Why do the minutes drag when you’re in a rush, running late for an appointment, and waiting for what feels like forever for the traffic lights to turn green? How can it be that the young driver in the car ahead, who gets distracted while waiting for the same green light, is astounded that the light has turned green so fast when your impatient honks interrupt him? One minute went by, but each feels it differently according to each one’s personal perspective and circumstance.
This illustrates just how subjective time is. If our experience of time is subjective, could there be a way to become masters of time instead of feeling that time controls our existence? How could we relate differently to our past, present and future and take control over time?
The Science of Time Perception
Scientists have discovered that the perception of time involves processes linked to memory, attention and emotional states. Time flies when we are busy or doing something we consider exciting. In contrast, minutes drag when we are bored and unimpressed.
Our experience of time depends on the amount of pleasure we receive.Changes in our desire for gratification create a sensation of time passing. This is how every moment of our lives is grasped and measured. Every sensation is divided into three states: what we did, what we are doing, and what we foresee doing in the future. How we relate to this partitioning influences our entire life. It defines the way we think, our ability to sense our present, and the framework we develop for facing daily tasks and strategizing for future events.
“There is no single, uniform time, but rather multiple times which we experience. Our temporal distortions are a direct translation of the way in which our brain and body adapt to these multiple times, the times of life,” concluded French scientist Sylvie Droit-Volet, after multiple studies on the subject.
Human beings constantly dwell on the past, thinking if only they could have done things differently the outcome could have been better. How often do we drag these examinations into the present at the expense of living life to the fullest? Wouldn’t it be better to learn how to seize the moment, live here and now, enjoying life like there is no tomorrow? Also, what about that unknown territory called “the future”? Is it better to take each day as it comes or to worry about what will happen tomorrow or in the next moment?
What Exactly Should You Examine in Your Past?
When you look into the past you should have no regrets or self-blame. The way you are is how nature created you, with a desire to enjoy that controls you at every moment. If you, for instance, harmed someone in the past, it was because you were unaware that harming them meant harming yourself, since you did not feel your oneness with them.
However, the world is one complete whole. All of nature is connected and interdependent. Therefore, if we hurt someone on the way to our personal enjoyment, it will boomerang on us. Conversely, if we create connections of friendship and mutual love with everyone, we assure ourselves a good life from now until the end of our days.
Therefore, our only purpose when we evaluate the past is to recognize the evil in us, but never to regret and blame. We should then look into the future and set an intention to correct our attitude from that moment onward, to do only good to others just like we would do for ourselves.
Our Existence Above Time
We can live above time’s calculations because there actually is no time. The wisdom of Kabbalah states that time does not exist. Time is only a series of actions taking place in our desire to enjoy, the internal changes we undergo during the day and throughout life. Those different states give us the sensation of time, and we measure them according to our corporeal existence.
We have a sensation of time passing rapidly or slowly when we ponder about things that happen to us and when we reflect on consequences and emotions. However, time is not experienced according to the number of seconds that have elapsed, but instead by the changes from one state to the next. Therefore, a unit of time can last a minute, an hour, or a year, but the unit remains the same: the change from descent to ascent or vice versa. The actual calculation is over a feeling of more or less satisfaction in our desire. It turns out that everything depends on us, on our subjective perception.
Until not long ago, people thought it impossible that time is relative to subjective perception. Then Einstein’s scientific breakthrough of his Theory of General Relativity backed up this notion of time. Our sensation of time depends solely on whether we get more or less pleasure. Changes in our desire for pleasure create our sensation of time passing. Without these changing states, we would lose not only the feeling of time, but the sensation of life in general.
For instance, if we were to feel “only this moment” it would be the equivalent of dying. Why? It is because the dead are free from the perception of time’s movement and don’t feel its changes. However, this is not the kind of freedom a person looks for since it doesn’t fulfill the purpose of our lives.
Looking into the Future
If being above the sensation of time is not our goal, then what is? What should the purpose of our lives be? We need to discover the development of our personal timeline of development, and how to control the full spectrum of our lives. This means that we need to understand and learn how to manage the internal states we undergo. We need to clarify how we can manage and control the past, the present, and the future via what influences us from an external source.
What is this “external source”? It is the source that controls the whole of creation, the force of nature, which is a force of love and bestowal. If we learn about its fundamental attributes — love and bestowal — and equalize with them by changing our connections from egoistic to altruistic, we can then create a positive environment similar to the primary force of nature, one that is good and eternal, truly above time.
It turns out that all we must do is change our senses, our tools of perception. We need to replace our egoistic program, our current operating system that feels the changes of time, and begin to function differently, to run on an upgraded altruistic program. If we rise above our need to fulfill our desire for pleasure and live in the desire to fulfill others, we become masters of time, masters of our lives.
In order to make this change, we must know the entire timeline of the development of our desire: how it is created, how it changes, and what form it needs to become. We can discover all of this if we rise above our selfish desire, stop depending on it, and become completely free from it. When we do that, we stop feeling the past, present and future as a corporeal, limited life.
Every object in the world has its past, present, and future, i.e. its cause and effect. We need to learn how to always refer to the root cause in order to be able to easily investigate and see all the consequences. If we recognize the cause, then we will already know what will happen next, even though we don’t see the result as yet. The future forms of all results are already latent in their cause. As explained by my teacher, Kabbalist Baruch Ashlag (Rabash), in his article, “The Purpose of Society”: “and although we have not yet achieved this goal, we have the desire to achieve it. And this, too, should be appreciated by us, for even though we are at the beginning of the way, we do hope to achieve the exalted goal.”
In this manner, if we research the most important questions about life — “Where is life’s origin?” “Where do we come from?” “What is a person?” “Who or what created us?” “What kind of force controls us and what goal is it leading us to?” — then we could realistically hope to answer these questions. Then, knowing the entire timeline of our desires’ development, we could manage and control our lives, liberated from the shackles of time.