Time is a serious issue. As human beings, we suffer from the knowledge that our existence is finite, and therefore our time on earth- and what we do with it- matters a lot. We tend to think of time as a resource that is slowly and steadily depleting itself- even as you read this!
We've created the idea of wasting time, time that is spent doing nothing of value. We aim to maximize and control time, stressing out about getting as much done as possible. We've invented cars, airplanes, and the internet, all in the name of saving this precious quantity of time.
Unlike money, you can't hoard time or save it for a rainy day. You can’t know how much you have left. You can’t get a refund on time- once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
Sounds depressing, right? This is how we’ve been conditioned to view time, a nonrenewable resource that we can never, ever, have enough of. This perspective has produced unimaginable human progress, but it comes with a deep cost to our psyches- a persistent angst about whether or not we are using our time on earth efficiently.
But in nature, time is simply an agent of change. Time turns seeds into trees, water into rain, an apple core into compost. The rush to get things done as fast as possible is unnecessary. This is why Lao Tzu asks us to observe that, “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
Glimpses of the present moment allow us to see time in consistent, steady action, time moving things along without any effort or stress of our own. Try closing your eyes or looking down at the floor, taking a few deep breaths and sitting for 2-3 minutes, and notice what happens. Thoughts and feelings come and go, and physical sensations arise and transform. Through this awareness one can appreciate the effects of time as what it really is, which is change. Fully acknowledging change is to experience time and being alive.
When we were children we happily looked forward to our growth, celebrating birthdays, graduating and learning new skills, gaining new experiences. But as we get older, we don’t like it as much and we start to become attached to ideas of ourselves in our own minds, determined to stay the same and defeat the effects of time.
If you find yourself stuck in any way, you are likely resisting change. It's scary to submit to nature’s timeline, which is a life that eventually ends in loss. And so you retreat from the outside and close yourself off from anything new and different. Time then becomes your enemy, a danger to ward off in as many ways as possible.
Time is not hands on a clock or the number of years you have lived. Time is change. To live harmoniously with time is to experience yourself growing, evolving, and being shaped by outside forces in each waking and dreaming moment.
As much as you try, you can't hold on to time. Letting go means allowing yourself to change.