Time seems to run some times and snail along at others. As long as we feel we have enough time it’s easier to be relaxed and spacious as we go about our day. As soon as time feels short this changes.
One of the main issues mentioned in the context of learning a meditative lifestyle is the shortage of time. This is especially challenging these days because we are easily accessible through our constant companions, our phones. Notifications and news can reach us anywhere. If we’re not being “notified” then we are making little notes, calls, emails, filling the many gaps during our days. Gaps in time are getting stuffed with words and actions.
Many jobs now require that we be available to communicate a bit no matter where we are. Just little bits, but those are open spaces getting filled up. Friends and family assume that we will immediately see their notices, and if we don’t respond quickly they might feel slighted. So if the battery in our phone is drained we might be pushed into an unexpected vacuum—and has our phone made us rude, or irresponsible at work? First we might feel out of sorts, but quickly the state can feel peaceful and free, like playing hooky from school.
What determines our subjective experience of time?
If we are bored or afraid, time can seem to move not at all. Whereas if we feel great and our life is exciting, time can seem to pass very quickly. Many of us wish to slow down time—so does that mean we should go wait in lines at the bank, or put ourselves in dangerous situations? Research has shown that spending time in a sensory deprivation tank can facilitate deep relaxation and a sense of timelessness. Should we be doing that?
On the other hand we might remember an active vacation with many new impressions that feels, looking back, like a surprisingly long time, so chock-full of memories. The same span of time in daily life with fewer new experiences can feel much shorter, as if “nothing happened.” I love to remember my long cycling tours in different countries. For one to five weeks I rode my bike across foreign lands and every day felt long and full. Compared to that, my weeks in beach holidays passed very quickly (and sometimes were surprisingly less relaxing). The intense experience cycling through different climates and vegetation inspired my senses; deepening imprints into memory. So this is one key—the fresh, the new: that’s time.
To this day I love travel days and prolonged times outdoors. This allows for many great and small experiences and brings about sensations of aliveness and presence. In the same way ‘open’ times during a day allow for similar moments—the possibility of special imprints. It’s so easy to fill these gaps with habitual actions, but the tiny break at a red traffic light, the long line at the cashier, and the minutes at a restaurant before the late friend arrives can be precious times full of surprises. I know I write about this again and again and perhaps I may be boring some of you, but I find such preciousness during these times! I watch the birds, smell the rain, enjoy the sun, the music, or the aliveness of the environment. It’s like I’m on vacation. If I’m a bit too early for an appointment I can enjoy a moment of just being or take a different way in and ride along a beautiful river.
All of these are unplanned elements in the day. The mind can be fresh, discovering what is right now. Especially if the mind is able to be open and relaxed, we can find little miracles nearly everywhere.
Those open moments allow for a balance of activity and receptivity. In this way we can integrate a balance of doing and being right in the middle of our busy days. That itself can feel healing and relaxing. It can allow for a much more natural experience and functioning for our nervous system as well.
What we can say, in the living of time, is that when it is pressured, with all the gaps filled with habitual activity (which not coincidentally leaves us with few meaningful imprints)—then this creates a feeling of ‘no time.’ Whereas if we are able to stop and notice or even enjoy what is happening—then there it is: presence, time, lots of time, all the time we could wish for. And space too.
I wish you a slow and beautiful week that is filled with many little surprises.