If stress is the perversion of time, as the late poet John O’Donohue said, how do we unpervert time? This is how I do it: I love downtime and require it in my life in order to function at my best.
By downtime, I mean free time, unplanned time alone, or in silence if others are around. Sundays are very good for downtime. So are early mornings.
I’ve experienced periods in my life with little or no downtime. I’m particularly recalling several crazy years when I was working full-time, going to graduate school part-time, and raising a child as a single mother.
What was I thinking?
I’ve filled my life up with so much busy-ness (often wonderful busy-ness) that I had no time left for myself. I mean, life does have a lot to offer. There’s so much to learn and do, so many ways to be useful and helpful and engaged.
I don’t mean to put down living a disciplined life. I do live a disciplined life, structured by commitments such as yoga, meditation, my job, my family and friends, my other interests.
Yet I have learned that I function best when I have at least an hour of unstructured alone time every day. I’ve heard that that was also one of the Buddha’s requirements. Love that man! I feel I’m in good company on this.
My daily hour of downtime hasn’t always been workable, but it is workable now, and I’m enjoying the heck out of it.
Most of my days start off with downtime. I set the alarm for early, and then take my sweet time waking up. I’m talking 45 minutes or an hour here. If I need a little more sleep, I hit the snooze alarm and doze back off, repeating as needed.
Often I let my mind wander and see what’s up with that. What is my mind drawn toward? I tell you, often it’s goofy! That early, sometimes I imagine morphing dreamlike combinations of images that are completely unrealistic in “the real world”. The oddest random things — memories, questions, images, words — come to mind. It’s fascinating and amusing.
I check in with my body. I notice where I feel tight, when the energy isn’t flowing well, and I move to open myself up. Sometimes I do some tapping, a simple version of EFT without words just to get my energy flowing well. I roll my eyes and blink. I notice my breathing. I stretch. Oh, do I stretch!
And then at some point without much thought I’m ready to roll out of bed and onto my feet, and move on to what’s next: pee, feed cat, do yoga, sit.
This is so much more enjoyable than the grind of slamming the alarm off and hitting the ground running, which I have done more than enough of.
This feels like an utter luxury, yet it’s something money can’t buy. You have to arrange your life to be able to do this. You go to bed early enough to have an hour to yourself in the morning. You make this a priority and let other things drop.
You know, I wonder if I’m overcompensating for being out of balance for years. Oh well, that’s for someone else to say. This just feels so right. This is part of living my right life.
I hope you can join us, the Buddha and me, and begin to revel in each awakening to a new day.