Time Zones

+ time zones world map 6460431_sCrossing time zones and visiting unfamiliar cities in rapid succession can be disorienting and un-grounding at best. I’ve been traveling recently, taking several trips within a fairly short amount of time. Though I crossed time zones on only one trip, it was a noticeable one – Ireland is five hours ahead of us. The late evening flight from Boston arrived in Dublin at 8 a.m. their time, 3 a.m. Boston time. Bleary-eyed, I was thrown off to see the Dublin population out and about in their morning mode when we arrived. Wasn’t it the middle of the night? Apparently not in Ireland!

The few times I’ve traveled into dramatically different time zone has taught me that stepping right into the new schedule is a good a way to adjust quickly. Upon arrival, I immediately re-set my watch, eat some “time-appropriate” food (ok, it’s time for breakfast now!), and slide into the routine of the day in the “new” time. I also try to stop thinking of it as the “new” time and just let it be time. I nap a little bit, but don’t sleep too much until it is bedtime in the new place.

In other words, I try as much as possible to “be here, now” in the new time zone from the start. Hey! Be here, now – isn’t that a spiritual practice?

Traveling to new continents is not the only situation in which I need to practice being in the here and now. It is all too easy for me to “time travel” without even getting on a plane. Though I don’t physically change location, my thoughts and energy can transport me into the past time zone and the future time zone in an instant. My mind gets caught up in what was and what might be. I have to say, it isn’t much of a vacation being in either of these time zones. Both the past and the future can be fraught with discomfort and leave me ungrounded.

When I’m in the past time zone, there is a tendency to wish I could have “do-overs,” as we called it when we were kids. I rehash interactions I’m not satisfied with (“What if I’d said…?” “If only we’d….”), or regret an outcome, try to second-guess results. Is any of this familiar to you?

In the future, worry is my favorite occupation. I picture, imagine, envision – not the “good” kind of envisioning, but the kind where I fret, am overly concerned, and fearful. And did I mention being fearful?

I have so much experience being in the past and the future time zones that I have to consciously cultivate the present in order to really be here now. I’m getting better at it, I’ve improved over the years, but, I’ll be honest – I’ve got a long way to go, The incentive to be in the present is strong, however, because the pay-off is so rich. Truly being present is freeing. It’s the No-Fear Zone! There is no fear about what happened that I can’t do anything about, and no fear about what’s coming that I can’t do anything about (are you sensing a theme here?).

When fear isn’t present, love, or at least acceptance, often is. So, if the present is the No-Fear Zone, then it must be full of love or acceptance. Love and acceptance bring ease, comfort, flow, satisfaction, fun, pleasure, grace. It’s a nice zone to be in! Imagine the moment you’re in right now feeling completely free of tension (which is fear), restriction, concern, worry, regret. Can you feel the sense of openness, of spaciousness, of connection with Spirit?

The word present has the same root as the word presence. Presence cues us into how to be present. When I think of a person with presence, I think of her being attentive, calm, graceful, and dignified. She notices what is around her but is not overwhelmed by it. She is not detached or vacant energetically, but gently connected to herself while also being separate from the fray. She is grounded and balanced in body, mind and spirit.

I would like to cultivate more of this kind of presence, of being in the present. There are many tools and mantras from spiritual traditions and teachers to help me learn this, but my current practice is one I created myself. Throughout the course of the day, I ask myself, “What time zone am I in right now?” If I realize that I’m in the past or the future, I remind myself that the time zone I’m really in is the present. This is the moment at hand. Any other time zone is just a creation of my mind. By simply recalling this, a feeling of expansion and relaxation comes over me. I use the moment – the present moment — to breathe a conscious breath, to look up at the clouds in the sky, to feel myself in my body. I connect with whatever I’m doing with more attention, rather than doing one thing and thinking about three others at the same time.

It’s a daily, continuous practice to be in the present, but the more I experience it, the more I appreciate it. What time zone are you in right now? Join me in the present. Let’s get acquainted with it together, one moment at a time.


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