Tag Archives: time

Perceiving Time

There are some interesting relationships between how our minds and memories work, and how we experience time. This seems especially pertinent at the moment. I hear from many people that lockdown is causing them to experience days really dragging by in a slow way, and yet somehow this year seems to have gone very quickly.

It’s to do with how we store memories. Our brains only store specific memories of stand-out things – this is why you are more likely to remember the first time you did something than the eleventh time. Once something becomes a generic experience, you won’t remember it as precisely. If you have routines, you’ll remember the generic routine, and only remember specific instances that stood out from it.

Time moves differently for us when we’re paying attention to it. A day with novelty in it, with different activities and experiences – some of which are not overly familiar – is a day that moves quickly and at the same time seems to last longer.

Life in lockdown has proved narrow for many people, and so time drags, but at the same time there are no stand out memories formed through recent months.

It would be fair to say that I’ve not had this experience personally – a great deal has happened for me, and I’ve had enough stand out experiences that March seems rather a long time ago.

What we do impacts dramatically on how we experience time, and that in turn can have a significant impact on quality of life and feelings of satisfaction. I find it interesting that we are encouraged from so many sources to have routines – especially around our spiritual lives.  A daily practice that is too routine will just tend to become a generic memory. A more varied approach may very well leave a person with a richer and more interesting sense of their own spiritual life and self.


Druidry and time, continued

This is my second blog post contemplating a druidic relationship with time. The first one is here – druidlife.wordpress.com/2020/06/19/druidry-and-time/

About ten years ago I had a run of experiences that caused me to focus very much on day to day life. Things that mattered greatly to me seemed unviable, or that I was threatened with losing. It was a frightening time, but, all I could do was take it day by day. Although things were hard, that day by day focus on gratitude, appreciation and making the very best I could of what I did have got me through and taught me a lot.

All the important stuff eventually worked out in the way I needed it to, as an aside.

The legacy from that time remains with me.  It taught me a lot about how to think about life. It taught me how precious the small things are, and how you never get the time back and how important it is to celebrate and honour what you have right now.

This is more of a seize the day philosophy than a live in the moment approach. It was impossible to live in the moment with the future so uncertain and so fearful. But it was possible to dig into each day as much as I could, to relish the best bits and make the best of what I had. I never lost sight of the bigger picture, but I focused a lot on the details of everyday life. And I learned that most of the important stuff is made out of those details anyway.

Whether we accept it or not, our relationships with time bring us a lot of uncertainty. You never really know how long you will have with a person, in a place, a job or anything else. I’ve found along the way that I regret things I didn’t do far more than I regret the mistakes I made. Life doesn’t always give second chances, so when I can, I jump in with both feet.  It’s important to recognise the uncertainty, I think. Important not to put off opportunities that might never come again and to recognise how brief and fragile life is. And then to engage with it as much as possible on a day to day basis. Take it as it comes, love it in its smallest parts.

I’m a big fan of doing little or nothing. Time spent on not much can be time very well spent. The one to watch for is when you’re filling in the time, or worse yet, killing time, when you aren’t really engaged with what you are doing.

I don’t think there’s any specific philosophy about time that is more innately druidic than any other, only to value what we get, to make the most of it in whatever way makes most sense to you. Whatever your relationship with time is, make it conscious. Choose it. Live it. Even if you have a wider belief that gives you all the time in the universe, this moment is precious and will never come in quite the same way again,


Druidry and time

Mindfulness as the idea of a state of living in the moment has become popular in Druidry as in most places. The idea that we should live in the present appeals to many people, but is one I remain uneasy about. It also seems to me to be at odds with much that is in the Druid tradition. We know the ancient Druids were keepers of history. Bards are tellers of stories. Ovates practice divination and look to the future. So while there are times when we might want to be focused on the present, Druidry exists in relationship with past, present and future.

It doesn’t help that the ‘mindfulness’ we get in the west is increasingly a practice stripped from its origins and packaged for us to consume. It is an increasingly unrooted concept and treated as a cure-all and there are a lot of reasons to be wary about embracing it with no context in this way. I don’t think that what passes for ‘mindfulness’ out of context has much to do with the original practice or anyone involved with it as part of their path.

