I had a dream that I died. Or that I was about to die. I had gotten some kind of diagnosis and (true to my food-centric, vegetarian form) the plan was to eat my lunch salad, then take a pill that would end my life.

This might sound like a bummer of a dream but it wasn’t. First, I was overjoyed to wake up. Then I was intensely aware of the unspeakable sweetness of living…and of its impermanence.

Since The Dream, I’ve been renegotiating my relationship to time. I’ve been paying attention to when I rush through, scrabble over, gobble up my life. I’m doing my best to slow down, savor more, embody presence.

Sometimes it goes better than others.

Last week, I was having a rough go of it when I came across two dharma talks by meditation teacher and author, Tara Brach. Her words often inspire me but these connected straight to everything I’ve been feeling about transience. The two talks are Impermanence: Awakening Through Insecurity, Part 1 & Part 2, and I strongly recommend them both. Listening to them brought me to tears and to laughter. Her stories and words reverberate in my heart and mind still. (These two talks have planted seeds for a whole slew of focuses for our movement together, so stay tuned for more on them in coming weeks.)

In the second talk, Tara tells the story of a woman who’s been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer with the prognosis of one year to live. She has a 2-year-old daughter. Her mantra, her mission becomes this:

No Time To Rush.

When we are truly aware, not in an intellectual way but in a heart and soul way, that our lives will one day be over, what becomes important? What matters? Perhaps counterintuitively, all my hurrying to accomplish things, all my squeezing as much as I possibly can into every single day suddenly seems like the opposite of what is important.

Yesterday, at the busy, noisy grocery store, I waited in the cashier’s line to pay for a cart full of vegetables. When it was my turn, the cashier hastily picked up my reusable bags, “I’m sorry, hold on, please,” he said as he set them up on the counter, “Let me get your bags ready to load.” With the dharma talk words moving around in me, I looked at him and said, “It’s no rush. Take your time.”

He stopped propping the bags up and look straight at me.
“Did you say, ‘It’s no rush’?” he asked.
“I did.”
“Well, let me take a sip of coffee then,” he smiled and stopped long enough for a swig from his travel cup.
He took a breath and so did I.

Rushing is contagious. I wonder about the countless times I’ve impatiently checked out of grocery stores, silently urging the cashier to go faster. In all those hurry-up encounters, the humanness of the moment, and actually, the moment itself was lost. In our Get ‘Er Done culture, it is a gift to give each other a little time, a little breathing room, a sip of coffee.

It’s been a curious exploration to slow down my rushing. Coincidentally (if you believe in those things), I am reading Sarah Susanka’s book The Not So Big Life. In it, she invites the exploration of priorities, questioning of choices and an examination how we spend our time. She writes,

Now is experienced not as time but as presence and although we are aware of flow, it’s as if its duration is incidental, it barely touches us, much as a leaf floating along on a stream would barely be aware of the water’s movement. (p. 147)

This is the dance of No Time To Rush. Allow time to be a flow rather than a commodity. Allow myself to be the leaf floating effortlessly rather than the dam trying to control it.

It is inexpressibly precious, this life. Even with all its messiness and pain and confusion, it is exquisite and worth savoring. None of us has time to rush.


the thread old rodeo poster

“But that was a long time and no matter how I try
The years just flow by like a broken down dam.” ~ John Prine

The breakneck speed of time’s passing scares the crap out of me. How could it possibly be Tuesday already, February already? 2015 sounds like a scifi year. How in the world could I be 50?

My alarm, I think, inclines me to plan and schedule myself silly. To take the thread of time and (in my mind, anyway) neatly ball it up into my hand.

Actually, though, I just need to hold the thread lightly and be here.

Principle 2 (Part I) – Natural Time…briefly

13 moon shield

Natural Time is fluid, non-linear, radial, expansive but how practical is that in the regular world? Our culture’s addiction to clocks and calendars can entrain us to make choices and decisions based on when it is rather than what we need.

The Natural Time code of 13:20 is in our bones: 13 joints and 20 digits. The sensation of Natural Time is to use the joints to move and the digits to measure. Find your own rhythm and cadence without rushing or dawdling.

Natural Time invites us to monitor physical energy: transmit with clarity and receive with openness.

The Unofficial Guide

to the 13 Nia Principles

~ Practical, Nia-or-Not Applications for EveryBody

(Wondering what in the Sam Hill the Unofficial Guide is and why I’m writing this series of posts? Click here!)

