“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” -William Penn
Early this morning when my 15–year-old daughter who shares the daily morning makeup and hair routine with me, turned towards me, straightening iron in hand, to do my hair; for a few minutes time stood still. I like to think of myself as close to my teens, but honestly, we don’t talk much during those morning makeup sessions, except to ask to switch sides of the sink. But today as I felt her fingers and the weight of the iron as she pulled it through my hair, there was only that moment. The rush of the morning routine stopped with her spontaneous attention. Her unsolicited touch lingered long enough for her to prompt me to do my makeup. It lingered longer still, as I hurried out of the house with a short wave to my husband and then reversed the car back down the driveway to run back inside and give him a real hug goodbye. These brief interludes where we feel seen or have the generosity to extend that seeing to someone else slow time down.
Slowing down of time is where we harvest what this temporal reality has most to offer us. It is the only time that has enough sensory experience to create memories, which are the mental imagery that define our identity and the connections that make our lives rich and whole. More often than I would like to admit, my days rush by in a blur. I have the experience of falling into a vortex where hours disappear as if they were minutes. I am not alone in this phenomenon, if you Google ‘time speeding up’ there are some 40 million other people wondering and writing about it, too. One idea that resonates is that between the billions of people making a life on the planet and internet technologies that connect so many of those lives, there is more happening in less time than ever before. Consciousness itself is speeding up, which shifts the temporal experience.
More and more neuroscience research clarifies this rubbery consistency of time with a scientific slant on the ageless Buddhist wisdom of mindfulness. Comparing the rich memories of a childhood summer vacation to the familiar routines of adult life offers a clue. The less we pay attention to the details of our lives, the less sensation your brain records. Life slips by with increasing speed because we take our surroundings and routines for granted. And yet, as I was reminded this morning, the single most powerful wake up moment in the day is the briefest interlude of intimacy. Especially the intimate moments, which catch you off guard… When Emma was small, she used to routinely grab my chin to turn my face to look at her. I remember playfully grabbing her fingers in my mouth and also, in the more exhausted moments, pushing her away. I hope I didn’t take her demand for my attention for granted too often, for now I realize that her unsolicited fingers through my hair is enough to change the pace of my day.
Creating more moments of emotional attention woven with physical touch and savoring them when they are presented is the prescription for bringing our evolving consciousness into an embodied present. There is more to do, more to learn, more to see, more gadgetry than we could ever master available to us in this lifetime, but intimacy in all its multitude of forms is what our time is for, it is the only true time reality that can ground us into the body’s wisdom where we know and see through our heart.