Time management

Time Management
Photo by JD Baskin

“Only through time, time is conquered.”
– T.S. Eliot

I live my life as if my time is limited. You can only do so many things, fit so many things, into a day, a month, a lifetime.  Everything takes time.

I have no energy to spare on thoughts that pull me down. That’s time management.

The passage of time has turned my hair a charcoal gray, an ashen shadow that summons the threat of losing all these things I am meant to do – the creativity that hasn’t yet turned into expression – and the urgency of holding onto time with the people I love. Demanding a future. The right to be here, to cherish and adore and protect them. There’s a myth about independence.  We really do need each other, even when we’re grown.

Fleeting moments.  My past is filled with them. And I want to be here for all the rest of it – all those sparkling moments.

My yearning for transcendence comes, at least in part, from my sense that my time is limited. And the need to find a way to get beyond time while I’m here.

Why We Don’t Drink

Alcohol is an important part of life for so many people.  Courtney E. Martin wrote a brilliant and honest post about it in the online magazine On Being.   Having worked with people whose lives have been devastated by alcohol and drugs, the article –  real as it is – was heartbreaking. There are better ways to:

Bhaktifest 2013
Bhaktifest 2013

calm your mind,
“suspend the self,”
experience flow and
find community.

Better ways than using alcohol.

It’s not spirits you’re looking for, it’s Spirit.  It’s not disappearing you’re looking for, it’s transformation.  Transcendance without detachment, presence without attachment, belonging – unguarded, unpolished, raw, wild, and sweet.

There are better ways to feel connected…to the eternal, to one another, to the center around which all the flying pieces of your self revolve. To the place where heaven and earth come together – in you.  To a brief moment that expands into a lifetime, and then expands ever further than that.

It’s no secret that we don’t drink alcohol.  Not at all.  The last time I can remember us having a drink was the glass of champagne, on our wedding day, more than 30 years ago.  And we also don’t use drugs.  I stopped smoking pot and using hallucinogens when I was 16.  Didn’t like pot.  My relationship with hallucinogens was complicated.  Let’s just say I respected them, but I found other, safer, ways in.  Charles never used drugs.  He did get drunk once – when he was about 6 years old and broke into the eggnog that his grandmother was cooking in the snow.  Never did that again.

pregnancyThe number one reason we don’t drink or use drugs is because we want to be present.

We want to be present to Life.  To experience the richness, passion, and messy vibrance of Life.  We want to be present with each other, for each other, with other people, and with ourselves.  On behalf of ourselves – because when you aren’t present, you can’t feel fully.  You can’t sense the nuances of safety and danger in the environment.  You can’t avoid risks because you’re not there to notice them.  You can’t love fully, because you’re not fully here.

Alcohol doesn’t pierce the veil.  It makes it fluffy. An artificial lift that evaporates when you come down.  And have to face all the stuff you were avoiding.  The anxiety. The conflict.

I’m not saying being present is easy.  Feelings don’t always tickle.  Who doesn’t want to make a quick escape now and then?  But we hold to checking in rather than checking out. We want to know how we feel – so we can adjust our course when we’ve wandered into territory that doesn’t feel good.  And it doesn’t matter whether that territory is geographical or social or mental or financial or whatever.  We can adjust our course.  But first we’ve got to be present.  You’ve got to be present to make a choice.

And when it’s our own thinking that’s causing us pain, like dwelling on hurts of the past or worries about the future, being present is like a deep breath that finally gets some oxygen to our starving cells.  Being present, in this moment. Here and now.  Here.  And now.  That’s where the solution lies.

Charles and I want to be together.  And we’ve got to be present, to both be present, to be together.  We want to show our daughter, to model for her, that you can live life awake.  Head on, full force.  Without deadening or numbing yourself to any of it.  The beauty and the sorrow. You can even find the tender beauty inside the sorrow.

How do we cope with the stuff that overwhelms or hurts us from our human perspective?

