Ever feel like there’s just not enough time?
In the morning, do you wake up to an alarm clock?
Do you get satisfaction from checking things off your To-Do list?
Do you live by your Google calendar?
When someone asks you how your day was, do you spout off a list of what you got done?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these, then you, my friend, are living in a time-obsessed culture. Welcome to the party — it’s weird up in here, but I’ve brought snacks.
Time governs our lives. For many of us, the “fight against time” rages day in and day out. It’s a race against the clock, because time flies, and damnit, there never seems to be enough of it.
Oh, and time is money.
Note that language: time IS money. We don’t say time is like money. We directly equate time to money…
…wonder if your money blocks and your issues with feeling like there’s never enough time are related?
Time has become the enemy.
Note: in reality, time is NOT THE ENEMY, but our conditioning has constructed this belief so powerfully that much of your life is ruled by it.
In this 3-part series on Shadow Stories, I’m exploring the 3 biggest issues many of us face: our relationships with money, love, and time.
As Brene Brown has brilliantly said, we measure our self-worth with our productivity and “wear busy-ness as a badge of honor.”
We are under the spell of “busy-ness.”
Breaking free of this spell is one of the most powerful ways you can reclaim your most precious possession: the way in which you inhabit your life’s time.
My days are marked by how much I’ve gotten done. I feel validated by my accomplishments in my life.
Like many of us, growing up I got a gold star for doing a good job at school.
The United States was founded on puritanical values of hard work, repression, and “the pursuit of happiness.” This is a recipe for the time-crunched, peace-starved, stressed-out culture we are in.
But the great American myth of "the pursuit of happiness" implies that happiness is an external, often slippery force we must grasp for. It implies struggle. It implies that you already are not happy, that you must go out there and pursue your happiness like a hunter and its prey.
Oh, and you have to "drink the coffee and do all the things" in this pursuit.
According to the great American myth, happiness looks something like a shiny new car, Insta-worthy lattes and beach trips, and monetary success (there's that sexy entanglement betwixt money and time!). It looks like accomplishment.
This was the first realization I had when I began to practice meditation seriously in 2008 (I'd practiced very loosely before then), under the guidance of a wonderful Tibetan Buddhist monk, Kelsang Chokyan, of the Kadampa Buddhist Center in Safety Harbor, FL.
Chokyan taught me the Buddhist view, which was polar opposite to the American myth I'd grown up with:
Happiness is a state of mind.
Happiness exists within, if you cultivate your natural capacity toward contentment.
Happiness is free from external forces -- you can be happy no matter what circumstance is occurring.
As someone who'd been clinically depressed for 13 years, this was world-quaking stuff for me. My happiness had always been contingent upon circumstance: sure, I could be happy when I got the gold star, the approval, the attention from the boyfriend, the new shiny object.
On the flipside, when negative circumstances arose my happiness vanished and disappointment and suffering took its place.
Not only that, but my depression didn't seem to care about all those certifiably "good things" in my life -- there it was, lurking like toxic sludge in the back of my brain and heart. And I felt guilty as hell for feeling so awful when I knew I should feel grateful.
Dukkha on dukkha, the Buddhists would say. Suffering on suffering. A guilt and sadness layer cake.
One day, Chokyan shared a story that shook my happiness myth on its foundations:
He told us how during the Chinese invasion of Tibet, many monks were imprisoned and tortured. After they were released, a journalist asked one monk what was the most frightening part of the ordeal.
"There were moments when I nearly lost my compassion for my torturers," he said.
That kind of powerful compassion struck me. That was real strength, I thought.
Luckily for us, compassion and contentment can be cultivated -- if you don't naturally lean toward being bubbly or grateful, you can strengthen these qualities within yourself just as you would a muscle. Just like push-ups, it might not feel fantastic in the short term, but the long-term treasures are oh-so worth it.
Because your own joy is at stake, and how you choose to spend your life's time.
Instead of rushing through the endless stream of to-dos, what if you could breathe and be content in this moment, right where you are, just as you are?
I’m not saying you have to abandon your goals and flee to the Himalayas to meditate.
Even the satisfaction that arises from a goal accomplished is fleeting. The deeper layer of contentment is free from your goals. Repeat after me: I AM NOT MY GOALS. I AM NOT A SERIES OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS.
The truth is that your goals and accomplishments will not give you lasting happiness. We seek certain goals not necessarily as pure ends in themselves, but as vehicles to certain emotional states.
For example: I want to receive abundance for my yoga workshops and trainings. Why? Because of the joy and uncanny gratitude I feel when sharing these healing practices with others, and for the financial freedom this allows me to spend time enjoying life with my partner.
JOY, GRATITUDE, & FREEDOM are the ultimate goal-states, and I can actually cultivate them regardless of the outcome of my yoga workshop attendance (it's nice to have a packed house of earnest yoga students, don't get me wrong, but I can discern the emotional state from the goal itself).
We all collectively need to heal our relationship with time, productivity, and self-worth.
Maybe you've been telling yourself you need to meditate, practice yoga, finally write that book, plant a garden, spend time in nature, etc....but you can't ever seem to "find the time."
If you say you want more time but can never seem to find it, you’ve got to reclaim your power and rewrite your story.
It's not a matter of eeking out more time into the 24-hour cycle: it's about prioritizing your happiness within what you've already got goin' on.
"TO BE" LIST EXERCISE:
Do you like To-Do lists like me? This exercise has helped me get into alignment with what lights me up, instead of making my days a series of tasks to complete.
Step 1: Take out a piece of paper and write at the top To Be.
We’ve become consumed by what we do, we’ve forgotten how to just be.
We’ve identified with the tasks, and lost touch with the emotional energy beneath why we do what we do.
Step 2: Just as you would enumerate your tasks, write out the qualities you need to be on any given day in order to feel good, whole, and happy. For example:
Step 3: Next to or beneath your To Be List, write out which actions/tasks/activities will bring you to these emotional states. For example:
Grateful Journal 5 things I’m grateful for with morning coffee
Awed Go outside for 5 minutes and observe nature
Content Practice yoga
Enthusiastic Watch/read/listen to motivational video/book/podcast I love
Now, my day is not just about the crap I got done…because we all know the To Do List will never end.
This way, I reframe and refine my time so that I prioritize what I need to do to feel good, whole, and happy — not just like I checked some boxes off a list.
This is a small, easy way you can begin to dismantle to conditioned beliefs that no longer serve you.
Shadow Work is a process of revealing, unconcealing, and compassionately pulling apart our conditioned constructs: you can do it with your issues around money, relationships, and time.
Want to go deeper? Check out my FREE Shadow Work Class that will help you begin rewriting the stories that hold you back.