Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Day Without Time

Lately I've been examining the causes of unnecessary stress and unhappiness in my life and doing what I can to minimize or avoid them. Obvious things like not getting involved with people who are self-absorbed or overly cynical, not bringing up old injustices or slights if they're in the past, and trying to detach from attacchment and desire for things that aren't core to my wellbeing or happiness.

One of the things I've always felt the most stress about is time. We always think of time as a constant drumbeat that never speeds up or slows down, that it is the one thing we have no control over. We observe the world through our senses, as we process our perception of the world, we learn to fine-tune our attention, to filter out distracting or unhelpful sensory input. If we can tune out street noise and focus our vision away from unpleasant things, why can't we affect how we perceive time as well?

So I've been trying an experiment at work, since I always found myself thinking about what time of day it was, wondering why things were taking so long, wondering if I should start something even if it's almost lunch time, to try and put these thoughts out of my mind the first thing I've been doing when I sit down at my desk is to take off my watch and put it in my pocket. Then I set my computer to hide the clock in the corner of the screen and just sat down and started working.

Now, perhaps in the same way as our perceptions control our thoughts, perhaps our expectations will shape our experiences, but I've been amazed how noticeably more smoothly my days have been going. If I feel like a coffee, I'll go get one, if I don't then I won't inturrupt my thoughts just because it's coffee time. I've gotten just as much done in the last half hour of Friday afternoon as I have at any other time of the day.

But most importantly, my mind isn't constantly worried about what time it is. My choosing to not perceive time has loosened its grip on my consciousness.

On a fundamental level, biologically, our brains do not operate on a set clock the way computers do. We can experience an entire dream in less than two minutes, and the split second of a car accident can seem like an eternity. When we sleep, an entire night simply slips by unnoticed. Clearly, imposing an external measure of time on our brains is a totally unnecessary constraint on how it's capable of working.

Our heart rate speeds up or slows down as our body needs it to, we don't run to the beat of a ticking stop watch, we control our pace by listening to the signals that our body gives us. Why don't we listen to our brains the same way we listen to our bodies when doing physical tasks?

The amount of worry and stress we put on ourselves by sleeping with a digital alarm clock staring us in the face should tell us that perhaps working with a clock on your wrist and on your computer screen is also going to be harmful.

Imagine a great writer sitting at his or her typewriter trying to pour out the spirit of his inspiration with a little digital clock Protruding onto the page out of the top of the typewriter. The absurdity of such a superfluous torture in this context should tell us a thing or two.

By al - 3:59 a.m. |

"Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That's relativity."

Einstein FTW.

Speaking of time, Trang just got her passport request. Meaning, we finally have a timeframe for when she'll be here. The clock starts today and ticks down in 7 weeks.

We'd be more excited but we've been through several false starts in the past 2 years. This should be it though. I'll stay positive and mask my utter contempt for our country's governance and employees...
It's funny, though, you'd think that being at work would be more akin to the former, but just not having a reminder of time just makes you stop thinking about it, which is great.

Glad to hear things are moving along with the immmigration stuff, *fingers crossed*
excellent post.

it's true. time can control us if we let it. keep us informed on how quickly your days go by now that time isn't everywhere. great idea.
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