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Thread: Slow Time Perception Can Be Learned

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    Slow Time Perception Can Be Learned

    Slow time perception can be learned

    Ralf Buckley


    Arstila (2012) reviewed competing hypotheses for the perception of slow time. Perception of time is fundamental to human understanding, and the neurophysiological mechanisms involved are heavily studied (Eagleman, 2008; Wittmann, 2011, 2013; Phillips, 2013). Abnormal perceptions such as slow time provide an analytical tool. Here I put forward additional evidence from high-risk, high-skill outdoor recreation.

    Reported experiences of slow time are commonly associated with accidents which are sudden, unexpected, and immediately life-threatening; and they also involve a perception of greatly increased speed and clarity of mental processes (Arstila, 2012). Current hypotheses (Stetson et al., 2007; Eagleman, 2008; Arstila, 2012; Phillips, 2013) are that under extreme stress, either (1) our senses record data at higher density; (2) our brains sample more of these data; (3) our brains process these sampled data faster; or (4) our memories store data at higher density. Arstila (2012) and Phillips (2013) dismiss (1) and (4) using various lines of evidence. They argue for (3) and possibly also (2). Arstila (2012) hypothesizes a physiological mechanism, very rapid activation of the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine, LC-NE (Aston-Jones and Cohen, 2005). Phillips (2013) suggests that our brains use the rate of subconscious (“non-perceptual”) mental processes as a clock. If this processing accelerates, our time perception changes.

    Previous analyses rely ultimately on two types of primary data, both subject to shortcomings (Arstila, 2012; Phillips, 2013). The first, compiled by Noyes and Kletti (1972) are second-hand reports from people involved in accidents. The second, exemplified by Stetson et al. (2007), use experimental approaches such as free-fall into a net. These may be frightening, but are neither surprising nor life threatening. Many high-skill outdoor recreation activities, in contrast, do involve immediate threat of death. Examples include: cliff take-offs in hang-gliders, kayaking waterfalls or Class V rapids, and surfing big hollow waves breaking on shallow reefs. Here I draw on four decades' ethnographic experience in these activities, including >30000 participant-hours direct observation of practitioner behavior and emotions, multiple face-to-face and electronic communications with 20 highly skilled exponents, and 60 autoethnographic analyses of narrow-escape incidents. These data were compiled during research on fear, thrill, and rush in risk recreation (Buckley, 2012). Autoethnographic data are derived from direct observation, and can be examined in greater depth than alloethnographic reports (Anderson, 2006). Triangulation to accident literature is provided by autoethnographic data from 3 car crashes, including injury and momentary belief of death.

    These data yield three findings. The first is that individuals are capable of accelerated physical action as well as accelerated mental processing. This includes extremely fine and fast physical adjustments to control body and equipment very powerfully and precisely, in response to equally fast and detailed perceptions of one's own body and the surrounding environment (Buckley, 2012). This matches reports from climbers in accidental falls (Noyes and Kletti, 1972; Arstila, 2012), that individuals “acted with lightning-quickness in accord with accurate judgment.”

    The second finding is that slow-time perception and action can be learned unconsciously, through experience and training. Skilled surfers can adjust their boards and bodies in freefall takeoff on large steep hollow waves at exactly the angle to ride the wave as the lip barrels over their head. Skilled kayakers can adjust boat, body, and paddle so as to take exactly the one survivable line through rapids and over waterfalls. Less skilled participants perceive only confusion, and are likely to freeze, panic, or act in ways which increase danger (Buckley, 2012). It is also experience and training which allow skilled exponents of many physical arts to achieve feats which appear impossibly fast and precise. There are many examples in ball and boardsports, gymnastics, acrobatics, dance, martial arts, archery, shooting, swordsmanship, and in aircraft, car and motorbike racing and stunt driving. The third finding is that at least to some degree, some trained individuals can actively turn on slow-time perception and processing. This is part of the process of “pumping up” used by skilled athletes preparing for a difficult performance.

