The Clock Isn’t Ticking

July 6, 2012 § 15 Comments

Conventional notions of time management suggest that we can carve up the future into discrete packages and then use those packets of time wisely.  We are told- you must be efficient in your use of time.  After all, your personal allocation of time is finite and the clock is ticking.

But this conception of time actually understates its precious quality.   Time has no existence for us apart from this very moment.  Right now we can act and choose.  That is all we have.  No tomorrow, no next week.

So how then do we think about time and its use- on a practical level?

Years ago I went through a period where most days I spent hours playing a simple computer game called Minesweeper.   I got very good at that game.  I don’t know what compelled me to use my time in that way, perhaps a reaction to a writing block, not sure.

You could say that I wasted all those hours, time ill spent, time lost to me forever.  But perhaps it was time well spent.  Those Minesweeper hours might have been a sort of therapy or respite to calm my busy, anxious mind.

Embracing the Zen conception of time, you would skip all that- all the harsh judgments, as well as all the convenient rationalizations.  You would not waste a single moment looking backward to judge the quality or utility of the time you spent playing Minesweeper or doing whatever.  That time is gone.  Looking backward is pointless.  Judging ourselves is corrosive.

We will plan, we will make our appointments, we will think about tomorrow, of course.  But in the doing, in the living of life, time truly has no existence apart from this moment.  If we stay centered in the present moment as consistently as we can, we will use each moment as well as we can.  That’s it.

In other words, the clock isn’t ticking because there is no clock, really.  Just now, that’s all.

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§ 15 Responses to The Clock Isn’t Ticking

  • No question about it:)

  • gigiwanders says:

    even though we fixate on the present – everything is now
    do you see how the past, present and future, all is now simultaneously?
    i got this from zen readings some years back
    but time, even present, is something we’ve ‘cultivated’
    in actuality there is no continuum, it is all now – all past all present all future
    hard to explain without being able to commune experientially

  • Thanks for sharing this. There is no clock – interesting. And indeed I think we’ve been judging ourselves as much as others do.

  • Well thought, well written. I look forward to read your book.

  • smithdavid says:

    there is no clock – love that. keep it up tom.

  • l0ve0utl0ud says:

    This is such a wonderful post, so beautifully written. You give a new way of looking at time, which is hard to embrace in our production driven world. But I love the way you look at it and will try and follow your advice!

  • pdlyons says:

    every moment is my guru – c.trungpa rinpoche

    every moment is my teacher
    every momnet is my friend
    every moment is my miracle
    everymoment is my true self
    everymoment is….
    no matter what

  • projectwhitespace says:

    I need to think about time like this more often. Need to slow down. BE in the present moment. And it is so true: time as we think of it, doesn’t exist. All we really have is now. I am so conditioned to think of time relative to the past and the future. I have to retrain my thinking, recondition it. Do you know the first step to that? How to let go of what will be and just live in the now?

    • Thomas Ross says:

      It’s a struggle. For me the key change has been a greater self-awareness. I still worry sometimes about what’s coming and still have moments of regret. But I am more likely to be aware of what’s going on and with this awareness, I can allow those thoughts to come, and to go, and then return to being present, right here, right now.

      I think it’s more acceptance, openness, awareness, and less conscious “retraining,” although having a meditation practice helps.

      Thanks, Bethany. Glad we are connected.

  • Julianna says:

    I love this line: “Judging ourselves is corrosive.” – Because looking back can be instructive, but doing it with judgement is, as you point out, only harming ourselves (then and now). Another great post!

    • Thomas Ross says:

      So many of us- me included- are so tough on ourselves, which is really harmful. We feel lazy or unproductive and this self-judgment only cripples us.

      Thanks, Julianna. You’re such a generous and thoughtful reader.

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