There’s Not Enough Time (& Other Crackpot Illusions)

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I’ve been thinking about time a lot lately. Specifically:

  • Where has it all gone?
  • How can I get more of it?
  • Why’s it moving so damn fast?
  • I have none.
  • Is it really possible to bend it? (Keep reading.)

Last week I had a short coaching session with one of Martha Beck’s Master Coaches – the slathered in Awesome Sauce, Jen Trulson. I won’t get into the boring details of the whining which led up to my takeaway, but essentially I have a deeply ingrained thinking error that says, “There’s not enough time.”

There’s. Not. Enough. Time:

… for me to take in sustenance.

… for me to pant on the treadmill for a measly 10 minutes.

… for me to shave my legs (and most definitely not for the subsequent braiding of the leg hair from lack of said shaving.)

… for me to take time off (ponder that one, folks.)

… blah, blah, blah.

But the thing is, I know, at the deepest level of my core, that time is a man-made construct. Who’s the asshat who came up with Leap Year, people? I have long believed somewhere inside of me that time is an illusion. Maybe part of a 42nd dimension that we just can’t comprehend yet. I started to get an inkling of the proof of this (from what my tiny brain could understand) when I first read Einstein’s Theory of Relativity – essentially that “the laws of physics are the same for all non-accelerating observers, and that the speed of light in a vacuum was independent of the motion of all observers.”

Say what?

At first, I thought the trouble boiled down to my vacuum which is like 12 years old, the belt constantly smells like burning rubber regardless of how often I change it, and the rotors are so mired down by hair and bundles of dust that it doesn’t pick up. Jack. Shit.

My brain was really stretched thin, however, when I read what it now my favorite explanation of “time” from The Complete Conversations with God:

A true understanding of time allows you to live much more peacefully within your reality of relativity, where time is experienced as movement, a flow, rather than a constant.  It is you who are moving, not time. Time has no movement. There is only One Moment… Your science has already proven this mathematically. Formulas have been written showing that if you get into a spaceship and fly far enough fast enough, you could swing back around toward Earth and watch yourself take off. This demonstrates that Time is not a movement but a field through which you move…

Ding, ding, ding… “what have we got for Him, Johnny?”

Add to all of the above thoughts the Buddhists’ wisdom of living in the present moment. Samiddhi, a disciple of the Buddha, says, ““I, friend, do not reject the present moment to pursue what time will bring. I reject what time will bring to pursue the present moment.”

I’ve often had moments wherein I’ve thought those Buddhist people were smart as hell. But what really lit my brain fire was when I started thinking about this Buddhist way of living as opposed to our American way of living (my way of living) – multitasking. For the longest time I thought I was an adept multi-tasker. But the more I tried to do it, the more I realized that multitasking is just one more big, fat illusion. We think we’re multitasking when, in reality, we’re dissipating our energy so that one task does not receive our full attention which causes us to feel scattered (and a bit crazy, really) and the task itself is done sort of half-assed. But, the real zinger, came when I realized that by focusing my attention, fully, to the one task at hand actually expanded time for me.

Bending Time?

Here’s how it works for me. If, in the morning, I wake up and immediately repeat this mantra a few times, “I have plenty of time” and “I have all the time I need,” and then go about my task of answering my four gazillion emails in a focused way, doing only that task, time does seem to pass more slowly. In fact, if I just focus on my email (without moving on to a website I need to make changes to, or a call that needs to be made) I can look at the clock feeling like it should be way later than it is for the amount of work I’ve gotten done. Read: Holy crap, it’s only 10:45 a.m.? I’m totally awesome. I ROCK. Nope, I BOULDER.

Alternatively, if I wake up in the morning and think of my gatrillion emails, the website I need to build, the calls I need to make, the fact that I need to register my car, the payroll I need to cut, blah, blah, blah and I go about my day weaving in and out of all of these tasks, moving from one to another without ever really completing any one thing, I look at the clock and it’s 4:30 p.m. and I’ve accomplished notta. Nothing. Zip. Read: Holy crap, it’s 4:30 p.m. and I’m a totally worthless pile of dingo dung.

This is physics, people, I don’t fully understand it. My brain hurts from trying to write this post and actually convey any semblance of rational thought.

The Leftover Bits

Just like in any task I take on, putting together my own IKEA bookshelf, for example, there are always a few bolts and baubles left sitting on my floor. Here are the questions I’m left to ponder:

If movement were to stop, would “time” stop altogether? Are clocks only measures of relative motion? Am I bending time when I focus, fully, on the NOW? It sure feels like it.  Think about it: If it’s you moving through time… Are you running? Are you frantic? Are you calm and centered? Are you fully present in that moment or are your thoughts dwelling in a future time while your body is where it is? Maybe it’s our thoughts that do the time traveling and we all know we can’t be in three places at once… Or can we? I dunno, but I’ve definitely felt the magic of tinkering with time and stretching it out and I’ve also felt the effects of letting it run all over me – harried and chaotic.

Before he died, Einstein said “Now Besso [an old friend] has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us … know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

Exactly.

10 replies
  1. Allison Crow says:

    Ah yes…. this one bends and melts my brain often. I think more about managing energy rather than time…. and somehow it seems to work.
    That persistent pesky illusion gets us all.
    love this piece.

    Reply
    • Melanie Bates says:

      Thanks so much, Allison. One of my favorite things about you and reading your FB posts is that it seems you follow the “play” and “rest” model pretty religiously. I definitely need to take a page out of that book 🙂
      xoxo

      Reply
  2. Monica Wilcox says:

    I needed to read this one today since this last week I’ve felt as if I were overwhelmed by my life instead of living it. I refuse to live under that illusion so when it comes on, I know it’s “time” for a reassessment.

    Great post, Mels!! XXOOX

    Reply
    • Melanie Bates says:

      Thanks, Mo. I’m just thrilled I found the “time” to write it. LOL. Try some of these techniques, I swear it sets my day up in a wholly different way. Love you.

      Reply
  3. Midge says:

    It’s not about whether I have enough time — I have all the time I have, right now. For me, it’s about what I do during the time I have. Mindful practice, simply being fully present is the ultimate in time management.

    Reply
  4. Caren says:

    As I do laundry, check facebook, and read this blog, I realize that that I am rushing to get it read so I can get back to facebook before it’s time to put the laundry in the dryer. Good grief. You’re right. Thanks so much for the perspective I needed today. I’m going to ignore everything else and just type right now. And I think I’ll shut the buzzer off on the dryer today. <3

    Reply
  5. Kevin Davenport says:

    There is an interesting debate in physics about the nature of time and whether it exists at all independently of the observer. Every description of time involves a process; the way I chose to think of it is that the “arrow of time” points in the direction in which entropy increases. That is, in the “future” things are less ordered than in the “past”. The question is, if you took away all processes, if we could somehow just be observing a universe of nothing, would there be time? Clearly, the idea of “space” exists outside our perception. But, if time depends on events and there are no events, is there time? Is time an actual property of the universe, or is it a less fundamental construct derived from our perception of the universe?

    Reply
    • Melanie Bates says:

      So when time falls in the woods and no one is around to see it, it doesn’t happen. OMG, where’s this theory been all my life. I’m not sure, clearly this makes my brain whir faster, but I think not – that if we were observing a universe of nothing there would be no time. We would just BE. Isn’t that what Eastern religion has been striving for all these centuries?

      Thanks, Kev, I’ll be thinking about this for the next decade.

      xo
      Melanie

      Reply

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