I’ve spoken before about how the experience of time is an effect of the process of experience. This is the most abstract part of the dynamics of self-aware consciousness and perhaps the least obvious. In any experience we can see there is a subject and an object and we can recognize sensing the object but the process of experience behind sensing is more subtle.
Yet when we change the experiencer’s relationship with experiencing, our experience of time changes. The most obvious example is how time seems to slow down when we’re bored and have to wait. Or, how time seems to fly when we’re having fun.
This is partly due to our metabolic rate. When it’s revved, passing time seems to slow and we notice more details. When it’s slow, time speeds up. Our metabolism slows as we age, so our perception of passing time speeds up. For a child, a week is eternity. For a senior, the years seem to click on by.
But there are also major shifts that can take place when we shift our relationship with who we are. This naturally also changes our relationship with experiencing and thus time.
Here are some ways I’ve seen this:
1) The Now – with a quiet mind, past memories and future thoughts fall away leaving only the present moment.
2) All Now – here we experience all past and future in the present now. All time collapses to a point. We may even have the experience of all past lives being simultaneous. We might call this the cosmic now.
3,4) Dimension – time is like a spatial dimension where we can move up and down the “line.” This can be a personal time-line or the time of creation overall. In either case, there isn’t really a past and future, just a focus of attention in a progression. All experience is present like a book we can browse.
5,6) Eternity – infinite time. We may experience this in an eternal Now moment or expanded out as infinite time.
7) Timelessness – beyond time, no value of time.
8) Flower – time is like a literal flower, each souls time-line like a vein in a petal. This is a blend of 3&4 with personal and all combined in a lotus flower.
I’m sure there are other ways of knowing time. I came to understand it much more clearly in another simple creation where time was dominant. Life there is an experience of blissful dissolution.
On a cosmic level, the entirety of our creation, including many universes, is just a brief thought in Divine mind. It happens in an instant and yet never happened in the first place. It was just a brief Divine musing that consciousness experienced as “happening.”
But there isn’t a lot you can draw out of a moment. By zooming in to the moment, it can flower out into a flow*. Buckminster Fuller coined the term “special case” to describe how we’re designed to experience one thing at a time. Thus we experience the flow as an incremental series of experiences.
Contrast this with some beings who are omnipresent and built to experience many points simultaneously. Humans can have global experiences inclusive of many points at once, even a cognition, but these are still one at a time. Thus we have a series of moments of experience. We recognize this as a progression which leads to a sense of unfolding and time, much as a movie projector displays a sequence of images we see as a movie.
Because the space of creation is nested, the experience of time is also nested. This way, time can vary from person to person, being to being. We may experience time as an illusion but it’s better to understand it as a perspective of unfolding experience.
*In the Indian philosophy of Vaisheshika (qualities), time arises after direction.