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April 2nd, 2020
This episode is dedicated to Preethi Kasireddy who tweeted about how time flies in a life time. You can connect with her on Twitter with the handle @iam_preethi or check out her website Preethi Kasireddy.
Sometimes time flies, and other times, time seems to drag. When we think about time, we imagine this uniform linear constant that somehow moves forward, but our experience of it varies so much that we’ve pluralized this singular phenomenon. There are different times, not just as a tool for events, like good times and bad times, but actually different kinds of time, or rather speeds.
The way time dilates forms a paradox depending on how much we zoom in or how much we zoom out.
On a large timeline the days and months and years can collapse to almost nothing, if we are doing the same thing day in and day out. There’s no real demarcation, at least not one that is different and unique - there’s nothing in all that time that stands out. But, change things up often, and suddenly a long life is tickered with all sorts of different phases and thresholds.
We can imagine a very long wall, perhaps a hallway. Imagine nothing on this wall, imagine it’s just a simple coat of paint. You can see and understand the whole thing in barely a glance, and of course the small blemish three quarters of the way down stands out.
But now imagine the same wall covered in pictures. Imagine polaroids, imagine drawings, imagine paintings of all sizes and shapes, imagine the wall rebuilt, being brick over here, and log cabin down further with trinkets and souvenirs hung on nails. Imagine part of the wall is a dry-erase board with equations and questions. Imagine chalkboard paint splashed along another section, and a dazzlingly mural in chalk. Imagine another section where the wall itself was clay, that had been molded and sculpted into scenes of trial and triumph.
Now if you turned a corner, and looked at this magnificent collage, would you be able to take it all in with just a glance or does it slow you down? Would you walk slowly, taking in each and every little detail and change?
Simply put, life feels longer, the more we switch things up.
But if we zoom in, right into the moment, the rule inverts:
We can slow down time, by paying attention to the moment, and we can speed it up by paying attention to the task.
The task, whatever it is we are doing, is a lot like that interesting collaged wall. Even if the task is something we’ve done many times before, it inevitably involves our attention to switch between details and track them against one another, whether that be deleting the last few letters to fix a typo while keeping in mind the rest of this sentence, or filing taxes, or building a log cabin, or coding an app.
But if we pull back and simply try to pay attention to the moment, everything slows down. That is, if our wandering thoughts don’t get the best of us. The moment, as it’s own thing, is unchanging, regardless of what’s happening in that moment. We can recognize this ethereal quality of the present, and this recognition is a big part of the focus for a practice like mindfulness meditation. It’s the art of the Thoughtful Pause. It allows us to take in time slower, and potentially come to realizations that are never on hand in the busy task.
By practice, or by luck, it’s possible to pull your head out the hurried task and realize that all the tasks you’ve been busy with are all much the same, and that life is beginning to look uniform, the years are beginning to collapse into a single day that’s merely repeated.
That realization on offer during a slow moment can spark an idea for something new, and ultimately send our life careening into a new and exciting direction.
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