How aware are you of the treasure of time? Have you ever taken the time to question how you live, your habits and beliefs? Do you live believing that you have all the time in the world? Or have you become aware of your own mortality?
“Time is money” is a cliché. It’s also wrong. Time is infinitely more valuable than money. Because money can always be replaced, while time, once passed, has passed for good. There’s no getting our time back.
This article will discuss the importance of time. It aims to get the reader thinking about their time; to reevaluate how they live.
Heavy subjects which are relevant to all of us because we all live within time. It is our undisputed master. Just ask all of the tyrants and heroes who came before us.
Oh wait, you can’t! Because they’re all dead; time spares no one.
Note: Please read this article, if you haven’t already, before continuing.
Life Is Long, If You Know How To Use It
A couple of thousand years ago, the question of time and how we spend it was tackled by Lucius Annaeus Seneca. Seneca was a Roman stoic philosopher who wrote dozens of essays and tragic plays. He also wrote “On The Shortness Of Life”, a set of essays which seek to spark the awareness in the reader that life is finite and how we choose to spend our time dictates how our lives unfold. Which seems obvious once you think about it, but many people fail to grasp this truth throughout their lives.
One of the main messages contained in “On The Shortness Of Life” is that life is long if you know how to use it. Seneca lived and died over two thousand years ago. Yet, even then, he noticed that Romans were already having to deal with overstuffed schedules, hurried days and meaningless meetings filled with meaningless platitudes. Imagine what Seneca would say if he witnessed the average life of a city dweller today!
In “On The Shortness Of Life”, Seneca writes:
“It’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.”
“Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested.”
“It is inevitable that life will not just be very short but very miserable for those who acquire by great toil what they must keep by greater toil.”
What Do These Quotes Mean?
The first two quotes are self-explanatory: we have more than enough time to achieve great things if we but invest it well. But how do we invest our time well? I’ll get to that further along in the article.
The third quote deserves some attention, because it communicates a deep truth to which many of us are blind. In short, those who achieve by great toil shall have to toil even more to keep it.
How many of us today work our backs off to achieve success? How many times do we see/hear in the media, at work and at school that hard work is what separates a success from a failure? It’s like there is a “cult of work”, or more accurately, a “cult of toil”, which is endlessly repeated, especially by sports stars. Go hard or go home. No pain no gain. We see all of these people touting “toil” as the means to achieve success and happiness, yet, more than 2000 years ago Mr. Seneca observed that such an approach to life was nonsensical.
In “On The Shortness Of Life”, Seneca mentions the stories of a few of his contemporaries. He talks about the Roman celebrities, those people who held office, led armies and conquered nations. He criticizes them all, stating that they worked so hard to achieve things, yet their days were spent stuffed to the brim with meaningless meetings and hurry. He says that not one of them has peace or time for leisure, which is what all of them want. He refers to Caesar Augustus and Marcus Cicero, who remain two of the most celebrated Romans today.
Busyness As A Perverse Source Of Pride
How many people today proffer the word “busy” as a badge of importance? We love to say “I’m so busy” because we believe being busy aggrandizes us in the eyes of our colleagues and friends. When we say “I’m busy” what we’re really saying is “I have an overstuffed schedule because I am important, sought after, a person of clout in the world.”
So many of us claim to be too busy to contemplate, to take a breather, to go on a leisurely stroll in the park. We rush from one thing to the next, in a wild race to accomplishment. If such a mode of existence is effective at creating happiness and health, then how come so many of us are so unhappy and unhealthy?
It seems like a paradox; people work so much to achieve the success which they believe they want only to end us as prisoners to their success. How are we supposed to live the good life, then?
The Paradox Of Success And Peace, Resolved
The previous situations only seem like a paradox. We strive for success so we can be happy yet from our strife all we get is more strife.
But it isn’t a paradox and it can be simply resolved. Some Eastern spiritual teachings will come into play here, so I recommend you read this article (What Is The Science Of Meditation?) so you may understand what’s coming a little deeper.
Human beings are always choosing. Every moment is a choice. How we choose to exist in the present is a choice. It’s a choice we are always making. Simply put, if it’s our habit to exist in the moment harried, stressed, overworked, over-scheduled, with our minds focused on the past or the future, how can we expect our future lives to be any different?
If we plant lemon seeds, why are be surprised when the fruits harvested are lemons? Our future lives are a direct result of our lives now. If we are existing now is a state of anxiety, making anxious choices, what will our future life hold in store for us?
If instead, we exist in the present moment peacefully, in full acceptance of what is unfolding before us, focused on the now, without worry of the past or anxiety for the future, what will our future lives hold?
Our modern day hectic living is not new. For thousands of years we have been slaves to the image of success. It’s pursuing that image, that construct of the ego, which leaves us with more suffering than if we had just chilled out, relaxed and done our work in peaceful abiding.
