What is time? One of the Wikipedia definitions is “Time is a common term for the experience of duration…” This already shows how abstract or different it can be. For each person, each situation, in each instance of time, time can mean something else. Is it even real? Or is it just something we humans invented to cope with existence? The original sin? How often don’t we say: Oh, I wish I had more time or I ran out of time or How time flies when you have fun or the opposite Time just dragged out (in a traffic jam or when visiting the inlaws). We always put ourselves under the stress of time. We limit ourselves by trying to control it. For our little brain to deal with this dimension, we quantify it into seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, lifetimes…
Would we be better off without this boundary? This stress? Is it that what awaits us when we are done with our one unit of lifetime? Eternity – a life without the limits and dimension of time!
While it is possible for some yogis, through deep meditation, to ignore this dimension completely, it is not practically feasible for us normal folk to do so. But it is a good exercise to be a bit more aware of it and how we use it or misuse it. Then maybe we can take the stress factor out of it and see it as a gift or a handy tool we have been given.
Musicians have found a wonderful way of controlling time without being bound by our usual units of seconds etc. With rhythm every song has its own time-space, its own dynamics for expression. By controlling time in a creative way it becomes powerful and freeing. Maybe that is why we all love music and often see it as an escape from stress.
Time is so fleeting. The moment you do something, it becomes history. I have become extremely aware of this acute sense of history on my trail. When I looked up a hill and asked my GPS: Are you serious? You want me to go up there?, the road immediately became long, slow and more difficult. If, however, I looked down at each single step I took, one by one, stopping in between for a little pause or to enjoy the scenery, the hill was conquered in a jiffy and I could look down into the valley and think: Wow, look what I have just achieved!, and the hill became history.
Why don’t you do the following exercise when next you are stuck in traffic or have to do something you consider a waste of time: look around you and notice 10 things you have not noticed before or look at the stranger in the car next to you and make up a story about who they are, where they are going, what they had for lunch or any other creative story. Use your mind creatively and you will see that you will get out of the traffic jam with a smile. If we manipulate time with the right attitude it becomes a blessing and not a curse and it is never wasted. Even if you do absolutely nothing and decide to be lazy, if you do it consciously it will become a time of recuperation and will not turn out to be frustratingly wasted.
How important it is to live in the present unit of time! It is the only moment that we have and the only moment we should care about. If we live in the future, we live in a time that we do not know and can only fear. If we live in the past, it is a time we can not change and can only reminisce about or regret.
I am not saying that one should not have foresight or make plans. It all depends on how flexible we are to live our plan and change it if need be or if we live by the stress of rigid plans. What is most important to us, the deadline or the way to reach it? I fell into this trap in the last couple of days since I left the mountains of Bavaria and came into the planes of Saxony. My plan is to reach Berlin on the 20th. When I calculated how many kilometres I would need to do each day to reach this deadline, it was more than the 20-25km I managed so far. I changed my route slightly to incorporate more paved cycling roads (my little cart was sure grateful for that) instead of the hiking trails and pushed myself to do more and go further. On day 20 and 21 I even managed to do over 40km per day.
At what price? I still saw beautiful parts of Germany. The Elster valley was a highlight. Seeing more than 30 Swans on a lake or walking through the scented yellow canola fields was an experience not to be missed, but for the first time I also feel pain in my back and in my feet. I am paying the price for time stress.
Spending so much time on the road by myself and with myself makes me ponder on a lot of things that are happening. Did I use my time wisely? Should I have taken more time to talk to the lady that gave me water and showed such interest in what I was doing? Was I sent to her for a reason and did not recognise it? Was I so on autopilot of meeting my deadline for the day that I missed an opportunity to return kindness? And exactly in these moments of regretting the past, I also have to remind myself to come back to the present moment. To learn from the past, which I can’t change, and return to the now.
And then the feeling of happiness comes back, and even the pain does not get me down. I look in front of me, take one step at a time, and soon the next hill or kilometre is conquered and becomes history!
Thank you again for the time you take to read my blog and don’t let time stress you.