Meaning Mondays: The Experiment Edition

Experimenting. That’s what I’ve been doing this month, down in my imaginary Meaning Mondays lab.

Concocting potions and elixirs.

Adding a dash of this.

Removing a bit of that.

Adjusting the flame.

Timing it all so that the spell I want to cast turns out just right.

Lest you think I’m some mad scientist, replete with fogged-up goggles and wild hair – nah, I can’t pull that off. Maybe I’m a little eccentric, but I’m more a tinkerer than anything else.

But I do adore experiments.

While commitment may be more fashionable, I often find postponing it in favor of experimentation leads to many meaningful actions, and in the end, firmer commitments.

So lately I’ve been experimenting on someone I know quite well – ME. And I’ve been tinkering with an area of life that’s challenging for lots of us – TIME.

TIME

We all seem to want and need more of it, right? And then there’s the whole deal about time whizzing by the older we get. I’ve been chewing on that one, and contemplating some wisdom from Barbara Sher:

And then time changed again at midlife. Suddenly tomorrow has started flying out of our hands before we can catch it…Suddenly you wake up to something you never noticed before: Time doesn’t just rush by faster and faster; it ends…[and] you’re so scared, you could bolt into the traffic like a panicked deer.

So, before you take another step, I want to tell you something you haven’t realized yet. Time is not goingto continue to speed up [because] when your present panic disappears, time will slow down even more, for a very different reason.

Why? Because fear gobbles time…But when the only danger is that time seems to be rushing by, there’s nothing to focus on…What can we experience when we’re anxious? Only the minimum of color and scent, sound and texture and taste. Instead of being happy or sad or wistful or peaceful, we feel emotional white noise.

For my money, that’s one of the best riffs I’ve seen on the passage of time in our anxiety-ridden and overwhelm-producing world. So my experiments have focused on doing time in a mindful, calm way.

Experiment number one

This one’s pretty simple: the computer stays off from Friday afternoon until Sunday evening. It’s my new rule, and after three weekends, I can give a resounding YES to its affects on time.

Yes, time certainly has expanded. I feel more playful, creative, alive. Plus I’m better rested. And you know what? I think my skin looks brighter too. A delightful, unexpected benefit.

Experiment number two

This one’s actually part of an ongoing experiment that’s about to hit its three year anniversary. You see, back in 2007 I got this notion that we could slow down time with a place of our own for weekends. And in a matter of days, I found it on Craigslist: a miniscule apartment in the Russian River Valley, with a rent almost as tiny as its 300 square feet of space. And only about a two-hour drive from Sacramento.

It’s in Camp Meeker, CA. Affectionately known as Damp Sneaker to locals, because it’s deep in the woods in a notoriously wet part of the state.

Now this experiment has been an unqualified success. It’s been a refuge and retreat. Love nest. A base for exploring. 

But, (there’s always a but, right?), it’s been a challenge to balance at-home life with at-Camp Meeker life. It’s been harder to get there than we imagined, which segues right into my final experiment.

Experiment number three

Well, I think I’ve finally done it. Tweaked my schedule so I can vacate Sacramento at the end of each month. Head to Camp Meeker. Spend the week reading. Studying. And working on other writing projects (besides blogging).

Ah, I can feel time stretching and deepening already. Because today starts my very first week with this new experiment.

I have only the merest hesitation, mostly because it’s a 15-minute drive to the nearest wireless outpost. All I’ve got in my snug little hideaway is a land line telephone. No cell. No internet. No TV. None of it. So not only will I be away from my actual home, I won’t be around my blogging home as much, either.

What about you?

I’m more than a little curious to hear how you handle the onward rush of time. Any experiments of your own? Tricks that work for you to savor it? You know I’d love to hear!

45 thoughts on “Meaning Mondays: The Experiment Edition

  1. Patti,
    I just spent the weekend in Chicago with my daughter and grandchildren and it was a wonderful timeless weekend. We had no reason to notice the time because there was no schedule. At the Museum of Science and Industry the kids dissected a cow’s eye we walked Michigan Avenue with the lights all a glitter and the moon hanging low and we ate giant slices of cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory.

    This week I’m hiking with a friend Friday and possibly taking a road trip with a niece that is visiting AZ.

    I’ve never associated fear with time…it makes sense!