13 moon calendar glif

Principle 2 (Part I) – Natural Time

Excerpt from the Official Nia Headquarters Description:

Natural Time is fluid, non-linear, radial, and expansive. It is centered in now; not tomorrow, not yesterday, not on deadlines, but Now. It reconnects us to the cyclical rhythms of nature, the rhythms that unite all life forms. The same basic movement of rising and falling, inhaling and exhaling, of birth and death, runs through every body of life. We are connected by cyclical rhythms. In Nia, we refer to Natural Time as 13/20, a code recognized and recorded by the Mayans. The Mayans understood 13 moons complete one year, and taught us that there are ongoing cycles in the Universe made up of 13 and 20. In Nia, 13 represents the number of joints in your body; 20 the number of digits.

Unofficial Practical Nia-or-Not Application for EveryBody:

The flowy, easy-breezy notion of Natural Time made me crazy in my early days (okay, years) of doing Nia. Natural time is all well and good for, who?, maybe an independently wealthy artist working alone in her studio?  In my life there are appointments, meetings, classes that need to start on linear, precise, chronological time. The world that I live in isn’t particularly forgiving about a “non-linear, radial and expansive” approach to these things. Even Nia trainings have an elaborate bell system to make sure that everybody is ready to start on time. So how does that square with Natural Time?

When I presented my disgruntlement about Natural Time to my teacher, Carlos, he talked to me about balance, about body and mind, and about listening deeply. He pointed out that we are often so entrained by the clock and calendar that we make choices based on WHEN it is rather than on what we really need.

Carlos was right. As a kid, I remember being scolded for eating lunch early because it wasn’t time for lunch – even though I was hungry. And I know I’ve felt a certain way on a Monday and Friday just because it’s a Monday or a Friday. In school, in sports and in business, it was important to keep up, regardless of my own natural rhythms or skills. In all those arenas, I had experiences of being chastised for going too slow and too fast.

My conversation with Carlos reminded me of following the freedom within the form. Show up to class on time, and release attachment to getting the choreography right. Be punctual to the meeting, and have the courage to think beyond the agenda. Set aside time for writing and creativity and if I sometimes stare blankly out the window, well, that’s just the way it goes.

As a practice of art, intention and creativity, I love following the 13-Moon Calendar to shake up my attachment to the 12-month Gregorian calendar. The 13-Moon calendar is both simple and complex and I only understand its most basic underpinnings. Even so, following it shifts my perspective on time. The calendar tracks 260-day cycles in which every day is a unique combination of four colors, 13 tones and 20 tribes. You can find your personal signature by decoding your birthdate which might give you some non-linear, radial insights about you. You can even get an application on your phone that tells you about the signature of the day (search “13 Moon Calendar”)!

One of my favorite parts about following the 13-Moon Natural Time calendar is that I play with choosing what I wear every day based on the signature of the day. Check it out, you can always tell what the color of the day is by something I’m wearing.*

We all have to live in the world with its timetables, schedules and agendas. Natural Time is the invitation to expand our thinking within that form and to allow our awareness, rather than the calendar, to drive our choices.

Principle 2 has two parts, so stay tuned ~ the second part, the Nine Movement Forms, comes Tuesday!

* FOCUS POCUS NATURAL TIME MUSIC GIVE AWAY:  Email me ( a picture of yourself wearing the 13-Moon Calendar color of the day one day this week and I’ll send you (or hand it to you if you’re in Cville) a CD of Nia music!  I’m not going to announce this anywhere else so only Focus Pocus readers are in on this!  [And even though it sounds like a McDonald’s contest disclaimer:  good for the week of Aug 24-28, 2014; US only; limit one per person; while supplies last; void where prohibited.]

rushin refugee water bottleJune is Savoring Month (as designated by my own self) and every Wednesday this month, I’ll be checking in on how I’m doing as a recovering Rushin’ Refugee.

I’m a water gobbler. I chug it, suck it down, and pull it in. Years ago, I read about the 8 cups or 10 cups or however much the current recommendation was and it seemed to me that the faster I could get it in, the better. Since starting hot yoga a year and a half ago, the habit has become even stronger: finish a class and down a quart of water before the first stop light.

As a Rushin’ Refugee, I’ve been renegotiating my relationship with my water bottle. I pick it up, feel the weight and coolness of it and take a breath. And then I take a small sip. A mouthful. I’m still figuring out the right amount to take at one time but it’s not very much by my standards. Instead of feeling the muscles in my lips and jaw working to pull the water in, I gently pour onto my tongue and just let it find its way down my throat. I can taste the sweetness and feel the coolness and if I really pay attention, I can feel it move all the way down into my belly.

