Are you hungry for love? Starved for time? Devoid of company and famished for fulfillment? Even in our homes and families, many of us think we've never found true love, and if we've found it, that we'll never keep it. The world seems ever more hungry for love, spinning faster in a ravenous search for gratification. But none of us has to look far for love. All the love in the world is waiting for you as close as your kitchen counter.
Don't believe me? One twist of the dial on a kitchen timer will unleash the potential for love in places you've never noticed before.
I'm not talking about that particular finicky appetite we call "love," with its momentary cravings, but rather the love that lasts forever. I'm talking about time, and the transformation that occurs when we put our own time and attention into the life we already have and toward the people already in it. Nothing is more fulfilling than the attention we give, and nothing is easier to find.
Particularly these days, the pace and distraction of our lives seems to leave less time for the things that matter most. That perception is not entirely true. In temples, monasteries, churches and cathedrals everywhere, time has always been marked with sound, an ancient and effective time management system. Bells signal time for silence, time for devotion, time for rest and time for meals. Even today, the same salvation is available to time-starved soul searchers. Here's how.
When your time gets out of hand, when your loved ones turn into strangers and your home life begins to crumble, I suggest you sound an alarm. Pick up a kitchen timer, and turn the dial counter-clockwise. Here are three sure-fire ways to extract love from the time you have starting right now.
Set the timer and power down. What's the first thing you do when you come home at the end of a day? Check your email, return phone calls, go on Facebook, turn on the TV or all of the above? For one hour a day, establish a quiet zone in your home. Turn the timer dial to 60 minutes and then turn off your phones, Blackberries, computers, televisions and video games. The daily discipline will reduce distraction, agitation, and escapism. It will open up time for easy conversation or amicable silence. Either one is more enriching than the din that otherwise fills our homes and heads. Try it for the first hour in the evening that everyone is at home. In the place of all that noise, you might discover the family mealtime that you never had time for. In place of strained feelings and anxieties, you and your loved ones could find that you have something in common after all: the peaceful space you already share. If an hour seems impossible to accomplish, start in shorter increments. Your taste for the quiet will naturally increase. Love grows when we give it time.
Set the timer and play. If you have small children who chase you all day long demanding the attention you don't have time to give, stop avoiding them. Set the timer and spend one hour of non-distracted time with your children each day. Well-meaning parents often think that time spent with children needs to have a certain quality and achieve a worthy outcome. (Think flashcards.) But quality time never seems to arrive, and so we keep postponing it. Drop your own agenda, and devote one hour daily to an activity your children choose, even if it's playing a silly game on the floor that would otherwise drive you out of your mind. The timer will ease your resistance by giving you a way out. Your children will stop bothering you. Everyone can relax and enjoy one another, and when time's up, you'll be surprised at the change. Children behave differently when they are no longer starving for attention.
Set the timer and cook. Food is our one essential consumption and cooking is our sole common charity, but the value of cooking a meal is easily underestimated. When you're busy and preoccupied, it's logical to think cooking at home simply isn't worth the time, at least not very often. The thought of shopping, cooking, sitting down and cleaning up taxes us beyond our already overwrought limits. But the rituals of cooking can fulfill us in a deeper way. Using our precious time to cook shows us how consistently we overvalue the things we know are less important -- like work, mindless entertainment and junk food -- and how we undervalue the very things we call our priorities -- like home, health and each other. Set the timer and make dinner tonight. Cooking is an authentic expression of love, and nourishes everyone at your table long past the point the plates are emptied.
You can look for love until the end of time, but the love you give to your life right now lasts forever.