Sacred Time

Sacred Time

When I was a kid, everyone seemed to die young. At school, it seemed that deaths from suicide, car crashes – many of which were alcohol related – , strange diseases allegedly related to  chemicals commonly found on a farm, firearm accidents, farm machinery accidents and news about 18-year old friends and family killed in military related incidents all just seemed so common.

When I was a kid, growing up amidst the constant reminders of the circle of life that seemingly only country living can imbue, death among young people was a given.

Life is sacred.

Time is sacred was inextricably intertwined with Life is sacred.

Time is sacred was a truth I knew in every cell of my being growing up. I didn’t have to be taught this.  Nonetheless, in the late evenings just before I put myself to bed, I could often hear my father saying, time is the most valuable resource you have, invest it wisely, invest it in developing your mind. No one, Marilee, no one can take away from you what you put inside your mind.  His large, work-worn hand,  stained from the chemicals of the day would land wearily on top of my head with a thud as he continued, so get as much knowledge as you can out of the time you have.

He spoke with such great conviction – with the kind of firm, loving, urgency that made me think, I am going to die in my sleep. I better get a few more things done then before I fall asleep.

Remember, Marilee, his words echoed in my mind, you will never get time back once its spent, it’s the message I awoke to every day. And thus began my fervent pursuit of learning and the study of how people learn.

Life is sacred.

Time is sacred… or am I confused?

Time is scarce!

Wait… is there a difference?

I wrestled with this question for a long while. Until…this belief emerged front and center – amidst my obsession with time – and it did so when I came to San Diego State University to serve as an untenured  professor of education.

What’s the belief?

It is the belief that All humans are worthy of dignity, regardless of how much I agree with their ways of being and doing. That is the belief that brought a glimpse of clarity into my relationship with time. More specifically, it is the belief that Life is Sacred and therefore I must hold in reverence the experiences of these humans with whom I am so privileged to guide along their learning journeys. Their lives are sacred regardless of how they have chosen to invest their time; regardless of whether I agree with where they have placed their priorities.

So, here I was, only 2 semesters into my experience at SDSU, with two beliefs now deeply embedded in the center of my heart and prominently screaming in the fore-front of my mind.

  • If I view time as scarce, I will not see my investment of time as sacred.
  • Life is Sacred therefore all human beings must be treated with dignity and their experiences must be held with reverence.
  • If I view my investment of time with my students as sacred, rather than scarce, perhaps the students will see their investments in themselves and their education as sacred – perhaps they will seem their own lives as sacred.
  • Time is Sacred
  • Life is Sacred

It was as if the missing piece to my previous research – which sought to measure the most effective and efficient ways that students learn and develop in a manner that informed improvements in their learning and development prior to their graduation [read: time is scarce] – had revealed itself.  Investing in Human Dignity and holding human experiences with heartfelt reverence is synonymous with sacred time.

Though this cognitive and heartfelt realization was vivid, I had questions. For instance, how do I hold each human with the dignity they deserve and view their lived experience with reverence IF their words, choices, or actions are not in alignment with what I wanted for them? [read: they are not fully engaging in the work that will earn them their degree in a timely manner]. AND while sacred time is synonymous with honoring every human’s dignity and holding their experience with reverence, how do I “do” that while also trying to get the work done? [read: get tenure and fulfill my other responsibilities while also supporting these students in the ways they need to be supported so they can obtain the learning that will lead to them securing their degrees in a timely manner when time still feels scarce].

Bleh – Quite a quandary I found myself in…

My historical research said that everything must be measured and everything must be improved and it needed to be improved quickly because students were only with us for a brief time. Time is sacred continually became confused with time is scarce – it can’t be wasted…

And with all that came a drive to produce more and more in my sacred life’s allotment of time – something which I have recently come to call Productisease. You know…becoming obsessed with gathering as much data as possible; getting as much done as possible within the time that I have that the sacredness of time becomes warped and construed losing all awareness of human dignity and the wisdom that arises from being with whatever it is I am experiencing with grace and reverence for others’ human dignity.

Given all of this, how do I now integrate the holding of all humans with dignity; the holding of each human’s experience with reverence, while also ensuring (with the case of the students I serve any way) that evidence is gathered for the knowledge and skill sets they have developed and are also needed so they can obtain meaningful work or gain entrance to graduate school and do so in an expedited manner?

With regard to my current research in pursuing this question,

  • the holding of each human being with dignity and viewing their lived experience with reverence is integrated into
  • the research methodology that understands how students learn and develop
  • which is integrated into the opportunities we provide students to learn and develop
  • which is integrated into the methodology to evaluate that learning and development
  • which then informs the improvements needed in the design of their learning and development.

That is the research I do now – over 10 years of research published in a book that came out in 2016; 10 more years of research in a book that just came out in November 2018 and one in progress with yes, former students.  And it wouldn’t be possible without bringing a gentle attention to the awareness of the sacredness of the moment-to-moment breath in the body that is connected to the breath of the human being sitting across from me.

In summary,

  • Being with each human as a human whose dignity must be preserved as they learn and develop, as opposed to their being viewed as a data point is sacred.
  • Being with each human’s lived experience with reverence and how it informs the learning and development design and assessment methodology is sacred.
  • Time intentionally invested in those experiences is sacred.

Alas, where is my drive to produce in all of this?  It’s still very much alive. Simply noticing what I noticing with kindness and curiosity, naming what is and  equally important, what isn’t. Then, connecting with the sensation of the breath in the body until the mind remembers that Time is Sacred; Life is Sacred…. there is no scarcity in that.

With awareness of breath and the body in this moment,


Marilee Bresciani Ludvik, Ph.D.




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