The pace of life seems to have increased. Do you long for a break from the merry-go-round of deadlines, things that must be done, demands from relatives, children, and the job? Do you often feel that you never having enough time in the day to fit everything in?
In an ICM poll, half of British adults said their hectic pace of life had caused them to lose touch with friends — doing overtime to make ends meet, or doing extra unpaid work at home, getting the kids to playgroup or school, improving the garden, shopping for the latest fashions and gadgets, going along to an art course, grabbing the odd moment with one’s partner etc. What with the rush of cramming so much in, people are desperate for a rest and it is perhaps no surprise that stress-related illness has become common — whether it be headache, sleeping poorly, high blood pressure, breathing problems.
Reasons for the pace of life today
There are one or two obvious reasons for the higher pace of life. One is information over-load. There just isn’t enough time to respond to all the information that bombards us from mobile phone, text messages, email, TV, radio. Another reason for time shortage is the huge rise in house prices in Britain over recent years which means people have the burden of working longer to pay the higher mortgage repayments.
But we may also wonder if there are some deeper causes. Is part of the problem that we tend to assume that our well-being depends on filling every moment with some thing? That being less economically active not only stops us getting on in life but also leads to boredom and not keeping up with others? Perhaps this assumption is right, but don’t we sometimes take it a bit too far? In a Reed Survey of 5000 UK workers, 60% said they would not be using their full holiday entitlement in 2003
Attitude to time
Perhaps part of the problem of the hectic pace of life is to do with our attitude to time. The book In Praise of Slow by Carl Honoré draws attention to this. If the biggest deadline of all is seen as death then no wonder we feel that time is short and we ought to make every moment count! However, the consequences of not hurrying is getting more out of the things: not trying to speed-read the newspaper or novel but allowing ourselves to become absorbed in the material. We may not get through so many articles or books but what we do have is quality over quantity. And this applies to everything. Is it not preferable to do fewer things better than more things worse?
The idea here is that every living being, event, process or object has its own inherent time or pace. It is soothing to walk slowly. Honoré says that doing things at the right tempo may mean doing less things but it will result in better health, better work, better business, better family life, better cuisine, better exercise, better sex. The proverb ‘Less haste and more speed’ springs to mind as does the fable of the race between the tortoise and the hare. The pace of life can ease.
Every religion teaches the need to slow down in order to connect with the self, with others and with a higher force. The Bible says
“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
The non-religious can recognise in this the need to create time for a meaningful connection with the deeper side of being, reflecting on the values and things we hold sacred, and being mindful of the situations we are encountering. In this way the pace of life can slow down.
In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle writes of an incessant mental noise in our ordinary consciousness which prevents awareness of an inner realm of stillness. He suggests it is possible to find an inner calm when the individual starts to mindfully reflect on the present moment instead of living in the past and worrying about the future – a state of consciousness, free of the burden of time.
In Emanuel Swedenborg’s Divine Love and Wisdom we read about the difference between material time and spiritual time. In his day the measurement of the former depended on movement through space, specifically the orbital motion of the earth around the sun. However, he also describes a spiritual world with its own time. This spiritual world is said to be a non-physical reality within our minds of which we become aware after the death of the physical body. The pace of life there reflects the pace of life in our minds.
Spiritual time seems to be similar to what we think of as subjective time which passes too quickly when you are enjoying yourself and too slowly when you are bored. Thus in the spirit, time appears to be real but actually corresponds to one’s inner state of mind.
Further he says that when people are not in touch with the spiritual dimension they are time-bound. According to this view when we have the spiritual more closely present with us, we are less troubled by time: just as the spiritual is from a God of infinity not of space, so it is from an eternity not of time.
So what is my conclusion? That we can reduce the pace of life in several ways. We can basically transcend our time-bound problems by getting more in touch with the presence of the spiritual dimension of life.
Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems