Be Unrushed.

Quite often the place we least want to be is where we currently are. This is, in part, because we are thinking about what we need to do in the future. If whatever is happening right now could just end, we could get on with things. This is a treadmill scenario, common in our default mode. 

The result is a disservice to the present moment. Whatever we are doing, or whoever we are with, will not receive our complete attention, so long as we feel we have something else to do. It doesn’t take long to see that this is an unfree way of being. We are shackled by the future – by things that haven’t yet occurred – to the detriment of the only thing we do have; our present experience. 

The feeling of some urgent demand on our time – real or perceived – creates tension in our relationships. It raises fraught questions including, “Whose time is more important?” or, “Why don’t they respect my time?” The concept of time autonomy is central here. One person’s autonomy quickly abuts another’s. Anyone who has ever been left waiting for someone else understands the anxiety and ill will that pervades. 

To be sure, there are scenarios when true urgency arises, when one must be fussed about moving on to other matters: medical triage, a child in trouble, danger lurking. But these are not our usual state. To free ourselves, to embrace the present, we need to be aware of the divide between things that quickly demand our attention, and everything else. Most often, the ‘everything else’ can wait. We don’t have to rush headlong into whatever just so happened to surface in our consciousness. The present moment deserves our attention. There is beauty within it that is easily missed. 

In exercising our time autonomy, however, we must not expect others to bend to our will. Simply because we decided to focus on something does not mean that someone else need do the same, let alone share the same level of caring. That is up to them. Just as we demand respect from others on how we choose to spend our time, so too should we respect their choice. This lesson comes home to roost for parents. 

Young children don’t understand this concept. They want things to happen right now, demanding their parents to drop everything and buy in. Parents are then confronted with a challenge, weighing whether the child’s demands are reasonable, realistic, urgent, versus whether they should supersede the parent’s own interests in the moment. Not an easy decision, and one many of us have fumbled countless times. Within this, though, there is an opportunity to learn and to teach. Being honest with ourselves and with others, along with open communication, will go a long way. 

Every day presents us with challenges like this. We overcome them and we grow. But we are best able to do so by heeding the present moment with the slowness it requires. We must do our best, in whatever we find ourselves doing, to be unrushed. 

Be well.

Breaking bread (not bad).

An interesting observation of human behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic is to make note of which shelves in the grocery store are empty. We’ve all heard the meme about toilet tissue. Clearly a necessity, but an odd one to hoard. What I find more intriguing are the bare shelves of flour and yeast. It would seem that everyone has suddenly started baking. Where does this urge come from?

During ordinary busy life, eating, let alone cooking, has become a matter of convenience and efficiency. We have so many things to do, that how we nourish our bodies has become an afterthought. We tend to cram in meals between other things. Worse still is that we often miss the rich opportunity to dine together, sharing stories of our days, learning from our families. 

Well, now we have the time. We are home with our families. We are dining together again. So, we bake. Making bread takes time and care. A level of attention that simply wasn’t available until now.  This is an opportunity to connect with our loved ones through making something together. I see those bare shelves as a sign of real humanity in the midst of crisis. 

I have previously written about the importance of identifying moments that matter. Sitting down to break bread together is one of those moments. My wife and I make a priority of doing this with our children. We have an ongoing joke when we sit down across from one another by saying, “Well, here we are again.” This makes light of the routine nature of the act, but within it there is comfort. We know that no matter what we have experienced that day, how challenging it may have been, we will always return to this place. 

Following the pandemic, my hope is that we can all slow down a bit, taking the time to cook and dine together more often. No one regrets having more dinners with the people they love. So, go stock up on flour and yeast. Along with your bread, may your well-being rise. 

Be well.

To wait is our fate.

No one likes to wait. As we grow up, we can’t wait to drive, graduate, leave home, join the “real world”. As adults we can’t wait to build a successful career, go on vacation, get a new car, retire and be free. Nevertheless, we wait, counting down the days, ignoring today. But today is what we have, tomorrow is merely a possibility. And what’s the rush? We all know the ultimate finish line. 

In a way, we spend our entire lives waiting. In fact, life is about the wait. None of us chose to be born. We don’t control that at some point it ends. What we can do, is decide how we spend our time in between. 

This notion is illustrated by the feeling of nostalgia. Most of us have moved into a new house at some point. We were excited to buy a new home, make it our own. We couldn’t wait to leave the old place. It didn’t make us happy anymore. Then, as you close the door one last time, you are overcome by a feeling of nostalgia. We suddenly think about all the great times we had there, how we grew. It wasn’t perfect, but somehow that’s what made it ours. We wonder if we took it for granted. We are grateful to have had the experience. Then we move on.

Now everyone is waiting for the same thing, the end of social-distancing measures for COVID-19. As with everything in our lives, the current measures are temporary. They may be longer than we like, but they will come to an end. If all we think about, and bemoan, is how and when this will end, we lose the only thing we possess, the present moment. 

The current situation has been, and remains, a unique opportunity to accept the wait, take up the challenge, and do something that makes us proud. Being future-oriented is a good thing, but only insofar as it challenges us to focus on improving ourselves today. 

