What are your rules about "time?"

“Time is one of the four key rules. We must all set priorities.” I found this bit of authoritative advice in some guide to time management. There are literally dozens if not hundreds of books giving us advice on how to manage our time. I admit to being obsessed with time (hence this blog) but I would like to think I am not a slave to it. I have never thought of time as a “rule” or that I always need to be setting priorities. I probably set more priorities than I need to and I probably have too many rules in my life already.

Following advice from others and not thinking through our own needs, wants and desires can often lead us to become mindless automatons. As such, we become slaves to the opinions of the “experts.” Those noted seers who have all the right answers for others. However, have you noticed how often the so-called experts change their minds? If we blindly follow the advice of others, without applying our own tests and challenges, we risk losing our creative selves and our independence. This is not to say that we should not be open to opinions or advice or should not seek outside counsel. I would be the last person to advise you as such since I highly value the knowledge and wisdom that others have. Nevertheless, I like the Zen saying that: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” The message I get from this saying is to process all knowledge through my own filter and to not accept anything blindly.

Can you take all advice on the subject of time and then filter it, process it and ask yourself, “will it make my life easier and happier or will it make my life more stressful and less satisfying?” What rules about times are you following that help you? What rules about time that you have are not helpful? What keeps you from discarding the unhelpful rules? Will life be any better for you if you hang onto these rules?

Can you forgive yourself and start another day?

“Tomorrow’s another day” is the famous comment from Scarlet O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind.” This was perhaps one of the most powerful and dramatic endings to any story ever told. Most of us were touched by these words and few who have heard them will ever forget them. Have you ever wondered why these words were so powerful? Why do they touch us all somewhere deep in our soul? I believe it is because they blend an element of self-forgiveness with recognition that each new day is the possibility of a new beginning. Self-forgiveness is evident, because Scarlett is not going to spend a great deal of time in self-recriminations. She is simply going to start again.

The new day “tomorrow” represents for Scarlet is a new start to life. It is her resurrection and her birth. Each day we can choose our life, our goals and our behavior. The simple but powerful phase “tomorrow’s another day” allows us to be reborn. It allows us to become free of the past and to start a new beginning. Each day of our lives offers us this possibility if like Scarlet we are willing to grasp it. We can have a new life or we can have an old life. We can continue on the path we have chosen or we can find a new path. Each new day can be a risk but life is a risk. Without risk there is no change and no chance to live more fully. We wake up each morning to a new set of choices. Each choice offers opportunities and each opportunity has its own set of risks.

How many of us do not realize the inherent possibility that tomorrow brings for us? Do you see each tomorrow as a new beginning or as more of the same? What will it take to help you realize the hidden possibilities in each new tomorrow? Do you start each day with a sense of joy at the opportunities it presents? Why not?

Are you a night owl or a lark? How do you greet the day?

“Its only 4 AM!” Says Karen in what must seem the middle of the nigh to her. “Sorry, I am awake.” Say I. The former dialogue has often occurred between Karen and me. I tend to be a morning person. I love to get up early and begin my day. Karen is a night person. She loves to sleep late and stay up late. She cannot understand that anyone would want to get up at 4, 5, 6, 7 or even 8 AM. Thus, on those occasions when I arise earlier than she can conceive anyone wanting to, I often hear: “What time is it? You’re not really getting up!” Well, I am getting up early and I love it.

Sometimes it is just so much fun to be up before the world starts to move and no one is out and about. Maybe it is because I love to watch the sun rise or maybe it is because I love to do things and can hardly wait for a new day to start that will be full of new adventures and exciting things to accomplish. The way one views the world may have a lot to do with how one greets the day. On the other hand, maybe it is how one views time. If time is precious, then starting out early means I can make the best use of it and that I will have extra time to do what needs to be done. Many would say that it is simply genetic. Some of us are larks, some of us are night owls, and it is all in our constitution. Night owls love the night time and greet the day with less than enthusiasm. Larks sing early in the morning but go to bed shortly after sunset.

How do you greet the day? Can you hardly wait to get up and start your day? Do you start your day slow or do you start it with a bang? Have you ever been up at 4 AM and started your day off? Would you rather wait until 10 AM and then start off slowly but surely? Do you honor your style or do you try to fit into a mold that others want you to?

Do you value time or image?

Rocks and Zen and Time! Thirty years ago, I belonged to a Zen Monastery where twice a week I would go to sit Zen and meditate. Some of the people lived there and others were commuters like me. The master was a renowned Japanese Zen expert and we all felt he must truly be enlightened. One of the women who lived there told me that once when the master was going to travel back to Japan he asked her what he could bring back for her. She told the master: “I really love ancient and old objects and could you bring me back something very ancient.” When he returned, he had a present for her wrapped in a package and tied with a bow. She was very excited and could hardly wait to open it. When she removed the present from the package, her excitement dropped as all she found was a rock. She looked at the Zen master with great disappointment and all he said was “I thought you wanted something very ancient. This rock is more than 100,000 years old.” She then understood the message that he was trying to impart to her. Most of us are like this young woman. We think we know the real value of things, but often we are only concerned with images, names and brands.

Rocks are not valued by many people but they are truly old and ancient. Rocks are proof that time itself is not the major factor that decides the value of an object. The real value of anything is not in the name, the image or the age. Antiques are valuable because they evoke nostalgic memories or because they remind of us something that we associate with a better life. Time is one of the most precious things in the world, however we never realize the value of time until it is in short supply. How many of us wish we could only live a moment over again or retrieve some moment in time that was ill spent?

