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Time Well Spent

Seed Pods at the park
Image: Sherry Finney Coffman
Walking in the park this morning I was present to so much life I was missing while working full time. Odd things like the trash truck going by made me aware of how clinical our experience can be when we're disconnected from the rhythm of life. A trash truck may seem like an odd example, but think about how many things occur in a 24 hour period of which we are completely unaware. While we are toiling away at our jobs making money to have a better life, Life is being lived all around us, mostly unseen. Birds are chirping, insects are flying and trees are growing. Am I advocating hippie communes for all? Absolutely not, but why are we allowing ourselves to believe that we will have time to live later? We are here now and this is the time we've been given. We would profit from choosing how we "spend" our time with the same consciousness with which we spend our money. Think about it. How often do you spend money on something you haven't chosen? With the exception of possibly taxes, I would say; it's not a frequent occurrence. Time, however, we allow to be held hostage to our jobs, our social "obligations" and even sometimes guilt. We get so caught up in the "should's" and our imagined "have to's" that we run through life from one event to the next. I wonder how many of us take time to consider if the time we pay is worth the value we get.

I had an epiphany, of sorts, in regards to this my last few years of teaching, and I shifted. At first, taking time for myself was difficult. I felt my students needed me to be available every minute that I was in the building. I gave up my lunch time, time after school, and even my "planning" period. I was never out for personal illness if I could stumble into the classroom. I felt that no one else could truly give my students what they needed. What I didn't know at the time was that my students were being cheated by ME. By exhausting myself, I was not able to be fully present to the wonder and fascination that is learning. Not only did I benefit from some time off the clock but when I expanded my self care from lunch a few days a week to no grading unless absolutely necessary on the weekends, Life became visible again and Joy filled my classroom. It is true that papers were not returned as quickly as they had been before, but learning still took place and I believe I can say that it was enhanced by my more peaceful state of mind. In taking the time outside of school to live life, I gave both myself and my students a gift. The world did not stop turning when I decided that it was ok to go to the park, attend a concert or play with my dog instead of giving every second of my life to my job. My students were no less happy and productive than before and my last year of teaching was the best I ever had.
So my challenge to you is to look around and consider what you may be missing. Where is Life flowing unnoticed by you? Then look at ways to participate more fully. You are not a job and the money you generate with it is meant to give you a LIFE, not steal life from you. However small a piece of time you choose to spend engaged in life will enhance your experience. Focus on those times and watch them grow. As Rumi says: 
What you seek is seeking you. Seek life; seek time spent for something of value.

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