You hold in the hit, and your eyes roll into the back of your skull.
The sounds floating around you deaden in your ears, and all physical feeling escapes you. You forget about your friends staring intently.
You forget about where you are and why you're there. You forget yourself.
Colors shift in front of you (well, the idea of “you,” that is, since you are outside the boundaries of ego), and then the full spectrum, seen and unseen by the human eye, bursts into fractals that shift and repeat ad infinitum at increasing speeds.
Some say there's a noise before you launch or fall — a doldrum, a crackle or a fizz — and then the three appear, either dancing, testing or beckoning you further.
That's when you really take off, launching through the colors and the shapes as if shooting out from the depths of the ocean and breaking through its barrier of one world and into another.
Some claim they see Her, It or They, but nonetheless, what you encounter welcomes you warmly and shows you everything.
The universe. The lives. All of time.
Then, you start to remember things, finer details. The flickering orange light on the blue-grey wall, the smell of incense, the swampy warmth inside your ratty shoes.
They, It or She can sense it, and so They show you one last thing.
As you look down into the room you now remember, you seem so small and trivial compared to the years you've spent in that place.
You wonder, "Is it even possible to go back, to reenter such a tiny vessel?"
The walls flip up, that candle drops onto the table, your friends re-form before you, and you wriggle your fingers and toes before your eyelids peel back.
How long were you out?
"Oh, just five or seven minutes," says your friend with a grin.
Time is a funny thing.
The above description is a combined summary of one's encounter while tripping on DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine), which effectively and fantastically describes a very common, yet often ignored aspect of our human lives: the shifting perception of time.
Full disclosure: I have neither done DMT, nor any other psychedelics for that matter.
Instead, I must rely on other people's accounts of their few experiences while on the drug. These experiences are revealed through a surprisingly growing number of YouTube videos (like these below).
What I noticed after watching several (probably too many) of these vlog entries were, of course, the obvious parallels between each individual's experience: the sensation of fading away, shifting colors and geometric shapes, encounters with “beings” and an oceanic consciousness, to name a few.
Whether this was coincidence, a connection to the chemical compound reacting similarly with each brain or a drug-induced trip through some spiritual gateway is beyond the scope of this article.
What interested me in these cases was the very clear expanding of time the brain experiences when slipping further into an unconscious state.
The subject goes on a journey that literally feels like years, but in waking life, only seven minutes pass by.
(Hold that thought for a minute, if you can. We'll come back to it.)
The video below is one of many on the YouTube channel, VSauce (the Discovery Channel of YouTube, as I like to put it), hosted by the ever-curious, Michael Stevens.
This particular episode addresses how humans actually perceive instances in reality.
Typically, we are trained in mathematics to account for reality in additive terms.
For example, if you're faced with the situation of debt versus income, you can solve it by subtracting items of payment, and adding paychecks by working more jobs.
It's simple, really. However, when it comes to perceiving threats, distances, emotions, sounds and so on, we actually feel and experience things on a multiplicative, or logarithmic scale.
A fun way to explain this is by using Michael's boombox example in his video, where adding one boombox to one boombox doesn't actually double the audible level of volume we would perceive.
Instead, one would need to increase the number of boomboxes from one to 10, which seems to be the magic number to make us feel like we're hearing double the amount of sound than we were with just one boombox.
And if you want to double the sound of 10 boomboxes? Well, you'll need 100 to do that.
This same effect is felt when we determine if, say, 97 lions are more dangerous than 96.
It may seem silly to weigh the threat of one additional lion considering the brain pretty much perceives either number as “a sh*t ton of lions.”
However, if you see one lion, and another pops up from the grass next to it, the threat level you feel doubles immediately.
If you remember your high school math classes, you should be noticing a trend. One boombox to 10 to 100. One lion to two to four to eight.
These are multiplicative scales where “doubling” is dependent upon the base by which you're multiplying.
Where Scale A can be 1-10-100-1000-∞ and Scale B could be 1-2-4-8-16-∞, “doubling” on Scale A means your number will be 100, whereas on Scale B, it will be two.
This is all a complicated way of mathematically explaining what you already know and feel every day of your life.
When you go on a two-mile jog, the second mile is typically felt as the easier part because you know you're approaching the end of the jog.
This evokes the old adage, “It's all downhill from here.”
Or, take the end of your daily grind, as the day seems to dredge on slowly from the hours of 1 to 5 pm.
Things get easier or harder, and speed up or slow down, depending on circumstantial perception of the subject's brain.
If you've caught on, you should now realize this effect is most commonly and often always ignorantly taking place on your personal timescale.
Time stretches and compresses for us over our lives, throughout the course of a day and even in micro instances of minutes and seconds.
Keep in mind, however, that this is within the confines of perceived time, and not scientifically observed time, meaning your experience is different than another person's timescale.
It is ultimately unique from a stopwatch's additive measurement of time increments.
So, if your grandpa died at the age of 43, he probably felt time slipping by as fast, as it will for you by the tender age of 78, or whatever age at which you'll die.
