Do you wonder why our ancestors seemed to have more time on their hands than we do today? They worked as hard as we do; probably even harder. They had more kids than us, and more chores, but the histories, diaries and literature they left behind depict a slower, less hurried pace of life.
Here we are in the digital age, surrounded by time-saving devices yet often feeling rushed, saying, "I don't have time... I can't find the time..."
But time is an illusion, and it can be manipulated. Stretched. Created.
Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity opened a door to our understanding of time; contemporary scientists have continued his work with study of the Space-Time Continuum. In a nutshell: if you move fast enough through space, the observations you make about space and time will differ from the observations that other people, who are moving at different speeds, make.
Einstein's ideas on time dilation (that moving faster through space would result in a slower passage of time) intrigued me. One day I decided to try the opposite: I wondered, is one difference between me and my ancestors that they were observing time differently than me, because they were moving at a different rate of speed? If I slow myself down to match their rate of speed, will my observation of time be altered? Will I feel like I have more time, even though my life circumstances haven't changed? I soon found the answer to be YES.
Our ancestors' days consisted of long walks to get somewhere. Quiet hunting for prey. Quiet sitting in school and church. Tedious sewing. A sense of stillness. There was hard work and busy times of course, especially for those unfortunate enough to be enslaved. But long periods of boring stillness, and patience, were staples of pre-Industrial life.
I began modeling that lifestyle as best I could, to see if lowering my rate of speed would alter my perception of time. I still have 3 kids, 2 jobs, 4 pets, a big house, and little help. But I get so much done, and I enjoy ample time to take naps... and hang out... and write blog posts... Here's how:
Observe sunrise and sunset.
It can be hard waking up for sunrise, and the sun sets at a busy time for working people and parents. But if you find a place outdoors, at least every now and then, to mark the natural start and end of each day, you will notice a difference in the time you have. A few deep breaths and an attitude of gratitude as you witness these daily celestial events makes it worthwhile.
Use analog timepieces.
Remove digital clocks from your space and replace with clocks that measure minutes with a tick-tock sound. A clock that chimes the hour is especially charming. Stop looking at your phone for the time. Wear a nice watch that requires winding. Analog timepieces need light care, which lets us actively participate in measuring time. These devices lend weight to our perception of time as we hear their sounds and see their hands moving around the dial. Our DNA is still attuned to old ways of telling time through centuries of human existence: by nature, and by analog timepieces. Digital clocks are too new and somehow rob us of time.
Be aware of timewasters.
It's easy to waste time on TV and Internet. This is another reason to avoid using your phone for the time; checking the hour can descend into a rabbit hole of social media and news headlines. I also suggest having strong boundaries with people who unintentionally waste your time, whether it's the Chatty Cathy next door or co-workers who waste meeting time by constantly straying off-topic. Your time is valuable, and you have a right to politely but firmly protect it. Learn to say No. That topic is a whole other blog post in itself; once learned, the skill of boundary-setting is probably the most valuable tool in your time-creation toolbox!
If you are physically able, look for opportunities to walk to destinations. I live a mile from town and my workplace, and I used to drive there because I "didn't have time" to walk. To model my ancestors' lifestyle and slow my rate of speed, I started walking to errands and work. It takes 15 minutes longer each way. Usually it's a fun, invigorating experience but sometimes it's boring, or uncomfortable in winter. Those 30 minutes on foot feel more like an hour (especially on the way home, uphill) and extend my overall perception of how long my day has been.
Ponder the Past and the Future
I took this photo of Civil War letters from my ancestor Col. Michaels, next to my iPhone. His letters are works of art, encased in a wooden tube. Here I am reading them 180 years later. Sometimes I wonder what will remain of me for my great-grandchildren to read, since everything I do is digital these days. Writing things on paper, making photo albums from all those pics in your phone, or creating a time capsule are all quiet activities that may slow down time for you and give your descendants more to remember you by.
We all have the ability to exercise more control over our time; if you give it a try, I hope you will find that you are no longer struggling to "find" it... you have given yourself the gift of time by slowing it down!
Wishing you sound spirit, sound mind, sound body.
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