Jan 22, 2018

Kabat-Zinn on stepping out of time

In Full Catastrophe Living (on p. 453-4 of my copy):

Still, time has always been a huge mystery, and there is no sign that that will ever not be the case. At some stages of life, it may feel as if there is never enough time to do what we need to do. Often we don't know where time has gone, the years pass by so fast. At other stages, time may weigh heavily upon us. The days and the hours can seem interminable. We don't know what to do with all our time. Crazy as it may sound, I am suggesting that the antidote to time stress is intentional non-doing, and that non-doing is applicable whether you are suffering from not having "enough time" or suffering from having "too much time." The challenge here is for you to put this proposition to the test in your own life, to see for yourself whether your relationship to time can be transformed through the practice of non-doing – in other words, through the cultivation of mindfulness.

If you feel completely overwhelmed by the pressures of time, you might wonder: how could it possibly help to take time away from everything you "have to do" in order to practice non-doing? And on the other hand, if you are feeling isolated and bored and have nothing but time on your hands, you might wonder how it could possibly help to fill this burden of unfilled time with "nothing."

The answer is simple and not at all far-fetched: well-being, inner balance, and peacefulness exist outside of time. If you commit yourself to spending some time each day in inner stillness, even if it is for two minutes, or five, or ten, for those moments you are stepping out of the flow of time altogether. The stillness and calm, the sense of well-being and wakeful presence that come from letting go of time transform your experience of time when you move back into it. Then, by simply bringing awareness to present-moment experience, it becomes possible to flow along with time during your day rather than constantly fighting against it or feeling driven by it.

The more you practice making some time in your day for non-doing, the more your whole day becomes non-doing; in other words, the more it is suffused with an awareness grounded in the present moment and therefore outside of time.