My ‘Slow Down’ Happiness Project theme for March has made me more mindful of the relationship between time and happiness. I’ve realised it’s not about getting the wish everyone has for more time granted, but about changing how we think about our time. One of my commandments for this year of my Happiness Project is “You are in control”; I am in control of my time and I can slow down if I want/need to.
Learning more about yoga through my yoga teacher training also makes me consider time a lot. Yoga, meditation and mindfulness practice is about being present. Not looking to the future or back to the past, but being in the here and now. Recently, reading Gretchen Rubin’s book Happier at Home I realised there’s a bit of a paradox in this mindful, in the moment living.
Gretchen Rubin’s now is now revelation
In Happier at Home Gretchen writes about a revelation that occurred to her during this second (home focused) happiness project. The ending to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods illuminated the phrase ‘now is now’ to Gretchen. A phrase she felt she’d been haunted by her whole life.
Time can often haunt us with its presence; whether we’re haunted by memories, worries about the future, or an acute awareness that life is happening now.
Gretchen realised that ‘now is now’ and if she wanted to take her children to the carousel in Central Park she should do it now. Because later always remains later, and suddenly you realise your children are too old to go to the carousel and you missed that opportunity.
Happiness is intrinsically linked to an awareness of time
In The Happiness Project, as well, Gretchen realises “the days are long, but the years are short”. This realisation about the nature of time, and how it can feel both long and ridiculously short at the same time helps Gretchen along her path to happiness.
I definitely feel that an awareness of how time is passing, and how we are reacting to that, can help us on the path to happiness. If we’re aware, and take the time to be present and enjoy the moment, then we can really be in and enjoy the time we have. No point living in the past, or always looking to the future. Now is now and later may never come
The paradox of presence
What I realised, though, when thinking about ‘now is now’ is this way of thinking can actually make you feel you have to do everything now. Being present, and aware that this moment now might be all we have, can add to a feeling of anxiety and needing to be busy all the time. Although presence and in the moment living is associated with mindfulness and slowing down, I think we need to be careful about how we are applying these tools in our lives.
Awareness, balance and presence
Again I return to the theme of balance which seems to be the essence of everything in our lives. ‘Now is now’ is a great philosophy to have, but it needs to be balanced with an awareness of ourselves in that moment. Balanced with a practice of presence, and mindfulness. To know if we’re putting too much on our plates by feeling we have to do everything right now.
We might feel like we’re practising presence by living in the moment and seizing each opportunity that comes our way. This can, however, easily lead to burnout. We should consider that ‘now is now’ but also have an awareness of how we are right now. Will squeezing that trip in make you feel happier and more fulfilled? Or, will it leave you stressed out and tired?
This paradox exists in my own commandments
Writing this I’ve realised two of my Happiness Project commandments display this paradox.
“Do it now”
“You are in control (of your schedule; your time; your actions”
Clearly it’s just something to be aware of and, as always, to keep balanced.
What do you think about this? Let me know in the comments below.