Don’t wish your time away. To wait is our fate. It’s what we do while we wait that makes the difference. 

Be well.

We Must Create Space

To give ourselves the best opportunity to optimise well-being, we must create space. There are three dimensions in which this space is to be created: time, physical, and mental.

In a previous post I explored how time is simply a tool of measurement. We use it create order in our lives and our memories. We are skilled at filling time with all manner of activities on a weekly basis. When we do this, we don’t allow ourselves opportunity to explore what makes life most meaningful. Anyone with a job, family, classes to attend, and so on, clearly understands busyness. This busyness is a constant distraction that may occupy us for years. Just as we book meetings, we must book time in our schedule to simply be with ourselves. Time to think, reflect, take stock, reprioritize. These dedicated times can be the most important appointments of our weeks or months.

Create space in your schedule.

Physical space is also crucial for our well-being. Clutter quickly becomes overwhelming. Most of us have too much stuff. Making a point of tidying up or taking a minimalist stance to acquiring things can have a tremendous impact on how we feel in our own environment. Similarly, we need periods of physical space away from other people. Aloneness, rather than loneliness, is an important tool on our well-being journey. A simple way to create physical space is to get outside in nature. The vastness of nature allows us to sense our relative smallness. This helps realign our perspective of ourselves, as we have a tendency to over-estimate self-importance.

Create physical space.

Once we successfully create space in our schedules and surroundings, we are better positioned to explore our mental space. The basis of our human experience is spacious awareness. We usually don’t recognise this during our daily routine. When we clear things away, however, we can tap into this awareness, helping us understand our state of being. Mindfulness and meditation are specific techniques one may use to guide this understanding. However, one cannot properly use these tools unless we create the necessary space. When we are too busy, don’t write things down, have too many deadlines, our minds become cluttered. We are constantly lost in thought. We are not in control. This is how we spend most of our waking lives. The problem is that during our waking lives we are not truly awake to our most fundamental state of consciousness. Creating space gets us closer.

Create mental space.

Take a Moment to Consider Your Moments that Matter

We spend most of our days busily going about things that need to get done. Each day is fairly similar to the one before. If we aren’t focused on the task at hand, we are usually thinking about a recent occurrence or something we have yet to do. It is rare to block out these fore- and afterthoughts, even for a moment.

When we experience a moment of full presence, often spontaneously, it should be savoured. In a short moment, you can feel completely at peace, satisfied.

I find these moments cannot truly be planned, despite my desire for their tranquility. Even meditation, a time of focused attention, does not bring about the feeling to which I am referring. However, there are some patterns or circumstances most apt to precipitate these moments.

For me, three scenes come to mind. The first involves a vista, ideally of a lake or ocean, but my backyard will do. The morning sun is shining, warm on my skin. The breeze is cool, though, and rustles leaves on nearby trees. I have a warm coffee mug cupped in both hands and I’m leaning on the railing, looking out. I close my eyes briefly, enhancing the feeling of opposing temperatures from sun and wind, as well as the white noise from the moving foliage. In this moment I am free. I am part of the scene. Then my coffee cools down, the screen door opens, and life comes rushing back.

The second is with my children. They are close in age, 19 months between them. Catherine, the older one, is a kind and gentle soul with a tremendous sense of curiosity. John is a passionate little boy who loves his sister dearly, but also loves to take things to the limit. The dynamic makes life interesting, busy, fun, infuriating, stressful, and full of joy in quick succession. When those two get along, speak kind words to each other, and demonstrate their deep bond, I feel a moment of pure love and pride.

These two scenarios are mine. Yours may be similar, but undoubtedly different in important and individual ways. The third, though, we all share.

No matter what happened during our day, be it success, failure, aggravation, happiness, the mundane, we all return to the same moment, alone with our thoughts. This is the moment right before we are overcome with sleep. Even if you have a bed partner, there is a quiet period before sleep when it’s just you. This moment is a daily gift. The day is done, there is still a buffer before the next. This is generally a time of rumination, your mind now free from tasks. We reflect on the day gone by, worry about loved ones, wonder if we said the right thing, swell with pride, or escape from it all. In this moment you experience a bellwether of your well-being. Are you happy? Are you anxious? Are you dreading what’s next? Are you looking forward to what lies ahead?

This recurring moment is an opportunity to take stock. When everything else is put away for the day, where does you mind go? Everything that happened is done, cannot be changed. Can you accept that?

I suggest that you should. What’s done is done. Then think, even if today was great, “How can tomorrow be better, how can I do better?” This moment is a chance to be progressive. Don’t worry about all the tasks you have to do. They will be waiting for you in the morning. Dwelling will not help. Right now, you get to sit with your unique human experience, no matter how briefly, before sleep.

For me, the thought of coming back to these moments brings me joy. I hope you think about yours and take steps toward moulding an environment that promotes them, allowing you to capture the essence of your own experience.

Have you ever considered your relationship with Time?

There are several theories on how people go about changing health behaviours. My favourite is Social Cognitive Theory. It discusses self-efficacy, outcome expectations, goals and sociostructural factors that either work for or against us on our quest to behave in a healthy manner. This is a useful theory to apply when designing public health campaigns, counseling or coaching interventions. But there is a necessary precondition that is not discussed, one that I think is the most crucial resource for improving health and well-being.


