An often neglected but potent underlying cause of distress and imbalance in life is time. Time is an ephemeral concept, but it is also a hard fact that impinges on our lives in a ubiquitous way. To know this and do nothing about it invites all kinds of difficulties.
How often have we heard in our own or another’s life the complaint that there’s just not enough time, or in relationship: “You don’t have enough time for me,” or in families: “You never spend time playing with the children,” or at work: “You must do more and spend longer hours to earn more and achieve more. Be diligent!”
Everything takes time. If you want to do something well, it takes longer. If you want to cut corners it doesn’t pay, because it’s a job done badly.
Symbolic time is everywhere: in the man-made world — watches, clocks, clock towers, neon hoardings with time readouts, phones with digital readouts, time on your PC, on the TV, DVDs and CDs showing lengths of time; and in the natural world — morning, noon, afternoon, evening, night — our world is peppered with reminders of time.
Reminders, reminders! Must do (if there’s enough time), didn’t get to the bank (because there wasn’t enough time), will get it done (if I find the time). This imaginary and yet factual lack of time (how can we lack time when all we have is time?) causes us stress, contraction, nervousness, fearfulness, illness, irritation and neurosis.
But time is an adversary that we will eventually and inevitably succumb to, when we finally run out of it at the end of our lives.
So, while we are still here let’s take it seriously — very seriously. This is my advice and it comes dearly-won through the deep consideration of not only my own, but many other people’s difficulties with this perennial, insidious issue.
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In a disciplined way, divide your waking life into a three-way split. Your waking life consists of approximately sixteen hours a day (the other 8 should be devoted to sleep). Consider how you spend this time. You only have so many hours in the day, over a year, for the rest of your life. So, use them wisely, spend them sanely and let them bring balance into your life.
Divide it like this:
1. Time for yourself: time with and for oneself is essential for inner well-being. It balances and cultivates peace and tranquility, and returns you to a sense of being. It reminds you to care about yourself and puts you in touch with yourself, your body, mind, feelings, emotions, life trajectory, life assessment, your energy. In fact there is so much to keep in touch with that it is only the foolish man or woman who would ignore it. Hardly anyone honors time with themselves anything like enough, but you can by taking yourself seriously and realizing that without this essential exercise for your well-being, self-esteem and happiness, every interaction, encounter and relationship you have in the outer world is fundamentally flawed. You will relate to the world, to others and deal with life’s circumstances far better if you first take time with yourself, to attend to yourself and your soul needs, and become aware of your inner needs and desires, your deep innate need to attend to yourself.
2. Time for others: everyone has a relationship, interrelationships, interdependence, others in their life. We must attend to these relationships which give us the opportunity to care about someone, something and some other than ourselves. So we have to allot the correct amount of time to this pursuit. Caring involves depth, but prior to that it involves time. Simply taking time to be together with someone communicates to them that they are important and worthy of your time. Doing things for others out of genuine consideration is good for our souls, spending time with them and allowing our self-concern to drop away refreshes the spirit. A life without love is a life full of sorrow. So prize this opportunity because it is precious — one of the most precious aspects of life that there is, and honor it.
3. Finally, duty and responsibility: we all must eat! There is a Zen saying: “No work. No food.” It holds true of course and we know instinctively, intuitively the rightness of this adage. To work for our keep, not just for things to make us comfortable, but for the soul food it provides us with, to work and become absorbed in activity, to work and be lost in industry and action is good for the inner life and inner well-being. Our physical bodies are built to move and strive, stretch and carry; our minds to create and problem-solve and our feelings and emotions to be engaged, strong and passionate about what we do. We should spend a third of our waking life in work, which is why it is so important that we become aware of our soul purpose – of what we should be doing.
Please consider the three-way split of time. Then, if it appeals to you, begin by becoming aware of how you divide your time already. Then, gradually bring it into balance and watch the transformation in your life.