Have you ever had an experience of timelessness?

Timelessness is that state of mind when time does not seem to matter or when time seems suspended and is no longer passing. It is those points, episodes and events in our life when time no longer flows or when we are totally unaware of its passage. I remember spending ten days in the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota. It took about a week but eventually I stopped thinking of time and looking at my watch. I became almost totally unaware of the passage of time. Life seemed to slow down so that each moment I focused on could have lasted forever. Only the shifting of my thoughts caused any movement in the world. Schedules, to-do-lists, appointments all disappeared.

I rested when I wanted to, paddled when and where I wanted to, ate and napped when I wanted to and not by the movements of the hands on my watch. Time became non-existent except by virtue of the sun, moon and stars. Clock time, machine time, watch time, 24 hour schedules no longer existed for me. Upon leaving the Boundary Waters, it took a few days for me to adjust to “reentry.” I had to adjust again to a world where we take our breaks on a schedule and work x number of hours each day until the weekend signals a break.

Have you ever experienced a state of timelessness? When was the last time that time no longer mattered for you? What events or episodes in your life have evoked a state of timelessness for you? What where they like? Did you find them enjoyable? Do you wish you could have more experiences of timelessness? How often do you have any experiences of timelessness? Do you suppose this is a skill that could be developed or do you think it just happens? What if you could develop a skill to create timelessness whenever you wanted to? What would life be like for you if you could suspend time whenever you wanted or needed to?

As you grow older, how do you renew yourself and your relationships?

And I think I will keep you here,
deep within my heart.
Today…tomorrow…forever…and a day! (From Forever and a Day, by Cindy Heavican)

Songs can tell us a great deal about the feelings associated with time. Forever and a day! What a beautiful thought. When we marry someone, our thoughts are like in this song. Our hope is that our love and our happiness together will last long after our earthly bodies have withered away. Poems and stories are full of tales of love that have somehow transcended time. Some of these stories, like Romeo and Juliet, are now timeless themselves.

We would all like to think that our love will last forever and a day. We marvel at those people for whom this seems to hold true. We may know a special couple who never seem to tire of each other and who are always loving and caring towards each other. Perhaps our own father and mother who have been married for sixty some odd years and who still seem like newlyweds. Or friends who despite the longevity of their marriage treat each day as thought it was the first day of their marriage.

What distinguishes these unique relationships from so many others wherein apathy and even hatred sometimes replace love? The TV, newspapers and crime novels are full of stories where love turned to hatred and one spouse killed another. Can we blame time? Does familiarity breed contempt? Do we simply get tired of people like we get tired of the same old song repeatedly heard? I want to say no, let’s not blame time. If we must find something to blame, perhaps we must start with ourselves. Time can age all things and cause them to decay and rot. Time also allows all things to be renewed, repaired and restored.

What happens if we don’t renew ourselves and our relationships? Of course, they just get older and not better. They may rot from within. Think about yourself today. Are you renewing, repairing or restoring yourself? Or are you just getting older and decaying? We can make a choice. We cannot turn the clock back but we can move forward with it.

How much "Mad Time" do you have in your life?

Do you know what “Mad” time is? It is time we waste when we are mad at others or the world. Road Rage is an extreme example of “Mad” time. How many lives have been wasted because of one single incident on a highway that took less than five seconds? Yet, when Mad time takes over, a single incident can turn into wasted hours, wasted weeks and even wasted lives. Mad time has a notorious propensity to escalate and keep on escalating. An incident can turn neighbors into lifelong enemies. One single incident turns friends, lovers and family members into people that now hate and despise each other. Mad time is a vicious gift that keeps on giving. It gives more and more time to continue hating and loathing and despising others. Nothing is more pernicious or insidious than Mad time. “Of course, you are right, it was not your fault. Of course, they were being jerks. Of course, they should apologize.” How much time do you waste thinking about what they did wrong and how you were insulted or maligned?

Have you ever sent an email that you wanted to retrieve? Did it cause you problems when you could not retrieve it? How much time did it take to send the email versus the time it cost you to fix the problems you created by sending it? Have you ever said something you wish you could take back? How much time did it take you to make up for this one lapse of patience. This is Mad time at work. Mad time can consume us and consume the time we could use for helpful activities.

