About Time


This weekend I will be speaking at the annual Land Air Water conference at the University of Oregon.  My panel will be addressing the connection between how much time we spend at “work” and environmental damage and climate change.  It’s a bit of an unusual topic for me to speak about but as I’ve been working on my speech I’ve realized how much my relationship with time has changed over these past really challenging but hugely growth-filled eighteen months. 
I’ve had a lifelong struggle to be a human being instead of a human doing.  I have based so much of my identity, my goals and my time prioritization on being productive and delivering in my professional endeavors.  This has certainly partly been based on my oh-so-human self-fabricated ego seeking validation and recognition.  And I think it’s been greatly exacerbated by the fact that I feel such urgency to make change, to reverse the tremendous damage we are inflicting on this miraculous blue planet that I love.
It is hard to describe the shock, when my life blew up, of having all of the work I had been so deeply immersed in, abruptly yanked away.  My environmental and clean energy work, my work on poverty, all of it, even most of my colleagues, gone.  At first, I railed and thrashed and tried to force my work forward even in the midst of the terrible turmoil and pain.  It was to no avail and I finally gave in to the fact that I myself was too damaged, too worn out and freaked out to really “work” anyway.  I reached a point of surrender, realizing that all I could control or “Do” was the inner, spiritual work.  For the first time in my life I really slowed down.  Once I did, I was actually sort of shocked to realize how hard I had been working and pushing for so long. 
I had meditated for years but always treated it as a discipline, something to cross off the daily Do List.  Over these past months I have spent hours meditating …  unhurriedly.  I’ve studied spirituality and consciousness, and made space for lengthy conversations about those topics instead of the “work” that I had been so focused on.  I’ve read novels and watched movies.  I’ve volunteered building fences for dogs living on chains and rehabing injured wildlife.  Sometimes I forewent the intense, pound it out run in exchange for a long, slow hike.  I’ve taken time to really be present with, talk and interact with strangers. 
And lo and behold I like it!  I have realized, once I was forced to stop driving so hard, I didn’t want to drive so hard.  This has been a period of reflection, deep healing and powerful insights that is adding so much richness and depth to my life.  
Now, over the past six months or so I have been resuming the “Work”, moving forward again with my career and my efforts to protect and restore Nature.  I am working with some great clients again and doing a lot of writing, including for a new magazine I’m helping to launch called Issue Magazine.  It feels great to be working again, to be making a contribution to my clients and my cause and I am deeply grateful to be rolling once more. 
And yet, I am not rolling quite so fast or working as long or as “hard” as I did before.  I’m not allowing my meditation time to be the first thing to go when I feel the pressure of a deadline.  I’m committed to maintaining this new, gentler, more open relationship with time. 
And I am seeing amazing results!  Solutions just seeming to come easily, opportunities laying themselves before me and deeper, richer personal connections with my clients.  It is fascinating and exciting. 
I’ve always known that my work on behalf of the Earth was spiritual work, but in reality I was mostly giving that lip service, skimming along the surface.  This recent unasked for and greatly resisted sabbatical was something of a spiritual intervention and a gift.  Shifting how I prioritize time has brought me full spiral back to my roots but on a slightly higher rung.  I’m no longer spending time; I’m investing it. 
Cylvia Hayes
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