Time is a perception. Necessary for our daily functioning but culturally conditioned.

Germans, for example, are culturally known for being on time. Growing up in a German family, it was always impressed upon me that if you’re not 10 minutes early, you’re late.

Living in Washington DC, time must be perceived differently. Traffic  makes it impossible to assess how much time you need to get anywhere at any give time. Distance is not a good indicator of time in DC, though it is a good indicator of time in Ohio — no traffic.

In other countries, like India and many middle Eastern countries, there is no concept of “on time.” You show up when you show up. Doesn’t matter if you show up 3 hours after the given “start time.”

I have a good friend from high school who would be told a different start time for events then everyone else because we knew he would always be an hour late.

The idea of an event starting at any particular time is a perception. Being late is a perception predicated on the idea of an event “starting” in the first place.

If you are always living in the present moment, then each moment becomes the start and end time for something new. You can never be late to the present moment, but you can choose to ignore it.

Time containers

Humans also create containers of time in which something must happen. Yoga classes are 60 minutes, 75 minutes, 90 minutes. We’ve conditioned ourselves to believe that yoga can only happen in a particular time frame and many of us have strong preferences about what is appropriate. For some, outside of these 60, 75, or 90 minutes, we’re off the hook for making yoga happen (which, by the way is ridiculous in case that wasn’t obvious).

The problem with this container is that it creates anxiety, fear, and regret for many people. They worry about not having enough time and then when the deadline has passed they wish they would have spent their time differently. The container in and of itself isn’t the problem. The way we react to and in the container is.

Time travel

Time travel has fascinated humans for centuries. Mostly as a means to go back and change the past (regret) or to go forward and see the future (anxiety and fear). The present moment isn’t enough, probably because we don’t spend enough time in it.

We can in fact travel through time as a construct. My husband left Hawaii at noon on Thursday and landed on another Pacific island at 3pm on Friday after a 7.5 hour flight. He called me at 10pm on Friday evening (for him) and it was 8:00am on Friday morning for me. He flew through the night, jettisoned ahead 8 hours, and the sun was shining the whole way. But he only lost those 8 hours if we hold on to our constructs of time, which again, is a necessary structure for human functioning and productivity manipulated to match the solar system in any given place on Earth.

Jet lag, to me, has always been a function of the mind because time is a function of the mind. While you can’t deny how tired the body may feel, it is always only what time it is wherever you are.

The value of time in the present moment

In a world where we are taught that time is our greatest asset, it only makes sense to worry about losing and gaining time if you’re worried about how many assets you have. If assets are your indication for living well and succeeding, then yes, losing and gaining time matters greatly to you.

As an aside, Daylight Savings Time is a funny thing. Human beings manipulated time as a way to further promote productivity and the accumulation of assets.

You are always on time if you are present. When you are always present, you no longer need the concept of time.

And, for the ultimate irony, I set my timer for 30 minutes to write this 🙂 Proof that you’ll get done what you need to get done in the time that you have if you stay present.