In business, one looks at Costs versus Benefits and it is called a Cost-Benefit Analysis. Perhaps we should have a process for doing a “Mad Time Analysis.” Before we shoot off that angry letter, before we yell at the other driver, before we say those angry words, we should do a cost benefit on the time it will cost us to make amends or the time that it will take out of our lives to repair the damage our actions might cause. How much time will it save or waste versus the time it took us to be angry and retaliatory? Sometimes, you can never undue the damage that one minute of haste or one minute of anger can do. Nothing can take back a life that is lost.

Are you a Mad-aholic? Do you get off on spending Mad time and then dealing with it? What if you had less Mad time in your life? Can you start reducing your Mad time by redirecting your anger? What could you do when you are angry rather than retaliate? Think about how much better your life would be with less Mad time.

What do you anticipate in your life?

Anticipatory time is that time when we are waiting for something to happen. It is when we know in advance that something will happen. Whether it is good or bad, when we are anticipating something, it can seem like forever. Time can move very slowly when we are in an anticipatory mood. Those of us who like to plan may try to control these events. I plan my vacations two to three years ahead. I love the anticipation. For instance, Karen (my spouse) and I had decided to go to Peru in two years. It was fun for me to think what it would be like to climb Machu Picchu and to take the train in Peru. I am anticipating that we will take a small boat ride up the Amazon River. In my mind, everything works fine. I anticipate no problems. I planned my first overseas trip twenty five years ago. Since the first, Karen and I have gone on 17 trips to 29 different countries. Each trip was planned more than two years in advance. We post pictures of where we want to go, buy books, get maps, contact people, get local newspapers and get more and more excited as the day draws near. In many ways, our anticipatory time goes very fast. There are so many details and so much to work out to make sure that everything goes as we anticipate.

However, regardless of how much we try to control the time in our lives, there are inevitably events we cannot control. On Monday morning, your boss says “I want to see you in my office on Friday.” Your annual performance evaluation, an important presentation or an upcoming court date are just a few of the many different events that will create “anticipatory time” in our lives. Some of these events will not be ones that we would choose. These will create “negative” anticipatory time. I call this the time we have to wait that is not fun and that creates stress in our lives. Positive anticipatory time may also go slow but it is time that is fun to think about and where we are anxious for the time to move fast. In both cases, we want the time to go by but in one case, it is with positive anticipation and the other with negative anticipation.

What do you like to anticipate in your life? Are you in control over your anticipations or do you just go with the flow? Would more planning help you to have more fun with anticipation? What can you do to minimize the “negative” anticipation in your life? Are you leading the type of balanced life that helps to minimize stress and problems? If not, how can you get more balance in your life? A balanced life will have less negative and more positive anticipatory time.

Will today be the best day of your life?

This is the best time in the world! There is no better time than now. Perhaps today it might sound foolish to say this. Perhaps tomorrow it might sound even more foolish. To some it will always sound foolish. Many will say it is looking at the world with rose colored glasses. Others will attribute it to a foolish optimism. Few will see it as a statement of realism and it will never be possible to prove it as a statement of fact. Yet, this statement of belief determines to a large extent what we do with our lives and what we attempt to do in the world.

When you believe that the world feels wonderful, it changes your whole perspective on life. On the days when I can grasp this thought, there is no other place I want to be. Things are going just right, all is well. I feel healthy, happy and contented. I am not unhappy with the right wing or left wing or chaos anywhere in the world. I can just accept the world for what it is. It is a wonderful feeling. I sometimes wish the feeling could last forever. I think of the quote from Dickens that: “this is the best of all possible worlds.” Where else could I go?

If we look around us, we can see a beautiful place full of beautiful people and extraordinary places and opportunities. Of course, we can see the opposite if we are minded to. There will always be war, hatred, killing and violence. It is part of human nature. But are you part of the problem or part of the solution? If you are not doing your share to end the problems of the world, why complain about them? Take some time to end violence, to end poverty and to end war. But for today, try to find only the good out there.

