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Time Lying

Image by flickrfy

There’s something that’s been bothering me lately: hearing, again and again, from clients, friends, colleagues, “I don’t have enough time.”

I have a thing about this phrase. It gets to me. It bothers me because I think we use it when we mean something else, when we mean “I don’t want to.” “That’s not compelling to me.” “That doesn’t appeal to me because…” We time-lie.

It bothers me because it makes us glorious, powerful human beings—beings with agency and the power to shape our lives—into victims of time. It makes 24-hours-in-a-day a constraint instead of an obscenely-over-the-top gift.

Time Lying To Ourselves

“But I am busy!” you say. “I have no time! There is so much I would do if I had the time.”

Maybe. Maybe there is more you would do. But in my coaching practice, I see again and again that underneath “I don’t have enough time” or “I’m too busy for that” is always some other block, some other source of resistance. It could be fear (quite often it’s fear of failure or simply of the unknown), inertia to stay with the status quo, or simply “not wanting to,” and feeling that “I don’t want to” isn’t an acceptable reason that stands on it’s own.

So we time-lie to ourselves. We convince ourselves the reason we aren’t doing x is that we don’t have enough time, when the real reason is fear or a “not wanting to” that we feel guilty about.

I can’t tell you how often in coaching sessions this happens: right after a client has shared how a particular passion makes their heart rise and their spirit blissful and the world feel magical comes the line, “But I don’t have time to do that.” It would be funny if it weren’t so serious.

We convince ourselves (conveniently) that we need hours upon hours to do the things we love. It’s my job as coach to say, “Really? 15 minutes, twice a week, is plenty to start. How important is this to you?”  After we dispense with the next round of excuses (“I don’t have the equipment,” “I don’t have the right space in my house,” etc.) we usually get to the kernel of pure fear. And then we face it.

Whatever the truth is, let’s own it. Let’s tell ourselves the truth. Instead of repeating to ourselves over and over again that we are victims of too few hours in the day, let’s use words that empower us and reflect the power we each have, like “I’ve chosen to prioritize other things right now” or “It’s not compelling enough for me right now.” No more of this “I don’t have enough time.”

Time Lying to Others

Sometimes we lie about “not enough time” to others. We don’t want to ruffle feathers, or disappoint. We don’t have the courage to say, “I don’t want to,” “that’s not important to me,” or, as Danielle LaPorte has written about, “it just doesn’t feel right.” We use the bland, socially acceptable substitute, “I just don’t have enough time.”

I do this. I do it all the time. I find it scary to say no simply because I don’t want to, because I’m not interested, because I have issues with such and such aspect of what’s being proposed…whatever. I want to be nice. To not be the one to cause conflict or make a mess. I don’t want to offend or leave you feeling rejected.

I’ll grant you (and me) this: perhaps there are rare instances when a graceful exit is sorely needed, when dealing with someone who doesn’t hear difficult truths well, someone you can’t afford to upset. Perhaps there are times like these when it’s reasonable to use the cop out, “not enough time” line.

But most of the time, we can do better. We can tell the truth, for the sake of deepening our relationships by doing so, and for the sake of honoring and owning what’s true.

Photo by Massay

Even in the struggle, you are loved.

You are being loved not in spite of the hardship, but through it.

The thing you see as wrenching, intolerable, life’s attack on you,

is an expression of love.


There is the part of us that fears and protects and defends and expects,

and has a story of the way it’s supposed to turn out.

That part clenches in fear, feels abandoned and cursed.


There is another part, resting at the floor of the well within, that understands:

this is how I am being graced, called, refined, by fire.

The secret is, it’s all love.

It’s all doorways to truth.

It’s all opportunity to merge with what is.

Most of us don’t step through the doorframe.

We stay on the known side.

We fight the door, we fight the frame, we scream and hang on.

On the other side, you are one with the earth, like the mountain.

You hum with life, like the moss.

On the other side, you are more beautiful:

wholeness in your bones, wisdom in your gaze,

the sage-self and the surrendered heart alive.

