Advertisement

Mindfulness Meditation and the Experience of Time

  • Marc WittmannEmail author
  • Stefan Schmidt
Part of the Studies in Neuroscience, Consciousness and Spirituality book series (SNCS, volume 2)

Abstract

Many personal reports from experienced meditators exist on how subjective time slows down in meditation practice as well as in everyday life. However, hardly any empirical work exists regarding this exceptional experience. In this theoretical chapter we discuss cognitive and neural models of time perception. We aim at showing how the subjective passage of time and duration are modified by functional states of mindfulness, i.e. by attention regulation, body awareness and emotion regulation. The ability of expert mindfulness meditators to focus more strongly on sensory experiences and to be more strongly aware of feelings and of body states leads to a slowing down of time in the present moment. Moreover, as a consequence of more efficient attention regulation capacities, memory formation is enhanced which in retrospect leads to a subjective lengthening of past duration. Empirical studies concerning time perception in meditation practitioners would help to understand meditative states and at the same time would foster knowledge on cognitive-emotional as well as neural processes underlying the experience of time.

Keywords

Emotion Regulation Present Moment Insular Cortex Mindfulness Meditation Anterior Insula 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

References

  1. Analayo, V. 2004. Satipatthana: The direct path to realization. Cambridge: Windhorse.Google Scholar
  2. Bailey, N., and C.S. Areni. 2006. Background music as a quasi clock in retrospective duration judgments. Perception and Motor Skills 102: 435–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bishop, S.R., M. Lau, S. Shapiro, L.E. Carlson, N.D. Anderson, J. Carmody, Z.V. Segal, S. Abbey, M. Speca, D. Velting, and G. Devins. 2004. Mindfulness: A proposed operational definition. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice 11: 230–241.Google Scholar
  4. Brown, S.W. 1997. Attentional resources in timing: Interference effects in concurrent temporal and nontemporal working memory tasks. Perception and Psychophysics 59: 1118–1140.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brown, K.W., and R.M. Ryan. 2003. The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84: 822–848.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bschor, T., M. Ising, M. Bauer, U. Lewitzka, M. Skerstupeit, B. Müller-Oerlinghausen, and C. Baethge. 2004. Time experience and time judgment in major depression, mania and healthy subjects. A controlled study of 93 subjects. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 109: 222–229.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cardiff, J. 2005. The walk book. By Mirjam Schaub, edited by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Vienna in collaboration with Public Art Fund, New York.Google Scholar
  8. Carter, O.L., D.E. Presti, C. Callistemon, Y. Ungerer, G.B. Liu, and J.D. Pettigrew. 2005. Meditation alters perceptual rivalry in Tibetan Buddhist monks. Current Biology 15: R412–R413.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chan, D., and M. Woollacott. 2007. Effects of level of meditation experience on attentional focus: Is the efficiency of executive or orientation networks improved? Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 13: 651–657.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chihara, T. 1989. Zen meditation and time-experience. Psychologia 32: 211–220.Google Scholar
  11. Craig, A.D. 2002. How do you feel? Interoception: The sense of the physiological condition of the body. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 3: 655–666.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Craig, A.D. 2009a. Emotional moments across time: A possible neural basis for time perception in the anterior insula. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 364: 1933–1942.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Craig, A.D. 2009b. How do you feel – now? The anterior insula and human awareness. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 10: 59–70.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Damasio, A. 1999. The feeling of what happens: body and emotion in the making of consciousness. San Diego: Harcourt.Google Scholar
  15. Damasio, A. 2003. Feelings of emotion and the self. Annals of the New York Academy of Science 1001: 253–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Droit-Volet, S., and S. Gil. 2009. The time-emotion paradox. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 364: 1943–1954.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ekman, P., J.R. Davidson, M. Ricard, and B.A. Wallace. 2005. Buddhist and psychological perspectives on emotions and well-being. Current Directions in Psychological Science 14: 59–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Farb, N.A., Z.V. Segal, H. Mayberg, J. Bean, D. McKeon, Z. Fatima, and A.K. Anderson. 2007. Attending to the present: Mindfulness meditation reveals distinct neural modes of self-reference. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 2: 313–322.