“Keep in mind… for everyone else in your life, these last two days have just been Thursday and Friday,” I said to a group of twenty-four people last Friday afternoon. They laughed, but then went a little silent as they wrapped their heads around that, realizing that the time they’d just experienced was different than normal- like in a bubble.
We’d just finished an intense workshop I taught, during which 24 people in the room experienced some huge personal and professional shifts in their awareness and realities. Their own possibility opened, they connected with people in ways they hadn’t before, and they got perspective on themselves at an a-ha level. Several described themselves as “different people” by the end from how they walked in. It seemed like several days if not more in some ways, it was so significant.
Awesome. And yet- we really only spent about a day and a half together.
There are some moments, hours or days that truly seem to be metaphysically different than the others- as if the moments of time themselves are somehow altered, stretched or suspended. Like in a bubble.
…A conversation in which everything seems to finally line up, insights build on one another and generate new ideas, and the electricity and magic of true connection is tangible.
…The last night with best college friends, connecting at a deeper level, creating epic memories and savoring each moment before you all disperse for months apart.
…An experience of transformative impact shared with another… in which your collective eyes are opened to something new, which changes how you see the world forever.
…The moment you got the news which changed everything…?
Most of these seem longer or shorter somehow than normal. In the experience of them, it’s as if time is truly suspended, and you’re able to live and stretch each moment out more. Like a scene from a Matrix movie, the moments seem to take on another dimension, separate from the flow of time and incident the rest of the world’s experiencing. Like a protected bubble floating through the rest of the air, which is all the same. These “bubble” experiences also seem more intense than others in the moment. Senses become more acute, colors more vivid, emotions more raw, connection more amplified. The rest of the world falls away, and our normally scattered attention zooms into focus- on another person, an idea, a feeling or the shared experience itself. The self-consciousness of monitoring oneself against time, other things/people outside the bubble, responsibility, or the swirl of activity marching along outside it just melts away.
So purely what’s left, finally possible… is to just be there fully in the moment, wide awake and aware, allowing ourselves to think, feel and respond without inhibition or distraction. Presence. This is when true creativity occurs in its rawest form and connection feels charged in a way that it generates something palpable. Flow. It’s real, there’s great research to support it, and creatives have spent generations trying to perfect the ways back into it after those moments are gone.
The classic sign coming out of one of these experiences- getting that feeling of disorientation (like a bubble popping), looking at one’s watch and realizing how much time has passed…
“It seemed like twenty minutes- how could it have been four hours?” or
“It seemed like an hour- how could it have been only ten minutes?” or
“We’ve really only known one another for a week? Seems like years.” or
“It’s only been two days? Feels like at least a week.”
In our memory, they become etched deeply and clearly, touchstones we replay over and over. If you have experienced a bubble moment like this, you might be silently waiting/seeking the next, and replaying the last in your mind for inspiration. If you haven’t, stay open, get present and tune in.
So… Are some moments actually longer or shorter than others in our experience of them? Like separated from the rest in a bubble? Perhaps.
One thing is certain… in every one of these instances, there’s a huge difference which allows the magic to occur. WE are different in them than we are otherwise.
Whether triggered by another person, a situation, or our own choosing in these rare and indelible moments… we got and allowed ourselves to be fully and completely present, awake and engaged.
The biggest question is this- how do we increase the frequency of these moments?
While they are rare for most of us, we can have more of them. The more we allow the distractions to fall away, the more we choose to step in, lean in, open in… to moments, conversations, people and experiences the more they’ll occur, because we’ll create space for them to occur. For example, I always get closer to people just before the window of opportunity closes because it pushes me to act- someone moving away, a project ending, someone quitting the team. There’s something about that “last call” push, which forces us to say things we’d normally wordsmith to death in our heads, express feelings that show some vulnerability, step out and seize the moment to connect.
…And these amazing bubble moments of connection occur.
Since noticing this pattern, I’ve made a more conscious effort to initiate moments as “this is IT” instead of waiting for that last call. This is one reframe, but we can create the space in many ways. Seems simple in theory to just put the phone away and be here now, right? But we know it’s not really…
Out of sight, open mind.
You may have become one of those people who sits at a restaurant dinner or team meeting looking at your phone’s screen instead of the people you’re with. Rather than just turning your ringer off and keeping the phone nearby- actually leave it in another location completely, and watch what happens. The last time I did this (accidentally), I panicked for the first few minutes, but then felt freer, more aware and more present than I had in weeks. One leader I know has everyone at any restaurant get-together put all phones in the center of the table, ringers off. If anyone picks up their phone, they buy for everyone.
In your moments, initiate it, and give yourself the space.
Unplugged and undistracted, your brain will reorient to the moment in a powerful way.
It’s amazing how we don’t even notice how often we’re physically in a moment, yet somewhere else completely emotionally and mentally. We get through entire days unable to recall individual interactions or moments (because we weren’t really paying attention), pride ourselves on “multitasking” (trendy word for not being present), and spend a lot of time in auto-pilot, half-listening to the people in our lives but not really hearing them with any intent, empathy or connection at all. We let ourselves to do this because it’s easy- most others are right there with us, casually disconnected right next to us. Enough. Instead, pay attention in a way you haven’t before- to what their face and eyes are telling you behind their words, to the one thing they said in the middle of that sentence that had more emotion behind it than everything else, to what they didn’t even know they cared about until you asked.
Get interestED instead of being so interestING, and notice how much there is to build on, learn into and open up when you’re actually looking, listening and feeling for it.
Sadly, most people have a pretty low shared standard of interaction with one another. We don’t insist on one another’s attention, rarely push one another to engage, and don’t call out the missed opportunities for connection. You can try those, but I’ve found from experience that it’s much more effective to just be the one in the room to create it, rather than call it out. Just go there- ask the big question, probe a level deeper, lean in to make eye contact as you really listen between their words, and lead off the connecting with your own sharing to open it up. People are truly starved for real contact, yet they don’t even realize it, and definitely don’t know what to do about it. You do.
They’ll follow your lead and then create it with you…but they need you to go first.
The greatest thing I did for the 24 people in that room last week was create space and a way for them to be present, be engaged in the inquiry of what’s possible, and give them a process to GO there. I’ll keep doing that, because it’s just what I bring wherever I go. Meanwhile, in the moments we’re with one another, let’s really make it mean something. We can be present, our attention fully with the ones we’re with in the moment we’re in, creating our own bubble away from the fray. Let’s go…