Imagine if you could s-t-r-e-t-c-h time. How would you feel if you had more time every day? Evidence suggests you’d be more present and patient, have more meaningful experiences, and spend more of your time volunteering to help other people.
If that idea appeals to you, the question becomes, how do you stretch time—or more accurately—how do you expand your perception of time? I’ll show you.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been offering online classes called Thrilled To Be Alive. Everyone who participates is asked to spend ten minutes a day doing a specific meditation. The people who do the meditations regularly seem to get more out of the course than people who don’t. Those who don’t do the meditations report that they simply don’t have enough time.
So, I developed the idea of micro-meditations. These are very brief meditations that take hardly any time at all, maybe five to twenty-five seconds. A micro meditation involves pausing, fully taking in and appreciating what you are sensing with your sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, and your imagination. Because they take so little time, they can be done several times throughout the day, bringing about a remarkable state of being, which I’ll describe in a minute.
But before I do that, I want to introduce you to Michael Amster, one of the participants in my course, a longtime member of the Live Conscious community, a very experienced meditator, as well as a meditation instructor. Michael offered a brilliant suggestion, which is that we call this practice Microdosing Mindfulness. The name immediately resonated with me because meditation encourages us to focus inward and empty our minds. It involves letting go. Mindfulness is different in that it involves being deeply aware, often of external things, so that we have a heightened awareness of our senses.
Minutes to seconds
And meditation requires time—at minimum ten minutes, fifteen or twenty is even better. Whereas Microdosing Mindfulness hardly requires any time at all. Instead of ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes, Microdosing Mindfulness can be done in ten, fifteen, or twenty seconds!
Michael and I, and a few others in our community began practicing Microdosing Mindfulness several times a day. People reported finding this helpful, in part, because we lead busy lives and find it challenging to make time to meditate consistently. And some of us don’t feel as though meditating once a day creates a sense of well-being that lasts the entire day, certainly not during stressful times. But those of us who are Microdosing Mindfulness throughout the day are experiencing a lasting sense of well-being.
As a result of our experiences, and what we’ve heard from other people, Michael and I decided to run a couple of pilot projects—one for people suffering from chronic pain, and one for people interested in personal and spiritual growth. Since Michael is a doctor specializing in pain management, he’s going to run the pilot for his chronic pain patients. I’m going to offer a pilot for people interested in personal and spiritual growth. Participants will learn how to microdose mindfulness during an initial meeting (online for my group), and then share one email each day—a microdose—with the other group members. Michael will provide feedback and guidance for his group, and I’ll do the same for my group. There will be no charge, and if you’d like to apply to join my group, complete the form at the end of this article.
The most significant aspect of mindfulness
In the process of designing our pilot projects, we identified what we believe is the most significant aspect of this mindfulness practice: awe. A study* published in 2012 defines awe as, “the emotion that arises when one encounters something so strikingly vast that it provokes a need to update one’s mental schemas (Keltner & Haidt, 2003).” The way we think about this is that when we encounter something ” strikingly vast,” or “strikingly beautiful,” or “strikingly moving,” we are popped out of our auto-pilot mental schemas and we wake up to the miracles of life. We experience awe, and the benefits of doing so—frequently throughout the day—are, well, awesome.
The study demonstrated that when we access awe, we perceive time as expansive, and when we perceive time this way, we are more present, have more patience, and are more likely to volunteer our time to help other people. And, not surprisingly, when we sense that more time is available, we become more interested in having meaningful experiences as compared to buying material possessions as a way to reward ourselves. It makes sense to me, I’d rather go on a beautiful hike than buy a possession, but if I don’t feel that I have the time to hike, purchasing something gives me temporary pleasure.
Accessing timelessness takes no time
We believe we’re creating something very significant—a mindfulness practice done in microdoses throughout the day, that fosters awe, wakes us up, brings us into the present, and opens our hearts. And it only takes seconds a day to change your life every day. This practice enhances our sense of well-being, and it could solve problems on a much larger scale. Imagine a world in which people are present, patient, helpful to others, and prefer experiential activities over material goods.
This practice helps us find awe in the ordinary. Initially, we may discover awe standing under a redwood tree and looking up or standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon. As we become more present by learning to Microdose Mindfulness, we can experience awe listening to music, watching a movie, cuddling with our cat, or waiting for a red light to turn green. We can find awe in almost any moment. And it is in those moments that we experience joy and gratitude for the gift of life and how we can affect the lives of those around us.
* Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time, Alters Decisions Making, and Enhances Well-Being (Rudd, Vohs, Aaker)