Some thoughts on time and acceptance of time, by your faithful editor, Arielle Guy
May 7, 2012
First, I just want to say, thank you for everyone’s patience in waiting for this issue. And, other than that, Hallelujah! that it’s finally published! Absolutely gorgeous and moving work in this issue, I am so grateful to all of the contributors. Thank you!
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This weekend, I finally wrapped up the current issue of Turntable. It didn’t even require more than the usual one cup of coffee per day. My schedule had just finally cleared enough so I had a good part of two full days to devote to posting and editing. This span of luxurious time to devote to one task was a revelation. In the past several months, I’ve fit in uploads between work deadlines and proofreading jobs and coaching appointments. I thought of time and space and downtime and uptime and whatever else kind of time and how schedules and urgencies and deadlines make up a life. It doesn’t matter how busy we are, how many hours a week we work, busy is busy. Comparing hours logged doesn’t matter. What is busy to us is busy to us and we can tune in and listen to what our own personal thresholds are. And, what I’ve found is that, even in the midst of this busiest of times I have just gone through, a breath in the middle of it all, letting myself rest even a little bit, with eyes closed and computer off, expands time in an almost miraculous way. I say “almost” because there must be some law of physics that addresses what happens when taking a pause to be aware of the present moment. Quantum dharma.
Measuring Stillness and Deep Acceptance
The beginning months of this year have been a lesson in acceptance. Acceptance isn’t partial or occluded. It is the essence of unconditional view and attitude, bearing carried through in every situation, with every person, with every thought and feeling. This kind of dedication to truth, to the underlying reality of each experience, is a skill. In some ways, it comes naturally to be where we are, to experience life in a raw and immediate way. But life teaches us to shut down, protect ourselves, place barriers between ourselves and our experience, our own thoughts and emotions. Seeing through these constructions of rules and expectations and busyness, of entanglements and denial, is a lifelong pursuit. In the pursuit, there is revelation and a constancy that can only be found in the shifting of the very ground beneath us. The paradox of acceptance and constantly shifting reality is that it cuts through to the core of experience itself—a conflagration of quantum and four-dimensional reality. The reality beyond reality, in reality, existing parallel and intertwined like DNA strands in our daily lives. The very inaccessibility and uncertainty of subatomic particles is what builds the ground under us. We are made of illuminated substance that isn’t substance at all, yet it’s tangible on levels we can’t even fathom, can’t see. The measuring and acceptance of these two seemingly conflicting states of reality is reality itself.
We deal with an ever-changing world that we try to hold steady with toothpicks, we try to keep warm with flames from small matches. It’s like trying to hold the planets in a colander. The orbits and gravity and attachment of the universe to itself is transcended by the speed of light and dying stars and black holes and dark matter, elements of reality we can’t explain fully, elements that exist and we know of their existence only by their effect on other elements. The universe is, for the most part, unknown. Our lives are, for the most part, unknown. Yet we try to build structures and schedules and goals and even dreams that sustain on the tightrope of time, emotion, flesh, and thought.
Since January, time has not gone the way I expected. Schedules have been disrupted to such a degree that whatever original plan there was dissipated into ether. I spent a lot of the last few months being angry and frustrated and worried. What I found, to my surprise, was these disturbances were only on the surface. When I went deeper, there was a beautiful silence, a steady peace, the cradle of acceptance that felt like birth itself, death itself, where all things merged into one whole piece of sustained reality. All of the science in the world, all of the psychology, coping mechanisms, clotheslines, dish strainers, family albums, house walls, pay checks, are no match for this world beyond time and space, this connection to a divine peace, a mystery that will never be solved, and in which we sit like babies on a mother’s breast. The truth of this mystery is comforting, once we get beyond the sheer terror of everything we think we know expiring into nothingness, emptiness.
How does this all relate to daily life? It has had an astounding effect on my mind and how it works, and how I think about things, and how I maneuver through my day. Stress, fear, tension, sadness, anger, joy, desire, longing all still arise, frequently, and every moment, I turn to them and, instead of interpreting or craving or distancing, I look toward them, and inquire into their nature, their feel, texture, bodily sensation, accompanying thoughts and beliefs. This inquiry was first done so I could find peace, be at peace, cultivate acceptance and comfort and relax into my life. The stage that came after this wrangling with, again, trying to pin down peace and comfort, was the deepest lesson I have ever learned in my life. I learned to be with the experience, without looking even one second ahead, with full immersion in the emotion or bodily sensation, full presence. This is a constant vigilance, one that requires awareness each moment, and a willingness to not define, predict, tell stories about, or repel or drown in any particular experience.
Our stories are powerful, seductive, compelling, melodramatic, fascinating. They make our lives into epics. The thing that is so heartbreaking is that, without these stories, we are even more heroic, more epic. Being with what is without effort, without trying to frame it, is the deepest, most powerful experience there is. We can want so desperately that our hearts feel like they will break out of our chests, feel grief so intense that it weighs our bodies down like lead, feel love so overwhelming, we shy away from it with our beliefs about relationships and intimacy, and we can train ourselves to stay. To stay with all of it, intense and overpowering as it is. This is true intimacy.
So during these first months of the year, when I have been unable to do everything I wanted, everything I set out to do on January 1st, I have been learning, slowly, achingly, how to accept this. To accept that I can’t run three businesses, see my friends, edit my arts magazine, work out, do yoga, do my dishes, breathe, walk, make coffee, cook healthy meals, open the windows, be there for my family, feel everything I am feeling, pay attention to my thoughts, meditate, look up at the stars, attend events, sleep, watch TV and have downtime, all at the same time. I have not learned how to not sleep. I have not learned how to multitask to such an efficient degree that I can get everything done faster. I have learned that I can’t do everything.
Balance is a trick of the mind. In the middle of everything, I have learned how to balance. When nothing is getting done and I am ridiculously behind on everything, I have learned how to balance. What are my priorities, what are the real quality activities I want to do, where is my energy highest, deepest, most rooted?
I think about those little atoms dancing and the beautiful, unpredictable electrons, neutrons, and protons, quarks and unknown subatomic particles dancing, and moving, never knowing where they will move toward, never even knowing where they are, and there is amazing and awe-inspiring hope and openness there. The very nature of physical reality is built on a movement so unknown, it becomes a stable ground for us to understand and feel and live toward. We live on this earth and can feel physical earth beneath our feet, air in our lungs, our heartbeats and senses and the experience of light and darkness, fear and pain, ecstasy and faith, and it is all of apiece. It is a whole, the cradle of which is deep reality, immediate presence, and constant shifting, movement that is so constant, it holds stillness within it. In this, there is peace and we can develop skill to stay there. Stay there and work with accepting each experience exactly as it is. This is being true to ourselves, to our lives, to our experience. This discipline leaves no room for denial or interpretation or prediction. This loyalty to our experience, every moment, obliterates any lie, any protective mechanism, survival skill, learned resistance and distancing from ourselves and others and life and death. This is divine and wondrous. In each new moment, there is each new moment. Balancing this out with getting chores done, striving for goals, forming relationships is the essence of truth—in all of these pursuits lies the very nature of reality itself. It’s about how we approach our lives. We can stand open and vulnerable to our lives, letting our thoughts pass, working with our resistance and compulsion, and holding steady, heart engaged, releasing our stories, letting ourselves fully experience our lives, without trying to change them.