Part 3: Awakening by Altering the Movement of Time
Ordinary reality is what you experience through five physical senses, limited to three dimensions, constrained by linear time. When you expand beyond any of those limitations in a conscious manner, you’re working with non-ordinary reality.
You have seen in the first two of these Sensory Doorways articles that it is easy to experience non-ordinary reality using only the physical senses, with no need for deep or lengthy meditation. Here in Part 3 you learn how to deliberately alter your experience of time while staying within three dimensions. Once again, we to go nature, this time to engage with aspects of the world that move at extraordinarily high speed or extraordinarily slow speed, where time seems to pass at a different rate than in ordinary human reality.
If you follow a snail for an hour, you experience non-ordinary reality because you are compelled to slow down to see it move, watch it respond to its world, or hear it eat. I invite you to do this, even for 15 minutes, then turn your attention back to your habitual world. What does that feel like in your body? How does the passage of time feel different? What do you notice more of now that you’re back in your usual reality, and what do you miss?
When I do this and then return my attention to the human world, everything continues to move very leisurely for a time. I’m aware of many levels of physical reality, all of them seeming to move in slow motion. From the spectrum of sunlight, to the response of plants to moisture in the soil, to the vibration of atoms of hydrogen and oxygen in the ocean, everything seems to move with the same unhurried fluid grace that I see in the snail.
John Denver’s song “Mother Nature’s Son” says “Sit beside a mountain stream, Watch her waters rise.” To do this, you have to go out on a spring or early summer morning after sunrise, and sit until the snowmelt flowing from the mountains increases to the point where you can see that the level of the stream has risen. This usually means being there for between one and three hours.
If that idea makes you twitch, try wandering alone in a natural place for even 30 minutes. Set a timer if you need to, and don’t look at it. Pay attention to how you feel. When you notice your mind-gerbil racing or feel the muscular tension of impatience, look at those feelings and let them go. Or watch a flower open in the morning. Or follow an ant for 15 minutes.
At another time, watch a sparrow or other small bird feeding, preferably on the ground. You have to speed up to enter its world. You perceive smaller, much quicker motions. You become aware of your surroundings with elevated alertness and responsiveness. In the sparrow’s world, a hazard such as a hunting hawk requires a far faster response than what humans feel ordinarily (the “o” word again – pay attention!) capable of. Notice how it almost never focusses its attention in one direction for more than a second, and how it is always turning its head in what we would call nervous twitches to look and listen. For that bird, this is normal. For us, it would be exhausting.
I love following bird language, listening to how the sounds of the birds change in response to other aspects of their environment such as the presence of their mate, the arrival of a hawk or a cat (two very different sounds!). Their songs are far too fast for me to imitate them – and in fact far too fast even to hear. I recently learned that a cardinal can produce more notes than the entire keyboard of a piano in less than a tenth of a second.
Small birds are good to watch because they are all around us, and can be observed close by with something as simple as a birdfeeder suspended outside a window. Or go to any coffee shop that has outdoor tables. With luck, you might even have one of them share your cookie with you right off your hand!
The intent is to expand your sense of how time passes in the linear world while still participating in that world. When you practice these techniques – anything that is either much slower or much faster than ordinary experience – you lay the groundwork for a nonlinear experience of time.
May 24, 2022
Thanks Wes, I like the notion of “nonlinear experience of time”. It’s those moments that make our life richer.
Enjoy your summer.