    • Hi Tess – I love that word – “timeless.” Perfect way to put it. It sounds like a day filled with rich moments, one after the other. And I think it’s so important to do what you say, have those days with no schedule at all. For me, that actually makes time expand. Thanks so much for the comment!

  2. Patti,

    I had NO schedule this weekend – I focused on being present for my brother who just lost his wife last Thursday. My sisters and I spent time cleaning his kitchen. Only the minor aches of being bent over cleaning out a refridgerator reminded me how long I spent cleaning.

    I love your experiements…I, too, am experimenting. One experiment that I’ve just started is I’ve turned comments off on all my new posts. I love that I have readers but I don’t want anyone to feel obligated to leave a comment.

    I like your Camp Meeker experiment…one day…Richard and I just might find something similar!

    Peggy

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your family’s loss, Peggy. Isn’t it interesting when we come together in grief and empathy, how schedules do seem to evaporate and time stretches? And wow, turning off comments. I’ve never thought of that. Oh, yes, I absolutely recommend the tiny apt hideaway. It is amazing what you can find on Craigslist! Thanks for the visit! p.s., Peggy, I was very touched by the photo and words on your blog today.

  3. I’ve been working with my coach to create a time schedule during the day that allows me a bit more breathing space–like taking time to be with family, read, watch TV or whatever in the evenings. A radical concept for me, but it is working, with tweaks here and there.

    I am attracted and repelled at the same time by you shutting down the computer for the weekend. What I find is that there’s so much that piles up when I’m away from it that it takes a huge chunk of time to deal with it all when I return. Maybe part of this is rationalizing, though.

    At any rate–enjoy your time this week and don’t worry about us, we’ll miss you but we’ll be here when you return, eager to hear all about the insights you’ve gained.

    • How cool, Charlotte, that you are having success with what is a radical concept for you. Now that’s progress! And I love your point about being attracted/repelled. I think I could write a whole post about that. I know it’s different for each of us, but for me I find I need to look at how much of that stuff piling up is self-induced, and how much of it truly matters and needs to be dealt with. Not always easy for me to discern, I admit. But I’m working on it. Thanks!

  4. For me it is about living in the present moment and doing what feels right at the time. I find that I am very rarely stretched for time. Time and me work very well together. Enjoy your get away, sounds wonderful!

    • Nice, Mark. I hear a very compatible relationship between you and time. In fact, just reading your comment centers me and reminds me of my deep, calm experiences of time, and that I can have them in any moment. Thanks!

  5. I love the way you are taking advantage of the weekends and enjoying some time away. We should indeed savor each moment. We get rushed, and overbooked and piddle away moments. Wonderful experiments.

    • Hi Erin! So nice to see you. You know, I have been known to do my share of piddling, that’s for sure. But as I get older, I do have a far greater awareness of what Barbara Sher talks about – time will run out one day. So no more time for piddling. Thanks for the comment.

  6. Ah… your getaway home sounds like a dream come true. Even just reading about it made me relax, if you can believe that. I’ve cut down on the time I spend blogging. I actually sleep much better this way. Being at the computer gets your mind racing and it takes longer to get to sleep.

    • Hi Davina – I do believe that, and I’m so glad you mentioned it, because in many ways home is inside of us as much as outside. We can all have that inner getaway, regardless of location. So true about sleep too. I’m really noticing the difference. Thank you!

  7. Hi Patti! I stopped wearing a watch about 10 yrs ago. I make a general list of what I want to do each week but I don’t get nuts about it. I’m retired. I’m done rushing. I only answer to myself and I’ve learned to be really kind to me – it’s all whatever/whenever. Life is good.
    hugs,
    suZen

    • Hey suZen – I stopped wearing a watch too about 10 years ago! A coworker challenged me to start to change my relationship to time, and it has made a difference. But there are clocks everywhere, and lately I’ve needed to go to the next stage of awareness. Sounds like you have already arrived there. Very inspiring. Thanks, and hugs!