When the pain is truly too great, we check in deeper. To the source of who we are, the pure energy of Life.  That’s our ultimate reality.  The safe. The timeless. Soul that lives within. I am that I am.  We stay present here and now and invite the presence of our Divine self too.  The expanded self.  The one that sees the big picture.  The part of us that is present in everything.  The part of ourselves that is not dictated or determined by circumstances.

Kai Chi Do at Bhaktifest
Kai Chi Do at Bhaktifest

And by the way, we think drinking or using drugs when you call yourself a spiritual teacher is just hypocrisy.  We don’t love those teachers any less, but we can’t trust them.  I love Chogyam Trungpa, but his teachings are a little more hollow, now that I know he died (at the age of 48) from complications of alcoholism.

Yes, we have friends and family who drink alcohol or use drugs.  Some of them say they just like the taste.  Some say it helps them deal with stress. Some say it’s entertainment.  Well, there are lots of things that taste good without being toxic.  And suppressing boredom with substances is just a waste of nature’s push towards creativity.  Make the most of it!  As far as stress management goes, if you need to use drink or drugs to relax, you’ve got a bigger problem than you think you do.  And besides that, there are better ways to find altered states of consciousness.  Ways that fill you with appreciation and awe, ways that bring you more Life, more energy, more insight and inspiration. And keep you present.  Here and now. Connected with those you love and those who love you. With the soul of the Universe.  With your self.  Ways that aren’t so thin.

Thoughts are Energy Gates

Thoughts are energy gates.

I’ve been thinking about my thinking. Unlike Charles, whose vitality rivals the energizer bunny, I’ve been feeling tired lately.  When I think about it, I’ve been tired for a couple of years. I take nutritional supplements.  My eating habits, which were always pretty good, are even more simple.  I enjoy silence immensely.  I get plenty of sleep.  And I’m still tired.  The doctor says I’m healthy.  Okay — I should probably get more exercise but like I said, I’ve been tired!  And ridiculously busy.

So I’m tired.  And aside from the fact that I like feeling energized, I need every edge I can get because I frankly have too much to do and too little time to do it in. Which is why my writing has slowed to a trickle:  competing demands.  I’m falling behind on emails.  Projects are taking way longer than expected.  Even routine tasks seem to go haywire and my mood on too many days ranges from frustrated and cranky to sad. I really don’t think I can blame that on Mercury’s months in retrograde or the Feng Shui of my room.

So I’m thinking about my thinking.

My thoughts are like gates for my energy. Worry, sad, angry thinking — body feels so heavy I can barely move my arms.  Let all of that go for a minute and focus on the breath, the music, the beauty — my arms feel light and the movements are easy.  Worry again, heavy again. Present again, light again. Parlor tricks. And even though I saw it clear as day in Kai Chi Do, I hadn’t really given much attention to how these mental gates were operating in my everyday — well, you know — life.  Gates.  Do they swing open or closed? Are they barriers or passageways?

It’s not easy to change your thinking—until it is.  I mean when you finally do it, you wonder why you held onto the hard way for so long.

I worry. Charles doesn’t worry.  Perhaps he doesn’t have to worry because I do that for both of us, or perhaps there’s really nothing to worry about.  At any rate, worrying doesn’t seem to actually help anything. It used to be that anxiety could motivate me.  I think I exceeded that threshold somewhere around 1995.  Yes I think it was ’95. The year I left an extremely stressful job that I had been pouring my heart into.  Or maybe it was ’96, the year Shanti was born.  Does worrying go into overdrive when you have a kid?  I think even Charles worried for a moment or two when Shanti was born, but it quickly melted into his faith.  Faith in a benevolent universe.  Faith in her.  Faith in us.

So today I’ve just been trying to find a better-feeling thought.  And the revelation and relief I was hoping for came in the form of three words:  I don’t know.

I don’t know how to get the wild duck off the aluminum patio roof where it has been making a racket every night and keeping me awake.  I don’t know why the chicken (no relation to the duck) didn’t cook after two hours even though the oven feels warm and the light said the temperature in the oven is 325 degrees (is this some kind of magic chicken?  Sigh.  I don’t know.) I don’t know how to stay serenely relaxed and stop gripping the door handle while teaching our daughter how to drive. I don’t know how to find the time to give my friends the attention they deserve.  And I certainly don’t know how to do my taxes.

