This is your brain on time-bending

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At Intuitive Being, we deal a lot with the subject of time. How emotions and beliefs manifest over periods of time, and how that in turn creeps into our physical and energetic bodies as imbalances, diseases and pain. In some cases, how experiences over the course of large expanses of time – we’ve gone back over a thousand years – affect our present reality.

We also deal a lot with things that appear, from the outside, to be like magic, but really aren’t. In fact, they are simple techniques for accessing information and “powers” that are available to every single one of us, if we choose to apply some time and focus to it.

So how about time-bending? The power to slow down time? To have more hours in your day?

That sounds like magic, doesn’t it? Like something straight out of stories about Professor X or Hiro Nakamura?

It’s possible, apparently, but not for any magical reason; simply as a function of retooling what your brain focuses on. And the great news is that the areas of focus that help you slow down time – or at least how your brain perceives time – are things that are fun anyway: Keep learning, explore more places, meet new people, try new activities, be spontaneous. (As a Gemini, personally this sounds like one of the most excellent therapies ever!).

Neuroscientist David Eagleman explains how “brain time” works, stemming from the cerebral cortex, the basal ganglia, and the cerebellum:

brain_time

“When our brains receive new information, it doesn’t necessarily come in the proper order. This information needs to be reorganized and presented to us in a form we understand. When familiar information is processed, this doesn’t take much time at all. New information, however, is a bit slower and makes time feel elongated.”

This excellent article on bufferapp.com explains the concept in much greater detail, as does this article in The New Yorker on David Eagelman.   But in short, despite sounding somewhat counter-intuitive, when the brain is constantly being given new information to focus on – new experiences, new sensory information, new faces, new places – it has to slow down in order to process that new information, which in turn slows down the duration of time that the brain peripherally perceives while working on all that new information.

Conversely, if the brain is experiencing the same information over and over, it takes less and less time to process that information, and thus it has more capacity available for watching the time fly by.

It sounds paradoxical, and my initial reaction was to think, “Sure, but my day is packed with processing of information, and I always feel like there’s simply never enough hours in the day.”  It’s probably my number one complaint, in fact.  But as I thought about it, much of that information – particularly as I reflected back on the “multi-tasking” that I spent so many years of my life grinding through inside office cubicles; that particular skillset for pounding through endless lists of tasks and to-dos that employers actively seek and encourage in employees – is simply not new to me, not intellectually challenging, doesn’t make my brain stop and process it very much.  Though I’m personally no longer beholden to an employers’ demands for ever-yielding volumes of new tasks with which they can measure my output, I still inflict upon myself a never-ending list of tasks and projects, many of which are things that simply need to be done but are not actually of any particular challenge to me.

Vishnu: The ultimate multi-tasker.

Vishnu: The ultimate multi-tasker.

And thus, my brain just moves rapid-fire from one mental processing to the next, over and over, all day long, until the day is over, my brain feels exhausted from all the processing, and my time-perception tells me that the day just flew by and is now over.  Sound familiar?

Social media is also, of course, a major contributor to this phenomenon.  A plague on the brain’s perception of time, in fact.  Masses and masses of new information every single day, but hardly any of it particularly challenging.  How many of us feel that small sense of “success” at scrolling all the way from the top of our Facebook news feed to the last part of the new feed where we left off to start the madness all over again?  How much of all of that new information was actually new to us?  Conversely, how does time feel to you when you sit quietly and read a book on a set of particularly challenging intellectual issues?  Does it feel any different?

What do you think about this theory?   It’s implications for much of the plague of stress that inflicts itself upon so many of us are pretty significant.  What if we could re-train our brains by focusing on new and challenging sources of information?  What if we could slow down the rate at which our brain perceives the minutes and hours passing by?  Perception, as they say, is reality.  What if, in our perception, we could bend time?  That sounds like “magic” to me.

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