There’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…”
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