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On Having A Good Time September 22, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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(“Shana Tovah U’Metukah!” to anyone who is observing the High Holidays.)

“[Forgiveness] is a deep process of the heart and in the process you need to honor the betrayal of yourself or others, the grief, the anger, the hurt, the fear – and it can take a long time.”

– quoted from a dhamma talk entitled “The Ancient Heart of Forgiveness” by Jack Kornfield

So, let’s talk about time for a minute… I mean, a moment. I’ve been considering time and asking that age old question (How Could I Spend  My Time?) because of the High Holidays, which started with Rosh Hashanah, “the the Head of the Year” or Jewish New Year, at sunset this past Friday. But, I’m also thinking about time today because it is the Autumnal Equinox here in the Northern Hemisphere. In theory, the angle of the Earth combines with its rotation around the sun to produce four noteworthy (and marked) dates: Autumnal Equinox, Winter Solstice, Vernal (or Spring) Equinox, and Summer Solstice.

I say, “in theory,” because we like to think that today everyone around the world has equal amounts of day and night and that these appreciable moments in time are actually that – appreciable and notable. The truth, however, is that there is no sudden/automatic change in how much light and how much darkness we get. It’s not a dimmer switch and we can honestly notice changes much earlier than indicated by the celestial calendar. Furthermore, no one is really getting 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night on the actual equinox. We perceive daylight long after the sun has moved below the horizon and, therefore, daytime is longer at latitudes above the equator than below. Here in Houston, I’ll get 12 hours and 8 minutes (as will people in Cairo, Egypt and Shanghai, China). On the flip side, someone in Anchorage, Alaska will get 12 hours and 16 minutes (as will people in Helsinki, Finland). Even at the equator, a true 12-hour split doesn’t happen on the equinox: It happens on the equilux (“equal light”), which this year falls on Wednesday, September 23rd.

OK, so, having established that we all have a certain amount of time today – and that we like to think that we all have the same amount of time today – take a moment to consider that to be productive we have to spend some of that time eating/drinking, sleeping, and pooping. That’s just life, and there’s no getting around it. We can, however, factor in how we can eat/drink, sleep, and (yes) poop in way that keeps us productive. This doesn’t mean rushing through meals, sleeping as little as possible, and avoiding bathroom breaks. In fact, it may mean quite the opposite. As you take a moment to turn inward and consider what works best for you, you have to consider all of your rhythms.

“Dearest friend,
Dearest in truth, because I find it touching that you should so thoroughly go into my condition at a time when you are either very busy or not well or possibly both.”

 – letter from Sigmund Freud to Wilhlem Fleiss dated May 21, 1894

Most people have heard the term “biorhythm,” which is a theory presented by Wilhelm Fliess in the later 19th century. Fliess, a close personal friend of Dr. Sigmund Freud, was an otolaryngologist who believed that people’s lives are broken down into (on average) a 23-day physical cycle, a 28-day emotional cycle, and a 33-day intellectual cycle. According to this theory, everyone (regardless of sex or gender) have peak days and low days and we could use these patterns to determine how we spend our time throughout the month and year. Many Western scientists think of Fliess’s ideas as pseudoscience (except, ironically, when it comes to women – and then it’s referred to as infradian rhythms).

On the flip side, Western science recognizes circadian rhythms and ultradian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are natural, internal processes that regulate things like sleep, and repeat with the rotation of the Earth (so roughly every 24 hours). Ultradian rhythms are cycles that repeat throughout a 24-hour day, like the need to eat. (Although, “ultradian” is also used in sleep research to define the various stages of sleep one cycles through when getting a good night sleep. All of that is to say that our bodies and minds operate in such a way that there are times when we are energized and there are times when we are exhausted. Even if we don’t feel particularly tired – or feel like we should feel tired – the bottom line is that there are times when we will have a lot of willpower, energy, and determination to get things done and other times when we won’t have the energy or inclination to be quote-unquote productive.

“Every time you focus your attention you use a measurable amount of glucose and other metabolic resources. Studies show that each task you do tends to make you less effective at the next task, and this is especially true for high-energy tasks like self control and decision making. So distractions really take their toll.”

– quoted from Your Brain at Work by David Rock

In the Old Testament times, something was “good” when it had meaning and served its purpose. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Leo Tolstoy is very clear in his short story, “The Three Questions,” about what is most important (i.e., what is most meaningful). So, when we consider that we don’t have an unlimited amount of time, energy, and will/determination, how do we focus that time, energy, and will/determination? How do we channel it so that it actually strengthens our will/determination, enhances our energy, and makes us feel like we have more time? How do we have a “good” time – and by that I mean meaningful.

Please join me today (Tuesday, September 22nd) at 12 Noon or 7:15 PM for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom, where we will do what we do. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

### MAZEL TOV ###

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