I Have Time
Time can be problematic for me. I often feel like I don’t have enough time. I have a fear of being late. I have a fear of being early. I often think tasks are going to take a lot longer than they do. I sometimes think things will go a lot quicker than they do. I could go on.
These feelings around time cause me problems, not so much in the way I plan my time – in fact my fears mean I’m good at making sure I’m punctual and allot plenty of time for appointments and tasks. The problems come from the tension in my body created by my anxiety about time. And that tension, if I don’t pay attention, will distort my body shape – my posture – and create pain.
It turns out I am not alone!
When I introduce the Alexander Technique to new people, I often have them try this little experiment (many thanks to Meade Andrews for the idea):
Read the following sentence, then close your eyes and think it to yourself a few times:
“I have to do it now and I have to do it fast.”
What happens to your breathing? What happens physically in your body? If you didn’t notice anything the first time, go ahead and try it again.
Now read this sentence, then close your eyes and think it to yourself a few times:
“I am at ease in my body and have all the time I need.”
Again, notice what happens to your breathing and to your body in general.
Everyone I’ve tried this with reports experiencing increased tension at least somewhere in their body, along with holding the breath or shallow/restricted breathing for the first sentence, and a calming of the body and easier breathing for the second. This nicely illustrates the unity of mind and body (i.e. our thoughts are not separate from our physical body), but also shows that time is a common trigger for anxiety.
My reading group is currently reading Change Your Posture, Change Your Life by Richard Brennan, an Alexander Technique teacher in Ireland. In the chapter entitled, “The Secret Key to Good Posture” Brennan writes that, “Posture and time are very much connected, as can be seen in common expressions such as being ‘pressed for time’, ‘pushed for time’, ‘under pressure of time’, or ‘moving at breakneck speed.'” As we discovered in the experiment above, just thinking that we don’t have time is enough to create harmful tension in the body. In fact, as Brennan says, “Lack of time is more of a feeling or a thought than a reality.”*
Alexander Technique has been invaluable in helping me become aware of and manage my relationship with time in a way that helps me breathe easier, improves my posture and decreases my tension and anxiety, while still allowing me to get things done! It has helped me to be present to what is actually going on now, rather than letting my fears about lack of time (the future) take over.
If you feel your own relationship with time “pulls you down” – literally – start off by just noticing when you have thoughts of not having enough time. Whether it is true or not, focusing on that will not help you. Instead give yourself the gift of thinking “I have time” and pay attention to the steps you need to take – one by one – to get your task completed, if possible staying aware of your breathing as you do so. I also recommend finding specific times during the day to pay attention to the present. There are many practices which do this including meditation, and of course my personal favorite, Constructive Rest.
How is your relationship to time? Did you try the thinking experiment for yourself? If so, what changes in your body and breath did you notice? Do you have strategies or practices that help you? Please leave your comments in the space below. I’d love to hear from you.
* Brennan, Richard, Change Your Posture, Change Your Life (London: Watkins, 2012), p. 76
Thoughts about time pressure are a sure way to make me tense up! I resonate with much of what you say in this post. Thoughts of not having enough time seem so convincing and authoritative, but they aren’t actually protecting me, or making me more efficient. Knitting has helped me with times that I am early or need to wait, because it takes me into the present moment.
Feeling under pressure for time seems to be such a big stimulus for most people to tense up. It may be true that there is not much time to get a job done, but focusing on that is not the issue. I notice, even if I’m thinking ahead to a busy day I’ll start to tense up, and it may not be until the following week. I have to work with myself all the time on this. The good part is that I’ve got quite good at not over-scheduling myself, but I don’t even like to have appointments one after the other if possible. I want breathing (!)space in between. Waiting in line has become so much easier since learning the Alexander Technique – just an extra opportunity to work with myself. And I usually have a book on me to read if I’m early these days. Thanks for commenting, Margaret.
Hi Imogen! Love your post! I have learned that everything is in Divine timing and I am not caught in the tension around time. When I begin down that road, I cultivate breath and relax. I allow my shoulders to drop, my breath to be slow and easy and relax my hands. I allow myself the reminder that everything is in Divine timing and there is no need to rush. All is well. Love, light and blessings! ♥
Thanks for the wonderful suggestions. Coming to the breath is always so important to help us be present. I also like being aware of my feet connecting with the ground 🙂 Thanks so much for commenting, Jean.
It was interesting to see how almost painful it was to do the first experiment (of not enough time). Instant anxiety nd head thrust. There have been times when I am in that mode, where I have just stopped to go into alignment and that has helped change my thoughts. I think it is so interesting that you can pivot energy coming in on any level (physical, emotional, mental) and have it impact the other realms.
Yes it is kind of painful, and yet many of are consciously and subconsciously giving ourselves these sorts of messages all the time. I don’t think it’s helpful to getting the job done, nor to our well-being. Quieting the body and quieting the mind go hand in hand, as you say, so we can intervene in different ways. I appreciate you comments, Vicki.
