Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf.
~ Rabindranath Tagore
For a long time now, I’ve wanted to understand time. Yes, I can read a clock or consult the calendar, but that’s not the experience of time that I’m trying to understand. The passing of time is a mystery to me. If I time a minute with a clock and watch the second hand travel around the face, it feels like a long time. If I go do something fun, the hours fly by. I can remember things that happened forty years ago like they were yesterday but often I can’t remember what I actually did the day before. (That could be more of a function of memory than time, though.)
The clock is one of the oldest human inventions. People seem compelled to consistently measure intervals of time shorter than what happens naturally – the day, the lunar month, and the year. Sundials were used before the advent of mechanical clocks. Now we have concise atomic clocks that keep time based on atomic physics. The challenge for me is that tracking time more accurately still doesn’t describe my experience of time.
I’d like to return to the days when the sun, the stars and the moon were used to reckon time. Before clocks and calendars, aboriginal people used celestial events for navigation and time-keeping. They depended on the night sky. Native Americans used natural seasons and lunar cycles to mark time. The cycles of nature organized task-based labor; such as planting corn or tobacco. Most Native Americans tracked time by nights rather than by days.
Paying attention to the passing of time slows it down. Slowing down opens me up to a feeling of spaciousness that allows time for contemplation and growth. If I make the time to be still, to breathe, and to calm down, I experience peace of mind. With stillness comes awareness. I become more present. I start to appreciate the many small moments that make up the day. I experience more gratitude. These are the states of mind I want to cultivate now that I have more time.
I’m retired from my profession but I’m still affected by the outside world. Many things are happening beyond my control and it causes me anxiety about the future. In the U.S., people are busy all the time, rushing everywhere, and complaining they never have enough time. Anxiety and depression are prevalent. News and social media perpetuate an all-pervasive sense of fear. This constant state of agitation causes stress and physical problems over time.
It’s a fact that things change, it’s part of the fabric of life. Change is inseparable from our natural state of being. I’m growing older and my body is changing. It’s an unavoidable process I can either accept or resist. My time alive is a precious gift but it sure does seem like it’s all going by too fast.