See if you can find three things that make you happy or three good things that you like about the world. Try to be aware today of the good things in your life. Write them down and look at them again when you wake up tomorrow. See if you can feel why this is the best of all possible times and the best of all possible worlds. Tomorrow can be even better. Can you make the choice?

Have you ever thought of building your own time capsule?

Time capsules! I want to open a time capsule. When I was a small boy, I was truly fascinated by the whole idea of a time capsule. It seemed so Buck Rogers like. You take parts of present civilization, put them in a non-destructible container, bury it in the ground and then 1000 years later, you open it up. I did not believe anything could be more interesting. I hoped someday that I could be present at the opening of one. I thought surely sometime during my lifetime, a time capsule from the past would be opened and I could be present when it was opened. How exciting it would be! I would be able to see what people of generations long ago thought was important. The messages and memories sent by the people from generations past to the generations of the future. Only now I could be there to be part of history. I longed to find out what wisdom the people from the past would have to share with us now. What knowledge had been forgotten and would now be revived? What treasures would be revealed from the capsule?

Well, I see they are still burying time capsules and occasionally I see that a time capsule has been opened. Sadly, I still have not been present when any were opened. Either my timing or my location has not been right. Perhaps it is time that I made my own time capsule. Have you ever thought about making a time capsule for your children or grandchildren? Why not? You could just take a large Tupperware container for the capsule. Make sure anything that you put in it is well wrapped in baggies or some type of plastic to prevent moisture from getting in. Date it with a permanent ink marker. Find a place to bury it and put some sort of marker on the spot. Find a place on the internet where time capsules are listed and post yours.

Now comes the fun part. What would you put in it? What treasures, thoughts or ideas would you like your grandchildren to know about many years from now? Where would you “bury” it for them to open? When would you permit them to open it? Think of the reactions on their faces when they found the messages and treasures you left for them. No doubt you would make some little boy or girl very happy. I know I would be if I opened your time capsule.

If we cried more, would we have less rage and abuse?

Crying time is more acceptable for women than men. Nevertheless, even men have their crying times. Crying time most likely occurs over a tragic death, when we lose a relationship, attend a funeral or feel badly about something we did. Paradoxically, many people cry when they are happy, for instance at weddings. Others cry when they are angry.

For men, there is less crying time than for women. I have often wondered what the purpose of crying is or how the function developed. What evolutionary or biological purpose does crying serve? There are those that say that only music truly sets us apart from lower creatures, but do animals cry? I have seen sadness in some of my pets, but I cannot say I have ever seen an animal crying. For myself, I cannot say that I cry very much. This is not to say that I never cry. I have cried tears of sadness and tears of pain but I cannot remember ever crying tears of joy or tears of anger. There are certain stories that will always bring tears to my eyes. “The Little Match-girl” is one of them. I have never seen a production of the story or read the story without crying.

When my first wife and I separated, it seems like I spent one entire week crying. Crying seemed purposeless at the time. However, after the release of disappointment and emotional uplifting, I was leading my life again solo without looking back and trying to resurrect the relationship. The crying allowed me to let go of things and to move forward with my future. So maybe crying would be a better release for many people than the displays of anger and abuse we often witness in our society.

What would it take to make crying more acceptable for men as well as for women? Would it decrease abuse and rage in our society if we encouraged men to spend more crying time? What about teenagers and the problems with school violence and suicide? Could more crying time be an antidote to these problems? What role does crying play in your life? Do you find crying to be helpful? Do you cry enough?

What time do you have for regrets?

What does time have to do with regrets? I once heard someone say that the only thing you will regret when your life is over are those things that you wanted to do but never did. Some of these things may be adventures that were never taken or people you wanted to meet and never did. They may also include apologies you wanted to make or forgiveness you wanted and never gave or received. You may look back on your life someday with no regrets as my friend Harold Johnson did. However, I think it is a rare individual that will live their life with no regrets. Time plays an important role in this process since we often act as though we would have unlimited time to fix things. I will call and apologize tomorrow. I will see them later. I will take that trip next year. What if tomorrow never comes? Who among us knows the time of our death?

