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.

Do you read enough? Do you love ideas and books?

Book time is my favorite time. This is when I am already past the “startup” of a new novel or the introduction to a new book and I find the time to just sit down and relax with it. I often go into an old bedroom in our house as it somehow seems more peaceful. It might be just before going to bed or sometimes when I have nothing to do. The world never seems more peaceful. It feels like hiding in a cave. When I was a child, book time was when I would go to the library. I discovered libraries at an early age and it was like discovering paradise.

Libraries were peaceful and quiet and full of all the ideas, fantasies, mysteries and great things of the world. I fell in love with books there. I probably love books more than anything in the world. I love them not only because of what they represent, but because of where they can take you and what they can make you. When I was young, I was taught that knowledge was power and information was a precious resource. The balance of power has shifted now due to modern technology and the internet. Perhaps today it is more important who you know than what you know. Nevertheless, I persist in my love of knowledge and theory and ideas. I am bothered however by one major shift in our culture.

We seem to live in a society that is more and more obsessed by sports. It is a society where star athletes are heroes and computer geeks are nerds. It is a society that places more value on baseball, football and basketball than on books and reading. Perhaps foolishly, I dream of a society where towns have signs up for leading academic students , leading music majors, leading drama classes, leading art students and not just for the “Football champions of 03” or the “ Class AAA Baseball Champions of 2011.” I dream of a society where drama coaches, music coaches and art teachers are as highly paid as NCAA athletic coaches. I dream of a society where as many students show up to watch the debating matches and chess matches as show up for the basketball games. I dream of a society where there is no such thing as nerds and geeks and where developing brain power is as sexy as developing muscle power.

Do you read enough? Do you value ideas as much as you value “who won the Super bowl?” Would you pay as much for a beautiful work of art or a ticket to the symphony as you would for a ticket to an NBA playoff game or a Super bowl game? Do you spend as much time reading as you do watching sports? Do you concern yourself with politics and culture as much as you do with popular NASCAR and Hollywood celebrities? Do your children? Why not? Do you think your life might be different if you valued ideas more? What might change?

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.

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