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Jivamukti Focus of the Month

Time Management

Time Poem by Sharon Gannon

tyaktva karma-phala-asangam / nitya-tripto nirashrayah karmany abhipravritto ‘pi / na-eva kimchit karoti sah

He who has let go of the results of his actions is content and free of dependency,
knowing that it is not he who acts even when performing actions

Bhagavad Gita IV.20

Many of us struggle with time. We try to fit everything in, and we worry that we may have missed windows of perfect timing—if I had just been ready, the timing would have worked out; if I had just had more time, I could have done it better; there’s not enough time to get everything done; and on and on…

There are many books published and workshops offered on the topic of time management and organization, and they may provide some helpful tips. But as yogis, we look to the root causes of our dissatisfaction, and in this case, the underlying issue is disappointment and self-loathing—thinking that we’re not good enough, that there’s something missing, that we should be able to accomplish more. We all suffer from these self-doubts to some extent; none of us is alone in this.

So how can we resolve this struggle? By doing our best to make the most of our time, but at the same time knowing when to ease up and acknowledge that I did my best, and guess what? I’m going to get up tomorrow morning and try again to do my best. That is the practice—to renew our commitment to doing our best while simultaneously not holding ourselves to any particular outcome. If we color our efforts with a constant feeling that we didn’t do our best, that we’re disappointed in ourselves, that there was some better way and if we could only find it or someone could help us, then everything would be okay, then we experience the suffering of time. In fact, we have actually found the solution already. What we are doing now in this very moment, how we are doing it, is exactly what we should be doing—there is no other thing to do or other way to do it! And if we could just get inside of one moment of that, instead of doubting and thinking this probably is not… I don’t know… it might not… it’s the only thing I… it’s what’s happening… well, I don’t…. You just inhale and exhale and step one foot in front of the other.

The practice of shavasana (the “seat of the corpse”) is very useful in this work. It helps us, not quite to overcome, but at least to begin to understand this struggle more deeply, because it brings us to an awareness of the impermanence of life and the nearness of death. It is actually a practice of dying. We lay down and tell ourselves this is it, I can’t do anything else, there are no more projects I can do, there’s nobody else to call, there are no more emails, there’s nothing else… all there is is just to let go into this. And as yogis we practice that every day. Through that practice, we prepare ourselves for death, not in the way that we have been conditioned by our culture to operate—by getting as much done as quickly as possible, frantically, against all odds—but by actually participating in the doing of everything we do. Meditation is another profound practice that can help here—connecting to the eternal, unchanging reality within and coming to see that the struggles and self-doubts are not the real you. That’s the art of yoga: exploring how to participate by asking questions like: What is this me who’s doing these things? Who is this ahamkara—this sense of self, or ego? Who is the real doer here? A yogi strives to relinquish doer-ship through surrender to God, by praying, asking to be made an instrument for God’s will. We have to find some way that works for us every morning, or at least some time during the day, to offer ourselves as a conduit for the Divine Will, because if we—meaning our limited personality self—think we have to do the whole thing, it gets overwhelming, and we will be doomed to fail. But if we can surrender to limitless potential, if we can let go and let God, if we can make ourselves into a conduit, then we can do it!

—Sharon Gannon

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