“You always look like you’re running from somewhere,” said a coworker as I rushed by.
“Well, I always am.”
I laughed as I said it. But if how we talk about time reflects and affects our relationship with time, then my response—which felt natural and true—is worthy of reflection.
I’ve done a lot of simplifying over the past three months. I’ve delegated tasks—the ones that had to get done but were total drains. I’ve abandoned practices that no longer seem worth the energy they require, like putting on makeup every day. I’ve cut social ties that were toxic, and stopped entertaining invites that were shallow.
My life is simple by most accounts; all I do right now is work at a job that I love and practice equanimity. Why, then, do I still end up rushing through most of the day? I rush to turn off the alarm at six o’clock. I rush to my meditation cushion. I sit still-ish for an hour-ish. But even during this brief repose, a hurried state of mind often keeps me focused on time, and how much of it is going by how quickly. Like everyone else, I’ve experienced some moments that seemed to last forever, when the past and future melted away and time didn’t matter, or even exist. But like (almost) everyone else, I’m usually experiencing only the linear, mechanical progression of time that seems to manage me more than I manage it.
At least I’m learning how to recognize that. At least I’m remembering to stop myself, more and more, in the midst of these panicky rushes, and just breathe. I can arrive on time without the rush. I can meet deadlines without the hurry. I’ve rarely, if ever, felt the need to hurry so that I could squeeze more out of life, or experience a more full and abundant life. It’s usually been so that I wouldn’t fail at something, fall behind my peers, or waste my time (and life) away. I don’t seem to rush towards things so much as I rush away from that fear of failure. Sure, it’s possible to maintain equanimity and be in a hurry, but the hurry itself is usually not necessary. It’s usually a choice.
Option A is to hurry through tasks as I keep running from something. Option B is to stay right here with breath and sensation as tasks come and tasks go. Only one offers reprieve from the struggle.