I love this creaky season, the turning of the wheel between one year and the next. The whole concept of measuring time in years is such a Western and imperfect thing (Oops! let’s make a Leap Year to fill in the gaps!).
It’s a perfect metaphor for our lack of connection to just being here.
Yet year-long measurements are also a way of honouring human accomplishment, linking us to this collective sense that time is moving, that history is both then and now.
Many of us live in a constant battle with time. “There’s not enough time. I’m wasting time.”
It’s a clinging?to?the?riverbank feeling, a sense that time is coldly rushing past, eroding our capacity to be safe and joyful. “I don’t have time to breathe.” We tell ourselves these stories in utter sincerity.
Except … we’re breathing all the time. So part of the story must be untrue. And if part of the story is untrue, what are the possibilities that await?
My own love-hate relationship with time has undergone a real shaking up this year, a veritable tango of jostled perspectives.
In September I was part of a workshop with 40 people, mostly locals. We were ignited by the vivacious leadership of Joanna Macy, an 80?something scholar and activist.
She introduced us to the concept of “deep time,” a relationship with time that connects the pace of glaciers and the births of our great-grandchildren.
We felt a lot of urgency and pain, looking together at the many ways our community and the planet are dying.
Urgency usually causes me to panic, or to hide my panic under some soothing blanket of hopefulness. Joanna helped us to look at our place in history with both the cool eyes of a scientist and the warm heart of a mother or mystic.
She helped us tap in to a longer view of time, in which we each have a vital role in shaping time and reality despite our inherent smallness in the net of humanity.
There are physicists and First Nation Elders who can speak more wisely than I can on this concept, or you can check out Joanna’s website (www.joannamacy.net). But part of what I heard was an invitation to stop clinging to the riverbank, to swim more freely in the river of time.
Another voice that helped me through this year of shaking up came in the form of a book by Sarah Susanka called “the not so big life.”
Instead of seeing time as a finite and diminishing resource, I’ve learned that it is very elastic. Susanka has a website (www.susanka.com) and great suggestions for exercises at the turning of the year, and some fierce questions about our patterns of relating to time in the daily routine.
She helped poke holes in my assumptions about time with a few different tools. I took on one strategy, a time inventory, to help me compare what I want to do and what I actually do, in the day-to-day.
I found that while I wanted to make time for writing, yoga and friends, these were often the activities I put last in my life, as possibilities for when I got “caught up”. This fall, I started going out weekly for girl time. I’m writing more often, and the yoga happens almost daily.
I’m still really busy, as a business owner and consultant, wife and mother. But it feels way more like “real life” when I allow time for doing what I hold dear.
Susanka also advocates creating space in the day – time for being rather than doing, time for open-ended creative presence.
We may think we “don’t have time” for this kind of alertness, but the intriguing thing I’ve noticed is that life unfolds with more vibrancy and effectiveness when we take this kind of breathing room.
Our Yukon community is fortunate to have a higher?than?average number of people who are not caught in the rat race. We have doctors who choose to spend time on the land. We have First Nation time-keepers, people who carry memory and a wise way of listening to land and culture.
We have artists and musicians and some community leaders who know how to step outside of “busyness” in order to pay attention.
When I take a few breaths and question my panic about “not enough time”, I remember I have a choice to be less frightened of my personal – and our collective – responsibilities during this intense time in history.
You may be thinking “that sounds great… but who has the time?”
And yet maybe there could be time in this end?of?year season. Maybe this year, instead of recycling last year’s resolutions, we can take just an hour or two, to walk or sit with freedom.
A special holiday gift for ourselves, a chance to reflect on 2010 and make room for 2011.
A chance to trust in our creaky old self, to listen for the trickle of being here now.
To say thanks for the journey so far, and make room for the newness of the next part.