Saturday, December 7, 2019

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, November 7, 2019 - Playing with Time

Albert Einstein concluded that time is relative. It’s easy to say but difficult to quite fully take in the implications of the idea. It means a few different things. Specific to Einstein‘s theory, it states that if you were to take a clock and bring it to different places on the planet, or the solar system, galaxy, or universe, it would move at a different speed relative to your present location. To you, it would appear the same in either place because time will be moving for you at the same speed as the clock itself. But if you could compare your clock with one in a different place within the universe, they would be moving at such different speeds as to be impossible to compare.

Another instance of time relativity is in the recognition that gravity also makes an impact on the speed of time. A clock at sea level, where gravity is slightly stronger than at higher altitudes, will move a fraction of millisecond faster than a clock on top of Mount Everest where gravity is slightly weaker. Imperceptible to humans, but not immeasurable.

Then there is the notion of time feeling like it’s moving slowly when you dislike something or fast when you’re loving it. We’ve all had days when we were so busy and productive that the day seemed to go by incredibly quick. It’s quitting time before you know it.

So the experience of time is not constant and it is impacted by a number of different factors. Some of which are not out of our control.

So what does this matter to you, or me? It means we can manipulate our experience of time on purpose. And to our benefit.

One summer I was dreading the end of my vacation before it had even begun. I was already projecting myself into the future disappointment I would experience. Instead of living in the space of anticipation, I had already jumped ahead to the space of longing. I moved forward in time—emotionally, in this case—to an imaginary time period potentially less enjoyable than the one I was literally in. Don’t lose an opportunity to be anticipating something positively. It’s good for your brain juices and helps makes time function differently.

I somehow realized the folly of my thinking and snapped out of it. I made a plan. I spent several chunks of the first actual day of my vacation meditating and praying for time to slow down. Please, may it drag forward, luxuriating in its own laziness. Amen. I vowed to the Universe that I would extract every last drop of enjoyment from my vacation, second by second, in a slow drip of pleasure and relaxation.

Those two weeks felt like an entire summer. I felt more rested at the end of that vacation than any I had ever experienced before. I realized I was onto something. Sometimes I go on vacation and forget to do this little practice. Remembering it as I’m packing to leave and then kicking myself for having wasted the opportunity to make it seem longer. And then going through the motions of forgiving myself, of course. But ultimately I shouldn’t have needed to. Especially if I have the power to control my own time.

Note: You cannot control the speed of time for others. Only yourself. And it does seem somewhat paradoxical to contemplate the idea that we have any real power over actual time by the power of our thoughts. But that is where we should remind ourselves of the key idea in this concept. It’s all relative.

If you are having an excellent day at work, and things are going smoothly for you, and time feels like it’s going faster, your coworker sitting at the desk right next-door to you could be having a miserable day and for him time feels like it’s dragging on horribly. That’s relativity. Relative to your coworker, your day is zipping along quite nicely. The clock on the wall still moves at the same speed, though. It has its own relative reality.

At this exceptionally busy time of year, make a choice to perceive time differently. Pray for time to slow down for you. Meditate on the idea of enjoying it all. Even if your body is physically rushing around, let your mind perceive it slowly.

It’s a little mental trick with big emotional and physical advantages. Just think about the stress on your body when you’re rushing around in a half-panic. What if you were still getting things done but not feeling the sense of stress? How much better is that for your body in the long term? How much better is it for your emotional state? Your sense of enjoyment? To say nothing of the impact it makes on those around you.

What if you regularly took an opportunity to take a deep breath and imagine the hands on the clock literally slowing down?

Savor life. Don’t wish it away. It will move past you in a blink. Gaining speed as you age until the decades start to go by at the speed of years. Grinding your body to a powder in the process with stress and disappointment that was never necessary, never part of the plan.

You are in charge of your perception of the world. Make exceptional use of it.

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