We are all restless and that restlessness is evident in many forms. Some are restless at work and to succeed in attaining goals, some are restless in relationships and finding fulfillment in them, some are restless in spirituality and understanding their place in the world, and others are restless due to health circumstances and circumstances beyond their control.
This restlessness is born within us as part of our humanity, and we all have to reconcile with a form of restlessness psychologically and what that means to us throughout our lives.
This restlessness can spur us to move forward and get us to where we need to be in life. It can teach us a great deal about ourselves and help inform us in managing our lives. It can also be destructive, and if we cannot reconcile with what it means to us it can lead us to our undoing.
This restless nature complicates things because it imposes standards that may be impossible to reach. Restlessness can force us to move beyond our comfort zone but it can also force us into things prematurely before a time is right.
The wisdom of the ages points us to the fact that we can only handle what we understand for the time we are given it. We can drive ourselves crazy if we desire to know something beyond ourselves and can only take in so much understanding for any given time in our lives.
Nonetheless, we are riding a teeter totter between our present circumstances and aspiring for more understanding. The fulcrum of the seesaw is “being” itself. Throw the idea of our past, present and future into the mix and the balancing act is in full swing.
Father Ron Rolheiser, OFM, in his essay, “Struggling To Be Inside The Present Moment,” notes that it seems impossible to live in the present. There is a tension in time between past, present and future.
“We know from experience how difficult it is to be inside the present moment because the past and the future won’t leave us alone. They are forever coloring the present. The past haunts us with half-forgotten lullabies and melodies the trigger memories, with loves that has been found and lost, with wounds that have never healed, and with inchoate feelings of nostalgia, regret, and wanting to cling to something that once was. The past is forever sowing restlessness into the present moment.
And the future impales itself into the present as well, looming as promise and threat, forever asking for our attention, forever sowing anxiety into our lives, and forever stripping us of the capacity to simply drink in the present. The present is forever being colored by obsessions, heartaches, headaches, and anxieties that have little to do with people we are sitting with at table.”
Ranier Maria Rilke called this duality between time and self the “Double Realm,” writing the following in his master work Sonnets to Orpheus:
Only he who lifts his lyre
in the underworld as well
may come back
to praising, endlessly.
Only he who has eaten
the food of the dead
will make music so clear
that even the softest tone is heard.
Though the reflection in the pool
often ripples away,
take the image within you.
Only in the double realm
do our voices carry
all they can say.
In the end, we need to ask the question. How do we reconcile these entities to make it all work for us?
Maybe it comes in being present to the knowledge of that which deceives you. Be aware of the ego and the traps that ensnare us in regret and shame from the past, anxiety and concern for the future, and the work that stands before us in making it work for the good of all in the present.
All great philosophers have to identify with the aspect of time and how it applies to our lives. We are prone to mismanage it, taking advantage of leisure when we could be doing other things, working too hard and ignoring family responsibilities to escape problems we’re unwilling to face.
In the end, no one cheats time, no one escapes time, no one has mastered the use of time in an equitable way that soothes the mind and satisfies the senses. Deathbed confessions are full of regrets, “should haves,” “would haves” and “could haves.”
Rilke reminds us where we need to go imploring us to “take the image within us.” A moment of quiet, a moment of prayer can train the mind in a unique manner. It is the time out, the contemplative minute that sparks new awareness that helps us arrive at the present. We are empowered by the knowledge of oneness in the realm of the sacred heart. Whether you’re a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Jew, a Muslim or Christian, or practice another faith there is a center of clarity accessed by us through our own willingness to overcome; an inner awareness of being called to doing something happens when we quiet the mind and open the heart.
Slowing down and being present to the moment brings clarity to life. Finding that holy center that speaks to you daily in a prayerful manner or engages you in an act of contemplation to seek clarity is a good start.
Learning how to manage the duplicitous nature of life and seeking the wholeness in things by accepting the darkness with the light is a good place to start, too. The Taoists have it right when they reconcile opposites and compose an acceptance of paradox in life.
Seeing how the pairs of opposites inform our lives and elicit strong provocative solutions and analyzing the rhythms and cycles of your life is another way to make it work.
The past, present and future inform us in ways we cannot imagine. The relativity of time can ensure that we are using it wisely or at least reconciling with our psychological need to avoid it for a time and cope with a restless nature.