The Myth of “Not Enough Time” & The Art of Presence

March 7, 2013


Not enough time to meditate…. Never-ending “to do” lists….Multi-tasking….Eating on the go.Rushing to get to yoga class….Our culture glorifies the collective stories of “not enough time” and “too much to do.” One day, far into the future, we will look back and reflect on our early 21st century ancestors with their impressive schedules and text messages, and we will say, “Grateful that humanity made it through that grand delusion. Thank God that we let go of that collective story and chose instead to embrace presence.”

The good news is that in order to free ourselves from “not enough time” we have to free ourselves from the story of “not enough.” “Not enough” is the world view of a passive consumer society. It is the conditioned filter that taints how we feel about ourselves, others, and our resources, blinding us from seeing our lives clearly and perpetuating dissatisfaction and a hunger for more, better, and different.

When we are run by the message of “not enough,” we expend a great deal of time and energy (consciously or unconsciously) striving, trying to fix and change ourselves, measuring and grading ourselves, and somehow trying to fill the void of “not having enough” or “not being good enough.” In response to the painful fear of “not enough” weighing on our psyche, we might procrastinate or play it small in our lives… OR we might take on “too much,” over-doing to try to achieve more and more. Too much” and “not enough” are two sides of a duality… and when we are motivated by this duality, we suffer.

Deep inside, when we touch into presence, is the inherent recognition that we are perfect exactly as we are… that we are perfect simply because we are…the certainty that we are whole and precious, and that there is nothing to do, fix, or change, nothing to strive for, and nowhere to get to. When we are present with ourselves, we are in touch with our natural intelligence and our inherent goodness. We feel a sense of belonging to our lives, to each other, and to the earth. We are able to feel the interconnection that is the WE mentality. We experience time in a more spacious way and trust the flow of natural time. We do not become ambitionless, but our ambitions are not driven by “not enough”. We are able to express the wisdom and creativity that is who we authentically are.

When we identify with the separate self (the “I” mentality), it can feel as if we’ve woken to a nightmare. It is as if we’ve opened our eyes in the middle of the night and found ourselves on a racetrack with people we have to strive to catch up with, a sense that we need to keep moving and keep up, knowing all the while that only the lucky ones will “win.” During this race, the conditioned mind spends a great deal of unnecessary time comparing ourselves to the others. How’s that guy next to me doing? How do I look compared to the others? Who’s further along? Am I doing it right? Am I where I should be at this age according to society’s template? In this dream we are compared to everyone, even better versions of ourselves. The truly scary part of this nightmare is that most people are running this race subconsciously. In other words, people often become so used to feeling a subtle weight of comparison and “not being enough” that they don’t know that feeling that way is actually just a really bad dream. They don’t know that this dream can only exist when we engage with the chatter of the conditioned mind, inside ourselves or played out in the world. The only way to access the nourishment we really need (in this case, our true nature) is to turn our attention within, to find that place of stillness that is our center. Most of us, however, have not been brought up with any sense of how to live from center. We are actually taught to turn our attention outward, relying on the conditioned mind to perpetuate the race, survive the race, and to look for constant feedback from the outside world about how we’re doing or what others are doing, all of which serves to perpetuates suffering.. Looking outside of our self only accomplishes one thing: We get further and further away from whom we authentically are.

Never before in history have there been more opportunities for the comparing mind. We can check Facebook for the latest news about everyone we know…we can distract ourselves in any moment of our day to get external feedback… and thus keep the race alive. We have day-long media access to other people’s lives to compare ourselves to, standards to hold ourselves to, reminders of people whose lives are “more this” or “more that.” Whether we measure above or below some arbitrary standards that we have set, every moment we spend measuring and comparing perpetuates the illusion of separation. Not only do we set a long list of internal standards for ourselves, but we are also provided constant input from the world about what others are doing better, different, faster, cooler.

We are also alive at a time when our economic structures have been set up as a literal reflection of the not enough/too much “I” mentality. Nowhere in nature is it modeled that the maximum (as much energy as an organism has) should be used up and drained out in order for that organism to simply receive the basic nutrients it needs for survival. Given our basic economic model reflects the conditioned messages we receive that create the illusion of the race, what is the antidote to this insanity?

