Every day I hear people who complain of not having enough time.
Perhaps you’re the one saying it 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?
Time: a very personal experience.
- Ever felt stressed having to squeeze in food shopping, house cleaning and your own personal grooming before the kids got home, 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 your 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 hour you spent practicing felt at once like 5 minutes and a blissful eternity?
3 hours. 3 emotional states. 3 different experiences of time.
My point is: Time is how you feel.
Whether you feel “short on time” or feel that you have “plenty of it” has nothing to do with your workload, deadlines or lack of thereof. Your experience of time is colored by the way you feel inside. It is 100% subjective and fluctuates according to your moods.
In other words, it’s all in your mind! So much power there. The power to experience a minute as never-ending or a full day go by in a flash.
But what state of mind will cause you to feel “short on time” and which one will open you up to an ever-expanding sense of time?
Let’s find out using Ayurvedic principles.
Do you feel “fast” or do you feel “slow”?
Whether you are feeling fast or slow will determine how you experience time. Let me explain what I mean by that.
According to Ayurveda, the 5 elements (ether, air, fire, earth and water) that combine in different proportions to give us the world as we know it, the world of matter, all display specific qualities.
Slowness happens to be a quality of the earth element. Earth is heavy, dense and (normally) very stable. So by feeling “slow” I mean feeling stable. Rooted. Like a 100-year old tree that may 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 feel emotionally stable and have all the mental stamina you need to get things done. Sleep comes easy too. Good sleep 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. Think of 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.
An epidemic of “fast” everything.
Fast food. High-speed internet. Crash diets. Express check-out lines. Speed-dating. Month-long (or should I say month-short!?) yoga teacher trainings.
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 society’s fast-moving currents and drown in exhaustion, a common symptom of a hyper mobile body-mind according to Ayurveda.
As well as forgetfulness, confusion, anxiety, insomnia.
How do we get there? 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 frazzled time always seems to be running out. But does it really ?
What if the solution to slowing down time was to slow YOURSELF down?
5 practices to slow down time.
To slow down time you simply need to slow yourself down in every way you can.
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? Here are my five tips.
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 leisurely pace.
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 speak so rapidly you often 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 masters 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 find it noticeably easier to sit for meditation and be a witness of all the thoughts popping up in your mind without reacting or getting caught in their whirlwind. A precious skill!
I hope you now feel inspired to slow down a bit. It always surprises me how much I can do and how well I can do it when I don’t live in a hurry!!