“There seems to be plenty of it,” was all I would answer, when the investigator asked me to say what I felt about time.

Take a breath. Experience the sense of I am here in its inhalation. Maintain that sense during the peak of saturation. Exhale consciously. Then maintain the sense of I am here during the interval after the exhalation. Your consciousness has just spanned your psychological moment. This short duration of five seconds on average is the lifetime of your ‘I’s. Every breath brings a new thought to your mind, or a new turn of repetition to an old thought. A day of 17 active hours (meaning, hours spent out of bed) contains 1,020 active minutes and 12,240 active breaths. A week contains 85,680 active breaths. A month contains 342,720. We will have taken 4,467,600 breaths from the beginning of the year 2016 to its conclusion in a few days’ time — and this is just one of several years that will have comprised our lives. When it comes to time, as measured by our breaths, we’re all multi-millionaires.

“There seems to be plenty of it,” was Aldous Huxley’s answer when asked about ‘time’ under the supervised influence of mescaline. “Plenty of it,” said Huxley, “but exactly how much was entirely irrelevant. I could, of course, have looked at my watch; but my watch, I knew, was in another universe. My actual experience was… of a perpetual present made up of one continually changing apocalypse.”

Huxley had been given the active principle of the sacred cactus known to Mesoamerican shamans as peyote. George Gurdjieff affirmed that the higher mental center could manifest through the use of such narcotics, and that there had been schools that had used narcotics to achieve this effect. “People in these schools take them for self-study; in order to take a look ahead, to know their possibilities better,” said Gurdjieff. “But to do this, a great knowledge of the human machine and of this special chemistry is necessary.” Leaving aside the lure of taking narcotics to experience higher states effortlessly, we can nevertheless use Huxley’s experience to underscore what is verifiable also without their influence: time is experienced differently by different parts of our being.

During the past week, we focused on the habit of unnecessary haste (see tutorial and comments on “Difficult Groups of ‘I’s”). Haste is rooted in an attitude that I don’t have enough time. It’s a curiously prevalent temptation. Even as I sit at my desk and type these words, a lineup of sticky notes with to-do items beckon me, urging me to hurry. “Get on with it, finish up, we don’t have all day”— they seem to say. My shoulders tense, my fingers strike the keyboard more firmly and quickly. I am drawn to forsake the privilege to Be for the temptation to do.

That ‘other universe’ that Huxley reports of — the presumed location of his ‘watch’ — is the realm of doing. In that realm, time is linear, and there never seems to be enough of it. Those of us who, within the context of last week’s exercise, managed to curb haste at certain moments of our day and go through our to-do lists gracefully, witnessed how new items were promptly added to them. We verified that the part of our being identified with doing isn’t laboring under the hopes of an eventual conclusion. It desires to desire, which means that while we’re locked to the realm of doing, we’re not only multi-millionaires, but the kind that never feels they have enough, that hoards and guards their wealth out of perpetual fear of bankruptcy.

Popping a mescaline pill into our mouth each time we’re lured by haste would hardly be practical. We’d promptly die of overdose. Instead, we can take this present breath, experience the sense of I am here in its inhalation, maintain that sense during the peak of saturation, exhale consciously, and then maintain the sense of I am here during the ensuing interval. If we haven’t just experienced a perpetual present made up of one continually changing apocalypse, then we haven’t fully transitioned from the realm of doing into the realm of being.

No need to hurry; you have plenty of breaths left. Try again.


    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Thanks for pointing this out, John. I had observed the same, but had not formulated it as precisely and succinctly as you just have. Knowing that haste is a precursor to the manifestation of negative emotions adds additional motivation to pull against haste.

    2. rahşan

      I feel haste as aftershock of negative emotions just like “run away” feeling or “do something quickly” thing. And in that case it stays there although I don’t do something quickly. I guess it is the opposite of “Run but don’t haste” attitude 🙂 It is a sign that I missed an opportunity to practice being separate. Maybe haste and negative emotions are chain reactions

  1. Jill M.

    For what it is worth, and not sure that this is the correct place to post this, but for the last 5 days I have been making an hourly appointment, during all my waking hours. It has helped very much to keep imagination under more control. Actually it has been 6 days – but on the first day I did not write down the times, and so I found that I could not remember whether or not I kept appointments.

    The way it has evolved is that – the first time I look at the clock in the morning determines the minute mark for each appointment. This morning it was 6:24 a.m., my first appointment so my next appointment was 7:24 a.m. I have a little piece of paper where I write down what times I keep the appointment. Of course there are delays, usually in the evenings.

    At best the appointment has me become for a minute: ‘still’ (not rushing) externally and internally, and try to become aware of the sensations of my body – tensions, how is my posture, how is my weight distributed, etc. Coming closer to presence.


