It was a busy week; I needed more time to get it all done. But the other day, my daughter thought a yoga session at a nearby vineyard sounded like a good idea. She was even more right than I realized. There among the grapes, I found that making time is possible if we focus on the thing we are doing, and not on all the things we aren’t. Here’s what I mean.
Among the Vines
I lay on my back in the vineyard, the late afternoon sun warming my face.
Through my closed eyes I can still see the puffs of downy clouds loitering under a gauzy sheet of cirrus. The suggestion of a breeze jostles the leaves on the vines. The clusters of grapes are taking their time to ripen. They will be ready soon, but not yet. They are in no hurry.
Somewhere in the back of my head I sense the guidance of our instructor: Relax. Breathe. Float.
The thoughts of the day recede. As my breathing slows, time slows with it; for a brief moment it seems, there will be more of it to enjoy.
An ant tickles his way onto my left forearm. He has business to attend to; I do not. For the moment, my only task is to inhale and exhale through my nose.
The sudden appearance of the ant is a reminder, though: the world I’ve left is one of intrusion and distraction. It presumes to allocate my time and dictate my thoughts. We are bombarded by voices telling us what we should have, what we should do, what we should value, what we should fear.
The world constantly tries to pull us into its busy ways. There are always projects to tackle, things to fix, goals that beckon. The Tetris blocks of tasks will always outnumber the available places to fit them.
But on yoga matts splayed on the grass between the rows of vines, for a brief moment I can control time instead of time controlling me.
No, that’s not quite right. Time flows without regard to me; I’m like the ant wandering across my arm, experiencing something it can only vaguely fathom, and cannot control.
Maybe it’s more like savoring. The act of savoring seems to lengthen time. Not so we can make space for more tasks, but to make more of the one we are already doing.
It reminds me of the joke:
Doctor: “I’m sorry, sir, you have only one minute to live.”
Patient: * Immediately gets into the plank position *
Doctor: “Sir, what are you doing?“
Patient: “If I only have a minute, I want to make it last as long as possible, and nothing makes time go more slowly than being in a plank.”
That’s how savoring works, immersing ourselves in something so deeply that time seems to expand.
I allow the ant on my arm to proceed for a while longer, before changing his course with a puff of my breath. Perhaps he will take a moment to rest in the grass, too.
I breathe deeply, exhale again, and blow the world away.
Marking Time or Making Time?
The instructor coaxes us into more poses now. Balance and breathing.
With my runner-taut hamstrings and protesting rotator cuff, I more resemble a new-born calf than the sinewy gazelle our guide evokes. But for a time, there is only the mat and the grass and the several of us quietly divorced from the world. We savor and lengthen time amongst the reddening berries.
At the end of the yoga session, I automatically push the button to stop the timer on my Garmin. My smart watch has recorded every moment of this session, and will share it automatically on Strava so my friends can see it: One hour, three minutes and six seconds duration; average heart rate 82 beats per minute; 178 calories burned.
Already the world threatens to sweep back in, encouraging me to take a photo to add to the post, maybe a selfie with my daughter, who seems to be glowing from the experience. And I will; we will.
And then we need a dinner plan, and maybe there are things we can pick up from the store on the way home, and I have to remember to clean off the yoga mat I borrowed from my wife before I return it.
A light gust of wind jostles the ripening berries. It’s a suggestion.
We are in no hurry; right now there is time.
Making Time – The Takeaway
My daughter and I stroll out of the vineyard, and through a grove of shading oaks to the barrel room. She turns 24 next week. We get glasses of red from the smiling server, and then wander back outside. A rough-hewn table on the edge of the vines invites us to sit and stay a while.
The sun bathes the weathered wooden planks, and glows through yesteryear’s harvest in our glasses. The warmth multiplies as we talk. We savor another hour together, holding the world at arm’s distance, making time. We talk about nothing and everything, valuing the invisible.
We may be tempted to see life as a game of Tetris. Perhaps. But if it is, winning isn’t about getting all the blocks to fit. Winning is making sure the most important blocks have their place, and savoring them.
Our challenge is to remember that those blocks are sometimes the invisible ones, or even the spaces between the blocks. Like the formless breezes, they present themselves and surround us. We have the option to ignore them as we go rushing from block to block, or to savor them.
Tetris is limited by time and space. If we would have more of either, we have to do the opposite of what the world urges. Exhale, and blow away the toy blocks that don’t matter.
Pay attention to the breeze, savor the invisible, and make time for what matters most.
[Vineyard and yoga mat not required.]