More than forty years ago, James Taylor recorded a song with this refrain: "The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time." This musical lyric has been playing in my head all month, and I believe it to be true. As the words have been percolating deeply into my psyche, I find myself relaxing into greater and greater levels of contentment and an underlying sense of joy.
Allow me to digress for a moment into the physiological anatomy behind all of this. The autonomic nervous system of our bodies is comprised of two basic parts, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems.
The sympathetic nervous system is our 'fight or flight' mode and it is our common response to stress. This is where we are all charged up, our heart rate increases and our kidneys release adrenaline. When our sympathetic nervous system is engaged, we are on our guard and ready to go, full speed ahead.
The parasympathetic nervous system is our 'rest and digest' mode. Here our bodies can tend to housekeeping and maintenance. We are relaxed, our heart rate slows and we are at ease and can undergo repair. Too often in modern life, this aspect of our beingness is over-ridden by stress and the cares and concerns of the day, leaving us in an unbalanced state.
For a healthy nervous system it is best if we allow both these modes of being to occur, perhaps giving a little more time to our parasympathetic mode, in order to even out the balance. When we take the time to pet the dog, cuddle the cat, smell the roses or gaze up into the blue sky, even if just for a few moments, we are tipping the scales more toward that balance.
It is worth our while to note that our internal mental climate is so often controlled by habit. We do have choices. And sadly, we sometimes choose to develop habits of being self-critical, or routinely pessimistic, or even being easily offended. These types of thought habits put us in that 'fight or flight' mode. Should we choose instead, (using our will and consciously directing our attention,) to notice what is beautiful, right and good around us, we shift our energy into a calmer more relaxed way of being. And this is not only a healthier way to be, but is also a much more enjoyable way to spend time. All it takes is a little self-observation and a tiny bit of conscious effort.
Now, I'm not saying that we should ignore the world's suffering. Our advocacy on behalf of what we believe is right and good in the world can be a passionate and very positive use of our sympathetic nervous system. There is a time and a place to vehemently defend what we believe in. But I feel that it is best if we don't allow it to habitually completely consume our light. We can also have gratitude and give ourselves time to remember and enjoy the beauty that we may have been fighting for.
A great healer and a friend of mine recently told me some profound wisdom and I typed out on a piece of paper.
He called it "The A,B,C's."
"A" is for Awareness. (Be) Aware that I have choices.
"B" is for Breathe, Better. When we Breathe Better, we pause, we take a moment that allows us to relax or rethink our stance just a little.
"C" is for Choose, Better. I can think about how to Choose Better.
My friend is a healer of the physical body, and this was intended as a first response for injury or trauma, but right away I noticed how in my life his same wisdom could also be used for my mental, emotional and spiritual health as well. Why not find ease and grace in my mind as well as in my body? So, I leave you with these beautiful A,B,C's of his and the secret of life, which is enjoying the passing of time.