and returning. Now we feel there is no return, just a pell-mell ride into what's ahead. And how do we prepare for the unknowable?
Bright lights beckon us, but no longer do we have to be in the big city to have many diversions. The biggest multimedia library in the world is at our fingertips, and we can engage endlessly in education, enjoyment, communication, work. One morphs into the other as we immerse ourselves. This ever-present playground and workstation is the marvelous invention of the century so far, just as perhaps new modes of travel were the last century's breakthrough achievement. But there are perils, just as driving and flying have perils. Now the dangers are more internal, as we give up control of intentional choices so we "run out of time".
How do we stay grounded and in tune with ourselves in this rapidly expanding, increasingly fast world? Remembering the Ferris wheel image can be helpful, its cyclical steady rhythms like the changing of night into day. For all our inventiveness, we are mammals who need attunement to these cycles, which we can encourage by eating well, exercising, getting enough and regular sleep.
In addition to establishing these daily habits, my clients and I find it helpful to establish reasonable expectations for each day. Our minds can be endlessly inventive in thinking up things for us to do or worry about, but what, realistically, can our bodies accomplish while also staying refreshed? How can we use our physical energy levels to set priorities, and then remember to feel satisfied with our achievements, rather than disappointed because we didn't finish everything? We can also increase our satisfaction with each day if we leave some "space" around activities by remembering to feel, smell, hear what's around us, using all our senses instead of just a mental check-off on our to-do list.
I had a spiritual teacher who would talk about the masters of his tradition being able to "step outside of time". This didn't mean they didn't age and ultimately die, but that they could free themselves from the tyranny of time. I occasionally practice this by saying to myself, "I'm going to step outside of time", and then literally stepping to the side. When I do this, colors seem brighter, and I notice more of what's around me: how the air feels, what sounds pass through my awareness. Repeating this phrase helps me use something other than time as a gauge. Questions like "How should I act at my age?" or "How much time do I have left?" become instead "What or who am I most drawn to now?" and "What moves me, literally into action and emotionally into depths?" Stepping outside of time is also stepping more deeply into the present, away from worries about the past or future.
Time is an age-old difficult concept, pondered by poets and philosophers, and more recently by physicists and other scientists. There is no easy "getting to the heart of it". There are, however, ways we can find more ease in living through time, by remembering the steady cycles of the Ferris wheel while also exploring the speed of the rocket ship.
The above article expresses the opinions of the author and doesn't necessarily reflect the views of other members of the Women's Therapy Referral Service.