A Peak Performance weblog

Mastering Linear Time

Mastering Linear Time workshop, script for Section 1

Title slide

This workshop presents principles and quite a few methods that can be useful for mastering linear  time. If you’ve taken conventional time management (CTM) workshops, you’ll probably find that little or none of this seminar is covered by those workshops, in spite of the importance of this material for practical time management and for optimizing our performance, health, and well-being. Besides conventional time management (CTM), which handles the objectives and tasks we do, there’s inner time management (ITM), which optimizes how we do things. This is an inner time management (ITM) workshop. It focuses on optimizing felt time, or experiential time, the way we actually experience and feel time, rather than what tasks to do with our clock time.

For people in all but the most routine jobs, learning and consistently using both CTM and ITM methods is necessary to optimize our lives both personally and professionally. Neither CTM nor ITM by itself resolves our issues with time. But by combining the discipline of planning and organizing what we do with methods of improving the way we do things, there is no limit to our productivity and well-being.

What is Time?

Most workshops  on time promise to help us get more done with less stress.  Some even promise to lead to mastery of time.  But how can we master time if we don’t understand what time is?  How can we get things done without feeling pressured, overwhelmed, or anxious about time, if we don’t know exactly what it is?

This essential question of what time is, is not dealt with by most conventional time management (CTM) workshops and books.  This is probably because it’s a very difficult question.

How would you answer the question, “What is time?”

Three Types of Time

Typical CTM workshops only use one word for different aspects of time. We need some clarity about the different kinds of time.  Here are some descriptions.

Physical, or event time is the continual occurrence of physical and experiential events. The word event is used to describe something that happened, or is happening ‘now’, like getting up in the morning, or noticing that you’re hungry. Event time is what we hear and see on TV and radio news shows.

A second face of time is symbolized by the faces of clocks and watches, different tools for measuring ‘event time’. Different cultures measure event time in different ways.  These measurements allow us to compare and coordinate our activities.

The third face of time is the one that is probably most important for our happiness, although it’s also probably the face that is least understood and most undervalued. Here we will call it personal or psychological time, though it might also be called experienced time. It includes all the different ways we feel or experience time. We may feel time move quickly when we’re having ‘a great time’. During some of the best moments of our lives, things seem timeless, with little or no feeling of time passing. We feel time ‘drag’ or pass slowly when we’re bored, or having ‘a bad time’. We feel anxious about time when it seems we don’t have enough of it. Our FTP sets up familiar problems: time pressure, anxiety,  overwhelm, and the feeling we don’t have enough time.

Rather than measuring or mirroring an ‘external flow’ (which scientists haven’t found), our FTP is just the aggregate result of resisting past negative experiences. (You’ll see some examples of this later on.)  A composite of repressed energy, the FTP is independent of external physical events and speeds. In other words, our feeling of speed and time pressure is a product of past resisted experiences, and not a measure of current external forces or events.

A very important part of felt time for Westerners is called linear time, a sense of horizontal time flow among past, present, and future that moves at the same unchangeable speed for all of us.

Finally, though it’s a kind of lack of any feelings of time passing, timelessness can also be considered a kind of personal time.

Linear time’s conveyor

Linear time is a term that represents the usual way that most adults in the West experience time. In the linear view, time is like a conveyor belt that moves horizontally at a constant and unchangeable speed between past, present, and future ‘rooms’ in our experience. Time feels like it’s out of our control.

Linear time is a major feature of our Western cultural world-view. It portrays time as an absolute physical reality, and says that the passage of time is independent of consciousness. So from a linear time worldview, it doesn’t matter what you think, feel, or do, or how you look at time, time doesn’t change. As a result, we may feel some helplessness, and think we can only adapt to this ‘reality‘ and perhaps try somehow to ‘keep up with’ the flow of time.

A measure of time stress

We can take a simple measure of time stress, so we can compare levels of stress that we experience, and then learn to control the stress.

On a scale from 0-10, where 0 = the least and 10 = the most, how much stress do you feel about time right now?  Make a mental note about what this number is right now.

What causes time pressure?

Research shows that  time pressure and anxiety accompanying linear time, the habitual Western perspective of seeing time flowing linearly, is one of the greatest sources of stress for most people. Dr. Larry Dossey wrote, “Many illnesses–perhaps most–may be caused either wholly or in part by our misperception of time. . . . I am convinced that we can destroy ourselves through the creation of illness by perceiving time in a linear, one-way flow.” (Space, Time and Medicine, Larry Dossey, M.D., Shambhala, Boston & London, 1982.)

What is the source of time pressure?  Again, most CTM seminars don’t even seriously ask this question. But if we know the source, we can probably handle it better. Here are some common candidates for the factors involved:

My boss

A deadline itself

A plate (to-do list) that’s too full, or a lack of clock time

Technology

Likes and dislikes, attitudes

Disorganization and confusion about what to do

Unclear priorities

Lack of an effective scheduling system

Here are two uncommon candidates:

Chemical imbalance

Imbalance in one’s energy flow.