How often have you uttered something like “I just don’t have the time,” or “I wish there were more hours in the day,” or “I don’t know where the time went?”

All of these statements inaccurately reflect our relationship with time. They imply that we have control over it, that it can be stockpiled and moved around like some payload. We don’t and it can’t. Time acts independently from us. It goes by at the same rate for all of us, always. No one has time. We cannot alter its rate, at least not yet.

What we refer to when we gripe about time is how we measure ourselves in relation to it. Humans are obsessed with time. Birthdays, anniversaries, age, ASAP, deadlines, betimes, alarm clocks, watches, world records, workdays, weeks off, running pace, hourly wages, meetings, on and on it goes. Nearly everything we do is literally marked in relation to time.

This is somewhat startling when we reflect on the actual concept of time. After all, we only ever have the present. We think a lot about the past and future, but we never occupy these constructs.

Time as a concept only exists because we are able to remember past events or project to future ones. We are able to conceptualize that these events are not occurring right now. This does not, however, accurately portray the passage of time.

We can recall a distant memory and say, “it feels like only yesterday.” This merely means that we have an accessible memory, one that has no relation to when the event actually happened or the fact that we are recalling it in the present.

If you think about time in this way you might start to question why we are so beholden to something over which we have no control. Why does time have you under her thumb?

Like any generation before us we are a product of the society into which we were born. It so happens that the present society is time-obsessed. But let’s consider for a moment why humans would have wanted to measure time at all.

Ancient humans would have had a simple relationship with time. Sun comes up. Sun goes down. This cycle erected boundaries around the opportunity they had to get things done, especially before the age of artificial light sources. If out and about during the day, the position of the sun in the sky would indicate roughly how much time they had to get back to camp. Similarly, the pattern of constellations, once mapped, would indicate seasonality and impending vicissitudes of local climate.

All this is to say that early conceptions of time would have been used as a tool, a measuring stick. I put forth that this is how we should still think of it. Time helps us organize ourselves and our groups. Its ubiquity makes it understood by all, a common language.

When at the mercy of time, however, we never feel we can accomplish enough. This is largely the result of historical and arbitrary scheduling. For example, the Monday to Friday, 9-5 work week is tyrannical operationalizing of time. Many of us are on this ride, suffering its long and restrictive route. Someone else, your employer, has decided to book 40 hours of your week regardless of how much they realistically expect to be produced during that time.

This results in your planning everything else “after-hours.” In turn, this leads to more detrimental applications of time like counting down to your next vacation, or retirement.

At this point you might be thinking that you can’t just get a new job or start dictating your own hours, and you would be right. It likely would not be easy, or done right away, because our economy is structured against it. The way our economy is set up is another societal construct, which can, and do, change over…time. If enough people agree that we should evolve from being held captive by time and rigid schedules to using time as the tool it should be, we can change.

Practically now, what can an individual do in their relationship with time to promote health and well-being? First, I suggest, think about time in the terms we’ve just covered. Think about your current relationship with time. Are you using it as a tool? Or is it using you as one of its interconnecting cogs in the giant timepiece of our era?

Next, reflect on all of the things you’ve ever heard or read about “time management.” You can find multiple time management strategies out there with between seven and twenty so-called rules. The existence of these self-help diatribes is a symptom of our broken relationship with time. No matter the list, these strategies always have two simple themes in common:

Theme 1: There are a certain number of things you must do regularly to live as a human:

  • Eat
  • Sleep
  • Perform hygiene
  • Generate income
  • Get supplies to do all of the above

This is modern survival. It takes a certain amount of time. How much depends on your context.

Theme 2: Time remaining after the must-dos is ideal if used in meaningful ways.

This means prioritizing, determining the essential things for you. What do you want to experience and how do you plan to bring these experiences to your present, so that they may become the things you recall in your past, “like it was only yesterday?”

Theme 1 is where the core of health is captured. Theme 2 is where health and well-being thrive.

Notice what isn’t in Theme 1; exercise, family time, socializing, reading, romance, higher education, to name a few. These are the first things to go when you don’t get to control your allocation of time. The same list makes up the main constituents of our well-being.

If you are successful with this dichotomy, the income generating component of Theme 1 will be something that you care about, effectively moving it to Theme 2, providing meaning and purpose. Otherwise, your vocation may have an adverse ripple effect, eating into Theme 2-time, paperwork and e-mails after-hours, early meetings, traveling, and so on.

To summarize, each week (or whatever chunk of time you choose) we have to do a bunch of little things, and we get to do one or two big things, the ones we deeply care about. Yet what we often do is schedule 3-4x as many little things as we need, forcing out the more important big things.

I suggest using time as a tool to book and measure the little things, to ensure they don’t use too much time. This way we have the opportunity to explore the essential big things. For these we should not assign arbitrary deadlines. The future remembering self will not care how long it took or if it was “late.” The most important things, the ones that bolster our well-being, don’t have time limits. If you are doing the right things, fully present while doing them, time really doesn’t matter.