Friday, October 12, 2012

Units of Time

In the movie “About a Boy,” Hugh Grant is an heir to a one-hit-wonder.  As he meanders through his meaningless day, he reports, “I find the key is to think of a day as units of time…taking a bath: one unit, exercising: three units, having my hair carefully disheveled: four units.”

Don’t we all feel this way most days?  With the endless demands of daily life, it's so easy to lose spontaneity, creative drive and passion.  Our days are broken down into units of time.  

I first noticed this years ago when we went to Brazil.  One of the benefits of traveling is, of course, getting out of our routine.  But going to Brazil had an especially dramatic effect on me because they relate to time so differently than us.  Although Brazilians are becoming more and more “North American-ized,” I could still feel that there's a different relationship to time there.

Time seemed more like a guideline than a master.  Saying we’ll meet at 2:00 really means we’ll meet between 2:00 and 4:00.  I don’t know how they manage it, but it seems to work pretty well.  There's a flow in the moment.  Schedule decisions (outside of work mostly, but still within the work ethic as well), are made more by what is happening presently and not by what the clock says we should do or where we should be.
I know this all sounds pretty unrealistic and certainly unpractical.  However, it made me view my life differently.  I saw that my life had become units of time, especially with my kids: wake up time, breakfast time, get ready for school time, snack time, dinner time, bath time, bedtime.  Whew.  Done.  It’s as though I valued my day (and myself and others) based on how well I stayed on schedule (stretch the word “schedule” to mean all the to-dos of life).
When I stepped outside of my schedule in Brazil, I was able to see how much I was missing: the look on my daughter’s face as I sat across from her at breakfast, the fun of playing with the hamster before bed, the timelessness of pushing them on the swings over and over…

Ok, now this all sounds like mindfulness practice.  But there’s something more that I want to get to here.  Time has become our master.  It’s a great management tool, but we've let it suck the life out of us.  For me, I think it literally did.
We can only maintain this for so long.  Eventually it becomes an unsustainable way to live.  It hit me the hardest when I was running an import company several years later.  My body let me know that the fuel of “driven by time” (aka lists, tasks and to do’s) was tapped.  My adrenals (get-up-and-go juice) literally said, “enough.”

So what’s our real get-up-and-go juice?  I believe it is essence – life force – the invisible energy that is keeping my heart beating right now, the infinite intelligence that is behind everything from babies being born to planets not crashing into one another.

My adrenals feel like a receptor for that energy.  However, when my consciousness is stuck in units of time, it’s like I’m living in a “closed-circuit of energy.”  It’s limited and not sustainable, it burns out.  So my body gave me a great blessing through the adrenal crash I went through.  It was telling me, “hook up to source and live from there.” 

The “how” of a request like that is where the fun begins.