The Choices in "Found" Time
Those days of "found" time were instructive for me. Part of the time I continued with the pre-arranged plans. I had tickets for the Italian Fashion exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and decided to attend even though my friend wasn't with me. Yes, it would have been more fun if my friend had been with me, and I knew she would have loved it, but I decided to see it as if she were with me, to see it with two pairs of eyes. What would she have noticed? Which ensembles would she have most liked? While there, I thought about what she would like to know, and I paid attention for both of us.
We had planned a dinner date with a mutual friend, someone I don't see very often on a one to one basis. While we both missed our friend as we lifted a glass of wine to her, we made the most of our time together, deepening our friendship. The time was rich.
I had only vague plans for when my other friend had planned to visit, and I needed to think about how to view that open space. My husband was attending a conference one of the days my friend had planned to be here, making the time truly my own. I always have a backlog of things I want to do or need to do, but I decided to use the "found" days to ignore the list and instead, read and write. I sunk into our current book club selection instead of squeezing in time in which to read it, and therefore, I enjoyed it more. I floated between reading chairs and my desk where I immersed myself in my writing project. I did this and that and relaxed into each of the choices. A key word, choice.
Views of Time
I could have been frustrated or paralyzed with disappointment. I could have felt sorry for myself, and I certainly remember times in my life when I have felt that way when plans have changed. Sometimes when time opens up, we let it float away without respecting the unexpected gift. No matter the circumstances, we each have the same 24 hours each day, but how many days we will each have is the unknown, making the choice of how to spend our days even more important.
I think about a friend who is not allowed to drive for three months because of a recent cardiac episode. Perhaps time is moving slowly for her, especially during these busy holiday weeks. Another friend may feel time is moving too quickly, for her husband who has been battling cancer for the past three years has now been told further treatment will not keep the cancer at bay for much longer. How will they use this time?
The Practice of Discernment
One of the topics I am exploring in the book I am writing is the spiritual practice of discernment. Often we think about discernment when it comes to the big issues in our life--moving to a different part of the country, deciding when to retire, confronting decisions about a knee or hip replacement, or focusing on opportunities for service and for growth in our later years. It seems to me, however, that discernment, the practice of discernment, can apply to all areas of our life. Monika Ellis, OSB in an article in: Presence, An International Journal of Spiritual Direction says discernment is a "way of life," "a way of walking with one's heart, ears and eyes wide open, all in readiness for receiving God, who appears and speaks to us." Sister Monika encourages us to remember the wisdom of our feelings and to listen attentively to our whole self.
If we do that -- listen attentively to our whole self -- or, as I have discussed in previous posts, stay awake, discernment can apply to decisions and choices we might classify as small ones, too; ones that seem more incidental or immediate--which book to read or how much time to spend on the internet and whether to take a nap or do the next thing on the list. In addition, practicing discernment in our lives can affect our decision whether or not to reach out to someone who is lonely or struggling with life in some way or determining how to respond to someone who has hurt you or who irritates you. These decisions might not require as much examination as the decisions we think of as the major fork of the road decisions in our life, but the practice of discernment reminds us to slow down, to visit our own heart as a voice of authority and wisdom.
To do that, Sister Monika says we need to give ourselves three gifts: space alone with oneself, time to center ourselves and connect with our depths, and quiet. With ongoing attention to these gifts, we become more aware of our ability to discern and follow our soul's desire.
Discerning Your Use of Time
How do you use your time? Do you guard your time? Hoard your time? Relish your time? Fill your time? Do you share your time? Waste your time, and if so what does it mean exactly, to waste your time? Do you have time on your hands?
How we choose to use our time is how we choose to live our life.
What is your relationship to time right now? Are you willing to cultivate the practice of discernment as a tool for following your heart's desire as you move through your day? I would love to know.