  2. Marcella Berardi

    My daughter gave me an other opportunity to study myself. This time she was coming back at home alone for Christmas and had to catch two flights from New York to Naples. She was anxious and thought she would make mistakes, or she could fall asleep. So I send her tips and suggestions to let every thing safe and clear. Actually as soon as I search the airport of Brussels via internet, pictures and reports of the terroristic attacks in the last year, showed up on the screen. But I was firm in my present, after all, they were past! The first step was fine: now she found the starting gate to Brussels and will start in 2 hours. But since that moment, each other communication disappeared.
    After seven hours the airplane landed to Brussels but she didn’t call. Other two hours and the second flight left for Naples. At Capodichino airport my husband, my son and I were waiting. Giulia had just hand luggage, so, she said, “I will be the first to exit from the gate. “ Lot of people now crowded the arrival of the airport, “Do you come from Brussels?” I asked to everyone. Fifteen minutes lasted, but they were endless. It was the same time Asaf waited for the respond of the doctor about Ansley’s disease. The mind doesn’t like the vacuum, I remembered, and my mind went to the episode of the previous day when my husband told me, commenting on bad news he had heard in TV, ”The worst destiny is don’t know what happened to your child”.
    Again I dismissed this thought and come back in my present time, in front of the exit gate, waiting for my daughter. To know what time is, you need to experience such a state of suspension; there are moments you forgot to live an there are others in which life is urgent, it demands your total attention. So moment by moment and
    breath after breath, I handled with my present , and finally she come. The American phone contract didn’t work over national borders and it was impossible for her to use the cellular. That’s all, simply.
    A big hug and the body released the tension accumulated in several hours.

    This episode proved to me the functioning of the machine which wants you to be slave of imaginary fears or great expectations that distract you from the moment you are.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Fifteen minutes passed, but they were endless…

      Marcella, your story underscores how time is experienced differently by different parts of our being. It also shows the role of pressure in forcing us to experience time more deeply, provided we remember to do the work. If we turn this observation around, we see that much of our wasting time in daydreams is a result of lack of pressure, lack of need or motivation (called ‘third force’ in system terminology).

      Congratulations for bringing the work to this trying situation.

  3. Melissa Sweet

    I continue to work with haste. This is such a difficult season to deliberately slow down. I am actually experience moments during the day when a certain “I” actually luxuriates in the slowing, when time seems to expands, elongate in some sense. I notice that when I’m tired I hurry more. Tonight, however, as I hurried when preparing some packages to mail, I really disliked my state. I noticed it and then gave myself permission to not accomplish all that I had planned to do. It seems that a more mature, evolved “I” is saying to a less mature ” I” that it is time to go to bed, kind of like a gentle mother giving permission to her child.

  4. philippe bitton

    Haste, wanting quick gratification. Haste seems to be a side effect of one seeking (no matter what is sought). It seems that the desire to complete, finish, achieve, or attain whatever one might desire causes one to haste. If one could simply stop worrying about “results” maybe one would start to slow down, and enjoy the moment for whatever it offers.
    “At some point you just have to let go of what you thought should happen and live in what is happening”

  5. philippe bitton

    In observation time seems to be very fragmented. It appears as if one knows as one sees oneself being in autopilot whatever is the next move. It will seem that one realizes that most if not all one’s doing are in autopilot, and because of the continuous same repetition, the sequence is known. So that if attentive one is conscious of the action (of oneself and the process of the action).
    Example: While getting to wash my hand, I realized that I was moving in autopilot – sequence of movement (turning the water on, wetting the hand, taking soap…and so on) was clearly seen.
    The haste of the “mechanical movement” hinder one’s self observation. By slowing down, it seems somewhat easier to pay attention and extend time.
    Peace and Love

  6. Orazio Sorgonà

    I photographed haste as a form of fear.
    An ‘affirmative fear’ say. However the ‘negative fear’ we are accustomed to consider is always an excuse for haste. I have fear, and haste then to fight or fly, to ‘overdo’.
    When I can laugh at, I’m for some time free of.

  7. Kandra

    This is my first comment on this site. I love my haste. (shrugs) I revel in it- follow along with it- it’s just the difference between being a normal driver and a race car driver. I get a lot done in a day when I am on my game- focused- here now- making decisions faster, seeing synchronicity and feeling that “check” feeling – all I am saying is that going faster does not interfere with self-observation. When the “movie” speeds up, do you fall asleep? Not really. It just gets more exciting.

  8. Aporia

    In the movie “He’s just not that into you” the guy tells the girl “…women love drama, tell me you don’t wait until the last minute to pay a bill just because you love the rush of not knowing if you’ll make it or not.” I did an internal check as a woman and nope, I don’t resonate with that statement. But… I do love the moment before I am leaving for a trip or going to the store, or anywhere. Like a child, so I think I try to impose that feeling long before its time. I think its uncomfortable for the person closest to me (physically in the same space). As I’ve gotten older I learn to disguise this since I like the people I’m around. I could be doing my haste thing 3 days before getting my car worked on (for example) trying to will the need to hurry so I can feel that rush of “needing” to be somewhere on time.

    For me haste is maybe not an issue, its the deep preoccupation with wanting to feel that way. I’m always becoming, would love to do more being.