There was a time we when worked to live, not lived to work. The lion’s share of time was slated for what made life worth living—love, family, community, and creating space for some joy—the good stuff. I’m afraid we’re losing those most valued gifts offered by time. “We’re just too damn busy,” we often say.
The capitalist model tells us that time is money. In this age of technological wonder, we can accomplish quadruple the work in only twice the time. We can even take care of those nagging work emails in the evening comfort of home and hearth while watching the game. This way we save our “at work” hours for more important work. This is a productive use of time, which is highly valued today.
We can set up our laptops to work at our favorite coffee shop, taking over a table meant for four. We see more people sitting alone in coffee shops these days, busily tapping away in front of their screens. There aren’t as many friendly groups, sharing good company and hot beverages together. This may be sad, but it’s definitely productive.
Time is money, and the clock is ticking. Our competition is, no doubt, propped up on their pillows at night, their eyes filled with the high-def brilliance of first draft memos and quarterly reports. They know they’re getting closer to that elusive piece of the pie that we all desperately want. No time to lose!
It’s not uncommon feeling pressed for time these days. And, if time is money and we are pressed for time, then we are definitely pressed for money—so don’t waste time!
Procrastination has been called the thief of time. And our technology structures the workday for many of us, with two 15-minute breaks and a half-hour for lunch. How many are guilty of ignoring those fifteen-minute breaks? Time is not to be squandered after all!
Time is also of the essence, which begs the question, the essence of what? This is a question for our time! What is the essential nature of time in relation to us, and why are we so committed to filling so much of our time with deeds dedicated only to the accumulation of money?
Why have so many of us bought into a system that doesn’t value the notion of a pause, taking a break, a rest, a hiatus? How many times have you apologized for taking a break or your earned vacation? Or worse, how many times have you forgone those precious moments or days of respite? Why does it take getting sick to force so many of us to rest?
The greatest symphonies are filled to the brim with rests, empty spaces between the notes. You wouldn’t understand the music without the pauses in between the sounds. And, if nothing else, the universe is an infinite study in empty space. All of us and the world we inhabit are primarily empty space, at least 99 percent empty space! And yet we take a pass on enjoying some spacious, empty space or timeless, empty time—it’s like we dread the pause, like we would be considered lazy, or lacking or slack if we took some much-needed breaths during our days.
Thomas Edison, holding over 2,300 patents, honored the pause, even believing that his greatest work was born from that space. When seeking for inspiration he would often lean back in his chair at the workshop, holding some metal ball bearings. As soon as he started falling asleep, he would drop the ball bearings, and thus, wake up. He did this as a way to stay in that mysterious field consciousness between asleep and awake. For Edison—and all of us really—this is the land that births ideas and inspirations. The pause can be a gateway to this wonderful land of brilliant vision where we hear the whispers of the muse. Edison, one of our greatest geniuses, was all about the pause.
Unless your supervisor has an enlightened bent, you will probably have to create your own space to pause. Even a glance off the screen while taking some mindful breaths as you gaze at that old oak tree outside your window can make all the difference.
We humans are designed to pace ourselves. Sure, we can sprint when we have to, for short periods, if we’re being chased by a bear, for instance. But the greatest achievements of humanity are born from the slower measured marathon, with plenty of room for breath. When we force ourselves to continually go at a full out sprint, we break down. This is often the root cause of the numerous stress-related diseases that plague us today.
It’s time to invite the pause back in, to enjoy those friendly breaks with co-workers that refuel and energize our day, to take a breath or drink a cup of tea. We get so caught up in the immediate deadlines that we forget that life is ultimately a long game, a race of decades. Save the sprinting for escaping a bear or running a ball down the court. At work, remember the pause and invite the whispering voice of inspiration to guide your day. We are designed to live this way.
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