How we spend our time

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It stands to reason that the more we practice something the better we get at it.  If we want to run a marathon we have to do lots of running.  If we want to be good at chess we have to study moves and play lots of games.  If we want to develop out spiritual attributes then we have to be doing something that exercises them on a regular basis.  How exactly are we spending our time and are we investing enough time to develop our spiritual faculties?

Percentages in Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual

Exact percentages do vary greatly between people.  It will be different between weekdays and weekends for most of us.  It varies between young and old people and by time of year, country of residence, etc, etc.  In the tables below I’ve listed typical daily activities and tallied up the number of hours we are likely to spend in physical, emotional, mental and spiritual activities.  These are intended to be typical examples only and the time you spend may be quite different.


sleepingchild.pngPhysical time – it is pretty hard to avoid spending less than 50% of our time looking after our physical bodies.  They require continuous maintenance.  Some special people claim to be able to get by on 2 to 4 hours sleep a night, but most of us need at least 6 – 8 hours (if you don’t get enough you can build up a sleep debt which is unhealthy long-term).  Then we have to eat, go to the toilet, shower and do other personal grooming, travel to work, etc.  Half the day is soon gone.

Exactly how the emotional and mental activities work out depends very much on the type of job you do.  If you are a professional sportsperson it is likely most of your day will be involved with the physical body, but few of us have a job like that.  Many people will be involved in office work where a great deal of the day can be spent in mundane mental activity.  If you are a teacher or care-giver then you will have a higher amount of emotional activity in your day.  Activities do not neatly split in to our physical / emotional / mental categories.  What we are really trying to measure is how much of the body and brain are engaged at any particular time.  Some activities could involve all three, but with one predominating.

journala.pngI encourage you to work out how you are spending your time.  Perhaps by keeping a log over a period of a week or two until the trends emerge (there are also mobile apps that can help).  The point here is that about 50% of our time is going to be spent on our physical body, and the other 50% in some combination of emotional and mental (usually mundane mental activities), leaving almost nothing for investment in spiritual activities.  The time most of us spend using our higher brain functions each day is not actually zero, but when it is only minutes a day we are spending less than 1% of our time on a daily or weekly basis developing our most important abilities.

How much time should we be spending in spiritual (higher brain function) activities?  There are no international standards or United Nations recommendation on what amount of time we should invest in spiritual activities.  I don’t believe that under 1% of our time is sufficient.  Five percent (5%) would be a good target for most of us to aim for, which is about 1 hour a day.  You can be certain that the great thinkers and spiritual masters of the past invested a good deal more time than this developing their abilities, so it is unreasonable to expect that we are going to think and act like them if we only spend a few minutes a day exercising our higher mental abilities.

How does the world support our efforts?

worldhands1.pngA while ago I was wondering how society was structured to help us in our efforts towards spiritual advancement.  I did some research into the amount of money spent by the public and private sectors in the world-wide economy.  The premise here is that the amount of money spent is directly proportional to the amount of time/effort being invested in each category.  Spending does vary from country to country, but figures for the larger economies like the USA are reasonably accessible and should be representative of the spending in many other western economies.  I then went about categorising the market segments according to the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects.  There are limitations to the accuracy of the data, and some market segments span several categories, eg the Health sector is predominantly physical but also covers emotional and mental health spending.  Nevertheless, the general trends emerge and are in line with our expectations.

World-wide, the annual amount of money spent (based on 2014 figures) is about:

  • US$50 trillion in private sector industry verticals
  • US$27 trillion by governments (public sector)
  • US$1 trillion in drugs, arms sales and other black market activities like pornography

That’s a total world-wide market economy of about US$80 trillion.  (The trillion here is the US trillion, being 1,000 billion, or 1 million million; not the UK trillion which is a billion billion.)  Using figures for the standard industry verticals that are in widespread use in the marketing and financial world, and categorised according to primarily physical, emotional, mental or spiritual:

ww spend

Governments world-wide do have guidelines for the way they apportion their spending as a percentage of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to support various departments.  Health, Education, Social Welfare and Superannuation always receive plenty of spending.  Some countries spend more on the military than others.  There is usually some funding of art and culture, environment, welfare and charities, etc., but these amounts are quite small.  The government usually plays a significant roll in supporting mental pursuits such as Education.

As summarised in the table above, I discovered that about 71% of the world-wide spend was supporting our physical bodies.  About 19% emotional, and 10% mental (most of which was coming from the government sector).  There is money being spent on spiritual activities amounting to tens of billions of US dollars each year, but as a percentage of $80 trillion it was well below 1%.

This isn’t too different from the previous calculations on how we as individuals are typically spending our time.  This isn’t unexpected, but it was good too get some verification of my personal observations from the global perspective.  The world-wide markets are there to support our activities and it is market driven; the services are there to support the demand.

Could we raise the spiritual abilities of the world by creating more activities that nurture and exercise the spiritual faculties for the population at large?

“If you build it, he will come” (an often used quote from Field of Dreams).

seedling1.pngIt isn’t really as easy as that as you cannot persuade people to do what they don’t want to do; “you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink“.  There are things that could be done to improve access to information and assist those that wish to engage in personal growth and self-development.  The government in most countries offers very little in guidance or assistance to help the spiritual growth of their population.