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Tell me, what else should I have done?  

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?  
Tell me, what is it you plan to do 
with your one wild and precious life?
-Mary Oliver

_ The more time I spend alive, the less inclination I have to waste my time.

Some suggest that being mindful of the fact that death is just an inch away at any moment, motivates us to live more fully and squeeze all the juice out of life that we can. If this were true we'd have the single most powerful self-help tool ever discovered.  Everyone would instantly get how precious and important their life is and the world would be bursting with happy, loving people. 

Actually, I think most of us are blissfully unmotivated by our finiteness. We love to live in the illusion of never-land, which is, it-will-never-happen-to-me-land. We like to ignore the uncomfortable things, putting off the inevitable until it's nipping at our heels. 

We ignore the projects that are dearest to our hearts. We keep feeding the flames of our grudges and resentments. We let pettiness interfere with telling people how much we love them and how much they mean to us. In short, we willingly waste our present moment either mulling over the past or worrying about the future. Or both. Regrets are daily companions and the only time we aren't concerned about tomorrow is when we reach for the credit card.  

But time, if you think about it, is a funny old thing. 
  • We can have a moment of beauty in which we lose all sense of time.   
  • We can look back on last year and think it went fast.
  • We can look at the clock waiting for lunch and believe time has slowed to a standstill.   
  • Five minutes awake in the middle of the night can feel like a lifetime. 
Where does the sensation of time passing come from?  That is, where is your experience of time taking place?  

Like most of life, it is all pretty much made up, isn't it?

But if that's true, that is rather good news.  It means there is very little that is solid. And much of what we think is "true" turns out not to be.

For example, when I'm dreading the final editing of my book, I look at the manuscript and think I have 239 pages to go through one by one. Yet again.  Just thinking about it slows me down!  I'm now influencing my own experience of time.

Yet there have been plenty of days when I worked 12 hours almost straight through and felt refreshed and happy. Suddenly it is midnight, or 1 am and I think, "Wow, it's amazing how time flies!"  Time is doing nothing of the sort. It is neither flying nor passing nor stopping.  

If time is based on your attitude and personal filters, then surely many more things are too: your impressions of people, your decisions about what's possible, your worries of the future, and so on. 

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___Everything is in flux in all moments.  We really only know two things. The past is done. The future is not here yet.  In fact it never will be. It will only always ever be this minute.

With a real sense of that, I enjoy my time quite a bit.  I also get quite a lot done, not because I'm afraid I might die at any moment, but because this moment is so very full, fresh and interesting.



I don't want to get too esoteric about time being just a made-up thing, so for those interested, you might want to pick up Steve Chandler's book "Time Warrior" which contains more practical wisdom on the the bend-ability of time. 

Ami Chen Mills-Naim and I also talked about releasing the old on the last show of 2011. That was a great show if you missed it. (click here to listen

One of the good things about the passing of time is the possibility of seeing our past differently and of finding new grace to move on from regrets and hurt. 

The past always teaches us the same lesson: "It's over." (Peruse the chapter on Forgiveness from my book for more ... )

 
 
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Calligraphy, Deer Park Monastery
If I'm feeling stressed and pressed rather than blessed, it's a sign to look inside and see what's up. Tempting though it may be to think having lots to do is what creates my busy schedule, what is actually true is that I run my schedule and, even if I am rushing what is my excuse for not being mindful as I go?

I had the opportunity to talk to Bryan Douglas, who wrote "Doing Good Works!" on the show last Friday. He decided to test the idea that we Pay It Forward and decided to go out and help people. That seemed meaningful to me.  It made me want to look and see if my own giving had meaning in the way I hope or whether I'm mindlessly sending cards and buying presents and simply going through the motions.

I guess I had a feeling that there was a sense I might be going through the motions in some ways. In the newsletter last week I included some wonderful thoughts from Jonathan Ellerby, the author of "Return to the Sacred". One of the ideas he raised was that the holidays are a time which naturally give rise to 'spiritual reflection and celebration.'  If I'm not feeling that, maybe there's a reason? His words and the simple practices he suggests reminded me that putting the 'how'  into the holiday is not difficult to do - no matter how busy we are getting the last projects done, while packing, planning, wrapping and cooking.  He suggests practicing old-fashioned kindness toward others, saying yes only to what we can really commit to, and to remember to breathe (and while you take that walk in nature, to notice that the animals are not having difficulty making this holiday pleasant).

As I slow down, clear the calendar and consider what I really want to make time for, I realize that to have anything to give at all, I have just got to remain as connected to my own center as I can.  Anything less and I'm just flying around like a kyte off the string.  

I remind myself that I am committed to take care of myself and to notice when I'm off center. Thich Nhat Hanh is a wonderful teacher of mindfulness, (as well as a tremendous peace activist) and on the website for the Deer Park Monestary it says:

"Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly alive and present with those around you and with what you are doing. We bring our body and mind into harmony while we wash the dishes, drive the car or take our morning cup of tea."

Instead of becoming 'wrapped up' in doing, this an invitation for me to stop and take stock of who and how I am being.  And like Bryan probably felt when he just gave a stranger a lift for no other reason than to help out, that just feels good.
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Thich Nhat Hanh
More on how giving to ourselves is our best holiday gift in my show with Jack Armstrong
More on the retreat events offered at Deer Park, including their holiday events can be found on www.deerparkmonastery.org/events