What if you could slow down time?
It’s not just a thought experiment (even though it is). There is a very practical question involved here. Because as soon as you dispense with the idea that “slowing down time” is a supernatural fantasy, you might realize that your relationship to time is constantly shifting. You might see that there is something being hinted at here that you could actually apply.
But for the sake of thinking it through, feel free to fantasize about magic.
For example, in a book I read with my daughter, one of the characters is a turtle. He is also a schoolteacher who lords it over his single student with hours of drudgery. It seems to take him forever just to finish a single sentence. This girl, who has to listen and complete the tasks he assigns, is as utterly miserable as you might imagine.
So, one day, in an act of rebellion, she confronts him about this tyranny. He responds by revealing a magical power. She suddenly realizes that every single thing she does is taking longer – but not for the turtle. Although he moves at the same glacial speed, somehow he has slowed down time for her. He makes an interminable escape at turtle speed. It takes him several minutes to leave the classroom, but she can barely turn her head fast enough to see him go.
Not so great for her, but for him, slowing down time affords the opportunity to accomplish something important without any sense of hurry.
So what if it was that kind of slowing down time? What if you knew how to do that?
It’s easy to sympathize with the bored and oppressed student in this scene. After all, she is the main character of the book, the hero my daughter and I are rooting for. When we think about the turtle, most of us feel the same way she does.
When times slows down we often feels that things are taking too damn long. We are trying to get somewhere, get something, do something, be someone – why hasn’t it happened yet?!
There’s a glitch in the new software program you hoped would increase the efficiency of your workflow. Or maybe it’s not a glitch at all. Maybe it’s just set up in a way that feels counterintuitive to you. It all depends on your relationship to time. Are you trying to speed it up or are you willing to slow it down?
Will you search for clues and tutorials? Are you willing to play the game of trial and error, make experiments – read the instructions?!
What stage of learning do you think you are in right now?
Are you only fighting to get started, or are you building your understanding of a useful tool that you will be able to use for years to come?
When you are meaningfully engaged in any activity, your sense of time will change. So what does it mean to be meaningfully engaged? It means you are in the here and now, undistracted by the future moment after you “get this is over with.”
That’s the first crucial step to slow down time.
When time slows down, you gain access to a richer field of experience. Suppose you gave yourself five minutes to tie your shoes. You might think that’s more time than you need, but that’s exactly the point: What if you had more time than you needed?
What if there was time not only to do the deed, but to experiment with several ways of doing, to pause and reflect, to make mistakes, to notice details you never noticed before, to become curious?
This is what it can mean to slow down time. It can be a gift you give yourself as an antidote to the tight and trapped feelings that come from living your life as if “time is running out.”
In that same story, the very same turtle uses his magic a second time in a very different situation. It is his final act before breathing his very last breath. By slowing down time, he saves the girl’s life.
If you pay attention to how you move through your days, you might notice that time is constantly changing speed. Some minutes are longer than others and some are shorter. The same is true of hours, days, weeks, months, years, and even lifetimes.
At this particular moment in the history of our world, the question of time has become especially curious. Many are losing track of time altogether. Some feel they have too much time. For others, time is much too scarce.
What kind of relationship to time do you want? What are going to do about it?
One way to change your relationship to time is through the practice of Awareness Through Movement. Imagine moving your body through space and time in a way that allows you to feel things you’ve never felt before. We’re All In This Together is the name of a online community that meets 4 times weekly to engage in this practice, and to connect and reflect together.