  8. Hi Patty.
    Experimenting is a good word. Children experiment, they are living with innocent perception. They do not live according to hard and fast rules, everything is new and therefore they forever find new solutions that suit the context they are in right there and then.
    Living life and using time differently, means trusting my ability to find solutions in the here and now for issues that come up. .
    Turning off comments was a new solutions Peggy thought of for example, she found a new solution in her blogging context by observing others. Children observe big time and then copy and adjust what they liked.
    Yes, going bush with no internet requires a childlike solution focused mind that tackles problems when they come up in the moment and observing and using what one observes.
    THAT is where I gain time, time is a resource that I use productively and effectively by being solutions focused and experimenting with new solutions rather than old stale ones.
    You have a fabulous time experimenting, love Wilma

    • Hi Wilma – Love that, about children experimenting. Interesting too what you say about using time productively/effectively and in a solution-focused way. I do certainly have times like that, but sometimes I want to use time non-productively, with no particular focus. Like the purposeless play time I’ve been experimenting with. Kids are good at that too! Love, P

      • Being purposeless is a purpose for me as well, it is the purpose is on Be-ing.
        Purpose for me is an intent to BE present but that doesn’t mean that I feel pressured to achieve an outcome of a tangible goal.
        BE-ing is a great purpose even if it feels purposeless.
        However I think I know what you mean and getting hung up on words is not serving so I hear you Patty and I so love that about you. Your playfulness is the way to the heart and that is important. So my friend, experiment away. xox Wilma

  9. Hi Patty –

    I love this experimental approach to life. We can find our true path when we start believing in possibilities. The only way is to try different things and see what feels right.

    I’ve been experimenting in finding the middle path in life. I spent a lot of time going inward to explore who I am, and learned a huge amount. Yet I neglected the outside world and lost touch with the vitality that people and nature bring us. Now I’m trying to balance both sides – and I find that by enjoying reflection and external activities I have more time. I think that the balance of being engaged in activities we love slows down time.

    Thanks for another great post,

    Phil

    • Ah, very wise Phil. I love that idea that balancing the inner and outer is a way to get more time. And yes, when I’m fully engaged time sure does slow down. But lately it seems I need to be aware of not spending too much time engaged in any one thing, because then it becomes too much. Not sure that makes sense. But thanks so much for your comment!

  10. Hello Patty,

    You are so right. When I see all of my friends so frenetically busy around me I am thankful that I am not that kind of person. There is such a fine line between loving life and making sure that you fit everything in to loving life and making sure that you enjoy the little pleasures.

    I make a pact to not wake up at 4:30am anymore to write and so I am writing less but am well rested and less anxiety ridden.

    I also am making a huge effort to spend more quality time with my children and that is why I have become more of a family travel writer and boy are we loving our weekends!!

    As always, I love your thought provoking posts.

    • Hi Jillian – So good to see you over here, and thank you so much. I can just hear, from your words, how the stress has melted away for you. I’m thinking you’re in a pretty different place these days? And boy, what a truth that is, about the fine line between fitting it in and enjoying the little pleasures. It’s so exhilarating to hear you are loving your weekends!

  11. Hi Patty,

    So glad you posted on my blog and I found yours! It’s beautiful. That passage about midlife really hit home for me (I recently turned 50!). You do get the sense that you need to treat every day as a treasured gift. I am now very focused on doing what I love and letting some other things fall off my plate. When I am doing what I love, time does stand still. It’s like a walking meditation. Thank you for this lovely post.

    • Hi Barrie – Welcome, and thanks so much for the return visit. I love the idea of each day as a gift. And what a great analogy – a walking meditation. It really emphasizes the idea that we are able to choose how to experience time. Wonderful!

  12. I am experimenting with time by actually giving myself a bedtime. I need to be in bed by 10 pm. I will allow an extra 15 minutes for reading if I need a wind down, but I have to be in my bed. Being well rested has really helped me have the mindset to appreciate my days. That late night stuff was usually just wasted on tv, and emails that could have waited until the morning.

    • Hi Angela – Welcome! And I totally agree about bedtime. One of my challenges, I admit, but one I’m working on nevertheless. What a difference it makes. Just the act of going to bed on time and feeling rested changes my relationship with time. Thanks!

  13. Hi Patty, I read this in my feed yesterday and thought how cool that we’re on the same wavelength again! I love experimenting but that’s because I’m no longer afraid for things not to work. I also think it does wonders for our creativity.

    As for time, I just do more things that I want to do and enjoy doing which, I think, brings an unexpected byproduct of making me a better person (“better” by my standards of course).

