Many of us are constantly complaining of not having enough time. “Time flies!”, we hear left and right, as if the earth was spinning faster these days than it used to. We all know that's not the case. If that hasn't changed, then why so many of us seem to be experiencing a very real time shortage? Maybe Ayurveda can shed some light on this mystery.
Time: A Very Personal Experience
Ever felt stressed having to finish work, run an errand, and tidy up your place before meeting friends, in barely an hour? Then you know what it means to be pressed for time.
Ever spent an hour waiting to hear from a doctor, after a loved one had a surgery? Then you know what it’s like when an hour feels never-ending.
Ever got so absorbed into a pleasant activity, say, an awesome yoga class, that the sixty minutes you spent practicing felt at once like five minutes, and a blissful eternity?
3 hours. 3 emotional states. 3 different experiences of time.
My point is: time is how you feel.
Time is How You Feel
Whether we feel short on time or have plenty of it has nothing to do with our workload, deadlines or lack thereof. Our experience of time (as with everything else in life) is colored by the way we feel. It is 100% subjective, and fluctuates according to our fluctuating moods. In a nutshell, time is how you feel.
And how you feel is largely determined by how you think.
And how you think is greatly influenced by what you feed your physical senses.
Ayurveda teaches us that sensory impressions are paramount to our emotional health. In fact, improper use of the senses is considered a central cause to disease in Ayurvedic medicine. It is called asatmyendriya samyoga, which Scott Gerson, M.D, Ph.D translates as "inappropriate association of the sense organs with certain sense objects.” The physical food we eat creates our bodily tissues, the subtle food we ingest, aka sensory impressions, determine the quality of our thoughts, and subsequently our emotions. This layer of our being is known in Ayurveda as the manomaya kosha, or mental sheath. It is essentially the mind. The entire nervous system, including sensory organs, while not part of the manomaya kosha, mediates its activity. Therefore, when we “feed” this mental layer with wholesome, balancing sense impressions, we simultaneously foster a balanced mental and emotional state, a regulated nervous system, in other words a calm and contented person. And if time is how you feel, when you feel calm and contented, time feels just right, because you do. Neither too fast, nor too slow.
Disturbed and Distorted
Conversely, providing our senses with junky stimuli leads to sensory perversion, perverted cravings, and a disturbed emotional state. Overtime, a sub-par sensory diet veils the consciousness, which makes us feel either rajasic (governed by our passion, distracted, turbulent), or tamasic (dull, stuck, heavy.) Either way, a distorted consciousness causes a skewed perception of our spacetime reality, and a distorted experience of time.
Emotionally-Balancing Sense Impressions
To recap, time is how you feel, how you feel is how you think and how you think is greatly influenced by your sensory diet. Knowing that chain of effects, we can work in reverse to ultimately shift our experience of time to an enjoyable one.
Pleasing sights. How often do you lay your eyes on beautiful things? Nature, art, fashion or anything else that you deem pleasant? Watch your intake of disorder, chaos, violence (sounds like the mainstream news, doesn’t it?), all those are stress-inducing.
Soothing sounds. How often do you listen to music you love? Or alternatively spend time in complete silence? Gossip, negative or derogatory comments are also toxic to our sense of hearing. Treat your ears right. Become a discerning listener.
Healing touch. How often are you the happy recipient of a loving touch? Whether with a partner, a professional massage therapist, or by yourself, massage nourishes the largest organ in your body, your skin. Clothes, sheets, sofas of a pleasant texture will also appease your sense of touch.
Balanced diet. Regardless of dietary preferences, you can never go wrong with nature-made foods. Processed food corrupts our sense of taste badly, and makes us want more of it. Whole foods, wholesome foods, satiate. Choose the latter.
Calming scents. Because both your sense of smell and emotions have a connection to the same part of your brain (the limbic system), scents can very quickly alter your emotional state. Do you smell something pretty daily? I’m a big fan of essential oils. But if you have direct access to flowers, all the better!
As you can see, the ayurvedic approach to stretching time is not about prioritizing or delegating. It is internal, focused on cultivating emotional contentment (santosha), through proper use and nourishment of our physical senses. Experiment with a soothing sensory diet and observe the ripple effects that has on your emotional state, and experience of time.
In my next blog, I’ll tackle time through another ayurvedic angle, the five elements and the three doshas. You’ll learn which element, when present in excess within you, can cause you to feel as if you’re always running out of time, and which one will counter-balance that situation.