Looking ahead is essential if you intend to lead or teach – and leadership, and teaching are both part of the Druid tradition.

Looking ahead is vital if you mean to create anything. Creativity that happens only in the moment tends to be self indulgent. If we want to use inspiration to meaningfully engage with someone else we need our roots in the past and an eye to the future.

It’s good to be present and alert to what’s going on. Life doesn’t give you much if you pay it no attention. But at the same time, the context for the present moment is held by where we have come from and where we might be going. Our brains have a capacity for holding a lot within the present moment, we’ve evolved to understand things in context, and if we want to relate to our natural selves, I see no point in trying to strip that away. Nature doesn’t live in the moment either. The cat poised to pounce is in some degree living in the future, so is the bird building a nest and the insects laying up a store for the winter. Trees begin making their leaf buds in winter and carry inside them the growth ring memory of previous years.

To properly understand the present moment, we need the context for it. To live responsibly, we most certainly need to be aware of the future and the implications of our actions. To be a Druid is to be in relationship with time. Choosing to step out of time for specific purposes may make sense, but overall Druidry calls us to be in relationship with time.


How to create well

One of the unexpected blessings of lockdown has been an opportunity to rethink how I live and work. Not having the lad in school has changed the shape of the day because I don’t have to get up early. I’ve also changed how and when I sleep – something I’ll blog about another day. The result is much greater flexibility, which I’m enjoying.

It’s clear there’s all kinds of upheaval coming for me – which I’m looking forward to. With much of the future uncertain it struck me as a good idea to look at my priorities and preferences. I can’t plan much, but I can be ready to make the best of what comes along.

One of the things that has become obvious is that if I want to work creatively, I have to rethink how I deploy my time. If all of my available energy and concentration in a day goes on paying work, it’s not sustainable. There comes a point where I can’t do any creative work because I’ve run out of resources. This should be blindingly obvious, but the pressure to be productive and economically effective is high, and the things I really need to be doing don’t look productive.

I need time to read for pleasure and also to study. I need time to experiment, mess about, practice and explore without having to worry about creating a viable finished product. I need to spend time doing things that cheer and uplift me and engaging with the people who delight and inspire me. I also need time when I’m not doing anything much with my brain – to daydream and wool gather, to ask what if and why, and wherefore?

I don’t have my best ideas by pushing for them. I have my best ideas by making space for them.

I can be structured and professional about the writing, but it only works for the long haul if I also get enough playtime.

I don’t think this is just a writing issue. I don’t think it’s just a creative industries issue. I think it’s going to be about the same for everyone. No matter what you do, too much focus on productivity will be unproductive in many ways. The space to live and grow is essential. I think it’s ironic that if you want to be the most effective working human being, the odds are that slowing down and not trying to work so much are the keys to success. It takes time to live a life that is inspired. Not having the pressure to succeed and produce is actually really helpful when it comes to success and output.  And even if that wasn’t the case, this is still the better way to live.

I’m now aiming for four or five hours of productive work every day and four or five hours or investment time, plus time spent living.


Meditations on time and space

Normally I am more organised about the blog, setting up posts in advance when I know I have a mad day ahead, writing early so they go up before they show up. Time management is utterly key for me – as it is for most self employed folk and people who work from home. There is no one else to supply the discipline and structure, working out what has to be done when and in what order, how to get the most mileage out of resources, be efficient and get some breaks.

Frankly today is not going to plan. But there is a blog post (of sorts) and I have now dismantled my old bed and am drawing breath before it leaves and the new one turns up. This is part of an epic plan to maximise space (by most people’s standards, this is a VERY small flat for three people). It’s also the first time in our married life that Tom and I have a bed we both picked and that is specifically for us. Given both the practical and symbolic role of the bed, this is a bit of a moment.

Time management… space management… there’s not as much of either as would be optimal, but both raise similar questions about how to get best use, how not to be cluttered up with needless things. Knowing what’s important, what’s needed, what’s negotiable and what isn’t. Getting to that knowledge as a couple, exchanging ideas and finding out who we are individually and collectively in this space, in this time.