If you could take a walk to a cemetery and talk to the people therein, what do you think they would they say about their lives and their regrets? I can imagine how many would say that they regret they never really prioritized their lives according to what really mattered. Mary was struck by a car while on a shopping trip. Paul had a heart attack while watching a soccer game. Israel was sitting at a bar when shot during an attempted hold-up. Sarah had always wanted to have enough money to visit the Holy land but could never seem to save enough for the trip. Jasmine says she would have liked to have spent more time with her son and daughter. Mohamed had not seen his parents in over two years because he was too busy with school and work.

What regrets about your life do you have today? What can you do about them today? Some of them you can do nothing about, but others you can. Like they say in the Serenity Prayer: “Lord, help us to know the difference.” Make a list of regrets you might be able to do something about. Be optimistic. Don’t put this off until tomorrow. Do it today. When you have made this list, choose one to work on for the next week or month. Perhaps this will become a good habit. When you have finished your list, how do you think you will feel?

What can you learn about time from the sports in your life?

Run time! No, this is not the run time for my computer. This is my personal running time. I have been running regularly for 35 years. On the average, I run about 5 times a week and about 3 to 4 miles each run. I am still waiting for the runners “high” where I can feel nothing but blissful peace. I really enjoy running but through the years, there have been numerous pains and hurts to overcome. It seems to get harder running in the winter. I suppose running is a great deal like life, it has its ups and downs and it only gets better when we keep working at it. There are no magical highs (except for temporary ones on drugs) but in general, the pleasure I get from running outweighs the pain.

I no longer try to increase my running speed or my distances. I will not be an Olympic marathoner nor am I training for my 101st marathon. I like to say I am a “maintenance” runner. That is my schedule is set up to maintain my present level of fitness. For my age, I am in reasonably good health. I am five foot eight inches tall and I weigh about 140 lbs. I feel good and have not been to surgery or to the doctor for anything serious yet in my life. I pray it will remain the same for the next ten years.

What does running have to do with time? I find that by doing “maintenance” running, I notice my running times go in cycles with the seasons. I run more in the late summer and fall and less in the winter and spring. At first I was worried at these dips in my “maintenance” schedule. Then, I read that it is natural to go with a cycle and that it lets my body recover. Just like winter allows the earth to recover before it starts to bud out in spring and emerge more glorious in summer. As each year progresses, I find that I am running farther and farther and enjoying it more and more. As winter sets in again, I slow down and with the shorter days, my runs become shorter and shorter. Spring is when I start feeling like increasing my runs and distance, though I feel sluggish after the long winter in Minnesota. My body and running seem to respond to the same cycles as the earth.

Have you ever found a cycle to your life? What activities or efforts in your life seem cyclical? Do you fight your cycles or do you allow yourself to “go with the flow.” How have cycles made a difference in your life? Would better managing your natural cycles improve your life?

What is the relationship between time and value?

Polls show Americans like instant gratification. A recent AP Poll showed that Americans are an impatient bunch. We get antsy after a few minutes on hold; we hate to wait in grocery stores or in airports. Older people are more impatient than younger people. People in the country are just a little more patient than city people but not by much. This poll was based on 1003 adults. Most people answered they felt more time poor than money poor. Benjamin Franklin said that time was money and many of us take this truth to heart.

The findings from this AP Poll will probably not surprise anyone but it is significant in that today we are beginning to value time more than money. Economic theory or the Law of Supply and Demand says that the scarcer something is the more valuable it will be. If we now have less time than money, then time will become proportionally more valuable to us. People who can afford Hummers and other such luxuries may have a surplus of money but there are only 24 hours in a day. No matter who you are or how much money you have, the time you have is fixed. You cannot buy another minute in a day or another second in your life. You may work overtime to acquire more toys or to display a luxury lifestyle image but rich or poor you share the same amount of time each day as everyone else. Time will become more and more precious when you get older while the things in your life will soon lose their luster. Bling only blings so long and then goes out of style.

What if we wanted less? What if we spent less time shopping and buying and acquiring things? Would you be happier with less things and more time? How does buying and spending keep you from enjoying your time and relaxing more? How does owning so many toys affect your life? What if you adopted the virtue of frugality? Would you trade your things for more time to spend with those you love? Would your life be happier if it were simpler?

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