The Value Of Time
Time is scarce, and therefore a precious commodity. What we do with our time, how we spend the present moment, is a constant investment into our future. Your wallet today (physical, mental, financial and spiritual) tells you how your previous investments with your time worked out. This is the karma of our actions.
There is no moment in time inherently worth more than any other moment in time. It is your own judgment of value on how you should spend your time, and not anyone else. However, I will give some advice as to something that I have spent much of my time neglecting, and the consequences I had to face because of my misallocated time.
Time Spent With The Body
If you are anything like me, you probably spend way too much time on your computer, watching TV, reading, or find other ways of being physically inactive. With so much technology to distract us we sometimes forget that we have a body to take care of too.
Our bodies are always with us so it is easy to take them for granted. We cater to its needs when it calls for them – food, sleep, and warmth – but when it comes to keeping our body’s prepared for long-lasting health we get forgetful, or just plain lazy.
Technically, we spend every waking moment with our body. But when I say to dedicate time to your body, I am talking about the time spent attending to your body. Our attention is one of the most important tools we can use for self-improvement, without it we are unaware of our dissatisfactions and shortcomings. But when we shine our beacon of attention we become enlightened to the things that make us dissatisfied and we are given the opportunity to correct them. Without attention (and in a broader sense our awareness), time would be meaningless and valueless.
Mindfulness of Time = Attention
To attend to the body is to experience the body at the most basic of sensations. If one is stretching or flexing, it is really important to pay close attention to the muscles involved in that movement as they expand and contrast. This not only makes one more familiar with their body (building a heightened awareness to the body) but it also helps to optimize your effort exerted onto the body.
There are over 600 muscles in the body from the eyebrows to the toes, and they all deserve time attended to – appreciated. This comment isn’t meant to encourage tedious exercises that account for each and every muscle, but to instead encourage a certain mentality that the body is a constantly unraveling gift and a terrain that calls for much exploration.
Everyone – athletes, muscle builders, casual exercisers, couch potatoes, and all in between – should pick up the habit of being aware of the body as often as possible. When in daily routines such as cooking or cleaning, remain mindful of the movements your body makes and how its parts are designed to move with elegance and mechanical precision. Be awed and bewildered. This does not only help the body but it enriches the experience of even the most seemingly mundane and repetitive of tasks.
Also plan for time where you are not busy and can go into greater detailed attention of the body. My favorite time to do this is early morning. Before I begin any kind of work, I first set aside no more than 20-25 minutes just to dwell on the body. I stretch, bend, twist, and flex my muscles to awaken them; I give them my gratitude for all they offer to me (this is a mental event, a perception and act of will).
Don’t be afraid to push your body to its “limits.” I am not encouraging you to pull muscles but to acknowledge when certain movements begin to shift towards sensations of stress or pain. It is important you explore these limits and to push yourself (in a healthy and mindful manner) so that you come away from your session learning something new about the body. You may find a previously foreign motion that acquaints you to a muscle you did not know of before. Maybe you didn’t realize you could bend in that way.
Do not force anything, but don’t be too surprised if you discover things that you were unaware the body was capable of. These are signs that you are on the right path.
How should I get started? Should I follow a daily regimen?
Most exercise programs encourage persistence and dedication by following a mostly-rigid schedule. This is where my opinions most diverge away from popular consensus, and thus I hope I explain myself clearly.
For some, it is easy to jump right into a rigid regimen and stick with it for extended periods of time. For others like myself, we are slow adapters and need to ease into change at our own pace. My advice for this section will be mostly geared towards these “slow adapters.”
As a slow adapter, the first thing that you need to accept is that any change in the right direction is still a change in the right direction, no matter how tiny of an increment it may first seem. Remember, as cliché as it may seem, a snowball that builds as it rolls down a hill still started as a lonely snowflake.
The smallest and most effortless change one can make to get started is to simply examine one’s body. I prefer a full-length mirror (provides the most accurate presentation of how you look from a third-person perspective) but it is also important to acknowledge how you look when you look down on your body from the first-person. Do not turn this opportunity as a method to criticize your body and hamper your self-esteem. Instead, try your best to passively observe yourself with little to no judgment. You may note dissatisfactions, but balance it by noting an equal amount of things you already like about yourself.
If you find things you don’t like about yourself that you are mostly powerless to change then learn to like them – they are a part of you and there is no reason to show yourself anything but unconditional love; people that love themselves are immediately more attractive than those who do not.
Pay particular attention to the things you do not like about yourself but have the power to change. Also make a note on how much effort you may need to invest to make the change.
Some things you will find you can get started on right away. For instance, if you find yourself over or under weight then you can begin to make changes in your diet (again this can happen over small increments, there is no rush to the finish line unless you find out from a physician that you have habits that have dire health consequences that require immediate change – but this is not often the case). Maybe you find that you have acne or poor skin on certain areas of your body, you could then try out a new face wash, seek medication, change your diet, or try to get more sun.
You’ll notice that for most dissatisfaction you have multiple options on how to improve them. Begin to experiment with exercises, diet changes, time spent outdoors, drinking more water, hygiene products, even your mental states.
I’m throwing a lot of ideas out at once. This isn’t intended to overwhelm you, but to keep your mind open to all the possible ways you can make small and seemingly effortless changes, as well as the changes that will require effort but will be well worth it.
In the end, I want you to make changes at your own discretion and good judgment. Do not underestimate your intelligence and your will to do the right thing. There is no natural law that requires you to listen to others in order to improve yourself; sometimes the answers are right in front of you – stay mindful of this.
I will now take the opportunity to jump around between subjects and throw ideas at you that I have found particularly helpful in my own, ongoing journey of self-improvement and health.
Know your body. This goes back to observing yourself as well as remaining mindful of your body throughout the day. Learn things about yourself from a personal, anecdotal perspective – how do you react to certain foods, how do certain foods make you feel, what parts of your body are weak or strong, do you feel any aches or pains, how do you feel after you exercise, keep track of your energy levels throughout the day, etc. Keeping these kinds of things in mind is going to help you to monitor yourself throughout your day as well as give your body the opportunity to tell you when something is wrong or right. Let your body speak, keep your senses open, and keep the line of communication between mind-body strong.
Do research. You can know your body from a scientific perspective too. What have studies shown about the health benefits or consequences of certain foods? What do experts have to say about certain exercises? Learn how your metabolism works, what muscles there are in the body and how you can exercise them, and other things to consider in the environment that effect your body (such as weather, pollution, noise and other potentially stressful stimuli, pets and animals, plants, too much TV, and whatever else).
Always keep the body somewhere in your mind. Don’t let it slip away for so long that you forget about it. Health should be a top priority so get used to thinking about the body often and the things you can do to take better care of it.
Get encouragement. If you are the type of person that isn’t the best self-motivator than seek the help of others. Find a friend to join a gym with you or agree to run with you on certain days of the week. Try to find a friend who is in a similar position. Ignore friends that discourage you. If you notice a friend is not keeping up with their promise to exercise with you, and this bothers you, then find someone else to work with.
I sincerely hope that you found something in this short guide that has pushed you in the right direction. I am very familiar with the feeling of neglecting my body for far too long and paying the consequences – but always remember – there is never a better time to make a change than right now.