What Happens When We Question How We Spend Our Time?
I used to strive a lot. I used to work hard in the hopes that success would bring me peace and satisfaction in the moment. That ended up breaking me, which you can read about here. But it was thanks to that breaking that I was able to reevaluate how I spent my time and what I wanted from life.
When we dedicate our time to be in service to the ego we only create more suffering for ourselves. This is because the ego is insatiable; it can never have enough. Like the concept of “hungry ghosts” in Buddhism which are creatures with huge, empty stomachs with pinhole mouths and necks so thin they can’t swallow. Beings are reborn as hungry ghosts out of greed, envy and jealousy.
The ego manifests itself in the feeling that we are not enough. To the ego we are never handsome enough, pretty enough, fit enough, rich enough, interesting enough, successful enough nor anything enough in anything else.
The ego is never satisfied with what it haves, so it creates this belief that we have to be more, have more, achieve more so that we can be happy and fulfilled. When we identify with the ego we put our peace and joy on hold, for a time when the ego will be satisfied.
But nothing can satisfy the ego and when we act to serve it’s insatiable appetite we only exhaust ourselves. Complying with the ego’s image of how life should be is a Sisyphean task, condemned to endless, meaningless repetition.
Until We Wake Up To Our Insanity
Because we are enough, just as we are. We are uniquely precious expressions of the universe, here for a flash and then gone again.
Once we wake up to the futility of seeking to satisfy the ego we begin to question how we spend our time. Instead of dedicating ourselves to tasks which feed the ego, that conception we have of what we should be, we begin doing activities which feed our Being, or soul.
Our Being is connected to all that is. It is all that is. So when we begin to act from Being rather than from ego, we begin to act in alignment with the whole. This is when the magic happens; when life starts lining up for us, when instead of finding red lights on our way we find them green, and if we do find a red light we can immediately alter our course, while remaining true to ourselves. This is when people show up who want to help you. It’s when life ceases to be an endless chore and becomes a limitless adventure.
All it takes is being present. The simplest and most powerful choice any of us can make.
How We Do Things Is More Important Than What We Do
I’m going to ask you a few questions. I invite you to be as honest with yourself as you can be. Being honest with ourselves is the only way we can start questioning whether or not we act from ego or from Being.
- How is your state of being throughout your days? Restless or peaceful?
- How do you feel about yourself? Are you happy with who and where you are and what you have achieved? If yes, why? If no, why not?
- Do you find yourself using the present moment as a stepping stone for the future? In other words, do you act to get through with whatever you’re doing as fast as you can so you can move on to the next thing?
- Are you always expecting something different or better?
If our expectation dominates our every waking moment then we are divorcing ourselves from the present moment, and this produces suffering.
Happiness = Reality – Expectations
I heard somewhere that happiness is reality minus expectations. The less we expect, the more open we are to what life has for us.
But expectation doesn’t have to get in the way of our peace and happiness, as long as we don’t tie up our identity with it. For example, a pregnant woman looks forward to the day she will be able to hold her baby in her arms. But she doesn’t lose herself in expectation and she doesn’t rush the process. She doesn’t demand that her body craft the baby’s brain and body in an expedited fashion, like a package to be delivered or a food order to be filled. She accepts that the baby’s growth within her follows a natural process, and that the baby will come when it is good and ready, not before.
We are all pregnant with our future. We can choose to live life at peace with the present moment or lost in expectation. One of these modes of being creates lasting peace, the other strife and suffering.
What Happens When You Live At Peace
As we begin to prioritize peace in our daily lives it begins to imbue every one of our waking moments. Everyone cultivates peace in their own way. Personally, I go on walks. I also don’t drink. I used to drink a lot, but over the past few years, as I’ve begun living more peacefully, activities which disturbed my peace, like drinking, have just fallen away, effortlessly.
This happens across all areas of life; relationships which disturb our peace, either with people, places or activities just cease attracting us. In turn, other activities which bring us peace and joy take their place; we meet people who also appreciate peace, we go to places where you feel at peace, we listen to peaceful music and sounds.
Once we start living peacefully we realize that is what we really want. We all want to be at peace, but all most of us ever learn is to throw ourselves into our work without questioning whether it will bring us peace or not.
But paradoxically (but not really), once we start living peacefully is when we unlock the energy to do our best, most revolutionary, most helpful work. Makes perfect sense, being at peace means we don’t waste energy with toil, so we can dedicate it instead to creating awesomeness.
In Conclusion, Peace Starts With How You Spend Your Time
I hope you’ve found this article helpful. It contains some ancient wisdom which can benefit most anyone alive today. Ancient people knew what was up, they left behind teachings which remain as valid today as they were when they were first discovered. It’s up to us to learn from those who came before so we can make our own mistakes, rather than repeat past ones.
I leave you with one final question.
How do you choose to live?
To our wealth and success.