    This evidence supports the suggestion by Arstila (2012) that humans possess a specialized hormonal or neurophysiological mechanism for high-speed cognition; and that this is activated inadvertently by real fear of imminent violent death in accidents, emergencies, and certain extreme sports; and may on some occasions be activated intentionally by individuals who have trained themselves to do so. This raises three questions. Firstly, why is this mechanism only turned on occasionally? Presumably, it has high metabolic costs or side effects which reduce biological fitness if it is activated continually. Secondly, if some individuals have learned to activate slow-time perception, processing and action, what is the mechanism? Thirdly, some extreme-sports practitioners report moments not of high-speed mental processing, but of complete calm and mental clarity at instants of highest danger. Such moments, once experienced, are effectively equivalent to self-perceived religious experiences, and highly sought after. How are these two diametrically opposed perceptions connected?

    Reference: Buckley, R. (2014). Slow time perception can be learned. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 209. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00209

    ~

    All the underlinings and boldings are my additions.

    With sincere respect,
    Olli
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

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    Dear Shaolin Wahnam Family,

    Some of you might have heard or read that slowing down the perception of time is a skill that high-level masters Kungfu may have posessed. I also remember how Leo Sisook asked about a year ago in the Happy Family Life Q&A series how could we slow down time.

    My first post presented a peer-reviewed scientific commentary that gave excellent coverage of what scientific community may think of studies so far and what they could reasonably deduce.

    The three last questions of the commentary are worth repeating:

    1. Why is this mechanism only turned on occasionally?
    2. If some individuals have learned to activate slow-time perception, processing and action, what is the mechanism?
    3. Some extreme-sports practitioners report moments not of high-speed mental processing, but of complete calm and mental clarity at instants of highest danger. Such moments, once experienced, are effectively equivalent to self-perceived religious experiences, and highly sought after. How are these two diametrically opposed perceptions connected?

    The common thread to all these questions is straight forward: Zen mind (or Chi Kung state of mind), as Sigung already suggested in his response to Leo Sisook's question.

    Ordinary people access the Zen mind only by accident because they haven't pursued or trained it. The calm and mental clarity referred to in the third question is a confirmation that internal force and an elevated spiritual state are innately involved in the process.

    What remains is the second question, which should be of great interest to us: to find how exactly is it accessed and systematically trained.

    I believe it generally has to do with the element of threat and shen training in facing combat, although I'm quite sure that it could also be learned in some more sophisticated manner. Does anyone else have other ideas or additional thoughts?

    With sincere respect,
    Olli
    Last edited by understanding; 8th October 2017 at 07:44 AM.
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

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    Dear everyone,

    A few points more to the budding discussion.

    Firstly, feats such as Art of Lightness and Taoist Thunder Magic are very "unnatural" and going far beyond what the ordinary human being will ever experience or witness. In contrast, there is actual and well-documented evidence showing that slow time perception is a somewhat common phenomenon. There is no reason to suppose any out-of-this-world ceremonies or possibly risky energy training methods, but just learn how to use another of our inborn gifts.

    Secondly, the skill of slow time perception is vitally useful if the need for slowing down time ever happens. Emergency situations may cost lives, hence any additional benefit to survival is a great boon. On the other hand, shooting lightning from fingertips and having a light body are categorically more for convenience, although the latter is very useful for moving about more skillfully.

    Thirdly, I figure that kidney shen seems to be the key element in this phenomenon, as observations of stress, danger, fear, and fright are recurring in its appearance. Also, the commentary suggests neurological brain mechanisms which would benefit from well-nourished kidneys, since Chinese Medicine considers kidneys as the source of marrow and brains ("sea of marrow").

    With sincere respect,
    Olli
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

  4. #4
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    Dear Oli Sissook,


    thank you very much for the thread and your 'input'.


    You suggest it may generally have to do with the element of thread, but this would only referr to the subjective experience of a thread. Even in Kung Fu 'the element of thread' how I so far with my limited experience perceive it, is mostly 'display of emotional agitation', you could watch 'angry boys fighting' and you could observe this.


    But an experienced 'oppenent' may not perceive this as a thread as such, he will stay calm and relaxed (and maybe smile about it). He may not let 'the other' allow to determine his 'moves', will not 'react' (training: 'do as if your opponent is an imaginary oppenent': means also he does not determine what you are doing).


