We are all extremely sensitive to time. It is measured out for us almost everywhere we look. Alarms wake us up and clocks suggest when it is time for bed. We eat around noon and again around 6pm. Work is expected between 9am and 5pm and is often half-expected anything up to two or three hours either side.
Of course, we are not alone in our dependence on time. My dogs are fed every evening at 5:30, and from 5:20 they will gently remind me of their presence so they can be sure I won’t forget my duties.
We might make time to sit and breath during the day. Sometimes for ten or twenty minutes. Many people use gentle alarms to suggest when this time is over. And then we spend our days encouraging our minds to stay present in the moment. But what do we mean by that? How long is a moment?
A moment is usually thought of as being “a short period of time”. We think of it as being here now. But now is a tricky concept. If we say the word now out loud it only takes a fraction of a second, but the start of the n is at a different now than the last lingering w.
And thought usually precedes action. So if we think, “I am going to say “now“”, and then we say “now“, which is the moment we are interested in. The thought? The action? The start of the action? Then end of the action?
We’ve quickly fallen into Zeno’s paradox territory, where trying to break down a continuous flow into it’s instantaneous parts leads us in an infinite spiral towards zero.
If time is a continuous flow, then now is just a point in that flow. Trying to determine the position and duration of a single moment is like trying to isolate a drop of water in a great river. All we can be certain of is that we are looking at a huge mass of moving water.
But time is tangled up with space. There was no time before the big bang at the beginning of the universe. Time has flowed along with space ever since. So as the two concepts are so inter-twined, why don’t we instead consider moments in space rather than moments in time? We may be extremely sensitive to time, but we have an even greater connection to place.
When I am at the sink, I need to concentrate on doing a good job of the washing up. When I am at my desk working, I have to just focus on the task at hand. Let the moment be determined by the place, not by the time.
But now I have to run. I have a train to catch.image by Magdalena Roeseler
A common objection to the idea of spending ten minutes a day sitting and breathing is, “I’m too busy. I just don’t have the time”.
The only answer to that question is “nobody”. But of course, the question is an odd one because it implies that there is only one time, and that this singular time can be possessed.
Isaac Newton built his view of the universe on a single, perfectly linear idea of time. It starts at the beginning and carries straight on towards infinity. Or the end. Whichever comes first.
Clearly, if time is a straight line, it must, in some sense, be possible to travel along it. In 1895 HG Wells built his fictional Time Machine on this concept, and the idea of time travel has enthused millions of people ever since.
Imagine the possibilities! We’d be able to follow Frank Sinatra’s burger recipe, or grab next week’s lottery numbers, or speak firmly and persuasively to Hitler, or start a dinosaur farm…
Sadly for the “what if” fantasist in all of us, ten years later Albert Einstein published his Special Theory of Relativity. To be fair, it took a while for anyone to figure what it meant, but broadly it explains that time travel was now possible, but only within certain virtually impossible parameters. Time, it transpires, isn’t a straight line at all. It bends and twists and speeds up and slows down depending on how quickly you’re travelling or how much gravity is thereabouts. It’s a mess.
But time only responds to what you are doing from the point of view of somebody else. In other words, we each have our own time. And, according to the ever reliable Wikipedia, “the rate of a clock is greatest according to an observer who is at rest with respect to the clock”.
Of course, this runs contrary to our own observations that a watched clock appears to tick more slowly than it does when we’re rushing around trying to get things done.
One way to get yourself the time to sit and breathe is to rush around as much as possible yourself. This would slow down the rate of the clock with respect to you. Otherwise, get your team (or your boss, depending on where you sit in the corporate pecking-order) to do the running around, forcing their clocks to slow down so that you can use the extra time you have for simply sitting without their noticing any fall in your output.
By far the best and most effective method to be sure you have the time to sit and breath is to accept that time is a construct of mathematics and convention. In fact, the only time that exists in any meaningful way is this exact moment. You should use each moment to its fullest potential. And if that means focusing on your breath, then you have all the time you need.image by Oskar Karlin