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Farb, N.A., Z.V. Segal, and A.K. Anderson. 2012. Mindfulness meditation training alters cortical representations of interoceptive attention. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 8: 15–26.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fjorback, L.O., and H. Walach. 2012. Meditation based therapies – a systematic review and some critical observations. Religions 3: 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gil, S., and S. Droit-Volet. 2012. Emotional time distortions: The fundamental role of arousal. Cognition and Emotion 26: 847–862.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Grossman, P., L. Niemann, S. Schmidt, and H. Walach. 2004. Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits. A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 57: 35–43.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hölzel, B.K., U. Ott, H. Hempel, A. Hackl, K. Wolf, R. Stark, and D. Vaitl. 2008. Investigation of mindfulness meditation practicioners with voxel-based morphometry. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 3: 55–61.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hölzel, B.K., S.W. Lazar, T. Gard, Z. Schuman-Olivier, D.R. Vago, and U. Ott. 2011. How does minfulness work? Proposing mechanisms of action from a conceptual and neural perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science 6: 537–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Husserl, E. 1928. Vorlesungen zur Phänomenologie des inneren Zeitbewußtseins. Halle: Max Niemeyer Verlag.Google Scholar
  26. Jain, S., S.L. Shapiro, S. Swanick, S.C. Roesch, P.J. Mills, I. Bell, and G.E. Schwartz. 2007. A randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation versus relaxation training: Effects of distress, positive states of mind, rumination, and distraction. Annals of Behavioral Medicine 33: 11–21.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jha, A.P., J. Krompinger, and M.J. Baime. 2007. Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention. Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience 7: 109–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jha, A.P., E.A. Stanley, A. Kiyonaga, L. Wong, and L. Gelfand. 2010. Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience. Emotion 10: 54–64.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kabat-Zinn, J. 2005. Coming to our senses. New York: Hyperion.Google Scholar
  30. Kiverstein, J. 2009. The minimal sense of self, temporality and the brain. Psyche 15: 59–74.Google Scholar
  31. Lambrechts, A., N. Mella, V. Pouthas, and M. Noulhiane. 2011. Subjectivity of time perception: A visual emotional orchestration. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience 5: 73.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lazar, S.W., C.E. Kerr, R.H. Wasserman, J.R. Gray, D.N. Greve, M.T. Treadway, M. McGarvey, B.T. Quinn, J.A. Dusek, H. Benson, S.L. Rauch, C.I. Moore, and B. Fischl. 2005. Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. NeuroReport 16: 1893–1897.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lutz, A., J. Brefczynski-Lewis, T. Johnstone, and R.J. Davidson. 2008. Regulation of the neural circuitry of emotion by compassion meditation: Effects of meditative expertise. PLoS ONE 3(3): e1897.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lutz, A., H.A. Slagter, N.B. Rawlings, A.D. Francis, L.L. Greischar, and J.R. Davidson. 2009. Mental training enhances attentional stability: Neural and behavioral evidence. The Journal of Neuroscience 29: 13418–13427.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. MacLean, K.A., E. Ferrer, S.R. Aichele, D.A. Bridwell, A.P. Zanesco, T.L. Jacobs, B.G. King, E.L. Rosenberg, B.K. Sahdra, P.R. Shaver, B.A. Wallace, G.R. Mangun, and C.D. Saron. 2010. Intensive meditation training improves perceptual discrimination and sustained attention. Psychological Science 21: 829–839.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Meissner, K., and M. Wittmann. 2011. Body signals, cardiac awareness, and the perception of time. Biological Psychology 86: 289–297.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Metzinger, T. 2004. Being no one. The self-model theory of subjectivity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  38. Piet, J., and E. Hougaard. 2011. The effect of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for prevention of relapse in recurrent major depressive disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review 31: 1032–1040.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pollatos, O., W. Kirsch, and R. Schandry. 2005. On the relationship between interoceptive awareness, emotional experience, and brain processes. Cognitive Brain Research 25: 948–962.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pütz, P., P. Ulbrich, J. Churan, M. Fink, and M. Wittmann. 2012. Duration discrimination in the context of age, sex, and cognition. Journal of Cognitive Psychology 24: 893–900.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sauer, S., H. Walach, and N. Kohls. 2011. Gray’s behavioural inhibition system as a mediator of mindfulness towards well-being. Personality and Individual Differences 50: 506–511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sauer, S., J. Lemke, M. Wittmann, N. Kohls, U. Mochty, and H. Walach. 2012a. How long is now for mindfulness meditators? Personality and Individual Differences 52: 750–754.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sauer, S., H. Walach, S. Schmidt, T. Hinterberger, S. Lynch, A. Büssing, and N. Kohls. 2012b. Assessment of mindfulness: Review on state of the art. Mindfulness. doi: 10.1007/s12671-012-0122-5.Google Scholar
