Back in Time, (yuk yuk) I spoke about the nature of time, its source and how past and future are both here, now. But thats pretty abstract and not the average experience. I’ve also spoken about history, the way time cycles, patterns in time and future trends. But I have not touched on how we experience the passage of time. Thats an interesting one.
We can say that up until a certain point in our evolution, our inner awareness experiences through our physical body and senses. Our senses take data from vibrations in the air, photons of light, and various other stimulus, passes that information into the mind, and the mind processes that information and builds an internal landscape.
That internal landscape is a reflection of the larger external landscape, also created in consciousness, but thats another aspect we won’t go into here. I’m trying not to go too abstract. (laughs) But if we remember the senses are a feedback loop rather than the source of our experience, we get a little closer to what is real.
Many people gauge what is real by what they perceive with their senses. Seeing is believing. But what of who experiences? Do you not consider your feelings real? Or more mundanely, all of our experience takes place in space and time. As I observed in Transparency, all of these things are transparent, invisible to the senses.
We perceive objects with the eyes but only in relationship to each other in invisible space. Sound is the same way. And we perceive time as we see a sequence of change. A shift in the increments of sense input. So time arises as a result of our noticing changes in our awareness of things. The cycles of the sun are a prominent example.
Back to the physical body. It has a very large impact on our experience of the world. If a sense is impaired, for example, that aspect of our experience will be quite different. People born blind have a different experience of the world than people who become blind later. The way their mind processes information has been changed by the information available.
Another major but less obvious factor in our experience of the world is our metabolic rate. The speed at which our body is running. Metabolic rate is affected by exercise, health, sleep patterns, diet, time of day, time since eaten, stress levels, how we are responding to current stimulus, and so on. Many of us have poor dietary and health habits that have a major effects on our metabolism. The prevalence of caffeine and sugar are 2 good examples.
One of the things our metabolic rate affects is mood. Too sluggish puts us in the dumps. Too high and we express symptoms of stress. Many peoples lifestyle put them on a roller coaster of highs and lows. Others run mostly at one extreme or the other. The secret is a happy medium.
More interestingly, our metabolic rate has a direct inverse relationship with our experience of time. Because time is about the incremental experience of the flow, the faster our metabolism, the slower time seems to “move”.
Children are growing so run a higher metabolic rate. For them, a day seems long and a week an eternity. Just ask a child to wait and see how long they last. As adults, we settle and begin to put on weight as our metabilism slows. We get a sore leg sitting on the floor with the kids because we’ve stopped wiggling. Time gradually starts to move faster and faster. The elderly and infirm often eat little and run at a very slow metabolism. The years fly by and they wonder how the grandkids grew so fast. Why everything changed so quickly.
You may have observed that a “watched pot never boils”. When we are anxious (and have an increased rate) the passage of time seems so slow. When we are happy and relaxed, the good times seem to have rushed by. Of course, it we become totally absorbed in something, we may disconnect from time. Then we seem to jump ahead. Time seemed to have vanished.
This rule is throughout nature. Animals with a very high reaction speed run at higher metabolic rates. They experience time in much larger increments, so easily can do things we can’t even perceive. Notably though, they also live shorter lives. The faster the standard metabolic rate, the shorter the life. An elephant lives longer than a mouse partly because it runs slower. Its internal clock is wired differently.
There is an old idea that we’re born in this world with a given number of heartbeats or breaths. Science has gradually begun to see this is true. Of course, there is little point in trying to live longer by living in a cave practicing breath control. Life is meant to be lived. But if we can live it in happiness and peace, we will live longer and happier in the process. And isn’t that what counts?
He who gets to the finish line first in life is the looser. 😉
Coincidently, just after i posted this, I ran into another article on this subject. Another suggestion is that passage of time is relative to our degree of life experience, the proportion of time relative to our life. But we don’t view our life relative to the whole normally. Another researcher found a relationship to body temperature, but thats the result of metabolism as I observed above.
The article concludes that its due to perception and the relative degree of information we process. More information, slower time. More familiar, faster. However, our information processing is also directly related to our metabolic rate as I noted in the post. So again, it comes back to biology. But I would agree that in a deeper sense, consciousness processing more information speeds up the metabolism of the vehicle to do it.
He goes on to suggest we can slow time a little by doing new things and being more mindful. Good advice in any case.
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