Perceptions of Time

“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.”
                                                                                  -Nathaniel Branden

Have you ever spent time with an elder, an elderly parent, someone with a stroke or other disability? Have you noticed that being with them involves us slowing down to their movements and their rhythms of thought and expression? If so, have you also experienced that when we are present with them in our thoughts and feelings and movements that it also takes us in a different dimension of time where things that used to matter don’t, and other things do?

When events in life slow us down we become more open to feelings, thoughts, and perceptions which we ordinarily only allow in small moments and increments. As we age and find our minds slowing down or becoming less agile, or we are dealing with life changes such as a stroke, things which we were too much in a rush to pay much attention to become more important to us and we have the inward time to expand to them. Our perceptions of the time change and even our priorities change. As a person being with or visiting the elderly, for example, we slow down to keep inward and outward stride with them. It is almost like a time out of time.

As a chiropractic physician and a family systems facilitator, in my work I frequently have the opportunity to experience this “other timely” or this different dimension of time. I match my rhythms to their rhythms, to their breathing, and to their movements. When I don’t, I feel I am rushing them and then I can’t tune into them to help them. An example of this is with a patient of mine who had a serious stroke a few years ago. When I rush his thoughts or his muscles responses, I feel like I have to force things and push things like going upstream in a river. His thoughts can’t follow mine and I can’t follow his, and his over toned and tensed muscles are not able to release and let go. So I pause and I listen to his words and to his muscles. A technique I find is helpful is called fascia release. It is an unwinding technique where I literally hold his leg and let his legs reactions guide me instead of me forcing his thigh muscles. They begin to let go and he gets to experience his muscles releasing and a lot of his pain lessens. He and I become one person together talking to him. This can only happen as I slow down to this other dimension of time where we allow anything to happen.

As my father’s dementia is becoming more severe, being with him is also a slowing down experience. He walks slowly, he has trouble expressing his thoughts, and he is mostly interested in expressing his feelings and how he feels with others and his feelings for me and others he cares about. His feelings are right out in the open. He is not interested in covering up his feelings. He is interested in expression them. The daily rhythms of time are different. He doesn’t look at his clock and we aren’t concerned about or a slave to time in the usual sense we tend to live in our lives. Most of our lives together he was a person who didn’t say how he felt about you. Once when I asked him why he didn’t often compliment me or say he loved me, he answered that he thought I just knew these things and so why should he have to say them out loud?

Now he does say them out loud. He wants to tell those he loves how he feels about them. He is concerned about finding out who he is. He often is in-between two worlds where he sees his father and his mother and then he sees us; those of us still in this world. This happens mostly in the twilight and evening times. As it becomes dark outside, he becomes more lost in his past and in the world of those who past. My brother, who was visiting and was helping to undress him and help him to bed, experienced our father confusing him with his uncle. At that time, my brother was his uncle who he was speaking with. 

In this other dimension of time, relationships become the most important thing to us. Our connections are what are foremost in our minds. Time slows down. As their caretakers, partners, children, siblings, friends, colleagues, we become actively engaged in connecting with them in their thoughts and movements in time. If we can let us let go of our usual perceptions of time and we can allow us to move into this other rhythm, a great richness of being opens up to us. This too is a part of life and one we don’t often allow us. Welcoming this slowness of being is a great learning experience and helps us to feel our own vitality and wholeness. I would love to hear any of your experiences in this kind of perceptions of time!

Shift Your Story/Shift Your Life Guided Visualization

Let’s take a trip together and experience an altered time state of being. Find a comfortable chair and let your feet easily find the floor. Close your eyes and take 3 or 4 deep breaths. Become aware of your deep internal breathing. Imagine yourself being with an elderly person who is living in a slightly altered world of the here and not here. This person could have dementia, Alzheimer’s, be slightly disabled and having to slow down in life, and such as that.  You are in your mind’s eye just with that person; next to them. Smell them, see them, touch them, and tune into that person. You are speaking with him/her and listening. He/she is telling you something. You slightly lean in and listen. As you do so, your breathing slows down and your thoughts slow down to be just with that person. You take in their presence and hear their words at a deep level. All other thoughts leave your mind. You are traveling with them and with their speed of thought and being. You are just there. Feel what that is like for you. Does that feel the same, different, and if different, how? As you listen to their words they leave you with a bit of their wisdom. Take it in and let them know you will remember their words and them. Tune back into your breath and take 2 or 3 deep breaths. Feel yourself in your body and your feet on the ground in front of you. Slowly open your eyes.

This last step is important. Get a piece of paper and write down what they told you or what you learned from them or from this experience.

Again, if you would like to share what you learned, I would love to hear from you.


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