Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Expandable Moment

Daniel Stern holds that the present moment in everyday experience has a duration of between two and ten seconds, and is typically around three to five seconds. This is the length of a phrase (of language or music), and about how long it takes to breathe in and out (The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life, esp. pp. 44-52). Stern dismisses the idea that in meditation one can expand the present moment beyond the ten second barrier because, he says, "In the meditative or flow states, the idea is to lose the sense of self and for consciousness to maintain a concentrated focus, relatively impervious to other stimulation" (p. 43). This doesn't ring true. The obliteration of self isn't necessarily a goal of meditation, and even when it is, there seems to be something to the accomplishment of expanding a moment of awareness beyond the normal range. A horn player, for example, may practice pranayama solely for the purpose of honing his or her breathing skills. He or she might also experience improved phraseology, rhythm, or the ability to concentrate. All of these skills can be put to use in crafting moments of musical experience that are longer in duration than the normal duration of the present moment. It's fascinating, I think, that there would be a normal range of duration of the present moment, but there will always be people who challenge and exceed conventional limits, even those limits apparently set by their psychological nature. This too is a reality of everyday life.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:58 AM.


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