Perception of Time and the Human Mind
Remember that your experience of here and now, your current health, your current relationships, happiness, wealth, job etc. are not who you are. They are a cumulative effect of your thoughts and actions up until this moment. They are not what defines you. What defines you is what you think here and now. This will shape your future. Your present circumstances do not shape your future. Your past circumstances do not shape your future. It is your continuation of the thought processes based on your past experiences and the meaning you have associated with that past experience that shape your future in that direction. But this does not have to be the case! If you change the way you focus and what thoughts you have, and change the meaning you associate with events that guide your thoughts, then you will get the outcome and the future you want. If you can break out of the auto-pilot mode and live in the moment, then your life can become much more fulfilling. If you do not take things so seriously too, it may also help. Try to nurture your sense of humour. And your tolerance. Try to avoid getting caught up in the rollercoaster of stress.
In life, each moment brings infinite possiblities, if we open our minds to them, and don't shut possibilities out and actually observe what is going on around us. Clearly there are an infinite number of negative and bad possibilities and an infinite number of positive possibilities, and both are 'infinite'. However one is more productive than the other. In a sense, one could relate this to theories in physics about parallel universes and parallel realities. It is as if we can taste these, we can sense the other possibilities that exist for us out there, and how each decision can result in dramatically different and also excellent results or different terrible results. Live your dream! Or someone else will and you will only be jealous or resentful!
Often the brain feels we have to focus on the same things and focus in the same way that we have done in the past for a sense of continuity and security. The brain seeks consistency. However this results in a loss of control over how we feel and how we use our focus. It results in a life run on auto-pilot. Invariably we allow negative addictive patterns of focus and what we don't want guide and shape our lives. If we are lucky we achieve mediocre results. If we are unlucky our lives go down the toilet. Living a life on auto-pilot is not enjoyable, fulfilling or meaningful. It is in a sense a waste of a life. However, whatever you do and how you choose to let yourself feel is entirely up to you and no one is judging you for the choices you make for yourself.
And equally, the past and future do not exist, they are an illusion. The present is the only thing that exists. Our minds are preoccupied with the past. Thoughts based on the past. Attaching meaning to things around us based on past experience and arbitrary past attachment of meaning. We rarely perceive something as it is here and now. This may be why we feel we enjoyed things more when we were children than when we are adults, and that adult life is devoid of adventure and a sense of fun and discovery. We may feel we have had most types of experience and interaction and have ascribed meaning and technique to them, so that we don't see things as they really are anymore. We just see the past in everything. This however has its purpose, and if we had to learn how to walk or open a door each time, we would never achieve anything. However, this has no purpose when we ignore most things we see as we've 'seen them before'. Just because an experience or object or person has been ascribed a painful or neutral meaning in the past does not mean that that meaning is relevant here and now. When you taste some food, are you really tasting it, or is the initial sensation just jogging memories of how it should taste, and you are really tasting the memories? We often rush through many sensory experiences in a reckless, rushed manner without really taking anything in. We have to use our focus to focus on the here and now.
The future in a sense, or the imagined future, helps to form who we are today and to guide what that future will actually be. It movitates us in the present. We often look back at our youth and think, wouldn't it be good if I could go back in time and tell myself what the 'score' is and what is really important? Well now you can! But just using the future rather than the present. As discussed above, the mind will naturally gravitate towards that which one focusses on. Whatever future self image you hold, believe in, and meditate on, and vividly visualise, that is the self you will gravitate towards. Your mind requires goals. This process is in fact occurring all the time. So make sure you choose the kind of future self you would like to be and make that a positive choice. Try to visualise a positive, empowered, relaxed and healthy future self. For those that find this extremely difficult, who have lost perspective, this is all the more reason why this is extremely important, as the mind is visualising a very negative future self, much like the present self, or perhaps worse through pessimism. Try visualising a future self in front of you, then swap places with that future self, vividly imagining what this feels like and looking back on your 'old' self (was present self), and tell yourself how easy it is to get from there to where you are now, and how it can be done. This is another form of dissocation.