Photo by Per Ola Wiberg

You never know what you are really writing about.

On Monday, I wrote a post called “Just A Feeling: Dealing with Difficult Emotions.” I thought I was writing about the freedom that comes from knowing that a difficult feeling is “just a feeling” – temporary, often arbitrary, not necessarily a call to do anything.

On the way to making that point, however, I told a story about craving connection with others during a solitary week. I thought I was just giving an example of a difficult feeling.

Your responses said something different. What spoke to so many of you was the experience of longing for connection. You could relate.

Thank you for sharing so honestly and bravely in the comments and in emails.

When I read your words, I felt ambivalent about mine. Did I really want to suggest that human beings longing for one closeness with one another should recognize that’s just a feeling, and leave it at that?

Or did I want to say, when it comes to this feeling: Honor that longing. Take it seriously. Pick up the phone, go down to the soup kitchen to extend your heart, write that long overdue email to an old friend.

This is, of course, a bigger question. When should we take action to change a difficult feeling? When should we just be with the feeling as is?

I don’t know. What I do know is this: it’s always helpful to know that a feeling is “just a feeling.” When I know that, the rational, mature, happy Tara is back in charge. I’m now longer being whirled through the storm like Dorothy in the twister.

I’m not desperate to escape an uncomfortable experience, because I know it’s not permanent and not that important. I know lots of feelings come and go. Feelings and action to change feelings shrink back down to their proper place.

From this place, I’m at choice: I can take action or not. I can lean into the discomfort or I can make some choices that are likely to change my mood. I’m not caught in a wild chase of good feelings or a frantic rush to avoid bad ones.

But on loneliness in particular, I want to say this: yes, know that what you are feeling is just a feeling. Know it will pass.

But use your feeling of loneliness, your longing for connection, to get to know your true nature.

Examine your loneliness. Not all your ego’s thoughts about it, but the feeling itself. Hold it up to the light and look at it. See what’s at the kernel of it.

Use it to investigate: What is your true nature? What kind of connection makes that nature happy, in balance? What kind of relationship to people makes it unhappy, out of balance?

Who are you deep down, underneath it all?

I know that for me, the answer is love. When my life reflects that, I’m at peace. When it doesn’t, a war begins to rumble inside.



Photo by Sol Young

A remarkable thing happened to me on Friday. One of those graced moments when the light bulb goes on, when the click clicks.

I had a solitary week. I had aimed to clear a lot of time for writing, but I cleared too much.

Around 4pm on Friday, I started to crave people, bigtime. Social connection. Community. Belonging. Friends. Interaction.

We had no real weekend plans. Often we don’t. I’m not sure what I’ll be in the mood for so I plan nothing, and then I get stuck in a kind of resentful loneliness.

As I wrapped up my work, I started to worry. What would we do tonight? Many of our friends were out of town. Others were already booked.

We live in a big city. There’s no Cheers-type bar we can walk into where everybody knows our names. We don’t go to a church, or synagogue, or roller rink. There’s no way we can access insta-community.

I was walking home, full of longing for connection, frustrated and worried about our lack of plans. This is usually the moment where my train of thought launches way out into space, like a rocket ship, visiting pseudo-relevant subjects like these: Why don’t we belong to a spiritual community of some sort? What will we do about that? Why didn’t I make plans earlier? Why don’t I know more people? What will we ever do about the fact that my husband is an introvert and I’m an extrovert? Those are the kind of helpful places my mind goes.

Today, something different happened. Just like a split hair, as one train of thought started to go into that painful litany of questions and complaints, another train went somewhere else. It said, “Oh well, this (craving to see people) is just a feeling. It will pass. Maybe it will be satisfied tonight or maybe not, but it will pass. And you’ve lived through many a feeling not being satisfied before.”

Just a feeling? I had read that phrase in Zen books here and there, but I had never spontaneously thought the thought before. Certainly not in a moment of emotional difficulty. This “just a feeling” consciousness was relaxing, it came from somewhere in my spine, not from my head. It was felt, not abstract.

