Time and routine

In the traditional calendar of the Church this week is the last week of the year, and this evening, as light fades, the New Year begins. This older calendar probably measures time closer to the natural seasons and the rhythm of nature, even though this year, on a beautiful late autumn day like today, winter seems quite far away.

As in many other areas of life, we have a choice as to how to see and use our time. One understanding of time at this period of the year suggests that that there is not enough of it, that we need to hurry up now, that there is a lot to be done to prepare for the holiday celebrations. Today the shops were full with people, as the Christmas shopping festival makes its demands on our use of time. On the other hand, the traditonal church calendar and the way of nature suggests that this is a period to slow down, reflect and restore.

One way or the other we have to find a way to punctuate time and place value on how we use it. Like many I know, I struggle constantly to find a way to nurture my inner life while at the same time juggling time pressure in the face of the various demands of work life. It is easy to commit ourselves to this culture’s insistence on product and action until it exhausts us and we forget why we even do them in the first place. We tell ourselves that things are too hectic and that we need rest. We say that we will do better tomorrow and we do not.

One way of staying grounded in the face of our busy lives is the familiarity of routine. Routine connects us to one essential thing, our place in the universe. Morning and evening, season by season, year after year we watch the sun rise and set, beginnings and endings follow on one another inevitably. To establish a routine of meditation allows us resist the demands of more pressing events. The hard fact is that nobody really has time for meditation. The time has to be made. There will always be more something more pressing to do, something more important than the apparantly wasted time of mediation. Our focus is not on how to feel right for meditation, or whether we are too busy or whether we can meditate correctly but to just show up and meditate. Period. How else can we work out the real meaning of time? If it is just for rushing and work, what will we do when work is done? What is the point of leading a useful, successful life, if we do not live a meaningful one?

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