Today is December 21. Perhaps your email inbox has been like mine: every retailer from which I’ve ever purchased anything needed to remind me that there are only a few more days until Christmas, and that I needed to buy something today for it to arrive in time. There is an urgency afoot…not only now, during this holiday gift-buying frenzy, but also in our rapid-response news cycle, our text-message-laden social lives, and even our business dealings that seem to require immediate responses to email.
Maybe you’re someone who says: “I just don’t have enough time!” I know I’ve said this. And I know what happens when I think that way: I feel anxious. My muscles tighten. The importance of whatever I need to do next spirals out of proportion, and I lose perspective and a sense of the big picture.
When we believe that “there isn’t enough time,” we can act rashly, and bring a lot of unnecessary tension and strain into our thinking and our bodies.
Let me tell you three of the most important words I know. Try saying them to yourself:
I Have Time.
What did you notice? Did anything change in your body, in your thinking?
When I tell myself “I have time,” I often feel an abrupt slowing down, a sense that whatever I need to do next is less urgent, though often not less important. I know that approaching my next task with a sense of time and space will allow me to do it with more ease, and do it more completely, effectively, and mindfully.
This is one of my two favorite tea mugs. (I drink a lot of tea). I got it at the very first annual conference that I attended of American Society for the Alexander Technique, in 2007, at the end of my first year of teacher training. You can see it’s slightly battered, scarred, stained. I use it almost every day. The message “I have time” is printed on one side. (While not unique to the Alexander Technique, this phrase was used in the teaching of Walter Carrington, an influential 20th century Alexander Technique teacher and trainer of teachers.)
One of the reasons I love this mug is that I can identify with it. Sometimes life seems to get the better of us, and we feel run down, a little battered, especially as the air gets colder and time seems to close in. We feel like we have to rush, or effort our way forward. Reminding myself that “I have time” takes the pressure off, helps me to be more present and more aware of what I really need to be doing. Sometimes that’s continuing with my work, and sometimes that’s taking 60 seconds to just drink my tea.
Often, taking that time requires intentional work. It takes discipline. The scratches on the mug remind me that I’ll come through the work strong and resilient.
Another thing I love about this mug is that it’s huge. It takes almost a full 16 ounces of tea. Not only do I have time, but I have a LOT of it!
Now, I can almost hear the dialogue in your thinking. (I know, because it’s in mine, too.) “That’s all very well to say that I have time, but I have X, Y, Z to get done before 4:00 today, and then I have a deadline tomorrow and we’re leaving town on Friday afternoon…”
But here’s the secret – Taking time doesn’t take very long. It can just be a micro-pause, where you remind yourself that you don’t have to rush. You can just notice the space around you, allowing your Self to gently expand into the air above you, behind you, in front of you, and to either side of you.
I have my students at IU practice this in class. We intentionally build micro-pauses into every-day actions, things like opening their instrument cases, moving a music stand, reaching for their school bags, or taking a drink of water or coffee. I made some stickers for them during the 2nd-to-last week of class, as part of their “Alexander Technique Toolbox,” using printer labels, and I asked them to place the stickers somewhere they would see it frequently. One of my students said that this phrase had been revolutionary in the way that they thought about music, and about their career.
So often we think we have to rush into the next thing… but we don’t.
We. Have. Time.
Today is December 21, which is also the Winter Solstice here in the northern hemisphere. It’s an opportunity for us to notice how the natural world rests, taking time during the winter months, preparing for the seasons of rapid growth and renewal that wait just under the snow. The world seems to slow down, and we can slow down with it.
When you recognize that you have time, you have that potential for growth and life-giving action, you can be as quick as you choose but not rushed, you are calmer, and you are more free to enjoy your days, both your work and your play.
Say it with me again: I have time.
If you’re wondering how this idea of taking time fits in with postural coordination, or why freeing my neck has anything to do with my approach to my career, come in for a lesson or schedule a free phone consultation and we’ll chat. I’ll make some space for you to take time, and you’ll recognize that you already have it.
Did you just say to yourself, “That sounds nice, but I don’t have time to come in for an Alexander Technique lesson?”
If you did, remember:
You. Have. Time.