    • Hi Belinda – Great point about experimenting and fear. When we’re afraid it sure does limit our ability to experiment, doesn’t it? Back to that “don’t be attached to outcome” stuff we were talking about last week. And it sounds like you’ve got a great relationship with time. Thanks for sharing that!

  14. This is an interesting post from a self organization point of view. Choices can change how we feel in time, but they do not change time itself. Time marches on… or is it us? Maybe we should ask the “white rabbit”;0))

    Time is a dimension that is very difficult to understand, we are in time but we can’t see it, we have expressions like “My how time flies when…” yet the speed of time remains the same. So why is it that we feel that it passes quickly, or at the other end of the pendulum, crawls at a snails pace.

    Carl Jung pondered this question, as well as Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. What they found was very interesting from the point of view of “being identified”. When we are very identified with an activity, time passes quickly or slowly, depending on the sense of pleasure or pain. The funny thing is, we may have really enjoyed the activity we were involved in, but because of scheduling conflicts or others expectations, we are now in a dither and plunged into negative emotions. Time remains the same though, in spite of this.

    From a personal objective observation, I find that women have a more difficult time with scheduling, yet on the other hand, men do not go as deep into the activity, thereby missing some of the meaning. That would be the balance part though, that each needs to learn from the other.

    By working on being less “identified”, and more self aware is how I try to manage my time.

    Oh no! Here comes the white rabbit again. gottaaaa gooooooo!

    Eso

    • Love this, Eso. Thanks so much for deepening the conversation about time. You’re so good at that. And absolutely true, the speed of time is what it is. This idea of being identified with an activity is new to me, but makes so much sense. I think I’ve experienced exactly what you say. Sounds like perhaps a certain level of both awareness and detachment is key. Hmm, without even realizing it, I think I’ve been doing this! But still, let’s get that white rabbit in here.

  15. Patty,

    All I can say is that I find what you are doing here to be incredibly cool. The fact that you are taking these actions is what is so interesting, especially the Camp Meeker part and working in a getaway as a regular part of your life. I don’t think enough people do this (perhaps because they can’t make the economics work or life is to busy) but I applaud what you are doing.

    Marc

    • Hi Mark – Thanks! I’m so glad you brought up people’s perception that they’re too busy or can’t afford it. One of the things we’ve done is get very clear on where we want to place our resources, time and money-wise. Our cars are very old, we don’t buy lots of gadgets, we pack our own lunches, take public transit as often as we can, use the library, etc. It all adds up. But in the end budgeting time is probably even more important.

  16. My pleasure. You inspire me to think, so the feeling is mutual.

    About the white rabbit, we will have to ask our friend
    Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) I am sure he would agree though… in fact I think that was the message, he was trying to pass
    in the first place. Just like you are doing now my friend.

    Eso

    • Yeah, I figured you were talking about that white rabbit. Nice to know he would agree! I’ve actually been thinking about him and his cohorts a lot lately in fact, because there’s a new movie coming out. And I’m going to soon write a post about another magical rabbit. Something’s in the air, eh?

  17. You sound Canadian “Eh?” But I agree about the Film we are waiting for it too, The trailers are out and we love Tim Burton and Johnny “DeeP”

    Looking forward to your “magical” Hasenpfeffer post.

    Eso

  18. About three years ago, I quit my job to travel and to experiment. I meditated, tried to be aware, remain present, and traveled. I had meant to do it for a few months, but voluntarily and involuntarily it turned into three years, and I started writing.

    The biggest obstacle is identification with thought, and one way that shows up is in the “busy-ness” of life. It’s great to slow way down and watch.

    Thanks, a very inspiring article!

    k

    • Hi Kaushik – So true. If we give ourselves permission to experiment we never can know what amazing things will come out of it. I too love slowing down and watching. It always brings me to a place of peace. Thanks for sharing your story!

  19. hi patty,
    how are you?
    After reading this post, I am tempted to give experiment 1 a try but from sunday mornings to monday mornings only lol!!! and see the outcome of it. i’ve been getting a few comments regarding me taking things easy so i’d say reading this post is timely.
    thanks a lot
    p.s. i will be sending an email shortly patty for a follow up article for the next edition of the magazine if thats ok?

    • Hi Ayo – I’m good, enjoying my time in the woods and sitting in a coffee house right now. I say, absolutely, go for experiment 1, even if just for one day per week! I think you will find it to be a revelation. And yes, that’s fine about the next mag article.

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