In the absence of a conscious future goal, the mind will create them based on your current values and beliefs, which are usually conditioned into you rather than those which you choose, i.e. reflective of the true or authentic self. If you are not aware of or visualising that positive future self, then a more negative future self-image is working on you. If you are not focussing on a positive future self, then you probably have a negative view of the future (whether you realise it or not - created by yourself or by negative suggestion by others) and that negative future self image will 'come back in time' to keep you where you are, reinforce current negative patterns or to keep you from achieving your goals. Don't just let your negative thinking and beliefs create your future self image and thus mould your future.
If we can understand time, and its relative nature, then we may have a better understanding of our own existence and experience, and be better able to see things as they are and to control our focus in the way that it allows us to be ourselves rather than feel like we are sitting back and watching a program being run, wondering what it would have been like if we could have paused it at a certain point and taken a different and more adventurous or fulfilling direction. If we think about the passage of time, even if we use the atomic clock as a measure of absolute time, then time moves at a different rate for different people. It depends on age, it can depend on one's own metabolism, hormonal system, conditioning, beliefs, perception and state of mind. Time moves very slowly for young children, runs at a reasonable rate for late teens, and speeds up with a veangence when one approaches middle age and even more so at old age. Our language is extremely temporal in nature, in that everything is framed in terms of tense. Past tense, present tense, future tense etc. We look at the past as memories and the future as possibility, destiny or our' doom'. Many of us do not notice the present as discussed above as we are fixated on either the past or the future. When we set goals, we are working with them and managing them in terms of the nitty gritty in the present, but with a view to an end point in the future where we want to end up. Do we appreciate where we are now? When we remove ourselves from a given situation to gain perspective, part of this benefit derives from a different perception of time as well as appreciation of where we were by removing ourselves from it and breaking the sensation of 'being used to something', so we see it with fresh eyes, perhaps as if for the first time again. This is discussed more on the Gratitude page. The most effective methods for gaining this perspective and feeling refreshed is to blow away our rigid perception of time and routine, and by doing something where time is experienced in a different manner. This could be going out and having a great time with friends, it could be playing or listening to music, enjoying a piece of art or cinema, meditation (a very powerful tool), taking off your watch, maybe going out into 'nature' and observing how a certain tree (your 'friend') is still there, growing at a slow rate and changing gradually with the seasons, watching animals whose perception/experience of time and life span is different to our own, watching and observing the natural environment and seasons rather than being disconnected from it, going out into the wild - perhaps the mountains, woods, open ocean, or even going caving, pot holing, diving or hang gliding or skydiving. Exploring any frontier away from your usual routine environment, experiencing life in a different manner. Existentialism, reflection and philosophy in general can also be a great tool in terms of changing one's point of reference, as are disciplines such as physics, astonomy and biology etc. Of course one could add drugs to the list but they also have a number of insidious negative effects on the mind and also body and for that reason I regard them as a total waste of time - much like sticking a fork into one's arm repeatedly.
Einstein's Law of Relativity holds that time is a continuuum, that has always existed (after the big bang) and always will exist, but that both past and future are part of a 4th dimension of time/space...time; i.e. points on an axis, and that the past and future are already plotted and exist all at once, much like different points on a graph exist and can be seen by one outside this dimension of the paper. We are deemed to travel through this time dimension at the speed of light. Like we are driving along a road, the road behind us and in front of us are there and do not come into existence when we are directly on top of them in our car. The faster we move, the more of this 'speed through time' we 'use up' in terms of forward motion, and the slower our time clocks run. This is why time appears to stand still for objects that move closer and closer to the speed of light. Yet those objects themselves experience time or reality in their normal manner, it is just that everything else seems to have speeded up, not just in terms of flashing past very fast physically, but temporally also. Although light travels only at the speed of light and in straight lines, it appears to bend and speed up and slow down, as the matter in the universe bends space time itself rather than just occupying it in a quiet and polite manner. The closer one is to a large object, the slower times passes. Your feet are experiencing time at a imperceptibly slower rate than your head. In the universe, there is no fixed point as such, and everything is moving relative to everything else, creating and warping space/time by it's presence/relative motion. Thus there is no absolute time for any of us, it just depends how we move relative to everything else and what objects/masses are close and far away from us; amongst other things.
