In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Viola, one of the main characters, disguises herself as a man in order to get a job with the local prince. As a result, she finds herself entangled in the mess of an unrequited love triangle: She falls in love with the prince, who is in love with the local princess, who subsequently falls in love with Viola when she (dressed as a man) goes to woo the princess on the prince's behalf. Exasperated with her situation, Viola throws her arms in the air and exclaims: "Oh Time, thou must untangle this, not I ... it is too hard a knot for me to untie!" She is calling on time to sort her problem out.
Having encountered a few "knots" of my own over my lifetime, I too have learned the value of time as an ally in working out problems. Through the power of our mind, we all have the ability to move into a timeless zone--that place inside us where time actually expands and what seems to be a dead-end situation with no solution at hand becomes an opportunity for awareness and growth, for letting go and moving forward.
Have you ever been in a situation where it felt as though time stopped? Where you lost track of time? Think about the last time you were in love. There wasn't enough time! An entire evening with the one you love seemed like only a minute! Or how about when you took an exam or had to wait in a seemingly endless line? Twenty minutes became an eternity! The truth is that time, whether we realize it or not, is a manmade concept that we can learn to control.
When a challenging situation hijacks our focus, the world begins to narrow, the pressure we feel increases, and our mind shuts off ... it's like we cut off the circulation and the blood that oxygenates our brain. We diminish our sense of self and lessen our ability to problem-solve. How, then, do we break open our focus and cause time to expand so that we may regain perspective and wisdom? Ah, there is the rub!
I discovered the priceless key of expanding time during a period of major transition in my life. I had just moved from Los Angeles to New York, leaving behind the safe and cozy nest of my family in order to explore writing my first book and to spend more time with a man I was in love with, whom I had deemed to be "the one" for me. (I hadn't yet learned that no man is "the one." But we all have to cross that dark bridge to nowhere, and no mother or best friend or encyclopedia for relationships can teach us that particular lesson.)
So there I was bravely branching out into a new life, when out of the blue the man I was dating told me he had been diagnosed with skin cancer and would have to have surgery. Because the relationship was young, he pulled back from me and I of course took it personally. Feeling rejected and hurt, I pulled back too. At the same time, my publisher asked me to almost completely rewrite the proposal for my book! I was practically starting all over again.
I found myself feeling at the crossroads of an unfamiliar journey. I had left the comforting folds of my family to pursue an exciting dream, and I felt overwhelmed with the letdown when it looked like it was falling apart and there was nothing to replace it with. In an attempt to alleviate my unhappiness and fear, I sat quietly in prayer, asking for assistance and meditating to receive an answer about how to cope with the situation.
This is what took place for me: In my mind I traveled way beyond that present moment; an imaginary time machine took me to the year 3005. As my mind stretched, I could see all that had changed! (And a lot had changed!) I was seeing people, faces, the earth ... I was elevated in an expanded state of mind. I had an experience of transient reality. Time as I had known it collapsed, and suddenly I was detached from my problems, no longer bound to my earthly perspective. I could see the whole picture of my life, because my mind was no longer focused on that one moment of difficulty. I saw that I was much bigger than the situation, that I was completely capable of handling it. Not only was I no longer at the effect of it, I was now actually in charge! I was actually embracing that moment, which in this new perspective seemed like a mere thread in the vast tapestry of my life.
My judgments, thoughts, and concerns--that inner dialogue about how terrible the events were and how they never should have happened--evaporated. I had unplugged from the source of my stress. And in the altitude of my new perspective, I had the space to recharge. I was more expanded, more present, and therefore accessing more of my inner wisdom and power. One year later, I finished my book, and my life was enriched by it and all of the experiences that resulted from it. I became aware of how grateful I was that the relationship never worked out, and I became stronger and gained confidence about who I am.
Now, when things in my life get tight or uncomfortable, I have a great reference point to draw on. My little "Year 3005" exercise provides me with the creative tool I need to shift and be lifted into the Power of Perspective, reminding me of my bigger picture. In that place, the pressure cooker of time's confines and my own emotional contraction ease up, allowing me to breathe free.
My close friends who know my story now use this tool as well. We have a secret code, and when one of us gets stressed out or overwhelmed, we simply say to each other in a soft voice: "It was the year 3005 ... and the rest is history."
Try it! Pick any year in the future you want . You might be surprised how your mind will take you there. Unlike Shakespeare's Viola, you'll be able to untie the knot all by yourself.