What if you had 3 seconds to live?

If Zeno was right, then we are not the same person from one moment to the next. Continuity is merely an illusion shared by successive briefly existent souls inhabiting the same body. You can never step into the same river twice.

But how infinitely divisible is consciousness in time? Turtles all the way down? An arrow always traveling halfway, never reaching its target?

Now we have the answer: 3 seconds is all you’ve got.

The results reinforce an idea current among some psychologists that intervals of about 3 seconds are basic temporal units of life that define our perception of the present moment. Put another way, what one psychologist called the “feeling of nowness” tends to last 3 seconds.

This incredibly simple concept has tremendous applications for will, self control, and meditation.

Be in the now. Be present. Live in the moment. What those actually mean is, “Live in the 3 second window.”

One of the major reasons for procrastination and failures of willpower is that we misapply our force. Let’s say you want to be exhibit a certain virtue for the rest of your life. You might start with a week, or a day, or an hour. But all of that is actually impossible. You cannot extend the present moment beyond 3 seconds. Therefore you cannot do anything for longer than 3 seconds.

When we really, really want to change ourselves, we become frustrated. We then “try hard” to focus on changing the behavior. But if you carefully examine this “trying hard,” you’ll find it amounts to “extending the window” in which the resolution to change behavior was made. This is absolutely exhausting. The spacing between each 3 second interval is actually a micro rest for your brain and willpower. Stop resting, and it’s like you’ve stopped breathing. Your brain quickly reverts to lizard functions.

Instead, try this motto: “Give me 3 good seconds.”

Refresh by forgetting. Let the waters of Lethe flow on each side of the tiny island of the present moment. Discover undreamt of powers of focus and self control.

(I am not talking about suppressing your memory, but rather of “letting go” continuously to the borders of the now, and letting the next bubble form.)

You can reengineer your entire self conception around this principle. It is a great way to achieve ego freedom. Judge yourself only by what you are doing in the 3 second window.

As with most things here, this is more relevant to Thal fronts than Melon fronts, since Melons are pretty good at being in the moment already.

Nobody said enlightenment was easy. But this principle makes it a lot easier.

‘Walking along the edge of a sword,
Running along an ice ridge,
No steps, no ladders,
Jumping from the cliff with open hands.’
~Zen verse