Do you ever have the sense that time is rushing by? Here we are in the New Year and no sooner have the Christmas goods disappeared from the shops than the shelves are full of Easter bunnies. We may rile against this but, with or without the help of the supermarkets, it’s very easy to get into the habit of dividing the year into significant milestones – anniversaries, birthdays, summer holidays, Christmas etc. No sooner has one milestone passed than we have our sights set on the next one.
We hop from one thing to another. Our days may be divided into meal times, school runs, favourite TV programmes or exercise sessions and we may find ourselves rushing through the week to get to the weekend. If we are particularly busy or challenged we may find ourselves ‘getting through’ our day or week/month – even those milestones that we were once looking forward to. Before we know it, another year has disappeared and we ask each other: ‘where did the time go?’ It may be more pertinent to ask ourselves: ‘where did we go?’ Because although we may have become very skilled at multi-tasking and getting lots of things done, where are we at these times? We tend to be lost in our heads, caught up in our thoughts and operating on autopilot, focussing on where we are headed rather than where we are now.
Sometimes it’s nice to look ahead – we may think of the New Year in a hopeful way, as a fresh start or new beginning. Certainly, as we witness the new shoots coming out of the ground and the buds forming on the trees, we cannot help but open our hearts at the prospect of what is to come. It feels good to be inspired with the idea of new possibilities, a looking to the future. But often it can become a habit to always be mentally ahead of ourselves.
And maybe we have set ourselves goals for the coming year, things we want to achieve or change. But perhaps the most profound change we can make is to return to this moment – which simply means to bring awareness to what we are experiencing in any moment. Our thoughts may tell us that this moment isn’t very nice or interesting and that it is pointless to give it any attention. But if we bring a playful interest and curiosity to our experience we may discover things that we hadn’t noticed before – like how the sound of the rain on the glass feels soothing as we are cosy and warm indoors or that we have a little discomfort in our back and we need to move our position or that the shape of the branches of a tree without its leaves is quite striking or that the air smells different after the rain.
By choosing to return, to pay attention in an open, non-judgemental way to our surroundings – the people, the places, the sounds and smells, the feel of our own bodies as we move or stand still – our experience seems to come more clearly into focus and become more vivid. We wake up, become more alive and engaged with our surroundings. Life no longer rushes past us as we step out of our heads and into our lives. Maybe at the end of this year, instead of wondering where the time has gone, we will remember the multitude of moments that we have lived and we will marvel at how so much can have fitted into such a short time.