Another way to put this, according to Michael, is that when you're turning 2 years old, the previous year felt incredibly long because it was exactly one-half of your existence.
So, when you're turning 90, the previous year will feel like a blip because it was only 1/90th of your overall existence.
When comparing experiences in your mind, you'll feel that your formative years were more substantial and somehow lasted longer than the past 20 years from 70 to 90.
It's weird to break it down mathematically, but this seems to be how we actually perceive things. It won't take much consideration on your part to agree to the commonality of it, either.
Of course, an hour today feels way shorter than it did when you were 5. So what?
Well, the implications of a logarithmic timescale are even weirder.
Take, for instance, what people experience when embarking on their DMT trips. The further along they get, the more their experiential time expands.
What happens in a waking minute could be anywhere from a perceived one hour to 10 years, depending on the strength and amount of DMT ingested.
However, the extreme and fantastical nature of a DMT trip isn't what is most interesting about the compound.
DMT is an endogenous substance, meaning biological organisms form it from their own tissue. It's already inside of us.
It's theorized that DMT is released by certain glands in heavy doses when we are in our REM cycle, which possibly explains why we have the most bizarre dreams during deep sleep, yet cannot seem to recall them.
The connection here is that DMT experiencers have the conscious recollection of what happens when their minds fade further into usually unconscious circumstances.
It's the same nothingness we experience in deep sleep.
This DMT trip recollection shows us time seems to expand so much for the individual in the “off” state, they completely lose connection to the earthly timescale.
To put this mathematically, it seems when people reach the limit of their logarithmic timescale, be that at the end of a day when one falls asleep or at the end of a lifetime when they pass away, the experiencer goes so far beyond our conception of time that they are swept into a kind of immortality.
It's one where the experience goes on by the mathematical law that the experience itself cannot reach its limit.
Think about that for a second.
The definition of a logarithmic curve prevents the equation from ever reaching its asymptote -- its end limit -- and because our human experience is on a logarithmic scale, experience itself cannot end.
So, what could this mean philosophically or even religiously? Well, it could actually validate overarching ideas of heavens, hells, purgatories, reincarnations and even nothingness.
This is all, of course, completely dependent upon the individual's unique experience and beliefs, just like everything else I've explained thus far.
In other words, you create your own heaven, your own hell or your own rebirth.
If you consider death like falling asleep or even like the DMT trip, circumstances will radically affect your experience while asleep or tripping.
Falling asleep in a state of fear will give you nightmares, whereas anger can create aggressive, violent dreams. Conversely, if you fall asleep in a relaxed state of mind, you'll have more tranquil and blissful dreams.
Sticking with the comparison of death to the unconsciousness of sleep, if you pass with an unhappy heart, you may suffer from an “eternity” of sadness.
However, if you die a malignant, aggressive person, you may experience the hell that propelled you to be psychologically unstable throughout your life.
To be “at peace with God,” it may very well turn out, is to be at peace with your existence and the actions you took therein, and this acceptance of “God's grace” enables you to die and experience the endless approach to your life's limit in a state of tranquility, rather than unrest.
In Buddhism, "The Tibetan Book of the Dead" actually portrays this exact phenomenon as the chance we all have to reach enlightenment right at the point of death.
The belief is that if a friend or relative of the dying reads the book while they slip into that good night, the dying will finally understand the last bit of this human life, and will thus escape the woes of mortal life in realization that experience extends far beyond the point of death.
Even though the friend sees her loved one physically pass away, the experience of the loved one slips into that same state of deep, deep sleep, as minutes turn into years, seconds into centuries and milliseconds into aeons.
In the same way, if one is content or convinced that nothingness is where one is headed with the Reaper, then it's nothingness that will be found.
However, it's not a blackness that can be observed or felt, just in the same way that the enlightened cannot observe the aeons that pass before them.
In both cases, time becomes irrelevant to the deceased, and even their human concepts of ego and “I” vanish. In exactly the same way people do not know they are in REM sleep, they will not know they are in the same place in death as we go each night.
Well actually, it's really not that heavy. In fact, it's quite the opposite.
If it remains true that our perception follows this mathematical principle of the endless logarithm, then we have the ability to form our existence after we die, so to speak.
We can come to terms with our life and our actions now, before we die, so when we do pass into that good night, we are looking back at the everlasting memories of our childhood and our loved ones. We can think back at how beautiful it all was and is.
It's not often that such a benevolent take on death is embraced by Western culture, but as it turns out, the ending monologue of "American Beauty" perfectly depicts what I've been trying to say this entire post: Death's final moment isn't one moment at all.
It lasts forever, and you'll see how amazing it all really is when you're looking back down upon it and the world, and you think, “How could I ever go back, return to such a tiny vessel?”
Then, the world materializes around you as you emerge from darkness.
You are bathed in a swath of light more powerful than any star combined, and you scream the song of life, just like you did before countless times.
The implication of a logarithmic timescale, it seems, is life and everything within it.