My research indicates that the last six of these factors do affect time pressures, and the most important of these factors is the last one, an imbalance in one’s energy flow. This imbalance seems to be primarily an aggregate result of past emotional residues.  Rather than measuring or mirroring some ‘external time flow’ (which scientists haven’t found), our FTP is typically the result of repressed energy, completely independent of external physical events and speeds. In other words, our feeling of speed and time pressure is typically a product of past ‘undigested’ experiences, and not a measure of current external forces or events. So full schedules and modern speedy technology are not the problem.

The main cause of time stress

The gradual process of developing and strengthening the sense of time passing can be expressed in terms of three primary human energy centers:

Some feeling rises to awareness. But rather than feel the feeling, and allow it to dissipate and dissolve, we turn away from it. The feeling is repressed or suppressed and we lose a measure of confidence as well as a bit of the natural fulfillment that accompanies being fully involved in our energies. The energy of the heart is lessened and we feel somewhat pressured.

Excess energy flows to the head and a sense of detached self-consciousness intensifies as our thinking skips about the separate past, present, and future rooms in our experience.

Energy in the area of the throat, which is closely associated with time, becomes agitated as we become anxious and more aware of time passing. We feel a bit more helpless; time becomes more threatening, a greater enemy. Thereafter there’s a more dissatisfied sense of self trying to seek satisfaction through various objects and activities.

Breathing Exercise

We can relieve time pressure very directly by balancing the energies of the head, throat, and heart centers.

The following breathing exercise is the single best remedy I’ve found for time pressure and anxiety about time passing. This technique is used in many martial arts and has been researched in applied kinesiology. It immediately brings a sense of balance within the energies of pressure and emotion.

In this exercise, breathe easily, gently, and smoothly through both nose and mouth, with the tip of the tongue on the upper palate just in back of the front teeth. This position of the tongue may be a little strange at first, but you’ll probably adapt to it quickly. It very effectively balances left and right hemispheres of the brain, and connects the front and back central meridians.

Set up your environment so that you have five minutes when you won’t be interrupted or distracted.  When the timer on the next slide starts, just relax and  breathe easily, gently, and smoothly through both nose and mouth, with the tip of your tongue on the upper palate just in back of your front teeth.  You can close your eyes or not, whichever you like. As you continue, see if you can let the breath become more and more even and continuous, without breaks or jerkiness–this is important. Evenness and continuity of the breath is reflected in the clarity and peacefulness of awareness.

The 5-minute timer on the next slide will keep track of the time, and I’ll say “OK” to let you know when 5 minutes is up.

Breathing Exercise

Relax and let the breath move gently through both nose and mouth. . . . As you continue, let the breath become more and more even and continuous.

Breathing Exercise

OK.

How would you answer these questions about the exercise?:

Did the sense of time pressure and anxiety decrease?

Did the feeling of time change? If so, how?

Did every minute seem equally long?

How were pressure and anxiety related to the flow of time?

As a preventative, practice this way of breathing as often as you can remember it. After a month or so, your whole energy level and sense of balance and relaxation will probably change.

Relaxation Exercises (1)

When doing the following exercises, remember that you can pause these movies whenever you want to.  Pausing might be especially helpful if some interesting feelings arise and you want to get into them more fully.

During these movement exercises let the movements and breathing be very smooth and continuous, without breaks.  This is very important for rapid progress.

Sit or stand comfortably.  Bend your arms at the elbow, lifting your hands until they are in front of your shoulders with the palms facing forward.  Imagine that a great force is pushing against your hands, and slowly push it away.  Let strong tension build in your hands and arms, but relax your belly and lower back, and breathe   easily  and  lightly  through   both  nose  and mouth.  Keep pushing  this force away until your arms are  stretched   out  in  front  of you. Your  hands  and arms may  shake  with  tension.  (Continue on the next slide.)

Relaxation Exercises (2)

. . . Then  without  releasing the tension—as   if the force is more powerful  than you–slowly    move  your  arms  back  in front  of your chest, keeping your belly relaxed.

Very  slowly release  the tension–take    about one  minute  for  this–feeling    the  sensations   in  your arms,  chest,  and  body. Then  slowly  lower your hands and rest briefly, continuing to expand  the feelings  stimulated  by producing  and releasing  tension  in this way.

Do this exercise  two more times,  resting  briefly  after each repetition.

This exercise is called “Nurturing  Satisfaction,” and it appears on pp. 318-319, Kum Nye Relaxation, Part II

Relaxation Exercises (3)

Stand with your feet a few inches apart,  and  your  arms  at your  sides.  Slowly and smoothly  lift  your  arms  away  from  your sides until they  are directly  overhead  with the backs of the hands close, and the fingers straight. Relax  your  thighs   and  minimize   any backward   arching  in your  spine.  Slowly  let  your arms  descend  to your  sides. Take one full minute  to bring  them  all the  way  down. Pay  attention to the feeling  tone  as you move, as if seeing with the inner eyes of the senses. (Continue on the next slide.)

