I have always been fascinated by our perception of time. I remember being about 8 years old, sitting at my window overlooking my driveway. I was waiting for a friend to arrive, and caught up
in the expectation of play (I was an extrovert in an introverted household!). I think, looking back, that I must have been there for 10 minutes, but the anticipation made that time feel stretched and thick.It also seemed, as a child, that a year was too not-now to comprehend – and when the birthday rolled around it was almost a surprise, because I couldn’t hold on to that length of time, really.
As an adult, I experience time distortion as well. The ennnnndddddlllleeeessssssss droning in a class with a boring professor, the being absorbed in a game and feeling like the evening whisked by – buts its effects are muted. Somehow there is a sense of Me, an overarching Watcher that holds Time in perspective. I’m grateful to the Watcher, since I no longer feel like I might burst at the seams when I anticipate joy or muddle through moments of suffering.
As a doula, however, I enter into another level of time distortion. My life, which I typically live in the moment to somewhat-near-future begins to be scheduled 10 months in advance. I am living in March, but I just spent an hour Being in October, planning, planning. It makes time somehow feel like it is passing more quickly, as though a piece of me has taken up permanent residence in the Future.
Living in the Future disturbs me – and seems to cut my life short. But it is absolutely worth it for the other shift that happens as a doula – the entering into the Sacred and Permanent Now. When I am with a birthing couple, I feel almost as if I’ve been transported to an alternate reality. I am completely and utterly absorbed in the moment.
As the birthing mother shifts from analytic mind to primal (inward, birthing, alternate) mind, I shift with her. I am caught up in her dance. I sense the subtle shift of breath that signals her next birthing wave, and my hands find just the right spot on her lower back almost before she knows she needs them there. I am tuned in – not just to this family that I have come to know through their pregnancy, but to God, to that which is Divine and Sacred. It sounds so
and yet I experience it. It is ecstasy and bliss, to be utterly absorbed in the moment – and not just any random moment, but one that is arguably among the most special moments we experience as humans. Time is passing, but it is all Now. The 4 hour birth or the 34 hour birth. I am me, with my knowledge, skills, personality. And yet my sense of self blurs as I become part of Other – the birthing mother, her partner, and the baby, somehow. And I get to live there, not just once, but many times over.
They say that happiness stems from experiencing flow, a state in which we are utterly absorbed in an activity. The hallmarks of flow include experiencing oneness and ecstasy (losing sense of self), doing something which requires a high level of skill, and experiencing a distorted sense of time. How awed and blessed I am to have found my flow, and how much more rich and meaningful my life has become because of it.