    The 'thread' can be even way bigger when it is not perceived as a thread by an opponent. For example take the story of how Sichangung Ho Fatt Nam did fight succesfully against the Muai Thai coming to their Kwoon: he made 'weak moves' pretending to be 'not too skilled an opponent', when the Muai Thai felt confident enough, Sichangung made feint move that looked like an invitation to the Muai Thai to 'deliver his coup de grace, not anticipating that Sichangung exactly wanted him to get there to 'defent' using the Muai Thai's own momentum.


    Here it seems to me, the point is, that some can maintain a state of calm and perceive time slower even in a situation that 'normal people' would perceive as thread. The point is, that they first learned 'the state' and then could 'maintain it' (if not the cases were it 'accidently happened').


    This state, here maybe called 'Zen mind', is usually called 'medidative state' or 'trance state' or 'altered state' etc. and this may not just be 'one state', there may be different kinds of such state. Usually learing this state is associated with meditation practise, including 'standing meditation' etc. When 'practising in a Chi Gung state of mind' one learns to maintain this state also when being physically active, or when 'on opponent rushes in'.


    Classically, this is also categorized under 'brain wave speed' and 'slowing it down'. The normal everyday waking state is normally given as 'beta state', there is the lower brainwave-speed alpha, then theta, then delta. There are even 'metronomes' for meditation or training of these states.


    Sitaigung writes in one of the Chi Gung books, that it was found, that long-term Chi Gung Practitioners are more and more or currently in alpha or even theta states also in every day life, where 'normal people' are in beta.


    At the recent courses in Bern in Switerland I've asked Sitaigung whethe this means that Chi Gung and Kung Fu practitioners with time are always or constantly 'in a Chi Gung state of mind'. He answered 'Yes, eventually they are always in a Chi Gung state of mind except when they decide no to be'.


    I'd reckon that 'the key' is already in our 'basic training', ecept maybe one (for whatever reaons) would like to train a specific 'feature' of this state such as 'slow time perception' - but even then he'd need the basic training guess).


    Thank you,
    With Shaolin Salute,
    Michael

  5. #5
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    Kevin_B is offline Sifu Kevin Barry - Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Ireland
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    Hi Olli,

    Have I read your posts correctly? Are you saying that you are keen to develop the ability to be able to slow down your perception of time?

    Or are your posts just for intellectual interest and forum fun?

    Kevin
    Wahnam Tai Chi Chuan and Shaolin Chi Kung classes in Dublin

    http://www.taijiquan.ie/

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    This would be an awesome ability to develop.

    The problem I see though is that the method you describe seems to rely on adrenaline dump. I remember reading about a similar thing years ago, and it ended badly for the persons adrenal glands and overall health.

    Perhaps the opposite direction could be explored, slowing time through absolute calm?
    Shaolin Wahnam USA

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    Dear Shaolin Wahnam Family,

    I have been busy lately, so I apologize that I haven't replied anything yet. However, I wish to set something correct right away:

    Dear David Siheng,

    Quote Originally Posted by David Langford View Post
    The problem I see though is that the method you describe seems to rely on adrenaline dump. I remember reading about a similar thing years ago, and it ended badly for the persons adrenal glands and overall health.

    Perhaps the opposite direction could be explored, slowing time through absolute calm?
    English is not my first language, so I might have expressed myself quite funnily.

    What I in all certainty meant was as you suggest: developing shen through calm presence, regardless of situation. Facing an element of threat was something that rose to my mind in the beginning in response to the researcher's documentation of high-intensity situations, but by all means it needn't be the only option. That's why wiser and more experienced voices are more than welcome.

    Say, do you think facing an element of threat in sparring or combat training automatically translate into so-called adrenaline dumps, since you brought it up? I don't think our training is that severe or rigorous from what I have seen so far.

    If you can link us the article you referred to, I would be very grateful, as it is an useful addition to the topic.

    With sincere respect,
    Olli
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

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    Quote Originally Posted by understanding View Post
    Dear Shaolin Wahnam Family,

    I have been busy lately, so I apologize that I haven't replied anything yet. However, I wish to set something correct right away:

    Dear David Siheng,



    English is not my first language, so I might have expressed myself quite funnily.

    What I in all certainty meant was as you suggest: developing shen through calm presence, regardless of situation. Facing an element of threat was something that rose to my mind in the beginning in response to the researcher's documentation of high-intensity situations, but by all means it needn't be the only option. That's why wiser and more experienced voices are more than welcome.

