Our ancestors marked the passage of time by the moon and stars. They tracked the basic movements of the Earth in order to predict the coming changes in their environment. They developed a sense of time. Science suggests that time is a dimension. If you want to meet a friend you need to tell them a place AND time. One bit of information without the other is useless. In this way, time is a coordinate. Time seems stable and independent, but the human mind is not a nuclear clock. For beings that rely so heavily upon the stability of time, we are not particularly well suited to monitor it.
Our perception of time is even more pertinent to our day-to-day existence. We live in the present moment. It is a constantly updating sensory experience. To quote the neuroscientist and philosopher, Sam Harris, “The past is a memory, it’s a thought arising in the present. The future is merely anticipated; it is another thought arising now. What we truly have, is this moment.” We have a tendency to forget this truth. We allow ourselves to be consumed by a history that has no more power to harm us than does a future that may or may not ever arrive. We have a problem of focus.
Enter the tube, like flies to honey. We are addicted to putting our head the bowels of a heavy experience. In doing so we have unwittingly clued into a meditation, an exercise in mindfulness that clears the way for our neurons to observe reality without the calamity of a past or anticipated future. The nature of our shared pursuit lends perfectly to maintaining consciousness in the present.
Waves are perpetual, washing ashore in perfect succession. Like the march of dimensional time, they will crash to the shore to the end. We venture to meet the waves where they crash. While swimming out we may be concerned about a dropping swell or a rising tide. We could find ourselves consumed with what if’s. For many of us, the instant the wave has pitched above our brows the concerns vanish.
Our consciousness is in awe of the light waves painting the water molecules. We fight our Corneal reflex to push the visual experience to its limits. So base is our draw to see that we’ll fight our own protective instincts. Our focus has shifted to the present. This shift allows us to experience the world at its true nature. There is no room for interpreting ghosts from our past when our full and undivided attention is processing as much sensory input as we are physically able. In this way, we manipulate the very fabric of time itself.
Research suggests that our mental engagement slows down our perception of time. Not only are our memories of tube-time vivid, but they seem to last much longer than they do in objective reality. You may have felt that you were in the tube for seconds while your friend on the shoulder experienced the passage of those moments in a different way. The same could be said for the moments you experience before a car crash that you can see coming. The world slows to a crawl when we are mentally invested in our present. And, what’s more, our typical tube ride may be temporally built to perfectly maximize our experience.
British journalist Claudia Hammond in her book, Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception, reports on research suggesting “humans process the world in three second increments.” A three second barrel section could overwhelm our processing centers slowing time to its minimum velocity. Perhaps, bodysurfing is the perfect mindfulness event, bringing together our need for shortened, but rich experience. The only requirement is to go. Be there. Our history is deep with obsession over the fountain of youth because we recognize the governor on our own existence. The true challenge is bringing your “tube experience” into the rest of your reality, but that is a conversation for another day. In the meantime, get your head out of the clouds and into a tube.