Sunday, June 26, 2011

Value Yourself, Value Your Time

I have a horrible habit of wasting time. And there is no better enabler to a lazyass like me than the internet. If there is work to be done, facebook, tumblr, twitter and email, here I come!!

However, this post is not about the internet and its usefulness versus its seductive time-suck qualities. This is about me. And you. And our time on this earth. We know it is limited, and actually frighteningly short. In contrast to other belief systems, Buddhists believe that our mindstream will continue into one life form to another after we exit from this life, provided that we are still stuck in the cycle of suffering and rebirth (Samsara). However, this cycle is not some kind of karmic joyride. Human beings who live well have some of the best chances of all sentient beings to end the cycle of suffering caused by ignorance, anger, and delusion (regardless of religion). Compared to the promise of an afterlife found in the Abrahamic religions, this too adds a sense of urgency, so that we see our lives as an opportunity that should not be trifled with.

Yet, regardless of this awareness, we still find countless ways to waste our own time. And it is frustrating, at least to me. Seconds tic by, then minutes, hours, years, and decades, eventually concluding yet another lifetime. Time is a one-way ticket, as each passing moment is gone forever.

In an effort to begin quelling my desire to waste time, I felt that I first had to understand why I do it. Is it boredom? Fatigue? Anxiety? Selfishness? On the surface, it could be any of those things. But when I thought about it, I realized that there was a direct correlation to my wasting time and feeling down in the dumps. Ironically, it is the self-centered feeling generated by my 'woe is me' attitude that contributes to my own self-neglect. This manifests itself in not taking as much care in what I wear, eat, how well I sleep, and yes, how I spend my time. If I am happy and content I am much less likely to spend my time tooling around the internet or mindlessly watching TV.

Why? If I am feeling depressed, I get caught up in a destructive and self-centered 'I am worthless' monologue, which sucks the life out of any goals or priorities that I would normally deem worthy and important. If I am not important, my goals are not important, then my time certainly does not seem so important. So I waste it, despite how much I am intellectually aware of how valuable it is. 

My conclusion: I believe mindfulness of emotions is the answer. Although I may realize the destructiveness of self-pity-induced languor, it, along with sadness and anger, still occur. I am a human being, and I know that still having so many ties to ignorance, anger, and delusion means that negative emotions will creep in. But instead of pushing them away, having these emotions offers an opportunity to observe them mindfully, to study and learn from them. This mindfulness has helped me realize that they are also impermanent.

So though time is a complex phenomenon, it ticks along as we breathe from one moment to the next. Just as we need to truly value ourselves in order to value others, we need to value our breath, or true being, in order to value our time. When we can value our breath, we can use our time wisely to live in the present moment to strive towards and achieve the the things we care about most.

"Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life." Thich Nhat Hanh

May all beings be happy!!

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