I’m in what I call June-mode. Many in the teaching profession will recognize this mode. Once the intensity of the academic calendar ceases, we have space to catch up with friends we don’t see often, and that leads to lots of breakfasts, lunches, drinks, dinners. All this eating and drinking takes a toll on the body, for sure, and in past Junes, I would have said it takes an even greater toll on my time. But this June, because I’M RETIRED, I see time differently now.
In the past, even though I thoroughly enjoyed June-mode, I often felt tense with all the social indulging. I’d be at a lovely morning coffee with croissant on Park Ave, and in the back of my mind, guilt swirled over not “working.” All that time at lunches and dinners, looked at from my inner taskmaster’s point of view, took away from time for writing a book, developing a program, creating a new course.
Contrary to popular belief, summer is not a vacation for most academics. It’s a time to read, study, write, create. It’s a different flow from the regular school year, for sure. Being released from teaching frees the mind to explore one’s discipline in new ways and shape ideas and material for the coming academic year. It’s also a time to re-tool oneself, to learn how your discipline is changing and growing and addressing current ideas.
So in the summer, teachers become dedicated learners. We’re never off; we’re always learning, growing, producing in ways that will extend the discipline or support our teaching. This always “on-ness” can be a blessing (because everything becomes potentially useful for your work) as well as a curse (because everything becomes potentially useful for your work).
But this June, the mode has a different feel; I have a different relationship with time. Time, with which I’ve always had an uneasy alliance, feels friendlier. I’m not rushing for starters. And even more notable, I don’t feel the pressure to be productive. My body is beginning to realize that from here on out, I’m responsible only to me and to my goals and to my ambitions, and I can pursue those goals and ambitions at my own rate. There’s no rush, no urgency, no tally being kept, no assessment being made. I will never be free of goals and ambitions, but I’m in charge of how those goals and ambitions are pursued.
So in spite of being a typical achiever, I’m feeling a release of pressure to do something. And I feel the joy of just being. Of not being noted in any way (good or bad) for my accomplishments, for my “doing.” And what better way to “just be” than re-connecting with friends? This is June-mode!
And will this last? No, of course not. I cannot stay in an intense social whirl for very long. Soon, mind and body will shift into another mode. I’ll want to pull in. I’ll want to turn attention to my creative projects. I’ll want to intensify my yoga practice or re-do the back garden. I’ll want to re-commit to austere eating, or I’ll want to go on retreat, or I’ll want to write a book. No “mode” should ever take over a life. But sometimes, we have to temporarily give ourselves over to a mode in a kind of all-in fashion. And this month, I’m all-in with being social and out and about in the world.
In my new relationship with time, I embrace what Lama Surya Das says in his book Buddha Standard Time: “You don’t have to do it all right now, or even in this lifetime!” He says when we find ourselves pressed by time and urgency, just say, “Not all right now.”
Das’ book shows me the benefits of embracing June-mode (or whatever mode you’re in). Being fully present in this mode (instead of anxiously anticipating the next mode) reaps so many benefits. I’m more acutely aware of the friends before me and happily attentive to them–the way they look, and the energy they give off, and the ideas that drive them. I see them more brightly than I have in past Junes. And I’m aware of how giving myself fully to what is before me re-boots my prana, my life energy, giving me access to my own creative juices. I leave each and every meet-up light and happy and grateful.
Eckhard Tolle says that life gives you exactly the circumstance you need to evolve your consciousness. This month, life is giving me great joy. But next month, I’ll visit a dear friend who is dying of stomach cancer. I’ll sit with him and hold his hand and we’ll talk about dying–his dying–and my dying too. We’ll face it head on. And we’ll cry and hold each other and laugh and know that something good and true is happening through us, even though it looks like a pretty shitty mode.
So today, I ask you to take a moment to consider the “mode” you’re in now. It might be a consciously chosen mode, or it might be a mode that has been imposed upon you by life circumstance. Could your attitude about it be improved if you really knew that this mode is not permanent? Could your spirit and your energy be lifted by giving yourself fully to what is happening now? What might happen in your life if you really believed that you don’t have to do it all right now–or even in this lifetime!