Time for Meditation? A Meditation on Time.

meditation-on-timeThere’s this cool talent I have. I first became aware of it during a trip to Mexico in 1999. I was lying on the beach, spending a long day relaxing, reading, and enjoying the ocean air as I escaped a Minnesota winter with my parents and sister, when my sister turned to me and asked, “What time is it?”

“I don’t know, like 3:10?” I replied.

My dad looked at his watch. It was 3:12.

In 1999, we didn’t have smartphones attached to us all the time, reminding us of the date and time with every swipe. We had been lounging on the beach for hours, yet somehow my body had kept a precise awareness of time.

It became a game during our vacation. “What time is it NOW, Sarah?!”

And I was usually pretty accurate.

I still have this amazing relationship with time. I like to play this really dorky game where I look at the time on my car’s clock when I pull into the Target parking lot, enter Target’s no-clocks-no-windows-no-indication-of-the-passage-of-time casino-like vortex, and then once I’ve returned to my car, but before turning the ignition, I try to guess the time. I’m usually right, plus or minus two minutes.

I blame this talent on my chosen profession. I live each day according to a precise schedule regulated by melodious bells. Not as a Buddhist monk, but in the closely-related work of a high school teacher. My prep time is from precisely 9:12 to 10:38 am, and I eat lunch from 11:11 to 11:44 am each day. I have exactly 86 minutes from 12:54 to 2:20pm to teach fifteen-year-olds the reasons for the collapse of the Napoleonic Empire. I need to carefully structure the lesson and the flow of activities, I must keep track of the time allotted for discussion and transitions and interruptions and still have time for closure at the end of the lesson.

Several years ago, a student looked at me in amazement at the end of the day, saying, “We ALWAYS end right at the end of class. It’s like you’ve planned it that way!” Um, yes.

Time For Meditation?

While this talent serves me very well as a teacher, it makes things a lot harder in other areas of my life.

Like when I try to be a mindful parent.

My children do not yet appear to have inherited my sense of time. Take mornings for example. They have no sense of hurry. I see 6:30 on the kitchen clock and my thoughts immediately go to all of the things that need to happen in precisely one hour before I will have 25 sophomores sitting in my classroom ready to learn about the rise of Italian fascism:

  • my children need coats, boots, hats, mittens, and backpacks;
  • said children need to get their becoated bodies into mom’s car;
  • children need to stop whining about having to leave so early;
  • children need to GET IN MOMMY’S CAR;
  • children need to be dropped off at daycare;
  • mommy needs to fight traffic into work;
  • mommy needs to become teacher;
  • teacher needs to pick up copies, get to her classroom, work with students, fire up her computer, prepare her presentation materials… all in one hour!

My morning world – governed by the image of the 60 Minutes countdown clock – clashes harshly with the live in the moment, no awareness of the importance of time world of my children.

This “talent” also makes my meditation practice a challenge. Aware of the relentless ticking of the clock, and all that can be done with my time, choosing to spend that time in meditation sounds … pretty unproductive. If I have twenty minutes to myself, I could read a book! I could respond to comments on my blog! I could take a nap! Sometimes it’s hard to even get myself to my meditation cushion as I’m going through this mental gymnastics and weighing the opportunity costs of seated silence.

And when I finally do get to my meditation cushion, and set my timer, close my eyes, and begin counting my breaths, it happens again. My internal let’s play the clock game! voice chirps in: “I think 2:37 has passed…. Just check! Just check! Am I right? Am I right? You know you want to know if I’m right!” So my eye pops open, ego celebrates its cognitive victory, I go back to my breath, and then that damn monkey in my mind grabs its stopwatch again. Just breathe, monkey.

A Meditation on Time

Yes, my hidden talent, my unique relationship with time, serves me well in the classroom. But there are some things I need to remember about time:

In the kitchen in the morning, I need to remember how very different my relationship with time is than my children’s.

In my busy moments, I need to remember an old Zen saying:

“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”

In meditation, I need to remember I needn’t have a relationship with time at all.

It’s that last one that gives me the hardest damn time.


Today’s post is part of the Finish the Sentence Friday linkup. Today’s sentence is “One of my hidden talents is…”

Click the image below to read more!

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Sarah Rudell Beach
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Sarah Rudell Beach

Sarah is a writer, teacher, and mother. At Left Brain Buddha, she writes about her journey to live and parent mindfully, joyfully, and thought-fully in her left-brain analytical life. When not working, she enjoys dancing, reading, and hanging out with her little Buddhas.
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  1. says

    My husband has that same talent. He also believe he can turn on and turn off street lights by walking under them, though.
    I have the opposite stressed relationship with time you discussed. There was an article that circulated around the Internet a few months ago about not telling a child to hurry because she is a stop and smell the flowers kind of girl. I have one of those, and it’s a constant struggle for us.
    Sarah recently posted…FTSF11: Decisions, DecisionsMy Profile

  2. says

    Not having a relationship with time at all is SO HARD. I try to do that with my son’s new school schedule each morning, and while I’m mostly right about “needing” to leave when we need to leave, I panic a bit about having enough time to get ready, and then ending up with time to kill once I’ve put on his shoes….and then him taking them off when it becomes almost urgent (totally past urgent but there are options, like no bus)…I love your hidden talent, Sarah. It’s a great one. OHHHH!!! My son is 4 and he knows how to get anywhere. I should have talked about that. Doh.

