Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Slicing Time: The Perception of Time

Or "Be Here Now" (because that's all you really have anyway)

Back in the early 1980's I began to experiment with time distortion.

I should perhaps preface this by telling you that I am a trained clinical hypnotherapist, having specialized in Ericksonion model rapid therapy. During the 80's I taught the subject at the post graduate level, training therapists in these skills.

What got me interested in "time distortion" was of course martial arts.

Many of you have no doubt had the experience of being in a sparring match and having time "slow down" for you, so that you had all the time in the world to counter an attack or set up one.
Conversely, some of you may have had the opposite experience where it seems as if you are "stuck in molasses and even though you can see what's coming, you just can't react fast enough.

To describe these two states I have borrowed two terms from my friend Scott Sonnon, "The zone" and "the vortex". (this being because English is a poor language for internal states, so we have to make up terms as we go sometimes).

working from Scott's definitions, when one in the "zone" then "time is on your side" and when one is "in the vortex" you are "behind the time curve".

In order to "get into the zone" what you need is to be able to access "flow state".

Now flow state is something that is a little difficult to define, but when you are there you know it. (yes I know that's cheating)

(if you want to know more I recommend "Flow-State Performance Spiral" which is the only really scientific description of the state and how to achieve it at will I know of).

So here's the rub. What we call "flow state" in the west is referred to by other names at other times by other names.

Most notable, in Sanskrit it is referred to as Samadhi. Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutras, refers too Samadhi as the eighth limb of yoga. Samadhi can be described as being Awake (without quotes).

There are two kinds of time sense. One when the essential self is asleep, the other when the essential self is awake.

You dear reader, to understand this, must face the unpleasant fact that all of us (including you even though you are obviously brighter than most) spend most of our lives asleep in one way or another.

You are either asleep or awake. Just as you can't be a little dead or a little pregnant, you can't be a little awake. It is an "on" or "off" function.

When you are asleep, you operate mechanically, reacting to stimulus through a series of heuristic, preprogrammed responses that are habitual in nature. These habit patterns follow one hierarchy of being "imprinted" "conditioned" and "learned" and another of being "biological", "cultural", "social", and "personal".

We don't notice the transition from sleeping to waking very often because we remain awake only for fractions of a second, not long enough to notice the difference. In those moments of awakeness though, we are free of mechanical response.

We can us binary numbers to model the awakeness of a person through time. With 0 representing sleep and 1 representing awake most people will look like this.

000000000000000000000000000
000000010000000000000000000
000000000000000000000000000
000000000000000000001000000
000110000000000000000000000
000000000000001000000000000
You can find the memory traces of the awake state because they leave strong sense impressions. These may be positive, negative or neutral.

In the sleeping state "time sense" is crafted from memory and fantasy (which are closely related). We imagine that "time has passed" because we can "remember" events in the past and we imagine the passage of time into the future because we fantasize about coming to events that we either want to happen or dread happening.

All of this is of course entirely illusionary. (though people will often try to kill you if you tell them this)

When one is awake time is perceived quite differently.
Time is sensed in the body, I suspect that it is in some way related to proprioception.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the awake state is that the sense impressions at that moment are quite rich.

In the sleeping state time distortion is quite easy. You can induce a trance state in someone and have them relive a movie that they have seen, completing the task in five minutes our time but seeming to take two hours subjective time for the person "watching the movie".

It is equally easy to have someone perceive time as passing quickly so that an hour will seem to have gone by in a few minutes. These are both functions of sleep.

Time in the awake state is a different matter entirely.

Think back to the binary example

000010010000010001000100

Each one of those 1's represents a slice of awareness of "objective" time, which is the experience of the "Present Moment".

When one is in flow state (samadhi) the 1's outnumber the 0's. When you have all 1's what you've got is Nirbija Samadhi (seedless awakeness)

Every moment that you are awake, you take a picture of the slice of the present moment in which you exist. as you take more "snapshots" (sense impressions) you slice time thinner and thinner and time seems to "slow down" for you.

