Time Is On My Side

06/29/2010 11:05 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

"In essence, all things in the entire world are linked with one another as moments. Because all moments are the time-being, they are your time-being." -Zen teacher Dogen, from a talk in the year 1240, Japan

Many years ago, when I was a student living at Zen Center's Green Gulch Farm, it was my welding teacher, Harry Roberts, who taught that the secret of welding is to see that the natural state of metal is actually liquid. By applying heat, we soften it to its original condition, and make it flexible, allowing it to be changed with little effort. Harry laughed as he told me this, and said this is the secret of being a human being as well. Our world, and time appear solid, he said. Our belief in this solid world leads us to act in ways that are similar to attempting to shape metal while it is hard. Instead, our minds and bodies are much more fluid than we usually assume; our world is less permanent, and more possibilities exist than we conventionally imagine.

I've noticed, for myself, my coaching clients, and for most people in my life there are many ways to fool ourselves about time. It was Albert Einstein who said, " ... the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one."

Another compelling illusion is that time is divided into our time and time that is not ours. The quote cited from Dogen reminds me of a story that another Zen teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh tells in one of his early books, The Miracle of Mindfulness, about a father who believes he never has enough time for himself. He feels many demands, including the demands of his young son who wants to play with him. After a good deal of anxiety, the father had an important realization -- by letting go of the false distinctions he had been making, he understood that his time with his son is his time. He realized that everything he does is his time.

50% of Americans say they are busier this year than last year.

When asked what they would do if they had more time, a majority of Americans say they would work more; even if it meant sacrificing friends, family, and sleep for success.

Twenty years ago, 60% of U.S. families said they had regular sit-down dinners with their families. Today, 20% of families report having regular sit-down dinners.

What's to learn from all this:

  • Explore your assumptions about time and how these assumptions influence your actions and decisions.
  • Enjoy your work.
  • Enjoy your life.
  • All time is your time -- how could it be any different?
  • Enjoy more meals with family and friends.

Here is a wonderful video, a talk by Philip Zimbardo on Secret Powers of Time.

And, just because I could not resist -- Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones performing "Time Is On My Side" on the Ed Sullivan Show.