How many times have you said that?
That’s what I was thinking when I returned from an island in Greece called Ikaria, named after Ikarius, the guy who tried to escape from prison with home-made wings he and his father made. His dad warned him not to fly too close to the sun, he didn’t listen, the wax used to attach the wings melted, and he fell to his death into the sea – right next to Ikaria.
Don’t fly too close to the sun.
I think it’s an important lesson for all of us living in a modern solar culture that values the pursuit of goal and achievement-oriented activities over the lunar qualities of our being, like stillness, reflection and introspection.
It’s this imbalance that leads to burn-out and melt-downs.
I had wanted to visit that island forever, once I heard that they didn’t do time. That you arrived whenever you arrived. That if you wanted to get groceries at 3 am you could.
I wondered how does that even work?
The ancient Greeks had two types of time: Kronos (where we get chronological time) and Kairos (a subtle state of timelessness.)
As a storyteller, I was fascinated by Kairos – and how you can experience a shift in time, called “Once Upon a Time” through storytelling.
In Ikaria, time as we know it, doesn’t exist. Chronological time –with its relentless pace, measured and parceled out in hectic schedules as the clock ticks away — is irrelevant there.
The island is one of the six “Blue Zones” in the world where residents live full, vibrant lives well into their 90’s and 100’s, cherishing the present moment, and embracing the unexpected. They dance, drink wine, grow much of their food, and have a rich community life.
They say people in Ikaria forget to grow old. Maybe their disregard for chronological time keeps them youthful and vibrant.
I wanted to be in Ikaria so I could experience Kairos, that Time Beyond Time, and get lifted up out of the stress of everyday linear time. To get some relief from the incessant demands of clock time. And be transported to another realm where time is limitless and abundant. And that’s what I got.
But not in the way I expected.
The drive from the airport was actually terrifying. Apparently, clouds had settled over the steep mountain range we needed to traverse when leaving the small airport.
Imagine a one-lane twisting, winding, road along a sheer cliff line, with very limited visibility and hair-pin turns every few minutes! My traveling companion was afraid of heights and I was afraid of getting lost (which, BTW, we did). What a team.
We quickly realized we had to stay in the present moment, responding to whatever appeared in front of us — moment to moment to moment. And slow. way. down.
It was an initiation into being fully present and embracing the unexpected. I’m sure I would have aged 100 years if we hadn’t. We gasped. We laughed. We cried. We sang. We breathed.
We arrived when we arrived. Chronologically the drive took 2 ½ hours – never getting out of first and second gear.
Once we descended from the clouds, we were rewarded with breath-taking views of a shimmering turquoise sea and azure sky.
My nervous system calmed down. I found myself opening more and more to the possibility of bringing Kairos time into my every day life. I could sense how it felt to more fully experience the fullness and spaciousness of each present moment.
It wasn’t as unfamiliar as I thought it would be. There was just more of it. More support for it in the culture. In restaurants you weren’t expected to get up and leave after the meal was finished.
Savoring and lingering was encouraged. No one hurried. I found it easier to tune in, moment to moment, to see if I was hungry, needed to rest, wanted some vigorous activity, or just wanted to float leisurely in the sea.
And I realized that, with a little more intention and attention, I really could bring more Kairos time into my life. We all can.
Think of all those times you said to yourself: Where did the time go? I lost track of time!
Maybe you were involved in a creative project or gardening. Maybe you were engrossed in conversation. Maybe you were daydreaming. Maybe you were meditating. Or maybe lingering in a state of reverie a little while longer in bed in the morning.
That’s the sublime time of Kairos. When the awareness of chronological time falls away, you get lost in the moment. Time passes without notice. You are in time outside of time.
It’s here you can receive true nourishment from life itself.
Instead of being thoroughly drained by the relentless demands of chronological time, find small moments to recharge by tapping into Kairos time … and pausing to ask: How am I feeling? Am I physically hungry or full? What do I want right now? What don’t I want?
This is how you can consciously and deliberately bring yourself into the present moment and connect with your authentic self.
This is how you prevent burn outs and melt downs.
Although it seems contradictory, you might need to schedule some time and space to be in Kairos time on a daily basis. A little bit of time to just be with yourself and whatever is. Maybe in the morning, maybe mid-day, maybe in the evening …
Nourish your soul by giving yourself the precious gift of Kairos time. You don’t have to travel to Greece. Just step into the present moment.