Can you give yourself the gift of time?

Have you ever given yourself the “gift of time?” Truly, it is the gift that keeps on giving. If you have ever had a meeting canceled, a snow day at work or school, your IT system go down or an appointment canceled that you really did not want to keep; you have been given the gift of time. Such a gift is ineffable, it is hard to describe. You want to shout and jump for joy. I can hear myself thinking the words of Martin Luther King: “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last.” The ‘gift of time” becomes my freedom. Perhaps, not in the sense that MLK was thinking about these words, but my feeling of freedom is real. I am free with time to spend and no immediate obligations or responsibilities to spend it on.

How often do you get a “gift of time?” Usually, it happens because somebody or something forces us to give up time that we had scheduled. We rely on others to give us this gift. Perhaps it is special because it is seldom planned. Ironically, it is free for us to give to ourselves, if we choose. Maybe we should give ourselves this gift more often. We are often reluctant to cancel or change plans because we feel responsible or we feel that we don’t have the right to change prior decisions on how we will spend out time. We are afraid of being seen as unreliable. However, it is your perfect right to change your mind. If things are getting hectic or you feel overwhelmed, give yourself a gift of time. You have the right to give yourself the ‘gift of time” whenever you choose to.

Do you have meetings or appointments that you really don’t want to go to? Do you schedule things and later regret that you did? What if you canceled these? What is the worst thing that could happen? Would they really fire you? Maybe if you did it too often, you would suffer drastic consequences. However, occasionally, you should think of giving yourself a gift of time. Try it today, see how it feels. Just don’t cancel that meeting with your boss. 

Can you make a wish today?

Have you ever heard of “wish” time? We take the time to wish in a fountain, we wish on stars, we make wishes when we pray and sometimes we simply make a wish. A certain portion of our lives is spent wishing. Perhaps some of us wish too much and others do not wish enough. Wishing without action is fruitless, but action without a dream is worthless. Wishing can be a metaphor for what we want out of life or what we hope our lives can become.

Karen and I went to visit Rome a few years ago. On part of a tour we took, there was a large fountain (made famous in the movie “Three Coins in a Fountain”) called the Trevi Fountain. You stood with your back to the fountain, threw a coin over your shoulder and made your wish. If you did this properly, you would someday return to Rome and your wish would be granted. I am not sure if either will come true but we did it anyway. I love to throw coins in fountains, pools or wishing wells and make a wish. I don’t know if any has come true since I seldom keep track of my wishes. I guess if I were more organized, I could keep an Excel spreadsheet on my wishes. One column would be place, one date and one the wish I made. The final column would be a metric on the degree of success I had with that particular wish at that place. Perhaps some places are better for wishing than for others. I am sure a more scientific analysis could help us to determine the best places to wish in the world and even which wishes are most likely to come true. On the other hand, I would not hold my breath.

How much time each day do you spend wishing? Are you someone who spends too much time wishing or not enough? Are you too much of a daydreamer or someone who days not dream of what can be? What would you need to do to get a better balance of wish time in your life? What would it take to make your wishes a reality? Wishes can become dreams. Dreams can become goals and goals can become reality.

How much time are you capable of juggling?

Who is not juggling time today? When we talk about multi-tasking it is like the juggler who must keep four or five balls in the air at the same time. With all of the demands on our time, we are all acrobats with time. We have become a nation of time jugglers. Our mantra is “no time.” As time jugglers, we must be very careful not to let one of the balls hit the ground. We have numerous tools to help us keep the balls in the air. We have clocks, stop watches, regular watches, alarms, bells, buzzers, PDA’s, cell phones and GPS to incessantly remind us of our juggling chores. Time to switch, time to stop, time to start, time to go, time to do it, time to relax, time to run, time to exercise, time to visit, time to work, time to let go, time to sleep, time for ourselves, time for family, time, time and more time. We are both jugglers and rats in a maze of time. Running and running to find our way out of the maze while not dropping any of the balls that we are juggling.

Have you learned the fine art of “time juggling?” Can you keep the balls all up in the air without dropping any? Where did you learn your juggling skills? Did you attend the Institute of Time Management or the Institute of Life and Coping skills? Have you become a “master” juggler yet? A master juggler astounds us with how much they get done and how successful they are. They are the supermen and superwomen of today’s modern world. How we ask do they get so much done and never break a sweat!

Perhaps we all need to take more training in “time management.” Pick up one of the million books on time management or take one of the billion courses on “how to better manage your time.” If you have already taken one of these courses, maybe it is time for you to attend a refresher class. On the other hand, what would happen if you stopped juggling time for a day? Where would the balls all go? Do you ever notice which balls are harder and which are easier for you to juggle? Why do you suppose some are harder and some easier? Try juggling one less ball today, see how it feels. Do two less tomorrow and three less the next day. Perhaps you will one day have no balls to juggle and then you will not need any time management. What do you think that would feel like? Imagine a day without any balls to juggle?

What if you could live your time backwards?

