The Gift of Time
The Gift of Time ~ Dr. Alex Adams
Sometimes we take time to pause intentionally, maybe each morning in zazen, or perhaps to watch a beautiful sunset or sit by a stream.
Our days are usually filled with so much doing that stopping is difficult and must be intentional. Sometimes, however, pauses are thrust upon us—often through no fault of our own, but through an accident or illness, the pause comes. For some of us COVID was this pause, but for others, we only got busier.
The pauses in my life in the past 10 years have been both intentional and unintentional. I intentionally went on pilgrimage, participated in IZL many times, and began to meditate more seriously. However, the unintentional pauses, in many ways, have taught me more. In 2014, I suffered an MTBI- this mild traumatic brain injury, basically a severe concussion, taught me many lessons.
I had to learn a lot of patience with myself and with others. I had to learn how to function in a world full of too much loud noise, fluorescent lights, and flickering screens, all of which I could not tolerate for any length of time. But I gained new sensitivity to the world around me, could hear smaller sounds, feel the energy of the trees, and I learnt to appreciate the small blessings and moments of my life. I gained a new embodied appreciation of all the issues my sensory processing disorder children and patients experience daily. I became a better mother and a better physician for it. My Indigenous friends noted that this blow to my head was a necessary blessing that woke me up, and in many ways they are right.
I am afraid to say that I am a slow learner and that my life since has been followed by a series of other events that have given me the gift of time; a second concussion in 2017, a fall and sacral fracture in 2018, meniscal tear and repair in 2021, and then two weeks ago, I was rear-ended at a stop sign giving me a third concussion. This last one, although mild, made me pause again for days of no screen time, no reading, decreasing light and sound and input. I rested a lot, I walked barefoot in the grass, I sat outside watching the leaves waving in the wind, my cats hunting voles in the tall grass, and my garden grow. As with the other pauses, I did not ask or wish for this pause, but it came again unbidden. I am beginning to view these pauses as a gift, even if they are sometimes a terrible gift as anyone knows who has gone through any serious recovery, illness, or grief.
So, I am now taking time to sit by my friend the stream and ask what this pause would teach me? What pauses are necessary and critical now if we are to hear the calling to deeply listen to what is ours to do or not to do in this time? What do our relatives the trees, the waters, the wind, the birds, and insects say to me, to you, to us?
Pause, listen, learn, receive, and be a blessing in your stillness. It is necessary to give ourselves this gift of time to listen deeply, to truly hear, and to appreciate the pauses, bidden or unbidden.
Alex Adams, M.D., Ph.D. is a Zen Leadership Practitioner, and the Director and Principal Investigator at the Center for American Indian and Rural Health Equity (CAIRHE), Montana State University.