“All there, totally immersed, fascinated and absorbed in the present, in the here-now, with the matter-in-hand.”
~ Abraham Maslow about creative people
Think about the last time you were so engaged in a task time was nowhere to be noticed, where whatever you were doing consumed your mind and warped time into a nonexistent externality.
Chances are, you were engaged in a form of creativity. These states of “flow” or “time-free tasks” aren’t random phenomenon we’ve come to love and seek ways of becoming Flow-State All Stars.
Although seemingly shifty, as the mind often is, a basic understanding of hemispherical brain function matched with raised consciousness will help you find more peace in the present, lose track of time and engage fully in life more frequently.
The Left And The Right Of It
Dr. Robert Levine examines time-free tasks in his thought-provoking book The Geography of Time. Highlighting Nobel Prize-winning biopsychologist Roger Sperry’s research at the California Institute of Technology, we learn the left-hemisphere is characterized by verbal, analytical thought such as counting, step-by-step procedures, rational and logical statements and time-based tasks. The right-hemisphere, on the other hand, is “intuitive, subjective, relational, holistic, and time-free.”
Simply put, when we creatively engage ourselves our right-brain takes over and the right brain doesn’t concern itself with time; whereas using our left-brain, we become consumed by the clock. As brain asymmetry scholar Jerry Levy puts it, “The left hemisphere analyzes over time, whereas the right hemisphere synthesizes over space.”
Understanding this basic comprehension of brain function, we enable ourselves to recognize our daily actions in reference to category–are we working on an analytical left or subjective right task? Our heath and mental balance will benefit from not overloading ourselves with left or right brain tasks.
In America, people are more prone to operate consistently with their left-brains and maintain a hurried concern with the clock. This isn’t so everywhere, however, as Dr. Levine points out Bali’s culture, which emphasizes right-brained tasks and finds less concern over stringent time restraints.
It boils down to culture–our attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, expectations and roles in society shape our perceptivity to flow-state experiences.
The Here-Now Of It
At the start of this post, Maslow describes creative people, falling into his “self-actualized” category at the top of his Hierarchy of Needs, as those who are “all there,” “immersed, fascinated and absorbed in the present, in the here-now.”
Buddhist monks spend lives in meditation to increase their ability to proactively engage in the here-now of life, while Maslow’s categorization labels the highest personally developed people to experience the present in such rich taste. It is not an easy task, but why?
Why is it difficult to break from the clock, to engage fully in the present?
For starters, it takes focus and practice. In a culture that breathes distraction, there is little room for neither focus nor deliberate practice.
How to Increase You’re Here-Now Experiences
Although mainstream culture fights for our attention, we can fight back. Here are few battle tips to help you maintain the upper hand, or right-brain.
- Build here-now forts. Create microenvironments of sorts within your life that welcome creative engagement. You will likely still need to be conscious of time, to a degree, but can block of large portions to focus on tasks that free you from time within you’re here-now forts. Take on time-free tasks in your forts, where you can block out external distractions and interruptions. Whether your fort is a room to write or paint, a café where you can focus, a bike and the open road–whatever works to get your right-brain functioning on high.
- Choose no-brainers. I don’t mean trivial things, but choose to do more things that break from the stereotypical categorization of “brainy” in terms of analytical, objective, timed, left-brained tasks and switch to subjective right-brained creativity.
- Travel. Go spend time in a “timeless,” or at least less-concerned-with-time culture, such as Brazil or Bali. While there, be conscious of the role of time and native’s relation with it. Are people hurried, stressed? What are do they prioritize? Are they happy? What can you learn? Relax, and soak up the essence of timeless time.
How do you relate to time and in what ways can we use time or timelessness to our advantage? Or should we relax and stop trying to use everything to our advantage?
If you found this interesting, I recommend social psychologist Dr. Levine’s book, The Geography of Time. It is a fascinating examination of time’s relation to life.