    Say, do you think facing an element of threat in sparring or combat training automatically translate into so-called adrenaline dumps, since you brought it up? I don't think our training is that severe or rigorous from what I have seen so far.

    If you can link us the article you referred to, I would be very grateful, as it is an useful addition to the topic.

    With sincere respect,
    Olli
    Hi Sidai,

    Well, now you are changing the whole premise. You began talking about inherently adrenalin inducing situations.

    "Reported experiences of slow time are commonly associated with accidents which are sudden, unexpected, and immediately life-threatening; and they also involve a perception of greatly increased speed and clarity of mental processes (Arstila, 2012)."

    You spoke of "adrenalin junkie" activities like skydiving, climbing, falling, impending death and life threatening circumstances etc.

    The natural biological reaction all of this is adrenalin. You've heard of "fight or flight." This is the bodies defense mechanism that makes us stronger,faster, perceive time slower, it makes us temporary super-powered. A very good and useful thing, once in awhile in real bad situations.

    In fighting when threatened with this real life threatening stuff our adrenalin is a saving grace. A good thing.

    Training to activate this on a whim can create what is known as toxic stress that can really harm the health.

    At the end of your post you mentioned "pumping up" ....So.....Where in your post did you mean the reverse? This can be a good exercise in mental clarity.

    To be clear I wasn't reprimanding you, that's not my style. I was just mentioning what I found out about the same subject, the cons of training to activate adrenalin when its not needed.

    Take care,
    David
    Shaolin Wahnam USA

  9. #9
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    Hey Olli,

    I missed your second post. I believe it is impossible to know how people would react under the severe stress of actual fighting until they face the situation. In a real combat scenario, training suddenly becomes reaity, adrenalin will affect the reflexes, making us react quicker and stronger yet fine motor skills can plummet.

    Training with elements of threat combined with a chi kung state of mind helps us to manage stress, yet I don't think it would be conducive to survive to stop the adrenalin in a real life or death circumstance.

    Quote Originally Posted by understanding View Post
    Dear Shaolin Wahnam Family,

    Some of you might have heard or read that slowing down the perception of time is a skill that high-level masters Kungfu may have posessed. I also remember how Leo Sisook asked about a year ago in the Happy Family Life Q&A series how could we slow down time.

    My first post presented a peer-reviewed scientific commentary that gave excellent coverage of what scientific community may think of studies so far and what they could reasonably deduce.

    The three last questions of the commentary are worth repeating:

    1. Why is this mechanism only turned on occasionally?
    2. If some individuals have learned to activate slow-time perception, processing and action, what is the mechanism?
    3. Some extreme-sports practitioners report moments not of high-speed mental processing, but of complete calm and mental clarity at instants of highest danger. Such moments, once experienced, are effectively equivalent to self-perceived religious experiences, and highly sought after. How are these two diametrically opposed perceptions connected?

    The common thread to all these questions is straight forward: Zen mind (or Chi Kung state of mind), as Sigung already suggested in his response to Leo Sisook's question.

    Ordinary people access the Zen mind only by accident because they haven't pursued or trained it. The calm and mental clarity referred to in the third question is a confirmation that internal force and an elevated spiritual state are innately involved in the process.

    What remains is the second question, which should be of great interest to us: to find how exactly is it accessed and systematically trained.

    I believe it generally has to do with the element of threat and shen training in facing combat, although I'm quite sure that it could also be learned in some more sophisticated manner. Does anyone else have other ideas or additional thoughts?

    With sincere respect,
    Olli
    Shaolin Wahnam USA

  10. #10
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    Dear David Siheng,

    Now I see what is the problem.

    You have mistaken a scientific report that I referenced or quoted in whole in the first post (and quite clearly indicating that I might add) for my own writing. The words that you quoted aren't actually mine at all!

    With that fact in mind, I agree then that I initialized the topic poorly because it created unnecessary confusion. The scientific commentary and reference was only meant to give preliminary insight, and not any recommendation for chasing dangerous and exhausting activities.

    With sincere respect,
    Olli
    On my way to understanding the greatness of gratitude.
    Thank you Sifu, Sigung, and Past Masters!

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