Strapped for Time?
Once you taste how rejuvenating extraordinary time can be, you're more willing to let go of your hold on linear time. And that's where the yogic principle of aparigraha, nongrasping, comes into the picture. Aparigraha teaches you to let go of the need to produce more, achieve more, acquire more. It motivates you to relax your iron-fisted grasp on material or measurable accomplishment.
From Memorial Day through Columbus Day, I swim at a local pond twice a week. It's 25 minutes away, so the whole trip takes about two hours. Often, on the way, I'm stuck in linear time, worried about the pile of work awaiting me when I get back. But once I'm in the water, the worry disappears. Each time I turn my head to breathe, I'm filled with the scent of tall pines lining the pond, the sight of wildflowers, the spectacle of fish knifing through the water below. I am transported, suddenly, into extraordinary time.
Invariably, this sacrifice of clock time yields unexpected returns: It permeates everything I do afterward with a sense of fluidity, creativity, and ease, and actually enhances my productivity. Yet on the days when I feel I can't afford the clock time and don't swim, whatever I do takes much longer. It's the productivity paradox: The more you muscle toward accomplishing your goals, the more likely you are to become depleted, derailing the very things you're trying to get done. When you can stop grasping, even if only for a little while, you can access that state of flow, remain in the present, and enjoy and harvest the time that is available to you.
When you've looked within and taken your time inventory, been truthful with yourself about your ideal pace and focus, embraced the art of nongrasping, and experienced extraordinary time, you're ready to bring what I call "timefulness practices" into your life.
The heart of these practices is yoking your awareness to the moment; each and every moment holds the potential for a transformative experience of time. In my work as a psychologist and yoga therapist, I've seen that transitional times (when you're between jobs, partners, stages of life, or even yoga poses) are full of possibility. Because you're not rooted in your old awareness and habits, yet not fully anchored in the new, your potential for timefulness—openness to the present moment—is at its highest.
Slowing down and giving these transition times your attention can boost your immunity to temporal contagion while enriching your experience of time. Smaller transitions in your day, such as arriving home from work, are also threshold points that can help you experience time more deeply. In fact, every moment is a transition of sorts; we just tend to move through them so fast that we're unable to see them for what they are.
You may not be able to do each of the following practices every day, but starting with one and doing it consistently will help. Each of these small changes brings space into your daily routine, providing a respite from linear time.
Savor the transition between sleep and wakefulness. That's when dreams and intuitive impulses are more available to you. Set an intention to bring more awareness into your day and to be open to each moment.
Take a moment to really say goodbye to loved ones. Look them in the eye and let yourself feel how much you care for them and how fortunate you are to have them in your life. Relax and breathe when you stop at red lights or take a short "mindfulness detour" through a park or scenic area. Decide to savor even the most menial tasks of your day or to eat lunch unhurriedly.
Take an aparigraha break. Rushing from one task to another without savoring a sense of completion only contributes to the illusion that nothing is ever enough. When you've finished something, pause to feel the sense of completion and the energy of nongrasping. As you inhale, welcome more energy into your body; as you exhale, let go of what you've completed.
Spend 15 minutes in a restorative yoga pose to reconnect with yourself. It's a good way to bring more timefulness into your evening. If you feel restless, try forward-bending restorative poses like Supported Child's Pose or Supported Reclining Twist, to calm your nervous system. If you're depleted, restorative backbends like Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose) are ideal. (To learn more about these and other poses, check out the therapeutic poses section of elementalyoga.com.)
Scan your day for any challenges you experienced and let go of them. A colleague of mine who is a meditation teacher spends a few moments taking an inventory of his day. If he's had a conflict with someone, he sends them compassionate thoughts and makes a mental note to acknowledge the person the next day. Spend two minutes in 2:1 breathing (exhaling for twice as long as you inhale), which calms the brain and readies you for sleep.
Time Is on Our Side
Experiencing only linear time unravels the thread of awareness that connects your exterior self with your innermost self. But balancing linear time with an appreciation for extraordinary, transformative time gives life meaning. That's because extraordinary time has a way of coaxing your spirit out of hiding. It helps you listen to what sounds, at first, like the merest whisper of intuition, impulses, or dreams but, over time, reveals itself as the clear, resonant voice of your soul.
On the day my father died, my brother and sister and I held him and breathed with him in the intensive care unit at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. His best friends stood close to his bedside, and a cousin played his favorite cello concerto. The ICU nurse said he didn't know how much time Dad had left; it could be minutes or maybe hours.
I'm still not sure of the clock time, but for however long it was, Dad yoked us all to the moment, teaching us once again about the importance of being fully present. He was giving us one last taste of something he knew well: extraordinary time and the deep soul connection that dwells within it.
Bo Forbes, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist, yoga teacher, and integrative yoga therapist in Boston.
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