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Mindful : February 2014
We have a habit of thinking of time as fixed. A minute is a minute is a minute. Of course, that’s true from an objective standpoint, but we’re rarely that objective about time. If we don’t wa nt to be doing something, a minute can seem like an eternity, and when we’re absorbed in something, time flies. Seeing how “time is what we make it” allows us to be more patient. We can ease our thumb off the stopwatch a nd let go of metering our time, thinking, “When will this end?” or “I hope this doesn’t end soon.” When my mother was in her 90s, if one of her g randchil- dren would say they were “get- ting old” as they approached another birthday, she would say, “Don’t age yourself. Just be as old as you are. Aging will take care of itself.” As we begin to appreciate the subtle- ties of time, we become more at ease with the aging process. Things change. They’re born, they ripen, they shrivel, they wrinkle, a nd they die. Becoming more intimately aware of this inevitable pro- cess helps us be more accept- ing of the passing of things we love and more appreciative of them while they’re here. We can also appreciate birth and newness more, without trying to freeze-f rame every novel experience. We perceive the origins a nd destinations in the simplest of things. When we see where somebody is in life, we’re interested not only in the snapshot but also in the arc—how they got there and where they’re going. All targets are moving. When our thoughts go to the past, as they must from time to time, we are aware that we are merely thinking of the past, not actually being there. The same goes for the future. Being in the moment does not mea n we’re oblivious to the past and the future. In fact, we are much more aware of time’s passage. The world has ma ny clocks and rhythms, and becoming attuned to them improves our timing—when to insert ourselves and when to ha ng back. We have a better sense of when to arrive, how long to stay, and when to move on, let go, and put the party to bed. Explore: As thoughts arise, notice which ones are about the past, the near past, and the distant past. Notice the same about future thoughts. What’s the difference? Notice how you may be drawn to or repelled by the past or future. Is it possible to be fully present in the midst of those thoughts? Time Neither mindfulness nor awareness is a one-time thing. They mature gradually, over time. They lead to occasional breakthroughs and memo- rable insights, but these are rarely dramatic. Mindfulness and aware- ness reinforce one another in a virtuous circle. The focused at tention of mindfulness inspires more inquisitive, open awareness. In turn, the discoveries that emerge from awareness, and the choices we make based on them, allow us to be more mindful in each moment. As a group, the huma n race is always on the search for more mecha- nisms, gadgets, and apps, but the greatest tool of all is the power of a trained and refined mind. It’s lightweight, por- table, sustainable, renewable, and free. And it’s ours. ● in practice insight 76 mindful February 2014