by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

I often suffer from self-imposed tunnel vision. This means my visual field and focus becomes severely constricted. In fact, I’ve had friends walking toward me who practically had to tackle me to get my attention.

A forwarded email has given me reason to reevaluate the pace of my life. Apparently, The Washington Post conducted a social experiment that won them a Pulitzer for a story published in April 2007.

The feature told about a cold January morning when a man sat at a metro station in Washington, DC and played the violin. He played six Bach pieces for 45 minutes. Of the thousands of people who saw and heard this man, only six stopped and stayed for awhile, and about 20 gave him money as they continued to walk their normal pace. The one who paid the most attention was a three-year-old child. But his mom soon forced him to move along. He did this reluctantly, turning his head back as he walked in order to see the violinist. It seems several other children also repeated this action.

It turns out the man playing incognito was violin virtuoso Joshua Bell.

The concluding question of the email was: “If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?”

When I finished reading the email, I was immediately reminded of the country song by Alabama titled, “I’m in a hurry (And don’t know why).” And I must admit I usually don’t know why.

My husband suggested that perhaps many of the people were on their way to work and maybe even running late so they couldn’t have stopped to listen to the violinist even if they had wanted to. And I suppose this might have been the case.

But are there times when we should “stop to hear the music”?

Must our obligations and responsibilities keep us from taking time to appreciate what’s happening around us? Should we ever be so busy that we’re unavailable to our friends and family, unable to find the time for a sunset or a single mindful breath?

I suspect many of us would concur that most days we are booked solid with little or no time to rest. I came across a study a while back that said during the last 25 years American’s leisure time had declined by 37 percent and our work week had increased by a full day. The result has caused many Americans to complain about feeling depleted, stressed, frustrated and pulled in every direction.

And in January 2007 in Washington, DC, thousands were so busy or in such a hurry they missed a free opportunity to hear music that two days before people in Boston paid an average of $100 to hear.

I just don’t want to be that busy anymore. My new priority is to experience life more fully. I want to grasp each moment of my day. I want to take time to look around me and give my full attention to those I’m with. I want to eat slower and take more walks. I want more time to simply be quiet, to reflect, to ponder, to pray.

And I want to give more time to having fun!

How often do you not act on an urge to do something fun because you believe you are so busy that you don’t have time?

No more of that for me, my friends! I plan to hear more music in 2009! And I hope you do, too!