Have felt worse

Who knows where the time goes?


One thing parents always say about their children is “They grow up so quick. I don’t know where the time goes.” Being a mother or father takes up so much time and energy, so that life frequently feel like a helter skelter ride. Increasingly, over the last few years politicians have wanted to be support “hard working families”. Busyness is assumed to be an admirable and even desirable trait. Of course it doesn’t have to be children, there are many other things that can fill your hours and minutes to the brim and parents certainly don’t have the monopoly on busy lives. But whatever the reason, it is scary when you realise John Lennon’s observation “Life is what happens to other people when you are busy making plans.” applies to you.

That’s why mindfulness is seen as such an attractive (non)activity: the chance to STOP for even a second has become a luxury for many. We know life is passing us by and we’d like to do two things:

1) Notice what is happening and what we are feeling, thinking and doing.

2) Question whether we are feeling, thinking and doing the right things.

But that is also why mindfulness on its own is not the whole answer. It helps us with the first point; to be aware of ourselves and our relationship with our surroundings. But if we left it there it could become just another selfish pursuit, something to make us feel better about ourselves. While that is not a bad thing at all, if it doesn’t lead to any change in our lives mindfulness becomes a huge missed opportunity. When we stop and become aware of what we are thinking and how we are reacting, we can start to change those habits by getting less and less involved in the ingrained patterns our thoughts normally follow. The reason we don’t notice the time going by is we spend so much of it repeating and rerunning old routine ideas and responses; we are hooked into these mental patterns and so too much of our life is spent numbed to our environment and experiences. We aren’t aware of all that is passing us by moment by moment. Mindfulness helps us correct this. Practicing it will help us know better where the time is going and also how we can use it better for ourselves and for others.



2 thoughts on “Who knows where the time goes?

  1. Yes and no. I agree that mindfulness is a means to an end and that it can become a kind of trap if it’s approached in the wrong way – as a form of attachment. The same is true of meditation and even doing good deeds. Indeed, if taken in the wrong way, Buddhism itself can become an excuse for quietism – tolerating intolerance. At the same time, however, I think it’s important not to force things; that’s a sign of impatience, which is also a sign of attachment.

    I’m not an expert in these things, but it seems to me that the underlying idea of mindfulness is that we are basically good and loving and want to live in accordance with this natural state. Mindfulness brings home to us (or ought to) how far we are from doing so. It reveals all the pettiness and pointless worry that gets in the way. And just by recognising that, we come over time to reject it. This doesn’t (usually) happen in a moment, but is the product of accumulation. So in a way you just have to let things take their course.

    Above all, you have to be honest about things. For example, suppose you reflect that you’re annoyed by some petty event. You feel a bit ashamed about this and resolve not to be annoyed any more. But THAT is potentially a trap, because you cannot simply turn off your feelings; it’s easy to end up being dishonest with yourself – telling yourself that you’re no longer annoyed when, in fact, you are. The more honest approach is (a) to admit that you’re annoyed, but also (b) that you continue to be annoyed even though you’d rather not be, and, finally, (c) that that’s simply how things are and it’s OK. Paradoxically, it’s that final step which (at least in my experience) is most effective in genuinely dissipating such petty feelings. You forgive yourself your pettiness and, somehow, that overcomes it.

    Everyone is exactly where they ought to be.

    • Thanks for your comment Philip. I completely agree about the patience part and what you say about the traps present every time something develops in your meditation.

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