hourglass on an angle partially suspending time

It’s About Time

“Concentrate on yourself. Whatever you are, is all you can give away. That’s very simple. You open your wallet, you have a dollar; that’s all you can give away. You open your mind and it’s full of anger, hate and distrust, sadness: that’s all you can give away. But if your mind’s full of love, that’s what you can give.”

Sydney Banks

You can only give away what you have.

And you – have time.

17 years ago I was fortunate to connect with a group of hairy and beautiful men, where I experienced a deeper understanding of time and presence.

In their company, I came to learn of different types of time. Chronos time and Kairos time.

  • Chronos time is how we measure the quantity of time. In minutes, seconds, hours, days and years. It is a type of sequential time that governs our schedules, meetings times, deadlines, where we need to be by when, and the duration of events. The clock keeps ticking – which is why Chronos time denotes chronological time.
  • Kairos time is something else. It is where time is measured not by quantity, but by the depth of time. The quality of a moment. The sacred place where 1 minute of Chronological time can feel like an eternity. It is to understand that ‘now is the time’. It is the ‘right time’.

Kairos time can be found in Chronos time, but Chronos time can never be found in Kairos.

Kairos says “no other moment is more important, than this moment right now”.

Kairos says “now is the moment to act”.

In Kairos, paradoxically, we can lose time.

Standing Still

Have you ever experienced it? When things seem to go in slow motion? Sometimes during significant traumatic events like car crashes. Sometimes in the beauty of a sunrise. Time almost stands still.

When people say they ‘lost a sense of time’? They have been somewhere that did not necessitate a regular checking of the clock. The clock simply did not matter as much as being in the moment. That is the gift of true presence.

You can call it flow state, the zone of genius, losing time, Kairos – these precious moments seem to break the boundaries of time as we know them.

In these moments you forego almost everything that you think you need for security – sleep, food, your ego. It is a place of unrivalled peace and productivity. A place of unparalleled appreciation and inspiration. It is the clearness of your mind that comes from being truly present. Where your mind is like a river bed, still and strong, with inspiration that flows freely like clear water. Time stands still, momentarily, waiting for you to exhale.

In flow state, you don’t really have to think. “It” just happens freely and naturally. “It” is regenerative like the warmth from the sun. Soak it up. These moments are precious.

Let It Flow

Flow occurs when we choose to be completely present, open and welcoming. All of life is but energy and movement. To open your borders, lower your guard, leap over your boundary lines and step into the unknown, is to grow.

The most common excuses I hear in settling for a life of struggle, numbness and stagnation is one of these:

  • I don’t have time
  • I don’t have money

Most people think and perpetuate the belief that “time is money”. But these two things aren’t even in the same ballpark. To equate them is to commoditise the greatest gift we are ever to receive. The gift of Kairos always outweighs Chronos, by its very nature.

You can earn money. You can’t earn time.

You have already freely received all the time you are ever going to get. If you have somehow sacrificed it and given it away in exchange for something else, then all you need to decide is whether that exchange was worth it and what you want to do with the time you have now.

You Can’t Give It Away

Ironically – you can’t give away your time. You can only invest it. If you don’t want to invest your time, you could always:

  • Spend time
  • Kill time
  • Try and find time (hot tip: you won’t find any more time. You’ll just be clearer on what you actually want and be more decisive).
  • Lose time
  • Waste time

After learning of Kairos time in 2003, throughout the subsequent 17 years, I gradually traded Kairos time for Chronos time. Meeting deadlines, schedules, alarm clocks, departure times, doing things on time, getting to places on time. So much of my world existed based on a schedule of never ending starts, finishes and to-do’s. It took burnout for me to appreciate that what I had been missing, was the gift of presence. I longed, once again, for Kairos. And I found it in abundance.

Like so many of you, in 2020 I experienced the exhaustion of a full day of Zoom calls that demanded my attention. Back to back video conferences from 7:30am to 7:00pm that often put me in a very precarious position – in the few precious minutes between scheduled meetings I had a difficult binary choice to either eat or go to the toilet. I had the difficult choice to either finish work or be with my family. Demand for my time had well and truly out-stripped supply, yet instead of placing more value on this precious gift that was growing scarce, I continued to trade it like a cheap commodity.

Make Your Own Milestones

Many of us grow up in a world that perpetuates milestones. The idea that we should have accomplished something by a predetermined time or age.

  • Have kids before you turn 40 (it used to be 30! And before that 20!)
  • Retire by 60
  • Buy a house by 27
  • Travel the world in your twenties
  • Climb the ladder by 50
  • Break even by year 3

But here’s the kicker. A milestone, by definition, is simply “a stone set up beside a road to mark the distance in miles to a particular place.”

What most people don’t realise, is that milestones only exist if you are travelling on the same road as those that came before you.

When you tread your own path, when you stop measuring your progress based on other people’s milestones, you get to focus on the present. You no longer get distracted by having to be somewhere, by sometime. Because when we spend our time perpetually thinking about the future, we are robbing from the present.

The double meaning of the word “present” is no coincidence. The present truly is a gift.

“Have I wasted my time?”

I have listened deeply to men toward the latter part of their chronological journey. It is difficult for some, not to look in the review mirror and perpetually reflect on their life, as if it has already ended. They use their time to look at what “was”, rather than what “is”. They evaluate their accomplishments. They question their investments. They try to measure the years.

When this happens, the questions always flow:

  • “What will I be remembered for?”
  • “Did I spend my time wisely?”
  • “How much time do I have left?”

We have all heard the saying “age is just a number”. It’s a funny thing.

We look up to people older than us and assume the younger ones are less wise.

But there is a huge divide between our chronological age and the depth to which we have truly “lived”. One can exist or cope for 10 years, but not be truly living. Or One can be electrically alive and totally connected for a few precious months only to pass from this world. In doing so, it is possible to jump the boundaries of time. It is possible for someone to live a lifetime, in less time. This is to trade Chronos time, for Kairos.

For some, they will arrive at their dying day having lived both. A long Chronos lifetime, full of Kairos. They are the explorers. The dreamers. The ones who dared to step into the tremendous height and depth of everything life has to offer. The ones who did not wish to miss a moment.

A life of 40 years fully lived, beats 85 years of just coping, every single time.  Age does not define you, unless you let it.

Don’t wait for the death of someone you love to act as a reminder for why each day is there to be fully experienced and lived.

Stop complaining that it is “too late” or that “you are too old” or that you “don’t have enough time”. You have just as much time as every other human being does, right now!

We are told to live each day as if it is our last. If you are brave enough to do so, one of two things will likely happen. You will either:

  • Spend your day constantly worrying about your last breath, such that you were never present to enjoy your final day. OR
  • You will savour every beautiful moment. You will breathe more deeply. You will say what needs to be said. You will be radically present. Such that those 24 hours will feel like a lifetime. Like Kairos.

Every moment counts and you get to choose how many moments to live in your life.

You choose whether to spend time or hold it preciously as the gift it always has been. The present.

Which begs the most important question – what are you waiting for?

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