Relaxation Exercises (4)

. . . take another full minute to move your arms up again. Explore the flow of energy . . . . Use the steady, slow rhythm to increase the energy flow.  When the arms are directly overhead, stretch up very slightly, with your thighs and legs as relaxed as possible.  This stretch clears and settles the mind:  go deeply into your sensations at this point.

Continue  the movement  three times. Try  slowing the movement  down  even more, taking  two minutes in each direction.

This exercise is called “Flying,” and it appears on pp. 168-9, Kum Nye Relaxation, Part I

Relaxation Exercises (5)

Stand with your feet a comfortable  distance  apart, your  back  straight.   Breathing softly  through   both  nose  and  mouth,  slowly  raise your  arms  in  front   of you  until  they  are  overhead,  with  the  palms  forward.   With  your  knees  relaxed   and  straight   but  not  locked,   slowly   bend   forward  from  the  waist  while  reaching   out  slightly  with your   arms.   Bend   forward    and down, very slowly and evenly.

Do not  let  your head dominate the movement;   relax  your  neck  muscles.  When your  fingers  come near  to the floor,   stay   down    briefly.  Be very  still.  Slowly  spread    your  fingers apart more. Exhale fully, releasing tension from your belly.

Relaxation Exercises (6)

Now very slowly, breathing evenly and gently, begin to rise, keeping your head between your arms. When you reach an upright position, continue to bend slightly backward, with your arms quite close to your head.  Move very gently, with your knees straight and your belly and lower organs relaxed.  Bend backward only a little.  In this position, keep your exhalations gentle, and let the front of your body feel open.

Slowly straighten your neck and back, bringing your attention to the base of your skull. Again bend forward  as before, moving as gently as possible,   relaxing   your  belly,  neck,  and  back.

Do  the   exercise    three   times.  When you     locate   a tension, explore it with   your   feelings  as  completely    as  you can.  When you fully experience the     tightness,   you will then  be able  to let it go. As you  move,  become   one  with your feelings; let them  move  you,  spreading   their  energy  to every  molecule  in your body until  finally   ‘you’  no  longer   exist, and  there  is only  feeling.

Clock Watching – A New Way?

We can experiment a bit more with personal time and do an exercise to see how it changes.

Usually looking at a clock causes some anxiety.  Does it have to? If you can relax while watching the clock, you can probably stay relaxed in nearly any situation.

This clock watching exercise directly balances the throat energy center, where imbalance seems to produce pressure and anxiety about time.  It also balances left and right brain hemispheres, as shown by research in applied kinesiology.

Set up your environment so that you have five minutes when you won’t be interrupted or distracted.  When the timer on the next slide starts, just relax and watch the timer’s hand move. Breathe easily, gently, and smoothly through both nose and mouth, with the tip of your tongue on the upper palate just in back of your front teeth.  As you continue, see if you can let the breath become more and more even and continuous, without breaks or jerkiness–this is important. Evenness and continuity of the breath is reflected in the clarity and peacefulness of awareness.

Timer slide

 

Clock Watching and Breathing

OK.

During the clock watching exercise,

Did the sense of time pressure and anxiety decrease?

Did the feeling of time change? If so, how?

Did every minute seem equally long?

How were pressure and anxiety related to the flow of time?

You can practice this way of breathing as often as you can remember it. After a month or so, your whole energy level and sense of balance and relaxation will probably change.

Time Calling Exercise

Most of us are so used to linear time that it can be difficult to recognize it for what it is. The following short exercise may help you clarify what linear time is, as well as demonstrate how your perspective on time gets set up within a moment.

The next slide will play a recording having some phrases referring to different times.  Just pay attention to your experience of time. Try to see how past, present, and future quickly get set up in your experience when the phrases are heard.

Time Calling Exercise

“One hour ago . . .
“One hour from now . . .
“Early this morning . . .
“Later this evening . . .
“Yesterday . . .
“Tomorrow . . .
“Last Monday . . .
“Next Monday . . .
“Two weeks ago . . .
“Two weeks from now . . .
“Last month . . .
“Next month . . .
“Last winter . . .
“Next winter . . .
“Last year . . .
“Next year . . .
“Five years ago . . .
“Five years from now . . .
“Ten years ago . . .
“Ten years from now . . .

Time Calling Exercise

Please think about your experience of the time calling exercise. Your feelings of time are especially noteworthy.

Do you see any reason or basis for the term ‘linear time’?

Did you notice how past, present, and future get set up within a moment? Was there any kind of swinging back and forth as you listened to the phrases?

Please do the time calling exercise again and see what happens this time.

Do you think that it is possible to think about past and future times without having a sense of being swung back and forth?

A measure of time stress

We can once again take a simple measure of time stress, so we can compare levels of stress that we experience, and then learn to control the stress.

On a scale from 0-10, where 0 = the least and 10 = the most, how much stress do you feel about time right now?

Make a mental note of this number. How does it compare to the number you estimated earlier in the course?

The End of Section One of Five

This is the end of the first of five workshop sections.

Please go for a walk and when you return, make a few notes about your current experience, and especially your experience of time. It seems we often don’t notice changes after this kind of workshop until we leave our typical environment and walk around somewhere else.

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