Expanding the Moment

by Dr. Wendy Joffe


"I wish there were more hours in the day!" Who hasn't said that?

We seem to be continually in a rush, always anticipating the next activity. We often spend our days as the "roadrunner," always trying to play catch up with our "to do" list. We live in a "crunch mode " and are constantly trying to figure out how we can better use our time and identify ways we can "multitask" in order to get more done.

Time - Where Does It Go?

The concept of time is an interesting phenomenon. We often view time as progressive and we are often struggling to make our time count and not let it pass us by. The problem with this perspective is that we often do not pay attention to what we are doing now. If we're never in the present, where are we? How many times have we driven somewhere and not remembered seeing a single thing on the way?

I remember when I was pregnant with my first child and a woman I worked with told me that she had four grown children and regretted that she had been so busy running her household that she missed out on really experiencing her children as they grew. She was giving me advice so I would not allow all the things to be done to stop me from being with my child. I'm forever grateful to her early warning.

Steps for Living Life More Fully

So how do we learn ways to go beyond getting caught up in an endless checklist of activities? The goal is to learn ways to tune into the here and now.

FIRST: Develop internal cues to" stop, look and listen." Many times I can be hearing someone talk while at the same time I am busy thinking about my reply and impatiently waiting for him or her to finish what he or she are saying. I am not really listening to them. I am listening to me and actually not receiving their words or the connection with them. I am not at all present with them. What would happen if I were really there with them? How would that change my experience or how the events unfolded?

SECOND: Pay attention to the in between times. Honor the mundane. In his book Timeshifting, Stephen Rechtshaffen suggests these ways to take charge of your life to be more fully in the moment. I often have my most informative and fruitful conversations with my children when I am
in the car with them driving them to an activity. Those moments between activities can become the highlights of our day. Or instead of driving to my office thinking what I have to do, I tune into my senses by listening to music on the radio, noticing the roadside trees or how the sunshine feels.

THIRD: Create spontaneous timeframes in your life so not everything is tightly structured. This is another way to take charge, Rechtshaffen suggests. I call it "a framework for freedom." There our periods of my day or week that I have unscheduled where I can do what I feel like doing. It forces me to check in with me, to identify what I feel and what I need. Making this happen involves setting boundaries and not allowing anything or anybody to invade my space with me.

These don't have to involve big blocks of time. One technique that I use for spontaneous time frames during the course of a busy day is to take a deep breath, which becomes a signal to pause and tune into me. Sometimes when I am driving, I turn off the radio and allow myself to be quiet with me. At home or in my office, I may not respond immediately to the phone ringing or I'll take a brief walk outside to clear my thoughts. Writing down my thoughts and feelings also offers me deeper connection with my present experience.

So, What Good Does It All Do?

When I consistently tune into my experience at the moment, I tend to be more available and receptive to others. Doing less random thinking can actually generate increased productivity. It allows my creative process to flow and enables others to communicate and feel that they are
important. And I feel better - more relaxed -ready for the next moment.

As I reflect upon the highlights of my life. they do not include such activities as doing the laundry or returning phone calls at work. The moments when I have devoted my full attention to my experiences seem to stand out.

We do not have to live our lives going through the motions, missing our experiences. We can learn and practice ways to be more present with ourselves and still get things done. This approach does not give us more hours in the day, but it can make our valuable time more satisfying and meaningful.