  44. Schirmer, A. 2011. How emotions change time. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience 5: 58.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sedlmeier, P., J. Eberth, M. Schwarz, D. Zimmermann, F. Haarig, S. Jaeger, and S. Kunze. 2012. The psychological effects of meditation: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin 138: 1139–1171.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Shapiro, D. 1982. Overview: Clinical and physiological comparison of meditation with other self-control strategies. American Journal of Psychiatry 139: 267–274.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Ulbrich, P., J. Churan, M. Fink, and M. Wittmann. 2007. Temporal reproduction: Further evidence for two processes. Acta Psychologica 125: 51–65.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ulbrich, P., J. Churan, M. Fink, and M. Wittmann. 2009. Perception of temporal order: The effects of age, sex, and cognitive factors. Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition 16: 183–202.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Valentine, E.R., and P.L.G. Sweet. 1999. Meditation and attention: A comparison of the effects of concentrative and mindfulness meditation on sustained attention. Mental Health, Religion and Culture 2: 59–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. van den Hurk, P.A.M., F. Giommi, S.C. Gielen, A.E.M. Speckens, and H. Barendregt. 2010. Greater efficiency in attentional processing related to mindfulness meditation. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 63: 1168–1180.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. van Leeuwen, S., N.G. Müller, and L. Melloni. 2009. Age effects on attentional blink performance in meditation. Consciousness and Cognition 18: 593–599.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Wiener, M., P. Turkeltaub, and H.B. Coslett. 2010. The image of time: A voxel-wise meta-analysis. NeuroImage 49: 1728–1740.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wittmann, M. 2009a. The subjective flow of time. In The encyclopedia of time, ed. H.J. Birks, 1322–1324. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
  54. Wittmann, M. 2009b. The inner sense of time. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 364: 1955–1967.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wittmann, M. 2011. Moments in time. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience 5: 66.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wittmann, M. 2012. Gefühlte Zeit: Kleine Psychologie des Zeitempfindens. München: C.H. Beck.Google Scholar
  57. Wittmann, M., and S. Lehnhoff. 2005. Age effects in perception of time. Psychological Reports 97: 921–935.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Wittmann, M., and V. van Wassenhove. 2009. The experience of time: Neural mechanisms and the interplay of emotion, cognition and embodiment. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 364: 1809–1813.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wittmann, M., T. Vollmer, C. Schweiger, and W. Hiddemann. 2006. The relation between the experience of time and psychological distress in patients with hematological malignancies. Palliative and Supportive Care 4: 357–363.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wittmann, M., A.N. Simmons, J. Aron, and M.P. Paulus. 2010. Accumulation of neural activity in the posterior insula encodes the passage of time. Neuropsychologia 48: 3110–3120.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wittmann, M., A.N. Simmons, T. Flagan, S.D. Lane, J. Wackermann, and M.P. Paulus. 2011. Neural substrates of time perception and impulsivity. Brain Research 1406: 43–58.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Zahavi, D. 2005. Subjectivity and selfhood: Investigating the first-person perspective. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  63. Zakay, D., and R.A. Block. 1997. Temporal cognition. Current Directions in Psychological Science 6: 12–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Zakay, D., and R.A. Block. 2004. Prospective and retrospective duration judgments: An executive-control perspective. Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis 64: 319–328.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. Zeidan, F., S.K. Johnson, B.J. Diamond, Z. David, and P. Goolkasian. 2010. Mindfulness training improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and Cognition 19: 597–605.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental HealthFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and PsychotherapyUniversity Medical Center FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  3. 3.Institute for Transcultural Health StudiesEuropean University ViadrinaFrankfurt (Oder)Germany

Personalised recommendations