  3. says

    Time had been and still is a constant companion, however; priorities have changed thus, looking at the watch and either shouting out a reminder to the kid for school or getting myself organized is a constant limbo.
    ruchira recently posted…Mind your business!My Profile

  4. says

    I get this, except for the meditation which I have never had a talent for. I am always aware of the time. I shout it out continuously in the mornings trying to get three of the four kids up and out. It’s constantly a challenge because they have absolutely no sense of time. I guess I can blame myself for that. Maybe if I stop being their living, breathing timepiece they will become more mindful. Maybe.
    Sandy Ramsey recently posted…Tradition From A Different ViewMy Profile

  5. says

    My husband has that talent, however he rarely lets time stress him out. I, on the other hand, do not have that talent. Therefore, I panic if I am without access to a clock. I check the clods around me constantly. I even have to have one when I sleep – if I wake up in the middle of the night, I MUST know what time it is. It is a strange addiction, indeed, but I think it comes from begin the manager of everyone’s schedules. I used to be a teacher, too, and now I am the ultimate schedule regulator for my family.
    Lisa @ The Golden Spoons recently posted…My Weird FeetMy Profile

  6. says

    I spent my working life tied to time, at the nursery in particular, where I needed to follow a rigorous schedule and try to juggle everything in, then at college, where I needed to be at classes on time.

    When I left, I took my wristwatch off.

    I haven’t put it back on yet.

    I use the clock on my phone to time my lunchtime naps in the back of the van.

    I use the clock on my computer or on the walls or in the car. But I no longer wear the time. And I LOVE it.

    However, being able to estimate the time so closely is a pretty cool talent.

    Did you ever look at the world around you and think “If this was [another season] it would be about X’o’clock at the moment.” and figure the links between the light levels and the seasons. I do that. It may be a little weird.
    Considerer recently posted…7 Quick Takes #63 x FTSFMy Profile

  7. says

    So funny that you posted this today. Like Lisa I panic when I don’t know what time it is. I am going crazy without my watch, which has a broken band and I am having a doozy of a time finding the right sized replacement. I hate using a smartphone to tell me what time it is! I am one who has a hard time knowing the time because of my ADD-there is ADD time and not ADD time. It can pass so much quicker than I think it. So I always try to make it so that we plan to get to places earlier than we actually need to be there, because inevitably I will either get busy doing something else and be late or there will be some sort of strange thing that happens! Therefore I need something to constantly be telling me what time it is. Sad, but true.
    Sarah Almond recently posted…Fly on the Wall February 2014: The Party Animal EditionMy Profile

  8. Bree says

    I have had an uncanny time-telling ability since childhood as well, but it has been slightly less accurate as I have gotten older. However, my ability to precisely measure water from the faucet without looking still confounds my husband and daughter. If only it were a marketable skill to tell time accurately to within a couple minutes without a watch, or to be able to pour exactly 3/4 cup or 1-1/3 cups of water without looking at the cup, I’d be able to fund my retirement. Glad to hear I’m not the only one with this weird timing thing.

  9. says

    I’m usually pretty close to knowing what time it is. The problem for me is not being able to estimate how much time it will take to get to a destination. I’m usually way too early or just a couple minutes late. I wish I could perfect that talent.
    Jennifer Steck recently posted…Quilt of LoveMy Profile

  10. says

    The gift is pretty fantastic. I have it to a point but basically I know what hour it is LOL. But your revelation about it, that is something else, and so true. Sometimes, like now, it’s only 2:00 and I am already dreading going to sleep. I know, it seems impossible, but I think of everything I still “need” to do between now and then, and I start to panic. I try to remind myself that it will still be there tomorrow, and that’s OK. And to live in the moment and enjoy the boy instead of thinking about what else I should be doing…
    Thank you for the reminder.
    JenKehl recently posted…Isaiah on WineMy Profile

  11. says

    Oh I am a slave to time. I run a tight ship up in here. Mostly because I have severe anxiety and it’s time that keeps me on track.
    Wanna know my talent?
    I know that it is 7 am, 3pm and 7pm…when my eyes start to twitch it’s medication time. Hee hee.
    Kimberly recently posted…Stepping In Front Of My WordsMy Profile

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