I am NOT going to write another article about the holidays and stress. NO, Webmaster, please do not even ask me. Just thinking of handwriting an article about holiday stress is honestly making me go haywire!
But, I know what you mean about this time of the year when everything seems to happen in a blur, when everything seems to go so fast: the feeling of time slipping out of our grasp. The funny thing is that we get stressed when we feel we are running out of time; but in reality, we cannot even observe time as it is not a thing in itself. We can only observe events and perceive them in a framework of motion; i.e. of passing. There is the event of birth and there is the event of death; and in- between is the ‘time of our life.’We feel busier and stressed when we have more events in our lives to attend to. In fact, the word ‘busy’ originally meant “anxious, careful” and later meant to “be continually employed or occupied.” And these days, aren’t our minds continuously pre-occupied courtesy of our smart phones? People all over the world now check their social media (email, text, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) a staggering 17 – 40 times a day! The brain processes these as ‘events,’ swamping our attention and contributing to our sense of ‘busyness.’
So although time is not a ‘thing’ we can control, we can manipulate it by either decreasing the number of events that happen or by slowing down time’s sense of movement, of flow, of passage. The former is why some people just go away for the holidays; not only do they decrease the number of events to attend with family and friends, but they can ascertain that, while away, they can spend that time with their loved ones whom they travel with.
At an inner level, thoughts are ‘events.’ And the more thoughts you have racing through your head, the busier you feel, especially if these thoughts are riddled with worries and fears. This is why meditation is such a good stress-reducing technique. You simply learn to sit still, focus on your breath, and observe those thoughts come and go. Each time the mind wanders away (which it will), you simply bring it back to the breath. And soon you will notice your thoughts not only slow down, but they actually decrease, sometimes to a point of singular focus. This then brings a sense of calm, peace and balance within you. Sweet slowness indeed…!
Alas, the fast life is all around us- fast food, fast cars, fast conversations on social media, fast hook-ups, etc. We forget to linger, to really live, and consequently we feel out of kilter; the word being derived from “kelter” meaning “good health or good condition.” Yes, the cost of ignoring stress, of not being balanced and at ease, is enormous. Stress accelerates degeneration in every organ system contributing to strokes, heart attacks, obesity, diabetes, sleep problems, dementia, etc. Anxiety, depression, and suicide are its psychological consequences. And the only solution is to slow down and be present in the moment, be present in your life.
I am encouraged that there is a budding ‘slow movement’ that has taken root and is sprouting around the world; a movement that espouses mindfulness in slow living, slow food, slow cities, slow money and slow loving. There is even an organization, One Taste, that teaches a practice that combines the “power and attention of meditation with the deeply human, deeply felt, and connected experience of orgasm.” A sweet slowness indeed..!
One reason slowing down time is so sweet is because it gives you a taste of eternity. Living slowly and living mindfully means living in the present moment; and living in the moment means living wholly with mind and body being at the same place at the same time. We can really only experience the present. We have to cognitively create a ‘past’ and a ‘future’ in our minds. What we have are memories and images of what to expect; and the act of recalling these stored memories or visualizing these images occur in the present. There is no ‘past’ or ‘future’ laid out along a ‘time line’ as a real thing. There is really out there only the present where we experience events in motion.
For St. Augustine, the purpose of ‘time’ is to be caught up into this eternal present to the extent that we can experience it while still bound by physical laws. He wrote that if the ‘present’ were perpetually present, there would be no longer any time, but eternity. And to taste eternity is to taste God who transcends time; who has no beginning and no end. A sweet, sweet Slowness indeed..!
I could write about eternity, but it would take forever. I could write about infinity, but it would have no end. And that would be rude to you as most of us conceptualize time as a ‘resource,’ i.e. like money. So in that frame of mind, I hope I have not ‘wasted’ your time; that you ‘budgeted’ enough time to read this; and that this was ‘worth’ your time. Truly, the slower you live your life, the sweeter your life, and the ‘richer’ you will be in what is really important. Namaste.