Does being fully present in each moment slow down time? Well, it doesn’t actually change the speed of time, but it does alter our perception. When we practice being mindful and present to each moment rather than rushing through our days thinking of what we need to do next, time will feel slower.
Can you relate to the following scenario? First thing Monday morning, your supervisor begins providing instruction on a project to be completed that week, but you are only half listening because your focus is on deciding what to fix for dinner and whether you will need to stop at the supermarket on the way home. You then get a phone call from a client but rush through the call because you need to prepare for a meeting that starts in 10 minutes, so you only half listen. While at the meeting, your mind wanders to the various tasks you need to complete for the week ahead, and instead of fully listening to the discussion, you keep thinking, “this meeting needs to be over so that I can begin that project and tackle the mounds of emails,” and on and on. But then when you start the project, you are missing valuable information because you were only half listening to the instructions provided by your supervisor. I imagine it’s as familiar to you as it is to me.
It seems as though our American culture has cultivated this type of pace. I have witnessed colleagues, clients and other people that are always in a rush and busy, busy, busy and, while I have no doubt that they have a lot to accomplish, it also appears that, in their rushing around there is a huge lack of efficiency and focus. I find that, with the team I supervise, I am continually repeating instructions and wasting valuable time. It may even be fair to say that the more we are in a rush and thinking of the next thing, we are actually losing time: we certainly waste our time …and the time of others.
Living for four years in Italy, I gained the perspective of another culture’s experience of time. It seems to me that the only time Italians are in a rush is when they are behind the wheel! (No offense intended to my lovely Italian friends.) Otherwise, time has the illusion of moving at a slower pace and this forced me to slow down and be present in each moment, albeit sometimes begrudgingly.
Now, my mother would tell you that I have never moved fast a day in my life! Still, while I may not move at a fast pace, that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel rushed and pressured for time; I, too, find myself thinking of the next task ahead instead of being present with the current task.
So how do we start practicing being more present in the moment? Here are some tips:
First thing every morning, spend a few minutes to ground and center yourself. This could be through prayer, a gratitude practice, or simply sitting in silence to help quiet your mind. This will help you start the day from a place of groundedness.
Once a day, practice being fully present in an experience. For example, instead of gulping down your coffee in your travel mug as you are rushing out the door and speeding down the highway on the way to work, try sitting down and just enjoying your coffee. Maybe watch the sunrise, pet your dog or cat, really taste the coffee and enjoy the feel of the hot mug in your hands. In Europe, many places don’t provide to-go cups, and some cars don’t even have cup holders. It is expected that when one drinks a cup of coffee, we stop, rest, and experience the coffee.
Try to be fully present in conversations. Rather than letting your mind wander or checking your phone for texts, practice being 100% present to the person you are listening to.
For one meal a day, take the time to sit at a table without any distractions and experience your meal. Describe the tastes, identify the spices, textures, etc.
Go for a walk without any distractions and notice the smells, the foliage, the sounds, etc.
Watch the sunrise or sunset and just experience the moment.
In the next week, try picking two or three of these ideas and see how you feel afterward. Maybe, like me, you’ll “find” some time you didn’t know you had! And when we’re calmer, we can change the vibes around us.