Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Time Things Take

I have this feeling that I have not completely dropped down into my life here in Toronto. After a decade of living in a somewhat isolated country property my marriage ended and a small apartment in the city became my solitary home.

That was almost two years ago, and as much as I miss the quiet of the country, there many things I appreciate about living in the city. But I still feel like I have not completely resettled here. This came to mind today when thinking about wanting to reread a book I had to leave behind, and I realized I do not yet have a library card for the Toronto Public Library. This is, of course, easy to remedy but it is indicative of my not having completely dropped down into my new life in the city.

And I wonder why. What am I waiting for? Contemplating this I am brought back to a familiar observation: that change, particularly when it happens precipitously, takes time to filter down into all aspects of our being. Oh, we get it mentally- our first child is born and instantly, we become parents; a tornado or wildfire moves through the community where we live and we lose our homes; marriage ends and we are single once again.

But the truth is that absorbing, adapting to, and finding a way to be with major change on every level of inner and outer being, takes time. We sometimes try to speed it up. We often want to speed it up. But there is some kind of natural pacing that happens.

All living organisms live in time. However much some may claim that time is an illusion, we live our lives, make our plans, see the changes that occur in what at least appears to be a linear motion of time, much like a steady and relentless conveyor belt. (I am not saying there isn’t more to time than this, only that this is how we experience it in our daily awareness.)

But surely not all living organisms experience time at the same pace. I imagine it is to some degree relative to our overall life span. An insect who has an eight week life span may experience time differently than we do (presumably without the same kind of conscious sense of past and future that we do- but it’s hard to interview a black flu and find out.) When we die, although our bodies may shut down from disease over time, the line of distinction is pretty clear. One moment we are alive, the next we are dead. Trees, on the other hand, do not die the moment they are cut down. Large trees can continue to grow and sprout leaves after they've been chopped own. (I have read that our fingernails and hair similarly can continue to grow for a short time after death, so maybe we are not as different from trees as I think we are.)

All this is to say, that one of the facets of the reality of being human is to be an organism that has a particular sense of the passage of time. Around big changes in our lives, time is needed before the change can be absorbed as a new way of living. When we lose a loved one it can take days or weeks before the awareness of the loss does not hit us with the freshness of new and devastating information when we wake up each morning. It takes time for our psyche to absorb the loss, to remember that someone who was once with us is gone, to imagine a life without this person. Similarly it takes time to heal physically and emotionally.

So, as in so many things, we have this combination of the limits of the natural organism we are, and the free will choices we can make. We can, of course, promote healing by accepting and deliberately settling into the new (albeit always temporary) conditions. But there is a limit to how much we can speed up inner adaptations to outer conditions without going into denial, without trying to leave some aspect of self- perhaps the part of us that is grieving or just needing to move a little slower- behind.

The truth is, as humans- as embodied souls- we are always arriving in and meeting each present moment and the conditions it holds. So what’s the rush? Why the need to judge whether or not we are "moving on" quickly enough or taking the time we- or someone else- thinks we "should?" Time can be our ally, helping us find the sustainable pacing that allows our fullest and deepest unfolding.

Oriah (c) 2012

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