I was free, I realized. I could work to address the feeling or not, but I wasn’t all caught up in it. I wasn’t identified with it. I didn’t think it was anything bigger than a feeling. I could see it was temporary, unpredictable, rather arbitrary and, get this– kind of unimportant – not because it was about weekend plans, but because it was just a feeling. One more like or dislike, one more desire or aversion, in the grand, life-long parade.

As I walked home, exploring my new discovery, I thought, this is why I read the spiritual books. The ideas go into us, in their own way and in their own time, and they make a difference. They really do.

It’s just a feeling. You are so much bigger, more still, more vast than that. There is the wind, and  there is sail, and  there is the ocean floor.




Please share in the comments –

Have you had your own “just a feeling” moments?

Are you up for trying out “just a feeling” consciousness this week?

I’ve often been struck by the idea that all the suffering in the world, all the world’s problems and deficits and cruelties are exactly equal in might and force to the love, the gifts, the talents, latent in all the world’s inhabitants.

In this way, the world is perfectly balanced: The sum of global pain is equal to our collective capacity for love. The deficit of goodness in the external world is equal to the power we hold within to create good.

Every need can be met. Every wound can be healed. Every pain can be soothed, but only if each of us uses our capacity for good fully.

In practical terms, of course, each of us can’t work on every issue. We can’t even learn about every issue. But we can begin to use our capacity for good more fully. Here are six ways to begin:

  1. Let the pain in. Open your heart to the pain of the world. We all have an instinct in us to avoid it, to turn away from the disturbing news, to shield ourselves from feeling tragedy. Instead, open your heart to the pain. Breathe it in. Feel it. Be present to it – not to get caught in drama or sadness, but to fuel action.
  2. Do small acts with great love, every day. Create a daily giving practice. Give something every day: money, time, assistance, or a heartfelt thank you or compliment. Keep a journal where you record your act of giving at the end of the day. Writing it down (and realizing when you’ve forgotten to do the practice) will help you integrate this habit into your life.
  3. Pick a cause to pour your time, money and energies to, over the long-term. Select something that moves you, something that you sense is the work you are called to do in the world.
  4. Be a light at work. As a coach, I often speak with clients who feel their work because is meaningless because they work at a company that’s “just about the money.” But as business scandal after business scandal shows us, these environments need ethical, service-focused, loving human beings desperately—perhaps more than anywhere else. If you work in one of those places, you have the opportunity to make a tremendous difference. Decide to be a light at work, through your kindness to coworkers and customers, by refraining from gossip, by helping to build bridges or resolve conflict when needed. Watch the ripple effects, and notice how it makes work more interesting and energizing for you, too.
  5. See what love-assignments life gives you. Life brings us little love-assignments in the form of the suffering that show up in our midst. Is there a need in your neighborhood, at your school, in your workplace, that is touching a place within your heart? You don’t have to solve the problem, but you can make a tremendous difference by offering your support, love, solidarity, skills, time, companionship, or a material gift. Notice what assignments life is giving you, and step up.

Yes, the world is full of suffering. Full of it. And we are full of the medicine that heals it.

Are you meeting the world with your full capacity for love?



The Outer Heart

You’ve got a heart. You know that part. But what is the container like that holds your heart?

When you heart speaks, how do you listen? How do you speak back to it?

When your heart moves, what kind of landscape have you created for it to move in?

We can’t always control what happens to our hearts in this life, but we do have full power over how we hold our own hearts, how we relate to them.

If we don’t treat our own hearts gently, with love, what kind of contentment can we ever feel? How can the world ever be a safe place–if our own bodies aren’t even a safe place for our hearts to be?

More on this, on the outer heart, in my post over at Regina Perata’s blog, Restoring Power. While you are there, read a little of Regina too. Her insights suprised and moved me.

If you hold your heart with love and care and lightness and space today, what’s different?