During a conversation the other day, a friend told me that as we get older, time seems to speed up. This, of course, is a common and bemoaned observation – many people report that as they age, time appears to accelerate. Soon, it feels like the weeks and months (and even years) are flying by with astounding rapidity. It doesn’t really seem fair, since as we get older and approach retirement, we hope that we’ll be able to ‘slow down’, cease all our striving, and enjoy life a little bit. But by the time we arrive, many people report that life has taken on a careening velocity.
What’s Going On?
Perhaps you’ve noticed this time-acceleration for yourself. It’s one of those things that we consider to be an inevitable result of living – like stress. But time’s apparent passage can be directly understood – and even influenced – if you understand how it works.
Time is Mutable
You can experience time’s variable passage for yourself. Simply sit down to a really exciting movie, and see how long it ‘feels’ has passed after you’ve watched it. Then commit yourself to sitting in front of a blank wall for an equal amount of time, and see how time’s passage feels. If you’re like most people, the hour-and-a-half you spend watching the movie will pass in a flash, while the hour-and-a-half you spend sitting and doing nothing will pass very, very slowly.
This is a very blatant example, but it shows us that time’s apparent passage is relative to our mind-state. Indeed, we can experience for ourselves exactly how we create the sensation of time passing – or rather, we could experience it for ourselves if it was explained to us that our current way of experiencing time isn’t the only way to experience time.
You see, our current experience of time is linear. We’ve all been taught that there is a future, that the future arrives and becomes the present, and that the present then disappears into the past. Soon we envision our entire lives flowing along like this – one moment passing into another – and thus we create the sensation of linear time passing. The more ingrained into this habit that we become, the faster time seems to pass. The reason is distraction – it’s just like when we’re distracted by a movie. Only in real life, we become distracted by our visions of future and past, and the older we get (and the more aware that we’re nearing the end of our lives), the more we tend to dwell in future and past. The present moment becomes more and more elusive, and since it’s only in the present moment when we can see time for what it truly is, we get lost in the hypnotic dance of past and future, until the present is lost and linear time becomes an impenetrable reality in our lives. The result is that time appears to speed up.
Slowing Down Time
When we begin to remember that this moment is all that there really is, we discover that the future is only a thought in our heads – a thought we’re having in the moment we’re experiencing it. Past, too, is only a thought in our heads – a thought we’re having in the moment we’re experiencing it. Neither really exists except as a fantasy.
The concept of linear time simply can’t exist when we realize that there is nothing but the present moment. By spending time trying to ‘find’ future and past, we can de-construct the ‘truth’ that we’ve all learned – that time passes by. When linear time is gone – what is left? I can’t put it into words because we can’t conceive of anything else — indeed, non-linear time is inconceivable, just as the sensation of a hot pepper in your mouth is inconceivable. And yet, the hot pepper can be directly experienced as a reality of sensation, just as non-linear time can be directly experienced as a reality of sensation. You’re free to choose what you think is more ‘real’ – the thought of a hot pepper’s burn, or the sensation when you place a pepper in your mouth (within this example is hidden one of the reasons why we create thought-forms in the first place — fear or negative past experiences give us the impression that the thought-form is safer or more desirable than the reality itself — as we learn to fear more and more of life, we retreat more and more into thought-form until we learn to dwell almost entirely apart from our actual experience of reality). In the same way, you can choose to think about time, and create a construct (linear time), or to experience the direct sensation of time (non-linear).
Once linear time is gone, our entire lives change. Almost all of our life’s experiences (and life’s problems) are based on our construct of linear time. Getting old, not achieving your goals, getting angry at others, and experiencing stress and frustration – all of these are a result of our idea of linear time (which also gives us such constructs as cause/effect, sense of self, and the idea of change).
When you experience non-linear time, there literally is not past or future – just this perfect present-moment dance, during which you immerse yourself in every sensation (including, if you choose, memories and hopes). Nothing is lost – you’re just seeing things as they really are, and the result is liberating.
Let’s Get Real
If you experience This Very Moment for yourself, you’ll immediately see how all of your personal problems (and all of the world’s problems) are created out of people acting from the construct of linear time. Indeed, though we think it’s ‘real’ and ‘necessary’, it’s actually the very thing that causes humans to act from greed and fear rather than generosity and love. If you doubt this, I challenge you to see for yourself – take the time to truly examine your concept of linear time. See if you can discover what ‘future’ and ‘past’ really are. Examine fully, leaving no concept unexamined, and find for yourself what lies just beyond the ideas we’ve formed in our heads.
There is no greater quest you can go on, and none will bring you more wonderful treasures.