With the restrictions of the current MCO many of us have found changes in how we use our time. Take some time now to read today's 'Thought for the day', in which Dan, our Primary Counsellor, reflects on time.
The famous opening line of Rumi’s existential poem ‘The Guest House’ , carries a subtle nudge to the reader towards a spiritual meditation upon time. Time often carries the most precious known value to us precisely because of it’s subjective scarcity. One of the many paradoxes of human life is that we barely understand this truism until the pinch of time is suddenly acute. But to understand deeply the true nature and value of time is a contemplative movement towards a spiritual container for our natural human concerns of mortality. It is, like the Persian poet-mystic, to appreciate time as the golden string of inner realisation.
This being human is a guest house, every morning a new arrival… - Rumi
There is an old Zen saying that I often mention early on to folk keen to learn meditation or begin contemplative practice; ‘You should really meditate for at least 20 minutes a day. But if your life is really busy, you should meditate for an hour a day’. To set one's intention towards a contemplative compass in life, regardless of the tradition or practice, means ultimately to radically alter one's relationship to, or vision of, time. It initially involves developing a new spirit of ‘guarding time’ against the distraction and onslaught of our busy modern world and its profound impact upon our neurological architecture. To invoke the spirit of Rumi in the quote above, how otherwise might we be able to greet the guests or even know of their presence? Secondly, it requires the cultivation of the awareness of the delight involved in inhabiting time contemplatively. A dedicated period of prayer, meditation, writing, yoga, walking or spiritual reading becomes something to be savoured, a centrifugal still-point around which the frenetic energy of the day might begin to lose some of its outer pull.
As we dedicate more of our sense of time to contemplative practices, our vision of life takes on a more spiritual hue. A contemplative vision places our personal experience of time within the wider framework of eternity. To repurpose time towards the goal of spiritual transformation is to encourage the growth in ability to see into the mystery of things. This is often a path towards a new set of values, reflections, or towards new contemplative action. One’s own individuated and distinct presence or way of life emerges over time, deepened and honed reflexively by an organically developing practice. To lack a contemplative imagination or perspective in life risks a narrow egotism, a self-perpetuating and self-justifying gradual inflation of our own view of the world and a defensive screening out of wider perspectives of others, culture and life. Without a vital and ongoing contemplative life, one risks perceiving potential life-giving spiritual and archetypal energies or perspectives as a danger to an increasingly-anxious and fragile personal truth. Life then takes on a more destructive edge in service of a narcissistic and time-bound ego. This is, perhaps, the epitome of ‘wasting time’.
A contemplative relationship to time is to grasp the inherent profundity and spirituality of every encounter or situation. There is always a mystery at the heart of things or people, beyond the accumulative facts of the matter. But without time contemplatively spent within the temples of our religious buildings, our quiet corners, our homes or our physical bodies, we inevitably lack the spiritual ‘senses’ to enter into mystery. To begin or to recommence a daily consecrated practice is to enter into the doorway of self-reflection and conscience, and to reinvigorate our personal and mystical sense of the value of time. It is to invisibly knit together the implicit threads of a contemplative spirit and slowly, perhaps ineffably, discover a relationship to time that integrates the subjective, the objective, and the spiritual.
To regain a unitive vision of time and a sense of the profound integrity of the moment, we need practices of contemplative depth in our lives. To do so is at the very heart of monastic wisdom and evident in the ancient rhythmic rules of the monastery day.
What might a contemplative use of time look like in your life?
If you don’t yet know, simply set aside some un-programmed time in a quiet space and wonder. ‘Just’ wonder. Perhaps, like Rumi, you might discover and welcome new guests in that empty space….
The Unthought Known is a short writing, reflective of a contemplative perspective on life. It is the fruit of many years of reflective note taking on a range of psychological and spiritual texts and in that spirit no inherent originality is claimed. If it offers comfort amidst adversity, read the text and call whatever resonates to mind when needed (even if just a short phrase from the larger text), allowing it to soak into the marrow of your bones and merge with your breath. Remember, we are all in this together.
Take good care, Dan