However, Quantum Physics seems to suggest that time is not like this, not a continuum, but more granular in nature, i.e. grains of time, one grain influencing how the next grain is formed and what is contained there in and its nature. In other words, the past, present and future are not already points of a graph that we simply pass through, and that we are creators of our own reality and existence, right here and now as you are reading this. It is a matter of cause and effect, but with infinite possibilities in the moment, depending on personal decision and ability to follow through with these decisions against outside and internal resistance. Thus there is a continuum of time in a sense but it is also perhaps granular and can be broken down into absolutes (locally). It is perhaps a little like arguing whether light is a particle or a wave. Both are true and both are false. To understand time space is to understand the nature of existence and reality itself. We are however still struggling with it on the most crude level in physics in aboslute terms, but it is an interesting area indeed and worthy of further research and theorisation.
Present, past and future visualisation and meaning attachment can be helpful in overcoming addictive stress patterns, e.g. stopping the stress pattern in the present with a loud and clear stop command and palm outwards, stepping away from the present stress (taking a step backwards), viewing the future that that type of dysfunctional present holds (e.g. towards the left), then viewing an alternative timeline in the future representing a positive outcome (e.g. towards the right), then stepping into that future and feeling what it is actually like in our minds and bodies. We can use our knowledge of the future, or the ideal future we want for ourselves to motivate ourselves in the present. In other words, we can see our future self now, motivating us and telling us that it really wasn't that hard to achieve, to help us actually achieve that future. Otherwise, that future may never existence and be just one possible unfulfilled future in a multiverse. People often say if they could travel back in time, they would live their life in a more positive and fuller way. If you could travel back in time, would you not live your life more fully and decisively? What don't you do that now? Are you waiting for your future self to come back in time and have more backbone and motivation than you do right now? In addition, if you could see the future, and know what will happen if you carry on doing what you are doing now, and see a mediocre, boring and miserable existence, would this not motivate you into action now to try that bit harder to achieve your desired goals and dreams? Rather than let a load of 'crap' get the better of you and put you off your true path? We often settle for second best in the present and do not think about the future, but the future becomes the present, and because of past actions and persistent modalities, our present experience may not be what we really want or are capable of.
We often consider time in terms of years, months, days and hours, even seconds. We consider that not much happens in a second unless we are in a plane or vehicle, or engaging in a sport etc. However, on the Quantum level, a split second is like an entire lifetime. If we consider the movement of electrons and their constituent parts, an infathomable amount of motion takes places in a fraction of a second. We can experience just one part of this through photography (with very short aperture lengths) and specialised movie cameras that can take 50 frames or more per second. If we consider the amount of movement we make in that time, it is quite astonishing, and we may not be aware of the amount of 'wobbling' or elastic movement of our skin and body for example when we make a simple movement. Slowing down time in this way can open up a whole new world that was 'unseen' before or hidden by the passing of time at the rate we experience it at.
Animals, including humans, experience time in different ways, depending on their rate of metabolism and lifespan, and also at different rates at different times of their lives. What is uneventful by our sense of time and ability to actually see what is happening, is hugely eventful, chaotic and beautiful if one slows down time or if one were able to see it from another creature's perspective. The human brain is only able to process so much visual information, so the faster things move around us, the more blurred and less detail we are able to take in. Animals that operate on a faster time line are able to process much more visual and sensory information and see in great detail at high speeds and for fast moving objects. Equally if one reduces the world in scale and zooms in with a high strength lens, then what is calm and still is very chaotic indeed. Order on the high level always has chaos on the low level. We only see the world for the large part in the visible spectrum also, but many animals see other parts of the spectrum, that enable them to hunt more effectively, e.g. see heat or infrared, and also to spot flowers (in UV). Some of the great painters who have had eye operations were able to see into the other visual world and mode of perception. Of course, it is in general only those animals with short life spans that see in UV, because it destroys the retina if exposed for many years. Thus animals with long life spans tend not to see UV or Infra Red in the interests of eye longeivity.