An Inquiry of Time
We all know the feeling when weeks fly by, weekends pass under our nose within seconds, and years begin to blend together.
In contrast, we have all experienced sitting in a classroom or a meeting, checking the clock every 20 minutes, just to notice that only three minutes have passed.
Time is linear, we are taught.
It moves at at constant rate, accelerating at a speed that stays the same, a reliable variable.
What if it isn’t?
Our perception of time is what makes it feel slower or faster, but how can we be sure when we are perceiving time as is?
Is it possible to observe and experience time at its true nature, at its baseline?
Sometimes, we wish for time to go faster, and other times, we wish for it to slow down. In my experience, the way I perceive time doesn’t regard my wishes whatsoever, it changes independent of my intention.
Sure, being present in the moment can feel as if you are stretching time, making minutes feel like hours, but isn’t that the opposite affect of what happens when you are entirely in your head the whole day, going over checklists, recounting interactions, and over-analyzing aspects of your life you can’t even control?
This concept seems so simple and yet it is so profound.
If getting out of your head all the damn time actually gave you more time, would you change your habits?
Imagine the following; Roberto and Luisa just sat down at a cafe, both business people, leading different lives, happening to have a coffee before work at the same time, in the same cafe.
8:50 AM: Roberto is mentally checking off everything he did yesterday, going over the presentation he gave on Monday, the strange conversation he had with his uncle three days ago, noting the ridiculous bill from the vet the other day, feeling a pang of annoyance (again) before remembering the new proposal he was asked to head, quickly recounting the work that it would take over the next month, calculating how much we would make if everything went well, not that he had to worry, he had plenty of money. He then went over his checklist for today (for the fifth time), making sure to note the groceries he was getting for dinner, and shit he was so wrapped up in his head this morning he forgot to leave food for the cat. He looked down to check his watch to see if he had time to run home and feed Checkers just to realize he was already five minutes late for work. He grabbed his coffee mug to quickly finish it off before noticing he had already drank the whole thing. He didn’t even remember what he had ordered.
8:50 AM: Luisa’s body warmed at the heat of her coffee every time the mug touched her lips, she smiled with comfort and looked out at the people rushing down the street. She gave thanks to the pause she was able to enjoy with her morning coffee before her day started. She noticed the adorable baby sitting next to her smiling up at her from his stroller, the fashionable couple cuddled together in matching oversized sunglasses exchanging light kisses, and the man next to them with the furrowed brow who seemed to be really in his head. She smiled at the elderly man siting by himself across the cafe who also seemed to be observing the moment they were suspended in. Luisa savored the last tastes of sweet coconut milk and spiced nutmeg in her coffee before she got up and paid. As she walked out she paused and let the sun hit her face, closing her eyes completely, appreciating it’s warmth. She glanced down at her watch and noticed she still had a couple minutes before work, so she took the long route to her office job, grateful for a another few empty moments to herself.
Even in this hypothetical, we can relate to both Roberto and Luisa. Both people had the same amount of time to spend, with no requirements, rules or responsibilities.
Roberto spent his time IN his head, indulging in future responsibilities and past experiences, mental activity he easily could have saved for when he got to work, or even for the walk to his office, and Luisa spent her time IN her time!
What a small change and yet what a large result!
Roberto started his day with stress from the past and the future, two things which, ironically, he has no control over.
Luisa started her day with gratefulness, something that will likely last throughout her day, propelling her through her work with lingering happiness and contentment from her enjoyable morning.
It feels like the more you notice time, the more time gives back to you.
This thought experiment provides insight regarding situations where we have a handful of free fleeting moments, and our choices in those moments determine our energy and feelings for the rest of our busy days.
But what about the opposite, having too much time on our hands?
Boredom is a funny thing, a concept we have given to the sensation of not knowing how to spend your ‘free time’ as if all time should be spent on something.
What a strange contradiction; we all wish for free time, and yet when we get it, we feel the need to fill it up!
If free time was truly used as free time; liberated moments of nothingness, here for us to simply exist in, without anything to ‘do’, I believe the concept of time as a whole would be greatly revalued.
Next time you catch yourself feeling ‘bored’ ask the question, how many times in your life, even in the past week, do you remember being wrapped up in something you couldn’t wait to get away from, thinking; WOW, I can’t wait to have time to myself, or, I can’t wait to relax.
Remind yourself in boredom that your time has finally arrived!
Appreciate these moments of free time, if not for the time itself, but for the point in time when you wished for them.
Maybe it really is possible to slow down time… PLAY AROUND WITH IT :)