Just about every day I hear someone, somewhere who complains of not having enough time.“Time flies!” Perhaps you’re the one saying that too. As if the earth was spinning faster these days than it used to. We all know that’s not the case. So if that hasn’t changed, how come so many of us seem to be experiencing a very real time shortage?
• Ever felt stressed having to complete a report, tidy up your place and dress up before meeting friends, all in barely an hour? Then you know what it means to be pressed for time.
• Ever spent an hour with your new sweetheart, lost in a love bubble? Then you know what it feels like to float outside of time.
• Ever got so immersed into a pleasant activity (say, an awesome yoga class) that the 60 minutes you spent practicing felt at once like 5 minutes and a blissful eternity (you’re not too sure which)?
3 hours. 3 emotional states. 3 different experiences of time.
My point is: Time is how you feel.
Whether you feel you are short on time or have plenty of it has nothing to do with your workload, deadlines or lack of thereof. Your experience of time (as with everything else in life) is colored by the way you feel inside. It is 100% subjective, and fluctuates according to your fluctuating moods.
In other words it’s all in your mind! Ah the human mind. So much power there. To create stress and suffering, or bliss and beauty. The power to experience a minute as never-ending or a full day go by in a flash. But what state of mind exactly is likely to make you feel “short on time”? And which one will open you up to an ever-expanding sense of time? Read on to find out.
Let me use a bit of Ayurvedic philosophy to explain what I mean by feeling fast and feeling slow.
According to Ayurveda, all of life is made of 5 elements: ether, air, fire, earth and water all combine in different proportions to give us the world as we know it, the world of matter. Each element has specific qualities. Slowness happens to be a quality of the earth element, which by its very nature is extremely stable. Therefore, by feeling “slow” I mean feeling stable. Grounded. Rooted. Like a 100-year old tree that might bend a little this way and that, but can easily withstand the strongest winds. Similarly, when you are rooted in yourself you feel poised, attentive, and resistant to the wind, i.e. the hustle & bustle going on around you. When your earth is strong, you’re resilient, emotionally stable, and have all the mental stamina you need to get things done. Sleep comes easy too, something that hugely influences your inner state of being and how you perceive time to unfold.
On the other hand, “fast” is a quality of the air element. It is the wind. Quick to change directions, unpredictable. An excessively windy mind jumps from thought to thought, has tons of new and exciting ideas but no concentration power to see any one of them through to full manifestation. Restlessness, overwhelm, confusion… All those are typical of a windy mind. Think of the expression “airy head”. Spinning around in one’s head, unable to focus for very long and get anything done efficiently, there never seems to be enough time for the hyper-mobile mind. This is the dominant state in today’s society, with enormous consequences for our health.
Fast food. Super-fast technologies. High-speed trading. Crash diets. Express lines. Express facials. Fast-track learning. Speed-dating. Month-long (or should I say month-short!?) yoga teacher trainings (Had to throw that one in, so absurd it is).
How much faster can we work, communicate, eat, shop, study, date!!? Our nervous systems are going to crash. Oh but wait, they already are, as seen in the fast (of course) rise of stress-related disorders.
In such an accelerated world if we’re not securely rooted in ourselves, we risk being swept up into those fast-moving currents and drown in exhaustion, a common symptom of a hyper- mobile body-mind according to Ayurveda.
Forgetfulness and confusion are common too. In the past two weeks I have had three different clients tell me they forgot some of their scheduled appointments. And those are highly organized people mind you. I myself missed an important appointment I had at the French consulate, although it was clearly entered in my calendar. So unlike me.
How does that happen? Taking on too much work? For sure. Not resting enough? You bet. Focus gets diluted. Mind gets scattered. Overwhelm sets in. Slowly but surely the wind picks up in the mind until it is a full-blown (mini) tornado. And appointments get missed. Emails pile up. We wish each day had 5 extra hours. So we mistakenly believe that if we move faster, sleep less, work more, we WILL eventually catch up. But the more we attempt to cram into each day, the faster they seem to go by! Which leaves us even more agitated and scrambling to get things done. A bad chain reaction of events and a classic case of N.E.T. in the making. (Not Enough Time disorder. Just made that up.)
When you feel agitated time always seems to be running out. But does it really ?
It so happens that helping people slow down is my passion.
To bring time back to a manageable pace you need to bring yourself back to a more manageable pace and slow down internally.
Ayurvedically speaking you’ll want to build up the earth quality of stability in yourself, while gently taming the mobile quality of the air element, reflected in a hyper-stimulated nervous system. How do you do that? By deliberately slowing down everything about you: your steps, your eating, your speaking, your breathing, your mind.
1. Slow down your steps – Are you a fast walker as I am? Do you often pass people on the streets only to find yourself waiting with them at the next intersection? Maybe you don’t need to power walk everywhere you go after all…Experiment walking at a more leisurable pace now and then.
2. Slow down your eating – Do you mechanically bring more food to your mouth even when it’s still half-full? How about chewing a little longer. Savoring a little more. Breathing between bites.
3. Slow down your words – Do you often speak so rapidly you trip over your words? Your mind moving so fast, your mouth can barely keep up? If so, make a deliberate effort to pause every few sentences. Listen to the silence between, behind and around the words.
4. Slow down your breathing – How you breathe reflects how you feel. This is a central practice to living a slower, happier and more efficient life. A key to living longer too! The great yogis have always said that the fewer breaths we take in a day the longer our life span.
5. Slow down your mind – I purposely placed this one #5 because the mind is most subtle and as such most challenging to control. But if you follow steps 1-4 you’ll have a good foundation for meditation to happen with greater ease. I suggest you sit 5 minutes a day and practice witnessing the sensations in your body, the flow of breath, thoughts and feelings when they arise. This practice will help you develop the healthy distance you need from your thoughts in order to not get caught in their whirlwind.
I hope I just inspired you to slow down some. You’ll be surprised how much you can do and how well you can do it when you don’t live in a hurry. It’s 2PM now, I’m off to take a nap.
(P.S should you need a slow-moving, earth-building yoga practice, that’s what I’ll deliver all summer starting July 12, at Upper West Side Yoga & Wellness on Mondays and Saturdays.)