Does the law of supply and demand govern the value of time for you or does your time conform to rules of branding and imaging? How many people do you know who love to express their importance by being ever so busy and never having any time? Why do you value time? What in time creates value for you? Would you know a gem from a rock when it comes to time?

Do you believe in life after death?

We have sometimes heard the phrase “The transient nature of being.” Is this just another way of saying that life is short and passes all too quickly? Transient means passing with time or of short duration. Being can mean living or existence. Thus, the phrase in one sense means to live a life of short duration. However, in another sense it implies a deeper more philosophical appreciation of life. To understand our transient nature is to accept that we are all just passing through one level of existence or being which we call earth and humanity. On another level, the possibility exists of many planes of existence which we may eventually or inevitably pass through. Each plane may exist for us as a transient phase but the entire process continues forever and is thus eternal and universal. Our life as we know it on earth may be transient, but our spirit and soul will live eternally and continue to migrate through these other planes of existence. This is one theory of life and afterlife. There are other possibilities.

Perhaps life is not transient and perhaps it is just a cycle of “from dust to dust.” Some of us want to believe in a life after death and others believe in reincarnation. However, many do not believe in either. For some, life ends with death and we simply return to the earth that created us. This latter view does not elevate humanity above the other creatures and species that walk the earth. People are just one element of the universe and no better or worse. Why should people have souls and be reincarnated if bugs and mice are not? It is because we have minds that we can create concepts like “transience” But what if transience only exists in our minds? Would we stop living or would we be more careful of the lives we live today? Think of the numerous people who throw their lives away everyday. Do you suppose they worry about transience?

Some people subscribe to a theory of life after death and others think it a bunch of hooey. What is your concept of being? Do you think life is too short or too transient? Do you think you will somehow be recycled? Will your recycled life be better than your present life? Why? What is going to make it better for you? What if you could live to 300 years of age? Would you live a better more fulfilling life? Why or why not?

Do you go by GPS time or GMT time? Do you care?

Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is the gold standard of time. It is the measure for time used around the world. GMT defines both time and place for the entire world. All time is measured relative to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and all places have latitude (their distance North or South of the Equator) and a longitude (their distance East or West of the Greenwich Meridian).

As the United Kingdom grew into an advanced maritime nation, British mariners kept their timepieces on GMT in order to calculate their longitude “from the Greenwich meridian”, which was by convention considered to have longitude zero degrees. This did not affect shipboard time itself, which was still solar time. Eventually, GMT became used world-wide as a reference for time as well as independent of location. Today we still talk about GMT time but probably not as often as we do GPS time. Global Positioning Systems are gradually replacing GMT as the standard by which we set our watch and cell phones world wide.

Think of the precision that has occurred in time setting over the last twenty year or so. Watches were once accurate only within minutes. Today, we set our watches and clocks to within seconds of the world standards for time. When you look at your cell phone, it is probably being automatically calibrated to a GPS time standard. You know longer have to worry if you watch is running fast or slow or needs winding. If I say I am going to call you at 5 PM, I can call you within seconds of this time and there is an excellent chance your clock or watch will say 5PM when I call you. This would have been unheard of ten years or so ago. You might be saying well “so what.” However, this precision allows us to coordinate millions of events world wide without losing minutes and seconds of wasted time. This translates to billions of dollars worth of savings in time and energy. In a global system, where time is increasingly more valuable than money, this savings of time is a wonderful benefit to modern life. Well, a benefit to some. For others, it is really a case of “who cares.”

Do you care? How concerned are you about time? Do you see time as a valuable resource or is it something that just ticks by without your giving it a care? Do you have the right balance for time in your life? Are you too obsessed with GMT and GPS time or not obsessed enough?

Where can you find the time?

Finding time has become one of the great feats of human existence. How often do you hear someone say “I will have to find the time?” Where did they lose it? Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a lost and found desk somewhere? Anytime you needed to find time, for friends, for family, for exercising, for writing, for spirituality, you could just go to this desk and ask for some time. Perhaps, there could be a lending bank for time. “I need some time, what is your interest rate?” “The First National Bank of Time is happy to help you!”

If time is really so valuable, why don’t we have Banks for Time?” Imagine being the Rockefeller or Carnegie of time! If only we could find a way to save time and lend it to people who have more need of it. What would we charge for interest? Well, more time of course! People would have to pay back time with a time charge. If we had such lending institutions, it might help us address the critical shortage of time that seems to plague life today. Who among us has not had to find time? Well, you would always know where to find some, since the Time Banks would be happy to lend it to you.

Now perhaps you were hoping that I would give you some “secrets to finding time”; some tidbits that would make reading this blog worth the effort. Here is one little secret that being a wise and published author I could share with you- DRUM ROLL – Ta da Ta da! Here it is: “You can find all the time you want if you never lose it. Keep it under your pillow before you go to sleep and it will always be there in the morning.” I hope that helps. More seriously, if you want tips on finding time, buy the following excellent book: Take Your Time: Finding Balance in a Hurried World by Eknath Easwaran. It is available through Amazon.com in both new and used editions.

What would you do if you had more time than you ever needed? What if you knew you were going to live forever? What if you could speed time up or slow time down? Would a real Time Master be someone who had such control of time? Do you suppose this is the real secret of managing your time? Do you think it is possible to have such control over time? Do you know anyone who always seems to have time and still gets everything done? What do you suppose their secret is? Why not ask them sometime how they do it?

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