Leaving the race requires us to make 3 simple fundamental shifts in our orientation to life:

  • A shift from looking outside ourselves for information to looking within, which means a shift from focusing on CONTENT to PROCESS
  • A shift from experiencing life as a race to life as ART
  • A shift from a ME mentality to a WE mentality

When we focus on PROCESS, we have only one priority, and that is to pay attention to every unfolding moment of our lives, which is where kindness, well-being, and natural intelligence reside. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing (content); what is important is the quality of attention we bring to it. Our only purpose is to meet life with wakefulness and compassion. As soon as we make a shift to prioritizing process, the conversation is no longer about time. It’s no longer about “not enough.” It is no longer even about “me.” It is about being a wakeful and caring participant in the unfolding process of life. It’s about being part of something larger than ourselves. And it’s about freedom from suffering.

This job requires that we lose interest in what’s going on “out there.” “What’s that person all about?” and “What are they doing that I’m not?” “How do I measure up?” We literally lose interest, through falling in love with our authentic experience of life. In the process of losing interest and learning to cultivate and maintain our own field of presence, we begin to connect in a much different way to the world around us because we connect differently with ourselves. We experience our inherent interconnection with everyone and everything. Not the kind of connection we need to “make happen” or “effort to maintain” and not a connection that includes an “in/out”, but the effortless interconnection that is. We experience life as “WE” and even our personal creativity and pursuits are experienced as service to WE, rather than something “I” must do to prove myself.

When we make the shift to process, we view life as a mysterious and miraculous unfolding to witness and participate in, rather than viewing life as a race or daily chore that we somehow must get through. We show up for our lives as an artist shows up to an empty canvas or as a poet shows up to the blank page… driven by hunger to express the love, truth, and beauty that is who we are… driven by the desire to serve. An artist shows up for their art every single day. An artist doesn’t miss a day. An artist doesn’t have to question, ”Is there time for what my heart is here to create?” Likewise, as meditators we can approach our practice as life’s creativity. When we are focused on what is most important to us, driven by our spiritual fire and guided by a balance of fierceness and gentleness, giving ourselves fully to the art of life, there is no attention left for “not enough.” In the case of awareness practice, the art form is to mindfully carve away everything that is not who we really are to allow authenticity to be revealed.

Ironically, when we are present and aligned with our purpose, we find that nature supplies just the energy and time we need. We find that we have more energy for what matters because less energy is going to the story of “not enough.” We are surprised by how much we can get done but not attached to it. Because we create fewer messes, there is less to clean up. Perhaps you are reading this and it resonates with how you are living your life. Perhaps you feel intimidated or inspired but to live your life this way seems unattainable. Here are a few everyday encouragements for letting go of the myth of “not enough time” and cultivating the art of presence.

Meditate. It works.

Establish the discipline of turning your attention within regularly throughout your waking day and night. When we focus fully and wholeheartedly on our authenticl experience, there is no attention left for conditioning.

Let go of your addiction to the comparison mind. Drop it. It does not serve you.

When you find yourself unable to let it go, remember that judgment does not serve you either. Instead, bring curiosity and open-ness to inquiring into how the force of comparison compels you. Commit to practicing in a field of kindnessand compassion rather than judgment.

If you find yourself “too busy,” get clear about what is actually motivating your “busyness.” Are you being driven by “the race” in any way, subtle or not? Are you believing the “not enough” story?

Consider that in nature, there is time for everything and a season for everything. How could there be ‘not enough time” according to the natural world? What are you engaging in that it is actually not the natural time for? Where do you notice ego (separate self) setting deadlines and standards that are out of sync with the pace at which life seeks to organically evolve? Allow yourself to listen for and trust nature’s timing.

Turn your attention to satisfaction and gratitude for what is. Gratitude is available in every moment and is a revolutionary act in a world of “not enough.”

Make”doing nothing” a part of your schedule. Risk it. When we allow ourselves to stop, slow down, and savor life, without producing anything, we remember the sacred art of presence.

Remember humility. Humility reminds us of what is true: We cannot do it all in this lifetime. No human being can “do it all” and at the same time, humility reminds us that there is no need to do it all. Simply being and expressing who we are here to be is the most valuable experience and contribution we can offer.

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