I just came back from the gym where I was working on carrying out exercises slowly. I have neck problems related to arthritis and years of poor posture, and I am working hard on minute-by-minute awareness. There’s no question that rushing makes everything worse!! I tense in my neck and shoulders–apparently I rely on tension to help me barrel my way through! Sometimes I give myself cues by saying, “This is a marathon, not a spring.” Life extends long and slow in front of me, and I am trying to seek to be in it rather than “finish” it!
Thanks for your comments, Judy. I think that is what we should all aim for in life – “to be in it rather than ‘finish’ it!” Lovely! I’m sure your growing awareness is helpful to you.
I struggle with time a lot! I have been trying to be more conscious of how I speak to myself about time and quit telling myself I don’t have enough of it. Great suggestions to help with this!
Glad it was helpful.
Interesting concept and one I need to practice FOR SURE!! I’m always running and fighting the clock.
You, and most of the rest of us, that’s for sure…
What a fabulous quick exercise. I noticed that I first almost gasped and hed my breath and then my breathing was quick and shallow. Along with body tension. When I read the second my whole body relaxed and my breathing got deeper and slower. And you know how I already love constrcutive rest 😀
It’s amazing what effect simply thinking something has on us – I imagine the effects may be even more dramatic if the situation is real… It really is a great exercise to illustrate that there’s no separation of mind and body.
So many wonderful ideas in here! It is really hard to separate out the speed you move from the baggage and overtension of being under time restrictions. And I love the idea of the reading class. No hands-on work at all? Karen
The reading group is not really a class, as such, though I guess I am the “leader!” We meet once a month and it’s free to join (the only cost involved is that of the books). It’s pure discussion (and a cup of tea, and maybe a goodie of some sort!). I got the idea from an article in the AmSAT journal last year, in which an AT teacher described her AT book club. She described how it really helped many of her students make connections and be more inspired by the work than lessons alone. I thought back to my days on my training course, when we’d read and discuss FM’s books and others, which I always enjoyed and got a lot out of personally, and felt inspired to start my own. We started in January, and it’s going very well so far! More information about it can be found here: Alexander Technique Book Club
I’ve contemplated starting an on-line version, so if you have any ideas about that, get in touch!
I love the idea of the Alexander Technique Book Club, and an online version.
Margaret, I’ll think about how an online version could work. Maybe it’s just as simple as using Skype… I’ll be sure to let you know if I think I can make it work!
Imogen, I love it – now that I have found the time (!) to read it! Lovely ideas, and yes, so true in me as well. I have long talked about the ‘modern stress’ of time. So many are worried about money, but really we as a species are more worried about the sense of there being not enough time to do what is required to bring in the money we need – and maybe want, if the way we live is To Have. Time does seem to be shrinking (many an in-depth scientific article about this) so to find ways to manage this feeling/fact is so important – both time management and response-in-us-management. Thank you!
How did I build up such a “time anxiety” in my life?
At the moment, i’m really noticing how time affects all of my life. How without noticing it creeps into my everyday life and builds so much tension.
My son Alex has just started primary school and with a new hectic routine I notice myself getting anxious and literally pushing my son verbally “quick get dressed” and all the associated justifications that come with it “we will be late for school, etc” the list goes on. The last 4 weeks have been absolute nightmare.
So using the tools I have learnt (the Alexander Technique) I have made a conscious effort, for the last 2 weeks, to get out of the way and simply allow time to take its course, stop getting myself all worked up, breathe out and when I notice the rushing thoughts coming in.
Allowing my son to take the time that he takes to brush his teeth, get dressed, have his breakfast, and simply not putting pressure on him. I leave him to what he needs to do and when i’m ready to go we go regardless of what stage he’s at. At the sstart it was quite difficult as my internal voice was telling me “but what if he’s not ready” what if he hasn’t had his breakfast” and so on. But in reality nothing much happened, he didn’t get his toast one morning after his porridge but that’s about it.
The mornings have gone from hell on earth to the most pleasant time we have in the day. As i stopped pushing and putting myself and him under pressure, he just became calmer himself and less likely to act out.
So the mornings go quite calmy, i’m actually enjoying them and we have great chats on the way to school as there also i’ve stopped rushing him (I also allow sufficient time so that we can take our time). And we’re early for school every morning which is fascinating!
Thank you for this post, it’s a great reminder for everyone including myself.
PS: about online book club, just like here where people comment, you could make it as part of your website, with a club/joining/members etc, and then people comment online etc (like what Jeremy Chance does with his online course? or via facebook? Like a private club where people have to join specifically? or public? just thoughts…
Thanks so much for sharing this great example of what can happen when we allow ourselves time, and let go of the urge to hurry and push in response to perceived time constraints.
And I love your idea for the book club. Ever since I started the real-life one, I’ve wondered about bringing a parallel version online. I think a closed (private) group on Facebook would be a good way to go.
Shall I just do it?