Living time backwards! I once heard someone say that it would be wonderful if we could be born 90 years old and grow younger instead of older. We would be born old and naïve and as we got younger, we would progressively be wiser and healthier. It is a very intriguing idea if you do not stop too long to question the anatomical difficulties. Imagine being at the height of your physical prowess and having lived 60 years already. What would it be like to have lived for 60 years and have the physical age of a thirty year old?

Many things which I do not even begin to attempt today would not seem as challenging or difficult. I would not feel like my life was running down. Instead, I would feel like my life was running up. I probably would not be worried about retirement benefits, health insurance or funeral arrangements. Growing younger rather than older physically would change our entire world perspective. We would be getting smarter and healthier with each passing day. The mistakes of youth would now belong to old age; with youth would come wisdom instead of inexperience. We would become better drivers and athletes as we became “younger.” Imagine what effect this would have on the sporting world. Teams would be looking for younger people who were really older in age but who came with thirty or forty or even fifty years of experience. Today most athletes peak in their late twenties with perhaps fifteen or so years of experience. If we lived backwards we would peak in our twenties but with 40 or more years of experience. The impacts on the entertainment world and academic worlds would be equally profound. Imagine “young” people in these fields with forty or more years of experience.

What endeavors would you start today, if you suddenly became twenty or more years younger? What mistakes would you have been able to avoid if you had the wisdom you had now several years ago? What if you knew for certain that you were going to live another sixty years? How would this knowledge change your life?

What is the meaning of your life?

One month to live! What if your doctor told you today that you had one month to live? Not a very pleasant thing to think about but something that could indeed happen to each of us. What would you do? Of course, you say you would start doing those things that were most important to you. Chances are you would quit your job, tell everyone you could that you loved them, go out and buy something you had always wanted, make sure your bills and expenses were all in order and finally you might think about arranging your funeral. Would the last thirty days of your life be the happiest or would they be the saddest days of your life?

Would doing the things I noted above make them the best thirty days you had ever spent or would these tasks just be chores like you had been doing for so many years. What would it take to make the last thirty days, the best thirty days of your life? What would you really need to do? This is not an easy question because most of us think first of obligations and commitments and responsibilities. Secondly, we think of making amends to those we have hurt or loved.

Our lives are so inundated with tasks and chores that even if we knew we were dying, we would simply start filling up our remaining time with more tasks and chores. One has to understand the “meaning of life” to really live life. This meaning lies in finding the unique value that each of us has to give to the world. It lies not just in doing but in being. An old Cherokee saying goes “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.”

Have you found the meaning of your life? How could a notice of your impending death help you to find this meaning if you have not already found it? How can you find the meaning of your life today and live it 365 days a year? Maybe you should not wait until you only have thirty days left to think about this question.

Can you spare a moment today?

“One moment please!” I can still hear Lily Tomlin saying that line on the Laugh-In show when she played the obnoxious telephone operator Ernestine. Her voice was dripping with sarcasm and we all knew that it was going to be a heck of a lot longer than one moment. Come to think of it, we generally know it will be a lot longer than “one” moment whenever someone says: “One moment please.”

What is one moment anyway? One definition of the word moment is: “an indefinitely short period of time.” If you read this definition carefully, you will notice a “catch” word. Do you see it? Right! the word “indefinitely!” There is no real specification to this word as when someone says one minute or even one second. We know these are unreal specifications, but they are still definite. With the phase “one moment please”, we do not have any specification. Is one moment shorter than two moments or ten moments? This would all depend on the length of a moment, which has no definition. Thus, one moment becomes a sort of carte blanche to be as long as one likes. Imagine, calling in late to your company and saying “Sorry I am going to be late, I will be there in one moment.” What would your boss reply? He/she would probably not know what to say. Or else, it might not be something you would like to hear.

We could probably all be more patient and the words “one moment please” would be easier to tolerate. We could then reply to the Ernestines of the world with “No problem.” How long a moment can you be patient with? What do you say when someone tells you they will just be “one moment?” What would you really like to say? Perhaps you are a very patient person and one moment is very easy to deal with.

Do you know the value of "massage" time?

Massage time. Have you ever had a professional back massage? There is nothing like it. Well, let’s just say, there are few things that can rival it. Time melts as does your body when given a one hour massage with warm oil and hot rocks. Strong hands caressing every part of my body and you don’t have to do anything except lay there. Prices for a one hour massage differ all over the world. In some places, you can get a massage for 5 dollars and in other places; it will cost you 150 dollars.

I love how time dissolves during a massage. I don’t think about what I have to do later or where I am going next. When I get up from the massage table, my body feels like it is floating. My massage time is a black hole created by the serendipitous juncture of desire, money and the availability of the masseuse that I like best. When all these three factors are in sync, it creates “massage time.”

