Over the years I’ve often read of theories which support the hypothesis that time is not linear and whilst I turned a little of my attention to such research it really meant nothing to me. At least nothing that could directly impact my life in a meaningful way.
The curious schoolboy in me is always up for reading ten more fascinating facts about something or other and time theories that include the words ‘string’ ‘stretch’ ‘warp’ or ‘travel’ tickled my fancy. However as I’ve so much more to study, theories of the granularity, or otherwise, of time did no more than idle away some more of this highly prized and elusive stuff!
However I began to pay a little more attention when I noted several of my mentors, spiritual and otherwise, beginning to talk about time in this non-conventional manner. That I could get more than 24 hours in a day seemed attractive at best but still somewhat of a whimsical fancy and I just couldn’t grasp how it could possibly work. After all, 60 minutes makes 1 hour on my clock which is the same as 60 minutes on yours. Surely?
This was the way I’d always known it yet cleverer folk than me were telling me that it’s quite possible to stretch time beyond these boundaries. Apparently there’s no need to have a Tardis or Teleporter to do this. Nope, half an hour of morning mindfulness would do the trick! As much as I so wanted to feel this it stuck in my throat as I tried to swallow it. I paid lip service to it, I even tried to make it happen. To be honest I was really sabotaging my own attempts as I was not really ‘feeling it’.
When my creative or spiritual mentors told me that my day would be a whole lot more productive, expansive and boundless if I began it with downtime I wanted to quantify it. So I tried and to some extent my days have become ‘more’ as a result. However I struggled to allow the consistency that’s needed in any practice to make it really sing so I repeatedly put it down.
This has real implications if we are to have the best chance to carve our life into the one we want since ‘time and space’ are the two major blocks that folk have when it comes to building a spiritual practice. The relevance is huge and in truth the answer may be hidden right in the problem. It seems quite obvious that the best way to get through a busy day is to crack on, head down and tick things off one by one with an early start if possible. Whilst this way can often get things done I find it neglects ‘me’ time. Maybe you are the same. If I begin my day with ‘stuff’ and aim to do my nurturing practice later by the time later comes I don’t have the energy and I suffer as a result.
The advice of my mentors was to prioritise the self nurturing practices and connective spiritual work and only then to begin my day. This sounds so counter-intuitive and I struggled to make it happen.
Then I went on a Wilderness Vigil and something happened that challenged my viewpoint. The main event of the vigil was to be 4 days spent alone in the woodland deprived of comfort, food and distraction. I’ll say no more of the process for now other than to acknowledge that each of those 24 hour days was longer than any I’d ever experienced before and each one was noticeably longer than the previous one. Time pieces were banned so I really was at the mercy of ‘nature’ time and I can confirm that time didn’t just feel longer. Time was longer. Absolutely so. The time it took for the sun to move from here to there was inordinately long.
On my return home I began to compare the feeling to my creative flow occasions. Sometimes, often in fact, when I venture out with my camera to shoot nature, time expands. I’ve noticed this but paid it little attention, but now I was mindfully aware that whenever I allowed myself to be fully immersed in a practice I would be out shooting for 3 or 4 hours and, on getting back to my car would find that only 45 minutes had passed. Could time be slowing down for me?
Day’s later, when photographing a roe deer and her fawn, so much time passed that a fox wandered up and rubbed up against my leg! I know I had entered ‘fox time’ or ‘deer time’ rather than ‘human time’.
Is it possible that time is perceived differently by different creatures? And can we slip between the realities of other time-speeds as we can the otherworld realms?
I found some surprising information on this from no less than the BBC news website and a feature on The Guardian website. The gist of the piece was why it’s so difficult to swat a fly. Just how DO they seem to see us coming and respond so rapidly? Apparently it’s all to do with the rate at which the brain takes in visual information.
Humans can separate 50 bits of information per second which in itself is an amazing feat. This is known because we see a light as flickering until it flickers at more than 50 times per second, at this point it appears to be glowing solidly. Flies on the other hand can see up to 400 flickers per second so for them time passes more than 6 times slower than it does for us.
During one test researchers housed a female killer fly in a tank and introduced fruit flies one by one. Killer flies eat fruit flies. The researcher saw the fruit fly fly into the tank to be instantly pinned down to the floor by the killer fly. This happened in a flash, far too quick to see. On reviewing the film captured by a high speed camera it was noted that the killer fly flew towards the fruit fly, circled it three times, grabbed it by a front leg, dragged it to the floor and dispatched it. All in much less than a second.
Time, for the flies, in appears doesn’t fly at all! Quite the opposite in fact. It crawls by. If you’d like to read the articles here’s the link to the BBC one and the feature in The Guardian. Since time is how we measure the passage of our life surely a clock second to a fly is 6 times longer than it is to us. The articles went on to explain the theories behind this but I would like to go beyond this and suggest that time can indeed stretch, we simply need to perceive it differently, as the fly, the fox and the birds do.
Could it be that by starting our day with an uncluttered practice, sacred time which is not fully consumed by email, news, problems and todo lists, we reset our inner clocks closer to that which nature intended? Is it possible that the meditative, mindful hour or so expands our time into another reality and this then becomes the pace of our day?
I’m beginning to think so and have noticed that on the irregular occasions when I do this properly, rather than just pretend, my day seems much more expansive and creatively abundant. When I create beauty first, spend time with music or a book, enjoy some quiet contemplative time nature gazing and then step into my busy schedule I do indeed get through more. I can’t really explain it other than to suggest that I enter a different ‘zone’ or time reality and can therefore achieve more with an ease and flow that usually evades me.
Perhaps too, by letting go of clock time, that regimented creation of a failing society, we can slip into nature’s own time scale and enter that twilight zone of flow and time abundance? How was it for our ancestors I wonder? Could it be that they didn’t count time like us, but rather than hours to mark their lives they simply had ‘day o’clock’ and ‘night o’clock’?
I for one am certainly going to listen to my mentors, my muses and my guides and spend time in the mornings in a mindful way, setting the pace I choose rather than rushing headlong into the fray of another busy day. Maybe this time stretching tip could help you find your own abundance.