Hack Your Time, Do More of What Matters
My longstanding friend and former CEO of HarperCollins for a decade, PM Sukumar, kept feeding me worthy reading material and last week, he shared an article by Dr Adam Bell about the hacking of one’s perception of time. After I shared the article with many, as is the trend these days, whatever you get – forward, I also read it keenly, something not many people bother to do, and indulged in ruminating upon it like even fewer people do. I am writing about it as I found it to be the real root of many of our problems, and the principal source of our dissatisfaction with life.
We are all basically consciousness imprisoned into physicality. The eternal soul lives in a perishable body, which needs non-stop respiration and a thousand other internal activities to be alive. Surprisingly, all these activities are pretty regular and cyclic. Every minute, the heart pumps blood 72 times, circulating 5 liters of blood through the body. The lungs inhale and exhale 18 times, approximately the same volume of air. The entire blood in the body gets renewed every 120 days and all this happens, throughout our lives, most efficiently, independent of the watch and the calendar. These values of course vary from person to person but within a very narrow band.
Now enters the mind, the slave of time. The mind is thought to be in the head, but actually it is a software operating all over our body – especially the gut, where billions of bacteria live – converting our food into nutrients and waste. These bacteria are not eternal but almost immortal; they are alive for billions of years and keep acquiring new human bodies to live and multiply. My friend, Dr Girish Sahni, Former Director General of CSIR and Director of the Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTECH), based in Chandigarh, tells me that there are ten times more bacterial cells in your body than human cells, using the human body to live safely and flourish. They also do not follow the time of the clock and whenever the mind forces food upon them, if it is not needed, they get upset, and even angry.
So, the key to good life is freedom, even if it is not liberty, from the clock and the calendar, from the alarms and the deadlines and targets and schedules.
In Hindu philosophy, there is a principle of Rta (ऋत). It means order, rule or truth as one wants to understand it – the principle of natural order which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything within it. Understand the time of the clock and the date in the calendar as measuring tools and as references to carry out the business of the world – hourly payments, daily wages, monthly salaries, quarterly returns on investments, annual increments, etc. A day in the school is divided into periods and children are expected to toggle from one subject to another by the sound of the bell.
Disorientation of what we do with our biological rhythms, called Circadian Rhythms, is our chronic problem. The Circadian Rhythms respond primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment. The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was jointly awarded to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the Circadian Rhythms.
As Adi Shankaracharya declared the cornerstone of Hindu philosophy – know this world as unreal and your soul as real – ब्रह्म सत्यं जगन्मिथ्येत्येवंरूपो विनिश्चयः – don’t allow the watch and the calendar to override the reality of your Circadian Rhythms. Yes, it is true that people have to work in night shifts, but they must be suitably compensated with less working hours and resting days, which is mostly not done, except in highly regulatory industries like the airlines. Resident doctors and nurses are even forced to do double-shifts by greedy hospitals, putting patients to the grave risk of errors in treatments. Most of the road accidents are caused by sleep-deprived drivers.
Dr Adam Bell gives a modern version of “mindfulness” as taught by Buddha. He prescribes a 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise. Several times in the day, stop what you are doing, and “see five things” in your immediate vicinity; “be aware of four feelings” in your body (any itching, tense muscles, pain, pressure, whatever); listen to three sounds around you (your heartbeat, a bird chirping, a fan moving, a clock ticking); sniff the air for “two smells” you can pick up on (the aroma of any food or the fragrance of any flower); and finally, “taste one thing” you can have (a sip of water, for example). Doing this few times (say five times) every day will slow the passage of time for you.
Your life depends on your breath. Start counting your breath whenever you want to stop your mind from its excursions. Divide the time into small doses like we pour water from a jug into a tumbler, tea in a cup, soup in a spoon. Now examine every small interval. Is it worth spending this time watching TV, gossiping, reading the newspaper? Can you do something better? Go for a walk, take a nap! These two activities are much better than anything else people do. You will start changing and soon you will be doing only the task that matters in any individual time block. All other distractions will be discarded by you, yourself.
I am not asking you to be a hacker. I am telling to retrieve your reality that has already been hacked by the “world”. What we consider as our work, livelihood, business, are all means to live, not life. The purpose of human life is to flourish, to expand the consciousness further. How come you are reading my blog? Who created the Internet? Why are Adi Shankaracharya’s sayings heard and read even today? Why is Dr APJ Abdul Kalam loved and remembered by millions even after five years of his departure from this mortal world? Why do you cry while listening to good music? These are all examples of the expansion of consciousness.
That consciousness is the Reality. When it enters a sperm and ovum fused together, it starts dividing the cell into a well-defined “Rta,” making a human body out of it. When it is separated from the flesh, the best of the doctors in the most equipped hospitals pronounce the patient “dead.” From where does Consciousness come? Where does it go? Nowhere, it keeps shifting! This world is nothing but a simulation program where each player is free to make choices and score to reach the next level of the “game.”
So, don’t allow your choices to be manipulated. Know yourself as an unchangeable eternal soul, now in this body, in this mental state, both temporary and changing every moment. This knowledge, this awareness, is what matters. The rest is time-pass, living a life hacked.
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