I must have had this book as part of my “wish list” because the boys gave it to me for my birthday as far back as March 1998 (that is over 20 years ago – time flies!).
With this book I learnt about how to relate to time, not so much in terms of time management (which has also been impacted in a positive way) but as a way of relating to the quality of how to spend the time available. By recognising what is going on with us emotionally, it is possible to make quicker decisions, reduce the suffering and ultimately to feel more fulfilled.
In one of the chapters the author covers what makes us suffer and I quote “… it is important to realize that stress, the tension that literally eats us up, is not the same as pain.
We can be in pain, or disappointment, or confusion – but if that’s what the present moment holds for us, and we allow ourselves to experience those feelings, then we needn’t give ourselves the added burden of feeling stressed.
The notion that when we feel the emotion in the present, we can proceed more freely, is nicely illustrated on a metaphorical level by the Zen story:
Two monks, on a journey through a forest, come to a racing river. A frail young woman sits by its bank, unable to get to the other side. One of the monks picks her up in his arms and
carries her across, and the monks continue on their way.
Hours pass in silence. Finally, the other monk bursts out. “How could you have done such a thing? You know we’ve sworn never to touch a woman!”
The first month smiles. ” I carried that woman for a moment and set her down hours ago,” he says gently. “But you’ve been carrying her around all day”.
Our painful emotions are our own burdens. If we can carry them across the river, and then set them down, we will be free to enjoy the softness of the forest and the flow of sunlight through the trees.
My own interpretation of the story is that if we have something to say, let’s not ruminate on it, just saying it (by communicating appropriately though) and letting go of the negative emotion that goes with it we can avoid unnecessary suffering.
The other concept I like in the book is the difference between “mental time” and “emotional time”. The author writes “…Painful feelings are difficult to face, and we’d rather not feel them if at all possible. So we get busy. We speed up. We substitute action for contemplation. We turn on the television, prepare a meal, do the chores, surf the internet, work out, think about anything rather than allow ourselves to be with the feeling we’re trying to avoid. When we do this, we’re living in our heads, in what I call “mental time”. All because we’re trying to avoid feeling what’s in our hearts, to avoid falling into “emotional time””.
Jumping from time to time
Having re-read this part of the book, I want to share my own experience of these two types of time, in the last few days.
Tuesday it was not a good day for me, I had so many things I wanted to get done and felt stressed. I jumped from one thing to another without concentrating on any of them – in other words I was in my head – mental time. On Wednesday morning I said to myself: what is going on? I realised that I was feeling confronted by all the possible (very nice things) I could be doing and questioning whether I can do them. For example, I have been invited to co-author a book by an international coaching company and all my doubts and fears of whether I can do it, had come up in the surface and I could not settle. However, Wednesday morning, having used my own recommendation of StopByDesign, I connected with the love I have for this work and the difference the book could make to people. I got into “emotional time” which gave me a different experience of life and I was much more productive and not stressed at all.
So, how much time do you spend in your head (mental time) and how much do you spend in the experience of life (emotional time)?
I invite you to get the book – very well worth the time to read it!
Wish you Happy Friday reading and a peaceful weekend!