Clock by Linda Pastan
Sometimes it really upsets me—
the way the clock’s hands keep moving,
even when I’m just sitting here
not doing anything at all,
not even thinking about anything
except, right now, about that clock
and how it can’t keep its hands still.
Even in the dark I picture it, and all
its brother and sister clocks and watches,
even sundials, all those compulsive timepieces
whose only purpose seems to be
to hurry me out of this world.
“Clock” by Linda Pastan from Traveling Light. © Norton, 2010.
Radical Sabbatical. Eleven days in. All the time in the world, right? No classes to teach. No schedule to speak of. And yet time is all I seem to be able to think about. How am I using it? What’s the best thing to spend it on? Where the hell is it all going?
I know that the calendar and the clock are human constructs. I know that 8:20am does not really exist. I know that these organizations of time were created by businesses to get us all coordinated. The Gregorian calendar that we follow today was created by the Romans to facilitate tax collection. At exactly noon on November 18, 1883, American and Canadian railroads began using four continental time zones to end the confusion of dealing with thousands of local times. Clock and calendar were created so money arrived regularly into the coffers and we’d all be waiting on the platform when the train came. These time-measuring constructs began society’s movement away from connecting to Nature for understanding time and toward a rigid connection to the clock. (A book I’ve had on my list for a while about time is called Turn and Jump by Howard Mansfield – has anyone read it?) Even with this knowledge and with a now flexible schedule that would allow me to be more pliable with my time, I still find myself chained to, fixated on, obsessed by the clock and the calendar. My schedule for the day, the week, the month, the summer: What will I do with my time and how can I stop myself from wasting a precious moment? I know calendar- and clock-time is manmade and yet my mind gravitates toward the measurability and clarity of it. My mind loves standard time, but the truth is, I don’t really understand it.
In Nia we talk about Natural Time. Natural Time is based on a 13-moon calendar that is connected the natural cycles of the earth. The Natural Time calendar is an intricate system of cycles and patterns that offers a unique signature for every day and the energies that move it. I’ve been looking at and fascinated by the Natural Time calendar for years (you can find more information here http://www.13moon.com/) and still much of its wisdom eludes me. I love the colors and patterns and I relax when I connect to it. During my sabbatical so far, I’ve been reading a bit about the signature of each day and drawing the glyph that represents it. My body loves Natural time, but the truth is, I don’t really understand it.
Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist and Buddhist, wrote in his Just One Thing newsletter this week (which is awesome and I recommend highly and you can find it here http://www.rickhanson.net/writings/just-one-thing) about living in Now. He writes,
No one – not even the greatest scientists and philosophers in the world – knows exactly what this present moment is. No one knows how its contents vanish the instant they arise, yet somehow last long enough to be the causes of the next instant. Yet we live in this mystery and take it for granted as we sip a cup of coffee, ride the bus, or put the kids to bed.
I’d never thought about the present moment, the Now, that way. And when I do, it bends my brain. Dr. Hanson continues,
There’s a profound and miraculous mystery right under our noses: this instant of now has no duration at all, yet somehow it contains all the causes from the past that are creating the future. Everything arising to become this moment vanishes beneath our feet as the next moment wells up. Since it’s always now, now is eternal. (See the listing in the Helpful Links menu at the right for Dr. Hanson’s complete posting.)
As I sit in my Radical Sabbatical room, with my fingers on my keyboard, I feel myself relax into the Now. The inexpressible, eternal Now. As soon as I think about it, attempt to analyze it, get attached to it or push it away, I’m no longer in it. Like nailing Jello to a wall. My spirit loves Now but the truth is, I really don’t understand it.
This week, I’ve been playing with all three: standard time, Natural Time and Now. I find myself moving from one paradigm of time to another. I’m doing my best to stay in the sensation of flowing and surfing what is happening right now and then letting it move past. My invitation this week is to spend some time contemplating your relationship to time: how do you sense it? Are you obsessed by it? Do you feel imprisoned by it? Do you have a way of flowing with it? I’d love to hear.
For this moment, I’ll just sense the cool May breeze blowing the hair off my face and the touch of these keys and see if I can just leave it at that.