The Roman god Janus is the namesake of the month of January. Janus presided over time, change, beginnings, and endings. He is often portrayed as having two faces: One looks forward to the future. The other looks back over the past.
Janus had another important function to fill in the Roman pantheon. He was also the gatekeeper of Heaven. He took his duty very seriously. Even Jupiter himself couldn’t enter those pearly gates without Janus’ approval!
Heaven and hell? They’re in your head!
The mystical practice of yoga teaches us that heaven and hell are not places we can go to. They are states of mind. To be in heaven means we are present and fully participating in the moment at hand. Our minds are calm and steady. This is also the state of yoga. We are able to think clearly, make optimal decisions, and meet the demands of our daily lives with grace. In general, we are happier and more at ease with our circumstances.
To be in hell is to not be at peace. Like Janus, we have the ability to look towards the future and back over our past. Unlike Janus, however, this causes our minds to be unsettled. Worrying about the future brings an increase in anxiety. Ruminating over the past contributed to depressed feelings. What does Janus know that allows him to utilize this ability without losing his peace of mind?
Time is not a physical location. There is no place we call the past or future that we can go to. Time is a tool we use to organize our existence. Like any tool, it is up to us to learn how to use it wisely.
It may seem cliché, but we cannot know the future. However, we can’t know the past either. In any given moment, we can know our perspective of what we call the past. This perspective can, and often does, change depending on our state of mind. We best consider the past and plan for the future when we stand squarely in the present, the only place in time that actually exists.
Using time wisely.
Like Janus, we, too, are gatekeepers. We are the gatekeepers of our minds! That nature of the mind is to think. If thinking about time did not serve us in some way, we wouldn’t do it! It is good to allow our past to inform us. We may have made some mistakes that we would not like to repeat. It is very necessary to think about the future. After all, there are things that require planning: travel, shopping lists, tasks that must be attended to. It is only when we get caught up in concepts of past and future that we become disoriented. When used wisely, time is a very valuable tool!
It is up to us to manage our minds. Like Janus, we get to decide what to let in and what to send away. If our minds are pulling us out of our yogic state -the state of abiding presence- a bit of mental pruning may serve us well!
New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day invite us to reflect on how we are using our time. After all, time is a gift. It is up to us what we do with it. Here are some ways to cultivate a steady mind and make wise use of time in the year to come:
- Know thyself. On a scale from complete procrastination to workaholism, how do you tend to use your time? How does your current approach to time serve you? What difficulties, if any, does it create? Would moderating you approach to using time be helpful? If so, what are three small steps you can make today to move you in that direction?
- Manage your time wisely. Use a calendar and stick to it! Schedule your work time to be as efficient and organized as possible, but schedule your free time as well! Block out time to stop working and take a break. At the end of your work day, close-up shop and go home. This is particularly important if you work from home. Turn off your computer, silence email notifications on your phone and laptop, step away from your desk and enjoy your non-work hours!
- Check email and use social media mindfully. Try to spend less then 30 minutes a day with email and social media. Keep in mind that these are ultimately communication devices. They may be entertaining at times, but how meaningful is that source of entertainment to you? Does it enhance your life or distract you from people and activities that truly bring you joy?
- Spend time in quiet. Turn off your devices. Perhaps you begin or deepen your meditation practice. Maybe you lie in savasana or enjoy a nice, long nature hike. Find a way to cultivate a calm, steady mind. Teach yourself to be a good mental gatekeeper. When we use our minds wisely, the caring and keeping of our precious time becomes much easier!