How to Stop Time

A student who’s juggling unemployment stress and family crises (while still getting his schoolwork done) asked, “Can you just tell me how to stop time?”

The same day, my son reported his friend Sarah’s Facebook update: “My oven has a button labeled Stop Time. I think they mean Stop Timer, but just in case, I’m not touching it!”

Beautiful Clock by J-eunit at
"Beautiful Clock," Brussels, by J-eunit at

Yes, it is possible to stop time: learn to meditate. I love the report of a Zen monk who said, “Usually, I meditate an hour a day, but today will be so busy, I’d better meditate for two.” It’s one way to stop the world and get off the ride for a few peaceful moments, then come back with the clarity to be efficient and creative. I love the way davidji of the Chopra Center puts it, saying that after meditation, we “carry a cupful, a teaspoonful, a thimbleful of stillness with us.” It sounds too simple to help–until you try it.

In several eras and situations, I’ve burned myself out, and I’m been flirting with that recently, so I’m calling more time-outs each day for prayer and meditation. Life is like swimming. If you struggle, thrash about, and panic, you’ll drown; the trick is to relax and float.

When we’re in that place of stress, panic, and burnout, we need expanded perspectives, greater self-care, and committed action. Check out these ideas:

Preventing Burnout: Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Coping Strategies.

On my daily checklist is “someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.” (This might be Elvis Presley’s definition of happiness. At least that’s the earliest attribution I’ve found so far.)

As a working mom, the first two-thirds are a given. The third can be easily forgotten. But I’m easily pleased, whether it’s anticipating a simple salt soak and a good book, or the more luxurious gift of Shakespeare season tickets.

My ways of stopping time: release the past, savor the present, invite the future.

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