Arguably this is a dull, mundane day full of housework things. It would be so easy to let this be sheer grind, and to let it all pass by without reflection or consideration. Everything is an opportunity to grow. Everything is an opportunity to let go of something, to be lighter and more liberated. In this case we’re letting go of bed size, because we don’t use it. There’s self knowledge in the letting go. Everything is an opportunity to ponder and contemplate.


Unquiet land

Perhaps naught in this life is real at all,
Deity sleeps and dreams that it is so
We may dare to imagine, cannot know
Are we wisps of fancy, destined to fall
If ever time the sleeper should awake?

Picture the dreaming god who is all things
Breathes deeply in the peace of utter rest,
Whose one exhale a flock of decades brings
Eternity yet marches on his chest,
But name him not lest naming make him stir.

When deity breathes in all must contract,
The many flowing back towards the source,
As tides of being turn to run their course
The disparate align and are compact.
Once more drawn tight in union of space.

And when the breathing out returns at last,
All things unmesh and fly upon their way,
The time for reconciliation past,
Unmaking comes in turn to have its day
While deity in slumber worries not.

So moves the current, thus washes the tide,
Or worlds and time, of all that yet might be,
For dreams of gods are vast and stretching wide
Unknowable in their enormity.
Who dares to picture this must rend their mind.

Come down into the slow dark earth to wait
Where centuries lie heavy in the soil
Time running thick and slow as midnight oil
Sticky the cloying touch of eager fate
Of all that is and was and yet could be.

For what has gone before must come again
The ebb and flow of tides eternally,
With time and landscape flowing like the sea
Nothing quite lost, nothing to quite remain
Waxes and wanes in neatest chaos dance.

Then set one human figure to this stage,
Bring the eternal to a moment’s eye
Small fragile one who does not yet know why
The world seems caught up in unnatural rage.
The breath is ended now, your tide has turned.

This is a thing from a project I’ve been playing with for a while. I needed to air a bit of it. It owes a debt to Dunsany, with the sleeping god.


Of Druidry and time

One of the things I’ve become really conscious of this week, is that engaging with nature has a time element to it. Different parts of the day belong to different entities. The same place has a very different character, set of inhabitants and, arguably, spirit, depending on time of day. While the sun is up, I have birds and butterflies. At twilight the fish are jumping, the bats and owls come out, the toads are more active. Into the night there are foxes, badgers, hedgehogs, and at least rumours of otters. I’ve seen glow bugs lately as well.

We all have to sleep. When we’re asleep, we’re not out there encountering the wildlife or engaging with the spirits of place. I find that I can’t go messing about with my sleep patterns without consequences, so while the odd all nighter, random early morning and the such is ok, mostly for my own wellbeing I need a fairly stable sleep/wake pattern.

One of the consequences of needing to engage with the rest of the world, is that I can’t have the summer sleep pattern I really want. I’m a creature of twilight by preference, but to do dawn and dusk when the nights are so short here, I would need to sleep for a few hours in the middle of the day. One of my longstanding ambitions is to have the time and space for experimenting with how this affects me.

No matter how deep a spiritual bond we have with a space, there will always be things we do not know about it. If I’m watching the fish, I will not see what the birds are doing. The more attention I give to one aspect of what is around me, the more likely I am to miss something in the bigger picture. There are balances to strike, between focus and wider awareness. We need that bigger picture – without context, and a sense of how it all fits together impressions readily distort. We also need the deeper, more involved relationships. And thus we come back to the issue of time. There’s only a finite number of hours at our disposal. I cannot forage with the badgers, and dive with the terns, and sing with the dawn chorus and the evening blackbirds and have time to work and eat and fulfil other duties and needs.

Therefore there are always going to be times when what happens around me remains a mystery.  I may get odd glimpses. When I say ‘hello spirits of place’ even though I know the place well, I hold an awareness that I am also speaking to the mysteries, the unknown, the things that come out to play when I am asleep.

There were eleven badgers last night, one rabbit who I watched for ages, one fleeting visit from a fox cub, and a great number of glow bugs, several bats, and no doubt far more small things that I didn’t see. Hello mysteries.