This allows for a spontaneous, appropriate response to the given situation.

(It is a bit more complicated than this, but for the sake of this discussion this is enough I think).

So that is the basis of the thing.

If you want more information on time distortion I recommend
Time Distortion in Hypnosis: An Experimental and Clinical Investigation by Linn F. Cooper M.D., and Milton H. Erickson M.D.
as the place to start.

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11 comments:

Salma said...

Dear Mushtaq,
Assalaamu Alaikum.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! More, please! Wa Salaam, Salma

Anonymous said...

Asalamu Alaikum Mushtaq,

Is there a Sufi term for this concept? I'm not very familiar with Hinduism. This was very interesting. Thank you.

Jamil

Mushtaq Ali said...

The sufi term is Baqa

Salma said...

Dear Mushtaq,
Assalaamu Alaikum. Do these asleep/awake "functions" correspond to brain wave patterns in any way, or are they unrelated? Wa Salaam, Salma

Steve Perry said...

Mushtaq --

More importantly, and speaking from a pragmatic viewpoint, what are the exercises you use to enhance the ability to slice time?

My own dabblings have been by using self-hypnoisis -- no formal training in that arena, but I once had a friend who was a stage magician who was passing adept and who showed me some basics. I've ready Mihaly Cshiszentmihalyi's book, "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience," and some of Sonnon's stuff and those are great primers for the theory, but not a how-tos. I can, every once in a while, get the tachypsychia effect on my side, but I can't do it consistantly, though I'm working on ways that seem to be promising. I think maybe self-hypnosis and meditation (not the same states as I understand them) along with enough physical repetition of an action so that it becomes almost automatic are the keys. Be interested in your views on this.

I don't know if Scott Sonnon can tap into this at will. Certainly those students of his I know didn't learn how to do it in a one-day session. I don't believe Steve Barnes can, though maybe that's changed since last we played together. (I confess I am not too impressed with the anger/fear-generation stuff.)

I know that in times of real danger, flow does happen --most of the time when I have felt it, it has been in a do-or-die situation, or at least one I perceived as such. Knife-attack, car wreck, a falling child.

Thing is, I have hard time fooling myself into thinking there is real danger if I don't see it as such.

Of course, given our version of silat, speed isn't the key, structure and sensitivity are, so maybe it might not be that useful, but I would like to have it in my arsenal just the same. If nothing else, I could live so much longer ...

I think if you could come up with a dependable way to tap this on the fly, you'd have something worth a boxcar full of diamonds. I'll let you know if I get it first ...

Mushtaq Ali said...

Hi Steve

More importantly, and speaking from a pragmatic viewpoint, what are the exercises you use to enhance the ability to slice time?

I will send you some stuff privately, it is not for public consumption as it were. (and it will take a while to write it all out, slow typer that I am)

My own dabblings have been by using self-hypnoisis {snip}

That is a good place to start, but it helps if you have the processes that are specific to the state you are looking for. Dr. Erickson developed some interesting exercises for the American Olympic shooting team back in the 50's that work with time distortion and flow.

I've ready Mihaly Cshiszentmihalyi's book, "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience," and some of Sonnon's stuff and those are great primers for the theory, but not a how-tos.

You might want to take a look at the book I linked to, if you have some background in hypnosis it is quite useful. Also Scott Sonnon does have material that is "how to" that works quite well in my experience.

I can, every once in a while, get the tachypsychia effect on my side, but I can't do it consistantly, though I'm working on ways that seem to be promising. I think maybe self-hypnosis and meditation (not the same states as I understand them) along with enough physical repetition of an action so that it becomes almost automatic are the keys. Be interested in your views on this.

You have to actually move in order to develop it, and it has been my experence that repetition will not be of very much help after the first few weeks. You need to work with surprise and other unpredictable conditions.

