“Time is my ally”, an affirmation that I have been repeating for the last two years hoping I can fix my relationship with time.
For those who don’t know what is an affirmation, simply putting it, it’s a statement that you keep repeating to yourself in order to rewire your subconscious mind. We all have specific beliefs that shape our perception of life and ourselves and these end up shaping our lives. We develop our belief system as we grow up and most of the time we are not fully aware of those beliefs. However, once we are aware of those beliefs and especially our limiting beliefs, we can start substituting them with more empowering ones. One of the tools that can help in that is affirmations. Affirmations allow us to verbalize the beliefs that we choose to govern our daily lives and help us make our self-talk more positive.
I personally experienced the benefits of affirmations, however, I don’t believe affirmations alone are enough to shift a belief. There is more thorough work that is needed to understand how we developed the core belief in order to shift it. My story with time proves that.
I realized a few years back that I have a very stressful relationship with time; I guess most of us do one way or the other. I never seem to have an abundance of time, I am always struggling with finding more. It is really not a matter of organization, I am someone that goes to bed with a clear to-do-list and I am very good at keeping track of time all through the day to make sure I am on target. I even find myself waking up a few times at night just to look at the clock to make sure this is still the time slot that I booked on my schedule for sleep.
I still don’t know how did I develop this messed up relationship with time and when. Some people keep filling every single moment of the day to avoid being lonely or to escape being in touch with painful feelings or thoughts. I questioned for some time if this is also my motivation, however, I reached a conclusion it’s not.
My journey in trying to understand my relationship with time, took me to a much deeper quest: the shift from “doing” fulltime to ‘being” part-time.
We live in a culture that glorifies “doing”, we compete with having longer to-do-lists and how we can squeeze more things in one day and how efficient we can be. The more we do, the higher is our sense of mastery.
But what does that make out of us?
We are always on a trance, on an autopilot, rushing through life not fully aware of ourselves nor our surroundings. Our relationship with life is determined by goals, it could be a simple goal such as brushing our teeth or a major one like running a marathon or making our 1st million. We keep looking into the future visualizing the goals that we want to achieve and then looking back to the past recalling achievements and failures. We keep monitoring any discrepancies between the plans and our progress. Our sense of content and who we are comes from achievements. The fear of missing out controls every moment and stops us from enjoying that moment.
But if that’s “doing”, then what is “being”?
Being is a more passive way of surfing life, and I know that we have a negative connotation to the word “passive”, but this is different. “Being” is simply existing, being aware of your own presence, being fully present in your body with all the senses awake, with harmony and continuity with your surroundings. Passive in the sense of not having an agenda, nor goals, nor an intention to change anything neither in yourself nor your surroundings at that specific moment. It is complete surrender, a humble acceptance of whatever is there with a genuine interest and no judgment.
It leads us to a more internal reflection and it allows us to be content with less as our sense of being doesn’t come from achievements nor possessions.
Let me also make one distinction; from my point of view there is a clear difference between mindfulness and being. Mindfulness is the full presence we seek to practice while “doing”. While “being” is a completely different state of existence.
If you are like the old version of me, then sitting down, doing nothing, not even reading, just watching the sea of people passing by for longer than 15 minutes will be perceived as a waste of precious time.
I usually rush through my weekdays, day in and day out. I follow a clear agenda finishing one task after the other with my mind struggling to keep up and to stay sharp while shifting through the diversity of tasks. Even in the morning while looking at the mirror, I rarely see myself fully, I do see the reflection of who I am but not my full presence.
The 1st time I experienced “being” fully was in a two-week retreat with meditation and other types of practices. For two weeks, I almost didn’t leave the retreat location, a resort in the middle of nowhere. I was walking barefoot just wondering around, sleeping on the grass, and gazing at the large lake in front of the resort or at the stars at night. I only worried about the time of the sessions that I needed to attend, other than that I didn’t even carry my phone around, I didn’t wear a watch and only had very short communication with the outside world.
By the end of the 1st week, something weird started happening. I started recognizing my own presence. Even when I was engaged in a conversation with others, I didn’t only see them but I also saw myself. Like an external observer that is watching the whole scene. I was all the time aware of the boundaries of my physical body as if I am watching a different person. My sense of nature surrounding me was more vivid, the colors, the smells.
For once I didn’t want to achieve anything, nor to impress anyone, nor to go anywhere. I gave myself permission just to exist.
It is very difficult to explain what is being as it is very experiential.
Try looking at yourself fully for 5 minutes in the mirror, not doing anything just looking directly into your own eyes and see the subtle shift that happens. Don’t focus on the wrinkles, nor the hair that needs fixing nor the few kilos that you need to lose. Just watch yourself passively. This may give you a glimpse of what I mean when you fully realize your own presence and I am telling you it feels so awkward at the beginning.
I wonder why in our culture we were raised to avoid looking long in mirrors, “demons will get you if you do especially at night”. What are we trying to escape? Our own presence? the deeper presence? The observer who is not a demon but rather who we really are. Just a personal opinion.
Well, unfortunately it took me two days after I came back to my busy life to lose that sense of being. However, I am starting to follow advice from a wise friend who actually introduced me to the concept of “being”. Every month, I take one day off from the world. I don’t put appointments, nor run errands, nor check my WhatsApp, nor have any expectations of the day; I just flow.
When I do that, suddenly in the middle of the day, I find myself smiling childishly and whispering “welcome back”.
It is really a matter of balance, I am not claiming one should “do” only nor “be” only. I am still the person with big dreams and who wants to leave a legacy when this journey is over and that does take a lot of doing which I am committed to. However, now that I experienced the joy of being, I also want to find the time to simply be.
I still perceive the being and doing as two mutually exclusive states, I might be mistaken. Is there a way that we can “do” and “be” at the same time? I don’t know yet but I intend to keep exploring.