I still find myself doing the chug and swill, but I’m noticing it more. And since it feels good to slow down the hydration process, I think this may be a nice new drinking habit.

Full Disclosure: While I may be drinking slightly more serenely than I once did, I rushed to get this post out, I rushed through a long list of errands and chores all day, and I missed an event I very much wanted to attend in part by attempting to do too much before it. So I am most definitely still a recovering rushin’ refugee. Good gravy.

savoring time smoke sceneIn the 1994 film, Smoke, Auggie (Harvey Keitel) takes a photograph of his smoke shop corner every morning at 8am for 14 years.

In a wonderful (albeit smoky) scene, he shows his friend, Paul (William Hurt) a stack of albums filled with the photos. Paul laughs as he flips page after page, saying they’re all the same.

AUGGIE: You’ll never get it if you don’t slow down, my friend….
PAUL: Slow down, huh?
AUGGIE: That’s what I recommend. You know how it is: tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Time keeps on its steady pace.

The scene (and the movie) are worth watching. And it’s cool to remember that no two days, minutes, moments are ever the same.

savoring time clock 430Constable of France: Tut! I have the best armour of the world. Would it were day!
Lord Orleans: You have an excellent armour; but let my horse have his due.
Constable of France: It is the best horse of Europe.
Lord Orleans: Will it never be morning?
~ William Shakespeare, Henry V (III.vii.1-5)

It’s strange to me that after taking yoga regularly for a year and a half, at the beginning of every class, I have the exact same thought:

This is never going to be over.

My relationship with my yoga practice is a strange cocktail: three parts love to one part oy vey. I don’t dread yoga, exactly, but the classes are challenging and I am a nervy thing. I often feel anxious at the start of class. Of course, I get a little anxious when doing something far less taxing, like making a cheese sandwich, so it’s not surprising that I’m anxious before a 90 minute hot yoga class.

The lunacy of my thought is not lost on me. I’ve taken hundreds of yoga classes and all of them, every single one (even the two-hour one that turned into a three-hours because the teacher ran over) eventually was over.

Some activities and situations just feel like they stretch interminably before me. When I was running, I’d have the same thought. I’d step onto the trail and I’d think, I’ve barely even started. This will never be over. Running and waiting in airports or sitting open-mouthed in a dentist chair or waiting for lab results to come back. And waiting for the kids to get out of diapers (then to be able to tie their own shoes, pour their own juice, survive middle school, etc., etc.), too.

Like the night before the Battle of Agincourt in Henry V, all of these things seem like they will never be over. But then at some point they are and it doesn’t really seem like it took all that long after all.

Time, as I’ve written about before, is a funny thing. While I know intellectually that it is precisely-measured and that 90 minutes is 90 minutes, sure as shootin’ it feels like some 90 minutes are longer than others.

As regular Focus Pocus readers know, I am a Rushin’ Refugee. This month, I am exploring the possibility of breaking my habit of rushing and over-scheduling. One of the things I’m noticing is that sometimes I’m wishing for more time and sometimes, like when my yoga teacher says
“Good Afternoon!” and turns the overhead lights on, I’m wishing time would hurry itself right up.

Whether I’m wishing time would slow down so I can write more or I’m wishing time would speed the heck up so I can get through Camel Pose, my perspective is narrow and tight. I’m focused on my squinchy sliver of perspective and my eyebrows are gnarled together. When I’m all tight and bunchy, it’s helpful to relax my tight vision, open up, and see more. A wise friend calls it giving the situation a wider pasture.

My tight, squirrelly vision that wants more or less time misses the details of what’s happening. Relaxing my eyebrows and my breathing helps me notice more, take in more, feel more. A wider pasture allows me to savor.

In one of my more counter-intuitive-sounding moves, I’ve been savoring rushing. When I find myself hurrying to make it to the next thing, rather than scrunching up and barely breathing, I open my eyes and see what I notice – both internally (tummy tight, toes curled) and externally (honeysuckle blooming, red car on the side of the road). And when Kirk walks into the studio and I feel the knot of apprehension about the 90 minutes that stretch in front of me, I do the same thing: take a breath and notice what I notice.

I have the time I have.
We all do.
No telling how much or how little.

But time is more fluid and flexible than our clock-obsessed culture would admit. How I feel about whatever time I have is completely up to me.

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