The problem with both hypnosis and meditation is that they are best done when the body is still. Often you can get yourself into the mental flow, but tend to loose it when you start moving. I had one advantage here because rather than coming from Buddhist or Hindu based sitting meditation, I started with the traditional "dervish exercises", a form of meditation which involves complex movement.


I don't know if Scott Sonnon can tap into this at will.

It has been my experience so far that he can, or as close to "at will" as anyone I have ever seen.

Certainly those students of his I know didn't learn how to do it in a one-day session.

The ones that we both know did access flow in that workshop (a two day session as I remember) and they learned the necessary skills to develop the experience. You and I both know that either of us could teach someone the basic skills of fighting in a day or two. But it is up to the person taught to practice those skills to the point of being useful, which will take a bit longer.

I don't believe Steve Barnes can, though maybe that's changed since last we played together.

Belief really doesn't matter. How long has it been since you had a chance to test Steve's flow? For me it was a couple of months ago and he is coming along quite well. If I judged you Silat skills today by my experience of you when you first started, how wrong would I be? This goes to the part of time that is memory and tends to get in the way of flow

(I confess I am not too impressed with the anger/fear-generation stuff.)

Assuming that you are talking about the "second wind" stuff, I have to ask "how long did you actually do the process?" So far everyone who I have directly experienced doing that particular process correctly has gotten the benefits. If you did the exercise correctly and didn't get the expected effect I would be very interested in knowing what your experience was

I know that in times of real danger, flow does happen --most of the time when I have felt it, it has been in a do-or-die situation, or at least one I perceived as such. Knife-attack, car wreck, a falling child.

Thing is, I have hard time fooling myself into thinking there is real danger if I don't see it as such.


The reason I did not mention this part of the phenomena is that the easiest way to get at flow is through very dangerous situations. This of course leads toward the "adrenalin junkie".

Of course, given our version of silat, speed isn't the key, structure and sensitivity are, so maybe it might not be that useful, but I would like to have it in my arsenal just the same. If nothing else, I could live so much longer ...

Flow and time dilation actually have very little to do with speed, though that is a positive side effect. Structure is very important and in fact is one of three essential parts of getting to flow state. But it is no more important than the other two. Sensitivity is (in my opinion) is the direct outcome of flow.

I think if you could come up with a dependable way to tap this on the fly, you'd have something worth a boxcar full of diamonds. I'll let you know if I get it first ...

I do believe that I am coming pretty close, though I am still in the testing phase. The tests (which involve people fighting in competitions where flow counts for a good deal) have been very positive. It seems that good and consistent flow can be taught in about a year of solid practice. Dilatants will not get very far though, as Musashi said, "The Way is in training".

Salma said...

Dear Mushtaq,
I just ordered the book you recommended. I might not understand a word of it, but I will give it a try. Thank you for making it easy to access.
Wa Salaam,
Salma

Don said...

I've discovered over the past few months a number of martial artists in my circle who've worked in one facet or another in the mental health field, and you're the most recent. I'm (or rather, according to ethical guidelines I should say "was") a trained mental health counselor. A new post-doctoral intern in the university counseling center is versed in quite a few Japanese arts and my current yoga instructor is also a counselor there.

Of course, this could just be the nature of my particular locale in Upstate NY.

Anonymous said...

I saw the movie "Click" with Adam Chandler. It is a good example of how people are not awake most of the time. Especially when they spend years on "auto-pilot".

murid_aisha said...

Thanks Guru,

Very deep. After reading your excerpt a few times, it's beginning to sink in.

Is this time distortion like the "zone" for athletes?

The entire theory seems quite plausible in practical idea, as it would be movement in the fourth demension right? Or is the fourth demension a symbiotic concept?

Thanks again,
peace,
aisha

Chris said...

Yes, I get it now.

The words are easier to pronounce if I try to say them really fast.

They have a life of their own and the cantillation slows and accelerates at its own pace.

It's quite... profound, really.

Peace to you.
C*