“I don’t know” is today’s better-feeling thought. An open gate and my energy lifted. I may have to find a different relief thought tomorrow, but this is a good one for now.  Do you think that not knowing is a kind of faith — that things will be okay without our heroic efforts?

I don’t know.

Emotions Meditation you can feel

Emotions meditationEmotions are messengers from our inner teacher, our inner guidance system.  If we listen to them, they give us awareness our own wants and needs, and the intensity of our desire. They tell us if we are heading in the right direction or getting in our own way. They tell us what needs to change.  If we listen.  And if we don’t listen, they get louder, more insistent.  When they hurt, they’re revealing our own resistance, our own contradictions, the gap between what we want and what we believe, the discord between who we are and what we’re doing.  May this meditation help you to listen to your emotions, and find your way into harmony with your inner Being, the Source of who you are.

Emotions Meditation by Charles Robinson.  Music by J. S. Epperson, Gammadrone (Quantum Edit) – generously shared through and a Creative Commons license –CC-BY-NC-Share Alike.

To download the mp3 file of this Meditation, right click the “meditation” link above, and choose “Save Link As”.  It will download the file to your computer or mobile device.


Learning to be brave, or at least learning

That pool is just as freezing every morning and it’s just as hard to get naked and dive in.
— Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

The truth is: I have to muster my courage every day.

I want to do things that I don’t have the skills for, so every day I struggle.  To learn.  To take the risk to try things I don’t know how to do.  To ask for help when I’m pretty sure I have stupid questions.  And then ask stupid, quite possibly annoying, follow up questions.  I take calculated risks about things that wouldn’t be risks at all if I knew what I was doing (email me if you know anything about changing Permalink structures and transferring activation keys to subdomains.  I’m a nurse, for goodness sake!).  And so I make too many mistakes.  I consume way too much time researching to try to understand the risks and avoid the mistakes, but I also seem to evaporate time in the daily exercise of overcoming my avoidance.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love to be productive.  Which is probably why it’s so hard for me to work so slowly, to have so little product to show for my efforts while I’m trekking through the valley of the shadow of the learning curve.

But I do keep hiking that curve.

Avoidance would lead me down the path of complacent contentment.  No one can really argue with contentment, which makes it very tough to resist.  Contentment is so serene.  (Maybe a little boring, but) so peaceful.  So easy like Sunday morning.

But complacency, now that’s another story.  That’s a kind of resignation that makes the creator inside me rebel.

You can see my dilemma.  Steven Pressfield eloquently calls it The War of Art.  But because I’m more of a plodder than an artist, I just call it fear.

I’m good at some things.  Things I’ve done a long time. They’re easy for me now.  I can drive a car without thinking about all the coordination required between my eyes, my hands, my feet and the steering wheel —  which are all things I used to think about, especially after I hit a tree on my first driver’s test.  (Well, it was a parallel park, what can you expect?)  I’ve done my day job so long it’s like a vacation from what I put myself through on my days off.

But I keep trying.  Because there are things I want to accomplish that I don’t know how to do yet.  Things I want to build.  To share.  To create.  I keep learning because I know from experience that once I do a task 3 or 4 or 100 times, it gets a little bit familiar and there’s not quite so much to overcome.  And one day, some day, it get’s easy.

And I take the risk of writing this because maybe, just maybe, you can relate.

Kim Doyal inspired me to write this post – because she’s a self taught WordPress expert, and she sent an email to her universe of readers today that said to stop waiting for permission to put yourself out there and speak in your own voice.  And she added a link to Sara Bareilles song, Brave.  I love the song and posted it to Facebook, but if you haven’t seen it yet (because you still haven’t found the energy it takes to overcome your resistance to learning how to use Facebook), you’re in for a smile.

(I really don’t know if I should categorize this post in Inspiration or Mental Health.  Maybe they’re the same thing.)