Live by your own inner rhythms, harmonize with those around: Break the tyranny of time

A corporate director known to me has two antique time pieces on his office table. “One is always fast, the other slow,” he says. “They remind me that my life is not ruled by clocks, that I can choose the time I live by.” I nodded and smiled.

Two days later, I bought a copy of “Space, Time & Medicine” from a wayside second-hand book store. The book was written by a distinguished American physician - Dr. Larry Dossey. When I finished reading the book, I realized that my friend’s comment had a deeper meaning. Dr. Dossey presents remarkable clinical data showing that by changing our view of time, we can make our lives healthier.

Mother Nature

One of the most common ills in our society, he says, is “time addiction,” a sense of time pressure and hurry that causes anxiety and tension. These symptoms make their victims prone to atherosclerotic heart disease and stroke, two of today’s most frequent causes of death. Dr. Dossey has discovered that these and other stress-induced ills, such as peptic ulcers and migraine headaches, can often be successfully treated by using simple techniques to change how a person thinks about time. To some degree, most of us share time addiction. The alarm clock rings, telling us it’s time to get the kids off to school, where class periods will be marked by bells, or time to start or end day’s sessions. Many people have internalized society’s clock so completely that they can command themselves to awaken a minute or so before the alarm clock goes off.

Time seems to rule our lives. We have been taught that time is money, to be saved and spent wisely, not wasted or lost. But Mother Nature’s time usually differs dramatically from the divisions of our clocks.

The natural biological “hour” for most adults, scientists have discovered, is about 63 minutes. This means that most people, if placed in a cave free from external time cues, would operate on a 24 ½ - to 25 ½ -hour day, thereby losing a day per month.

Living clocks

Almost all living things carry their own biological clocks synchronized with the rhythms of nature. Crabs can sense when the tide is about to change. The nocturnal mouse awakens when night nears. The bear in Europe knows when to prepare for its long winter nap. These living clocks are not accurate in any robot-like mechanical sense.

They adjust to changes in the environment. Best known of these clocks are circadian rhythms, which are detected in rising and falling tides of chemicals, temperature and other body changes that happen approximately every 24 hours. Days are long in summer, nights long in winter.

Babies are born synchronized with their mothers’ biological time clocks, but within a day they begin adjusting to the rhythm of whatever human language they hear spoken. In one experiment, it was found that when adults converse, the listener’s body motions become synchronized with the rhythm of the speaker’s speech - like dancers stepping in unison to the same beat.

The mind can alter rhythms of time in other ways. People brought back from the brink of death often recall their entire lives flashing before them in an instant. Those who have been in a serious accident often report that, as it occurred, everything happened in slow motion; apparently this is a survival tool built into the brain, an ability to accelerate to several times normal perceptual speed, thereby, “slowing down” the world and giving the victim “time” to think of a way to avoid disaster.

Time addiction

Because the time our society keeps has been taught to us since birth, we think of it as something that everyone everywhere must somehow share. But cultures differ widely on how they perceive time. In North America and the countries of northern Europe, life is tightly scheduled. To keep someone waiting is frowned upon. But in southern Europe and, Latin America, people take precedence over schedules - and in making appointments, a more flexible starting time is assumed.

Each view of time, has advantages and disadvantages. Without a disciplined approach to time and tasks, it is doubtful that our civilization could have developed as it has.

But, the costs are great. Scientists have found that when the body’s clocks get out of sync with one another, physical and mental performance are impaired. When clock time is out of sync with our natural inner rhythms, stress results. Under the tyranny of clock time, Western industrialized society now finds that heart disease and related sicknesses are the greatest cause of death.

Techniques

However, such “time addiction” can be treated and prevented by changing the way we think about time, according to Dr. Dossey. He suggests simple techniques that you can also use to change and master your own time:

l.“Unclock” your life. Maybe you can stop wearing a wristwatch and use your mobile to check time for an urgency. Time becomes much less a concern when we break the habit of looking at clocks or watches.

2. Set your own inner sense of time. Time is relative, not fixed and immutable. For those who watch clocks, time becomes an addiction. For those who focus on a task at hand - their work, a good book - time almost ceases to exist. This frees you to live by your own inner rhythms and to harmonize yourself with those around you.

3. Tap your body’s power to change time. We all possess an inborn ability to relax. Some scientists call this power the “relaxation response.” Most people can summon it up at will merely by dismissing intrusive thoughts and by controlling their breathing- for example, by thinking the word “one” with each outgoing breath. Within several minutes this can produce deep calm and a sense of timeless serenity.

4. Synchronize yourself with nature. Take time to watch a sunset, or a cloud across the sky. Remember, there is a time out there much older and more enduring than what humankind has created with clocks. 

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