Finding time for a massage can be very tricky. When I have the time, the person I like to see is usually booked up. I tend to like to call when I really need it and not plan ahead. Those times when I feel achy or stressed or I just want to relax more. If you have never experienced massage time, you are really missing one of the joys of life. You might say that you can’t afford it, but I would bet you spend a lot more than sixty dollars (the going rate in most parts of the US) on other stuff that you buy. Thus, it is really, whether massage is a priority. Try it once and I guarantee it will become one of your priorities. Massage time is a gift that you give yourself and it will become a special time in your life like no other.

You do not have to be a professional to enjoy a massage. Karen and I have been getting and giving each other massages for twenty years now. It will add years to your life. What stops you from getting or giving a massage? When will you try it? If you can’t make the commitment, ask someone you love to give you a gift certificate for a massage. You will never forget this gift once you use it.

Are you living each day the best that you can?

Live for Today was a popular song in 1967 written by the Grass Roots. You may remember some of the lyrics:

Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today,
And don’t worry ’bout tomorrow, hey, hey, hey
Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today,
Live for today.

The tune was very catchy and I can still hear it in my mind although I have not heard the song for perhaps twenty years now. The message is obvious but one that often eludes most of us. Live each day as fully as we can. It’s a shame to think that we do not live each day this way. Are we waiting for a message to arrive with our final notice? What if the message never comes? Some people will get up today and never realize that it is their last day on earth. If they lived each day the best they could, it would not matter.

Would your life be better today if you could follow the advice in this song? If not, then don’t. However, if your life would be better then think a few minutes about what you can do to live differently today. The point of reflection and meditation is to help us focus our thinking so that we can live more in the present. Maybe it is not your last day on earth, but maybe it is someone else’s last day whom you love. Maybe your living differently will make their last day more meaningful.

But what if today was your last day on earth? What would you do differently as you got up today knowing you only had this day left? Would you suddenly try to make amends with people? Would you savor each moment more and take more time to look around and observe life? How would you spend your last day on earth?

Are you living in the present and taking life one day at a time?

“Take Life one day at a time.” This is probably the most common advice ever given and also perhaps the most seldom taken. Whether we are recovering from an accident, surgery or some other traumatic event, we have all thought about the need to take life one day at a time. But what does it really mean to take life one day at a time? How else could you live except one day, one hour, one minute and one second at a time? You might think that you have another choice, but you don’t. I cannot live tomorrow except in my mind. My only reality is the moment. Tomorrow will be lived one second at a time tomorrow. Today, I live each moment in the present.

Thus, the true meaning of this phase must be found in our desire and thoughts and not in our actuality. We live somewhere else in our minds. I fantasize about yesterday, tomorrow or some other time. I avoid the present by daydreaming or wishing I were someone or somewhere else. In my mind, the time is not today and I am not living now. I am worrying about the future or what I want to happen. I fritter my life away by allowing my mind to wander elsewhere and to deal with problems that have not yet happened.

The essence of meditation and spirituality is to live in the present. When we live in the present, our lives are more grounded and we are able to experience the reality we have now. When we allow ourselves to live elsewhere, we really do not live at all. We become so busy thinking about and worrying about some other time, that we are not able to experience the moment. Henry David Thoreau said: “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” A key essence of all the great spiritual teachings is the importance of living in the present.

What stops you from living in the present? Do you worry about the future and fret about the past? What can you do to learn to live more in the present? What is one thing that would help you towards this goal today? How would your life be different if you could live more in the present each day?

Can we stop death?

Life-cycle time is a business term that refers to the average life expectancy of a new product. Generally, a new product goes through four stages. The four stages are: development, growth, maturity and decline. Marketers must make different decisions about a product depending on what stage the product is in. Some products have a lifecycle that could be measured in decades. Ivory soap and Kikkoman soy sauce have been around for over a hundred years. Many products (fad items) can come and go inside of a few weeks. Some products disappear never to return such as Davy Crockett hats while others (hula hoops) make a comeback. In some respects, the product life cycle concept mirrors our human life cycle. We grow, develop, mature and age/decline. Some would argue we get better with age, but each day of aging brings us closer to if not decline, then at least death.

Marketers will do everything they can to stop the decline of a product, since it is very costly to develop new products. It would seem we do not hold human life in as high regards as products or perhaps human life is viewed from a perspective of greater expediency. On the one hand, we are horrified to see the death toll from war mount up, but on the other hand, we take for granted the nearly 50, 000 automobile deaths in the USA each year. We accept that these deaths are the price we pay for our high tech life styles. Imagine if fifty thousand Americans were killed in the any war this year. People would be screaming to end the war. Do we just assume nothing can be done about highway deaths? Why not make the same effort to protect people from an early death as we do to protect products from an early death.

Each of us has our own life cycle. We will all grow, develop, mature and decline. We cannot stop the cycle of life and death but it seems to make sense to find a way to prevent premature decline or accidental death. What can we do about this neglect? How can we all stop taking death for granted? What would it take to get you to complain about the number of deaths from accidents in this country? What causes of death bother you the most? Would you be willing to take a stand to demand more attention and research be paid to preventing accidents? What about war? Do you accept the inevitability of war? If not, how can we all work to stop war? What can you do today to play a role in stopping war?

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