We are a culture that CONSUMES
We are great consumers of food, coffee, alcohol, information, clothes, cars, concerts – if there is a thing, and that thing is good, we consume as much of it as we can. Sometimes, this tendency is harmless; then again, sometimes, it’s a pretty big problem.
One of the ways that our consumption is harmful is in the way that we consume TIME
We chomp down on every minute available to us – not because that moment is good, but because it is the gateway to the next moment. We chew through time as a bridge to the next thing we need to do, or the next thing we want to do. It is a life of leap-frog; each moment only has value in its ability to carry us to the next one. If we can’t fast forward time to do what comes next, we can at least think about it until it’s time. Think about this. How often are you in the car, irritated, rushed, and just pushing to get to where you’re going? On your lunch break, do you think about the afternoon ahead of you? When are you laying quietly in bed at night, how often do you predict all the things that you need to be doing tomorrow?
Now, let me stop for a moment and acknowledge: we need to do some of this
We, as humans, need the ability to think ahead, to plan, to be able to prepare for the next thing that is coming. I’ll agree with that. But do we need to be doing it all the time?
Does there come a point where more planning, and ruminating, and predicting doesn’t really help anymore. I would argue – yes. Most definitely
And I’ll give you an example. On the most unseasonably warm February day, I was quite busy. I had a full schedule for the day, with only a few moments in the middle of the day to catch up and grab some lunch. I had caught up on work with only a few minutes to spare, and I seized the opportunity to get myself out of doors and into the sunshine.
When I stepped foot out the door, my mind said, “You’ve got a busy afternoon.”
And it was right. In my job, as in most, it’s good to have a sense of where your day is headed, to make sure that you are prepared and on top of things. So, I agreed; yes, I have a busy afternoon. And I kept walking. It was warm, almost hot, with a gentle breeze and a clear, sunny sky. I found a bench, and sat down to close my eyes. And my mind said, “You’ve got a busy afternoon.” Unconsciously, I found myself ticking through what was to come, playing my day out all the way until bedtime. And then, in response, I found myself getting angry. Stop thinking about the work, stop thinking about your day, you’re missing out on the beautiful sunshine! I was in an argument with my thoughts. In my effort to not simply consume time, I was becoming more and more frustrated. And I realized – the antidote to consuming is not to abstain; it is to savor. I didn’t need to focus so hard on stopping myself from consuming my time as a bridge to my busy afternoon, I just needed to turn my attention toward savoring the moment, as it was.
So I closed my eyes again
And I heard my mind’s message once more, “You’ve got a busy afternoon.” And I smiled, and agreed, and said “Yes; and right now, I can feel the sun on my face.” For a few moments, I savored the warm pressing of the sun against my skin, imagined that I could feel each freckle responding to the light, and felt for a moment as if I was glowing, too. It felt like pure freedom. If only for a moment, I wasn’t working, and I wasn’t occupied by my busy afternoon; I was just there, sunning, breathing, and being. My story has a point. It would have been easy, and quite natural, to follow my mind into the game of leap-frog, and to spend my moments of silence predicting and planning what was coming next.
And I can tell you that it made all the difference in my day to feel that I – even for a moment – had a break. A moment to be. A moment to savor
So, my challenge to you is this
Don’t stop planning. But if you find yourself in a moment where you are lost in what comes next, try to catch yourself. Observe what you consume. See if you can notice the desire to mentally chew through the time to get to the next thing, and instead try to find something you can savor. On your way to work, you may be preoccupied with the tasks of the day, anticipating meetings, interactions, and expectations; instead, see if you can make contact with the fact that at that moment, you’re in the car, enjoying a coffee, listening to music you enjoy.
It doesn’t mean the day isn’t coming; it just means you can enjoy the time on the way