One day about five years ago, when Barak Obama was running for president the first time, I heard him talking on the radio about wind power. He said that the wind is a cheap, ever-renewable, ever-available source of energy if we can only do what it takes to harness it. And somehow it came to me that time is like that too; like the wind, time is always there, freely available, an endless source of power and energy. All we have to do is learn how to get it at our backs instead of walking into it. All we have to do is learn how to use it instead of letting it blow us around.
Ever since then I’ve been developing systems and tools, ideas and inspirations to harness my time, and that some other people — friends, clients, readers — are using now to harness their time too. I’ve learned about the power of consciously making space in my day for whatever I need or want to get done, and I’ve learned about creating space to not do things too – space for silence and rest and emptiness, for filling back up and recharging.
The longer I work with harnessing my time, the more I appreciate the power of time – power as a tool, as something you can use — to accomplish just about anything and transform your whole life. Today I was thinking about it in terms of blocks of ten minutes.
I meditate every day for ten minutes. During those ten minutes I try to quiet my thoughts and focus on the sounds around me. It’s not always easy to do; in fact, it’s often just about impossible. But every day, I put in those ten minutes and eventually during that little window of time I do stop thinking, if even for a few moments. And during those moments my entire being feels infused by something lighter, happier, sweeter, than anything I ever normally feel. It’s like I manage to plug into some power source, and that power shines a little light and a little clarity into my psychic being.
And then, having done that, a trace of that light and clarity stays with me all day long; my whole day is changed by that little ten-minute meditation. The change is so subtle I hardly notice it. But when I don’t do the meditation – that’s when I really notice it: I feel crabbier, more rushed and confused and irritable, more crowded by the world and by my own and by other people’s needs.
I could go on and on about what I get from my little meditation, but the point I’m making here is about time – the power of time. Time isn’t a power like the power I plug into when I do the meditation. The power of time is the power of a practical tool that you use to get something done. But time is an important tool, maybe the most important tool, because it makes everything else, all other tool-using, possible. Without it I wouldn’t be doing that little meditation everyday; time gives me the socket to plug into, the means or the chance or the opening or whatever to turn on the light. We all have time in our living tool-boxes, but mostly we ignore it or forget that we have it – most of the time we don’t know how to use it or know that we can use it. If we can pick it up and use it consciously, it will give us the power to do anything. I’ve learned that through my own experience.
But I started off talking about blocks of ten minutes. Ten minutes is a nice manageable amount of time. Everybody has ten minutes to spare; it’s the amount of time it takes to go to the bathroom if you include staring at yourself in the mirror, the amount of time it takes to make a cup of coffee or glance at the newspaper or do some other throwaway thing. Nothing else will be lost or harmed or missed out on if you spend ten minutes doing something; no one’s too busy to fit something in for ten minutes. It was that idea that helped me start meditating regularly.
For a long time I wanted to meditate a little bit every day but I just could not find time to do it. Every once in a while I’d remember that I wanted to meditate, but then in the next moment the very idea of meditating, not to mention meditating itself, would get swept away by all the everyday stuff I had to do. Then one day it came to me – like a little gift from somewhere, perhaps the same power I plug into during the meditation — many of my best ideas show up this way – that nothing would be lost if I spent ten minutes meditating in a certain spot in my day. And so I did, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Then it came to me that nothing would be lost if I spent ten minutes exercising on the Nordic Track I have upstairs in my house – exercising is another thing I have a hard time fitting into my days. So I started doing that almost every day too.
I know ten minutes isn’t very long to exercise, the way ten minutes isn’t very long to meditate. I know the experts and therefore the voices in my head all say you should do both longer to get the maximum benefit. But ten minutes each of meditating and exercising is better than nothing, especially because when I try to fit longer periods of both into my days, I usually end up not meditating or exercising at all. And ten minutes every day adds up. In ten minutes I can plug into that power source; in ten minutes I can get my heart rate going and break into a little sweat. And I can always add another ten minutes somewhere else in my day.
Recently it came to me that I’d like to start exercising for another ten minutes on top of the ten minutes I spend at it every morning, maybe in the afternoon in the spare moments between one coaching session and another. (I make a living as a writing coach.) And then I decided I’d like to start opening that little window inside me through meditation three times a day, maybe once before every meal. I love that idea, because I love the feeling I get when I meditate, and I’d like to be getting more exercise too. But so far I haven’t done either. I just keep forgetting, the way I kept forgetting to meditate at all before I came up with my current routine.
Still, I’m optimistic that, having had the idea and the desire, someday soon I will put the plan into action. Maybe I’ll get some extra power from my power source to do it. Then again, maybe all I have to do is write those extra ten minutes down on my daily plan every day when I make it, and then when those times come, those extra ten-minute windows, I’ll remember to stop, sit down – or in the case of the Nordic Tracking, stand up, go upstairs, and get on the exercise machine – and turn my plan — my wishes, my desires — into action.
All I have to do is put aside a little time, harness a little of the power that magical tool, time, and then I can do whatever I want to.
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